Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 5

Drew Lock leads the Missouri Tigers' high powered offense will face the LSU Tigers and interim head coach Ed Orgeron. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)
Drew Lock leads the Missouri Tigers’ high powered offense will face the LSU Tigers and interim head coach Ed Orgeron. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 5

Week five will encompass both the end of September and the start of October. September will end with a bang as #7 Stanford travels to play #10 Washington Friday evening while October will be ushered in with National Title and conference implications as well. #11 Tennessee is at #25 Georgia, #8 Wisconsin is at #4 Michigan, Oklahoma is at #21 TCU, and of course the biggest game: #3 Louisville at #5 Clemson.

Those games are definitely worth the coverage they garner, but we like to focus on the smaller games that may have an impact on the season for the teams playing. Let’s take a look at some of the under the radar games for week five. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played.

1. Virginia at Duke (10/1 at 12:30 PM EST) – This game looks a lot better than it did a week ago at this time. Virginia got their first win last week against Central Michigan 49-35 at home with Kurt Benkert throwing for 421 yards and 5 touchdowns. Duke had a massive win on the road at Notre Dame 38-35 in which the managed to get nearly 500 total yards of offense.

While Duke is the favorite to win, the confidence gained by the Cavaliers could go a long way especially against a Duke passing defense that gave up 381 yards to DeShone Kizer (albeit against much better competition). If both offenses are in form, this could be a high scoring affair. Last week’s win against Notre Dame will help Duke’s chances of making a bowl game, but if they want to keep that hope they need to win against Virginia this week.

2. Eastern Michigan at Bowling Green (10/1 at 3 PM EST) – It is always nice to have some MACtion on this list, but this one is probably not the one most people would expect to see. Eastern Michigan has been a putrid program in recent years with four straight years of double digit losses. That will not happen this year as the Eagles already have 3 wins (most since 2011 when they went 6-6).

Bowling Green has been a constant MAC Title contender with two MAC Championships in the last three years. However, they have been terrible this year with a 1-3 record and are the only team in the FBS to have allowed 70 points or more TWICE this year and no other team has even allowed 60 or more points twice this season.

That gives some recent historical perspective as to why this contest is on the list. This game is a chance for Eastern Michigan to beat one of the MAC big boys even if they are down. Bowling Green could use this game to restart their season and the conference slate is the time to get back on track.

3. Navy at Air Force (10/1 at 3:30 PM EST) – This game usually is the deciding factor in which team ends up winning the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy. The last time Army won the CIC Trophy was in 1996, but there is a chance that could change this year with a much improved Black Knights squad.

Both teams come into this game 3-0 and both have been tested. Navy needed touchdown in the last four minutes against both Connecticut and Tulane to get the win while Utah State hung around against Air Force last week. Even if you are not a fan of the triple option, it is always a great spectacle to see the Service Academies square off on the football field.

4.  Western Michigan at Central Michigan (10/1 at 7 PM EST) – More MACtion! Western Michigan is a perfect 4-0 coming into this game with victories over Northwestern and Illinois on the road and against Georgia Southern at home last week 49-35. Central Michigan has opened 3-1 and lost for the first time last week to Virginia on the road 49-35.

Western Michigan’s Jamauri Bogan has run for at least 100 yards in all four games while Central Michigan has been led by Cooper Rush’s arm (1,359 yards, 62.6% completions with 13 touchdowns and 4 interceptions). The Chippewas will be boosted by being at home, but Western Michigan will not be bothered given their two road wins over Big Ten opponents this year.

The bottom line to this game is the winner will be in the driver’s seat to the MAC West Title and an appearance in the MAC Championship Game. This is especially true since 0-4 Northern Illinois looks nothing like the team that was expected to be in the hunt to be the MAC West Champion.

5.  Missouri at LSU (10/1 at 7:30 PM EST) – This may not be a truly under the radar game after Les Miles’ firing on Sunday. All eyes will be on Ed Orgeron to see if he can truly deliver a different looking offense (read: much improved). Results may not happen in a week, but there should be some things that are different under Orgeron.

