B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 4

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 20, 2019

B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 4

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    Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly
    Notre Dame head coach Brian KellyPaul Sancya/Associated Press

    The top nine spots in the AP Top 25 didn't change at all following a predictably chaos-free Week 3 of the 2019 college football season, but there is guaranteed to be some upheaval after all the dust settles from this weekend.

    Ranked teams losing to unranked foes should be scarce in Week 4, but we've got a No. 8-at-No. 17 showdown in the SEC, a No. 11-at-No. 13 in the Big Ten and one heck of a nonconference duel between No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 3 Georgia. Carnage is inevitable.

    To help you figure out what to expect, Bleacher Report's college football experts—David Kenyon, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—joined forces to offer up predictions on the hottest burning questions, such as:

    • Will Notre Dame be able to snap its skid of nine straight road losses against Top 20 opponents?
    • Can Wisconsin's elite defense shut down Michigan's mediocre offense?
    • Which game features the most total points?
    • And will the Pac-12's under-the-radar Heisman candidate make the most of his opportunity to destroy UCLA?

    Our experts are on the case to let you know.

No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia: Who You Got?

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    Georgia RB D'Andre Swift
    Georgia RB D'Andre SwiftJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I'm picking Georgia for a pretty simple reason: The last time Notre Dame played a College Football Playoff-caliber team, it wasn't close. And this Notre Dame team isn't quite as good as it was in 2018. Ian Book needs to be a playmaker and not simply a distributor/facilitator for the Irish to have a legitimate chance at the upset.

                

    Kerry Miller

    I can't decide which is more bizarre: That the No. 7 team in the AP poll is a two-touchdown underdog or that I'm reasonably confident Georgia is going to win by more than 14 points. This is just a bad matchup for Notre Dame, which is significantly worse at both rushing the ball and defending the run than it was when Georgia won in South Bend two years ago. Assuming D'Andre Swift and Co. do enough on the ground to keep Jake Fromm from needing to win this one with his arm, Georgia cruises 38-17.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    This is an opportunity for Notre Dame to silence all the doubters from the past two years who say the Fighting Irish aren't a top-tier team. Unfortunately for them, the Dawgs are even more for real. I've got Georgia reaching the national championship game, and I think this young defense is going to have a coming-of-age night in front of the home crowd. UGA wins by two scores.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Give me Georgia. The Bulldogs haven't played a real threat yet, but they've been explosive on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame always looks two steps slow against the elite teams and will again in this matchup.

Will It Be No. 11 Michigan or No. 13 Wisconsin Scoring a Huge Big Ten Victory?

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    Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
    Wisconsin RB Jonathan TaylorAndy Manis/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Michigan's offense has been inefficient and thus far lacks an identity. The defensive front has depth concerns, particularly in the middle. Without knowing if starting tackle Jon Runyan and receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones will be available due to injury, those problems amount to a frustrating day for the Wolverines on the road. I'll take Wisconsin.

                

    Kerry Miller

    I had Michigan projected for a 12-0 record before the season began. I'm going to stubbornly stick to those guns in spite of how ineffective the Wolverines offense was for the first two weeks.

    Wisconsin has averaged just 14.7 points in this interdivision rivalry over the past three seasons, and I'm far from convinced that Jack Coan is going to lead the Badgers offense to more than that. He put up great numbers against South Florida and Central Michigan, but this will be a major spike in difficulty. Michigan picks up a 20-14 road victory with help from an ill-timed Coan pick.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    If you love rugged, good old-fashioned football, this one's for you. It's going to be one of the most experienced B1G quarterbacks in Michigan's Shea Patterson against an early surprise performer in Wisconsin's Coan. It's going to be the conference's brightest star (Jonathan Taylor) battling an up-and-coming star runner in Michigan's Zach Charbonnet. It's two blue-collar defenses and two strong coaching staffs. It'll be everything we want it to be, and I'm taking the Wolverines by a slight 23-17 edge.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Wisconsin will narrowly earn the victory. Michigan is only ranked higher due to preseason expectations. Everything we've seen to this point tells us that Wisconsin is the better team and has a more obvious offensive identity.

Will No. 8 Auburn or No. 17 Texas A&M Emerge as Top Challenger to Alabama/LSU?

