Week Four Lowe Down: Bulldogs battle, Pokes roll

Matt Lowe

September 22, 2017 at 4:44 pm.


Sep 2, 2017; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) breaks a tackle by Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive back Josh Thomas (7) to score a touchdown during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 2, 2017; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) breaks a tackle by Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive back Josh Thomas (7) to score a touchdown during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Week Four of The Lowe Down.

Last week wasn’t exactly the most exciting weekend of the college football season, but we did find out that Clemson is for real, Mississippi State isn’t to be taken lightly, Vanderbilt has a nasty defense and Kentucky is a lot better than expected.

We also found out that USC has holes, Florida and Auburn’s offenses are still a mess and Oklahoma State can pretty much score at will.

After this weekend, we will begin to get more clarification on which teams are contenders and which are pretenders. We may also see a coach or two (paging Bret Bielema) get fired early next week as a result of this week’s outstanding slate of games. Whatever happens, we are learning as we go.

Last week’s record was 17-7, bringing the yearly record to 44-20. To the games we go…


Friday, September 22

No. 23 Utah (3-0) at Arizona (2-1) 9:30 p.m. CT
Dynamic dual-threat quarterback Tyler Huntley has been the heart and soul of the Utah offense in the early going and don’t expect that to change playing against an Arizona team that’s been surprisingly good on defense through three games. Huntley, just a sophomore, fits the mold of the (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) classic prototypical Utes QB — good athlete who doubles as a quality runner and passer — but teammates are drawn to his toughness and instincts. And you’ll see what I mean when the Utes take on the ‘Cats.
The Lowe Down: Utah 30, Arizona 23

Saturday, September 23

NC State (2-1) at No. 12 Florida State (0-1) 11:00 a.m. CT
The weather has held back FSU’ eagerness to return to the field and get in the win column after losing the opener to top-ranked Alabama, but NC State won’t give a rip about that entering this pivotal ACC Atlantic Division matchup. Historically, the Wolfpack has given the Seminoles a great game, and don’t expect that to change here, especially after the injury to star QB Deondre Francois. Florida State’s offensive line had trouble blocking the Crimson Tide’s rugged front seven (when fully healthy) in Week One and will likely be challenged to the fullest extent squaring off against Bradley Chubb and the Wolfpack’s veteran front wall. Throw in the fact that FSU true freshman James Blackman, who is a physical specimen at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, will be making his first-ever collegiate start at quarterback, and this has the makings of a tightly contested game.
The Lowe Down: Florida State 20, NC State 17

USC (3-0) at California (3-0) at 2:30 p.m. CT
Tip of the hat to Cal head coach Justin Wilcox. A year ago, the Bears defense was pathetic and the team was undisciplined, which led to a 5-7 record and the firing of offensive-minded head coach Sonny Dykes. Under Wilcox, who was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin a year ago, the team is playing more inspired defensively (last week a pick-six sealed a 27-16 win over Ole Miss) and the dumb mistakes are less frequent. After a season-opening road win in Chapel Hill over North Carolina and then a surprising victory over SEC foe Ole Miss last week, Cal could make its mark on the college football world by upsetting USC. If that’s to happen, the Bears defense will need to turn over Trojans’ QB Sam Darnold, who has passed for 1,002 yards and seven scores this season despite six interceptions through three games. He had nine picks all of last season.
The Lowe Down: USC 30, Cal 26

No. 1 Alabama (3-0) at Vanderbilt (3-0) 2:30 p.m. CT
Alabama has more talent. Alabama has better players. Alabama has the best coach in college football. Alabama also might have the one component that can neutralize Vanderbilt’s talented secondary and exotic looks on defense: a running game. Despite bottling up talented dual-threat Jesse Ertz in the passing game (just 76 yards and two interceptions), the Commodores gave up their share of yards on the ground to Kansas State — 201 to be exact — a week ago. Alabama’s offense, led by Jalen Hurts, is much more powerful and dynamic and should be able to at least replicate the Wildcats success on the ground. Defensively, the Crimson Tide isn’t as strong as it was a year ago — and that was to be expected after losing so much star power — but it remains a formidable unit. Vandy signal-caller Kyle Shurmur, who leads the SEC in passing efficiency, will need to play a mistake-free game to give the home team a chance.
The Lowe Down: Alabama 27, Vanderbilt 13

