College Football Picks: Week 4 Predictions for Every Game

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2019

College Football Picks: Week 4 Predictions for Every Game

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    College football fans, your patience is about to be rewarded. After a weekend with zero ranked-against-ranked games, No. 7 Notre Dame's trip to No. 3 Georgia headlines a Week 4 slate with three clashes between top-20 teams.

    The other showdowns between ranked squads are found in the Big Ten (No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin) and the SEC (No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M).

    Altogether, the three marquee tilts Saturday will provide early insight into true conference and national contenders.

    Remember to be thankful about those contests, though, because the rest of the slate is uninspiring.

    The predictions are listed in ascending order of AP Top 25 ranking and then highlight five top games between unranked teams. The remainder are arranged chronologically. Every contest involving a Football Bowl Subdivision team is included.

AP Nos. 25-21

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    SMU at No. 25 TCU (3:30 p.m. ET, TCU -9)

    If SMU forces the Horned Frogs to throw, the Battle for the Iron Skillet might get interesting. Neither transfer Alex Delton nor freshman Max Duggan has done so efficiently. However, TCU just smashed Purdue for 346 rushing yards and should be able to control the game on the ground while holding off a solid Mustangs offense.

    Prediction: TCU 34, SMU 27


    Colorado at No. 24 Arizona State (10 p.m. ET, ASU -7.5)

    Arizona State has refused to allow balanced offense, holding all three opponents to 3.2 yards per carry or worse. That appears to be bad news for Colorado, which has seen its passing efficiency drop significantly in every game. The Buffaloes need to break that trend, or else Arizona State will have full control of a low-scoring tilt.

    Prediction: Arizona State 24, Colorado 16


    No. 23 California at Ole Miss (Noon ET, Ole Miss -2.5)

    How much stock do you place in the "body clock" theory? This nonconference matchup kicks off at 9 a.m. ET for the visitors. Cal will rarely, if ever, win behind its offense, so any sluggish start from a stingy defense could be crushing. Consider this a vote of confidence that the Golden Bears will play aggressively from the start.

    Prediction: Cal 24, Ole Miss 19


    No. 22 Washington at BYU (3:30 p.m. ET, Washington -6)

    Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason has shredded two inferior secondaries and struggled with Cal's excellent unit. The BYU Cougars elite, though they're closer to Cal than the opposite end. They just grabbed three interceptions in an overtime win at USC too. But we'll cautiously trust Eason to meet the challenge this time around.

    Prediction: Washington 31, BYU 20


    Old Dominion at No. 21 Virginia (7 p.m. ET, Virginia -30.5)

    Two weeks ago, Old Dominion limited Virginia Tech to only 131 rushing yards on 39 attempts. A similar defensive performance could frustrate Bryce Perkins, who throws often but is far more effective as a runner. However, the Cavaliers' considerable talent advantage should win out.

    Prediction: Virginia 37, Old Dominion 14

AP Nos. 20-16

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    Air Force at No. 20 Boise State (Friday, 9 p.m. ET, Boise State -8.5)

    Over the last six seasons, this series is split at three wins apiece. And apparently, the magic number is four yards per carry for Air Force. Above that average, the Falcons are 3-0 against the Broncos. Below it, they are 0-3. Boise State looks capable of holding Air Force below the mark, having registered 27 tackles for loss in three games.

    Prediction: Boise State 31, Air Force 23


    UCLA at No. 19 Washington State (10:30 p.m. ET, WSU -18.5)

    UCLA has showed zero evidence it can handle Washington State's passing attack. Cincinnati, San Diego State and Oklahoma all posted at least 9.3 yards per attempt while completing 69-plus percent of their passes. Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon, who already has 1,324 yards and 12 scores, will obliterate this Bruins defense.

    Prediction: Washington State 44, UCLA 17


    No. 18 Iowa (idle)

    The Hawkeyes edged their way to a 3-0 record for the third straight year thanks to Iowa State's botched punt return. They'll return to the field in Week 5 against Middle Tennessee.


