Trying to make the Week 4 slate of college football games sound interesting to the common fan is certainly no easy task. Since we’re still a week away from conference play kicking into full gear, this weekend marks a time when many of the top teams in the country will be looking for one last chance to snack on cupcake opponents.
The Pac-12 showdown between No. 5 Stanford and No. 23 Arizona State is the only bout between Top 25 teams that we have to look forward to this week. However, there are still plenty of other intriguing matchups on this week’s card that could turn out to be highly entertaining contests.
Here’s a look at predictions and picks for every Saturday game.
Note: All lines courtesy of Covers.com; Games involving FCS teams are not included.
Predictions for Saturday’s Top 10 Games...
Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Spread: Notre Dame (-4.5)
Picks: Michigan State (+4.5), Under
Prediction: Michigan State 23, Notre Dame 16
Coming into the season, everyone expected Michigan State’s defense to once again be one of the most dominant units in the nation. So far, the Spartans defense—led by difference-makers such as linebacker Max Bullough, defensive end Shilique Calhoun and cornerback Darqueze Dennard—has been as good as advertised, allowing just 12 points and 177 yards per game.
Early on, though, the offense has not looked nearly as consistent. After two lackluster performances in the first two games of the season, the Spartans finally got the spark they were looking for last week when sophomore quarterback Connor Cook led the team to a 55-17 win over Youngstown State.
I like the way that Cook has energized this offense, and although he lacks much big-game experience, it seems he’s got the confidence and moxie to handle a tough road environment at Notre Dame Stadium.
If the Michigan State defense continues to play at the same shutdown level it has been so far, and if Cook can stand strong against the Irish’s intimidating defensive front seven and avoid any critical mistakes, the Spartans should go into South Bend and pick up a statement win.
Arizona State Sun Devils at Stanford Cardinal
Spread: Stanford (-6.5)
Picks: Arizona State (+6.5), Under
Prediction: Stanford 26, Arizona State 21
These two teams haven’t played since 2010, a meeting in which Stanford prevailed 17-13. While I expect this year’s contest to be a bit more high scoring than that game, I also expect it to be just as competitive.
After holding on for a win in the final seconds against Wisconsin in what turned out to be the most controversial ending of Week 3, Arizona State now has some much-needed momentum for this tough road challenge.
The Sun Devils’ backfield duo of QB Taylor Kelly and running back Marion Grice is one of the most underrated tandems in the country, and they should present plenty of challenges for Stanford’s stout defensive front seven.
While the Cardinal will likely get all they can handle from Kelly, Grice and the rest of the Arizona State offense, ultimately, QB Kevin Hogan, who is undefeated as a starter, should be able to make the plays down the stretch to lead Stanford to a close, hard-fought victory.
Auburn Tigers at LSU Tigers
Spread: LSU (-16.5)
Picks: LSU (-16.5), Over
Prediction: LSU 45, Auburn 17
You have to give a lot of credit to first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, who’s doing a great job revitalizing a program that fell into the SEC basement last year. The Tigers have already matched their 2012 win total with a 3-0 start. Unfortunately, though, there’s going to be a big reality check when they step into Death Valley to face an LSU team that has a clear talent advantage at basically every key position.
Though they’re ranked No. 6 in the current AP Poll, the Tigers have been somewhat flying under the radar so far this season, while the media’s been focusing on their two SEC West counterparts, Alabama and Texas A&M.
That will change soon enough, though, because this team clearly has the talent to compete for not just an SEC title, but a national championship as well.
Senior QB Zach Mettenberger has experienced a rebirth under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and he’s looked like a completely different quarterback this season.
Mettenberger and his myriad of playmakers, including explosive game-changing wide receiver Odell Beckham, will be far too much for an overmatched Auburn defense to handle.
Though forecasts are calling for heavy rain in Baton Rouge, I still expect the purple-clad Tigers to put up plenty of points.
Utah Utes at BYU Cougars
Spread: BYU (-7)
Picks: BYU (-7), Over
Prediction: BYU 41, Utah 30
Utah has won four out of the past five meetings in the “Holy War” rivalry. But this year’s matchup appears to clearly favor the home-standing Cougars.
I watched the majority of BYU’s 40-21 mauling of Texas back in Week 2, and I came away extremely impressed with QB Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams, who absolutely lit up the Longhorns.
Hill, Williams and the dangerous receiver duo of Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo should cause plenty of trouble for a Utes defense, which just allowed 51 points in a loss to Oregon State last week.
If Hill can continue to make the same types of plays with both his arms and legs that he did against Texas, the Cougars should break their three-game losing streak to the Utes and pick up a big win in front of what should be an electric crowd in Provo.
Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators
Spread: Florida (-16.5)
Prediction: Florida (-16.5), Under
Picks: Florida 31, Tennessee 13
I absolutely love Florida’s defense this year. As far as overall talent is concerned, there are few other units in the country that can compare to the Gators. What I certainly don’t love, however, is the type of play I’ve seen from QB Jeff Driskel so far this season, especially his poor performance in a loss to Miami in Week 2.
