College Football Picks: Week 4 Predictions for Every Game

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2014

College Football Picks: Week 4 Predictions for Every Game

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    After three weeks of mostly nonconference games, the vast majority uninspiring matchups that provided only a few intriguing results, Week 4 starts to move toward league play and establishing conference superiority.

    Of the 57 games scheduled between Thursday and Saturday, 12 of them are conference tilts, including six involving ranked teams. Two pairings this weekend feature Associated Press Top 25 teams squaring off, with one a conference matchup. The SEC has three conference games scheduled, while the ACC and Pac-12 have two league games apiece.

    But this is still a relatively light week overall, as 25 of the 128 FBS programs are on byes and another 11 face FCS opponents. Of the nonconference games, six feature teams from power conferences tangling, while major independent BYU hosts Virginia.

    Check out our predictions for Week 4's games and then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

    Last week's record: 44-14 (.759)

    Season record: 175-41 (.810)

No. 5 Auburn at No. 20 Kansas State

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    When: Thursday, Sept. 18; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Auburn scored two touchdowns in the final 2:01, including one on a fumble return, for a 23-13 home win over Kansas State to open the 2007 season.

    What to watch for

    One of the biggest nonconference games of the 2014 season was scheduled nearly a decade ago. Since then one team has won a national title and played for another championship, while the other has flirted with the top of the rankings a few times. That's one of many connections between these programs that normally wouldn't have anything to do with each other.

    Kansas State coach Bill Snyder tried to hire Auburn's Gus Malzahn in 2009, when he was Tulsa's offensive coordinator, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com. The Wildcats also were heavily involved in the recruitment of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall in 2013 when he was at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, per Jay Tate of AuburnSports.com.

    With each team coming off a bye, both Auburn (2-0) and Kansas State (2-0) are rested and should be mostly healthy. They've also had plenty of time to game-plan for each other, though that's much easier for the visiting Tigers to do than the host Wildcats.

    Snyder said facing Auburn means having to "defend the gamut of offensive football," Marcello reported, because of the Tigers' dominant run game that's averaging 330 rushing yards per game but also has the ability to pass with Marshall and talented receivers.

    K-State has gotten very heady play to this point from senior quarterback Jake Waters, who has thrown for 462 yards while also rushing for 193 yards and four touchdowns. Waters almost single-handedly led the Wildcats' comeback late in their 32-28 win Sept. 6 at Iowa State.

    Auburn represents the highest-ranked nonconference team to play in Manhattan since 1969, but the last time the Wildcats knocked off a Top 10 team at home was No. 4 Texas in 2006.

    Prediction: Auburn 31, Kansas State 27

    Final: Auburn 20, Kansas State 14

Connecticut at South Florida

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    When: Friday, Sept. 19; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: South Florida won 13-10 at Connecticut last October, despite scoring its only touchdown on defense and managing 228 yards on offense.

    What to watch for

    Connecticut (1-2) is playing its first road game after failing to make much headway on its home field. Losses to BYU and Boise State both involved a lack of offense and no big plays on defense, while in between was a narrow win over FCS Stony Brook. The Huskies are 122nd out of 128 FBS teams in rushing offense and have a minus-four turnover margin.

    South Florida (1-2) has been in roughly the same boat as UConn, having played every game at home and notching its only win against an FCS team. The Bulls have also come up short against major visitors Maryland and North Carolina State, and their offense has worsened as the season has played out. Last time out they managed only 159 yards in a 32-point loss to NC State, completing just five of 20 passes for 89 yards.

    The winner gets the first of what looks like it'll be a minimal number of American Athletic Conference victories. Flip a coin four times, and it will pick each team's side twice.

    Prediction: South Florida 24, Connecticut 17

    Final: South Florida 17, Connecticut 14

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: Logan Thomas ran for a touchdown and threw a TD pass in Virginia Tech's 17-10 win at Georgia Tech last September, its fourth straight win over the Yellow Jackets.

    What to watch for

    Georgia Tech (3-0) has re-established itself as a dominant running team, executing the triple option to near-perfection behind sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas. He leads an attack that is averaging 306 rushing yards per game with 278 on the ground, but he's also thrown for a surprising 485 yards and six touchdowns. He has hit big-play receiver DeAndre Smelter for nine catches, 238 yards and three TDs.

    Virginia Tech (2-1) is coming off what's being described as the "Hokie Letdown," as its 28-21 home loss to East Carolina marked its fourth defeat in the last five games played after beating a ranked team. The defense that was so pressure-packed and offense that was so efficient in the upset of Ohio State disappeared last week, making the Hokies one of many major programs that appear disjointed early in the season.

    Georgia Tech was unbeaten heading into this game last season, and the loss started a mini-tailspin. Virginia Tech is only allowing 86 rushing yards per game, so for the Yellow Jackets to win, they'll need Thomas to continue to shine as a passer.

    Prediction: Georgia Tech 30, Virginia Tech 24

    Final: Georgia Tech 27, Virginia Tech 24

Iowa at Pittsburgh

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: James Vandenberg's 399 passing yards and three touchdowns enabled Iowa to rally from a 17-point deficit with three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to beat Pittsburgh 31-27 in September 2011.

    What to watch for

    Iowa (2-1) is coming off a 20-17 home loss to rival Iowa State, relinquishing the Cy-Hawk Trophy after allowing a game-winning 42-yard field goal just moments after coach Kirk Ferentz tried to ice the kicker (on a try he ended up missing). The Hawkeyes had to rally late in their two wins, also at home, and have been far more pass-heavy than they'd like. No Iowa rusher has gained more than 96 yards to this point.

    Pittsburgh (3-0) has been a major surprise not in its perfect start but in how effective it has been with the run. The Panthers have averaged 344 rushing yards, fifth-best in the FBS, with sophomore James Conner going for 544 yards and eight touchdowns. Last week Pitt trailed 16-0 at Florida International but patiently fought back and won 42-25.

    Based on how Pitt has played and what Iowa is usually known for, this once had the makings of an old-school grind-it-out game. But with Iowa looking so shaky, instead it will mean the Panthers' first 4-0 start since 2000.

    Prediction: Pittsburgh 28, Iowa 17

    Final: Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20

Eastern Michigan at No. 11 Michigan State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: Le'Veon Bell ran for 253 yards and a touchdown in Michigan State's 23-7 win over Eastern Michigan in September 2012, moving the Spartans to 9-0 all-time against the Eagles.

    What to watch for

    Eastern Michigan (1-2) scored 31 points in its opening win over Morgan State but only one field goal in its last two outings. The Eagles are averaging 72 passing yards per game, third-worst in FBS, and in total offense they're not much better at 124th out of 128 teams.

    Michigan State (1-1) last played Sept. 6, when its 27-18 lead early in the second half at Oregon quickly became a 46-29 loss. The Spartans defense wore down, while their offense sputtered and became unimaginative, particularly the run game that's gotten only 143 yards from running back Jeremy Langford after he gained 1,422 last season.

    EMU is 0-36 against Big Ten teams, while MSU has lost only once to a Mid-American team in the last 21 years. The Spartans romp.

    Prediction: Michigan State 52, Eastern Michigan 13

    Final: Michigan State 73, Eastern Michigan 14

Western Illinois at Northwestern

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Western Illinois (2-1) has crushed a pair of FCS teams while getting rolled 37-3 at Wisconsin on Sept. 6. The Leathernecks are 6-30 all-time against the FBS, last winning in 2003 against Eastern Michigan.