This will also be Missouri’s first trip to Death Valley as well as the first SEC meeting between the two schools (they played in 1978 with Missouri winning 20-15). Missouri is led by quarterback Drew Lock and the offense has been impressive this year. Their averages per game are 44.5 points, 569.5 total yards, 391 yards passing, and 178 yards rushing. LSU allows 16.8 points, 341.2 total yards, 225.2 passing yards, and 116 rushing yards per game. This is the type of offense versus defense showdown we want to see.

Check back next week for the week six edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Thoughts on Wisconsin’s Victory Over Michigan State

Alex Hornibrook had a solid first start on the road at Michigan State in Wisconsin's 30-6 win. (Bobby Ellis/Getty Images North America)
Alex Hornibrook had a solid first start on the road at Michigan State in Wisconsin’s 30-6 win. (Bobby Ellis/Getty Images North America)

Thoughts on Wisconsin’s Victory Over Michigan State

#11 Wisconsin traveled to East Lansing to face #8 Michigan State on Saturday and they ended up with a big victory. They crushed the Spartans 30-6 with the defense having a big day. It was Wisconsin’s first victory at Michigan State since 2002. Let’s take a look at some things we liked and some things that still need to be worked on.

1. The game plan was excellent – A lot of the credit for the game plan goes to coach Paul Chryst and his staff. They used short passes and good routes to make Alex Hornibrook comfortable. The players deserve credit as well because they executed the game plan pretty well against a very good Michigan State team. In the first half, the Badgers were 5 for 8 on third down in 1st half and 2 for 2 on fourth down thanks in large part to the conversions being manageable.

2. Alex Hornibrook is not short of confidence – Hornibrook is not afraid to throw the ball even if the window is small. He threaded the needle a few times with success and other times with no so much success (last drive of the first half to Robert Wheelwright as well as the first drive of the second half to Troy Fumagalli). As long as Hornibrook does not let the bad plays bother him, such as the fumble early in the game and interception on the last play of the first half, then he will do well with his confidence and the poise he showed as well.

Hornibrook finished 16 of 26 for 195 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers (fumble and interception). Those stats are not terrible when you consider it was his first start in college and it was in East Lansing at Michigan State. For the most part, he made the smart throw and did not try to do too much (a few exceptions though). The ceiling is high for him.

3. The defense never broke – There were plenty of drives for Michigan State that looked promising yet all the Badgers allowed were two field goals. They held the Spartans to 4 of 13 on third down as well as not allowing the Spartans to score on their two red zone possessions. The run defense did allow a few big rushes, but for the game only allowed 2.8 yards per carry (75 yards on 27 rushes).

They ended up getting four turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble recovery) including the 66 yard fumble return for a touchdown by Leo Musso (see below). T.J. Watt was a constant nuisance in the backfield as he had 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 6 total tackles. It was an impressive performance against a good Michigan State offense.

4. Chryst is not afraid to roll the dice on 4th down – Not having kicker Rafael Gaglianone probably made the decision easier for Chryst to go for it fourth down when necessary against the Spartans. The Badgers went for it twice on fourth down on the Badgers second drive converting both attempts. Chryst probably felt even more reassured after the shanked extra point by Andrew Endicott on the Badgers second touchdown drive.

For the season, the Badgers have gone for it on fourth down five times and converted three of those. All of the attempts have been from the opponent’s 31 yard line or closer with an average placement of the 18 yard line. Chryst has a lot of trust in both his offense and defense, which is why he feels he can take chances on fourth down.

5. It was a constant grind for the running game – The Badgers constantly struggled to run the ball effectively against Michigan State, but that is not a surprise given the Spartans strong run defense. Against Notre Dame they allowed only 57 yards on 25 carries (2.3 average) while they allowed 87 yards on 33 yards versus Furman (2.6 average) in the season opener. It was no surprise that the rushing attack might have some trouble.

Except for a couple decent runs the Badgers were stymied throughout, but they stuck with the run game. They finished with 122 yards on 41 carries for an average of 3 yards per rush. There were not the usual massive holes for the backs to run through, but Dare Ogunbowale looked most explosive (finished with 55 yards on 9 carries). Corey Clement finished with 54 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries after missing last week with injury. Perhaps all those small runs were subtly effective for Hornibrook and the rest of the offense, especially in the first half.