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    Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond
    Texas A&M QB Kellen MondChuck Burton/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Auburn's defense will keep this from becoming a high-scoring game, but I'm not confident the Tigers offense can even move the ball as well as it did against Oregon. This game comes down to which team settles for more field goals, and I believe that's a looming issue for Auburn on the road. Texas A&M gets the key victory.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Both defenses have been outstanding, including respectable performances against the quarterbacks who might go No. 1 overall in the next two drafts: Auburn against Justin Herbert, Texas A&M against Trevor Lawrence. A&M absolutely shut down Auburn's run game last year (19 yards on 21 carries), and the Aggies might be even better in that department this year. Auburn was able to win that game thanks to some Jarrett Stidham heroics, but I don't believe Bo Nix is up to that task in his first road game. Texas A&M wins 24-16.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Nobody gave the Tigers much of a chance this year, so of course it's going to be one of those incredible seasons Gus Malzahn pulls out of his sweater vest, right? Don't count on it just yet. College Station is going to be rocking, and the Aggies need this game to stay on the cusp of the national spectrum after losing to Clemson. Auburn's defense will dictate how far it goes this year, but Kellen Mond is going to make a few more plays than Bo Nix. The Aggies will win a close one at home.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Although I don't like picking a freshman to win on the road in a hostile environment, I think Auburn is more equipped to win a tight battle than Texas A&M is. Give me the Tigers in a one-score game, propelling Malzahn back into darling status for now. 

Will There Be Any Unranked-over-Ranked Upsets This Weekend?

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    California QB Chase Garbers
    California QB Chase GarbersTed S. Warren/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I'll say no, but I'll eagerly wait to see where that goes wrong. Get ready for "Body Clock!" exclamations if No. 23 Cal loses to Ole Miss, a matchup scheduled for a noon ET kickoff. No. 20 Boise State, No. 24 Arizona State and No. 25 TCU all face decent foes, but they should each win at home. No. 16 Oregon hits the road to face Stanford, but that Cardinal team is, um, not promising right now.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Any? Certainly. How many? Two. No. 23 California has an elite defense, but that offense is a mess. And the noon start time at Ole Miss will make the Bears even more sluggish than usual. That one won't surprise anyone.

    No. 15 UCF losing at Pittsburgh will be the weekend's stunning development. McKenzie Milton had six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in last year's blowout of the Panthers, but it'll be a different story with a freshman quarterback going up against a defense that held Penn State in check last Saturday. If UCF does win, though, look out for a major "it's time to finally put the Knights in the College Football Playoff" push from the national media for the subsequent two months.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    No. 20 Boise State simply cannot protect Hank Bachmeier, and that's going to eventually bite the Broncos—perhaps this weekend against Air Force. And I really like BYU right now after upset victories over Tennessee and against USC, both in overtime. The Cougars get No. 22 Washington at home this week, and I think they're going to keep that surge going with a third straight upset.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Several teams on the back end of the Top 25 are on major upset alert. The one that would be least surprising is Colorado over No. 24 Arizona State. The Buffaloes have an efficient offense and more playmakers than the Sun Devils, which will enable them score a road win.  

The Highest Scoring Game of the Week Will Be...?

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    Utah State QB Jordan Love
    Utah State QB Jordan LoveNell Redmond/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Alabama vs. Southern Miss has sneaky potential, but I'm waiting for the midnight special. Central Arkansas has a pair of 30-point showings this year―which includes a victory over FBS Western Kentucky―while Hawaii is averaging 32 points and giving up 39.3.

                

    Kerry Miller

    *Pulls up the Big 12 schedule*

    Well looky there! Oklahoma State at No. 12 Texas is a fantastic candidate. Chuba Hubbard is leading the nation in rushing, and Sam Ehlinger is carving up opposing secondaries. Neither of these teams have been particularly impressive on defense—neither this season nor recent ones. The Cowboys and Longhorns did play an unusually low-scoring game two years ago (13-10), but this should be more like last year's 38-35 game or the 49-31 barnburner from 2016.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Battles between high-octane offenses are few and far between. New Mexico at New Mexico State will be a battle of awful teams that can't stop one another. Oklahoma State at Texas will be a fun shootout between two good teams. But I think the highest scoring game will be Western Michigan at Syracuse.

    Though the Orange showed a little life on defense last weekend for 2.5 quarters against Clemson, they eventually fell apart. And remember the carnage against Maryland? There will be points allowed, and Dino Babers' team will post some serious points against a shoddy WMU defense.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Utah State at San Diego State. This should be an entertaining game headlined by USU's potential first-round pick, Jordan Love. The Aztecs have also performed quite well in recent matchups between these schools, so expect fireworks as they trade blows.

The Most Entertaining Game Not Involving a Ranked Team Will Be...?

