By Dave Miller, National Football Post
Week 3 is in the books, and Week 4 kicked off Wednesday night with a little MACtion and continued on Thursday evening with the intriguing game between BYU and Boise State.
This week there are some major conference openers for top contenders, and Notre Dame will look to move to 4-0 when the Fighting Irish host Michigan under the lights.
So once again, dust off that grill and get it fired up because we’re starting this weekend’s tailgate.
The marquee matchups
X-Factor: Fighting Irish front seven vs. "Shoelace"...As is always the case when the Wolverines are in action, containing Denard Robinson is of primary concern for the opposing defense. The Fighting Irish front seven had its coming-out party last week in East Lansing, where the unit physically dominated Michigan State. Head coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco have been building that front for the last three years. Will the Irish have good gap discipline on Saturday night against "Shoelace?" That is always the question, especially after the dual-threat quarterback has amassed 948 total yards the last two times he has seen the Irish. For a look at what the Irish will have to deal with on Saturday night, click here.
X-Factor: Jones and his comfort level with his receivers...Oklahoma veteran signal-caller Landry Jones has not been the same quarterback since Ryan Broyles went down with a season-ending knee injury last season. Despite the senior having some valuable weapons at the skill positions this season, he has yet to look like his former self. So the signal-caller spent extra time during the bye week working with first-year receivers Justin Brown and Trey Metoyer as the Sooners look to get production in the passing game from some other options besides junior Kenny Stills. Last year in OU's 58-17 mauling of K-State, Jones threw for 505 yards, with 171 of them going to Broyles on 14 grabs. Meanwhile, the OU defense led by Mike Stoops will hope to put the clamps on Wildcats dual-threat signal-caller Collin Klein, who was held to 58 passing yards and contained on the ground while being harassed by the OU defense for seven sacks in 2011. OU head coach Bob Stoops is 19-0 at home against ranked teams, so it's a tough test for the 'Cats.
X-Factor: Tigers offensive line vs. Seminoles defensive line...Both of these squads had question marks across the offensive line coming into this season. And while both units have been solid early this year, I think Clemson's O-Line gets a little exposed this week against FSU's fierce front, led by Bjoern Woerner. But the Tigers are going to be able to move the football with Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Those are still elite college players in space. But in the fourth quarter, FSU's defense will make one more big play than Clemson's high-powered offense.
Missouri at South Carolina: The Tigers showed against Georgia that they can hang with top-tier SEC teams. Can the Gamecocks get a full game out of quarterback Connor Shaw, who is still nursing a sore shoulder?
Oregon State at UCLA: The Bruins have been a surprise Pac-12 squad under first-year head coach Jim L. Mora. But Mike Riley's Beavers pulled an upset over Wisconsin in their opener.
California at USC: The Trojans are looking to rebound after yet another loss to Stanford, while Cal is hoping to avoid its third loss of the year.
LSU at Auburn: Kiehl Frazier will have a tough time against arguably the nastiest defensive line in the country. And Zach Mettenberger will look to take advantage of a suspect Auburn secondary.
Rutgers at Arkansas: Can John L. Smith's squad pick itself off the mat after a thorough thrashing at the hands of Alabama? And can Jawan Jamison and Co. take advantage of a weak Hogs defense?
Arizona at Oregon: Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense won't have enough to stop the Ducks' high-octane offensive attack in what should be a high-scoring affair.
Don't forget about...
Virginia at TCU
Miami (FL) at Georgia Tech
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