The Wisconsin Badgers have opened 4-0 and they will be back in the state of Michigan with a game at the #4 ranked Wolverines next week. Game time is scheduled for 3:30 PM Eastern Time. Below are the previous columns for the Wisconsin games in 2016.

Wisconsin versus LSU

Wisconsin versus Akron

Wisconsin versus Georgia State

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 4

P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan had a great start to the 2016 season. Will it continue in week four against Georgia Southern? ( Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)
P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan had a great start to the 2016 season. Will it continue in week four against Georgia Southern? ( Michael Hickey/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 4

Week four of the college football season will see some non-conference games drop off and big conference tilts become the focus. The big games this week are #12 Georgia at #23 Ole Miss, #11 Wisconsin at #8 Michigan State, #19 Florida at #14 Tennessee, Oklahoma State at #16 Baylor, and #17 Arkansas at #10 Texas A&M.

We like to focus on the games off the national radar keeping an eye on both this week and possibly down the road with their impact on the season. Let’s take a look at some of the under the radar games for week four. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played.

1. Central Michigan at Virginia (9/24 at 12:30 PM EST) – Normally there is not much to a 3-0 versus 0-3 matchup, but this would be another big win for Central Michigan and the MAC if it happens. The MAC already owns wins over two Big 12 opponents (CMU over Oklahoma State and Ohio over Kansas) as well as two wins over Big 10 opponents (Western Michigan over both Northwestern and Illinois). A fifth win over a Power 5 opponent would be great for the MAC. The Chips are 3-0 thanks to wins over Presbyterian, Oklahoma State, and UNLV.

Virginia is 0-3 with losses to Richmond at home along with Oregon and Connecticut on the road. This is their last game before opening ACC play in October and the last eight games do not offer many apparent wins. Can Central Michigan keep their great start going against another power five team?

2. Syracuse at Connecticut (9/24 at 1 PM EST) – Is this game getting confused for the hardwood? Nope, but this matchup would be great to see on an annual basis in basketball. The Orange were on this list last week to see how they would handle South Florida after getting trounced 62-28 against Louisville. The answer: Great for 15 minutes, terrible that last 45. Syracuse led 17-0 after the first quarter and lost 45-20.

Connecticut likes to keep their games close (no game decided by more than 4 points), but are still 2-1 on the year. This test will be interesting because the Syracuse offense has shown explosiveness averaging over 500 yards per game. Unfortunately, the defense has nearly yielded that same amount (481 per contest thus far). The Huskies’ defense gives up 355 yards a game while the offense puts up 310.3 yards per game. Both teams need this win if they want to have a hope of making a bowl game this season.

3. Appalachian State at Akron (9/24 at 3:30 PM EST) – Appalachian State (1-2) started with that great defensive effort against Tennessee in the 20-13 overtime loss, but were blitzed last week in a 45-10 loss at home to Miami (FL). Akron is 2-1, but what really put them on this list was their 65-38 win over Marshall last week. The Zips trailed 21-7 after 15 minutes, but a 34 point outburst by the offense in the second quarter made it 41-21 at half.

Prior to the 2015 season, Akron had not been competitive in the MAC since their 2005 Championship winning year. This game, against what is expected to be a solid defense, is a great test going into conference schedule. For Appalachian State, this game is a chance to get their confidence back and possibly prepare for some of the passing offenses they will see in the Sun Belt.

4. Wake Forest at Indiana (9/24 at 3:30 PM EST) – How many people had these two teams coming into this contest undefeated? Wake Forest is 3-0 and they have played solid defense giving up just 12.7 points per game. Indiana is 2-0 and they too appear to have gotten better on defense (16.5 points per game). Not many will probably think much of this undefeated matchup given the teams, but there are implications.

Let’s look at what a win would mean for each team. Wake Forest would be 4-0 with games left against Army, Virginia, and Boston College all at home. A win for Indiana would make them 3-0 with games against Northwestern (away), Maryland (home), Rutgers (away), and Purdue (home). Will Wake Forest be able to score enough points and hold Indiana’s offense in check?

