College Football: B/R Experts Answer Biggest Questions for Week 4

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 23, 2022

College Football: B/R Experts Answer Biggest Questions for Week 4

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    CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 10: DJ Uiagalelei #5 of the Clemson Tigers looks for a pass against the Furman Paladins during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images)
    DJ Uiagalelei | Eakin Howard/Getty Images

    Every game, every win is valuable. Relative to team goals, though, conference play tends to take on a heightened level of importance.

    For a strong majority of Football Bowl Subdivision programs, a league title is the pinnacle. Only a select group will legitimately compete for a national championship, so standing atop the conference is a key goal. Want to chase that national title? Typically, you need to win the league.

    Oh, and also: Want to keep your job? Better not lose a bunch of conference games.

    In Week 4, those contests start to become the foundation of the schedule. Most—not all, but most—marquee nonconference games are in the rear-view mirror. This weekend, the entertaining slate includes Arkansas against Texas A&M, Florida's trip to Tennessee and Clemson's showdown with Wake Forest.

    B/R's panelists—Max Escarpio, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—are getting you ready for Week 4 with predictions for those matchups, the next pink slip and more.

What's the Best Matchup Outside the Top 25?

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    COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 10: Chase Brice #7 of the Appalachian State Mountaineers throws during the second half against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field on September 10, 2022 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Chase Brice | Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Morgan Moriarty

    I considered North Carolina-Notre Dame here, but I'm going to have to ride with Appalachian State vs. James Madison. The Mountaineers have been a blast to watch all season. They put up 40 points in the fourth quarter against UNC in Week 1, only losing on a failed two-point conversion. Then, App State went into College Station and upset Texas A&M, giving the Mountaineers their first win over an AP Top 10 team since they joined the FBS in 2014.

    App State was rewarded for its upset victory by a visit from ESPN's College GameDay last week—the first in school history. Hosting Troy, the Mountaineers had an incredible win on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game.

    In Week 4, App State will host 2-0 James Madison. This is the Dukes' first season in the FBS, but JMU has been an FCS powerhouse in recent years. Fourth-year head coach Curt Cignetti has a 35-5 overall record at JMU. Dukes quarterback Todd Centeio has totaled 591 yards and accounted for nine touchdowns on the season.

    App State is a seven-point favorite. JMU covers, but I won't be surprised if this one has another wild finish—it would be totally on-brand for the Mountaineers.


    David Kenyon

    Great minds, Morgan. Awesome game in the mid-afternoon window.

    So, let's shift to a different matchup. Since we'll get to Duke and Kansas later, direct the spotlight to TCU and SMU.

    TCU's coach is Sonny Dykes, who left SMU during the offseason to join the crosstown rivals. While at SMU, though, Dykes went 2-1 against his current school. However, he also served as an offensive analyst for the 2017 TCU squad that beat SMU—before he accepted the coaching job at SMU.

    As if that's not enough of a full-circle storyline, current SMU coach Rhett Lashlee coordinated the offense for SMU's victory over TCU in 2019, and now he's taking his first shot at the rivalry as a head coach.

    Also, for the degenerates among us: Iowa at Rutgers. Tory Taylor and Adam Korsak. Punter showdown, baby.

Which Top 25 Team Is on the Highest Upset Alert?

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    EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 10: Bo Nix #10 of the Oregon Ducks passes the ball during the first half of the game against the Eastern Washington Eagles at Autzen Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
    Bo Nix | Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    Max Escarpio

    The Oregon Ducks travel to Pullman this weekend to face the Washington State Cougars. This is the Cougs' first test of the Pac-12 season after starting 3-0. Oregon is coming off a big win against BYU and looking to open conference play with another victory.

    Washington State has seen much improvement under head coach Jake Dickert and is looking like a real threat in the conference. Much of that success comes from transfer quarterback Cameron Ward, one of the biggest transfer additions in the Pac-12. This is Ward's chance to show that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and he knows the spotlight is coming.

    It seems like the Ducks are heading into a fiery stadium with a crowd that's surely eager to topple a ranked opponent. This should be a close game, but the Cougs' home-field advantage can overcome the Ducks' talent edge.


    Kerry Miller

    The highest-ranked team on upset alert is No. 7 USC at Oregon State. The Beavers are undefeated, they are potent enough on offense to do some damage against an iffy Trojans defense and they are the home team in a Pac-12 game ending after midnight on the East Coast. Anything is possible in Corvallis, though I do think USC will prevail in a high-scoring affair.

