The last last two Horned Frogs in recent memory to wear the number 4, on the offensive side of the ball, were QB Casey Pachall and running back turned receiver Jordan Moore. With the former having a rather underwhelming final season in 2013 and Moore's recent transfer to LSU, there is a good opportunity for future players to leave a better legacy for the number. (Although Jordan Moore was quite the track star).
Enter freshman Niko Small out of Bowie High School. The safety from Arlington, Texas stands at 5'10 and weighs in at 187 lbs. Small was ranked as the #9 safety in Texas and the #34 safety in the country. The three-star recruit was named the Texas 6A Defensive Player of the Year his senior year, where he recorded 6 interceptions and returned two for touchdowns. He had a fumble recovery for a scoop-and- score, returned a blocked PAT for a score, and he collected a total of 120 tackles on the season. Patterson has a knack for bringing the most out of his players, especially members of the secondary (looking at you Chris Hackett, Jason Verrett, Kevin White, and Sam Carter) so it'll be interesting to see how Small develops in the future. Look out for Small to do big things in the future seasons to come.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NUMBER 4
Four is the most important number in college football this season other than who is number one when the dust finally clears. Four teams get the chance to play in the second season of the college football playoffs and an opportunity to take the title from the Buckeyes. 4 teams, 3 games, 2 finalists, 1 champion.
It's never too early to start predicting who will make it to the playoffs, so here's my VERY early final four:
1) Ohio State University (heavy sigh)
Urban Meyer's squad has so much depth at essentially everything that it disgusts me. Oh and can't forget that they were the first team in history to receive all 61 first place votes in the AP poll. The Buckeyes face no legitimate threat until November 21 when Michigan State comes to Columbus in search of revenge for last year's defeat. However, it is the Buckeyes' last and final game that I have had circled on my calendar ever since Michigan hired "dad-pants" Harbaugh. The coaching battle alone should make any football fan salivate at the mere idea of Meyer vs. Harbaugh. If Harbaugh can draw up plays half as crazy as the things he says on twitter, it should be a game to remember. Other than those two games, I don't see anyone challenging the reigning champs, but Penn State if you want to win in double overtime this go around, that'd be swell.
2) Texas Christian University (I'm assuming most of you saw this one coming.)
Not only does TCU's offense have 10 returning starters from last year, but they also have a lot of promising young talent seeking to make an immediate impact this season. A Heisman hopeful, the fastest man in all of college football, a school record holding receiver, and a 3 headed monster in the backfield are going to be such a fun squad to watch. On the other side of the ball it's all about who is going to step up and make the big plays. Having to replace a good chunk of what was easily one of Patterson's best defenses ever has been a major focus for the staff this off season. Gone is the majority of a secondary, that was filled with leaders, who played with a demeanor similar to the Legion of Boom. Our two leading tacklers graduated, but this isn't the first time that Patterson has had to replace talent, so let's take a deep breath. The run defense will be sound, per usual, and the new talent in the secondary will be behind the leadership of Kindred and Texada, so not all is lost.
The Frogs' schedule doesn't concern me much until they visit Stillwater on November 7, and take on what could be an Oklahoma State team that is on the verge of greatness. I think the Pokes are a bigger threat than the Sooners, but 2 weeks later the Frogs head to Norman. Last season the Frogs offense struggled most when in the cold, so If the weather isn't pleasant in Norman then be prepared for what could be another close one. Then Baylor comes to the Fort in what will undoubtedly be a fun game to watch and a potential top 4 match-up. However, I say TCU solidifies its playoff bid, after beating the Bears by 17 to 38 points.
3) University of Southern California (Fighting on to finally forget the 2006 Rose bowl)
The Trojans return veteran quarterback Cody Kessler who has accounted for 59 touchdowns in 2 seasons as a starter. USC has got a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and could look like the Trojans from 10 years ago. The Pac-12 south has come so far from what it used to be.
Looking at their schedule, the usual rivalry games are always good to watch. Notre Dame is still a mystery to me (a most likely overrated mystery) but the Irish are at home this time. November 21, Sarkisian and co. travel up to Eugene to take on the Ducks. Sark has never beaten the Ducks during his tenure as a head coach, but if his team can out physical Oregon (which is how any team beats them, just look at Stanford in the past and Ohio State last year) then they have a good chance. Finally they face off in the battle for L.A. against what will be a solid UCLA team. If USC has the depth to go near perfect through the division, then we could most likely see a rematch with Oregon in the conference championship game. However, I doubt Oregon's success is going anywhere either. We'll see if the Trojans have learned how to defend a QB run on 4th and 5 by now.
4) A School from the State of Alabama (Roll War Eagle Roll)
Every year since 2009 a school from the state of Alabama has played in the championship game/semi-final game (I'm including last year's final four appearance). I have a hard time believing the trend will stop this year, so bare with me. The SEC West is the best division in the NCAA, which pains me to say since I constantly yearn for the days where the Big 12 had several title contenders from 2000-2009. By best I mostly mean it is the deepest in terms of good teams. Look at the worst team in every division, and pit that team against Arkansas or Texas A&M. That division is stacked and it's always exciting to watch them duke it out with each other. Something that fans of the SEC need to keep in mind though is that just because a team is the best team in the best conference, doesn't always mean they are the best team in the country (revisit last year's Sugar Bowl and the 2014 national championship).
- Argument for Alabama - Nick Saban continues to do Nick Saban things, like recruiting top classes and coming up with top tier defenses. Last year's hiring of Lane Kiffin made an immediate difference in offensive production through the air, which was even more impressive since it was Blake Sims' first year starting. Saban also has two GROWN MEN for running backs that he can always fall back on. If he can patch up the holes in that pass defense then the Tide have a great chance to reach the playoffs. Notable games include an out of conference game against Wisconsin, a trip to Athens to take on the Dawgs on October 3rd, Arkansas (lost by 1 to the Tide last year) comes to Tuscaloosa the following week, and last but not least the Iron Bowl.
- Argument for Auburn - Gus Malzahn made a big move this off season by hiring Will Muschamp as his new defensive coordinator, who fielded a top 15 defense last year at Florida. The Gus Bus also roped in the #1 recruit in the nation, a defensive end who I am convinced benches 18-wheelers. Auburn's offense should be as potent as ever, especially behind the arm of Jeremy Johnson, AKA War Cam Eagle Jr. There has been a lot of turnover of talent on offense, but if the starters don't get into too much injury trouble (and with the help of another miracle win pulled out of Malzahn's magic hat) Auburn could give the Tide the best run for their money as champions of the West. The key will be if Muschamp can make as immediate an impact on defense as Kiffin did for Alabama's offense. Notable games include an out of conference game against Louisville, SEC opener against LSU in Death Valley, when Georgia comes to town, and OF COURSE the Iron Bowl. Note: Neither Auburn nor Bama have been able to defeat each other in the other team's stadium since Malzahn's tenure.
The probability that these are the final 4 is slim and the probability that these are the exact rankings are even slimmer. I want to hear what you think/your predictions for the final four in the comments!
Last but not least FOUR players touched the football after it was hiked on this play.