College Football Week 4: Matchups No One Is Talking About
With four games on this weekend’s schedule featuring a duel of ranked opponents, the final weekend of September should provide plenty of intrigue for college football fans across the nation.
While most people will be closely monitoring the action in Morgantown, Tuscaloosa, College Station and Clemson, there are several matchups bubbling under the radar that could have huge implications on the rest of the season.
There are two matchups featuring unbeaten schools in BCS leagues jockeying for a position at the top of their respective divisions.
Also, a pair of traditional powerhouses face tough road tests that could define their seasons.
Meanwhile, a coach who moved on to a high-profile job in the offseason will host his former team.
Here are five matchups no one is talking about for Week 4.
5. North Carolina at Georgia Tech
The marquee matchup in the ACC will feature a battle between Atlantic Division favorites Florida State and Clemson.
However, a clash between two unbeaten teams could shake things up in the Coastal Division.
Considering the turbulent start to the season for North Carolina, it’s hard to imagine any scenario that would lead to them carrying an unblemished record into October.
If they can knock off No. 25 Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, the Tar Heels and interim head coach Everett Withers would be 4-0, which—amazingly—would put them in the mix as contenders to make it to the ACC title game.
Standing in their way are the Yellow Jackets, who have put up video-game numbers on offense on their way to becoming the nation's top offense to date.
Paul Johnson’s squad has averaged over 675 yards of total offense and just under 60 points per game to this point, but things should get tougher against a quality Tar Heel defense.
The winner of this game should step up and challenge Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division crown.
4. Vanderbilt at South Carolina
There are seven games on the schedule this weekend pitting unbeaten teams against each other, including this meeting between SEC East foes.
No, folks, your eyes are not deceiving you.
Almost a month into the season, Vanderbilt is undefeated—in football.
New head coach James Franklin has pumped life into the moribund Commodores program that is coming off a 30-7 thrashing of Ole Miss, where their defense snagged five of their nation-leading 10 interceptions this season.
Granted, none of Vanderbilt’s opponents so far come close to what they will face when they travel to Columbia this weekend to face the No. 12 Gamecocks.
However, for all of the talent and star power South Carolina has, Steve Spurrier’s team is fortunate to enter this game with an unblemished record.
They have found themselves tested in each of their first three contests, including a 24-21 nail-biter over Navy last weekend.
For the Commodores to have any chance at pulling off the upset, they will have to slow down Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore, who single-handedly fended off the Midshipmen by stampeding to a 37-carry, 246-yard, three-touchdown performance.
With the enigmatic Stephen Garcia under center for South Carolina, anything is possible—for both teams.
3. USC at Arizona State
Even though USC is ineligible for the first Pac-12 title game, they have every intention of winning the South division.
This weekend they travel to Tempe to face the division’s preseason favorite, Arizona State, in what should be a duel between the league’s two best quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck (and two of my under-the-radar Heisman candidates).
The Sun Devils are coming off a tough loss at Illinois last weekend, but they will not be lacking for motivation on Saturday.
USC has won 11 in a row in this series, including last year’s meeting when Arizona State overcame a 15-point, second-half deficit, only to watch USC come back with a late field goal for a 34-33 victory.
If they are to snap that streak, the Sun Devils will have to do it without the services of star defensive end Junior Onyeali, who suffered cartilage damage in his knee last week and could miss the rest of the season.
Unlike USC, the Sun Devils can still reach the Pac-12 title game without a victory on Saturday.
However, their pride would still be owned by the Trojans without one.
2. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh
Despite three turnovers, the Irish finally earned their way into the win column with a 31-13 victory over then No. 15 Michigan State.
After a pair of crushing losses, where Notre Dame arguably did more to lose the games than USF and Michigan did to win them, head coach Brian Kelly’s squad now has a chance to even their record up at 2-2.
However, the Irish will have to travel to Pittsburgh and fend off a Panthers team that is still smarting from a tough loss at Iowa last weekend.
This game begins a pivotal stretch; the Panthers have five of their next six games at home.
A win over Notre Dame, no matter what their record is, would give the Panthers and new head coach Todd Graham a signature win before entering conference play.
If the Irish are able to escape with a victory, they will enter a friendly portion of their schedule that should see them favored in most of their remaining games this season.
1. San Diego State at Michigan
A perfect 3-0 record will not be the only thing San Diego State will bring into Saturday’s game against Michigan in the Big House.
The Aztecs will be fueled by the man they see leading the Wolverines against them, which is the same man who led them to a 9-4 record last season.
Both teams will feature impressive ground games, with Michigan led by its electric quarterback maestro, Denard Robinson.
The Aztecs will counter with the nation’s second-leading rusher, Ronnie Hillman.
It is not hard to see why Brady Hoke left southern California for a chance to become the head coach at the school he served as an assistant from 1995-2002.
However, this game—one Hoke admits he wished Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon would have attempted to buy out—will be an emotional one for both teams.
Hoke knows firsthand how good the Aztecs are and he knows that if the Wolverines are not focused, they could easily taste defeat for the first time this season.