    Northwestern (0-2) has lost twice at home already and is trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since 1992. The Wildcats have averaged only 90 yards rushing—a direct impact of Venric Mark's transfer from the program right before the season began.

    Northwestern last fell to an FCS team (New Hampshire) in 2006 and is in jeopardy of having another of those losses here. But look for Pat Fitzgerald to somehow get the Wildcats to squeeze out a victoryjust the second since a 4-0 start to last season.

    Prediction: Northwestern 30, Western Illinois 20

    Final: Northwestern 24, Western lllinois 7

Southern Illinois at Purdue

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Southern Illinois (3-0) has outscored its opponents 133-44, including a 38-21 win at 2013 FCS quarterfinalist Eastern Illinois. The Salukis are 3-33 all-time against FBS teams, last winning in 2007 against Northern Illinois.

    After splitting a pair against directional Michigan schools from the Mid-American, Purdue (1-2) held an early lead on Notre Dame before falling apart in the second half and losing by 16. The Boilermakers are 105th in total offense, but that's amazingly an upgrade from last season.

    Purdue is 9-0 against FCS teams, but last year its only win was a 20-14 struggle over Indiana State. Southern Illinois looks pretty good, with Eastern Michigan transfer Mark Iannotti completing 71 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns, and will help the folks in West Lafayette feel a new low.

    Prediction: Southern Illinois 27, Purdue 24

    Final: Purdue 35, Southern Illinois 13

Bowling Green at No. 19 Wisconsin

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: Wisconsin opened the Bret Bielema era with a 35-14 win over Bowling Green in September 2006.

    What to watch for

    Bowling Green (2-1) has had a season full of change to this point, adjusting from the defense-first approach of Dave Clawson to new coach Dino Babers' uptempo offensive mindset. That has resulted in the average Falcons score being 41-36, including last week's 45-42 shootout win over Indiana for their first win over a Big Ten team since 2007. James Knapke has done well replacing injured quarterback Matt Johnson, throwing for 395 yards on 46-of-73 passing against Indiana.

    Wisconsin (1-1) was off last week, giving it more time to work on an offense that hasn't been as effective running the ball as expected from a Badgers team. Melvin Gordon was great in the first half of the opening game but has been limited by a hip injury since, which has forced inexperienced quarterback Tanner McEvoy to grow up quickly.

    Wisconsin's defensive line is banged up too, which means its secondary will get tested a lot by Bowling Green. Still, expect the Badgers to come out in a relatively tight game.

    Prediction: Wisconsin 36, Bowling Green 27

    Final: Wisconsin 68, Bowling Green 17

Old Dominion at Rice

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Old Dominion (2-1) plays its first-ever conference game as an FBS school, and it draws the defending Conference USA champs on the road for the initial contest. The Monarchs nearly won at North Carolina State two weeks ago and then last week won a surprisingly low-scoring 17-3 game over Eastern Michigan with prolific senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke only throwing for 187 yards.

    Rice (0-2) is playing its home opener, limping in after starting with the one-two punch of games at Notre Dame and Texas A&M. The Owls are in a bit of a rebuilding mode, having graduated 10 starters including their quarterback and leading rusher. The defense has been lit up so far, allowing 526.5 yards and 43 points per game.

    Rice has won nine straight at home and should get that to double digits by welcoming the new C-USA member with a loss.

    Prediction: Rice 30, Old Dominion 24

    Final: Old Dominion 45, Rice 42

Troy at No. 13 Georgia

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; noon ET

    Last meeting: Knowshon Moreno ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns, joining Herschel Walker as the only other Georgia running back to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman, in a 44-34 win over Troy in November 2007.

    What to watch for

    Troy (0-3) is off to its worst start since moving into FBS in 2001. The Trojans are struggling to replace the production lost to graduation, including four-year starters at quarterback and receiver. Last week they lost at home to an Abilene Christian team that's transitioning from Division II to FCS.

    Georgia (1-1) lost a 38-35 shootout at South Carolina last week, a game it could have won if not for some late mistakes and a defense that got torn apart and looked far too much like the porous 2013 version. The Bulldogs have looked mostly solid on offense, particularly with the run game, but their ground depth is thinner after freshman running back Nick Chubb underwent thumb surgery.

    This will be a game Georgia can use to tinker with things and to give unsure players a chance to gain confidence.

    Prediction: Georgia 51, Troy 21

    Final: Georgia 66, Troy 0

Maryland at Syracuse

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jerome Smith ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and Syracuse forced four turnovers in a 20-3 win at Maryland last November in an ACC game.

    What to watch for

    Maryland (2-1) dips back into the ACC ranks for a game against a team it was in the same league with for one season, a fact that describes the conference realignment craze of the last decade better than anything else.

    The Terrapins lost a nail-biter last week against West Virginia at home, rallying from a 28-6 deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, only to lose 40-37 on a last-second field goal. That came after impressive wins over James Madison and at South Florida, with Maryland getting a ton of production from dual-threat quarterback C.J. Brown (772 total yards, eight touchdowns).

    Syracuse (2-0) looked like a completely different team in its last game, bulldozing Central Michigan 40-3 on the road after needing a two-point conversion stop in overtime to beat FCS Villanova. The Orange got four total touchdowns from quarterback Terrel Hunt, including three on the ground, after Hunt was ejected in the first half of their opener for throwing a punch.

    Maryland has committed eight turnovers, while Syracuse hasn't given the ball up once. Turnover margin is a great barometer.

    Prediction: Syracuse 27, Maryland 21

    Final: Maryland 34, Syracuse 20

Tulane at Duke

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Both Sean Renfree and Juwan Thompson rushed for two touchdowns in Duke's 48-27 win over Tulane in September 2011.

    What to watch for

    Tulane (1-2) won its first game last week, holding off FCS Southeastern Louisiana behind three passing touchdowns from Tanner Lee. The Green Wave have been plagued by turnovers, committing eight already this season.

    Duke (3-0) has won 10 straight regular-season nonconference games, the latest a dominant 41-3 win over Kansas in which freshman running back Shaun Wilson gained a school-record 245 yards on just 12 carries. The Blue Devils are 30th in the country in total offense, with 510 yards per game, and have yet to give away the ball in three contests, while their defense has allowed an average of 11 points per outing.

    The Blue Devils finish a second straight non-league slate perfect.

    Prediction: Duke 40, Tulane 21

    Final: Duke 47, Tulane 13

Maine at Boston College

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 1 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Chase Rettig threw three touchdown passes in a 34-3 win over Maine in September 2012.

    What to watch for

    Maine (1-1) has scored just 20 points in its first two games but also only allowed 19. The Black Bears are 3-12 against FBS teams, winning at Massachusetts last September.

    Boston College (2-1) made a major splash Saturday with its 37-31 upset of USC, riding a spread running attack led by quarterback Tyler Murphy's 191 rushing yards with a touchdown. The Eagles were also swarming on defense, registering 16 tackles for loss and holding the Trojans to only 20 rushing yards.

    Boston College's only loss to an FCS team in 22 previous clashes came in 1978 against UMass. Unless it suffers a major hangover, there's no threat here.

    Prediction: Boston College 41, Maine 14

    Final: Boston College 40, Maine 10

Delaware State at Temple

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 1 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Delaware State (0-3) has been outscored 100-37 so far this season and comes in on a four-game losing streak. The Hornets are 1-4 all-time against FBS teams, with the lone win coming in 1987 against Akron.

