Welcome to Four Down Territory, Omaha Sports Insider’s weekly college football round table. We will be joined by members of the Omaha Sports Insider staff to get their thoughts on what is going on in the world of college football. This week we are joined by Joe Quinn of AM 590 ESPN Omaha and Tyler Martin of OmahaSportsInsider.com.
While there were plenty of great games on Saturday, as well as a few upsets, lets take a look at the Heisman trophy race.
After the first three weeks, are Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson the clear Heisman favorites or is there someone else we should keep an eye on?
JOE: I would say Jackson is the favorite right now, but keep an eye on J.T. Barrett at Ohio State as well. Through three games, Barrett has 13 total touchdowns and just 1 interception Plus, he’s already led his team to a road victory against Oklahoma, which is the kind of thing that catches Heisman voter’s eyes.
TYLER: Lamar Jackson is leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else, but there is still a lot of football left to play. I would keep an eye out for Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. While his schedule will make it tough to convince the voters that he has faced tough enough defenses on a consistent basis, his stats speak for themselves.
The Big Ten conference had a pretty good weekend, going 9-2 with Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota idol. After the first three weeks of the season, the Big Ten has looked as good as it has in years. With SEC members struggling, is the Big Ten the best conference in college football right now?
JOE: I think you could make the argument, especially in terms of the teams at the top. I’d like Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan St., Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska against the corresponding top three teams from each division in the SEC right now. The Big Ten might not win all of those games, but I think they’d have a shot to be at least 3-3 or 4-2. The gap has clearly narrowed over the past few years.
TYLER: The Big Ten had a chance to be the best conference in college football, but the struggles in non-conference from the lower-tier teams doesn’t help it’s claim. The conference has looked great on the big stage, but has issues with the games that no one is watching. With Northwestern struggling and Illinois dropping a game to Western Michigan, the Big Ten is struggling to prove its depth. I still like the SEC right now, but the Big Ten could bounce back and claim the top spot.
Nebraska took a major step in the right direction on Saturday with the 35-32 win over No. 22 Oregon. The Cornhuskers have to keep things rolling this weekend when they travel to Evanston, Illinois to take on Northwestern. Though the wildcats got off to an 0-2 start, they were able to get things rolling against Duke to pick up their first win of the season. What does Nebraska need to do on the field this week to avoid a hangover on Saturday night?
JOE: Make the adjustment back to a more classic Big Ten style of play. Oregon was a very up tempo team, and it will make playing Northwestern feel like it’s taking an eternity. The keys will be the same for Nebraska as what they will be in most Big Ten games – stop the run, limit turnovers, and try to stay balanced on offense. If the Huskers manage that, they should be just fine.
TYLER: Nebraska needs to use its run game to control the game early and avoid turnovers on offense. The Blackshirts showed they could hang with one of the most potent offensive attacks in the nation last week and as long as they can stop the run and avoid big plays against Northwestern, they should come out unscathed.
Conference play is starting to kick into high gear, however there are still a few schools with non-conference games this weekend. Some of the bigger matchups this weekend include No. 19 Florida vs. No. 14 Tennessee (the Volunteers have lost 11 straight to the Gators), No. 17 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Texas A&M and maybe the biggest game of the week, No. 11 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Michigan St. What matchup are you looking forward to this weekend?
JOE: Wisconsin vs. Michigan St. It’s the first of five brutal games in a row for the Badgers, and if they manage to get the win, it will really ramp up expectations in Madison. Wisconsin will be without at least a couple of their top running backs in the game (with top option Corey Clement being one of those question marks), which could become a limiting factor. I think we’ll know a little more about the Badgers this weekend win or lose.
TYLER: The Nebraska vs. Northwestern game will be the one to watch this weekend. While it might not have the draw that the bigger SEC matchups do, the Huskers are heading on the road for the first time all season to face a Northwestern team that will be looking to get back on track after early season struggles. Nebraska needs to prove it can go on the road and take care of business against teams it should beat, something they couldn’t do last season.