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West Virginia @ Virginia Tech
Friday 23rd September – 12.30am (UK) – Blacksburg, Virginia
Preview: This weekend’s action gets underway on Thursday night with an in-state rivalry game between West Virginia and Virginia Tech. The two teams met in 2021, with the Mountaineers running out 27-21 victors.
It’s been a fairly disappointing season for both teams so far. Virginia Tech dropped their week one game to Old Dominion, but they have bounced back with wins over Boston College and Wolford. On the flip side, WVU lost their opening two games to Kansas and Pitt, but in week three the offense blew Towson out of the water.
Dante Stills has been excellent at the heart of the West Virginia defensive line despite their early struggles. However, he needs some help if the Mountaineers are to win on Saturday. Although they’re ranked as the 41st defense so far in 2022, WVU have already shipped 14 touchdowns to opposition offenses – and Neal Brown has been clear that needs to improve. The offense has largely started to click under the guidance of JT Daniels, mainly thanks to the outstanding play of wide receiver, Bryce Ford-Wheaton.
Ford-Wheaton won’t be the only standout receiver on the field in this matchup. Temple transfer Jaden Blue has jumped up the depth chart after a strong performance at the weekend – he possesses great short yardage burst and a strong pair of hands, and will likely be drafted at the end of the season. Alongside him, Nick Gallo is one of the highest rated tight ends in the ACC, both in the run game and as a passing threat – he’ll be a handful for Jasir Cox, the transfer corner that has so far lined up in the slot for the Mountaineers.
Key Matchup: Dante Stills (DL, WVU) vs VT Interior Defensive Line – Stills is a wrecking ball, disruptive in both the run and passing games and is versatile to boot. Grant Wells has looked a bit shaky as the Hokies starting QB through three games, and it’ll be up to Kaden Moore, Johnny Jordan and Jesse Hansen to keep him on his feet come Thursday. Look for Stills to identify the best matchup for his skills and exploit it all game long.
Game Line: West Virginia 2 point favourites at the time of writing.
Virginia @ Syracuse
Saturday 24th September – 12am (UK) – Syracuse, New York
Preview: Did anyone have Syracuse as the surprise package coming out of the ACC this year? Through three games they’ve played some exciting football on offense and been very solid on defense – especially in week one against Louisville.
Garrett Shrader was always going to be a playmaker for the Orange, but opposition coordinators probably didn’t anticipate how difficult he could be to shut down. Against Purdue, Shrader threw for three touchdowns but completed less than half of his passes – with the pass game stunted he took over on the ground instead, putting up a team leading 83 yards on 17 carries. He’ll be a nightmare to handle for a Virginia defense that has looked pretty static through the first three weeks of the season.
If Virginia are to make this one interesting, they’ll be relying on their talented receivers and Brennan Armstrong cranking into life. Armstrong has struggled to get standout receiver Dontayvion Wicks involved so far this year, but last weekend saw Keytaon Thompson get up and running with more than 100 yards receiving. The first three weeks have been disappointing in general for the Cavaliers, despite two wins they’ve been unconvincing and they certainly haven’t lived up to the potential they teased in 2021.
Key Matchup: Keytaon Thompson (WR, VIR) vs Garrett Williams (CB, SYR) – Williams is one of the highest rated defensive backs in the country, his silky smooth play has seen him mock drafted everywhere from the third round all the way to the top ten overall picks ahead of the 2023 draft. In Keytaon Thompson he’ll come up against a wrecking ball of a wide receiver who loves to create yardage with the ball in his hands. This one will be fascinating to watch from the first snap.
Game Line: Syracuse 9 point favourite at the time of writing.
Baylor @ Iowa State
Saturday 24th September – 5pm (UK) – Ames, Iowa
Preview: Onto Saturday’s action and there’s a lot to like about the 5pm games. Baylor’s trip to Ames should provide a good test for two quarterbacks that are enjoying their first full year as the main man on campus. Hunter Dekkers has hit the ground running for Iowa State after two years as Brock Purdy’s backup. The lefty has formed quite the relationship with standout receiver, Xavier Hutchinson, who will have his eyes set on the NFL at the end of the season. Interestingly, there’s been a committee approach at running back for the Hawkeyes, following the departure of Breece Hall.
Baylor’s defense has been their strong point so far in 2022, and given Dave Aranda’s past that is probably no surprise. The Bears rank 26th in total defense, with towering lineman Siaki Ika at the heart of everything. Ika is a natural leader who personifies the grit that Aranda’s defense plays with, along with TJ Franklin. They’re clearly rubbing off on Brooks Miller, who looked incredibly effective at linebacker in the blowout of Texas State last week.