    Temple (1-1) was off last week after falling at home to Navy but has looked good this season overall. Quarterback P.J. Walker has averaged 269.5 yards of total offense with five touchdowns, while on defense the Owls rank ninth in passing yards allowed at only 127 per game.

    Temple has a long history of losing to FCS teams, going 14-11 against them overall, including last year's 30-29 home setback to Fordham. But Delaware State is pretty terrible.

    Prediction: Temple 38, Delaware State 16

    Final: Temple 59, Delaware 0

Marshall at Akron

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Akron edged Marshall 31-28 in 2004, when both teams were in the Mid-American Conference.

    What to watch for

    Marshall (3-0) has had little trouble with its soft nonconference schedule to this point, though it did struggle in the opener to comfortably beat winless Miami (Ohio). The Thundering Herd have been led this year like they have the previous two, by senior quarterback Rakeem Cato, who after throwing for 425 yards and four touchdowns last week against Ohio surpassed 11,000 yards and 100 TDs for his career.

    Akron (1-1) was off last week, falling 21-3 at Penn State before that. The Zips have lost 17 straight nonconference games against FBS opponents, last winning in 2008 against Army, but have allowed only 21 points in two games this season.

    Akron allowed a lot of passing yardage two weeks ago and will see the same this Saturday.

    Prediction: Marshall 33, Akron 16

    Final: Marshall 48, Akron 17

Hawaii at Colorado

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns and added a passing TD in a 34-17 win over visiting Colorado in September 2011.

    What to watch for

    Hawaii (1-2) won 27-24 over FCS Northern Iowa last week, just the Warriors' second victory in their past 15 games. Top running back Joey Iosefa and leading linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams are both out with injuries, and now the Warriors must head to the mainland, where they haven't won a game since October 2011.

    Colorado (1-2) has showed flashes of success in each of its games, but it squandered chances against Colorado State and Arizona State and needed a late rally to win at woeful Massachusetts. The Buffaloes have gotten 837 yards and eight touchdowns from quarterback Sefo Liufau, with junior Nelson Spruce already catching six TD passes, but their defense has allowed 35.7 points per game.

    These teams are moving in opposite directions, and playing this game in the continental U.S. makes it almost a lock for Colorado.

    Prediction: Colorado 40, Hawaii 26

    Final: Colorado 21, Hawaii 12

Nicholls State at North Texas

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: North Texas beat Nicholls State 23-0 in 2002.

    What to watch for

    Nicholls State (0-3) has been outscored 144-33 this season, which includes losses at Air Force (44-16) and Arkansas (73-7). The Colonels are on a nine-game losing streak but last year won 27-23 at Western Michigan for their third win against an FBS team in 41 tries.

    North Texas (1-2) is allowing less than 90 rushing yards per game, but that's because teams have thrown the ball 115 times against the Mean Green in three games. Last week they gave up five passing touchdowns in a 42-21 home loss to Louisiana Tech's Cody Sokol in their Conference USA opener.

    North Texas has only lost once to an FCS team since rejoining the upper division in 1995, and that came in that first season to UAB. Nicholls has been a punching bag for other FBS clubs already and lacks the power to fight back.

    Prediction: North Texas 35, Nicholls State 17

    Final: North Texas 77, Nicholls State 3

Norfolk State at Buffalo

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Norfolk State (0-3) has managed only 20 points so far this season and is on a five-game losing streak. The Spartans are 0-6 all-time against FBS teams, including a loss at Rutgers last season.

    Buffalo (1-2) laid a huge egg in its big national showcase, luring Baylor to its stadium for a Friday night game only to get run off its own field early en route to a 63-21 loss. That's a week after the Bulls allowed 47 to Army.

    Buffalo is 5-4 against FCS schools, last losing to Colgate in 2003, but last year it needed five overtimes to outlast Stony Brook and only beat Duquesne by 10 in its opener this season. The Bulls are rebuilding but should move to 2-0 against the lower division in 2014.

    Prediction: Buffalo 31, Norfolk State 17

    Final: Buffalo 36, Norfolk State 7

Florida at No. 3 Alabama

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Trent Richardson ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns, his fourth straight 100-yard game, to pace Alabama to a 38-10 win at Florida in October 2011.

    What to watch for

    Florida (2-0) has had one of the biggest spotlights ever pointed on a team coming off a 4-8 season, since last year's bottomed-out record represented the program's worst since 1979. With Will Muschamp on the hot seat and a retooled offense under new coordinator Kurt Roper, all eyes have been on the Gators' every offensive move so far.

    The early returns have been mixed, as the big numbers from a 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan were quickly forgotten after Florida needed three overtimes to get to 36 points and down Kentucky at home last week. There were mistakes but also great signs, like the running of Matt Jones (156 yards, one touchdown) and the big-play ability of receiver Demarcus Robinson (15 catches, 216 yards and two TDs).

    Whether Florida has turned the corner yet will get a major litmus test against Alabama, but Matt Brown of Sports on Earth writes this game could be the perfect opportunity to take some risks to prove that progress has been made. "If Florida truly wants to expand the offense and be aggressive, then this is actually the time to try to do it and throw the kitchen sink at a game," Brown wrote.

    Alabama (3-0) also gets to show whether its quarterback situation and cornerback play have been figured out with tough challenges in its SEC opener. Blake Sims has asserted himself as the Crimson Tide's starter, getting the bulk of the snaps and throwing for 646 yards and four TDs on 75 percent passing, but he's had the benefit of a run game averaging 270 yards per contest and receiver Amari Cooper putting up career numbers (33 receptions, 454 yards, two TDs).

    The secondary, though, remains a work in progress. That unit surrendered a ton of yards in the opener against West Virginia, but recent foes Florida Atlantic and Southern Mississippi haven't had nearly as strong a passing game.

    "Hopefully, we've gained some confidence and understanding of what it takes to play and be successful," Alabama coach Nick Saban told reporters.

    Florida will show some signs of improvement, but not enough to beat Alabama for the first time since the 2008 SEC Championship or the first time in Tuscaloosa since 1998.

    Prediction: Alabama 31, Florida 17

    Final: Alabama 41, Florida 21

No. 6 Texas A&M at SMU

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Johnny Manziel ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns in Texas A&M's 42-13 home win over SMU last September. The Aggies have 12 wins and a tie in the last 13 meetings, with SMU's last win coming in 1984.

    What to watch for

    Texas A&M (3-0) is averaging 54 points and 596 yards per game, starting with its surprising 52-28 win at South Carolina and continuing with a pair of walkover home wins against outmatched opponents. The Aggies have gotten amazing production from sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill and his young receivers, while the run game has been solid as well. A&M's defense has been anchored by true freshman defensive end Myles Garrett, who already has 5.5 sacks.

    SMU (0-2) has gotten off to as bad a start as possible to 2014, losing 88-6 in its first two games and then losing its coach after June Jones abruptly resigned last week. The Mustangs are now under the control of defensive coordinator Tom Mason as interim coach, and Mason told the media that he hopes to run the ball more.

    SMU has minus-16 rushing yards on 39 carries this season and will be hard-pressed to improve that figure much against a growing-in-confidence A&M defense.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 48, SMU 13

    Final: Texas A&M 58, SMU 6

North Carolina at East Carolina

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: East Carolina gained 603 yards, with quarterback Shane Carden throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns, in a 55-31 win at North Carolina last September.

    What to watch for

    North Carolina (2-0) has trailed in the second half of both of its games—twice at home against teams it was expected to beat easily. The Tar Heels are giving up nearly 5.8 yards per play, tied for 91st in the nation, with only two teams ranked below them holding a perfect record.