    But the ranked team on the highest upset alert is Oregon.

    The Cougars already knocked off one ranked team this season, winning at Wisconsin two weeks ago. Granted, the Badgers had more than twice as many first downs as the Cougars and probably should have won, but Washington State took advantage of two missed Wisconsin field goals to beat a ranked opponent for the first time since the 2018 Alamo Bowl.

    Really, though, I just refuse to trust Bo Nix on the road.

    In his college career, Nix has gone 16-4 at home. In those 20 games, he has thrown for 30 touchdowns and rushed for 14 more while throwing just two interceptions. Last weekend's five-touchdown performance against BYU was a great reminder of what Nix can accomplish in front of a crowd that has his back.

    In road/neutral games, however, Nix is 7-10 with 23 total touchdowns against 16 interceptions. And I expect Pullman to be rocking for this afternoon showdown on Fox.

What's the Most Entertaining Matchup of Week 4?

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    WACO, TX -SEPTEMBER 3: Head coach Dave Aranda of the Baylor Bears welcomes his players to the sidelines after a Baylor touchdown against the Albany Great Danes in the first half at McLane Stadium on September 3, 2022 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    Max Escarpio

    There hasn't been much hype around the Baylor and Iowa State. It’ll be the first conference game for each team, with the 2-1 Bears heading on the road to take on the undefeated Cyclones.

    Both teams have played relatively well against each other, with Baylor holding a slight 11-9 series edge. They've both also fared well on the offensive end this season, each scoring 40 or more points in two separate games. There's always been an underrated quality to the Big 12, and this game is a perfect example.

    The Bears have been known for their exceptional play in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and the Cyclones came into the season with a similar strength, especially on defense. This should be a hard-fought game on both sides, but Baylor wins a close one.


    David Kenyon

    As the famed revolutionist Patrick Henry once said, "Give me touchdowns or give me death."

    Probably a bit of a dramatic paraphrase, but you understand the point. And, my offense-loving friends, I am very excited to watch USC's overpowering scoring attack take on Oregon State's rising offense in the evening.

    USC breezed past Rice, quickly put away Stanford and notched a third straight 500-yard, 40-point performance opposite a solid Fresno State team. Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Caleb Williams has accounted for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns with zero turnovers in those wins.

    Oregon State, meanwhile, is 3-0 with victories over Boise State and Fresno State. Junior quarterback Chance Nolan has tallied a superb 9.9 yards per pass attempt, and the rushing attack has averaged no worse than 4.8 yards per carry in all three games.

    USC wins. But give us all the points, please and thanks.

Who's the Next Head Coach to Be Fired?

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    AUBURN, ALABAMA - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Bryan Harsin of the Auburn Tigers prior to their game against the San Jose State Spartans at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
    Bryan Harsin | Michael Chang/Getty Images

    Morgan Moriarty

    It certainly feels like it's going to be Auburn's Bryan Harsin. We're just seven months removed from the school making an inquiry into Harsin's status as head coach after 20 players and five coaches left the program following the 2021 season. Not to mention Auburn athletic director Allen Greene, who hired Harsin in December 2020, resigned before the season to pursue outside interests.

    The Tigers are 2-1 on the season, coming off of a 41-12 loss to Penn State at home. Auburn scored just one touchdown, which didn't come until the fourth quarter, and failed on its two-point conversion attempt.

    Now, it looks like Auburn will have to go with backup Robby Ashford at quarterback against Missouri on Saturday. T.J. Finley, who's thrown one touchdown and four interceptions, is out with an unspecified injury, per AL.com.

    The next four games after Mizzou—LSU, at Georgia, at Ole Miss, Arkansas—look particularly brutal. I'd be surprised if Harsin makes it past the Ole Miss game.


    Brad Shepard

    The young college football season hasn't been kind to hot-seat coaches. Scott Frost (Nebraska) and Herm Edwards (Arizona State) have already been shown the door.

    It's not hard to envision Harsin being far behind them.

    If the Tigers somehow lose at home to Missouri this weekend, it could come very soon. But even the schedule after October is grueling with Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Yuck. If you see a couple of wins, we aren't seeing the same thing.

    Harsin survived a rumor-filled offseason that included a very public job assessment after one season. He isn't recruiting well, saw a mass exodus of depth via the transfer portal and has massive talent holes, starting at quarterback. He's not long for the SEC.