5. Colorado at Oregon (9/24 at 5:30 PM EST) – Colorado opened the season with two blowout wins against Colorado State and Idaho State. They had an amazing start to their game at Michigan taking a 21-7 lead after the opening quarter. The Buffaloes did take a 28-24 lead very early in the third quarter on Sefo Liufau’s 70 yard pass to Shay Fields, but it was all Michigan after that in the 45-28 loss.

Oregon started with two wins against UC Davis and Virginia at home before a road contest against Nebraska. They lost 35-32 despite playing without Royce Freeman for most of the contest and going 1 of 5 on their two point conversion attempts. The defense has looked suspect in the first three weeks of the season as well.

If Colorado has Sefo Liufau for this game and Oregon is missing Royce Freeman it could be a close game. If the reverse is true, then this may not be a game to keep an eye. As of this writing, Liufau will be a game-time decision while Freeman’s participation is up in the air.

6. Georgia Southern at Western Michigan (9/24 at 7 PM EST) – Two top mid-major teams in 2016 collide here with both teams at 3-0. Georgia Southern has a perfect record on the heels of their defense, which has allowed only 10 points per game this season. They needed a late field goal block to defeat Louisiana-Monroe to get the win.

Western Michigan is undefeated with two victories over Big 10 opponents Northwestern and Illinois on the road. They did not have much trouble with the Illini as they went out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and cruised from there.

This will be a fun game to watch two really good mid-major teams. Western Michigan is a longshot to make one of the big bowl games, but they need to win all of their games to even be considered.

Check back next week for the week five edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

North Dakota State Uses Familiar Blueprint To Beat FBS Foes

North Dakota State defeated #13 Iowa 23-21 on Saturday, September 17, 2016 for their sixth straight victory over an FBS opponent. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images North America)
North Dakota State defeated #13 Iowa 23-21 on Saturday, September 17, 2016 for their sixth straight victory over an FBS opponent. (Matthew Holst/Getty Images North America)

North Dakota State Uses Familiar Blueprint To Beat FBS Foes

Perhaps you heard the North Dakota State Bison defeated the #13 Iowa Hawkeyes 23-21 on Saturday. The Bison went in as 14.5 points underdogs and defeated the mighty Iowa team that went 12-2 and played in the Rose Bowl last season. This was the sixth straight victory for North Dakota State over an FBS opponent. Below is the North Dakota State record and future games versus FBS teams.

So how does North Dakota State consistently defeat their FBS foes? Well, let’s take a closer look.

Below are the averages between the Bison and their last six FBS opponents, which happens to be their current win streak against the FBS.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-1-35-06-pm

So how do the Bison defeat six straight FBS teams? Stop the run, force third and long situations, control the ball, and win the turnover battle.

First, the Bison like to stop the run and that is clear from the rushing yards given up (85.5 per game) and yards per carry average (2.9 per attempt). In fact, their highest rushing total allowed in the six games was 168 yards to Minnesota in 2011. Every other game has seen the Bison allow no more than 102 yards. The highest total yardage allowed by NDSU in the six games was 321 to Kansas State in 2013. The other five games all saw the Bison hold their opponent to fewer than 300 yards.

Notice at the bottom of the picture where it mentions the average yards to go on third down. Some calculations were needed, but the end result is clear: the Bison like to get their opponent in third and long, which becomes and obvious passing down. Common sense says it is a lot easier to prepare when you know what is coming from the other offense. The Bison also did better to defend third down as well allowing roughly 36% (4.5 converted out of 12.5 on average per game). The Bison converted about 50% of their third downs on offense, which helps immensely with time of possession.

Next up is controlling the ball and the Bison do this incredibly well. They held the ball for an average of 60% of the game and that is not an aberration. They won the time of possession battle in all six victories and the last four (Colorado State, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Iowa) saw them hold the ball above their 60% average. The longer NDSU holds the ball, the longer the opposing defense stays on the field and gets tired. Tiredness can lead to mistakes and frustration. It is demoralizing for a defense to be constantly battered without much rest and the Bison are great at this part.

