Analysis: Week 4: ND, Georgia meet with playoff implications

JOEDY McCREARY
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Arkansas St Georgia Football

Georgia Bulldogs running back D'Andre Swift (7) scores on a pass play which he broke for a touchdown during the first half of todays Georgia vs Arkansas State NCAA football game at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

There haven't been many tests so far for the teams atop the AP Top 25. For at least two of them, that should soon change.

No. 7 Notre Dame visits No. 3 Georgia on Saturday in the first game of the season to match teams ranked this highly.

The top seven teams in this week's poll are a combined 20-0 with an average margin of victory of 36.1 points. The only one of those that's been closer than two scores was fourth-ranked LSU's 45-38 road win at then-No. 9 Texas — the only previous top-10 matchup so far.

It's the highest profile of three games matching two ranked teams. No. 11 Michigan visits No. 13 Wisconsin and eighth-ranked Auburn travels to No. 17 Texas A&M.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Notre Dame at Georgia. The Fighting Irish make their first trip Between the Hedges after the Bulldogs beat them 20-19 two years ago in South Bend on their way to an appearance in the CFP championship game. This one figures to shape the playoff discussion this year, too. The key: Can Notre Dame find a way to slow Georgia's rushing offense? The Bulldogs rank eighth nationally in rushing (286.7 ypg) while the Irish are 120th against the run, giving up at least 212 yards rushing in each game.

HEISMAN WATCH

Tua Tagovailoa became the first Alabama quarterback to throw for at least 400 yards and five touchdowns in a game last week at South Carolina. Next up is a Southern Mississippi defense that allowed 80 total points in its last two games and allowed 528 total yards to Troy.

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence has thrown five interceptions — two last week at Syracuse — after he was picked off just four times in 2018. The Tigers are 41-point favorites against a Charlotte team that ranks fifth nationally against the pass (123 ypg) but has only faced an average of 21 pass attempts per game.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

0 — Points allowed so far by No. 13 Wisconsin, which opened with shutouts of South Florida and Central Michigan.

0 — Number of current Pac-12 schools that have ever visited Mississippi. No. 23 California becomes the first to make the trip this week.

20 — LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has at least 20 completions in a school-record six straight games.

79 — Years since the only previous meeting between Appalachian State and North Carolina.

85 — Miami of Ohio coach Chuck Martin had the line of the week when he said playing No. 6 Ohio State is "kind of like going to recess and they have the first 85 picks."

UNDER THE RADAR

No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M: As the quarterbacks coach at Auburn in the mid-1990s, Jimbo Fisher was Patrick Nix's position coach. Now he must figure out how to stop his son, Bo Nix, in the QB's first Southeastern Conference game — one that will help shape the West Division's pecking order behind No. 2 Alabama.

Oklahoma State at No. 12 Texas: This shapes up as a good old-fashioned Big 12 shootout. Oklahoma State has the nation's top rusher (Chuba Hubbard, 173.7 ypg) and receiver (Tylan Wallace, 130 ypg). Texas counters with Sam Ehlinger and a defense that gave up 573 total yards and 45 points to the only Power Five opponent it has played (LSU).

No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin: Could be the polar opposite of Oklahoma State-Texas. The Badgers have the nation's best total defense, allowing 107.5 yards per game in addition to those two shutouts. Meanwhile, at Michigan, they're getting a little restless with a new offense that has been plagued by penalties and inopportune turnovers and doesn't rank better than a tie for 60th in any of the five major stat categories.

HOT SEAT WATCH

— UCLA's Chip Kelly could use an upset of No. 19 Washington State to begin Pac-12 play after the Bruins were routed 48-14 by Jalen Hurts and No. 5 Oklahoma last week. That dropped UCLA's record to 3-12 under Kelly and 0-3 this season.

— The seat is no cooler across town. Clay Helton and Southern California are coming off an overtime loss to BYU and have No. 10 Utah coming in Friday night. Helton is 7-8 since the start of 2018 and will report to a new boss after AD Lynn Swann stepped down.

— Willie Taggart and Florida State (1-2, 0-1) have been outscored 75-31 in their second halves and overtime so far. They can't afford to stumble as a 6½-point favorite at home against a Louisville team picked to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division.

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