Week four of the college football season seems to be SEC week with four of the Top 11 games.
Alabama looks to prove they are for real when they face the Hogs in Fayetteville, Tennessee hopes to slow down the high powered Florida offense, Georgia travels west for the first time in nearly 40 years for a non-conference showdown with the Pac-10, and the game of the week is sure to be a defensive struggle as Auburn hosts the defending National Champions, LSU.
The SEC is widely regarded as the best football conference in the country and the best teams in that conference all play showcase games this week. It should be fun to watch.
As I gaze into my crystal ball, this is how I see week four unfolding.
Troy at No. 13 Ohio State (-21)
Only Ohio State can be without their best offensive player, have a quarterback controversy, have a fan base that is calling for the heads of both the offensive and defensive coordinators, and be coming off a 32-point loss on the road AND still be 21 point favorites against a talented team. This is make or break time for the Buckeyes. Anything less than a huge, dominating win over the Troy Trojans will see the Buckeyes continue to drop in the polls.
Troy is coming off a huge win and offensive performance against Alcorn State in which the Trojans put up over 700 yards of total offense. The Trojans like to play fast and loose and could pose a threat for the boys from Columbus.
Prediction: Ohio State, 27-17
No. 15 East Carolina (-7) at NC State
The Pirates are the darlings of the non-BCS schools right now and Skip Holtz is doing a tremendous coaching job. Last week, the Pirates played with fire and nearly got burned, as they needed a late rally to fend off Tulane. The Pirates will have to get used taking everyone's best shot because they are now the school to beat.
NC State, barring an unforeseen miracle in Raleigh, won't be the team to knock off the Purple Pirates. The Wolfpack has had a miserable passing game and their offensive line will struggle against East Carolina's big defensive line.
Prediction: East Carolina, 28-14
Iowa at Pittsburgh (-2.5)
Just how good are the Hawkeyes? Iowa's first road trip of the season should provide a few answers as to how the rest of 2008 will go. Iowa's defense has played really well and Kirk Ferentz has to be pleased with the running game. The offense struggled last week against Iowa State under first time starter Ricky Stanzi who will face a tougher test this week.
Pitt is coming off a bye week and before that the Panthers struggled against two MAC teams. The opening game loss to Bowling Green is looking far worse after the Falcons dropped the last two games by lopsided scores.
Prediction: Iowa, 24-20
No. 9 Alabama (-9) at Arkansas
Alabama is still riding high after an opening game beatdown of Clemson. Two weeks ago, the Tide struggled with Tulane, but they appeared to put that game behind them with a dominant win over Western Kentucky last week. Bama is looking to make some noise in the SEC this season and a big win over the Hogs will get them headed in the right direction.
Arkansas struggled in their first two games against supposedly inferior teams. A major disappointment is the play of the offensive line. In their defense, this line wasn't built to protect the quarterback, but allowing eight sacks to Western Illinois and UL Monroe is pretty bad.
Prediction: Alabama, 34-17
No. 4 Florida (7.5) at Tennessee
Think about this: Florida, as good as they've been this season, have yet to really hit their stride offensively. Injuries to key players has kept Urban Meyer's high powered offense under wraps so far this season. The Gators defense has been spectacular, leading the nation in turnover margin, taking away 10 while losing just one. When they offense starts clicking on all cylinders this team may be unstoppable.
While the Tennessee offense hasn't been spectacular this season they are averaging 457 yards per game and the Volunteer defense will be the best, most physical defense the Gators have faced this year. The Tennessee players won't need to search far for motivation as they look to avenge last season's 59-20 drubbing by the Gators.
Prediction: Florida, 35-24
Boise State at No. 17 Oregon (-13.5)
The Oregon quarterbacks are dropping like flies. First Nate Costa in the pre-season and now replacement Justin Roper is out with a sprained knee. It will be up to first year players Chris Harper, who was in high school this time last year, and Jeremiah Masoli. The Oregon running game has been spectacular and Mike Belotti may lean on the running game more in this game. The Autzen crowd will do their part to keep the Broncos off balance all game long.