Not Basketball Season: 3-0 Kansas or 3-0 Duke?

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    LAWRENCE, KS - SEPTEMBER 02: Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) during an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of a college football game between the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles and Kansas Jayhawks on September 2, 2022 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, KS.  Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Jalon Daniels | Icon Sportswire

    Adam Kramer

    Let me start by saying that I am thrilled to be answering this question. Both teams have played extremely well, and the individual efforts should be appreciated on their own.

    The answer, however, is most certainly Kansas, and it's not even close.

    The Jayhawks are more than a touchdown favorite against Duke this week, which is a wild sentence to type. Once the doormat of college football, Kansas currently has the nation's No. 3 scoring offense.

    Quarterback Jalon Daniels is becoming a multi-threat star, and I think he'll be a problem for Duke on Saturday. Frankly, he's been an issue for everyone thus far.

    Not only has Kansas accumulated points and yardage, but the Jayhawks have done so against quality teams. Kansas powered past West Virginia and Houston on the road, which certainly feels somewhat meaningful.

    Playing at home on Saturday, the offense will once again be too much.

    Yes, 4-0 Kansas is a thing. We might as well get used to it now.


    Kerry Miller

    Less than two months from now in the Champions Classic, the reigning national champions of men's college basketball will go up against a national powerhouse adjusting to life without its legendary coach.

    But this right here is the most important Kansas-Duke showdown of the calendar year.

    Did you know Kansas has already matched its highest win total in over a decade? Or that this is the first time since 1952 that both of these teams have gotten out to a 3-0 start in the same season?

    History in the making, my friends.

    Duke has scored at least 30 points in each of its first three games, but that's nothing compared to Kansas hitting at least 48 in every game thus far. Daniels has already accounted for 10 total touchdowns, including five in last week's statement road win over Houston. In that one, he became the first KU player to both pass and rush for multiple touchdowns in a game against an FBS opponent since Bill Whittemore in 2003.

    And that KU offense will be the difference. If Northwestern could put up over 500 yards against Duke two weeks ago, surely the Jayhawks can do the same in Lawrence. They'll beat the Blue Devils something like 45-35, keeping alive the possibility of 6-0 Kansas at 6-0 Oklahoma on Oct. 15.

Will No. 10 Arkansas Knock Off No. 23 Texas A&M Again?

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    FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS - SEPTEMBER 17: Raheim Sanders #5 of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs the ball in for a touchdown in the second half of game against the Missouri State Bears at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on September 17, 2022 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated the Bears 38-27.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
    Raheim Sanders | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Max Escarpio

    The Aggies finally leave College Station this weekend for their annual clash in Arlington against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Texas A&M is 2-1, but its offense has been abysmal and its defense is way too inexperienced up front to compete with some of the best talent in the SEC.

    Arkansas has had a completely different start to the season, racking up a 3-0 record that includes wins over Cincinnati and South Carolina. The Razorbacks should keep their win streak rolling behind quarterback KJ Jefferson.

    Sam Pittman's squad doesn't have the most established defense either, but Arkansas is playing an A&M offense that is still searching for an answer at quarterback. The Aggies' receivers and solid run attack should keep them in the game, but I don't see a reason why the Razorbacks will head home with their first loss.


    David Kenyon

    Another day, I would like to discuss the merits of the "look-ahead game" and whether that's merely a product of hindsight. I'm here for that. But if the ol' look-ahead game actually exists, Arkansas sure had it last Saturday.

    Missouri State jumped out to a 17-point lead on the Hogs, who methodically came back to win 38-27. Talent ultimately won out.

    But this weekend, Arkansas' structure gets it done.

    Texas A&M's run defense is a problem. Appalachian State sealed the upset on the ground, and Miami picked up 4.9 yards per carry—which, if you know anything about Miami in recent years, is pretty ridiculous. And, folks, Pittman will not be shying away from leaning on the rushing attack.

    Besides, I need to see A&M's offense look anything close to dangerous before believing in the Aggies against a top team. That is not an exciting unit right now.

No. 20 Florida at No. 11 Tennessee: Who Wins on Rocky Top?

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    Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker passes against Ball State during an NCAA football game on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)
    Hendon Hooker | AP Photo/John Amis

    Adam Kramer

    It's Tennessee, and it really doesn't feel like a difficult selection at this point.

    Could I be wrong? Of course. I am often wrong. But what we've seen in the past few weeks is plenty different from what we saw in Week 1.

