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2019 College Football Reaction & Analysis: Week Four

Jim Harbaugh
After a relatively quiet Week 3 of college football action, the fourth week of the 2019 college football season was full of important matchups. Michigan-Wisconsin, Auburn-Texas A&M and Notre Dame-Georgia were all critical games that are sure to have a major impact on the Playoff chase this fall. Now that all the dust has settled, we have a much clearer indication of the true contenders this season, and who could be the final four teams playing for it all this winter.

Is it Over for Harbaugh in Ann Arbor?: I have never been one to buy into the Jim Harbaugh hot seat hype, because I've long felt that has he done a great job returning UM to relevancy, and if not for a controversial call in 2016, the Wolverines would have gone to the Playoff in his second season. However, after watching Michigan get blown out in Madison this Saturday, it's hard to imagine the Wolverines sticking with Harbaugh for much longer. The Wolverines didn't even look competitive, and their new look offense managed just 299 yards, turning the ball over four times. Sure, there is still time for UM to recover and
evolve into a Big Ten East Title threat, but their remaining schedule includes five ranked teams. With the way they played this weekend, it's hard to imagine Michigan sniffing ten wins, or pulling off an upset of Ohio State, which could ultimately doom Harbaugh at his alma mater.

Notre Dame Earns Some Respect: Bad losses on the national stage have become all too common for Notre Dame in recent memory, and a road game against Georgia looked like it could be the latest primetime loss. However, ND competed with the Bulldogs for the entire sixty minutes, with a chance to pull out the win late. It may have ruined Notre Dame's quest for a second straight undefeated regular season, but it showed that this is a team that can compete with the big boys of college football. It is one thing to keep it close with UGA when you're playing in front of your home crowd, but going into Athens is a different animal altogether. With a fairly manageable schedule remaining, the Irish look like they can run the table and finish off 11-1. Depending on who else is sitting there at the end, that could be a Playoff team if things swing right.

UCF Remains the Group of Five Favorite... For Now: For the first time since 2016, UCF lost a regular season game, as they were unable to sneak past Pittsburgh in a 35-34 loss. It was an understandable loss for the Knights; they were bound to loss sometime, and they couldn't finish off a comeback attempt after falling behind 21 early on. Despite the loss, UCF is still playing well enough to believe they are still the Group of Five favorite, and the representative in the New Year's Six. They will have to hold off teams like Memphis, Boise State and Appalachian State, but this is another team with a favorable remaining schedule and an offense still gelling under the leadership of young QB Dillon Gabriel. Playing UConn next week at home, UCF could start somewhat of a "revenge tour" that could carry them through the final few months of the season.

The Pac-12 is Not Returning to the Playoff: With Oregon, Washington and Stanford all suffering losses early on in 2019, it looked like the conference's Playoff hopes rested on one of three teams: Washington State, California or Utah. Two of those teams lost over the weekend, with the Utes bowing out to USC and Washington State unable to finish off UCLA. This now means that the Pac-12's hopes now shift solely to an undefeated Cal, or perhaps Oregon, if they're able to run the table. That is a terrible place to be in, considering the Golden Bears are a flimsy conference favorite, and the Ducks still face Washington, Arizona State and USC away from home. This is a terrible spot for a conference that has only been to the Playoff twice since its inception.

Heisman Race: Now a month into the 2019 season, the Heisman race is finally starting to really heat up. A bunch of quarterbacks top the list at the moment, but a number of running backs should be able to keep things interesting.
1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
2. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
3. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
4. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
5. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State

What I'm Watching Next Week

Arizona State-California (Friday, 9:30 PM CT, ESPN): Late-night Pac-12 battles are always fascinating, and this matchup between ASU-Cal is worth a watch. California is the Pac-12's last hope for a wild Playoff run, while Arizona State remains a Pac-12 South Title contender, even coming off a loss to Colorado on Saturday. Watching true freshman QB Jayden Daniels go up against this superb Cal defense is another reason to tune in.
Virginia-Notre Dame (2:30 PM CT, NBC): Any chances of Notre Dame returning to the Playoff again this season would start with an Irish win in South Bend. Notre Dame will have to find a way to contain dual threat quarterback Bryce Perkins, who is Virginia's leading passer & rusher. The Cavaliers remain a dark horse Playoff threat, as they will most likely be favored in every single game the rest of the year after this game.
USC-Washington (2:30 PM, FOX): While both Washington and USC have early-season losses, they still remain serious contenders to win their respective divisions. This seems like an especially important game for 'SC, particularly head coach Clay Helton. The Trojans still have Notre Dame, Oregon and Cal remaining on the schedule, so a loss here could doom Helton's tenure in Southern Cal.
Ohio State-Nebraska (6:30 PM, NBC): Even though Nebraska has struggled out of the gate this year, they still remain a difficult opponent to beat in Lincoln. Ohio State has to be particularly concerned with stopping Adrian Martinez, who has the skill set that has flummoxed Buckeye defenses in years past. College GameDay will be here for this one, which certainly raises the stakes between the cross-division foes.

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