By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
Alabama defense – Arkansas entered Week 4 averaging 517.3 yards and 47 points per game. The Crimson Tide limited the Razorbacks to 226 yards and just 14 points. Without a doubt, Alabama owns one of the top defenses in college football.
Arizona State – The Sun Devils entered the year as one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 South crown, but fulfilling expectations never seems to be easy in Tempe. However, Arizona State came through with a big win over USC on Saturday, which puts it in the driver’s seat to win the South.
Ball State – A win over Army isn’t going to register on the national radar, but let’s give some credit to new coach Pete Lembo. The Cardinals won the season opener against Indiana and demolished the Black Knights on Saturday.
Bryant Moniz, QB, Hawaii – The Warriors finally got their passing game on track against UC Davis. Moniz tossed seven touchdowns in the first half and finished with 424 passing yards.
Cincinnati’s turnover margin – After finishing 2010 119th nationally in turnover margin, the Bearcats are ranked No. 1 in college football through four weeks. As long as Cincinnati keeps the turnovers in check, it should be a factor in the Big East race.
Clemson – Despite two lackluster showings to start the year, the Tigers have arrived as a threat to win the ACC. The Tigers took care of Auburn in Week 3 and knocked off Florida State on Saturday. Clemson has defeated the Seminoles five consecutive times in Death Valley, which is a huge victory considering the race in the Atlantic Division. The schedule doesn’t lighten up for the Tigers, as they head to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech this Saturday.
College football – Now that the realignment news seems to be dying down, can we please focus the attention back to the field?
Georgia Tech – Not much was expected of the Yellow Jackets in the preseason, but it’s time to take this team seriously as a threat to win the ACC Coastal. Georgia Tech beat North Carolina to move to 4-0 and has a favorable upcoming stretch – NC State, Maryland and Virginia.
LSU – The secondary was torched by West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, but the Tigers still came out on top. LSU won the turnover battle, once again got timely throws from quarterback Jarrett Lee, and a momentum-changing kickoff return by Morris Claiborne for a score in the third quarter. The Tigers should easily handle Kentucky this Saturday, setting up a key SEC showdown on Oct. 8 against Florida.
Melvin Ingram, DL, South Carolina – The 6-foot-2, 276-pound lineman has scored three touchdowns this year, which equals how many passing scores South Carolina has this season.
Michigan defense – The Wolverines aren’t an elite defense, but they are much better than the 2010 version. Michigan is allowing only 13.7 points per game and ranks 41st nationally against the pass. Coordinator Greg Mattison and coach Brady Hoke still need to upgrade the overall talent on defense, but it’s clear those two are making a difference.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers - Has been nearly unstoppable through the first four weeks of the season, catching 36 passes for 363 yards. Sanu grabbed 16 receptions for 176 yards and two scores in the win over Ohio on Saturday.
Oklahoma State – Behind the arm of quarterback Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys rallied from a 20-3 halftime deficit to win for the third time in a row over Texas A&M. Oklahoma State has two tricky road dates ahead – Missouri and Texas – but should it get past those two games, the season finale against Oklahoma could decide the Big 12 champ.
Oregon – After losing the season-opener against LSU, the Ducks have remained off the national radar. However, Oregon has quietly handled its business, scoring at least 56 points in its last three games. The Ducks still look like the best team in the Pac-12.
Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor – Griffin is off to a ridiculous start, throwing more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) through three games.
Temple – One week after losing a close battle to Penn State, the Owls went on the road to College Park and embarrassed Maryland. New coach Steve Addazio has done a good job of picking up where Al Golden left off and continuing to push Temple to be a contender in the MAC and relevant on the national scene.
ACC – Week 4 was not a banner weekend for the ACC. Miami lost to Kansas State, NC State was blown out by Cincinnati, Virginia lost to Southern Miss, and Temple easily dispatched Maryland. For a conference searching for national respect, this was a weekend to forget.
Big Ten – When Indiana loses to North Texas and Minnesota loses to North Dakota State, it’s a bad weekend for your conference. The overall slate of games in the Big Ten was awful, but the action in the conference will pickup with Nebraska visiting Wisconsin next Saturday.
BYU's offense – The Cougars seemed to find their offensive rhythm at the end of last season, but are off to a sluggish start. BYU ranks 116th nationally in rushing, 111th in total offense and 109th in scoring. With quarterback Jake Heaps, a solid group of receivers and a good offensive line, it’s been very surprising to see the struggles of this unit.
Big East officiating – The call on the extra point in the Toledo-Syracuse game was awful. The replays seemed to clearly show the kick was no good. There’s no guarantee the Rockets would have won, but it’s a mistake that should not happen.
