This week's #Nuggets will take a look at the big three games this weekend and some quick glances at other games that matter.
1. How good is Washington really? The first top-10 matchup at Husky Stadium since 1997... and it starts at 9 p.m. ET on a Friday night. Oh, well.
We know what Stanford is by now. The Cardinal are going to test you to your limits at the line of scrimmage, they're going to force you to defend Christian McCaffrey as often and in every way they can in an effort to shield some shaky quarterback play. (Stanford is 86th in passing efficiency.)
Washington, though, remains a bit of a mystery. Jake Browning leads the nation in passing efficiency for all players through four games, but those games have come against Rutgers (No. 72 in pass efficiency defense), Arizona (No. 82), Idaho (No. 101) and FCS Portland State. The Huskies also rank 12th in yards per play allowed but, again, there's the schedule issue, and the fact Arizona popped off a 7.2 yards per carry average in a 35-28 Washington win in overtime.
2. The great tug of war in Ann Arbor. Both Wisconsin and Michigan have won at the exact same rate under Paul Chryst and Jim Harbaugh; both are 14-3 overall and 7-2 against the Big Ten. And both Chryst and Harbaugh win the same way. As ESPN's Adam Rittenberg writes, Chryst is 12-0 when he gets 31-plus minutes of possession and 2-3 when he doesn't. Meanwhile, Harbaugh is 11-0 when he possesses the ball for 31 minutes or more, and 3-3 when he doesn't.
Wisconsin is battle-tested, with wins over LSU and Michigan State to their credit -- both away from Madison, as they'll be on Saturday. But where Wisconsin is tested, Michigan is rested. The Wolverines have yet to leave Ann Arbor and yet to have an opponent come within 10 points of them in the fourth quarter.
3. The ACC race either gets sewn up or falls on the verge of absolute chaos. We're (basically) into October now, which means we've inched close enough to the finish line to sketch out silhouettes of the teams that will make the College Football Playoff, or at least be in the running for those four seats at the table. Which means that, after their historic beatdown of Florida State two weeks ago, we can safely assume Louisville can afford a loss down the stretch if the Cardinals emerge from Death Valley with a Tiger carcass. By that point, they would own a head-to-head tiebreaker over Florida State and Clemson, not to mention two of the single most impressive wins of the entire season.
But, if Clemson wins, the ACC Atlantic race could be on the doorstep of slightly controlled anarchy. The Tigers would need a win over Florida State in Tallahassee later in the month to take total control of the division, and thus the CFP race, but if the 'Noles hold serve and no one else loses, the division would be decided by a propreitary metric where no one outside its owners know the formula.
As for the game, this one feels pretty simple: whichever team allows its quarterback to play best wins. Clemson ranks second nationally in yards per play allowed, while Louisville chases close behind at sixth. The Tigers are second in pass efficiency defense; the Cards are 20th. Louisville leads the nation with 41 plays of 20-plus yards; Clemson leads all teams through four games with just seven allowed.
Quick thoughts on other games of note:
Texas at Oklahoma State (noon ET, ABC): The road team has won seven in a row, which figures to favor the 'Horns. As does Texas's ability to run the ball and Oklahoma State's inability to do the same. OSU needs to hit a number of Mason Rudolph-to-James Washington rainbows to win but, considering the state of the Texas secondary, they may be able to do just that.
Oklahoma at TCU (5 p.m. ET, FOX): I think both teams reach the 30's, but I know this game will be close. A brief rundown of Stoops-Patterson battles since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012: 24-17 (OU), 20-17 (OU), 37-33 (TCU), 30-29 (OU).
Tennessee at Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS): The Florida win was massive on a number of levels, but Tennessee needs to beat Georgia just as urgently with a road trip to Texas A&M and Alabama following after the Dawgs. Georgia was absolutely housed last week in Oxford, but does a return to the hedges change up the mojo for Kirby Smart's club?
Memphis at Ole Miss (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Through three games, the scoreboard currently reads Memphis 155, Opponents 27. Granted, those opponents are Southeast Missouri, Kansas and Bowling Green, but it's enough to keep an eye on in case the Rebels take a mental breather after facing Florida State, Alabama and Georgia in September.
Missouri at LSU (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network): Ed Orgeron's first game in his dream job. I wouldn't be shocked if O coaches the entire game from Mike the Tigers' back.
Arizona State at USC (8 p.m. ET, FOX): Arizona State sits at 4-0 despite permitting 42 points a game in their past three games. USC showed more signs of life last week at Utah -- funny how that happens when you're not playing Alabama or Stanford -- but still couldn't close the deal. Clay Helton needs this one.
Oregon at Washington State (9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network): Mike Leach's Cougars snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Ducks last season, and now Oregon's defense, stuck in the same mud as last season, has to go to Pullman.