    East Carolina (2-1) is coming off a 28-21 win at Virginia Tech, its third victory over an ACC team in the past two years. The Pirates jumped out to a 21-0 lead, and then after giving up the lead late, they quickly marched down the field to win on a one-yard run by Carden. He has done most of his damage through the air, with 1,031 passing yards and seven TDs this season.

    ECU nearly won at South Carolina the week before knocking off Virginia Tech and right now is among the top candidates to get an at-large bid to the College Football Playoff in its first season in the American Athletic Conference. Knocking off another power-conference foe will further that cause.

    Prediction: East Carolina 40, North Carolina 35

    Final: East Carolina 70, North Carolina 41

Virginia at No. 21 BYU

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kevin Parks' 13-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left gave Virginia a season-opening 19-16 win over BYU last August.

    What to watch for

    Virginia (2-1) has matched its win total from a year ago, getting there with a 23-21 upset of Louisville last Saturday. The Cavaliers have done it with defense, allowing 354 yards and holding ranked teams Louisville and UCLA to 24.5 points per game. They're making up for an offense that is tied for 108th nationally in yards per game.

    BYU (3-0) followed up dominant road wins over Connecticut and Texas with a closer-than-it-should-have-been 33-25 home victory against Houston on Sept. 11. The Cougars were up 23-0 and later led 33-15, but mistakes and soft pass defense made those margins disappear. Thankfully, they have one of the best dual-threat passers in the country in junior Taysom Hill (348 yards per game, 10 total touchdowns), who is completing 68 percent of his throws.

    If BYU can avoid making mistakes, it will blow out the Cavaliers. Regardless, the Cougars win.

    Prediction: BYU 33, Virginia 19

    Final: BYU 41, Virginia 33

Army at Wake Forest

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Josh Harris had a pair of rushing touchdowns to lead Wake Forest to a 25-11 win at Army last September.

    What to watch for

    Army (1-1) has had its option run game go hot and cold in its first two games, piling up tons of yards against Buffalo but then managing zero points at Stanford. It was the Black Knights' first shutout loss since 2007 and sends them back to the drawing board under first-year coach Jeff Monken.

    Wake Forest (1-2) is in a similar boat, having managed only 57 points in three games but with very little production in terms of yardage. The Demon Deacons are third-worst in total offense, at 237.7 yards per game, and they've only gained 68 yards on the ground.

    Wake is sticking with true freshman John Wolford at quarterback, and this might be his chance for a breakout game.

    Prediction: Wake Forest 27, Army 21

    Final: Wake Forest 24, Army 21

Louisville at Florida International

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Louisville got four passing touchdowns from Teddy Bridgewater and held Florida International to 27 yards and two first downs in a 72-0 home win last September.

    What to watch for

    Louisville (2-1) was its own worst enemy last week in a 23-21 loss at Virginia, committing four turnovers that led to 13 points. That included a fumbled punt in the final minutes that set up a game-losing field goal, while offensively the Cardinals only managed 282 yards. The explosiveness expected from a Bobby Petrino-coached team hasn't been there yet.

    Florida International (1-2) managed to blow a 16-0 first-quarter lead last week, losing 42-25 at home to Pittsburgh. The Golden Knights were eaten up on the ground, but the biggest problem for the Golden Panthers has been an inefficient offense that ranks 120th with only 285.3 yards per game.

    Although the ingredients are there for a result similar to last season in Louisville, the Cardinals' mistakes will keep it from being that lopsided.

    Prediction: Louisville 41, Florida International 17

    Final: Louisville 34, Florida International 3

Central Michigan at Kansas

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Todd Reesing threw four touchdowns passes in Kansas' 52-7 win over visiting Central Michigan in September 2007.

    What to watch for

    Central Michigan (2-1) was completely listless in a 40-3 home loss to Syracuse, a week after going to Purdue and dominating on offense. The Chippewas managed only 217 yards and for the season are gaining an average of 291 yards per game, ranking 117th in the country.

    Kansas (1-1) was almost as bad in a 41-3 loss at Duke, allowing Blue Devils running back Shaun Wilson to gain 245 rushing yards on just 12 carries. The Jayhawks lost their 25th straight road game, completing only 12 of 29 passes for 95 yards, and through two games they have scored four touchdowns.

    It's sad to think that beating a middle-tier Mid-American team at home would constitute a must-win for Kansas, as Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde wrote, but that's where things stand with coach Charlie Weis. It won't be easy, and it could go the other way, but look for Weis to get a little breathing room.

    Prediction: Kansas 24, Central Michigan 20

    Final: Kansas 24, Central Michigan 10

Rutgers at Navy

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Rutgers edged visiting Navy 21-20 in October 2011, sealing the win with a blocked field goal with less than five minutes left.

    What to watch for

    Rutgers (2-1) squandered a golden opportunity to make a big splash in its Big Ten debut—not to mention gave up a 10-0 leadby falling 13-10 late at home to Penn State. Five interceptions thrown by senior quarterback Gary Nova sapped any momentum the Scarlet Knights gathered through their first two games, while running back Paul James has managed only 94 yards in the last two outings after 173 in the opener.

    Navy (2-1) showed how effective its system is by running past Texas State without its star player. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds sat out the game after injuring his knee late against Temple the week before, but the junior is expected to play Saturday. The Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing at 403 yards per game, with backup QB Tago Smith gaining 85 yards with two touchdowns last week.

    Assuming Reynolds is at full strength, he'll shine against Rutgers.

    Prediction: Navy 29, Rutgers 20

    Final: Rutgers 31, Navy 24

Utah at Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brian Johnson threw for 305 yards and a touchdown to give Utah a shocking 25-23 win at Michigan in September 2008, setting the Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan off to a rough start.

    What to watch for

    Utah (2-0) has obliterated an FCS team and a really bad Fresno team at home but now has to face the massive crowd at Michigan Stadium for its first road game. Last year the Utes struggled on the road, but in many of those games they didn't have quarterback Travis Wilson healthy. He has thrown six touchdown passes already as part of an offense ranked 14th in the country.

    Michigan (2-1) got back on track with a 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) last week after getting shut out at Notre Dame, but the Wolverines are still struggling for consistency on offense. Aside from Derrick Green, who ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns, no one else has been productive every game, as wide receiver Devin Funchess missed last week with a leg injury.

    Head coach Brady Hoke told Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press on Monday "I don't feel like it" when asked why he wouldn't discuss the status of Funchess and other injured players. How many are unavailable will impact this game, because Utah isn't a pushover, but the Wolverines will avoid a home loss in nonconference play.

    Prediction: Michigan 28, Utah 24

    Final: Utah 26, Michigan 10

Texas State at Illinois

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Texas State (1-1) couldn't contain Navy's option run game last week, but it also let the Midshipmen complete some long passes. Now the Bobcats have to hit the road to face an Illinois team that's much more of a passing concern but is also in a must-win situation and will want to put in the kill shot early. Texas State never beat a power-conference team when in the FCS and hasn't done so since moving up to the FBS in 2012.

    Illinois (2-1) has had a very unbalanced offense so far, with Wes Lunt throwing for 971 yards and nine touchdowns, while on the ground the Fighting Illini are averaging 71 yards per game. The Illini have also started slow in every game, getting outscored by 33 points in the first half this season.

    If Illinois loses this one, the season might be over before it really gets started. Look for inspired play early.

