Zach Mettenberger,  Jeremy Hill

Weekend Preview: LSU has what it takes to battle Alabama, BCS busters and more

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The biggest games of the week may have been played Thursday night, but the Saturday line-up  is not all that shabby either.

Alabama vs. LSU

Nobody has been safe in the SEC this season. Everybody has taken a loss except for one team, Alabama. Saturday night in Tuscaloosa the Crimson Tide host LSU. The SEC West match-up may not have quite the same magnitude recent meetings have had, but with the season winding down there is no good time to take a loss now for Alabama. Of course, that hasn’t exactly hurt them before. Could this year turn out to be different? Alabama cannot risk it to find out.

LSU is one of the few teams to have been able to handle the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. LSU has won five of the last six games in Alabama. Alabama’s only win at home against LSU since 1999 came in a 24-15 victory in 2009. So, does LSU have a chance at knocking of Alabama once more? Why wouldn’t they?

LSU has all of the ingredients they need to pull the upset. the Tigers have one of he top quarterbacks in the SEC (Zach Mettenberger), a power running game led by one of the top rushers in the SEC (Jeremy Hill) and one of the top defenses in the SEC. The problem for LSU is Alabama has all of those things as well.

A loss for Alabama may put a temporary dent on the bus to the SEC Championship, but no matter what happens it appears The Iron Bowl with Auburn is going to be huge.

ACC Championship Chase

Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC) is in a good spot in the BCS championship, but still must make sure to finish the year strong in ACC play. Florida State will look to avoid a huge upset Saturday when they travel to Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4 ACC). This should be a game that sees some big numbers put up by the Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston (Marcus Mariota‘s performance Thursday likely results in Winston leading the pack). Letting up at this point in the year is probably not wise for Florida State as there are other undefeated teams on the prowl for a trip to Pasadena. Don’t count on Florida State having a sluggish afternoon.

While Florida State may have the Atlantic Division pretty much wrapped up, the Coastal Division is still up for grabs. Miami (7-1, 3-1 ACC), despite losing running back Duke Johnson in the loss to Florida State last week, still sits in a good spot in the division. The Hurricanes host Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2)  Saturday in what may be the biggest hurdle the rest of the way before making their first trip to the ACC Championship Game. Stephen Morris will have to be smart with his pass selection because the Hokies have one of the tougher defenses in the ACC. Without Johnson, the Hurricanes will look to Dallas Crawford, who should be more than capable of handling the responsibilities.

BCS Buster Watch

Entering the week Fresno State (8-0, 5-0 MWC) remains in the perfect position for a BCS bowl berth. The Bulldogs are ranked 16th in the BCS rankings and ahead of the top contenders in The American (we’ll get to that conference in a moment). As long as Derek Carr can lead the Bulldogs to a road win at Wyoming (4-4, 2-2 MWC) Fresno State should remain in a good spot with time winding down in the regular season.

Northern Illinois (9-0, 5-0 MAC) dropped a spot in the BCS standings to 18th overall, but the Huskies still remain in striking distance of making a return trip to the BCS stage. As long as Fresno state keeps winning though, it will be tough to see Northern Illinois sneak in one more time.

Chasing The American Dream

The American Athletic Conference championship picture will be a bit more clear after this weekend. The key game to pay attention to will feature Central Florida (6-1, 3-0 AAC) and surprising Houston (7-1, 4-0 AAC). UCF is ranked 21st in the BCS rankings, which is vital to Fresno State and Northern Illinois, but the Knights and Cougars will battle for the pole position for the conference’s automatic BCS berth. If Central Florida wins this weekend, the berth will be their’s to blow having already beaten Louisville this season. A Houston win could open up a bit of a complicated situation in the conference. Houston visits Louisville next week. If Houston wins this weekend and Louisville defeats Houston next week, a three-way tie at the top of the conference would be left to untangle. But let’s worry about that later if we need to. The big key this weekend is whether or not Central Florida wins. A win could make a case to bump the Knights up in the rankings, either closing the gap on Fresno State and NIU or passing them altogether.