Blake Shapen has had an up and down start to life as the Bears’ starting QB. The main blip came down the stretch against BYU in the overtime defeat. Shapen got a bit loose with his mechanics and sailed a number of passes. This game is the chance for him to redeem himself against a strong opponent.
Key Matchup: Xavier Hutchinson (WR, ISU) vs Mark Milton (CB, BAY) – This is a simple case of WR1 vs CB1 – both are very good players and the winner of this matchup will likely tip the scales in the favour of his team.
Game Line: Iowa State 2.5 point favourite at the time of writing.
Clemson @ Wake Forest
Saturday 24th September – 5pm (UK) – Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Preview: Clemson have so far avoided significant scrutiny in 2022. Their no nonsense defense and above average offense are just too much for the majority of teams in college football. DJ Uiagalelei has clearly taken a step at QB for the Tigers, whether that is a significant step still remains very much in question. However, with the talent the Tigers have on defense, the offense very rarely needs to take over a game. Any of Bryan Bresee, Tyler Davis, Myles Murphy and Trenton Simpson could be high draft picks in 2023 and they stand out on tape every week.
With Sam Hartman back in action, Wake Forest are always a threat. However, they’ve not looked at their dominant best over the past fortnight. Against Liberty, the defense struggled to stop an offense that is going through a transitional phase, and the run game was literally non-existent – leaving them 97th in the nation through three weeks. When the Demon Deacons are playing lesser opponents, Hartman alone can drag them through – but against a powerhouse like Clemson it’s going to be a huge struggle.
Key Matchup: Clemson Defensive Line vs Wake Forest Offensive Line – Hartman is Wake’s only chance of getting something from this game, but he’ll be useless if he spends the game running for his life. The Wake offensive line therefore needs to dig in and do what it can in the face of Bresee and co.
Game Line: Clemson 7 point favourite at the time of writing.
Oregon @ Washington State
Saturday 24th September – 9pm (UK) – Pullman, Washington
Preview: There was a hell of a lot of hype around Cameron Ward during the summer, and last week against Colorado State the world saw exactly why. But, there had been some very good moments throughout the first two weeks as well – he threw the game winning score to beat Wisconsin to name one. Ward is clearly the star of the Cougars’ programme already and Jake Dikert should be praised for convincing him to join them.
Outside of Ward, Ron Stone Jr is the player to watch for Washington State as he comes off the edge to put consistent pressure on opposition gun slingers. Last season’s 11.5 sacks put him on the map, and he’ll relish the opportunity of going up against Oregon’s solid offensive line.
The Ducks proved that the week one loss to Georgia was well removed from their collective memory last week, as they cruised past BYU. Bo Nix was efficient, including a very nice touchdown throw to Terrance Ferguson. However, he was aided by the running back tandem of Mar’Keise Irving and Naoh Whittington whose productivity allowed the play action game to materialise.
Key Matchup: Oregon Defensive Line vs Cameron Ward (QB, WSU) – The Ducks did well to contain Jaren Hall last week, forcing him to throw a lot more than he wanted to. However, Ward is happy to sit back and pick apart a defense from the pocket. Oregon’s defense will therefore need to get to him for more than the solitary sack they picked up last week.
Game Line: Oregon 6.5 point favourite at the time of writing.
Stanford @ Washington
Sunday 25th September – 3.30am (UK) – Seattle, Washington
Preview: Washington has been great so far in 2022. The Huskies announced themselves to the nation with a statement win over Michigan State in week three, ahead of the first PAC-12 matchup of the year. The biggest surprise has been Michael Penix at QB, but the all round play of Kalen DeBoer’s team has been excellent. Ja’Lynn Polk had 114 yards receiving in three games last season, this year he’s more than doubled that and caught four touchdowns. It’s the same across the board for the Hokies, with raised performances and maturation showing across the roster.
Stanford are a difficult beast to fathom. There’s no doubt that there is a lot of talent on the Cardinal roster, but their fanbase must wish that they put it all together a bit more consistently. With Tanner McKee receiving a lot of preseason draft hype, attention slightly shifted away from elite corner, Kyu Blu Kelly. USC largely stayed away from Kelly in the Cardinal’s loss to the Trojans, but with Penix feeling confident he may be tempted to throw at the future Sunday player.
It’s highly likely that this one will still be ticking over when some in the UK are waking up, but it’ll be well worth hitting rewind and watching it on the start as the hype around Washington is beginning to pick up a lot of steam.
Key Matchup: Stanford pass rush vs Washington Offensive Line – Washington have only given up two sacks so far this season, that is presumably why Penix looks so confident when compared to his pre-transfer tape. There’s no reason why that can’t continue this week, the Huskies have a strong offensive line and they should be a bit too much for Stanford’s pass rush.
Game Line: Washington 13.5 point favourite at the time of writing.
By Andy Moore – @ajmoore21