No. 16 TCU (3-0) at No. 6 Oklahoma State (3-0) 2:30 p.m. CT
Every time I’ve mentioned that a game will feature a lot of points so far this season, the complete opposite has happened. But I think it’s safe to say that these two teams will find the end zone numerous times. It could be argued that no quarterback in America is performing as well in the passing game as is Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph. Through three games, Rudolph’s completed 68 of 94 passes for 1,135 yards and 11 touchdowns — with only one pick— despite sitting out the fourth quarter in all three of his team’s wins. Rudolph operates alongside one of the country’s more underrated tailback tandems in Justice Hill and J.D King, but his receiving corps, led by James Washington, Marcell Ateman, Dillon Stoner and Jalen McCleskey, is off the charts and the offensive line has done a marvelous job for the Cowboys. TCU quarterback Kenny Hill has been playing lights out for the Horned Frogs, and he will likely have some success against the Cowboys’ D. But the Pokes have too much offensive firepower to go down at home.
The Lowe Down: Oklahoma State 47, TCU 30

No. 8 Michigan (3-0) at Purdue (2-1) 2:30 p.m. CT
Purdue. Say it. Pur-Due. One of the best stories in college football could grow into an even bigger story if Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers can upend mighty Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. For that to happen, Purdue’s offense will need to be on point, much like it has been through the first three games. The last thing Michigan wants to do is get into a shootout — on the road — against a team that’s in a good rhythm on offense. Look for that to be the case though Saturday afternoon.
The Lowe Down: Michigan 33, Purdue 26

No. 17 Mississippi State (3-0) at No. 11 Georgia (3-0) 6:00 p.m. CT
Mississippi State this. Mississippi State that. That’s all we heard about all week after the Bulldogs smoked LSU by 30. But if Dan Mullen’s team wants to continue its ascension in the SEC it will need to play a smart, mistake-free game on offense and get another solid performance from its run defense. Georgia is really good defensively and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will likely be limited to what he can do with his feet due to the Bulldogs’ athletic front seven. Therefore he will need to be productive in the passing game for MSU to have a shot. UGA isn’t explosive offensively, but it leans on the three-headed monster of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and true freshman D’Andre Swift, who looks like a future star, to wear down a defense and control the clock, which keeps its defense fresh. This has the makings of a low-scoring game, but it’s tough to win in Athens at night.
The Lowe Down: Georgia 19, Mississippi State 16

No. 20 Florida (1-1) at Kentucky (3-0) 6:30 p.m. CT
Both teams enter this pivotal SEC East matchup riding high from emotional wins a week ago, but after watching Florida play twice, I think Kentucky is the better team. Now if the Gators had tailback Jordan Scarlett and wideout Antonio Callaway back, I may lean toward Jim McElwain’s bunch getting the W here. But I was really impressed with Kentucky’s defense in the victory over South Carolina a weekend ago and I think that unit will be the difference in the game. Also, look for Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson, a talented runner, and tailback Benny Snell to post impressive numbers against a Florida front seven that isn’t nearly as good as it was a year.
The Lowe Down: Kentucky 24, Florida 17

No. 4 Penn State (3-0) at Iowa (3-0) 6:30 p.m. CT
If it weren’t for a complete meltdown by Iowa State in Week Two, Iowa would be 2-1. But there’s a first time for everything and after Saturday night the Hawkeyes will have their first L. Now granted, Penn State hasn’t played anybody, but its offense is loaded with playmakers — QB Trace McSorley, tailback Saquon Barkley, wideout Saeed Blacknall and tight end Mike Gesicki are among the top players in the country at their positions — and the defense has been turning over teams left and right. Look for the Nittany Lions to roll.
The Lowe Down: Penn State 38, Iowa 17

No. 7 Washington (3-0) at Colorado (3-0) 8:00 p.m. CT
Rest assured, the Colorado players have heard all week about their 31-point loss to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game last December and now they finally have a chance to do something about it. Like last year, the Buffaloes rely on a physical running game and strong defense to win games. But quarterback Steven Montez will need to make some plays downfield and avoid turnovers if Colorado wants to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 1998. The Buffaloes also must contain receiver/kick/punt returner Dante Pettis and get pressure on quarterback Jake Browning, who hasn’t been blessed with a strong rushing attack so far this season despite having Myles Gaskin, to pull the upset. Pettis has been a big-play machine for Washington this season and keeping him out of the end zone will be crucial to a Colorado win.
The Lowe Down: Colorado 27, Washington 24 (Upset Special)****

In other Saturday games:

Texas Tech 30 at Houston 37

Massachusetts 7 at Tennessee 48

Kent State 10 at No. 19 Louisville 45

UNLV10 at No. 10 Ohio State 55

Texas A&M 35 vs. Arkansas 17 (Arlington)

Pittsburgh 17 at Georgia Tech 38

La. Tech 20 at South Carolina 33

Toledo 13 at No. 14 Miami 30

Boston College 10 at No. 2 Clemson 38

Nevada 17 at No. 18 Washington State 45

No. 15 Auburn 38 at Missouri 7

Notre Dame 23 at Michigan State 27 (Upset Special)****

No. 24 Oregon 48 at Arizona State 28