College Football Week 4: Previews and Predictions for the Top 10 Games
Week 4 of the college football season features a critical Friday night matchup between Mountain West Conference title contenders Boise State and Fresno State. There are also teams looking to seek revenge from last season, such as Arkansas and BYU.
Auburn and Tennessee head into hostile environments at LSU and Florida, respectively, and will be hoping to pull off a big upset to get their programs back in the national spotlight.
The biggest question this weekend will be if Texas can finally break its two-game losing streak. Things are getting ugly in Austin, and a sixth straight loss to Kansas State could be the final straw for Mack Brown.
With that said, here are previews and predictions for the top matchups in Week 4:
Boise State at Fresno State
Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick at Washington on Aug. 31.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Friday, Sept. 20: Boise State @ Fresno State 9:00 p.m. ET ESPN
This will be the first of possibly two games between these Mountain West foes this season.
The second game would be the conference title game if both were to make it.
This is also a must-win game if one of these teams wants any chance of earning a potential At-large BCS Bowl birth.
Boise State comes in on a two-game winning streak since being blown out at Washington in the first week of the season. This is a chance for the Broncos to prove they can beat quality opponents and not just the other cupcakes in the Mountain West Conference.
Fresno State does have one quality win this season already, as they defeated Rutgers 52-51 in overtime in Week 1.
The Bronco defense will look to contain a Fresno State passing attack led by quarterback Derek Carr, who has thrown for 661 yards and eight touchdowns in two games this season. The Bulldogs are averaging 332.0 passing yards per game and scoring 46.5 points per game.
There is a lot of pressure on the Boise State offense to score points and prevent Fresno State from putting the game out of reach on the scoreboard.
Chris Petersen and his Broncos are used to being in these types of big games, and they should be able to come away with a big conference victory.
Prediction: Boise State 34, Fresno State 28
Tennessee at No. 19 Florida
Gator defensive tackle Dominique Easley against Toledo on Aug. 31.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Saturday, Sept. 21: Tennessee @ No. 19 Florida 3:30 p.m. ET CBS
The Vols haven’t knocked off the Gators in “The Swamp” since 2003 and haven’t defeated them since 2004.
Tennessee heads in after being dismantled last week by No. 2 Oregon, 59-14. Their passing game is one of the worst in the nation, and they have needed to rely heavily on the run game. Rajion Neal leads the Vol rushing attack with 257 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Florida comes in off a bye week after a disappointing loss at in-state rival Miami on Sept. 7. Quarterback Jeff Driskel had two interceptions in the red zone and fumbled once. The passing game is a struggle for the Gator offense, as they are able to have a horizontal passing game, but not vertical. Like Tennessee, Florida relies on the running game.
This was supposed to be the game last season that put the Vols back on the map, but ended up being the game that crushed their hopes as they went on to lose six of their last eight games. Head coach Derek Dooley was, of course, fired.
First-year head coach Butch Jones has his chance to make a statement in his first SEC game, but will the always stout Florida defense led by defensive tackle Dominique Easley take over the game and shut down the Vol offense?
One thing is for sure, we don’t need to worry about a shootout.
Prediction: Florida 28, Tennessee 17
Michigan State at No. 22 Notre Dame
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees at Purdue on Sept. 14.
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Saturday, Sept. 21: Michigan State @ No. 22 Notre Dame 3:30 p.m. ET NBC
The Spartans are still trying to figure out how to execute on offense. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Connor Cook will be the starter this Saturday, and despite throwing for 202 yards and four touchdowns against Youngstown State last week, the passing game is still a mystery. Therefore, the offense will rely on running backs Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill to make an impact.
The defense is already carrying the team, as it has held opponents to just 12.0 points per game and leads the nation in total yards per game with 177.0. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun has already scored three touchdowns this season.
Notre Dame was sleepwalking when they went into Purdue last week but found a way to get the job done with a 31-24 win. So far, the Irish offense has looked better than the defense this season.
Senior quarterback Tommy Rees is averaging 323.0 passing yards and 2.3 touchdown passes per game. Wide receivers DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones have also played major roles in an Irish offense that ranks 16th nationally in passing yards per game (326.0).
The most important matchup in this game is the Notre Dame offense against the Michigan State defense. Rees will need to take care of the ball and make smart choices in the pocket because the Spartans will take advantage of any turnover opportunity they can. The Notre Dame defense hasn’t been at its best this season, but don’t expect Michigan State to score many points.
The Spartans have lost two consecutive games to the Irish, and it’s about to be three.
Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Michigan State 16
No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford
Senior Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney at Army on Sept. 14.
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images
Saturday, Sept. 21: No. 23 Arizona State @ No. 5 Stanford 7:00 p.m. ET FOX
These two teams haven’t faced off since 2010.
The Sun Devils escaped with a 32-30 victory over Wisconsin in a controversial game last Saturday night at home. Even though Arizona State won’t be competing with Stanford for the Pac-12 South Division title, it’s a conference game and critical to getting back in the national spotlight.
Junior dual-threat quarterback Taylor Kelly threw for 352 yards against Wisconsin last week. The Sun Devil offense generally likes to air it out but is finding running back Marion Grice to be helpful in the backfield. Grice rushed for 84 yards and four touchdowns against Wisconsin.