    No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M (3:30 p.m. ET, Texas A&M -4)

    For prediction, see No. 8 Auburn.


    No. 16 Oregon at Stanford (7 p.m. ET, Oregon -10)

    This is a little uncomfortable. Despite its 10-year streak of eight-plus wins, Stanford looks bad. Like, actually bad. In the last two weeks, USC and UCF have scorched the Cardinal for 724 passing yards and seven touchdowns while throwing zero interceptions. Justin Herbert has tossed five scores in consecutive games, so the Ducks should dominate. But that expectation feels strange.

    Prediction: Oregon 37, Stanford 21

AP Nos. 15-11

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    No. 15 UCF at Pitt (3:30 p.m. ET, UCF -12.5)

    Pittsburgh took Penn State to the wire in Week 3 and might've forced overtime if head coach Pat Narduzzi showed any interest in math. Instead, the Panthers must rebound quickly and show they can stick with UCF. Last year, the Knights cruised to a 45-14 win. But between UCF's superb aerial attack and efficient defense, Pitt is unlikely to hang around.

    Prediction: UCF 34, Pitt 20


    No. 13 Penn State (idle)

    After edging rival Pitt in Week 3, the Nittany Lions improved to 3-0 and will begin to prepare for Sept. 27's clash at Maryland.


    No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin (Noon ET, Wisconsin -3.5)

    For prediction, see No. 11 Michigan.


    Oklahoma State at No. 12 Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, Texas -5)

    Following two great showings to begin his OSU career, Spencer Sanders had a rough outing in Week 3. The redshirt freshman quarterback hit just 12 of 22 throws for 169 yards at Tulsa. Keeping up with Texas in Austin will demand a mistake-free and highly productive game, and that's a lofty expectation for Sanders this early.

    Prediction: Texas 38, Oklahoma State 24


    No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin (Noon ET, Wisconsin -3.5)

    This is all on Shea Patterson. Michigan's defense will keep the Wolverines close, but will the senior quarterback handle a coverage unit that held South Florida and Central Michigan to a combined 3.1 yards per attempt, zero touchdowns and three interceptions? That answer doesn't look promising for Michigan.

    Prediction: Wisconsin 24, Michigan 21

AP Nos. 10-6

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    No. 10 Utah at USC (Friday, 9 p.m. ET, Utah -4)

    Head coach Clay Helton's seat must be feeling toasty, and it's not getting any easier with Pac-12 South favorite Utah coming to town. The Utes—who beat BYU handily in Week 1—have four interceptions and will be a thorn for freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis. USC needs its talent at receiver to overpower Utah; otherwise, an upset won't happen.

    Prediction: Utah 27, USC 22


    Tennessee at No. 9 Florida (Noon ET, Florida -14)

    Although the Gators are turning to Kyle Trask after quarterback Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending injury, they're still deserving of the comfortable spread. Tennessee has continually bent and broken defensively, ceding seven touchdowns in 10 red-zone drives by Georgia State and BYU. Unless the Gators are inefficient in scoring territory, they'll protect The Swamp.

    Prediction: Florida 31, Tennessee 14


    No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M (3:30 p.m. ET, Texas A&M -4)

    Seeing this SEC clash become a shootout would be surprising. Both defenses are allowing fewer than 15 points per game, so timely execution—money downs and in the red zone—on offense will be especially critical. So far, Texas A&M holds the advantage. But Auburn is going to test that significantly.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 23, Auburn 21


    No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia (8 p.m. ET, Georgia -13.5)

    For prediction, see No. 3 Georgia.


    Miami (Ohio) at No. 6 Ohio State (3:30 p.m. ET, Ohio State -39.5)

    "It's kind of like going to recess, and they have the first 85 picks," Miami head coach Chuck Martin said, per Joey Kaufman of the Columbus Dispatch. You can't see us, Chuck, but we're nodding in agreement.