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    North Carolina head coach Mack Brown
    North Carolina head coach Mack BrownChris Seward/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I'm going to cheat/hedge and name a few. Florida State (vs. Louisville) is basically a weekly must-watch at this point because Willie Taggart's tenure has been a mess, and every loss only cranks up the pressure on the program. Fellow ACC schools Syracuse (Western Michigan) and North Carolina (Appalachian State) will probably get a four-quarter fight from their Group of Five visitors, too. The non-Clemson ACC kinda stinks, huh?

                

    Kerry Miller

    I like Appalachian State at North Carolina here. The Mountaineers haven't beaten a Power Five team since that earth-shattering win over Michigan to open the 2007 season, but they sure have come close lately. They took No. 9 Tennessee to overtime in Week 1 in 2016, lost by one to Wake Forest the following September and took No. 10 Penn State to overtime last year. Either this is where they finally break through for a W or else North Carolina takes a 3-1 record and a little bit of momentum into that Week 5 showdown with Clemson.

    Bonus prediction: The least entertaining game will be Michigan State and Northwestern struggling to score 20 points.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    I'm going to go with South Carolina at Missouri. If you haven't watched SC true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski, this will be a good opportunity. He's a budding star, but unfortunately for the Gamecocks, their schedule is going to get him pummeled. And Missouri has been a different team since the shocking, season-opening loss to Wyoming, playing terrifically on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. Both teams will score points, and it'll be a good opportunity to see Kelly Bryant in his new digs, too.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Appalachian State at North Carolina. The Mountaineers have scored 98 points in two games already, and running back Darrynton Evans is a must-watch playmaker. Plus, there's just something cool about seeing Mack Brown back on the sidelines, leading a spry 2-1 Tar Heels team.

How Many Receptions, Yards and Touchdowns for Tylan Wallace at No. 12 Texas?

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    Oklahoma State WR Tylan Wallace
    Oklahoma State WR Tylan WallaceCraig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. I expect Texas to win, so Spencer Sanders will probably pepper Wallace with targets late in the game anyway. Wallace should be productive before the game is decided, but a few late receptions will pad another excellent stat line.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Wallace destroyed Texas to the tune of 10 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns last year, and I'm going to say he does the exact same thing against a porous Longhorns secondary. Three LSU receivers each racked up at least 120 yards against Texas two weeks ago, so it's not much of a stretch to assume one of the best receivers in the nation can clear 200 with room to spare.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    Eight catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns. I cast my Biletnikoff Award vote for him last year. He was the best receiver in the nation then, and he still is. He will torch Texas.

             

    Ian Wharton

    Let's go with eight receptions, 146 yards and one touchdown. Wallace is a fantastic talent, capable of taking this game over for the Cowboys. Expect him to see a lot of targets with a similar amount of attention from the Longhorns. Texas will win if it can keep his production to a reasonable-by-his-standards line, which this projection is.

Over/Under 474.5 Passing Yards for Anthony Gordon Against UCLA?

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    Washington State QB Anthony Gordon
    Washington State QB Anthony GordonEric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Under—but not by much. Part of the reason for that prediction is that I believe he'll be resting on the sideline for some of the fourth quarter. UCLA allowed more than nine yards per pass attempt to *begin sarcasm font* noted passing juggernauts *end sarcasm font* Cincinnati and San Diego State, who have combined to average 5.2 yards per throw in their other games. I'll go with 415 yards and five scores for Gordon.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Over, but let me get on this soapbox for a moment. Why is Gordon not one of the top candidates for the Heisman yet?

    He is leading the nation in passing yards per game (441.3) by a wide margin, he's tied for first in passing touchdowns (12), he's third in completion percentage (78.7) and he's sixth in passing efficiency rating (199.0).

    Gordon has quietly been significantly more dominant than Gardner Minshew IIwho finished fifth in the Heisman votewas through three games last year. I appreciate that he hasn't faced an even half-decent defense yet, but he isn't facing one this week, either. And it's not like Mike Leach is going to start calling running plays now.

                     

    Brad Shepard

    I'm going to go slightly under. Are the Bruins really this bad? Yes. Yes, they are. And Leach is all but refusing to run the ball this year, per usual. But Gordon is going to give way to Gage Gubrud in the fourth quarter, retiring for the night just shy of 450 yards. That score is going to be ugly, though.

             

    Ian Wharton

    He's been close to hitting 475 each week thus far, but I'll go with under. It's amazing how Leach continues to churn out this type of production at the quarterback position. Gordon will have 400-plus but not quite 475.