3 by 3: Week 5
Week 5 is here, so let’s take a gander at the slate. Missouri’s new quarterback has the fanbase all in a tizzy; if you can look beyond Drew Lock’s fabulous locks, you will find games with playoff ramifications and points aplenty.
Three Things To Watch: Mizzou
South Carolina at Missouri, noon, SEC Network
1. Drew Lock.
Could there be any other #1 item? Gary Pinkel was forced to make a move that many in the fanbase were already calling for by elevating Drew Lock to starter, even if just for one week. There are many storylines: Can Lock play well enough to open room for the struggling ground game? Can his advanced pocket passing coax production out of the young receiving corps? Longterm, just how well does Lock have to play to keep the job? Here’s to hoping Lock makes Gary Pinkel’s decision on his starting quarterback easy -- and for positive reasons.
2. Revamped offensive line
Missouri’s 2014 season took off when the struggling offensive line began to take over games and lean on opponents. With RT Nate Crawford out with an ankle injury, Taylor Chappell will move outside to take his place and Brad McNulty will step back into the starting lineup. This might end up being a blessing in disguise, as David Morrison noted in his essential Snap Decisions piece for The Trib:
The line that finished the game and will be the top one entering the week -- McGovern, McNulty, Boehm, Hall and Chappell -- actually had the most success against Kentucky, averaging 5.5 yards a play, 5.4 yards a rush and driving the Tigers for two field goals. Missouri had its most passing success with its starting line -- McGovern, Chappell, Boehm, Hall and Crawford -- but also gave up both of its sacks in it.
A stabilized front will go a long way to earning a win and resurrecting this season.
3. Drew Lock again!
No, but seriously. Drew Lock, y’all. His gorgeous flowing locks and spring-loaded right arm are enough to make any Mizzou fan swoon. My heart, my head, and maybe my loins all predict Drew Lock is not going to relinquish the starting job. A win on Saturday -- powered by a balanced offense -- and Gary Pinkel will give Drew Lock the keys to the car (Drew already has the keys to our hearts).
Three Things To Watch: SEC
1. Game Of The Century Of The Week
Alabama At Georgia, 3:30 PM, CBS
Two playoff contenders square off with their seasons wholly in the balance. If the Bulldogs lose, the questions about the lack of high-level achievements on Mark Richt’s resume begin to get louder. A Crimson Tide loss, and 2015 is officially a disappointment for the Alabama faithful while Trader Joe’s still has Pumpkin Ice Cream on the shelves. This game will also be wet and rainy and gross, and Nick Chubb seems like a perfect running back for this weather. I have no science or statistics to back this up; he just seems like the kind of back that will gleefully run through the slop like a great Kentucky Derby mudder.
2. Leonard Fournette
Eastern Michigan at LSU, 7 PM, ESPNU
I think I will keep listing Mr. Fournette here until he stops making all of our collective jaws drop. This is an incredible year for running back talent: one does not even need to leave Fournette’s league to find luminaries like Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and Jalen Hurd, not to mention national stars like Ezekiel Elliott, CJ Prosise, and Paul Perkins. Fournette towers above them all. His Heisman pose from Week 1 of his 2014 freshman campaign now seems less and less like a brash mistake and more and more like a long term prediction. After doing some ridiculous things against Syracuse, Fournette now gets to face an Eastern Michigan team that is dead last in FBS rushing defense (373 ypg, 6.7 ypc allowed). Can Melvin Gordon’s Samaje Perine’s single-game rushing record fall already?
3. Schaudenfreude in Knoxville
Arkansas at Tennessee, 7 PM, ESPN 2
Both programs really need to get a win, which means somebody is not going to get one! Tennessee losing would be better for Mizzou in the SEC East shakeout, and Butch Jones’s seat would be officially toasty. I want the SEC to remain stacked with strong programs, but I also enjoy the current setup of the West carrying the conference’s reputation while Missouri slides through an easy East. Speaking of the stacked SEC West, Arkansas could lose and fall to 1-4 with trips to Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, and Oxford still on the docket. Enjoy, Bert.
Three Things To Watch: Nationally
1. William Fuller vs Deshaun Watson
Notre Dame at Clemson, 8 PM, ABC
This matchup is strange: an early season playoff game between two history-rich programs (okay, one history-rich program and one history-upper-middle-class program), but it still feels lacking of some oomph. We can chalk it up to the lack of meetings between the schools; they last played in 1979 and each team has one win in this series. What this game is not lacking is starpower: Notre Dame WR William Fuller and Clemson QB Deshaun Watson are two of the sport’s most high-wattage bulbs. Tune in for the playoff ramifications, Howard’s Rock, the golden dome helmets under the bright lights, and the Dr. Pepper commercials, but also make sure to enjoy this and this.
2. AAC games are fun!
Memphis at South Florida, 7 PM, ESPN2 (Friday); Houston at Tulsa, noon, CBS Sports Network; Navy at Air Force, 3:30 PM, etc.
The American Athletic Conference got a facelift this offseason and has become must-see TV for fans of basketball-like football. The conference added Navy’s well-oiled rushing attack, along with three new head coaches with the "offensive guru" label: Tom Hermann (Houston), Chad Morris (SMU), and Philip Montgomery (Tulsa). Houston at Tulsa in particular looks like a game that could see point totals that would make the Big XII (or Big Ten basketball teams) blush. Move over #MACtion; it’s time for #AACtion. Jordan Lynch is soooooooo 2013, let’s talk about Paxton Lynch.
Your television, all day
While Hurricane Joaquin will bog down a number of games along the East Coast, the rest of the country will be picking up the slack with a slew of combustible matchups. The aforementioned Houston - Tulsa tilt starts at noon, alongside a WVU - Oklahoma game in Norman that promises fireworks. Washington St. - Cal in the afternoon features Air Raid vs Air Raid; the prime time SEC offering is Mississippi State vs Texas A&M, which should get a little Big XII-y. But all of these games are just the garlic knots to the supreme pie that is Baylor - Texas Tech. Vegas currently has the line at a whopping 88 points; I would take the over. Every punt in this game will be rarer than the super blood moon thingy we had last week (topical!). This game might end the next day, they could still be playing on Sunday like a cricket match.