    Prediction: Illinois 37, Texas State 17

    Final: Illinois 42, Texas State 35

Indiana at No. 18 Missouri

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Missouri got 343 passing yards and three total touchdowns from quarterback James Franklin in a 45-28 win at Indiana last September.

    What to watch for

    Indiana (1-1) lost a 45-42 shootout at Bowling Green last week, allowing a late score that recalled last season's inability to make a stop on defense. The Hoosiers are ninth in total offense at 574 yards per game, and Tevin Coleman has already run for 437 yards and five touchdowns in two games. But their defense was  listless, giving up 571 yards to a Mid-American team.

    Missouri (3-0) has ridden quarterback Maty Mauk's spirited play and an aggressive defense to start 3-0 for the second straight year and the sixth time since 2008. Mauk has thrown nine touchdown passes in the last two games, while the Tigers defensive line has seen ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden combine for 14 tackles for loss.

    Indiana's offense will get stifled, while its defense won't be able to contribute effectively.

    Prediction: Missouri 37, Indiana 21

    Final: Indian 31, Missouri 27

Massachusetts at Penn State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Massachusetts (0-3) missed a chip-shot field goal in the final seconds at Vanderbilt that would have forced overtime, instead coming up short against a power-conference team for the second straight week after blowing a lead to Colorado the game before. The Minutemen have shown improvement but are still 2-25 since moving to FBS in 2012.

    Penn State (3-0) was held down almost all game but then scored late to win 13-10 at Rutgers to open Big Ten play. Bill Belton's short touchdown run provided the winning margin, but the Nittany Lions once again had to rely on the passing of Christian Hackenberg, who has 1,082 yards in three games. Meanwhile, no PSU player has run for more than 88 yards.

    Penn State has had a pair of nip-and-tuck wins and a lackluster effort in between. This will be its most dominant performance of the year.

    Prediction: Penn State 44, Massachusetts 14

    Final: Penn State 48, Massachusetts 7

San Jose State at Minnesota

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Quarterback Mitch Leidner ran for 151 yards and four touchdowns, while David Cobb added 125 yards and two rushing TDs in Minnesota's 43-24 home win over San Jose State last September.

    What to watch for

    San Jose State (1-1) heads across the country for the second time in three weeks, having lost at Auburn before a bye. The Spartans have lost 15 straight games against teams from the power conferences, last winning such a matchup in 2006 against a Stanford squad that went 1-11 that season.

    TCU overwhelmed Minnesota (2-1) last week in the Golden Gophers' first away game this season. They committed five turnovers and managed less than 300 yards after a pair of decent home wins. Minnesota has seen quarterback Mitch Leidner already battle a knee injury, and he reportedly broke a bone in his toe against TCU, according to Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer PressWhile Leidner should still play, the injury affects his mobility, thereby changing Minnesota's offense.

    San Jose usually provides a solid effort but doesn't win these games. There's no reason to suggest that will change here.

    Prediction: Minnesota 30, San Jose State 20

    Final: Minnesota 24, San Jose State 7

Florida Atlantic at Wyoming

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Alvester Alexander ran for three touchdowns, the last coming with 4:29 left, to give Wyoming a 30-28 win at Florida Atlantic in October 2009.

    What to watch for

    Florida Atlantic (1-2) erupted in its home opener against Tulsa, scoring 50 points and gaining 518 yards after managing only one touchdown and 345 yards in losses at Nebraska and Alabama to start the season. The Owls got back junior Jaquez Johnson, who injured his shoulder against Nebraska, and he completed 15 of 20 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns.

    Wyoming (2-1) showed a lot of good things in a 48-14 loss at Oregon, particularly an ability to control the clock and sustain drives with a balanced offense behind quarterback Colby Kirkegaard and running back Shaun Wick. The Cowboys made too many mistakes, though, and couldn't protect Kirkegaard enough to keep the game from getting out of hand.

    Both of these teams should compete for a bowl bid by year's end, but FAU will need to win a few more games in Conference USA to make up for another nonconference loss.

    Prediction: Wyoming 30, Florida Atlantic 22

    Final: Wyoming 20, Florida Atlantic 19

Presbyterian at North Carolina State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Presbyterian (2-1) has won two straight since getting crushed 55-3 at Northern Illinois to open the season. The Blue Hose are playing their eighth game against an FBS team since 2011 but so far are 0-7.

    North Carolina State (3-0) is looking for its first 4-0 start since 2010 and is coming off the most impressive of its wins so far. Though the competition wasn't stout, winning 49-17 at South Florida is a big sign of improvement for the Wolfpack after they ended last season with eight straight losses. Jacoby Brissett has completed 70 percent of his passes for 810 yards and seven touchdowns, and that's paired with a run game that is churning out 243 yards per game.

    NC State is 30-3 against FCS opponents and hasn't lost to one since 1987 against East Tennessee State. It's struggled against transitioning FCS clubs Georgia Southern and Old Dominion but is riding momentum right now and will roll.

    Prediction: North Carolina State 44, Presbyterian 24

    Final: North Carolina State 42, Presbyterian 0

Bethune-Cookman at UCF

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: UCF beat Bethune-Cookman 38-7 in 1995 in its final season at the FCS level before moving up to the FBS.

    What to watch for

    Bethune-Cookman (2-0) already has a 14-12 win over Florida International under its belt this season; this is the second straight year it has beaten the Golden Panthers. The Wildcats are 0-3 against other FBS teams, though.

    UCF (0-2) has played in Ireland (against Penn State) and Missouri and led in both games. The Knights haven't started 0-3 since going winless in 2004, but they'll need to get more consistent on offense in order to turn this season around. Missouri intercepted Justin Holman twice last week in his first career start, and he hasn't been helped by a run game that is fifth-worst in the country at 53.5 yards per game.

    UCF is 19-0 against FCS teams since joining the upper division 18 years ago. There's historical significance to this game, as it is an old rivalry getting renewed, but it will also serve as UCF's chance to pounce and get in the win column.

    Prediction: UCF 34, Bethune-Cookman 20

    Final: UCF 41, Bethune-Cookman 7

Georgia State at Washington

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Georgia State (1-2) has been far more competitive this season than in its winless campaign last year, but the Panthers still mostly haven't been good enough to finish the job. They have a hardworking quarterback in Nick Arbuckle, who is fifth nationally in total offense with 382 yards per game, but they're allowing 490.7 yards and 39.7 points per game.

    Washington (3-0) is coming off the best of its three wins last week, overwhelming Illinois early en route to a 44-19 win. The Huskies are still developing on offense, although they average 258 rushing yards per game, but their defense has managed to produce numerous big plays despite allowing 87 points so far. Junior linebacker Shaq Thompson returned both a fumble and interception for touchdowns last week, and he has also scored a rushing TD.

    Look for Washington's offense to have its most complete effort—possibly record-setting.

    Prediction: Washington 58, Georgia State 16

    Final: Washington 45, Georgia State 14

Mississippi State at No. 8 LSU

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Zach Mettenberger threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, completing 25 of 29 passes, in LSU's 59-26 romp at Mississippi State last October.

    What to watch for

    Mississippi State (3-0) is off to an impressive start, outscoring its opponents 131-37, but that's come against teams that were 9-27 last season. The Bulldogs now start a critical stretch as SEC play begins, with a trip to LSU marking the first of three straight games against Top 10 teams.

