Across the Country – Week 4

Alabama Football

Auburn at No. 6 LSU (Tiger Stadium – Baton Rouge, La., 6:45 p.m. CT, ESPN)

The SEC is home to current No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champion Alabama, but at the moment it may be the Tigers of LSU, not the Crimson Tide, that have been the most complete team so far in 2013. LSU, as usual, has a top 10 defense and a strong running game that should give Auburn first-year quarterback Nick Marshall and his defense its fair share of troubles in Death Valley. The added dimension of drastically improved quarterback play from Zach Mettenberger, who currently leads the SEC passing efficiency, only adds to the tough task Auburn faces in playing LSU.

No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford (Stanford Stadium – Stanford, Calif., 6 p.m. CT, FOX)

Both teams are off to a 2-0 start, heading into this potential Pac-12 Championship game preview. Stanford is again proving to be a well-rounded team with the efficient and emerging leader Kevin Hogan at quarterback, but Arizona State is proving to be much of the same under second-year starting quarterback Taylor Kelly. The Cardinal has lost only once at home in the past three seasons combined, but expect the Sun Devils to make it a competitive game. An Arizona State win could both make the Sun Devils the favorites in the Pac-12 South and significantly damage Stanford’s championship hopes with Oregon being in their division.

Tennessee at No. 19 Florida (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, Fla., 2:30 p.m. CT, CBS)

Traditionally a rivalry between two top SEC schools, this year’s Florida-Tennessee game enters with more questions marks than from what we’ve grown accustomed to. Dating back to last season’s Sugar Bowl loss, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has turned the ball over 10 times, with three coming in the Gators 21-16 loss to Miami two weeks ago. The keys to the game for Florida will be to get into a rhythm on offense and limit turnovers against a Tennessee defense that is second nationally in interceptions with seven through three games. Conversely, Tennessee will need to keep the Florida offense in check, after showing signs of weakness in a 59-14 loss at Oregon last week, where the Volunteers gave up nearly 700 yards of total offense.

West Virginia at Maryland (neutral site: M&T Bank Stadium – Baltimore, Md., 2:30 p.m. CT, ESPNU)

This game will ultimately be decided by one team’s ability to slow down the high-powered offense of the other, but the offense in question is not West Virginia’s. A year after fielding the second-worst total offense in all of college football, Maryland has jumped all the way up to the 10th in that category led by dual-threat quarterback C.J. Brown, during their 3-0 start. But while Maryland’s offense has significantly improved, so has West Virginia’s defense, which has yielded just 13.3 points per game after giving up 38.1 points last season. The Mountaineers have won in its last seven meetings against the Terrapins.

Utah at BYU (LaVell Edwards Stadium – Provo, Utah, 9:15 p.m. CT, ESPN2)

After a two-week hiatus, BYU returns to the field to host Utah in the final Holy War for at least three years. BYU has a strong running game that compiled 550 rushing yards in its last game against Texas, but Utah is equally good against the run, limiting teams to under 100 yards on the ground per game. The player to watch, though, will be Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, who leads the Utes in both passing and rushing. Due to the circumstances surrounding it, a close, hard-fought battle should be expected for this game.

Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame (Notre Dame Stadium – Notre Dame, Ind., 2:30 p.m. CT, NBC)

Though Notre Dame isn’t the national championship contender it was from a year ago, it’s still a ranked team that has the capability to win a lot of football games. On offense, Fighting Irish quarterback Tommy Rees and wide receiver DeVaris Daniels are gradually becoming one of the top quarterback-receiver tandems in the country. That said, they will have their hands full against the No. 1-ranked Michigan State defense led by defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun, who has two sacks and three defensive touchdowns this season. The Spartans should have Notre Dame on upset alert come game time.

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