LSU, Michigan and USC took sort of a vow before the season. Coaches at all three schools with traditionally physical offenses told the world that they were jumping in with both feet to run RPOs. For those of you who forgot to set your alarm for the 21st Century, Kansas City offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz’ 2018 tweet continues to be the best definition of the Run-Pass Option.
Basically, all three programs committed to opening up their offenses. Among the three, only No. 11 Michigan hasn’t fully achieved that yet with a season-defining trip to No. 13 Wisconsin coming up.
No. 4 LSU? Check. Joe Burrow is the quarterback Les Miles never had with the Tigers. USC lost its starter, J.T. Daniels, but continues to cruise offensively with freshman Kedon Slovis throwing to some of the best wide receivers in the country.
Michigan? Um, let’s just say you’re on the clock Jim Harbaugh. When Army played a surprisingly close game at the Big House two weeks ago, the Wolverines looked like they were using the same plodding offense that has defined the Harbaugh era.
Michigan must open up the O to goose a season that is suddenly on the brink. We need to see three- and four-receiver sets. We need to see a power running game. We need to see a better mesh point from quarterback Shea Patterson, who let’s face it, isn’t much of a threat to run. Remember when the Wolverines were picked by many to win the Big Ten? Three weeks in, No. 6 Ohio State has more than stated its case to be the favorite.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin has yet to give up a point. It has an offense that can play keep away. Jonathan Taylor is chasing history trying to become the NCAA career rushing leader.
It may be that Michigan doesn’t have the athletes and/or team speed to run an effective RPO offense. Left tackle Jon Runyan Jr. does return from injury this week.
The point is that you know what you’re getting in Wisconsin. Four games into taking that offensive vow, Michigan looks close to breaking it.
Notre Dame-Georgia: Notre Dame QB Ian Book may be slippery, but Georgia has faced some of the best in that category. (Hello, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts.) The feeling here is that Kirby Smart will try to pound the No. 7 Fighting Irish early with D’Andre Swift and Zamir White. Notre Dame is 120th nationally against the rush playing Louisville and New Mexico. Georgia 30, Notre Dame 17Two things became clear: They’ve been coached up not to say a thing even remotely provocative. Even so, they came across as confident. A lot of the roster previously won in South Bend, Indiana.
Cowboy up: Oklahoma State always plays Texas close. Always. Look it up. The Cowboys have won the last four meetings. Never mind that he Longhorns lead the all-time series 24-9. Oklahoma State will make this a fourth-quarter game in Austin, Texas, featuring the nation’s leading rusher Chuba Hubbard and No. 1 receiver Tylan Wallace. Unless No. 12 Texas has fixed its secondary problems that emerged against LSU, this could be an upset special.
The Kyle Trask era begins: Florida’s quarterback will start his first game against Tennessee since his junior varsity days in high school. Doesn’t matter. Trask already seems qualified having rallied the Gators to 19 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against Kentucky. The lifetime backup played behind Houston’s D’Eriq King in high school and has bided his time behind Feleipe Franks — for better and worse. Florida color analyst Lee McGriff compared Trask to Steve Spurrier, Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. “And Trask’s arm is stronger than them all,” McGriff told the Orlando Sentinel. OK … let’s settle on the Gators winning for the 14th time in the last 15 meetings against the Vols. Oh, and expect to see some of Emory Jones, too.
The noon SEC window: Both LSU and Alabama will both play at the same time against opponents they should roll over. But it’s never too early to compare the two best teams in the SEC West now that both look like they could advance to the College Football Playoff. No. 2 Alabama may be starting as many as four freshmen on defense against Southern Miss after another injury. Meanwhile, Burrow is the most accurate quarterback in the country facing Vanderbilt. The Commodores haven’t started 0-3 since 2006.
Auburn has to win: This sentence has to be written before every game with at least one trustee reportedly once again breathing down Gus Malzahn’s neck. Beyond that, I’m still trying to figure out what the angle is in No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 17 Texas A&M. Neither team is going to win the SEC West. Gus actually looks comfortable calling plays for this power-run offense. Going on the road, you’ve got to wonder about Bo Nix. Auburn’s true freshman is the least accurate SEC starting quarterback (52.4 percent).
Low-flying Cardinal: Something is wrong at Stanford. The usually stout Cardinal have allowed at least 45 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1918. For the second straight year, Stanford has opened the season averaging less than 135 rushing yards through three games. But No. 16 Oregon is 4-12 on the road since 2016. The Ducks blew last year’s meeting in Eugene, Oregon, when, instead of going into victory formation, the decision was made to hand off to C.J. Verdell. Verdell fumbled, Stanford recovered and the Cardrinal drove down to win.
Knight moves: Expect the UCF playoff clamor to get louder after the No. 15 Knights win at Pittsburgh. That would be two Power Five wins in a row (though the combined record of those teams after Week 4 could be 2-6). Forget whether or not they “belong” for now, the Knights have scored at least 30 points in 29 straight games. Even No. 1 Clemson hasn’t done that.
The candy hearts were tasty: Utah State has launched a Heisman Trophy campaign for QB Jordan Love. The media mailer includes 10 candy hearts (his number is 10, hearts for “Love,” get it?). Love and Utah State continue to be one of the more anonymous programs in the country. The Aggies (1-1) travel to San Diego State (3-0) second in total offense having averaged 47.5 points in their last 13 games going back to last season. A lot of the credit goes to former coach Matt Wells for recruiting Love and establishing the culture that makes the Aggies. Alan Bowman (now injured at Texas Tech) has continued to thrive under Wells as the nation’s No. 4 passer. Love is a 71 percent thrower who plays fast — real fast. Utah State’s offense runs a play every 19 seconds. The Aggies are a longshot New Year’s Six candidate, but the candy is dandy.
Quick hits: How down is the ACC? According to TeamRankings.com, after Clemson, Miami currently has the second-best chance to win the ACC (5.6 percent). The Canes (1-2) have yet to beat an FBS team … Hidden stat: Notre Dame was 1 for 10 on third down last week against New Mexico and is 121st nationally in that category. Only two teams have converted fewer third downs than ND’s six through two games … I just remembered why I like Miami (Ohio) coach Chuck Martin so much. His take on facing Ohio State this week: “It’s kind of like going to recess and they have the first 85 picks.”