college football week 4 preview: tigers (clemson) & tigers (lsu) & tigers (auburn)! oh my!

Not too many surprises in college football this week, but for a couple scares in the Top 25. ‘Bama rolled, but not before Texas A&M mounted a spirited comeback in a game of national championship caliber.

Who’s No. 1? If It Walks Like A Duck…
…it must be Alabama! Yeah, yeah. I hear you, Bigfoot Country. You think Swoosh U. deserves to be No. 1. Not so fast. Alabama beating No. 6-ranked Texas A&M is much more impressive than rolling unranked Tennessee. Besides, I despise Oregon’s obnoxious uniforms. Alabama is still No. 1, but I think they’ll drop a game or two before this season ends (beware the Auburn Tigers).

My Top 25: Bye-Week Teams Slide Downward…Because I Said So
1. Alabama (2 – 0)
2. Oregon (3 – 0)
3. Ohio State (3 – 0)
4. Stanford (2 – 0)
5. Louisville (2 – 0)
6. Clemson (2 – 0)
7. LSU (2 – 0)
8. Florida State (2 – 0)
9. Oklahoma State (3 – 0)
10. Georgia (1 – 1)
11. Texas A&M (2 – 1)
12. Oklahoma (3 – 0)
13. Michigan (3 – 0)
14. South Carolina (2 – 1)
15. UCLA (2 – 0)
16. Northwestern (3 – 0)
17. Miami (FL) (2 – 0)
18. Washington (2 – 0)
19. Florida (1 – 1)
20. Notre Dame (2 – 1)
21. Ole Miss (3 – 0)
22. Texas Tech (3 – 0)
23. Baylor (2 – 0)
24. Arizona State (2 – 0)
25. Nebraska (2 – 1)

The (Not-So-) Big Ten
The B1G is avoiding the Christmas rush and wilting like a flower early this season. Michigan tried like hell to hand Akron its Zippiest win of the decade. Thanks to a goal line stand no one ever expected they’d need, Michigan sneaks out of The Big House with a heart stopping 28-24 win. True, there’s no such thing as a bad win, but Michigan will nevertheless be rightfully punished for not covering the 37.5 point spread.

Had Michigan lost, it would’ve only capped an otherwise miserable weekend where the B1G went 8-4; three of those four losses were against ranked opponents. Nebraska lost to a pretty solid UCLA team. Wisconsin suffered the case of last-second brain farts to lose to Arizona State in stunning fashion. Just another day in Big Ten football.

Heisman Watch
I don’t care what anyone says, Johnny Manziel is earning the right to be a Heisman Trophy candidate again. Despite losing, Manziel racked up some gaudy numbers against the defending champs: 464 passing yards, 5 TDs. Without Manziel, it’s not even close. Yeah, yeah, naysayers, I hear you. “Character, blah, blah, blah.” Let it go. Spare me the indignant bloviations of pious sports hacks who have bravely pronounced they will not vote for Manziel, no matter what. The kid can flat-out play.

I haven’t personally seen any of the other supposed candidates play, but I’d throw a vote at Oregon QB’s Marcus Mariota by virtue of Oregon’s offensive dominance. He’s passed for seven TDs and rushed for another four. And that was just in the first half against Tennessee (kidding!).

Florida State’s Freshman phenom Jameis Winston got everyone’s attention in his first game against Pitt, but came back down to Earth a bit against Nevada. Let’s see how he performs in a few weeks when the ‘Noles go to Clemson.

Speaking of Clemson, I’m curious to see the Tigers play this Thursday night to gauge Tajh Boyd’s talents for myself. He’s considered a frontrunner by some, based on his first two games. We’ll see how he fares as the season continues.

I’d also include Alabama’s senior QB AJ McCarron by virtue of his 334-yard, four-TD passing day vs. Texas A&M. But he’s a distant fourth. For now.

Must-See Saturday Football
Until all the major programs dive into their conference schedules, we’re left with few marquee match-ups. But there are a couple with potential Top 25 implications. Personal allegiances aside, these should be highly entertaining games:

No. 24 Arizona State (2 – 0) at No. 4 Stanford (2 – 0)
This will be the first real test to see if The Cardinal is legit. I’m expecting a high-scoring affair, as both teams put up strong offensive numbers. But in the end, The Cardinal will prevail.
Prediction: Stanford

No. 19 Florida (1 – 1) vs. Tennessee (2 – 1)
Both teams are coming off losses, but Florida had an extra week to get over the shocking loss to Miami. I think Tennessee has a real shot if their defense can hold Florida under 30 points. If Florida takes better care of the ball than they did against Miami, they’ll win. Since the game is in Gainesville this year, Gators will dominate.
Prediction: Florida

Auburn (3 – 0) at No. 7 LSU (3 – 0)
Which Tigers are for real? LSU is, no question. This is Auburn’s first real test of the season. Both teams have strong offenses (LSU is putting up ridiculous numbers, by comparison), but neither has played a real strong opponent yet. That changes Saturday night in Baton Rouge. I’d like to see Auburn win, but…I just can’t pull the trigger.
Prediction: LSU

Michigan State (3 – 0) at No. 20 Notre Dame (2 – 1)
Perhaps my decision to include this game is colored by my regional bias. Sparty vs. Irish is usually a great game. ND won the last two meetings, but Michigan State is coming in this year with a more balanced offense against an Irish defense that’s given up 65 points in its past two games. I think Sparty exacts revenge in South Bend this year.
Prediction: Michigan State

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