College Football Week 4 Picks: Marquee Matchups on Saturday's Schedule

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2013

WEST POINT, NY - SEPTEMBER 14: Quarterback Kevin Hogan #8 of Stanford throws a pass in the 2nd half September 14, 2013 at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York. Stanford defeated Army 24-20. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

Last Saturday set the bar high, but Week 4 should offer plenty of intrigue for college football fans.

Hey, there can't be an Alabama vs. Texas A&M matchup every Saturday. This week does not pit any two Top 10 schools against each other, but that doesn't mean there's nothing good to watch.

One prestigious squad is holding onto a rank for dear life. Another looks to defend its newly earned national rank against a squad fighting for BCS consideration. 

Then there's an SEC rivalry match to close the night out.

Here's a look at some of Saturday's best bouts that bear major implications.


Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

The fighting Irish won't have a number next to their name if there's a "2" in the loss column.

Notre Dame stayed in the Top 25 after losing a 41-30 shootout to Michigan and continued to stay afloat after sneaking past Purdue last weekend. This game could be the last straw when they take on a Michigan State squad knocking on voters' doors. 

Michigan State can be considered the de facto No. 26 with the most points among teams without an official rank. The Spartans have outscored their opponents by a combined 66 points through three wins, while the Fighting Irish sport a plus-18 point differential.

The schedule plays a decisive factor, but Notre Dame also receives an unfair pass because it's Notre Dame.

Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill must establish a running game to avoid placing the onus on sophomore Connor Cook during his second start. Look for Michigan State to steal the Fighting Irish's rank with a victory.

Prediction: Michigan State 30, Notre Dame 23


No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford (7 p.m. ET on Fox)

Arizona State is sitting on top of the world after besting Wisconsin to solidify a spot in the AP Top 25. Now it must quickly prove worthy of the positioning by beating No. 5 Stanford.

The Sun Devils escaped with a 32-30 win over the Badgers behind 352 passing yards from Taylor Kelly and four Marion Grice rushing scores. Meanwhile, the Cardinal squad lay back in their recliners and watched their eventual opponents grind out an enduring victory.

Stanford took the week off after defeating Army 34-20, but its rank remained unscathed during the downtime. While the team rests at 2-0 with two double-digit victories, neither performance was befitting of a No. 5 ranked team.

This game will speak massive volumes for both schools, as Arizona State will fall back into the unranked abyss with a loss, while Stanford could kiss its title chances goodbye with a lackluster showing. While the Sun Devils have a chance of notching an upset, look for the Cardinal to back up their gaudy rank.

Prediction: Stanford 35, Arizona State 27


Auburn at No. 6 LSU (7:45 p.m. ET on ESPN)

This game doesn't quite have the luster of past years without Cam Newton carrying Auburn to a title. Still, these two SEC squads have a habit of producing good theater.

Last year's matchup ended in a two-point margin, and seven of their last nine showdowns were decided by single digits. Whoever made the spread is counting on that trend to change, favoring LSU by 17 points (according to Vegas Insider). 

Both schools reside at 3-0, but that hardly tells the entire story. LSU has outscored its opponents by 81 points, while Auburn needed a score with 10 seconds left to salvage a victory over Mississippi State.

In his first season as a starter, Nick Marshall will have to grow up fast to beat LSU in Death Valley. Then again, it won't matter how the junior performs if Auburn can't lessen LSU's 218.7 rushing yards per game average. 

Prediction: LSU 27, Auburn 13