This is the first game Stanford will be tested in this season. Hogan has thrown for 395 yards and five touchdowns in two games. Since returning, running back Tyler Gaffney has looked solid by rushing for over 100 yards in both games and scoring four touchdowns. The Cardinal defense continues to be tough and physical with one of the best linebacking units in the country.
Expect a lot of scoring between both teams and a back-and-forth game. Things are going to get interesting on “The Farm” Saturday night.
Prediction: Stanford 38, Arizona State 31
Auburn at No. 6 LSU
LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham against UAB on Sept. 7.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Saturday, Sept. 21: Auburn @ No. 6 LSU 7:45 pm ET ESPN
Both Tiger teams head in undefeated at 3-0.
First-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is off to a good start and will be hoping to come out of the notorious Death Valley with an upset win.
Last week’s final-minute drive to defeat Mississippi State 24-20 was a big win for the program. It also gives this Tiger squad momentum heading into Saturday night against the No. 6 team in the country.
Quarterback Nick Marshall continues to make strides in each game he plays, and the backfield has talent with a triple-threat rushing attack consisting of Corey Grant, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne. The passing game has been improving, as well. The Tigers put up 339 passing yards on Mississippi State last week.
A lot of pressure will be on the Auburn defense, though, as they face a dangerous LSU offense averaging 46.0 points per game this season. Under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Zach Mettenberger looks a lot better throwing the ball. Mettenberger has passed for 797 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions this season.
Jeremy Hill has returned to the backfield after serving a suspension. Terrence Magee took over while Hill was out and did not disappoint. Wide receiver Odell Beckham has given defenses nightmares in the passing game.
The defense continues to play well and has held opponents to 267.7 yards per game. Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson recorded eight tackles and one sack last week against Kent State.
LSU has won five of the last six meetings against Auburn. Malzahn has done a nice job so far keeping his team undefeated, but the chances of his team coming out of Baton Rouge with a win are slim.
Prediction: LSU 34, Auburn 21
The Other Five
Kansas State senior running back John Hubert against UMass on Sept. 14.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
All games played on Saturday, Sept. 21:
North Carolina @ Georgia Tech 12:00 p.m. ET ESPN
This is a critical early-season matchup between two ACC Coastal Division contenders.
North Carolina bounced back against Middle Tennessee State 40-20 after basically getting blown out by South Carolina in Week 1. Bryn Renner is a good quarterback, but the offense may not be able to hang with Georgia Tech on the scoreboard.
The Yellow Jackets come in undefeated and have caused problems for opposing defenses with their triple-option attack. The offense, led by quarterback Vad Lee, is averaging 356.0 yards and 54.0 points per game this season.
It’s going to be tough for the Tar Heel defense to keep up in this one.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 42, North Carolina 28
Purdue @ No. 24 Wisconsin 3:30 p.m. ET ABC/ESPN2
Both teams come in off close losses. Purdue hung with Notre Dame until the fourth quarter, and Wisconsin fell victim to the controversial ending at Arizona State. Rob Henry and Akeem Hunt are making strides for the Boilermaker offense, but Wisconsin is much more talented.
Melvin Gordon and James White lead the fifth-best rushing attack in the country, and Jared Abbrederis is always reliable in the passing game. It could get ugly at Camp Randall on Saturday as an angry Badger team bounces back with a blowout win.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45, Purdue 23
Arkansas @ Rutgers 3:30 p.m. ET ESPN
Rutgers went into Fayetteville last season and upset Arkansas 35-26. Bret Bielema’s defense, led by defensive end Chris Smith, has only given up 12.7 points per game this season, but this will be their first true test. The Razorbacks must be able to contain Scarlet Knight running back Paul James.
Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams have been racking up yards on the ground and will be looking to run over a Rutgers’ defense giving up 217.7 rushing yards per game. There is no doubt that this game will be close.
Prediction: Arkansas 27, Rutgers 24
Kansas State @ Texas 8:00 p.m. ET ABC
It was supposed to be the biggest game of the week, but both teams have already had tough losses. Kansas State was upset by FCS opponent North Dakota State, 24-21, on opening weekend, and Texas has been blown out in back-to-back weeks by BYU and Ole Miss.
It’s unknown whether David Ash will start for the Longhorns, but no matter what, they need to win. The defense has to show up if they want to stop a two-quarterback unit led by Jake Waters and Daniel Sams. Running back John Hubert could cause problems for the Texas defense, as well.
Mack Brown’s Longhorns are 0-5 against the Wildcats since 2003, and if that doesn’t change Saturday night, things will have gone from bad to worse.
Prediction: Kansas State 28, Texas 24
Utah @ BYU 10:15 pm ET ESPNU
Utah lost a heartbreaker last week at home against Pac-12 foe Oregon State, and BYU comes off a bye week after blowing Texas out 40-21 on Sept. 7. Utah’s Travis Wilson and BYU’s Taysom Hill are solid dual-threat quarterbacks that can put points up on the scoreboard.
We should expect a shootout between these hated rivals on Saturday night.
Prediction: BYU 38, Utah 35