Ward’s Winners: Week 4

By James Ward

Week in Review:

Texas Has a Quarterback: Jerrod Heard brought the Longhorns back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter on Saturday night against Cal. Heard scored his third rushing touchdown of the game on a 45-yard run up the middle with 1:11 left in the game to bring the Longhorns within one point. The game was seemingly headed towards overtime, but Texas senior kicker Nick Rose shanked the extra point and the Longhorns were handed another loss. How much of a foregone conclusion is the extra point? Texas coach Charlie Strong said after the game that he didn’t even see the extra point. But after 527 yards of total offense from Heard, Longhorn fans finally believe they have a quarterback.

Brian Kelly Coach of the Year (so far): Every week the Irish lose a key player to a season ending injury, but every week Notre Dame finds a way to win the game. Many thought the Irish’s national championship aspirations were over after Malik Zaire’s season ending injury against Virginia, but Brian Kelly coached up DeShone Kizer and the Irish beat up on Georgia Tech, a game in which Notre Dame were underdogs at home. The Irish are now down six significant players to season ending injuries, but they moved up to #6 in the AP Poll and they are doing it because Brian Kelly is proving yet again that he is one of the best coaches in college football. Notre Dame has Clemson and USC on their schedule in October, so their season is still very much to be determined, but don’t count out a Brian Kelly led Notre Dame team.

Ohio State Let Down: The Buckeyes haven’t lost yet this season, but they have failed to cover the Vegas spread since their opening week win against Virginia Tech. J.T. Barrett’s snap count has increased every week, but Urban Meyer insists that Cardale Jones is still the Buckeyes starting quarterback. Both quarterbacks struggled against Northern Illinois and neither Jones nor Barrett has done anything to set themselves apart their competitor. Considering the Buckeyes don’t play a top team until November 21st against Michigan State, Ohio State has time to find themselves. It’s still September, but right now, the Buckeyes aren’t playing like a championship caliber team.

Top Performers:

Leonard Fournette (19 rushes for 228 yards & 3 TDs): Fournette could start for many NFL teams today, and on Saturday afternoon in Death Valley against Auburn; he looked like a man playing against boys. Fournette was in beast mode all afternoon, looking for contact and running over would-be Auburn defenders. Fournette’s 387 yards rushing is the most for any LSU running back through the first two games in history, and both games were against top-25 teams. Fournette is the best player in college football.

CJ Prosise (22 rushes for 198 yards & 3 TDs): Against Georgia Tech’s prolific triple-option rushing attack, the Notre Dame running back almost ran for more yards than the Yellow Jackets’ entire team (198 to 216). In just his third game as a running back, after playing wide receiver and safety in previous years, Prosise delivered in a big way. Tarean Folston’s injury thrust Prosise into the spotlight in South Bend, but so far, so good.

Baker Mayfield (32 of 38 for 487 yds & 4 TDs and 13 rushes for 85 yards & 2 TDs): Mayfield accounted for 572 total yards of offense against Tulsa – a school record, and he’s quickly becoming one the most entertaining players to watch in college football. Mayfield’s emergence as the Sooners quarterback has solidified Oklahoma’s place with Baylor and TCU among the top teams in the Big 12.

Games to Watch:

Tennessee at Florida: Tennessee finally gets a chance to show that they are the team that jumped out to an early lead against Oklahoma, and not the team that collapsed in the second half (I know they played Western Carolina last week). Rarely is the SEC Game of the Week on CBS a matchup of two unranked teams, but the winner of this game should crack into next week’s top-25. Florida beat Kentucky last Saturday, in a game that featured 11 punts and less than 500 yards of total offense between both teams – it was scintillating. Florida’s defense has been good so far this season, but Tennessee’s offense attack is the best unit they have faced so far this season. Both teams are in rebuilding mode, but Butch Jones’ Volunteers are further along in the process.

Utah at Oregon: Vernon Adams says his finger is good to go after sitting out last week against Georgia State, but Mark Helfrich has yet to announce a decision as to who will start at quarterback for the Ducks against Utah. Kyle Whittingham has his own quarterback situation to worry about, as Travis Wilson is attempting to return from a sprained shoulder he suffered in Week 2 – Wilson also sat out last week. This game also features two of the best running backs in college football in Oregon’s Royce Freeman and Utah’s Devontae Booker. Expect both running backs to get the ball a lot, especially with quarterbacks at less than 100 percent. This game has been a blowout since Utah joined the Pac-12, but this Ducks team doesn’t have Marcus Mariota.

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss: Now that Ole Miss has become the class of the SEC, they need to avoid a letdown against Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary was great last week against Austin Peay, where he set a school record for accuracy, but Vanderbilt’s offense has no chance to keep up with the Ole Miss offensive attack that is currently averaging 64 points per game. In order for this game to be close, the Commodore defense must continue to play the way they’ve played through the first three games of the season. On the season, Vanderbilt has allowed just 153.3 passing yards per game, but they haven’t faced talent like Chad Kelly and Laquan Treadwell.

Ward’s Winners:

UCLA at Arizona (+3.5): Myles Jack became the third Bruins starter to go down with a season ending injury, when he hurt his knee in practice on Tuesday. The impact of Jack’s injury will be immense, especially against an offense as quick as Arizona’s high-powered attack. On the other side, Arizona’s All-American linebacker Scooby Wright is trying to make his return from injury this weekend. No word if he will be able to do so, but Wright’s return could be a big key to the Wildcats stopping UCLA’s Paul Perkins, who is coming off a 219 yard performance against BYU. Josh Rosen has had two subpar performances for the Bruins, and actually looks like a freshman quarterback after his Week 1 “Chosen Rosen” performance against Virginia. I think UCLA will find a way to win the game, but Arizona will keep it close.

Bowling Green (+1.5) at Purdue: Bowling Green beat Maryland earlier in the season 48-27 and Purdue, like Maryland, is a bad Big Ten team. BGSU’s offense attack, led by quarterback Matt Johnson, will be too much for Purdue. Johnson leads the nation in passing yards and touchdowns, while Purdue is 71st in the country in passing yards allowed while primarily playing against run-first teams. This week, Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby replaced by redshirt freshman David Blough as the starter after Appleby threw six interceptions through the first three games of the season. A new and inexperienced quarterback for Purdue also helps BGSU, and Purdue is actually the favorite to win the game. BGSU will win outright.

TCU at Texas Tech (+7.5): There’s no question that both teams will put points on the board – the over/under number is 79, by the way. TCU could head to Lubbuck down eight defensive starters, against a Tech offense that is ranked third in the nation in points scored. The TCU defense gave up 37 points to SMU last weekend, so their defense isn’t a juggernaut at full strength. Kliff Kingsbury is feeling his oats after beating Arkansas last weekend and calling out Bret Bielema following the game, and revenge from last year’s 82-27 stomping in Fort Worth would be a solid encore. Texas Tech has the Air Raid Offense running again and Patrick Mahomes looks like the perfect quarterback to make Red Raiders fans forget about last year’s 4-8 season. Expect Tech to keep up with TCU on the offensive side. The game will be up for grabs in the fourth quarter.

Last Week: 2-1-0

Season Record: 4-5-0

James Ward is the Associate Producer of the DA Show, as well as the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).

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