Finally, we have reached the turnover part. The averages say the Bison have less than one turnover per game compared to two for their FBS opponent. Turnovers lead to more possessions, which leads to higher time of possession, more running, and basically everything NDSU loves to do. The Bison have not been perfect as they registered one turnover in four of the six games. The difference? The Bison never lost the turnover battle in the six wins and their “worst” result was against Iowa on Saturday when both teams finished with one turnover.

There is still more to the puzzle that is part of the blueprint, but they are not separated out in the box score. Those pieces would be the coaches game plan and execution by the players. How do you account for the things coaches see on film? How about when the player is in the right spot at the right time? Sure, it might end up as a turnover, but what about a blitz that is called out and picked up or a certain formation that is run? The Bison have been well prepared by Craig Bohl and Chris Klieman, but the players deserve credit for their execution too. They did not become 5-time FCS National Champions solely due to luck or by accident.

Iowa = Kansas State?

The light did not go on watching the North Dakota State-Iowa game as to how similar this game was to the Kansas State victory in 2013. NDSU took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter in both games, K-State and Iowa both responded by scoring at least two touchdowns, and the Bison needed a score late in the game to win. In addition, North Dakota State came in as a double digit underdog and reigning FCS Champions.

While the overall story arc was similar between the two games, some of the stats (and execution by the Bison) were as well. Below are the game stats for both North Dakota State at Kansas State in 2013 and North Dakota State at Iowa on September 18.

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-2-21-43-pm

Look at those rushing stats. The Bison averaged 227 yards per game and gave up only 37.5. 37.5 yards per game against two upper level Power 5 conference opponents. Look at the time of possession. NDSU held the ball for 60%+ in each game. They ran about 40% more plays while also committing a grand total of 2 penalties for 20 yards in the two games. Coincidentally, the scores were nearly identical at 23-21 against Kansas State and 24-21 against Iowa.

Want to consistently pull upsets like North Dakota State? There is the blueprint and all you need to do is execute it like the Bison. Easier said than done.

Let’s enjoy this incredible run by the Bison both against FBS teams and in the FCS because these type of streaks do not happen very often.

Thoughts on Wisconsin’s Win Over The Georgia State Panthers

Alex Hornibrook came in and sparked the Wisconsin offense in the second half against Georgia State. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)
Alex Hornibrook came in and sparked the Wisconsin offense in the second half against Georgia State. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)

Thoughts on Wisconsin’s Win Over The Georgia State Panthers

The Wisconsin Badgers flirted with disaster against Georgia State, but ultimately squeaked by the Panthers with a 23-17 win. It was ugly and left a large amount of concerns heading into the start and daunting part of their Big 10 schedule. Let’s look at some thoughts below.

1. The offense struggled with Bart Houston at quarterback – The Badgers had serious trouble finishing their drives against Georgia State with Bart Houston as the quarterback. This was an issue against LSU as well and the first half was ugly for the offense. The opening drive looked promising, but ended with a 41 yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone. The second drive saw the Badgers get down to the 10 yard line, but once again they had to settle for a field goal. Their third drive started at the Georgia State 23 yard line courtesy of a fumbled punt snap by the Panthers. This drive ended with Bradrick Shaw fumbling at the one yard line and the Panthers recovering. The Badgers led 6-0 at halftime despite being far superior on the field and in the box score. That leads to the second point…

2. Alex Hornibrook looked much more comfortable leading the offense – After one drive in the second half with Houston at QB, Paul Chryst decided to put Alex Hornibrook in. The entire offense responded with a touchdown drive and Hornibrook looked better running the offense. In fact, the offense was far more efficient with Hornibrook in than with Houston. Hornibrook led the final five drives of the game and the offense finished with 192 yards along with two touchdowns and a field goal (the fifth drive ended the game). Houston led six drives and the offense had 223 yards and just two field goals to show for it.

It was not all Houston’s fault, however. Corey Clement did not start while the duo Taiwan Deal and Troy Fumagalli got injured during the game. Neither player returned after their injury and there was also the fumble by Shaw on the goal line. Still, Hornibrook was able to make do with the lack of those players and looked better too. In addition, the offensive line was dominating the trenches as the Badgers had 25 carries for 120 yards in the first half (the Badgers finished with 49 carries for 187 yards on the game). Now we go to point three….

