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College Football 2013: 5 Big Questions for Week 4

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This might be the least exciting week of the season, with just one game between Top 25 teams and a bunch of powerhouses-vs.-FCS games on the slate. Still, there are some looming questions that could impact the season going forward. Here is what to watch for this week:

Will Alabama Have a Letdown?

Alabama fans had last week’s game against Texas A&M circled on their calendars for months. So now that the Crimson Tide has passed their biggest test of the season, how does Nick Saban keep his troops focused? Alabama hosts 1-2 Colorado State this week and will play only two more ranked teams (No. 21 Ole Miss and No. 6 LSU), both in Tuscaloosa, before the SEC Championship game. While Saban is known as a master motivator, complacency could be the toughest opponent the Crimson Tide face for the rest of the regular season.

How Good Is the Pac-12?

Everyone knows how explosive the Oregon offense can be, but we’re quickly learning that the rest of the league can put up some numbers as well. No. 13 UCLA rolled up 504 yards and 38 unanswered points in an impressive comeback win at Nebraska. No. 17 Washington ranks fourth nationally in total offense and has put up an average of 36 points per game against two respectable defenses. Six conference schools (Oregon, UCLA, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State) rank 21st or better nationally in scoring. No. 5 Stanford’s game this week against No. 23 Arizona State could tell us a little more about just how good the Cardinal is. Based on early returns, it’s hard to argue against the Pac-12 as the second-best conference in football right now

How Will Clemson Handle Its First Road Test?

No. 3 Clemson has been very impressive in season-opening wins over No. 9 Georgia and South Carolina State. This week they’ll make a Thursday-night visit to North Carolina State, a team that is notorious for pulling off an annual home upset of a highly ranked opponent on national television. (See No. 3 Florida State in 2012, No. 7 Clemson in 2011, No. 16 Florida State in 2010, etc.) The Wolfpack might not seem like much of a challenge after needing a last-minute field goal to get past lowly Richmond last week, but N.C. State features a balanced offensive attack that put up 542 yards and 40 points in a Week 1 win over Louisiana Tech. This game was a shootout last year, with Clemson taking home a 62-48 victory. Look for another high-scoring affair this time around.

Can Florida-Tennessee Regain the Fire?

For years, the Florida-Tennessee matchup was one of college football’s biggest games. The two head coaches (Phil Fulmer and Steve Spurrier) and the two fan bases, to put it lightly, didn’t much care for each other. And more importantly, the game often had a big impact on the SEC and national-title races. The rivalry has fallen on hard times in recent years, though, and while both fan bases are optimistic about the future, both teams are coming off of painful losses. Tennessee got blown out, 59-14, by No. 2 Oregon last week, and the Gators have had a week to recover from their mistake-filled loss at Miami. Neither school will be a national player this year, but a win this week would go a long way toward helping the victor gain some respectability in the SEC.

How Hot Is Bo Pelini’s Seat?

Lane Kiffin at USC and Mack Brown at Texas may be the two biggest names on the coaching hot seat, but Nebraska’s Bo Pelini is now No. 3 and moving up fast. First, the Cornhuskers had yet another embarrassing loss, giving up 38 unanswered points to UCLA last Saturday and appearing to be completely confused and outcoached. The rumblings from the Pelini critics had already been growing louder for 48 hours before reaching ear-splitting decibels on Monday. When asked about comments from former Cornhusker quarterback Tommie Frazier calling for coaching changes, Pelini dismissed Frazier’s comments and got in a swipe at the college football Hall of Famer, saying, “If he feels like that, we don’t need him.” Later that day, a secret recording of Pelini made in 2011 was released. In it, Pelini lets loose with an expletive-laden tirade aimed at local media members and, most damningly, fans who booed the team or left games early.

Pelini’s defense of his program is understandable, but he certainly didn’t need to disrespect one of the most popular players in Cornhusker history. And while you have to question the motives of someone who would sit on this audio for two years before choosing to release it only after a big loss, Pelini’s comments will not sit well with one of college football’s most rabid fan bases. As of this writing, there has been no official comment from university officials, but Pelini is most likely on very, very thin ice right now.

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