Mike Locksley, New Mexico – There are many adjectives to describe how bad Locksley has been in his short tenure in Albuquerque. And finally, the administration pulled the plug on his hire on Sunday. After losing to Sam Houston State on Saturday, it will be a surprise if the Lobos win more than two games this season.
NC State – New quarterback Mike Glennon’s numbers aren’t awful (10 TDs, 3 INTs), but it’s fair to wonder if this team would have a better record with Russell Wilson under center. The defense is dealing with several injuries and with two wins over FCS teams, the Wolfpack could be left without a bowl trip this season.
South Carolina quarterbacks – If the Gamecocks want to win the SEC East, getting consistent quarterback play is going to be a must. Stephen Garcia was awful against Vanderbilt, throwing four interceptions and completing 16 of 30 throws. Connor Shaw doesn’t look like the answer, so it’s up to Garcia to pickup his play or defenses will start crowding the box even more to stop Marcus Lattimore.
Texas A&M’s second-half performance – The Aggies led 20-3 at halftime, but fell apart in the final two quarters. Oklahoma State used a couple of turnovers in the second half to rally for its third-straight win over Texas A&M.
USC – The Trojans outgained Arizona State (402 to 392), but lost the turnover battle (4 to 0). USC has the talent to be the best team in the Pac-12 South, but not when it loses the turnover battle and collapses in the second half.
Vanderbilt offense – The Commodores played a stout defensive line in South Carolina, but managed only 77 yards of offense in Saturday’s loss. Vanderbilt also tallied only five first downs and had three turnovers.
Looking Ahead to Week 5
A small sample of what’s ahead
South Florida at Pittsburgh (Thursday)
A chance for the Bulls to make an early statement in the Big East title race.
Georgia Tech vs. NC State
The Yellow Jackets are rolling and a Wolfpack defense bothered by injuries has a tough task ahead.
Auburn at South Carolina
A rematch of last season’s SEC title game, but the outcome is expected to be a lot different this time around.
Mississippi State at Georgia
Georgia isn’t out of the SEC East race, but this is a must-win to keep pace with South Carolina and Florida.
Clemson vs. Virginia Tech
A preview of the ACC title game? Or is this the game where Clemson’s offense cools off?
Northwestern at Illinois
Wildcats’ quarterback Dan Persa makes his return to the starting lineup.
Michigan State at Ohio State
A key game in the Big Ten race. Buckeyes need a win, especially with a trip to Nebraska next week.
Air Force vs. Navy
Future Big East conference game? A matchup between the service academies is always a must-see game.
Baylor at Kansas State
Are the Wildcats for real? Let’s see if they can back up their win over Miami with a victory over Robert Griffin and Baylor.
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington)
Both teams looking to get back into the win column after disappointing Week 4 losses.
Washington at Utah
Intriguing Pac-12 matchup, with the Utes needing to win this one to keep pace with Arizona State in the South.
Nebraska at Wisconsin
The first Big Ten game for Nebraska isn’t easy – a road trip to Madison to take on Wisconsin.
Alabama at Florida
Are the Gators a SEC title threat? This should be a good test for how much they have come along in Will Muschamp’s first year.
Injuries from Week 4
Alabama LB C.J. Mosley – elbow – questionable for Week 5
Arkansas DE Tenarius Wright – arm – questionable for Week 5
Arkansas CB Isaac Madison – arm – questionable for Week 5
Arkansas S Tramain Thomas – undisclosed – questionable for Week 5
BYU WR Ross Apo – concussion – questionable for Week 5
FIU QB Wesley Carroll – ankle – questionable for Week 5
Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins – ankle – expected to play in Week 6
Maryland DT Andre Monroe – sprained ankle – likely out for Week 5
Maryland S Matt Robinson – shoulder – out for the remainder of 2011
Miami, Fla. RB Lamar Miller – shoulder – expected to play in Week 5
Michigan CB Troy Woolfolk – ankle – questionable for Week 5
Oklahoma C Ben Habern – broken arm – likely out six to eight weeks
Oklahoma State OL Jonathan Rush – knee – out for remainder of 2011
Oklahoma State CB Devin Hedgepeth – Achilles – out for remainder of 2011
Penn State LB Michael Mauti – torn ACL – out for the remainder of 2011
Penn State CB D’Anton Lynn – neck/head – questionable for Week 5
Texas Tech WR Darrin Moore – ankle – questionable for Week 5
Toledo RB Adonis Thomas – broken arm – out three to four weeks
UAB QB Bryan Ellis – concussion – questionable for Week 5
USC CB Torin Harris – shoulder – questionable for Week 5
Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas – shoulder – expected to play in Week 5
Virginia Tech CB Jayron Hosley – foot – expected to play in Week 5
Washington DE Hau’oli Jamora – knee – questionable for Week 5