    SB Nation's For Whom the Cow Bell Tolls blog believes this four-week stretch will define the Dan Mullen era at MSU (h/t Yahoo):

    The chance to gain that big win over a worthy adversary has come for a team as ready for the challenge as it has ever been under Mullen, and the MSU coach has his opportunity to prove not only to Mississippi State fans but to the whole college football world that Dan Mullen the head coach is more than 7-5 and a cupcake king. That opportunity? It comes in the form of three top ten teams in the next four weeks.

    The Bulldogs have a losing record against every SEC team except Kentucky and Vanderbilt, but they have struggled the most over the past two decades to LSU. They have not beaten the Tigers since 1999—not in Baton Rouge since 1991—and since losing 30-26 to LSU in Mullen's first season in 2009, the average score has been 36-16.

    LSU (3-0) hasn't allowed a passing touchdown this season and hasn't yielded a score of any kind since the third quarter of its opening win against Wisconsin. The Tigers are third in total defense at 205.7 yards allowed per game, which has enabled their young offense to develop slowly.

    Of the games in MSU's upcoming gauntlet (the other two are at home, against Texas A&M and Auburn), this one is the most likely to result in a loss.

    Prediction: LSU 30, Mississippi State 14

    Final: Mississippi State 34, LSU 29

Northern Illinois at Arkansas

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Arkansas beat Northern Illinois 30-27 in 1994.

    What to watch for

    Northern Illinois (3-0) won its 17th straight road game last week, 48-34 at UNLV, scoring twice in the final eight minutes to secure the victory. The Huskies so far haven't missed do-everything quarterback Jordan Lynch, as replacement Drew Hare has thrown for six touchdowns and is contributing to a run game that's averaging 325 yards per game.

    Arkansas (2-1) put forth a masterful performance in its 49-28 win at Texas Tech, running for 438 yards and seven touchdowns. The Razorbacks have averaged 362 yards per game on the ground, with Alex Collins (411 yards, five TDs) and Jonathan Williams (322 yards, six TDs) pacing that attack.

    NIU hasn't lost in someone else's stadium since early in the 2011 season, but none of those previous opponents has been as daunting as Arkansas with its ground game. This won't be a blowout, but the home team will win comfortably.

    Prediction: Arkansas 38, Northern Illinois 27

    Final: Arkansas 52, Northern Illinois 14

Utah State at Arkansas State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Arkansas State beat Utah State 16-7 in November 2004.

    What to watch for

    Utah State (2-1) has won two straight, but a scary sight that was reminiscent of the past occurred during the 36-24 win over Wake Forest. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who missed most of last season with a horrific knee injury, injured the same knee in the first half and didn't return. Aggies coach Matt Wells announced Keeton will sit out this week, per John Taylor of NBC Sports, and the team will re-evaluate after that.

    Arkansas State (1-2) has lost at Tennessee and Miami (Fla.) the past two weeks and hasn't been blown out but also hasn't had a good shot to win either game. The Red Wolves have been led by quarterback Fredi Knighten, who has 602 passing yards and a team-high 163 on the ground, but need more contributions from others to have a chance to win.

    This is a great matchup of mid-major powers, but without Keeton, Utah State won't be able to hang in there.

    Prediction: Arkansas State 27, Utah State 17

    Final: Arkansas State 21, Utah State 14 (OT)

Miami (Ohio) at Cincinnati

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cincinnati scored two touchdowns in the final 4:55 to turn a scoreless tie into a 14-0 win at Miami last September.

    What to watch for

    This is one of the longest-standing nonconference rivalries in the country, with the teams meeting every year since 1945. Miami holds a 59-52-7 edge in the series, but Cincinnati has won the last eight meetings.

    Miami (0-3) has lost 19 straight games, most recently 34-10 at Michigan. The RedHawks are averaging 15.7 points per game and rushing for only 73 yards per contest, which has forced Notre Dame transfer quarterback Andrew Hendrix to have to carry the offense. He's thrown five touchdown passes but also five interceptions.

    Cincinnati (1-0) sat out the first two weeks and then erupted on Toledo, winning 58-34 behind 418 passing yards and six touchdowns from another former Notre Dame quarterback, Gunner Kiel. Making his collegiate debut, Kiel was masterful and fit in perfectly with the Bearcats' fast-paced offense, but their defense struggled to hold a big lead and could be a weakness.

    This game won't be much of a concern, though.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 55, Miami 20

    Final: Cincinnati 31, Miami 24

Middle Tennessee at Memphis

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: A 40-yard field goal by Cody Clark with 1:49 left gave Middle Tennessee a 17-15 win over Memphis last September. It was the Blue Raiders' third straight win over their in-state rival.

    What to watch for

    Middle Tennessee (2-1) pulled out a triple-overtime thriller at home last week, winning 50-47 over Western Kentucky behind quarterback Austin Grammer's running ability. The Blue Raiders dip out of Conference USA play to take on a rival that they've had the better of lately, but after allowing 82 points the last two games, they have work to do on the defensive side.

    Memphis (1-1) was off last week, giving it extra time to evaluate what worked and what didn't from the 42-35 loss at UCLA. That result saw a lot of promise, with the offense looking much stronger than the year before behind quarterback Paxton Lynch, who completed 66 percent of his passes.

    Memphis allowed 48 points to Middle Tennessee at home two years ago, but this time the Tigers will triumph.

    Prediction: Memphis 34, Middle Tennessee 28

    Final: Memphis 36, Middle Tennesse 17

Northwestern State at Louisiana Tech

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Louisiana Tech beat Northwestern State 38-28 in 1994, which was the last of 77 matchups dating back to 1915.

    What to watch for

    Northwestern State (1-2) won 51-27 at Southern last week, bouncing back from a 70-6 drubbing at Baylor. The Demons are 16-47 all-time against FBS teams but haven't knocked one off since downing Louisiana-Monroe in 2005.

    Louisiana Tech (2-1) is playing its first home game of the season. After a surprisingly dominant pair of wins at Louisiana-Lafayette and last week in the Conference USA opener at North Texas, the Bulldogs seem to have moved on from last year's rough 4-8 record. Cody Sokol has thrown for 729 yards and nine touchdowns, including five last week, while Kenneth Dixon is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.

    Louisiana Tech is 25-4 against FCS opponents, with its last loss coming 14 years ago against Stephen F. Austin. After being on the road for three weeks, the Bulldogs will show off for their home fans.

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 45, Northwestern State 21

Appalachian State at Southern Mississippi

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Appalachian State (1-1) was off last week, which allowed its first win as an FBS program extra time to simmer. The Mountaineers scored 66 points in a shutout win of a bad FCS team, though, so it's hard to gauge how much can be gleaned from that game after Michigan crushed them before that.

    Southern Mississippi (1-2) has a narrow home win over an FCS team bookended by blowout losses at SEC teams Mississippi State and Alabama. The Golden Eagles have scored 38 points in three games, looking far too much like the teams that went 1-23 the previous two seasons.

    USM needs this game more than its visitor and will pull it out late.

    Prediction: Southern Mississippi 28, Appalachian State 24

    Final: Southern Mississippi 21, Appalachian State 20

Ball State at Toledo

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ball State got three rushing touchdowns from Jahwan Edwards in a 31-24 win over visiting Toledo in Mid-American play last September.

    What to watch for

    Ball State (1-2) lost at home to FCS Indiana State last week after blowing a late lead at Iowa the game before. The Cardinals have struggled to put together a consistent offense, averaging 21 points per game, and running back Jahwan Edwards has seen his production decrease each game.

