College Football Week 4 Preview, Iowa Hosts Penn State
National-title hopefuls get road tests, and ranked teams battle in Week 4. Here’s a preview of this week’s best games:
Saturday, September 23
Will Florida State Be Rusty?
North Carolina State at (12) Florida State | Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.; Noon (ET) on ABC
After having their season delayed by Hurricane Irma for a few weeks, 12th-ranked Florida State (0–1) finally gets back on the football field this Saturday when the Seminoles host unranked N.C. State (2–1) in an Atlantic Coast Conference game. When FSU last played, they suffered a crushing season-opening loss to top-ranked Alabama and watched starting quarterback Deondre Francois suffer a season-ending knee injury near that game’s end. It has to get better, right? Well...
The Wolfpack will not just roll over. They certainly didn’t last year in a 24–20 loss. The Seminoles must contain the NCSU backfield tandem of Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines, who will try to control the tempo. New Florida State starting quarterback James Blackman is a true freshman who must figure out how to beat the Wolfpack defense without the benefit of much practice or real-speed game time. N.C. State must capitalize on any rust.
Can Vandy Shock Alabama?
(1) Alabama at Vanderbilt | Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville; 3:30 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Fresh off an upset win over ranked Kansas State, Vanderbilt (3–0) hosts No. 1 Alabama (3–0), a program they haven’t beaten since 1984. Could this be the year that the Commodores break the streak? Maybe, but unlikely.
Vandy has only given up 13 points in its three wins. Having the nation’s top-ranked passing defense (95.3 yards per game) helps, but they certainly weren’t playing against talent like Damien Harris and Jalen Hurts. The bigger issue: can the Commodores protect quarterback Kyle Shurmur from the Crimson Tide defense led by Shaun Hamilton, Da’Shawn Hand and Da’Ron Payne. If Vandy can score early and force Hurts into passing situations, they can at least make Nick Saban and Co. nervous.
Does Mason Rudolph Have a Chance at the Heisman?
(16) TCU at (6) Oklahoma State | Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.; 3:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
Don’t tell Baker Mayfield fans, but Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is the best quarterback in Oklahoma right now. Rudolph’s 1,135 passing yards rank 5th in the NCAA, and he’s thrown 11 touchdown passes to just one interception to power the sixth-ranked Cowboys to a 3–0 start. His performance has also put him in the Heisman Trophy conversation along with Oklahoma’s Mayfield, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and USC’ Sam Darnold.
Rudolph will face a greater test this week when No. 16 TCU (3–0) comes to Stillwater. The Horned Frogs have been known for their defense under head coach Gary Patterson; they’ll need a supreme effort to stop a team averaging 49 points per game. TCU’s best bet is for quarterback Kenny Hill and the offense to control the clock and keep Rudolph and his receivers on the sidelines.
Bulldogs Battle in Georgia
(17) Mississippi State at (11) Georgia | Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.; 7 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
The Mississippi State-Georgia game didn’t seem like it would be a prime time battle between ranked teams prior to the season, but both sets of Bulldogs have started 2017 with a perfect 3–0 record heading into Saturday’s key Southeastern Conference match-up. The winner of this game gets a signature victory and a chance at staying in the college football playoff race. The loser won’t.
Seventeenth-ranked Mississippi State jumped into the rankings after pasting LSU, 37–7, last Saturday. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald needs to continue to shine against the speedy defense of No. 11 Georgia for his Bulldogs to win. Likewise, UGA’s Nick Chubb likely must pound the MSU defense for his team to win.
Can Penn State Pass a Road Test at Iowa?
(4) Penn State at Iowa | Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Ia; 7:30 p.m. (ET) on ABC
Fourth-ranked Penn State (3–0) has been dominant thus far this season. The defending Big Ten champs have allowed just one touchdown in impressive wins over less-than-impressive opponents: Akron, Pitt and Georgia State. Things may be tougher for the Nittany Lions when they travel to Iowa (3–0), where they have won just once in their last five games.
The Hawkeyes will likely look to hammer away with running back Akrum Wadley, controlling the clock and keeping the Penn State offense, off the field. PSU running back Saquon Barkley could be dangerous against a defense that gave up more than 100 yards to Iowa State’s David Montgomery.
Water bottles will be allowed inside Kinnick Stadium due to the high temperatures forecast for gameday.