3. Who leads the offense? – This is the classic case of the (very recent) hot hand versus the starter. Hornibrook looked better leading the offense against Georgia State, but maybe that was due to the lack of preparation by the Panthers for him. Houston was made the starter for a reason and he has shown some talent, but also some struggles along the way (read here and here for those). The presumptive return of Clement will also help either quarterback, but the upcoming schedule will still cause fits. Coach Chryst has an interesting decision on his hands.

4. The defense had trouble against the pass – Does anyone else have an in route or slant they would like to run against the defense? The Badgers were constantly burned by those routes in the final three quarters after dominating the first 15 minutes in which they allowed just five total yards of offense to Georgia State. Conner Manning was 9 of 12 for 79 yards in the second quarter (and the same total for the entire first half). While the Badgers were not punished in the first half for the poor pass defense, they sure were in the second half.

The Panthers were able to record pass plays of 20 yards (twice), 38 yards, 40 yards, and 60 yards against Wisconsin. All of those with the exception of one of the 20 yard plays occurred in the second half. Manning finished the game 20 of 29 for 269 yards with one touchdown. Only four Panthers caught a pass: Glenn Smith (5 catches for 131 yards), Robert Davis (8 for 93 and a touchdown), Keith Rucker (6 for 38), and Kendrick Dorn (1 for 7). The Badgers must improve on this.

5. The young guys showed good and bad – Let’s get the bad out of the way early: Bradrick Shaw’s fumble at the goal line cannot happen. As such, Shaw was punished with fewer carries the rest of the way, but at least he did not make another big mistake with his second chance as well. There was also the pick by Hornibrook that went right through George Rushing’s hands.

Shaw did some good early on. Once again, he looked powerful and showed strength, which will suit him well when he gets a bigger share of the carries down the road. Alex Hornibrook came and and led the Badgers to the win. Sure, Wisconsin led 6-3 when he came in, but he did well to lead the offense (read above). Freshman Kyle Penniston had a vital role as he caught a 29 yard pass and a 1 yard touchdown pass from Hornibrook on the go-ahead drive midway through the fourth quarter.

6. Mounting injuries a concern – We do not yet know the severity of the injuries to Clement, Fumagalli, and Deal, but they are a big concern. Clement is the starter at running back while Deal provides solid depth. Fumagalli is the starting tight end and showed reliablity in the passing game when needed. Losing any of these guys for an extended period of time will be a blow to the offense. The one silver lining is that younger guys are getting big time reps.

7. Special Teams played betterA big issue against Akron last week was the first half special teams play. They did better in the final 30 minutes last week and they looked back to normal against Georgia State. The only real bad moment was the usually solid Rafael Gaglianone missing a 30 yard field at the end of the first half. He redeemed himself late in the game with a 41 yard field goal to make it 23-17.

The brutal stretch for Wisconsin begins next week with a trip to Michigan State.

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 3

Nick Chubb and Georgia will be facing Missouri on the road this week. Can the rushing attack explode as they did in week one against North Carolina? (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America)
Nick Chubb and Georgia will be facing Missouri on the road this week. Can the rushing attack explode as they did in week one against North Carolina? (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images North America)

Under The Radar Games For College Football Week 3

After a great opening week there was a lull in the big games during week two, but that gives way to some top games in the third week. #2 Florida State at #10 Louisville, #1 Alabama at #19 Ole Miss, and #3 Ohio State at #14 Oklahoma are the headliners this week. There are also other good contests like #25 Miami (FL) at Appalachian State, #22 Oregon at Nebraska, Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State, and USC at #7 Stanford.

We look for those small headliners that are worth keeping an eye on both this week and possibly down the road with their impact on the season. Let’s take a look at some of the under the radar games for week three. Note, these games are listed in order of when they will be played.

1. Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech (9/17 at 12:30 PM EST) – This game is big for both schools in regards to making a bowl game this year. Georgia Tech can improve to 3-0 with a win heading into their ACC schedule and would need just three wins in their final 9 games to reach a bowl game. As for Vanderbilt, they are 1-1 after seeing their opening week game slip away to South Carolina. They rebounded on offense to put up 47 points against Middle Tennessee with Ralph Webb running wild to the tune of 211 yards and 2 touchdowns on 29 carries.