For the past two weeks, Driskel has been hearing all the rumblings from the Gator faithful who have been questioning whether or not he’s capable of leading the offense to success. The big question now is: How will he respond against Tennessee?
I expect the former blue-chip recruit to finally step up and play up to his potential against the rival Volunteers and put together one of the best performances of his career, as he leads the Gators to a big bounce-back win at home.
North Carolina Tar Heels at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Spread: Georgia Tech (-6.5)
Picks: North Carolina (+6.5), Over
Prediction: Georgia Tech 38, North Carolina 34
Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense has looked unstoppable in the team’s first two games. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 54 points and 356 rushing yards per game behind the strong play of QB Vad Lee, who has accounted for eight touchdowns.
This week, Lee and the Yellow Jackets should once again do plenty of damage to a North Carolina defense that currently ranks 91st nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average of 193 yards on the ground per game.
Still, QB Bryn Renner, wide receiver Quinshad Davis and tight end Eric Ebron should be able to do enough to keep the Tar Heels in this game, even if their defense struggles.
Ultimately, this game could turn into a shootout between Georgia Tech’s powerful ground game and North Carolina’s passing attack. While I think the Yellow Jackets will ultimately prevail at home, the Tar Heels could make this game very interesting, especially if Renner gets hot as the game goes on.
Utah State Aggies at USC Trojans
Spread: USC (-6.5)
Picks: Utah State (+6.5), Over
Prediction: USC 31, Utah State 27
If Chuckie Keeton switched sides and suited up for the Trojans, this game would be an absolute rout by USC. But Keeton is the great equalizer for Utah State.
The dynamic dual-threat quarterback is a gifted natural playmaker, who has totaled over 1,100 yards of offense and accounted for 13 touchdowns in his first three games.
Though the Trojans defense is loaded with plenty of talent, including standouts such as defensive tackle Leonard Williams, linebacker Morgan Breslin and safety Dion Bailey, the unit will have its hands full trying to contain Keeton.
If things break right for the Aggies early and they manage to dampen the mood of the L.A. Coliseum crowd in the first half, they should be able to settle in and turn this into a competitive game.
Though USC should find a way to prevail it home, it wouldn’t be surprising if Keeton and the Aggies gave Lane Kiffin and the Trojans a sizable scare.
Kansas State Wildcats at Texas Longhorns
Spread: Texas (-5.5)
Picks: Texas (-5.5), Over
Prediction: Texas 38, Kansas State 28
The Texas defense has gotten embarrassed in consecutive weeks, giving up 1,128 yards and 84 points to BYU and Ole Miss.
Though it’s tough to trust the Longhorns right now, considering what a mess their defense is, I expect them to at least show a little more pride in this week’s game against a Kansas State team, which has yet to face a team that has the overall athleticism that Texas has.
Over the past three years, Mack Brown’s teams have failed to respond when the pressure’s on and their backs are up against the wall. However, I expect the Longhorns to finally rise up to the challenge this week at home and pick up a win that they desperately need.
Arkansas Razorbacks at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Spread: Rutgers (-1.5)
Picks: Arkansas (+1.5), Over
Prediction: Arkansas 26, Rutgers 20
These two teams have five wins between them, but none of those victories can be considered impressive. At this point in the season, we still don’t know just how good either of these teams really is.
Both teams will likely be looking to pound the ball with their running back duos and rely on their defense to come up with big stops. Ultimately, this game will likely come down to which rushing tandem is more effective, Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, or Rutgers’ Paul James and Savon Huggins.
Both squads have strong defensive lines, so neither duo will have an easy time finding space to create big, explosive runs.
Though it’s always tough to trust a Bret Bielema-coached team on the road, I expect the Arkansas defense to do enough to contain Rutgers QB Gary Nova and pick up a big revenge win.
West Virginia Mountaineers at Maryland Terrapins
Spread: Maryland (-5)
Picks: Maryland (-5), Under
Prediction: Maryland 28, West Virginia 20
West Virginia has won the past seven meetings between these two teams. But there’s a good chance that streak will come to an end this year.
Mountaineers freshman QB Ford Childress looked pretty good in his first career start last week, throwing for 359 yards and three touchdowns. But that was at home against a Georgia State team that is undoubtedly the weakest program on the FBS level.
The circumstances will be much different this week on the road against a Maryland defense that leads the nation with 14 sacks.
Though the Mountaineers’ drastically improved defense should be able to keep them in this game, ultimately, the Terrapins will likely force Childress to make a critical mistake which will swing the game in their favor.
Predictions for the Rest of Saturday’s Action...