The quarterback battle between Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Houston’s John O’Korn should be an entertaining one. Bortles will also be put to the test though, with Houston leading the nation in turnover margin with a +20, highlighted by 17 interceptions.

Kirby Smart unsure of severity of Nick Chubb’s ankle injury

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs the ball and is pursued by the defense of the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  The Rebels defeated the Bulldogs 45-14.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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You really have to feel for Nick Chubb.

The Georgia running back returned from a devastating knee injury that knocked him out for more than half of the 2015 season, rushing for career regular-season high of 222 yards in the 2016 opener in his first game back.  In an embarrassing Week 4 loss to Ole Miss, however, Chubb sustained an ankle in the second quarter and wasn’t able to return.

Whether he will be healthy enough to return for a ky SEC East matchup with Tennessee next weekend remains to be seen.

“Don’t know the severity yet. He couldn’t come back in the game,” head coach Kirby Smart said according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following the loss. “If he could have come back, I know he wanted to. So we’ll see how that goes the next couple days.

In his three games since the opener, has for just 200 yards total.  Included in that was the 57 yards on 12 carries he had prior to the ankle injury.  If Chubby can’t go vs. the Vols, Brian Herrien (11 carries for 78 yards against the Rebels) and Sony Michel (11-66).  Herrien also scored the Bulldogs’ two touchdowns in the 45-14 loss, both of which came on the ground.

Sackless in South Bend: Irish lone remaining FBS team without a sack

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish yells at a referee during a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Notre Dame Stadium on September 26, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Umass 62-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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And then there was one.

Entering Week 4, Nevada and Notre Dame were the lone FBS teams that had yet to register a sack during the first quarter of the 2016 season.  Midway through the second quarter of the game against Purdue today, however, Nevada’s Korey Rush sacked David Blough for a four-yard loss.

With Notre Dame not playing until 3:30 ET this afternoon (on NBC), that leaves the Irish standing alone as the only sackless team left at the FBS level.

Ironically enough, Purdue entered today’s game as one of five FBS teams, along with East Carolina, Northern Illinois, Texas State and West Virginia, that had recorded just one sack on the year.  And, for those who are curious, Florida came into Week 4 leading the nation in sacks with 16.

No. 2 in that category?  The Irish’s opponent this afternoon, the Blue Devils (tied with Ball State).

No. 23 Ole Miss blows away No. 12 Georgia

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Chad Kelly #10 of the Mississippi Rebels rolls out to pass in the first second quarter under pressure from Raquan Smith #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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The story of September for No. 23 Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 SEC) had been the inability to keep its foot on the gas pedal once it jumped out to a sizable lead against a quality opponent. Whether it was a lesson learned or the mere fact that No. 12 Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) was over-ranked heading in, the Rebels did not let up Saturday afternoon in Oxford. Ole Miss built a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, took a 31-0 lead into the halftime break and went on to demolish Georgia, 45-14.

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly was able to get an early rest after one extremely productive first half. Before Hugh Freeze handed the offense to backups quarterbacks, Kelly completed 16 of 21 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. The ball was distributed pretty well between the running and passing games as well. Eight different players caught a pass for Ole Miss, and seven different Rebels carried the football at least once. Kelly took off four times for 53 yards and a touchdown in addition to his efficient day through the air.

Georgia’s running duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel rushed for a combined 123 yards, but neither scored a touchdown before the game started to get out of hand and away from Georgia’s strength. The early hole meant Georgia had to try and catch up through the air, with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason having a rough afternoon on the road. Eason completed 16 of 36 pass attempts for 137 yards and an interception, and a number of dropped passes.

