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 Nick Handley and Alicia Strecker of AM 590 ESPN Omaha and Tyler Martin of OmahaSportsInsider.com
Texas dropped to 2-2 this season after falling to Oklahoma State on Saturday, 41-39. The victory over then No. 10 Notre Dame seems to be fading in the rearview mirror. Strong has not had a winning season at Texas since he took over 2014. Reports coming out of Austin say no decision on Strong’s future will be made until after the season is over.
How many wins does Texas need this season for Strong to return to Texas in 2017 and do you think he can turn things around in Austin?
NICK: The number part is tricky for me because I do believe who you beat does matter. I think eight wins is a safe number but more importantly a win over Oklahoma this weekend can go a long way.
Wins over Baylor, Texas Tech, and TCU will all go over well. The last thing Strong needs is any more upset losses. You must beat Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State. If Texas can look tough down the stretch and reach a respectable bowl game, that could buy Strong another year.
TYLER: Texas has some very winnable games left on it’s schedule, so I think the game next weekend against Oklahoma is a big one for Strong. If he can somehow come out on top in the Red River Rivalry, I think it would be hard for Texas to let him go. I think the magic number is 8 wins for Strong.
ALICIA: I don’t think Charlie Strong’s job should even begin to be in discussion until next season, unless something disastrous was to happen this season, like 3-9. Though, I don’t think another losing season would help him, I’ll say the Longhorns need at least 6 wins this season.
Strong is still working with Mack Brown’s players, and lets just say he didn’t really leave a lot to work with. I think Strong has this program headed in the right direction, they just aren’t at the place they were back in the day, competing for National Titles.
Last year’s Big Ten championship game featured Iowa and Michigan State. Saturday, Iowa fell to 2-2, losing at home to a 1-3 Northwestern team. The loss was it’s second in three weeks.
Michigan State also fell to 2-2 on Saturday after a shocking loss to Indiana. Which team should be more worried and can either program get things turned around to have a successful remainder of the season?
NICK: I will say Michigan State simply because they have 2 conference losses and still have to play Michigan and Ohio State. Mark Dantonio has a real issue on offense and the division MSU plays in makes it tough.
Iowa is in trouble, there is no sugar coating that. They very well could have two conference losses as well if it weren’t for a late touchdown against lowly Rutgers. This team has lost it's confidence and identity early. They have a huge challenge this weekend at Minnesota. Both can find their way back but both need to show much more and fast.
TYLER: I think Iowa needs to be more worried, but I doubt it is. Kirk Ferentz had four years left on his contract after last season, but Iowa decided it needed to extend the contract through 2025. Iowa is in a position where if things go from bad to worse this season, they will either have to stick it out with Ferentz for another nine years, or pay him until his is in a retirement home.
ALICIA: At this point in the season I think Iowa should be more worried. After coming off a record 12-0 last year before the B1G Championship game and then before getting spanked by Stanford, a lot of people had a lot of high hopes for Iowa this season.
With powerhouses like Michigan and Ohio State left on the schedule for the Spartans and with teams like Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska left for the Hawkeyes both teams have a chance to go 8-4 this year, the Hawkeyes potentially 7-5. That is a huge drop for both programs from last season.
Nebraska put on another great fourth quarter performance in Saturday’s 31-16 win over Illinois. Injuries were a problem once again for the Huskers but the bye week should help many players get the rest they need before the team heads to Indiana Oct. 15. Heading into the bye week, what is the biggest area of concern Riley and his staff should work on before hitting the road in two weeks?
NICK: Consistency. Sounds basic and common but that are what is going to keep Nebraska from being an 8 win team and a division champion and playing for a title. Every phase has shown plenty of promise but has also had its struggles. Injuries have been a concern but there is nothing Riley can do about that.
TYLER: I think injuries are probably the biggest concern right now for the Huskers. Last week, the Huskers had injuries to some of their top performers, including wide receivers Alonzo Moore (didn’t play) and Jordan Westerkamp, tight end Cethan Carter, running back Devine Ozigbo, and right tackle David Knevel. Not to mention, Mike Riley said if the Huskers played this weekend, quarterback Tommy Armstrong would be questionable. I think the bye week will do wonders for some of these mid-season tweaks, but Nebraska will need to get somewhat healthy before heading into Indiana.
ALICIA: In my opinion Riley has to focus on getting players healthy. With injuries to Jordan Westerkamp, Cethan Carter, & Devine Ozigbo vs. Illinois and nagging injuries to Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore, the Huskers need to get these key players the rest they need during the bye week. With Westy being Armstrong’s best target and Carter being his biggest target, I’m sure Riley wants these guys back at 100% for the remainder of the season.
This week is filled with big time, top ten matchups. With no Husker game to watch this weekend, what is your must see matchup in week six?
NICK: Texas A&M vs Tennessee (Who is for real in the SEC race behind Alabama)
TYLER: The matchup that I’m most looking forward to this week is the Washington vs. Oregon game. I’m not fully sold on Washington yet, and Oregon is desperate for a win. Not sure Oregon is up to the task, but I’m putting the Huskies on upset alert.
ALICIA: For me, being a fan of the PAC-12, I think the must see match up this weekend is Washington vs. Oregon. The Huskies looked really good Friday night against Stanford, but with the Ducks losing 3 straight in Eugene, I’m not sure if those players will let that fall to 4.