FIU Golden Panthers at Louisville Cardinals
Spread: Louisville (-43)
Picks: Louisville (-43), Over
Prediction: Louisville 56, FIU 10
San Jose State Spartans at Minnesota Golden Gophers
Spread: Minnesota (-3.5)
Picks: Minnesota (-3.5), Under
Prediction: Minnesota 31, San Jose State 17
Vanderbilt Commodores at UMass Minutemen
Spread: Vanderbilt (-31)
Picks: Vanderbilt (-31), Over
Prediction: Vanderbilt 49, UMass 14
Marshall Thundering Herd at Virginia Tech Hokies
Spread: Virginia Tech (-9.5)
Picks: Marshall (+9.5), Over
Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Marshall 24
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Florida Atlantic Owls
Spread: Middle Tennessee State (-3.5)
Picks: Florida Atlantic (+4), Under
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 23, Middle Tennessee 21
Western Michigan Broncos at Iowa Hawkeyes
Spread: Iowa (-16.5)
Picks: Western Michigan (+16.5), Under
Prediction: Iowa 26, Western Michigan 17
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Kansas Jayhawks
Spread: Kansas (-10.5)
Picks: Kansas (-10.5), Over
Prediction: Kansas 35, Louisiana Tech 20
Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Army Black Knights
Spread: Wake Forest (-3)
Picks: Wake Forest (-3), Under
Prediction: Wake Forest 27, Army 17
Toledo Rockets at Central Michigan Chippewas
Spread: Toledo (-13)
Picks: Toledo (-13), Over
Prediction: Toledo 52, Central Michigan 28
North Texas Mean Green at Georgia Bulldogs
Spread: Georgia (-33)
Picks: North Texas (+33), Over
Prediction: Georgia 49, North Texas 21
Pittsburgh Panthers at Duke Blue Devils
Spread: Pittsburgh (-3.5)
Picks: Pittsburgh (-3.5), Over
Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, Duke 28
Tulane Green Wave at Syracuse Orange
Spread: Syracuse (-16)
Picks: Tulane (+16), Over
Prediction: Syracuse 35, Tulane 24
Ball State Cardinals at Eastern Michigan Eagles
Spread: Ball State (-10.5)
Picks: Ball State (-10.5), Over
Prediction: Ball State 38, Eastern Michigan 24
Houston Cougars at Rice Owls
Spread: Houston (-2.5)
Picks: Rice (+2.5), Under
Prediction: Rice 31, Houston 27
Purdue Boilermakers at Wisconsin Badgers
Spread: Wisconsin (-24)
Picks: Purdue (+24), Under
Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Purdue 17
Kent State Golden Flashes at Penn State Nittany Lions
Spread: Penn State (-21)
Picks: Penn State (-21), Under
Prediction: Penn State 38, Kent State 14
Cincinnati Bearcats at Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
Spread: Cincinnati (-23)
Prediction: Cincinnati (-23), Over
Picks: Cincinnati 42, Miami (Ohio) 14
UL-Monroe Warhawks at Baylor Bears
Spread: Baylor (-29)
Picks: Baylor (-29), Over
Prediction: Baylor 56, UL-Monroe 21
Arkansas State Red Wolves at Memphis Tigers
Spread: Arkansas State (-4)
Prediction: Memphis (+4), Under
Picks: Memphis 27, Arkansas State 20
UL-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at Akron Zips
Spread: UL-Lafayette (-6)
Picks: UL-Lafayette (-6), Over
Prediction: UL-Lafayette 42, Akron 31
Colorado State Rams at Alabama Crimson Tide
Spread: Alabama (-39)
Prediction: Colorado State (+39), Over
Picks: Alabama 45, Colorado State 14
SMU Mustangs at Texas A&M Aggies
Spread: Texas A&M (-28.5)
Picks: SMU (+28.5), Under
Prediction: Texas A&M 49, SMU 21
Texas State Bobcats at Texas Tech Red Raiders
Spread: Texas Tech (-27.5)
Picks: Texas Tech (-27.5), Over
Prediction: Texas Tech 49, Texas State 17
Oregon State Beavers at San Diego State Aztecs
Spread: Oregon State (-8.5)
Picks: San Diego State (+8.5), Over
Prediction: Oregon State 38, San Diego State 34
Troy Trojans at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Spread: Mississippi State (-13.5)
Prediction: Troy (+13.5), Under
Picks: Mississippi State 30, Troy 21
Michigan Wolverines at Connecticut Huskies
Spread: Michigan (-17.5)
Picks: Michigan (-17.5), Over
Prediction: Michigan 38, Connecticut 16
Missouri Tigers at Indiana Hoosiers
Spread: Missouri (-2.5)
Picks: Indiana (+2.5), Over
Prediction: Indiana 55, Missouri 49
UTSA Roadrunners at UTEP Miners
Spread: UTSA (-2.5)
Picks: UTSA (-2.5), Under
Prediction: UTSA 30, UTEP 21
Hawaii Warriors at Nevada Wolf Pack
Spread: Nevada (-7.5)
Picks: Nevada (-7.5), Over
Prediction: Nevada 38, Hawaii 24
Wyoming Cowboys at Air Force Falcons
Spread: Wyoming (-5)
Picks: Wyoming (-5), Over
Prediction: Wyoming 42, Air Force 31
New Mexico State Aggies at UCLA Bruins
Spread: UCLA (-42)
Prediction: UCLA (-42), Under
Picks: UCLA 56, New Mexico State 7
Idaho Vandals at Washington State Cougars
Spread: Washington State (-31)
Picks: Idaho (+31), Over
Prediction: Washington State 42, Idaho 21