The key for both teams will be third down. For the season, the Vanderbilt offense is 8 of 27 on third down and they are facing a Georgia Tech defense that has allowed 16 of 32 on third down. It could also be a low scoring affair given the amount of carries both offenses will feature.

2. South Florida at Syracuse (9/17 at 3:30 PM EST)South Florida made an appearance on this last week with their game against Northern Illinois. They crushed the Huskies 48-17 just as they did Towson in week one, 56-20. Syracuse opened with a 33-7 win over Colgate before getting dominated 62-28 by Lamar Jackson and Louisville at home.

The Orange will not have to worry about facing a guy like Jackson this week, but they do have to contend with Quinton Flowers. Flowers threw for 350 yards with 4 touchdowns and ran for another 53 yards on the ground against NIU. South Florida also held that NIU offense to 318 total yards as well as 5 of 18 on third down. The Orange did move the ball well against Louisville, but will need to have the defense step up if they are to keep this game close and have a chance at winning.

3. Western Michigan at Illinois (9/17 at 4 PM EST) – Welcome back, Western Michigan. They were featured in this season’s opening column and did not disappoint with a 22-21 win over Northwestern. They decimated North Carolina Central in week two 70-21 to move to 2-0. Illinois started with a 52-3 win over Murray State in week one and then lost 48-23 to North Carolina in week two. They hung close with the Tar Heels for most of the game, but gave up the final 17 points in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos are actually favored in this game (by 3 points as of this writing). They will not have to worry about facing a tough defense like Northwestern in week one. However, they are facing a better offense this time around than they did in the opening week. Wes Lunt can sling the ball, but he did not look too solid against North Carolina throwing for only 127 yards and 2 touchdown on 17 of 35 passing. Like opening week, this should be a good game to watch and Western Michigan could make it 2-0 against the Big 10 this year.

4. Georgia at Missouri (9/17 at 7:30 PM EST) – Georgia has looked underwhelming this year with a 33-24 win over North Carolina in week one and then squeaking past FCS Nicholls State 26-24 last week. Missouri struggled against West Virginia in their 26-11 loss on the road, but bounced back to trounce Eastern Michigan 61-21 at home last week.

This will be the fifth meeting of these two teams since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012. Georgia is 3-1 in those games and they have beaten Missouri handily in both games at Missouri. They won 41-20 in 2012 and 34-0 in 2014. It is difficult to call any game in the SEC a trap game, but this could be it. Georgia faces Ole Miss on the road next week while Missouri faces Delaware State.

Will Georgia get the running attack going like they did against North Carolina when Nick Chubb ran for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns? How will the defense handle Missouri’s Drew Lock who happens to be the SEC’s leading passer after two weeks? This game could be pivotal in what appears to be another wide open SEC East race.

5. Duke at Northwestern (9/17 at 8 PM EST) – This is a game of what could have been. Duke lost quarterback Thomas Sirk before the season and then lost by 10 points to Wake Forest in week two as they sit at 1-1. Northwestern has been even worse. They lost to both Western Michigan and Illinois State with the offense looking particularly bad against ISU. They lost running back Justin Jackson to a “lower-body injury” in the ISU game, but he is expected to play in this game. The Northwestern offense looked bad against Illinois State and are just 9 of 28 on third down this year.

This game could be ugly especially on the offensive side of the ball. If Jackson is not able to make an impact and the Duke running game cannot get going, it could be even worse. This is a big game at this point in the season for both teams given their schedules the rest of the season.

6. FCS Teams versus FBS Teams – Getting sick of seeing this one yet? Well, it will stick around for at least this week. After four wins in the opening week, there were three more FCS victories over FBS opponents in week two. This week features a total of 12 FCS versus FBS teams and there are some games that look like possible victories for the FCS. The most likely upsets are Eastern Kentucky at Ball State, Monmouth at Kent State, and Delaware at Wake Forest. In addition, North Dakota State (winners of five straight games versus FBS opponents) face Iowa on the road. Will a team have their name added to the list below?

