25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 4 of College Football
From key conference matchups to health concerns with star players, the upcoming college football weekend has plenty of intriguing stories.
With Week 3 of the college football season complete, it is time to look ahead to what Week 4 has to offer.
The season is just heating up as conference play is almost in full swing.
What are the biggest storylines heading into Week 4?
Here are 25 to keep an eye on.
College GameDay Heads to Fargo, North Dakota
While there are not a lot of matchups this week featuring two nationally ranked teams, it still had to come as a surprise to most when ESPN announced it was traveling to Fargo, North Dakota, for College GameDay this week.
That is the home of the North Dakota State Bison, the same team that knocked off Kansas State in the first game of the season.
This week the Bison take on Delaware State.
No question this will be quite an experience for the entire North Dakota State program.
A Thursday Night ACC Showdown
The first game of the college football weekend is a Thursday night ACC battle between No. 3 Clemson and North Carolina State.
Both teams have been impressive, having posted perfect 2-0 marks.
Clemson is one of the top teams in the country, but this will be the first road test of the season for the Tigers.
North Carolina State is going to have to play a perfect game on the defensive side of the ball to hang with a Clemson squad that averages 45 points a game.
Mountain West Battle
A key Friday night showdown in the Mountain West Conference could have major implications nationally as Boise State travels to Fresno State.
The Bulldogs come into the game 2-0, and Boise State sports a 2-1 record.
There are some key matchups to keep an eye on here, including Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr going against the Boise State secondary.
This is a very important game for both teams and will be seen in front of a national television audience on Friday night.
Third Saturday in September
This year the third Saturday in September will feature two teams coming off losses.
After losing on the road to in-state rival Miami, No. 19 Florida had a week off to prepare for conference foe Tennessee.
The Vols are coming off an embarrassing 59-14 defeat at Oregon.
No matter what the records of these two teams are, they simply do not like one another.
That always makes for an excellent rivalry game.
Can Utah State Knock Off USC on the Road?
It might look like a mismatch judging by the teams, but Utah State vs. USC features two evenly matched squads.
It is a huge game for Utah State. It will be played in front of a national audience and will be an excellent chance for the Aggies to show just how much talent is on the roster.
Quarterback Chuckie Keeton has already passed for 923 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He has also rushed for a team-high 187 yards.
This has the potential to be another home loss for the Trojans if they are not careful.
The Heisman Race Continues to Heat Up
It is only Week 4, but the Heisman Trophy race continues to heat up.
There are still too many candidates to even narrow it down, but as conference play continues, players will continue to step up.
Players like Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater will be in the mix all season long, but what new names will emerge this week as contenders?
What players will play poorly enough to have their names fall out of contention?
Stay tuned in Week 4 to find out.
Any Chance for Letdowns from Texas A&M or Alabama
After playing one of the best games of the college football season, No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama will have relatively easy Week 4 games.
The Crimson Tide take on Colorado State at home, and Texas A&M is also at home against SMU.
While neither visiting team should pose a huge challenge, there is no question that the SEC squads will experience a bit of a letdown.
Will it be enough for either team to go down in defeat?
Odds are that will not be the case, but weirder things have happened.
San Jose State Takes to the Road Against Minnesota
It is not often that a team like San Jose State has a legitimate chance to win on the road against a Big Ten opponent such as Minnesota.
But that will be the case when these two teams do battle on Saturday afternoon.
Spartans quarterback David Fales is one of the best in the country. Look for him to have a huge game and San Jose State to come out with a big road win.
North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech
There are not a lot of marquee matchups this week, but one game to keep an eye on is a key ACC encounter between North Carolina and Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have looked very impressive, winning their first two games of the season by an average score of 54-7.
While those wins came against Elon and Duke, they were still impressive.
North Carolina could be a sleeper to contend in the ACC.
This game might have huge implications in the wide-open Coastal Division.
Can Penn State Bounce Back?
After suffering a tough 34-31 home defeat against Central Florida, Penn State is back at it against Kent State.
The Golden Flashes have been a huge disappointment this season but have enough talent to hang with a team like Penn State.
Will the Nittany Lions be able to rebound?
That seems like it will be the case, judging by the resilience of this team from last season.
Is Arkansas the Real Deal?
The Arkansas Razorbacks are off to an impressive 3-0 start, but the competition level has not been very challenging.
This week it will step up a notch on the road against a talented Rutgers squad.
The Scarlet Knights come into the game 2-1 with an overtime loss at Fresno State.
A win here and the Arkansas Razorbacks will be primed and ready for a grueling four-game stretch against the likes of Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama.
The schedule is not doing Arkansas any favors, so a win here might be necessary to help qualify for a bowl game.
Health of Jerry Kill
Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill suffered another seizure Saturday against Western Illinois.
Senior associate athletic director Chris Werle provided a statement on the team’s website following the game, stating that Kill was doing well:
Coach Kill suffered a seizure at the end of the first half of today’s game against Western Illinois. He was attended to by medical personnel on the field and was then driven to a local hospital as a precaution to ensure proper medication levels. He is resting comfortably. Coach Kill’s staff, which is the most tenured in the nation, and his team are well acquainted with his condition and are prepared if a situation like this arises. Coach Kill’s epilepsy has been documented by both local and national media and our fans are aware that situations like this can happen.