    Prediction: Ohio State 52, Miami 7

AP Nos. 5-1

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    No. 5 Oklahoma (idle)

    Jalen Hurts already has 1,253 yards of offense with 13 total touchdowns, cementing Oklahoma as the Big 12 favorite. The Sooners begin league play in Week 5 against Texas Tech.


    No. 4 LSU at Vanderbilt (Noon ET, LSU -23)

    LSU needed 30 minutes to compose itself before running away from Northwestern State. They won't repeat that in Week 4. Vanderbilt showed little resistance against Georgia and Purdue, giving up 7.7 yards per snap and 72 points.

    Prediction: LSU 48, Vanderbilt 14


    No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia (8 p.m. ET, Georgia -13.5)

    Ian Book was a terrific facilitator in 2018. But when Notre Dame met Clemson in the College Football Playoff, he stumbled to 4.7 yards per passing attempt. While reversing that performance at Georgia would be an enormous accomplishment, that's not a forecast we're willing to make. His surrounding talent isn't at that level.

    Prediction: Georgia 27, Notre Dame 16


    Southern Miss at No. 2 Alabama (Noon ET, Alabama -38.5)

    Good news: Southern Miss just toppled Troy 47-42! Bad news: Troy threw for 504 yards and four touchdowns. Worse news: The Golden Eagles have to stop Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama's quartet of big-play receivers. No surprises here.

    Prediction: Alabama 56, Southern Miss 14


    Charlotte at No. 1 Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET, Clemson -41.5)

    Propelled by a diverse rushing attack, Charlotte has surged from 114th nationally in points per game last season to 14th. That's a terrific achievement and deserves praise. That is also not going to matter when the 49ers head to Clemson.

    Prediction: Clemson 49, Charlotte 7    

The 5 Best Unranked Battles

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    Michigan State at Northwestern (Noon ET, MSU -9.5)

    To be honest, this is not an appealing game. However, both teams aspire to win the Big Ten, and an unimpressive slate means a clash between league challengers is noteworthy. Michigan State's offense will determine the outcome. It could be great, might be good, can be poor. You just never know. Eat Arby's.

    Prediction: Michigan State 24, Northwestern 21


    South Carolina at Missouri (4 p.m. ET, Missouri -9.5)

    Missouri has recovered nicely from its season-opening loss at Wyoming, smashing West Virginia 38-7 and Southeast Missouri State 50-0. South Carolina presents a slightly better test, but a suspect pass defense will be the Gamecocks' undoing.

    Prediction: Missouri 34, South Carolina 27


    West Virginia at Kansas (4:30 p.m. ET, WVU -5)

    Heading into Week 3, this matchup looked awful. Then Kansas pulled off a startling 48-24 win at Boston College, and West Virginia wrecked North Carolina State 44-27 after two drowsy offensive showings. If the Mountaineers can contain a decent rushing attack and force Kansas to pass, they'll pick up a victory in the Big 12 opener.

    Prediction: West Virginia 31, Kansas 17


    Nebraska at Illinois (8 p.m. ET, Nebraska -13)

    Eastern Michigan is a good team. It's still an inexcusable loss for head coach Lovie Smith and Illinois. Although Smith's job security is low, a four-win surge in Big Ten play to reach a bowl could save his position. But that's not going to happen without a win over Nebraska, and the Illini are unlikely to contain the Huskers offense.

    Prediction: Nebraska 38, Illinois 24


    Utah State at San Diego State (10:30 p.m. ET, Utah State -4)

    While Utah State ranks 13th nationally in points per game (48.5), San Diego State is fourth in scoring defense (8.0 points allowed per game). That strength-on-strength battle will be enjoyable, but SDSU's offense will shape the result. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, the Aztecs have scored just 23 touchdowns in 47 red-zone trips. Leaving points on the field opposite a dangerous Utah State attack is problematic.

