After a quiet weekend that featured only one matchup between ranked opponents, the college football slate will pick up in a big way this weekend, as conference play heats up for several of the country’s top teams.
*AP Top 25 rankings for Week of Sept. 22
No. 1 Alabama vs No. 21 Ole Miss | Bryant-Denny Stadium, Sept. 28
The top-ranked Crimson Tide may currently be the class of the NCAA, but they have been far from invincible, struggling to put their opponents away early through their first three contests. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has already demonstrated its ability to take down a college football powerhouse on the road, as evidenced by the team’s 44-23 thrashing of the Texas Longhorns in Austin two weeks ago.
If the Rebels hope to shock the Tide in Tuscaloosa, they will likely need an inspired effort from running back Jeff Scott (330 yards, two touchdowns). However, Scott will be up against one of the top rush defenses in the country, as C.J. Mosley and Alabama have allowed only 368 total rushing yards on the season.
No. 4 Ohio State vs No. 23 Wisconsin | Ohio Stadium, Sept. 28
This showdown in Columbus marks the first major game on the Big Ten slate in 2013, and pits arguably the two best contenders from the Leaders Division against one another.
For the Buckeyes, backup quarterback Kenny Guiton has taken advantage of his opportunities in the absence of starting QB Braxton Miller, setting an Ohio State single-game record by throwing six touchdown passes while filling in for the injured Miller in just his second career start. Miller has been cleared to return as of Sept. 23, though the team will wait to see how a week of practice goes before determining who will officially get the starting slot.
The Badgers, on the other hand, have done the brunt of their damage on the ground, as their three-headed monster in the backfield of Melvin Gordon, James White, and Corey Clement has been nearly unstoppable thus far, with the trio’s gaudy combined numbers including 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Whichever player lines up in the backfield is always a threat to go the distance—amazingly; each player has already recorded a touchdown run of at least 75 yards.
Georgia has already defeated a highly ranked team at home this season, boasting a 41-30 victory over the then-No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks in the second week of the season. The explosive Bulldogs will once again have their hands full this week as they face a vastly improved LSU squad.
The Tigers have added another dimension in 2013, as new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has given life to a passing game that had been an afterthought in years past. QB Zach Mettenberger has looked like a different player so far this year, putting up very impressive numbers with 1,026 yards and 10 touchdowns through the air. He and running back Jeremy Hill (350 yards, six touchdowns) will have to keep the Georgia defense on its heels if the Tigers hope to beat the Bulldogs between the hedges.
No. 10 Texas A&M vs Arkansas | Razorback Stadium, Sept. 28
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will get his first taste of SEC football this weekend, and he will have to do so against a talented Texas A&M team that is eager to get into the win column in conference play after a tough loss in the highly anticipated conference opener against the top-ranked Crimson Tide two weeks back.
If Bielema and the 3-1 Razorbacks hope to begin SEC play with a win, they will have to stop Aggies star quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has picked up right where he left off after last year’s Heisman-winning campaign. Through four games, the sophomore signal-caller has tallied 1,228 passing yards, 255 rushing yards, and 15 total touchdowns.
No. 22 Notre Dame vs No. 14 Oklahoma | Notre Dame Stadium, Sept. 28
This week’s top non-conference tilt features a rare matchup between two of the sport’s most prestigious programs, and marks just the second time the Sooners have visited South Bend since 1969. The 3-1 Irish have rebounded from their close road loss against the Michigan Wolverines with two narrow victories over Purdue and Michigan State, while the undefeated Sooners have been largely untested on the young season.
ND will have to shore up its pass defense if it hopes to slow down talented Oklahoma QB Blake Bell, who has had an extra week to prepare for the shaky Irish secondary after torching Tulsa to the tune of 413 yards and four touchdowns two weeks ago.