    Toledo (1-2) has had to play shootouts every game, and with a defense that's giving up 42 points per game, it cannot afford to miss any points on offense. The Rockets are getting great work from running back Kareem Hunt, who has 385 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He is helping them to deal with the transition at quarterback, as Logan Woodside has taken over for the injured Phillip Ely.

    This Mid-American opener gives the winner an early boost in the West Division, with Toledo looking like the more promising club at this point.

    Prediction: Toledo 34, Ball State 23

    Final: Toledo 34, Ball State 23

Idaho at Ohio

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ohio beat Idaho 35-0 in 1976.

    What to watch for

    Idaho (0-2) hasn't been blown out, losing by a total of 19 points, but it has only managed to lead for about five minutes through two games. Quarterback Matt Linehan has looked sharp with 686 yards and six touchdowns, but the Vandals haven't been able to slow down their opponents and have allowed 509 yards per game.

    Ohio (1-2) played its first three games on the road, and after squeaking one out at Mid-American foe Kent State, the Bobcats have been outmatched in trips to Kentucky and Marshall. They have used two quarterbacks to try to get consistency, with Derrius Vick looking like the more effective one because of his mobility.

    Idaho has gotten used to long road trips, being independent last year and in the Sun Belt this season, but it hasn't won away from home since November 2011.

    Prediction: Ohio 31, Idaho 20

    Final: Ohio 36, Idaho 24

Murray State at Western Michigan

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Murray State (1-1) hasn't played since getting crushed 66-21 at Louisville two weeks ago. The Racers are 3-24 against FBS opponents, but it's been 30 years since they knocked off Louisville for their last triumph.

    Western Michigan (1-1) matched its win total from a year ago with a 45-33 win at Idaho, getting 211 rushing yards and three touchdowns from Jarvion Franklin, while Zach Terrell threw three TD passes on just 10 completions. The Broncos have averaged 470 yards and 39.5 points but are giving up 407 and 38 so far as their young roster learns to compete.

    Western Michigan fell 27-23 at home to Nicholls State last season—its fourth loss against an FCS opponent but coming off a win and playing at home for the first time, the Broncos should flourish.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 39, Murray State 28

    Final: Western Michiga 45, Murray State 14

No. 4 Oklahoma at West Virginia

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Brennan Clay ran for 170 yards for Oklahoma, as he was one of the few offensive bright spots in an otherwise sluggish 16-7 home win over West Virginia last September.

    What to watch for

    Oklahoma (3-0) didn't need reminding what happened the last time it played in Morgantown. Despite winning 50-49, the Sooners allowed 778 yards to West Virginia that included 320 yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Geno Smith and 344 rushing yards on 21 carries from Tavon Austin.

    "That wasn't a great night," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops told Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman. "We'll have a little motivation going into that game."

    The offense that West Virginia (2-1) has this season heading into the Big 12 opener for both teams hasn't been as explosive as the 2012 version, but it's getting close. Quarterback Clint Trickett is coming off a 511-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 40-37 win at Maryland, and the senior opened the season with a strong effort against Alabama. He has thrown for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns and has completed 75 percent of his passes.

    But that hasn't come against a defense as strong as Oklahoma's, particularly in the secondary. Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez has an interception in every game this season, while fellow defensive back Julian Wilson and linebacker Geneo Grissom have both brought picks back for scores.

    The Sooners go into this one down their top running back, as Keith Ford has a broken bone in his leg and is out a few weeks. That will give more carries to Samaje Perine and Alex Ross, while quarterback Trevor Knight will look more to senior wideout Sterling Shepard. West Virginia's pass defense is missing top cornerback Daryl Worley, who has been suspended indefinitely.

    If Oklahoma can escape Morgantown, it may run the table. But it won't leave without a loss.

    Prediction: West Virginia 36, Oklahoma 32

    Final: Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 33

No. 14 South Carolina at Vanderbilt

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Connor Shaw threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns in South Carolina's 35-25 home win over Vanderbilt last September.

    What to watch for

    South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) has gone through a roller coaster of a start to this season, getting blown out at home by Texas A&M on opening night and then having to survive a pesky East Carolina team before knocking off Georgia last week. The Gamecocks defense is still giving up too many points, but quarterback Dylan Thompson has been carrying the offense with heady play that's helped turn what looked like a lost season into one that now appears very promising.

    Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1) avoided what would have been a harrowing home loss to Massachusetts but did so only because UMass missed a short field goal at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime. That came after blowout losses to Temple and Ole Miss, both at home, as the Commodores have been inconsistent and completely lacking in confidence.

    The win over UMass helped save Vandy's season from completely deteriorating, but it won't suddenly spark a turnaround.

    Prediction: South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 23

    Final: South Carolina 48, Vanderbilt 34

Georgia Southern at South Alabama

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Georgia Southern (1-2) has come very close to winning a pair of road games against ACC teams, losing late to North Carolina State and Georgia Tech. The Eagles' option run game has given opponents fits, as they've averaged 364 yards per game on the ground, but a failure to make stops on defense has cost them.

    South Alabama (1-1) squandered a great chance for a program-defining win last week, getting blown out 35-3 at home by Mississippi State. The Jaguars should compete for a bowl bid and finish in the upper half of the Sun Belt, but they'll need to run the ball better to make that happen.

    Georgia Southern isn't eligible for the Sun Belt title in its first season of FBS play, but that won't stop the Eagles from starting out on top.

    Prediction: Georgia Southern 33, South Alabama 21

    Final: Georgia Southern 28, South Alabama 6

UNLV at Houston

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Houston beat UNLV 37-9 in 1990.

    What to watch for

    UNLV (1-2) saw its offense come to life last week, scoring 34 against Northern Illinois after managing 26 in its previous two games. But the Rebels couldn't come through on defense, allowing 48 points and tons of rushing yards. UNLV's young team is having a lot of growing pains.

    Houston (1-2) rallied from deficits of 23-0 and 33-15 but ultimately lost 33-25 at BYU last week, failing to contain BYU's run game. The Cougars saw quarterback John O'Korn wake up with a big performance, and despite the defensive breakdowns, they did make some plays on the offensive end.

    Houston is getting better as the year goes on and should win easily.

    Prediction: Houston 41, UNLV 17

New Mexico at New Mexico State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: New Mexico ran for 541 yards in a 66-17 home win over New Mexico State last October. The Lobos hold a 68-31-5 record in the annual series.

    What to watch for

    New Mexico (0-2) has been incredibly soft on defense to start the season, allowing 89 points while giving up 533.5 yards per game in home losses to UTEP and Arizona State. The Lobos' option run game has generated more than 300 rushing yards per contest, but an injury to quarterback Cole Gautsche in the opener has rendered their already light passing game almost nonexistent.

    New Mexico State (2-1) lost 42-24 at UTEP last week, coming up short of its best start in 15 years. Quarterback Tyler Rogers has been solid, while the Aggies' run game has been able to contribute, but no defensive standouts have stepped up.

    This game is more or less the Super Bowl for each of these struggling programs. NMSU hasn't won it since 2011 but has its best team in some time and will take this one at home.

    Prediction: New Mexico State 41, New Mexico 39

    Final: New Mexico 38, New Mexico State 35

Miami (Fla.) at No. 24 Nebraska

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Miami beat Nebraska 37-14 in the 2002 Rose Bowl to win the BCS national championship.

    What to watch for

    Two old rivals who met in five bowl games between 1984 and 2002, often with a national title on the line, Miami and Nebraska face off in a regular-season game for the first time since 1976.