Kill has had major health problems in recent years, but it appears that he still wants to coach.
That might not be a good idea, but it is ultimately his call.
His health status will likely be a concern all year long and in years to come.
Huge Pac-12 Battle Between Arizona State and Stanford
With the way Arizona State has played to start off the season, the matchup against Stanford on Saturday is one of the biggest games of the week.
Both teams are nationally ranked (Arizona State No. 23, Stanford No. 5) and come in with perfect 2-0 records.
Arizona State has a huge win against Wisconsin, and Stanford has already knocked off San Jose State and Army.
This could have major Pac-12 title implications.
Auburn and LSU Do Battle
One of the most surprising teams this season has been Auburn. The Tigers are 3-0 with wins over Washington State and Mississippi State on their resume.
No. 8 LSU is also 3-0 with a win against TCU.
Not many people expected this to be a marquee matchup before the season began.
An upset here and Auburn might be back on the map quicker than expected.
Utah vs. BYU Out West
After struggling mightily in a season-opening loss to Virginia, BYU bounced back nicely with a dominating win over Texas.
Utah has been solid all year long. The Utes are 2-1 and coming off a tough 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State.
This game features two teams that have the talent to compete with most teams in the country.
While neither of the teams is ranked, it should still be one of the better battles of the weekend.
Is Mack Brown Really on the Hot Seat?
There is no question that one of the biggest disappointments this season has been Texas.
The Longhorns started the season nationally ranked but are now 1-2 with consecutive losses.
The schedule for Texas was certainly not very easy, but nobody expected this team to be where it is right now after three games.
A few more losses and Mack Brown might be shown the door.
Michigan State Takes on Notre Dame
Another of the intriguing games this weekend is Michigan State vs. No. 22 Notre Dame in South Bend.
The Spartans are 3-0 but have been awful at times on the offensive side of the ball.
With that being said, the defense has been stout all year long.
Notre Dame comes in at 2-1 but barely squeaked by Purdue last week.
Expect this one to be low-scoring and close all game long.
The Health of Braxton Miller
Ohio State did not have much trouble knocking off California 52-34 on the road, despite the injury to quarterback Braxton Miller.
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton was dominant. While Urban Meyer does not have a quarterback controversy, he does have two very talented quarterbacks to choose from.
Whether Miller plays this week against Florida A&M is still up in the air.
Either way, Ohio State has two talented quarterbacks to choose from.
An Important Big 12 Matchup Between Kansas State and Texas
Neither Kansas State nor Texas is where it wants to be at this point in the season.
The Longhorns come in 1-2 with back-to-back losses. Kansas State is 2-1 with a loss to FCS opponent North Dakota State.
The Big 12 race is still wide open, but the two Oklahoma schools appear to have the upper hand at this point in the season.
The winner of this game could find itself right in the mix.
This game is one of the most important of the entire weekend.
Can UCLA Continue Its Magical Run?
UCLA played with a heavy heart on Saturday during a 41-21 road win against Nebraska after the tragic death of wide receiver Nick Pasquale.
Now the No. 16 Bruins return home to take on New Mexico State. They will likely be playing in honor of their fallen teammate all season long.
How long will this magical run last?
Interesting SEC-Big Ten Battle
The Indiana Hoosiers might not be one of the top-tier teams of the Big Ten, but they can score with just about anybody in the country.
Missouri, on the other hand, is a perfect 2-0 on the year with a defense that is only allowing 18.5 points a game.
That group will be tested against an Indiana offense putting up 50 points a game.
No doubt this will be a game worth watching.
It might also be a chance for the Big Ten to save some face once again.
How Will Texas Tech Handle Being Nationally Ranked?
Texas Tech has vaulted into the national rankings at No. 25. The Red Raiders are looking like one of the surprise teams in the Big 12—and even across the whole nation, for that matter.
This week they take on Texas State. The Bobcats are 2-0 with wins over Southern Miss and Prairie View A&M.
Texas State does not appear likely to hang with Texas Tech, but a letdown might not be out of the question for the Red Raiders in this one.
Will the Big Ten Bashing Continue?
It was not a good Week 3 performance by the Big Ten. The league went 7-5 but was only 2-5 in games against other BCS conference schools.
It must have felt like Groundhog Day once again for a league desperately looking for some national respect.
This week the conference has a few matchups that will garner national attention. Minnesota takes on San Jose State at home, Indiana battles Missouri in Bloomington, Michigan State travels to Notre Dame, Michigan is on the road against Connecticut and Penn State hosts Kent State.
Are the Cupcakes Almost Over?
College football is filled with cupcake matchups more and more every season.
This year, the early part of the schedule has been littered with games featuring FCS schools against FBS powerhouses.
While there are still some of those games this week, we have almost reached the end.
Conference play is about to heat up, and that means fewer cupcakes to worry about.
Conference Play Begins to Heat Up
While conference play is not in full force, there are some excellent games this week in all of the major leagues.
It is only a matter of time before nearly every game on Saturday is between conference rivals.
Some of the best games Week 4 has to offer include Arizona State-Stanford, Kansas State-Texas, North Carolina-Georgia Tech, Tennessee-Florida, Auburn-LSU and Purdue-Wisconsin.
There will be many more games like these in the weeks ahead.