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September 19, 2006

Saturday's losers, winners limp into Week 4

Week 3 Scoreboard
Week 3 Video Highlights
The College Football Wire

Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:

We had questions. We got answers.

During Saturday's seven games between ranked opponents, we learned preseason expectations for Notre Dame and Miami might have been too lofty. Expectations for Michigan and Florida might not have been lofty enough. A Heisman campaign stalled for Brady Quinn, while one for Steve Slaton is mounting.

Some debates were settled on Sept. 16, but there are still some things to chew on for the next couple of weeks: How will Louisville recover from another key injury? Is TCU for real? Can anyone win in the ACC?

Here are the top five questions to come out of Week 3 and the top five games to watch for Week 4:

Five Questions for Week 4
1. Can Hunter Cantwell, George Stripling and Kolby Smith carry Louisville while Brian Brohm and Michael Bush are injured?
With the Derby City Duo on the training table, Louisville can remain optimistic about capturing a Big East title. Despite the injuries to Brohm and Bush, the remaining schedule sets up favorably for the Cardinals. Brohm, who sustained a torn thumb ligament on his throwing hand against Miami, will be out for 3-6 weeks. That means he could return shortly before the game against No. 4 West Virginia. Before playing host to the Mountaineers, the Cardinals will have four games against teams with losing records and two open dates. However, three of those games are on the road - including a trip to Syracuse. Another team without its start quarterback (see: Iowa, Drew Tate) struggled against the Orange. As for Cantwell, he will start his third career game in Manhattan, Kan., against Kansas State on Saturday. He went 1-1 as a starter last season after Brohm's ACL injury. Cantwell engineered a win on the road against Connecticut and started in the Gator Bowl to Virginia Tech.
2. How will Texas' Colt McCoy and Penn State's Anthony Morelli fare in their second starts against major competition?
The schedule has not been kind to first-year starting quarterbacks McCoy and Morelli. Both will have faced No. 1 Ohio State and other quality opponents - in their first four starts. After a rough outing in Week 2 against the Buckeyes, McCoy bounced back with a 7-of-8 performance against Rice. His seven completions went for 124 yards and two touchdowns. This week, he should continue to put up solid numbers against Iowa State. The Cyclones are allowing opponents to complete nearly 73 percent of their passes for 286.3 yards per game. Like McCoy, Morelli struggled in his first start against major competition with a fumble and interception against Notre Dame. He wasn't overly impressive against Youngstown State either, completing 11 of 27 passes for 154 yards going into this week's game at Ohio State. Both teams will need the run game to take the pressure off their novice quarterbacks.
3. Which ACC coaches aren't on the hot seat?
Start with Bobby Bowden, Frank Beamer, Tom O'Brien, Jim Grobe and a couple others. The ACC has gone without a coaching change since 2003 when Duke hired Ted Roof midseason. That will likely change at the end of this year after a dismal out-of-conference showing by the league. Louisville, Rutgers, Akron, Western Michigan, Southern Miss and Division I-AA Richmond all claim wins over the ACC through three weeks of the 2006 season. With the full conference slate beginning over the next two weeks, Larry Coker, Chuck Amato, Al Groh and John Bunting will have to turn around their teams in a big way to quiet some critics.
4. Will TCU capture an at-large BCS bid?
If the defense continues to play the way it did against Texas Tech, yes. The Horned Frogs move from No. 20 to No. 16 in the AP poll and from 20th to 15th in the coaches' poll after grounding Tech's Air Raid offense. With the win, TCU held Mike Leach's team without a touchdown for the first time since 2000 and extended the nation's longest winning streak to 13 games. A top-12 finish (or top-16 if a BCS conference champion is ranked lower) in the Bowl Championship Series rankings would give TCU an at-large berth into one of the big four bowls. Jumping another three or four spots could be possible, especially if the Frogs win back-to-back games against BYU and at Utah in nationally televised Thursday night games. After the win over Texas Tech, TCU will not play another BCS conference team for the rest of the season.
5. Can Georgia make it three shutouts in a row?
If recent history continues, Georgia is in pretty good shape when it plays host to Colorado. The Bulldogs posted consecutive shutouts for the first time since their 1980 national championship season and have not allowed a touchdown since the first half of their opener against Western Kentucky. Despite never leaving the state, the Buffaloes have only two touchdowns in three games this season. On Saturday, Colorado was shut out by Arizona State - a team not known for defensive prowess.
Top Five Games of Week 4
1. No. 24 Penn State (2-1) at No. 1 Ohio State (3-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC
The Buckeyes' first conference game comes against the only Big Ten team to beat them last year.
2. No. 20 Arizona State (3-0) at No. 22 Cal (2-1), 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
The Sun Devils begin a make-or-break stretch with games at Cal, vs. Oregon and at USC in the next four weeks.
3. Iowa State (2-1) at No. 7 Texas (2-1), 3:30 p.m., ABC
After losing two major non-conference games, the Cyclones and Longhorns look to reverse the trend in Big 12 play. Will this be a preview of the conference title game?
4. No. 12 Notre Dame (2-1) at Michigan State (3-0), 8 p.m., ABC
Behind Drew Stanton (590 yards total offense, eight total TDs last two games), the Spartans try to take two in a row from a struggling Notre Dame team.
5. Wisconsin (3-0) at No. 6 Michigan (3-0), noon, ESPN
Badgers redshirt freshman P.J. Hill, the nation's seventh leading rusher, faces his first major test against a dominant Michigan team (five turnovers, two TDs on defense against Notre Dame).

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