2022 College Football: Week 4 Takeaways

Four games in, we’re starting to be able to separate the contenders from the pretenders. #4 Michigan looked shaky and needed poor officiating to survive against Maryland, while #5 Clemson dodged an upset in double overtime (more on that below), #6 Oklahoma fell to Kansas State, and #7 USC BARELY dodged Oregon State (with the help of 4 INTs). We had 4 overtime games (two 2OT games), 4 top 25 upsets, and one 73-0 game (I see you WKU). The playoff and Heisman pictures didn’t really change, though a few teams that thought they were on the right track had some major setbacks. I also wanted to take a look at a few teams that simply have not performed up to expectations. So let’s see what we can infer from this slate of games in my week 4 takeaways!

#5 Clemson Survives 2OT Thriller, Keeps ACC’s Playoff Hopes Alive

What a game! #21 Wake Forest gave the Tigers all they could handle, but the Demon Deacons couldn’t get the ball into the endzone on 4th down to extend the game further. Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei looked better than he has in two years, throwing for 371 yards and 5 TDs with no turnovers. His Wake Forest counterpart, Sam Hartman, was equally stellar, with 337 yards and 6 TDs. Neither offense deserved to lose this game, but someone had to win. In spite of penalties, the experienced Tigers managed to escape Winston-Salem.

The game went to OT tied at 38-38, with both teams finding the endzone once in OT before only Clemson could score in the second overtime. Though their 2-point conversion attempt was batted at the line to keep the score at 51-45, the Tigers’ defense held tough. One thing coach Dabo Swinney needs to keep an eye on though is his team’s secondary. His young corners and safeties were getting burned repeatedly, giving up long games or committing pass interference penalties (CLEM had 10 accepted penalties for 120 yards total). More often than not, that will be a recipe for a loss.

Looking at the big picture, the ACC’s flag-bearer stays unbeaten, and a loss by Clemson might have knocked the conference out of the CFP. Wake Forest played extremely well, but even a 13-0 Wake team might not have made it into the top 4. For some reason, the committee has zero respect for them, and the same was true last season. Pittsburgh already has a loss, as does Miami, and UNC has too poor a defense to get the job done, so with the SEC and Big 10 looking like super conferences, it’s probably all up to Clemson to represent the Atlantic coast in the playoffs unless absolute chaos occurs (which you can never count out in college football!).

The State of Tennessee Beat the State of Florida

The fact that #11 Tennessee beat #20 Florida wasn’t too surprising, but it was quite a game. The two teams traded blows until the Volunteers took a 38-21 4th-quarter lead. The Gators fought hard but made one crucial error. After scoring a TD to cut the lead to 11, they went for 2 instead of kicking the PAT. I know the analytics say that if you need 2 touchdowns then you should go for 2 after the first one, but it doesn’t work in practice. Florida got the ball again with about a minute left and scored a TD. Due to their error, they had to go for 2 again, and they failed again. One beautiful onside kick recovery later, Florida got the ball inside the Tennessee 40, where they had to attempt an ill-fated Hail Mary because they were down 5 instead of 3. Tennessee picked the pass off and won 38-33. Bad coaching aside (Billy Napier also lost his temper and got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct), the steps taken this game by QB Anthony Richardson were positive. Though he threw an INT and lost a fumble, he threw for 453 yards and his first 2 TDs of the season, while adding 2 more TDs on the ground. He still has a way to go to reach the consistency of the man on the opposite sideline (Hendon Hooker), but things finally looked like they were moving in the right direction.

In South Florida on a stormy day, Miami tried to bounce back at home after their bad loss to TAMU. They did anything but. The Hurricanes turned the ball over 3 times in the first quarter (2 INTs and 1 fumble) and allowed a couple of big plays, allowing Middle Tennessee to jump out to a 24-3 lead. Miami closed the gap to 24-10 at the end of the half, but after 2 more poor offensive series, coach Mario Cristobal benched QB Tyler Van Dyke and inserted Jake Garcia. That seemed to give the offense a spark, as they scored in short order once he came into the game. However, that didn’t help the defense. MTSU hit a 98-yard pass TD and scored again on another 75-yard drive, compiling 408 passing yards in the process. The Canes never got closer than 14 points behind, losing 45-31. Going into their bye week, Miami might have a QB controversy on its hands, but that resolution doesn’t address all the busted coverages we saw today. Conversely, MTSU gets a signature win and can now put their ugly season opening loss to James Madison in the rearview mirror after 3 straight wins.

The Sons of Two Former NFL QBs Started This Week and…Well…

Let’s just say that the genetics of Kurt Warner and Josh McCown could only go so far. Both EJ Warner (Temple) and Owen McCown (Colorado) produced some bright spots, but each needs a lot more game experience to adjust to the speed of the college game.