    Miami (2-1) is seeing its offense slowly come around after a rough opening loss at Louisville. True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya is coming into his own, throwing for seven touchdowns and 693 yards, while Duke Johnson is averaging 92.3 rushing yards per game but only carrying it about 14 times each outing.

    Nebraska (3-0) made quick work of Fresno State on the road last week, scoring twice early to pace a 55-19 romp. The Cornhuskers offense has looked mostly good, although running back Ameer Abdullah has had to contribute in other ways when his running game isn't there. Tommy Armstrong Jr. has looked great at quarterback, adding 258 rushing yards to go with 773 through the air with nine total TDs.

    Nebraska looks like the more polished team at this point, but Miami will put up a good fight.

    Prediction: Nebraska 30, Miami 21

    Final: Nebraska 41, Miami 31

No. 22 Clemson at No. 1 Florida State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Jameis Winston threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns in Florida State's 51-14 win at Clemson last October in a battle of Top Five undefeated teams.

    What to watch for

    What was already an intriguing game with major early conference and national championship implications took on another major storyline with Wednesday's news that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been suspended for the first half for shouting an obscene phrase in the student union the day before, per Jared Shanker of ESPN.com.

    Clemson (1-1) faces its second major road test in the first four weeks for its young offense and overworked defense. The Tigers failed the first challenge, wearing down and losing all momentum in the second half at Georgia in their opener, but both units got some confidence with a blowout win over FCS South Carolina State. Quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson have both seen time at quarterback, but Stoudt will start this one and is the guy coach Dabo Swinney appears to be sticking with.

    FSU (2-0) turns to sophomore Sean Maguire and his 26 career passing attempts for the first half—yet another chink in the armor of the defending national champions. Despite riding an 18-game winning streak, the Seminoles haven't looked particularly strong in their first two games this season. Winston had been the best part of the offense to this point, but without him FSU will try to establish a run game that ranks 73rd nationally after finishing in the top 30 a year ago.

    This is the fourth straight time these teams have met with both being ranked, and the lower-rated team has won two of those previous meetings, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Winston's absence will make it closer, but FSU is still the better overall team and won't let its quarterback's off-field actions have too much of an impact.

    Prediction: Florida State 34, Clemson 21

    Final: Florida State 23, Clemson 17 (OT)

California at Arizona

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ka'Deem Carey ran for 152 yards in Arizona's 33-28 win at California last November.

    What to watch for

    California (2-0) has already doubled last season's win total, as the second year under Sonny Dykes—a former offensive coordinator at Arizona—has seen major improvements in rushing offense, the avoidance of mistakes and some actual defensive efficiency. The Golden Bears are shuffling between big-armed quarterback Jared Goff, a sophomore, and mobile true freshman Luke Rubenzer, and that look has made them hard to stop so far.

    Arizona (3-0) has regressed as the season has gone on, playing less efficiently and with more mistakes as the competition has toughened. The young offense is starting to make mistakes, though freshmen Anu Solomon at quarterback and Nick Wilson at running back continue to churn out big numbers. The Wildcats have had a 100-yard rusher in 20 straight games, tying 1999-00 Nebraska for the best in the FBS since 1996, with Wilson going for 449 yards already for the season.

    These two young teams would benefit greatly from an early 1-0 start in Pac-12 play. Cal has had an extra week to game-plan for Arizona, but the Wildcats have been efficient all season and will continue to produce enough to take this one.

    Prediction: Arizona 36, California 30

    Final: Arizona 49, California 45

Southern Utah at Fresno State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Southern Utah (0-3) has only scored 39 points this season, with nearly half coming in its 28-19 loss at Nevada to start the year. The Thunderbirds, riding a five-game losing streak, are 3-19 against FBS teams, but that includes a 22-21 win at South Alabama last season.

    Fresno State (0-3) is off to its worst start since 1998 and is feeling the loss of big-armed quarterback Derek Carr as the pilot of an uptempo offense far more than expected. Neither Brian Burrell nor Brandon Connette has been able to replicate Carr's output. That has further exposed the Bulldogs' porous defense, which has allowed FBS-worst amounts of yards (596.3) and points (55.3).

    Fresno State is 29-4 all-time against the FCS, with its last loss coming in 1984 against Montana State. It should avoid its first 0-4 start since 1974.

    Prediction: Fresno State 37, Southern Utah 23

    Final: Fresno State 56, Southern Utah 16

No. 2 Oregon at Washington State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Marcus Mariota threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns, and Byron Marshall ran for 192 yards in Oregon's 62-38 home win over Washington State last October.

    What to watch for

    Oregon (3-0) opens Pac-12 play on the road after a very successful homestand to start the season, highlighted by the 46-27 win over Michigan State in Week 2. The Ducks are averaging 52 points and 573.3 yards per game, with quarterback Marcus Mariota making a great early case for his Heisman candidacy with 806 passing yards and some highlight-reel rushing touchdowns.

    Washington State (1-2) continues to be a pass-first, second and nearly every-down team, with quarterback Connor Halliday serving as the focal point of everything on offense. He has thrown for 1,465 yards and 12 touchdowns, both tops in the FBS, but that's tempered by a run game ranked 126th out of 128 teams at 40 yards per game.

    Last year's game in Eugene saw Halliday set an FBS record with 89 passing attempts. The only thing that might prevent him from topping that is if Oregon decides to slow the tempo down and keep WSU off the field. That's not likely—the Ducks will just score and score and score.

    Prediction: Oregon 56, Washington State 24

    Final: Oregon 38, Washington State 31

San Diego State at Oregon State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Sean Mannion threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns as Oregon State erased a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 34-30 at San Diego State last September.

    What to watch for

    San Diego State (1-1) nearly pulled off a huge win at North Carolina two weeks ago but couldn't hold the lead late or make the kind of comeback the Aztecs were known for last season. In 2013 SDSU scored numerous rally wins, but the loss to Oregon State at home saw the team squander a lead like against UNC.

    Oregon State (2-0) has had two good halves of football but not in the same game. The Beavers struggled early before pulling away from FCS Portland State in their opener and then jumped on Hawaii two weeks ago before trying to give the game away in the fourth quarter.

    OSU's Sean Mannion has looked good but hasn't put together a huge game like he did several times over his previous years as the Beavers quarterback. At 11,064 yards, he needs 186 yards to pass Derek Anderson for the school's career passing mark, a milestone that will spark OSU to a solid win.

    Prediction: Oregon State 33, San Diego State 24

    Final: Oregon State 28, San Diego State 7

Louisiana-Lafayette at Boise State

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 20; 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: None

    What to watch for

    Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2) came into this season as a potential successor to Boise State as the darling of mid-major football programs, with three straight 9-4 seasons and a trio of bowl wins. But the Ragin' Cajuns have struggled so far, most surprisingly in a 28-point home loss to Louisiana Tech. Quarterback Terrance Broadway has thrown six interceptions and is completing only 58 percent of his passes.

    Boise State (2-1) used a pair of defensive touchdowns to pace a 38-21 win at Connecticut, helping its offense overcome a rough outing from running back Jay Ajayi. Quarterback Grant Hedrick has been hot and cold, with five touchdowns and five interceptions, but he has a great No. 1 receiving option in Matt Miller.

    Before the season, this looked like a great matchup of similarly built programs. However, ULL's early issues have it ill-prepared to compete on this long road trip.

    Prediction: Boise State 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 17

    Final: Boise State 34, Louisiana-Lafayette 9

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.