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  • Saturday will be a big day for multiple teams and coaches who have a lot on the line as the pressure mounts in Week 4.
By Joan Niesen
September 22, 2017

Today, we’re launching a new weekly feature here at SI.com: the pressure gauge. Because really, college football is about stress, and what you need on your Friday is a contemplation of all the players, coaches and teams whose blood pressure should be skyrocketing going into the weekend’s slate of games. We’ve got everything from rusty teams to second-year coaches fighting for their jobs, because it’s never too early to plot next year’s coach.

Florida State and Miami: Neither of these teams has played since Week 1. If you’re counting, that’s a 20-day gap between games, which isn’t exactly ideal, especially so early. So far, Miami has played Bethune-Cookman, routing it, 41–13, and Florida State lost to Alabama and lost its quarterback in the process. I’m not sure which is worse: having played once against a bunny or having played college football’s best team and lost. Either way, both of these teams run a high risk of looking rusty as they hold on to the hope of winning their respective ACC divisions.

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James Blackman: Piggybacking off the first point here, let’s turn to Seminoles quarterback James Blackman, a true freshman who takes over this week after Deondre Francois fell to a season-ending injury against Alabama. For a team with playoff hopes—which should still be alive and well even after the loss to the Crimson Tide—taking over at quarterback as a true freshman will be a huge burden. This week will be his first start, but he’s fortunate in that Florida State doesn’t hit the meat of its schedule until October.

LSU: After LSU lost badly to Mississippi State last week, 37–7, much of the hype surrounding its new-look team under coach Ed Orgeron has dissipated. Its showing in Week 1 against BYU, which looked impressive at the time, now seems diminished due to the fact that BYU has been, well, awful. Now the Tigers walk into a nonconference matchup against a middling ACC team in Syracuse, which a week ago seemed completely doable. LSU is the better team, and it needs to look the part on Saturday.

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Barry Odom: To be fair, Odom appears on this list only because this series didn’t exist a week ago. Call it a recognition for past performance. The Missouri coach is 1–2 so far this season, his only win coming against an FCS opponent that scored 43 points against the Tigers’ once-great defense. He’s fired his defensive coordinator, who held the position in name only, and if Missouri keeps losing, Odom will be hard-pressed to keep his job. Auburn is one of the best teams in the SEC this year, and if Missouri loses big, that won’t come as much of a surprise. Odom needs his team to put up a fight if he wants to buy himself more time in Columbia.

Jeff Brohm: Let’s call this positive pressure. Brohm’s Purdue team has been one of the most fun stories to follow early this season. It gave Louisville a scare in Week 1 and then went on to beat Ohio and pummel the aforementioned Missouri garbage fire. Its first Big Ten test comes Saturday when it hosts a Michigan team that’s gone undefeated but has certainly shown a few weaknesses early. Still, the Wolverines are 10-point favorites, and if Purdue wants to stay undefeated, it’ll need to manufacture a pass rush, keep the pressure on Michigan’s offense and pull out every trick play Brohm has ever contemplated. Should the Boilermakers win, it’d be time to take them seriously.

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