    Since Florida beat Utah in its opener, we've seen a regression. The Gators lost to Kentucky and nearly lost to South Florida last weekend as a massive favorite. QB Anthony Richardson has largely struggled, which explains much of Florida's extended slog.

    On the other side, Tennessee has one of the best offenses in all of college football. To date, the Vols haven't had a very difficult path, although the performance is noteworthy.

    This game feels like a matchup issue. We know Tennessee is going to find ways to accumulate points. How are the Gators going to possibly keep up?

    The answer is pretty simple. They won’t. Tennessee moves to 4-0 and enters the Top 10 after this one.


    David Kenyon

    Agreed on all counts, Adam.

    These past two weeks epitomized my concerns with Florida entering the season. Richardson's upside was evident, given his dynamic ability as a runner. But he'd also thrown six interceptions in 66 career attempts, which is a decidedly worrisome rate.

    First game? No problem. Since then, alarm bells. Richardson has completed just 24-of-53 passes for 255 yards—a lowly 4.8 yards per attempt—and tossed four picks.

    Plus, both Kentucky and USF completely stopped his rushing threat. Even excluding sacks, Richardson only had 40 yards on the ground in those games combined. Florida desperately needs to make his speed a bigger piece of the offense, because he's simply not an efficient high-volume passer yet.

    Tennessee, really, should have few issues dispatching the Gators.


    Brad Shepard

    Knoxville is going to be live.

    Not only is ESPN's College GameDay going to be on campus along with a slew of recruits, but hungry UT fans that have been through the ringer for the past decade-plus are also starting to see a light. But getting over the mental mountain the Gators have built over Tennessee is a massive journey.

    If the Vols can somehow exorcize those reptilian demons, they’ve got the talent and playmakers to have a big season. But the Gators have beaten UT in 16 of the past 17 years, and even though Richardson has fallen on difficult times the past couple of weeks, he has plenty enough talent to give Tennessee fits.

    Even so, it's hard to envision this year's rendition of Florida being able to outscore the Vols' high-octane offense. If UT can keep from making too many mistakes, start out strong and run the football at all, they have more talent than UF and will have a raucous crowd behind it.

    The Vols are going to win 38-30, but Florida will keep it a little closer than the spread.

No. 5 Clemson at No. 21 Wake Forest: Who You Got?

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    CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers greets his plaers aas they take the field before their game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2022 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
    Dabo Swinney | Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Morgan Moriarty

    Yes, I know Clemson has won the past 13 straight against the Demon Deacons, but I think Wake can perform much better than the 48-27 loss it suffered to Clemson a year ago.

    For starters, Wake has its quarterback in Sam Hartman. He missed the first game of the season after he was diagnosed with Paget-Schroetter syndrome, a blood clot that's associated with repeated strenuous activity, in early August. During his first two games back, Hartman hardly missed a beat, throwing for over 300 yards in both contests and totaling seven touchdowns.

    Clemson is 3-0 so far, and the Tigers again haven't looked as dominant in years past. But quarterback DJ Uiagalelei looks like he's improving in Year 2 as Clemson's full-time starter. So far, he's thrown for 662 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. The Tigers defense has also allowed just 32 points over the past two weeks.

    I think Wake Forest has the offensive firepower to give the favored Tigers a run for their money on Saturday. We'll see which offense earns an edge on Saturday.

    Everyone loves an upset, so it certainly would be fun to see Wake pull it off. But I believe Clemson escapes in a close one. I don't think this is the last time the Tigers could be upset this season, though, with games against NC State, Florida State, Syracuse and Miami remaining on their schedule.


    Brad Shepard

    It's so hard to bank on any team that struggles to stop the opposition on a consistent basis. That’s why you find yourself having a hard time riding ACC teams like Wake Forest and North Carolina.

    You just have to hope they win an offensive pinball show.

    In last week's 37-36 win over Liberty, the Demon Deacons had to stop a two-point conversion to get the win. Hugh Freeze's team isn't bad at all, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence when you're now facing a Top 5 team.

    One thing is certain: The Tigers can't sputter on offense with Uiagalelei at the helm. If they struggle early, coach Dabo Swinney needs to make the move to Cade Klubnik, even though Uiagalelei has shown gradual improvement.

    This is a clash of styles, and while it's easy to love what Dave Clawson’s team has done the past couple of seasons, it's tough to pick against Clemson in this game despite being on the road. The Tigers have too much talent and will squeak out a close one.

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