Georgia will return home and hope the momentum is quick to swing back in its favor next week. The Bulldogs play a pivotal SEC East contest against Tennessee. The Vols are playing an important SEC East game today against Florida. Georgia may need a win at home to bounce back, with games at South Carolina and at home against Vanderbilt following before a bye week. After the bye week comes the annual game in Jacksonville against Florida. How Kirby Smart gets his team to come back next week with Eason will be key as Georgia looks to prove this loss was a bit of a fluke.

There was certainly nothing flukey about it though, as Ole Miss showed what they can do when they play a complete game. For the first time this season, Ole Miss did not get tired against a physical opponent and continued to make plays all afternoon to lock down the win. This was one Ole Miss needed to have after the way this month has played out thus far. Next up for Ole Miss is a bit of a revenge game at home next week against Memphis of the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers stunned Ole Miss last season with Paxton Lynch at quarterback and Justin Fuente coaching. Both have moved on from Memphis (Lynch to the NFL, Fuente to Virginia Tech), so the Tigers will have their work cut out for them if they are to pull the stunner once more. Ole Miss will be a prohibitive favorite and get a chance to get to the bye week with a winning record before heading to Arkansas and then to LSU before returning home to play Auburn.

No. 11 Wisconsin makes B1G statement with 30-6 win at No. 8 Michigan State

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 24:  Eric Steffes #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers catches a pass for a touchdown durng the first quarter of the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 24, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan.  (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)
Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images
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It just might be time to start taking No. 11 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) seriously as a Big Ten threat. Feel free to throw the Badgers in your late September College Football Playoff conversation if you are so inclined, but the Badgers made mincemeat of No.8 Michigan State (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) and may have put the Big Ten on notice with some very challenging games still to come in the next month. Wisconsin picked up their second win against a top 10 opponent with a 30-6 victory at Michigan State.

Wisconsin put this game away in the third quarter. After taking a 13-6 lead into halftime, the Badgers defense made a big play to open the scoring in the second half. Michigan State running back LJ Scott had the ball pop out of his hands on a run up the middle, and free safety Leo Musso managed to pick up the loose ball and make his way down the left side of the field, shove aside Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor attempting to make a tackle, and get some blockers to make his way to the end zone for a wild touchdown. The score seemed to deflate the Spartans just a little more than they already had been against the Badgers defense. Wisconsin took advantage of a special teams mistake when a punt snap went above the punter and the ball was downed at the five-yard line. One play later, Corey Clement ran in for a knockout blow of a touchdown, putting the Badgers up 30-6.

O’Connor was picked off by the Badgers defense three times in the game, and he completed just 18 of 38 pass attempts. Scott managed to pick up just 61 rushing yards on the ground for the Spartans. Michigan State may have to go back to the drawing board with its offense.

Wisconsin opened the year with a win against LSU, who was then ranked in the preseason top 10. Maybe LSU was overhyped (LSU was definitely overhyped), but take nothing away from what the Badgers have managed to do, even if this is a step-back year for Michigan State. Few teams have accumulated two quality wins the way Wisconsin has four weeks into the season. The only team that may have done better is Alabama, although the Crimson Tide’s win against now 1-3 USC looks far less sexy than it could have. Does this make Wisconsin the team to beat in the Big Ten? No. Not at this point, with Michigan and Ohio State still looming. But the Badgers are most certainly worthy of praise for what they have accomplished in September.

Next up for Wisconsin is a return trip to the state of Michigan to play the Wolverines. Michigan hosts Penn State today, looking to keep an undefeated start to the season in play. Wisconsin will be Michigan’s toughest opponent to date when the two meet next week in Michigan Stadium. Wisconsin will get a much-needed bye week after that but it gets no easier once they return to action. Wisconsin hosts Ohio State, visits Iowa and then hosts Nebraska in October.

Michigan State will hit the road next week to continue Big Ten play. The Spartans head to Bloomington to take on Indiana. Michigan State’s next home game will be no easy one either, with BYU heading in for a non-conference battle.