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|College Football 2021: Week 3 Recap and Week 4 Preview||Tuesday, 2021 September 21 - 3:37 pm|
|Michigan, Penn State and NCSU all won this week.|
Sorry about the truncated post last week... I was on vacation and didn't really have time to complete the "Notable Results" and "Games to Watch on TV" sections. I'll do better this time.
Michigan 63, Northern Illinois 10
This turned out to be another pasting of a cupcake opponent, though we have to remind ourselves that Michigan lost to Toledo as recently as (checks notes) 2008 and had to scratch out a double-overtime win against Army in 2019. So it's good to know that Michigan can still club baby seals as it's supposed to. Notable statistics: Michigan scored touchdowns on its first nine drives and never punted; the only drives on which they didn't score were late, with Michigan deep into their reserves.
We should also note that NIU beat Georgia Tech, and GT this week just came within a breath of beating Clemson, so maaaaybe Michigan might be pretty good after all? The dominance of the rushing game is particularly notable, and it's almost certainly because new RB coach Mike Hart is doing an excellent job. It's nice to see Blake Corum and Hassan Haskins having the patience to let holes open up in front of them. This has been a problem for Michigan running backs in the recent past.
Michigan still hasn't shown much of a passing attack. Yes, they threw for 233 yards, but 87 of those yards came on a single play. I suppose passing is a bit of a luxury when you're stomping your way to 373 yards rushing. Last year, Michigan averaged just 131 yards rushing per game.
The defense continues to play very well, but it's still hard to hand out a lot of awards when you consider the level of play of the opponent. We're still in a "wait and see" mode, probably until week 5 when Michigan faces Wisconsin.
Michigan vs. Rutgers, 3:30 PM ABC
Rutgers is a 3-0 coming into this game, though the three wins are over two cupcakes and a not-very-good Syracuse team, and the win over Syracuse was largely due to gifts (four turnovers, a blocked punt, a shanked punt, and a drive that included back-to-back personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties). I'm not buying that they're any good. They're probably not much different than the team Michigan beat in double-overtime last season, and last year's Michigan was dreadful. And oh yeah, Rutgers' best cornerback Max Melton has just been suspended due to an incident involving a paintball gun. We can probably expect Michigan WR Cornelius Johnson to have a big day.
The Rutgers offense features QB Noah Vedral who has dinked and dunked his way to a 72% completion percentage, but at only 7.5 YPA. There's some talent at the RB spot in Isaih Pacheco, but he's only got 152 yards on the season at 3.4 YPC despite blowout wins over bad opponents. WR Bo Melton is a big play threat, but it's hard to see the Rutgers OL giving Vedral enough time against the Michigan DL for those big plays to materialize.
Still, this will prove to be a good early conference game test for Michigan. Win big, and Michigan can feel good about themselves going into the showdown in Madison in week 5. Lose or win a close one, and we'll know there's still a lot of work to be done.
Prediction: Michigan 44, Rutgers 13.
Penn State 28, Auburn 20
Make no mistake: this was a good, gritty win against a tough Auburn team. We can largely thank the defense, which forced Auburn to grind out a lot of drives that ended in punts, and we should laud Sean Clifford's game management: he quietly completed 28 of 32 passes and had a stellar day.
The turning point in the game was the Auburn fumble after halftime, which set up a short touchdown drive for PSU that widened the lead to 21-10. And with the game at 28-20 with three minutes remaining, PSU held on fourth and goal at the 2 yard line.
Penn State now has two excellent wins against ranked teams under their belt and can take a bit of a breather next week, but there's a trap game against Indiana coming in week 5 before a monster showdown against #5 Iowa in week 6.
Penn State vs. Villanova, 12:00 PM BTN
Okay, sure, Villanova is 3-0, but those wins came against Lehigh, Bucknell, and Richmond. I can't believe Penn State will have any trouble against this FCS team; expect to see the reserves coming off the bench by the third quarter.
Prediction: Penn State 63, Villanova 6.
NC State 45, Furman 7
State passed for 287 yards and rushed for another 218 in this stomping of a bad Furman team. Takeaways? None.
NC State vs #9 Clemson, 3:30 PM ESPN
Okay, sure. You could legitimately say Clemson is struggling this year, particularly on offense. They only scored 3 points against Georgia, and then only scored 14 against a very bad Georgia Tech team (the same GT that lost to NIU). The Clemson OL is deeply suspect at this point, and NCSU has some talent on the DL that could potentially capitalize.
The issue I have is that NCSU's offense will probably struggle to move the ball against the Clemson defense. It's exactly this type of team that gives NCSU fits. When the offense struggles and gives short fields to the defense, NCSU can get in trouble quickly. State might have to play slow and smart to keep this game close at halftime, then rely on luck and variability (turnovers, perhaps) to spring the upset. But it's hard to be confident.
Prediction: NCSU 13, Clemson 23.
#1 Alabama squeaked by #11 Florida 31-29, and honestly I don't know how good Florida really is, with their two wins coming against bad teams. So Alabama is a bit suspect too. But unfortunately they'll probably still sail through the rest of the SEC West; even #7 Texas A&M (October 9th) doesn't look like a terribly formidable foe at this point.
#3 Oklahoma beat a not-very-good Nebraska team 23-16. Is anyone dominant at this point? The best team in the country just might be Oregon. Or Iowa.
#8 Cincinnati beat Indiana 38-24. Despite this, Indiana remains a dangerous foe in the Big Ten East and could easily play spoiler.
#9 Ohio State struggled against a very bad Tulsa team, leading only 13-6 at the half before pulling away for 41-20 win. Ohio State gave up 428 yards passing in this game, which led to the defensive coordinator getting demoted in the aftermath. Yikes.
#13 UCLA had been gaining a lot of hype, but that all came crashing back down after a 40-37 loss to Fresno State.
Meanwhile, Michigan State is 3-0 and is gaining hype themselves, especially after beating #24 Miami 38-17. But IMHO Miami had no business being ranked; they're now 1-2 with their only win coming against App State.
Games to Watch on TV
The Penn State game is at noon on BTN, but let's face it, the better game to watch is #12 Notre Dame vs. #18 Wisconsin on Fox.
Michigan plays Rutgers at 3:30 on ABC; I guess a matchup of 3-0 teams is enough to make this game the highlight of the late afternoon in the Big Ten. NCSU versus Clemson is on ESPN. #7 Texas A&M plays #16 Arkansas on CBS. #14 Iowa State plays undefeated Baylor too.
At 7:00 PM, Nebraska plays #20 Michigan State on FS1. Tennessee plays #11 Florida on ESPN. The night games are mostly either bad matchups teams I'm not particularly interested in, so pick your poison there.
Posted by Ken in: sports
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