Boise State finds themselves clawing at the top 25 yet again as they continue to prove they are one of nation's best non-BCS powerhouses. This season however, the Bronco's biggest strength isn't their offense, but the defense who has held opponents to a single touchdown in each of their first two games.
Prediction: Oregon, 28-17
Notre Dame at Michigan State (-8.5)
Michigan State's Javon Ringer is starting to turn heads as he proves to be one of, if not the best, running back in the country. Last week, the workhorse, carried the ball 43 times for an astounding 282 yards. The scary thing is, he is getting better with each passing week. Notre Dame allowed Michigan's Sam McGuffie to rush for over 100 yards last week in a 18-point victory. This week will prove a much tougher test for the Irish, as the Spartans are content to let Ringer carry the load.
Notre Dame got a huge win against Michigan last week, but did we really learn all that much about the Irish? They did force a lot of turnovers, but they were playing in a deluge. They did score a lot of points, but they were helped by a short field much of the time. The defense did play well, but they played well against a less than mediocre offense. The one thing we did learn: Charlie Weis is a tough son of a gun and it will take a lot more than some torn knee ligaments to get him off the field.
Prediction: Michigan State, 28-17
Virginia Tech at North Carolina (1.5)
North Carolina is coming off a dominating win over Rutgers and Butch Davis has the Tar Heels clicking on all cylinders. Offensively, North Carolina has moved the ball with success, but defensively the Tar Heels have been spectacular. They are big, fast, and get to the ball in a hurry. Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter have become the stars of the defense and if they can contain Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Heels will have little problem with the rest of the Hokie offense.
Virginia Tech has rebounded from the opening game loss to East Carolina, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the offensive side of the ball. For all the problems on the offensive side of the ball, the defense has remained a solid unit that swarms to the ball and creates turnovers.
Prediction: North Carolina, 27-23
No. 18 Wake Forest at No. 24 Florida State (-4.5)
The Seminoles have scored 115 points in the last two games, but that has been against FCS opponents. If Florida State can score this week, the Noles may be back in the ACC title hunt. Quarterback Christian Ponder has been fantastic and accurate and even with all the suspensions the Seminole's defense is a fast and ferocious unit.
Wake Forest will look to expose Florida State's lack of depth and experience up front by letting Aaron Curry and Chip Vaughn loose. Riley Skinner is one of the nation's best quarterbacks and though the Demon Deacon running game has been a bit of a disappointment this season, Skinner gives the Deacon's a big edge under center.
Prediction: Florida State, 27-21
No. 3 Georgia (-6.5) at Arizona State
Two weeks ago this may have been considered the game of the week and one of the best games of the season, but a little luster has been taken off after Arizona State fell from the rankings because of a loss to UNLV.
Georgia is coming off it's toughest test of the season and needed a goal line stand against South Carolina last week. The Dawgs look to rebound in a big way this week as they make their first road trip outside of the southeast in nearly four decades. Georgia should have way to much offensive fire power for Arizona State to handle. Knowshon Moreno will be able to run effectively against the Sun Devils and Matthew Stafford, who is a fearless passer, will have time in the pocket to pick apart the ASU secondary.
Rudy Carpenter is a tough quarterback who will stand in the pocket and deliver the ball at the last second without fear of getting hit. Georgia has struggled as of late to get pressure on the quarterback and if the Dawgs allow Carpenter time in the pocket, he is capable of hurting the Georgia secondary.
Prediction: Georgia, 28-20
Game of the Week
No. 6 LSU (-2) at No. 10 Auburn
If you are a fan of low scoring, defensive showdowns, this game will be like heaven for you.
LSU's defense should have a big day against Auburn's sluggish and one-dimensional offense. The Auburn passing game has been awful this season and if LSU can get their offense moving and put some points on the board, Auburn will have a tough time keeping up.
Auburn may have the best defensive line in the country and they will need to keep constant pressure on first year quarterback Andrew Hatch. Auburn is coming off a crazy 3-2 win over Mississippi State and will need a better performance from their offense this week.
Prediction: LSU, 14-10
Overall: 32-14 ATS: 12-16