McCown had the better outing, but his team got crushed (we’ll talk about that below). He went 26/42 for 258 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT while also losing a fumble. He had no help from his running game, and the Buffalo defense could not stop the UCLA offense. As evidenced by his 6.1 yards per attempt, McCown was a bit hesitant to push the ball downfield, though some of that was undoubtedly due to a lack of trust in his offensive line.

Warner’s team beat UMass 28-0, but he didn’t have a particularly strong game. He completed just 50% of his passes (11/22) for 173 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. His accuracy was all over the place, and you can’t say that he was facing a super stout defense (UMass is among the worst teams in the FBS). Backup Quincy Patterson looked better, albeit against UMass reserves.

The good news is that both players are true freshmen, so they’ll have plenty of time to work on their mechanics and defense reading so that they can take advantage of their hereditary physical gifts.

What Happened to 2021 Group of 5 Conference Champions Northern Illinois and Utah State?

NIU had a good 2021 season, finishing 9-5 after an 8-4 regular season, a win over Kent State in the MAC conference championship game, and a close loss to Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl. This year, they’re 1-3 with their lone win being a 7-point victory over FCS Eastern Illinois. The Huskies have been competitive in all their losses, but among Kentucky, Tulsa, and Vanderbilt, two of those aren’t exactly heavyweights. The Kentucky game was a bit more encouraging, as NIU was tied 14-14 at the half before losing QB Rocky Lombardi to injury in the 3rd quarter. The entirety of their remaining schedule consists of games against MAC foes, so we’ll get to find out if NIU has truly taken a step backwards or if the MAC is merely one of the weaker Group of 5 conferences (both of those possibilities might be true).

Utah State’s fall has been a bit more perplexing. Last season, the Aggies destroyed (19) San Diego State 46-13 in the Mountain West conference championship game before beating Oregon State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl (that seriously exists) to complete an 11-3 season. This season has been an unmitigated disaster. They started off with a 31-20 win over UConn, but UConn has turned out to be the abysmal team we know and love (or laugh at). Their game against Alabama was simply unfair, as the Aggies were noncompetitive in a 55-0 shutout loss. The worst crime, however, was a week 3 home loss to FCS Weber State…35-7! A 34-24 loss to middling UNLV (also at home) has USU at 1-3 despite the return of QB Logan Bonner and coach Blake Anderson from last year’s team. Bonner has tossed 7 INTs in the last two weeks alone after throwing 12 total last year, and the defense can’t stop anyone. This season is quickly spiraling out of control, and I’m not sure they can do anything to stop it.

Ugly Football in the States of Virginia and Colorado

If you root for an FBS team in Virginia or Colorado, I apologize in advance for this part of the post. You already know how this is going to go, as only Air Force and Old Dominion won among all teams in both states (2-4 total), and the games weren’t very pretty. ODU actually required a double-digit comeback to beat 1-2 Arkansas State.

Starting with Virginia (the state and the school), the Cavaliers dug themselves a 16-0 hole against Syracuse by playing sloppy football and surrendering two turnovers. They were able to get back into the game and even take a 20-19 lead because the Orange committed 4 turnovers of their own. Just when it seemed like things were going to work out, the defense allowed Syracuse to march down the field for a 62-yard FG drive. Virginia got the ball once more with 1:14 left, but QB Brennan Armstrong fired inaccurate passes, leading to a turnover on downs and a 22-20 loss. Virginia Tech was less competitive. Things started off decently, with the Hokies taking a 7-6 lead over West Virginia with a minute to go in the first half. VT would only score 3 more points the rest of the game, and they didn’t even take their lone lead into halftime. WVU scored at will, winning 33-10 in an eventual blowout. VT had 2 turnovers, and they couldn’t move the ball at all, with a 1.9-yard average rushing and just one scoring drive all game.

In Colorado (again, the school and the state), the Buffaloes were trounced 45-17 by UCLA. The Bruins are decent and are off to a 4-0 start, but this was a poor showing against a fellow PAC-12 member. Colorado actually scored their most points in a game this season, but their coach knows about their offensive woes. Owen McCown was the 3rd starting QB through 4 games, and he has looked the best of the 3. However, the defense has not allowed less than 38 points in a game this year. All of this has led to an 0-4 start that even has their own AD taking shots at the team. Colorado State might actually be worse. The Rams are 0-4 as well, and their defense has also failed to allow less than 34 points in a game. Their best showing came in a 34-19 home loss to Middle Tennessee, as they were noncompetitive against Michigan and Washington State. This week might have presented one of the most embarassing losses of the season, with the Rams losing (at home) to FCS Sacramento State 41-10. Despite turning the ball over just once, the Rams were feckless on offense, with all but two drives leading to punts or turnovers (normal turnovers and turnovers on downs). CSU still has a couple of winnable games against Hawaii and New Mexico remaining, but even that might be asking too much of them at this point.

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