ORLANDO - Remember when Stanford defeated Southern California when being a 41 point underdog? Yes, that happened. It was towards the end of the Pete Carroll and Southern California era, and the Trojans laid an egg against the Cardinal during the 2007 season.
That’s what makes college football unique, however. The ups and downs seemingly happen each week, no matter the year. It’s a matter of which game will it be where a team rises up and knocks off a favorite?
There are a few games with that potential this week, as well as a unique neutral field matchup where one team must stand up and start to be assertive in what should be an excellent contest.
LSU at Mississippi State
LSU is a team that nobody knows what it’s going to get. The Tigers were horrendous during their first game, being out-muscled against UCLA. Considering LSU’s recruiting compared to UCLA, that’s not a good sign for LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron and his program.
LSU played much better the past two weeks, but there’s still room to improve. A trip to Mississippi will be in order this weekend, and it’s a potential upset.
Traveling to Starkville, Miss. this week means taking on a team that’s coming off a close loss to Memphis, and it’s a rival that LSU lost to last season to start the 2020 campaign, 44-34.
Will the Tigers gain revenge? It’s not going to be an easy contest, as Mississippi State sophomore signal caller Will Rogers already passed for 1,083 yards, eight touchdowns, and only one interception through three games.
Rogers likes to get the ball to Makai Polk, who’s caught 25 passes already this season. If LSU does not slow him down, it’s going to be a really tough game throughout.
For LSU, the Tigers need to run the football better. Everyone following LSU knows about big-time wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, who’s grabbed 20 catches and six touchdowns so far in 2021. He's the favorite target for signal caller Max Johnson.
The rushing attack, however, has been disappointing. The offensive line failed to get much push and that’s an issue for the Tigers as they begin SEC play. LSU averages just 85.7 yards rushing per game.
This game is a toss up because it’s hard to project if either team can stop the other squad’s passing attack, and then there’s motivation for LSU to gain revenge from last season, as well as Mississippi State being upset about losing to Memphis last week 29-31.
Because of LSU’s overall talent, give the slight edge to the Tigers. Any one slip up, however, could see the Bulldogs win.
LSU 38 Mississippi State 31
#9 Clemson at North Carolina State
Is Clemson’s offense this bad? After three games, the Tigers combined scoring leads to a mere 66 points. The passing game and rushing attack look mediocre.
The Clemson passing game averages just 188.7 yards per game, and the running game averages a pedestrian 134.0 yards per game. This is Clemson we are talking about! What is going on?
On defense, however, the Tigers are still quite salty. Defensive end Myles Murphy is a future top 10 pick among many talented defensive players.
The Tigers only gave up three offensive points to Georgia during the season opener, three to South Carolina State, and six points to Georgia Tech. One could argue that Clemson possesses the nation’s best defense. The Tigers will need another great effort at North Carolina State.
For the Wolfpack, the key would be generating a running game. When playing Mississippi State during week two, 25 carries for 34 rushing yards ended up being the totals for the running game. That’s awful, and anything close to those totals will cause North Carolina State to lose to Clemson.
If the Wolfpack can muster 80 to 100 yards rushing, that leaves the door open for signal caller Devin Leary to show the country just how good he can be.
Leary missed much of the 2020 season with an injury, but he’s an accurate passer that can place an offense in a position to score over and over. If the Wolfpack can run the football and complement Leary’s passing, there is a chance for an upset.
Clemson lived dangerously last week against a solid Georgia Tech team. This time the Tigers go on the road. Watch out as a college football giant will lose to an underdog.
North Carolina State 19 Clemson 17
#18 Wisconsin Versus #12 Notre Dame at Soldier Field
Two teams known for their offensive lines are both in down years, at least by their standards, for the big fellas up front. Defensively, Wisconsin has been more consistent than the Irish, but there are some major differences between the two defensive units considering Notre Dame’s overall athleticism and upside. Those two areas are but two interesting areas for this big neutral field matchup in Chicago.
Through two games, Wisconsin gave up just 16 points to Penn State and seven points to Eastern Michigan. It’s an old school 3-4 defense that looks to stop the run. Inside linebacker Jack Sanborn is a headliner for the Badgers, so keep an eye on his performance.
Considering Notre Dame’s offensive line could not run the ball against a Purdue defense that’s no place near as consistent as Wisconsin, that will place Notre Dame in an interesting position. Purdue held the Notre Dame rushing game to just 120 yards on the ground, it’s not a good sign.
Will the Irish just come out and go with four and five wide receiver formations? The Irish certainly possess more speed; that’s unquestioned. Can that work, especially in the red zone, when space is limited?
Wisconsin might play soft coverage and not allow bombs to go over its head and attempt to make Notre Dame kick field goals because they probably will struggle to score touchdowns inside the 20 when a running game is more important than between the 20s.
That’s a huge question that must be answered in this game, and it leads to wondering about Wisconsin’s offense as well. There needs to be something different with the passing attack. It’s just stagnant.
The Badgers average just 175.5 yards passing per game. That may or may not be enough against Notre Dame. The Badgers do average 266.0 yards per game, but they beat up Eastern Michigan and ran for 352 yards, inflating its rushing average.
Notre Dame’s edge pressure is very talented. There are multiple future NFL players with Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Isaiah Foskey manning the defensive end positions. If the Badgers can run consistently, there will be a chance to keep these two at bay. If not, the Wisconsin offensive line may be in trouble attempting to pass block against these two talented players.
There’s one last note to bring up. The Badgers did not play during week three, while Notre Dame struggled with a Purdue team that played hard for four quarters in South Bend, Ind. Advantage Wisconsin.
Wisconsin 24 Notre Dame 21
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