    Prediction: Utah State 24, San Diego State 16

The Rest of the Slate (1/2)

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Houston at Tulane (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, Tulane -5)
    Prediction: Houston 28, Tulane 24

    FIU at Louisiana Tech (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, Louisiana Tech -8.5)
    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 30, FIU 17

    Morgan State at Army (Noon ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Army 44, Morgan State 10

    UConn at Indiana (Noon ET, Indiana -27)
    Prediction: Indiana 41, UConn 21

    Louisiana-Monroe at Iowa State (Noon ET, Iowa State -18.5)
    Prediction: Iowa State 37, Louisiana-Monroe 20

    Boston College at Rutgers (Noon ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Boston College 33, Rutgers 17

    Western Michigan at Syracuse (Noon ET, Syracuse -6)
    Prediction: Syracuse 34, Western Michigan 30

    Elon at Wake Forest (Noon ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Wake Forest 48, Elon 16

    Coastal Carolina at Massachusetts (1 p.m. ET, Coastal Carolina -17)
    Prediction: Coastal Carolina 38, UMass 20

    Louisiana at Ohio (2 p.m. ET, Ohio -3.5)
    Prediction: Louisiana 34, Ohio 29

    Troy at Akron (3 p.m. ET, Troy -17)
    Prediction: Troy 45, Akron 21

    Central Connecticut State at Eastern Michigan (3 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Eastern Michigan 34, Central Conn. St. 14

    Louisville at Florida State (3:30 p.m. ET, FSU -6.5)
    Prediction: Florida State 26, Louisville 23

    Appalachian State at North Carolina (3:30 p.m. ET, UNC -3.5)
    Prediction: Appalachian State 31, North Carolina 24

    Temple at Buffalo (3:30 p.m. ET, Temple -14)
    Prediction: Temple 30, Buffalo 17

    Wyoming at Tulsa (3:30 p.m. ET, Tulsa -3.5)
    Prediction: Wyoming 27, Tulsa 23

    South Alabama at UAB (3:30 p.m. ET, UAB -10)
    Prediction: UAB 34, South Alabama 20

    Bowling Green at Kent State (3:30 p.m. ET, Kent State -10)
    Prediction: Kent State 21, Bowling Green 19

    Central Michigan at Miami (4 p.m. ET, Miami -30.5)
    Prediction: Miami 49, Central Michigan 14

    Kentucky at Mississippi State (4 p.m. ET, Mississippi State -6.5)
    Prediction: Kentucky 24, Mississippi State 21

    New Mexico State at New Mexico (4:30 p.m. ET, New Mexico -4.5)
    Prediction: New Mexico 26, New Mexico State 20

The Rest of the Slate (2/2)

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    Jim Rassol/Associated Press

    Wagner at Florida Atlantic (6 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: FAU 38, Wagner 10

    Hampton at Liberty (6 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Liberty 31, Hampton 27

    William & Mary at East Carolina (6 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: East Carolina 34, William & Mary 16

    Baylor at Rice (7 p.m. ET, Baylor -27.5)
    Prediction: Baylor 45, Rice 17

    Ball State at North Carolina State (7 p.m. ET, NC State -19)
    Prediction: NC State 40, Ball State 24

    Georgia State at Texas State (7 p.m. ET, Texas State -3)
    Prediction: Georgia State 31, Texas State 24

    Southern Illinois at Arkansas State (7 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Arkansas State 34, Southern Illinois 27

    San Jose State at Arkansas (7:30 p.m. ET, Arkansas -20.5)
    Prediction: Arkansas 35, San Jose State 16

    UTSA at North Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, North Texas -19)
    Prediction: North Texas 34, UTSA 17

    Nevada at UTEP (8 p.m. ET, Nevada -15.5)
    Prediction: Nevada 31, UTEP 14

    Sacramento State at Fresno State (10 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Fresno State 38, Sacramento State 21

    Toledo at Colorado State (10:15 p.m. ET, Toledo -9)
    Prediction: Toledo 33, Colorado State 27

    Central Arkansas at Hawaii (11:59 p.m. ET, No Line Given)
    Prediction: Hawaii 41, Central Arkansas 31