Check back next week for the week four edition of Under The Radar Games. In addition, you can find the previous columns below.

Week 1

Week 2

Thoughts On Wisconsin’s Win Over The Akron Zips

Corey Clement saw the end zone twice against Akron, but left early due to injury. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)
Corey Clement saw the end zone twice against Akron, but left early due to injury. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images North America)

Thoughts On Wisconsin’s Win Over The Akron Zips

A week after defeating the LSU Tigers and jumping all the way to number 10 in the AP Top 25, the Wisconsin Badgers returned to face Akron at home. It was a pretty easy and convincing 54-10 win over Akron as expected, but there is some cause for concern. Let’s take a look at some of the thoughts:

1. Corey Clement’s healthCorey Clement was injured late in the second quarter on what looked like a routine carry and tackle. He held his left leg as the nearby scrum went for the loose ball. Clement had looked great in this game and last week against LSU. His cuts were crisp, he broke tackles, he spun, and looked 100 percent while running with a chip on his shoulder. But Badger fans will remember last year when he missed a majority of the season due to a sports hernia.

Clement is a huge part of this offense, but it is worth noting that Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal can carry the load if Clement is out for an extended period of time. Clement racked up 111 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries before his injury and the below stat will have Badger fans hoping for a quick return to the lineup.

2. Special Teams unit needs work – There were a lot of mistakes by the Wisconsin special teams unit. The opening kickoff saw a hold, Akron’s first kickoff return was a nice return to their own 36, there was a kickoff out of bounds, and finally the punt return for a touchdown by Akron late in the second quarter. All of that happened in the first half as well. The second half was way better for this unit and there was not much to complain about, but troubles from the first half will need to be corrected.

3. Bart Houston still showing some struggles – To be fair, Bart Houston is making just his second start in college and perfection is not expected. However, he is still making mistakes we saw last week against LSU. In the opening two drives, he had two passes that should have been picked off because he forced throws to receivers that were not open. In addition, he has a habit of staring down his receivers like Jazz Peavy in today’s game. Houston may have gotten away with those against an overmatched team like Akron, but he saw last week what happens when you play a top defense like LSU (or Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan State). Improvement is still needed in his decision making and progression reads.

There are signs of a really good player in Houston. His touchdown pass to Peavy late in the first half was impressive. He put the ball right between the corner and the underneath safety while hitting Peavy in stride. That is not an easy throw to make so we know why Houston was named the starter.

4. The receivers show potential – Ah, the dreaded “p” word: potential. Jazz Peavy was the go to guy in this game with 7 catches for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. Robert Wheelwright showed flashes of being a productive receiver in 2015 and he finished with 4 grabs for 99 yards while showing good hands. Troy Fumagalli only caught two passes for 16 yards, but he was a huge factor last week (7 catches for 100 yards). A.J. Taylor even got some action in the second half and showed some ability with two catches for 39 yards. There is talent for Houston to throw to if needed.

5. The backups got meaningful snaps – This is the dream scenario early in the year. Play an inferior opponent, build a big lead, and get the younger guys some meaningful snaps. The backups were in with five minutes left in the third quarter which allowed guys like quarterback Alex Hornibrook (5 for 5 with 61 yards and a touchdown) to put the playbook to use in a competitive environment. The star of the backups was running back Bradrick Shaw with 9 carries for 74 yards and an excellent 35 yard scamper for a touchdown. He showed power and speed, which is a great sign for the Badgers going towards the future.

6. The offense looked much better – Again, this is to be expected when a team goes from facing LSU to Akron. There is no denying that the offense just looked and operated much better. Houston had some bad passes, but he also made some good ones (see above). The offensive line made giant holes for Clement, Deal, Ogunbowale, and Shaw. The receivers showed good hands when throws were not perfectly placed. Oh and they were 6 of 7 inside the red zone with one field goal. Their lone failure was when Clement slipped on his way to the end zone and the defense ended up forcing a safety on Akron’s ensuing drive.

The Badgers are now 2-0 and will have another easy opponent next week with Georgia State coming to Madison. Game time is scheduled for 12 PM Eastern Time.