Week 4 will be an exciting week for College Football, consisting of great matchups that could really either go down to the wire or that could be over at the half. There could also be plenty of upsets this week, as #1 Alabama faces a talented Arkansas team led by quarterback Ryan Mallett and Oregon State faces a Boise State team that must win in order to remain in the National Championship picture. The uncertainty of the week is what makes it so special.
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Alabama at Arkansas
Alabama's star runningback, Mark Ingram, looked healthy and back to form last week after missing the first two games of the season. In his first game back, he ran for 151 yards with two touchdowns on nine carries before being benched at the half. Ingram and backup Trent Richardson will be the key to the game for Alabama this week as Arkansas's plan on defense will be to stop the run. On the defensive side, Alabama will have to devise a plan to stop Arkansas' star quarterback, Ryan Mallett. The defense gave Mallett some problems last year, as he completed 12 of 35 passes for 160 yards in a 35-7 Alabama win. Alabama's defense will face its biggest test so far this season as they take on the star quarterback.
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As much as Arkansas needs a great performance from Ryan Mallett, the defense must stop the run game in order to upset Alabama. But they shouldn't focus too much on the run as quarterback Greg McElroy can beat them through the air. On offense, they have a special player at quarterback who has led them to a 3-0 record so far. Arkansas will need to play flawless football and answer several questions to have a chance of winning this game. Will they be able to stop the two-headed monster at running back? Will Mallett be able to continue his success against a tough defense, or is his success the result of playing inferior teams? The answers will be revealed during the game, so stay tuned to see if the Razorbacks are for real.
Oregon State at Boise State
Even though Oregon State lost to a similar non-BCS team in TCU, don't expect the same result against Boise State. There might be many signs pointing towards a Boise State win, however, don't count out the Beavers as they have upset the top ranked teams over the years. Watch out for star running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who played well last week rushing for 132 yards with two touchdowns. The Beavers will need a similar or maybe even better performance out of Rodgers for this week's game in order to upset a top ranked Boise State team. It won't be easy for the Beavers, as they travel to Bronco Stadium, which has not witnessed a loss in 56 home games.
Boise State looks to extend their home win streak to 57 as they face a solid Oregon State team. Their home record should not be the only problem facing Oregon State as Boise State outgained their opponent last week by 513 yards under Heisman hopeful Kellen Moore. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this game as ESPN's College Gameday will be held at Bronco Stadium and Lou Holtz's pregame speech to Boise State will be aired on ESPN's College Football Live. Boise State should win this game handily, keeping their National Title hopes alive.
South Carolina at Auburn
After struggling early against an FCS opponent, South Carolina has to have improved over the week if they want to have a chance at beating Auburn. In last week's performance, it took an interception by Stephen Gilmore for 80 yards to finally put away Furman 38-19. But that was just one game, as South Carolina played well in their previous two. Marcus Lattimore, a freshman running back for the Gamecocks, could be a difference maker. Last week's performance was adequate, but he has the potential of single-handedly winning the game; just check out his performance in week two against Georgia when he rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns. South Carolina will have to rely on the freshman this week, but it wont be easy as they face a very talented and physical front seven.
While South Carolina was struggling against Furman, Auburn also struggled early but came back to beat a far more competitive Clemson team. After going down 17-3 at half, Auburn fought back scoring 21 points in the third quarter, later winning in overtime 27-24 on a field goal. It seems as though the Tigers are used to the pressure, as they have won three of four games by a field goal. Like South Carolina, Auburn has a talented freshman running back in Michael Dyer who has averaged 5.4 yards per carry and is gaining his coaches confidence week by week. Auburn should win this matchup at home, as South Carolina has struggled in conference road games.
West Virginia at LSU
It won't be easy for West Virginia to come in and beat LSU in Baton Rouge, as the Tigers hold the longest non-conference win streak with 30 wins since 2002. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who has played well this season, could end that streak with another impressive performance. West Virginia hasn't had a quarterback of this type since Marc Bulger in 1998, as Smith leads the conference in passer rating and yards. His success might have come because teams have been keying in on the run, trying to stop star running back Noel Devine. Devine, college football's leading active rusher, has topped 100 yards rushing in all three games this season. If West Virginia can establish the run against an always-stingy LSU defense, then watch out for the upset this weekend.
The LSU Tigers have looked susceptible at points this season, as their opponents have been within a touchdown midway through the second half. That mostly has to do with the quarterback play, because the passing game has not been where it should be. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson was expected to play well this year, but he's done the opposite as his quarterback rating is 10th in the SEC and he has not thrown consecutive 100 yard games. However, LSU has a star player at running back in Stevan Ridley who has ran well this season, rushing for 318 yards and two touchdowns. But West Virginia has stopped the run so far, holding their opponents to 62.7 yards, so LSU will need Ridley to step up. This game should be an interesting one to watch.
Stanford at Notre Dame
Lets take a look at Stanford's history before I get into details about this game. The Cardinal has not started out the season 4-0 since 1986, and this week's ranking is the highest it's been since 1972. Stanford had lost seven straight against Notre Dame until last year's matchup when they won 45-38 at Palo Alto. Stanford could win consecutive games for the first time in the history of the series, but it wont be easy as they must snap a seven game losing streak in South Bend that goes back to 1992.
History might not be on Stanford's side, but they do have Luck... Andrew Luck that is. Luck has dominated his first three games throwing for 674 yards and 10 touchdowns while running for 140 yards and a touchdown. He leads an offense that ranks 3rd nationally with 51.7 points per game. Their success on offense might have overshadowed their success on defense, as they have shut out UCLA and have allowed a mere 90 yards per game through the air. So far this season Stanford looks like a solid team that could do some damage in the college football scene, so don't look for them to let up this week.
Unlike Stanford, it hasn't been so successful for Notre Dame so far this season. The Irish have encountered two gut-wrenching losses the past two weeks, as they lost in the final minutes in both games. This is nothing new to the Irish as they lost six of seven last year by seven points or fewer. However, it is new to head coach Brian Kelly who had success at Cincinnati but not at Notre Dame so far, resulting in much added pressure from Notre Dame fans. The Irish do have a lone bright spot coming out of last week's loss, as Dayne Crist threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns. The Irish will need the same performance out of Crist and some luck on their side (no pun intended) to beat Stanford.
Player to keep your eye on: Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas. The chance to upset #1 ranked Alabama rests on his shoulders. If he has an impressive game, not only do they have a chance to upset Alabama, but Mallett becomes the front runner for the Heisman. This will be Mallett's biggest test so far in his career, but will he be able to handle the Alabama defense? Stay tuned...
Tailgate item of the week: Chicken Wings. If you choose the right sauce and cook them the right way, then you and your friends will be satisfied tailgaters. Whether it's a homemade sauce or a sauce from your local supermarket, make sure it's not too spicy. You want to spend the game on the couch or in your seat...not on the porcelain throne, and especially not on a stadium's porcelain throne. If you are daring and like your wings spicy, make sure you bring some celery or carrots with ranch or blue cheese dressing to cool your mouth. Take some time out before Saturday and read some recipes that look appetizing to you, it will be worth it. - Jared Levine
Jared is a Journalism and Sports Administration major at the University of Miami providing introspective, insight, information and opinion on the world of College Football.
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