College Football's Most Intriguing Top 25 Matchups and Predictions for Week 4
Last week in college football was a good one for upsets and a poor one for Top 10 teams whose mascots sport war helmets with mohawks on top. Regardless of who won and who lost, outside of the usual yawn-inducing cupcake games scheduled, there was a lot of excitement in the air.
This week should be just as exciting with Top 25 matchups galore as the top programs get away from the bakery and into the meat of their schedules. Without further ado, the best of the Top 25 matchups this week, followed by the rest just for kicks. Let the debates begin!
Note: All rankings from the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Brigham Young University vs. No. 24 Boise State
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Though not a matchup between Top 25 teams, this one should be a great game. While I admittedly don't know a whole lot about BYU, I do know that it lost to Utah last week. I also know that Boise State's loss this season came to Michigan State, a far superior opponent to Utah, and I also know that Boise was in that game until the end.
The Broncos will face a similarly stout rushing defense in BYU but should have an easier time passing against the Cougars than they had against the Spartans.
Still, this game will be no picnic. BYU has a statistical advantage both in rushing and passing defense and pretty much across the board on offense as well this season. Yet there's something about the Broncos' stunning 83-3 record at home since 1999 and their consistent competitiveness with top teams that makes me believe BYU will lose its second straight.
Boise State 27, BYU 21
No. 13 USC vs. California
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This game makes the list for two reasons: 1. Cal made it interesting against Ohio State. 2. The path to beating USC was blazed last week.
In my opinion, the only way Cal makes this game interesting is if QB Zach Maynard is perfect, an unlikely scenario, yet the possibility remains that USC mentally breaks down in the most complete fashion college football has ever seen.
If USC responds to last week with a chip on its shoulder, it's a blowout. If not, things will get interesting. Personally, I like the chip.
USC 45, Cal 17
No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 22 Arizona
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This one should have fireworks, and lots of them. Rich Rodriguez has been known for his offensive prowess, and you don't run an offense known as "The Blur" without putting up huge numbers.
This is an early test for Oregon and its young quarterback. Rodriguez teams are usually suspect on the defensive end, and this Arizona team is no different. Still, both teams should put up points, and it should be a very entertaining game.
If the Wildcats can somehow contain De'Anthony Thomas—a tall order, I know—they'll have a great chance to pull out the upset. The score below should indicate how unlikely a prospect that is.
Oregon 52, Arizona 35
No. 7 South Carolina vs. Missouri
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The first upset in this week's schedule is a big one. South Carolina could get caught looking ahead a couple weeks to the matchup with Georgia, and Missouri can make the Gamecocks pay.
Unimpressive in their opening win against Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks will perform equally as miserably against the Tigers. Missouri will rely on James Franklin, who will start to create a little with his feet against the ridiculous defensive front of South Carolina.
The starting quarterbacks for both teams are banged up, and if either of them doesn't start, it immediately swings the balance in favor of the opposing team. That being said, I don't think either player misses this massive game.
If South Carolina plays up to its potential, something it seems to struggle with year in and year out, it'll roll. I don't think it will, though, and after Missouri gave Georgia a scare earlier this season, I'd expect it to be game for the upset. The 'Cocks are ripe for an upset, and Mizzou is ready to indulge them.
Missouri 23, South Carolina 21
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 Kansas State
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I don't think Kansas State belongs in the Top 15. It played well beyond its abilities last year and wound up with a sterling 10-3 record, but eight of those wins were by seven points or less. The loss to Oklahoma was by 41. At home.
Now, it has to travel to Norman and win. Granted, Oklahoma hasn't been overly impressive, with a 24-7 victory over UTEP, but neither has Kansas State, beating North Texas by only 14 last week. There's too much talent on the Sooners roster and a home crowd booming throughout the entire game.
Sooners will roll.
Oklahoma 28, Kansas State 7
No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Michigan
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This might be the first time in years that Notre Dame actually has an appropriate ranking. This should also be one of the best games this week. The night game in South Bend has huge implications for both teams: Notre Dame will look to reverse its fortunes against Michigan lately, and Michigan will try to prove that it's not that bad; Alabama is just that good.
After putting up 63 points, Michigan has to be riding high, regardless of the opponent being UMass, and Notre Dame has even more to feel good about after defensively dominating a good Michigan State team.
Everett Golson looked good against a stellar defense in MSU, and Denard Robinson looked great against a crummy defense. The difference is that Golson didn't throw a pick, while Denard had one taken back for a touchdown; the Irish sport a defense at least 20 times better than the Minutemen, while the Spartans are better than the Wolverines defensively.
Michigan's defensive line is a weak point, but expect Greg Mattison to dial up exotic blitzes and disguised coverages that will confuse Golson. The Irish have a strong defense, and the smart money is on them using Manti Te'o and the rest of the front seven to employ a "contain Denard" defense similar to Alabama's.
Just as it has the past three years, the game will go down to the wire, and as much as it pains me to say this as a Michigan fan, this one won't go in our favor.
Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 10 Clemson
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Upset alert once again, and for the last time this week, in the Top 25. After mashing hapless opponents to the point of oblivion for three weeks, the Seminoles meet their match in Clemson.
The Tigers won last year at home, and after putting away Auburn without Sammy Watkins, he has returned, and Clemson looks great. While both teams remain largely untested, Clemson is not untested to the point that Florida State is.
Chris Thompson looked video-game nasty against Wake Forest, and he should be a huge part of the game plan for Jimbo Fisher and FSU, but the game largely rests on the shoulders of E.J. Manuel. There is something to be desired in the Clemson secondary, and if he can find it consistently, there will be Tiger blood all over the field.
Unlike Manuel, I carry no lack of confidence in Tahj Boyd and the Clemson offense. There are too many weapons and a guy running the offense who knows how to make use of all of them. This, again, should be one of the better games this week.
Look for Clemson to jump on the Seminoles early and then hold off a charge late.
Clemson 35, Florida State 32
The Rest of the Top 25
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No. 1 Alabama 55, Florida Atlantic 3: Watch only if you're a Tide fan or you enjoy massacres.
No. 2 LSU 41, Auburn 10: Both sets of Tigers fans turn off the TV early in this snoozer.
No. 5 Georgia 37, Vanderbilt 21: Georgia stuffs 'em early, and Vandy picks up a pair of garbage-time scores.
No. 8 West Virginia 42, Maryland 6: More fireworks than the Fourth of July send the turtles back into their shell.
No. 14 Florida 28, Kentucky 3: Gators defense continues to impress, while the offense continues to catch up to it.
No. 16 Ohio State 49, UAB 13: Yawn.
No. 17 TCU 24, Virginia 14: Frogs keep rolling against mediocre competition.
No. 19 UCLA 26, Oregon State 19: UCLA a tad over-ranked, but Beavers won't be the ones to knock it out.
No. 20 Louisville 37, Florida Int'l 6: No contest. Cardinals coast.
No. 21 Michigan State 42, Eastern Michigan 3: Under-ranked Sparty takes out frustrations on the Eagles.
No. 23 Mississippi State 41, South Alabama 14: Cupcake alert.
No. 25 Nebraska 38, Idaho State 7: Expect another "Heisman" performance from Taylor Martinez.