College Football Research


Week 4 Preview

by Big Al

Everyone has been waiting for this weekend. This is when it all happens.

One top-ten matchup. Seven games matching ranked teams, with an eighth that probably should be. Conference play gets fully under way. It's the sort of weekend when you darn well figure out how to use picture-in-picture so you might not miss anything.

Ohio State at Notre Dame

Thanks to COVID eligibility, Sam Hartman gets one last shot at a real winner. Notre Dame had a rough start to last year, but now they are rolling along with a top-10 ranking. They are at home against an Ohio State squad that hasn't truly answered all its defense questions, and they have a first-year quarterback who hasn't faced a team, a situation, or an environment like a top-10 Notre Dame at night.

Last year, Marcus Freeman was a head coach in his first full season at the helm, coaching only his second game overall, in the first game of the season on the road against a top-5 Ohio State. He's worked out the kinks.

Ohio State, meanwhile, is looking much better. Their defense hasn't been nearly as bad as before, and they really roughed up a Western Kentucky team that always gets its points.

I think Ohio State can jump to a lead, thanks to its excellent wideouts. But their offensive line still can't grind out tough yards. Notre Dame comes from behind and puts it away late.

Florida State at Clemson

Fine, Clemson lost to Duke in week 1. But that may not be entirely embarrassing this year. And this is still a team that Florida State has not beaten since, let's see, 2014. Huh. And Florida State just limped past a now 1-2 Boston College team who lost to Northern Illinois. Florida State may have been looking ahead, but they should still be able to take care of that business without worrying in the last few minutes.

This is one of those games where you look at the rankings and there is a clear winner. But there's also this warning sound in my head saying, "You don't break a losing streak on the road." Darn it, I'll take the big chance and pick Clemson to win.

Colorado at Oregon

Oregon is favored by 21? Really? If I were a betting man, I'd take Colorado against that spread.

But let's not overthihnk this, either. Colorado just came off an emotional double-overtime win over its rival and is now visiting one of the most difficult places on earth for a visiting team to play football. And they are doing it without their best player.

Every instinct in my body is saying, "Don't pick against Colorado yet." But my analysis is telling me Oregon is the team to pick. And, when I first wrote this segment, I went with Oregon. But this game keeps gnawing at me, so I rewrote my pick. I'm not ready to pick against Colorado yet. So I'm going with Colorado here.

UCLA at Utah

I want to pick UCLA because Utah is either missing their star quarterback, or their star quarterback will be playing his first game of the year four games into the season. But Utah figured it out against Florida, which is nothing to sneeze at (ask Tennessee if you have any questions). So Utah is my pick.

Ole Miss at Alabama

If you don't particularly care about Lane Kiffin or Nick Saban, watching Lane Kiffin needle Nick Saban is a heck of a lot of fun. I suppose uninterested parties get the same enjoyment out of Jim Harbough needling Ryan Day. But Jim Harbaugh at least beats Ryan Day. Lane Kiffin on the other hand...

Alabama wins. Again.

Iowa at Penn State

This is, quietly, something of a rivalry game. No, it's not going to be designated as such, but when these two teams play, it is one holy heck of a game. I've seen almost as much wacky stuff from this game as the Penn State-Ohio State game, which is darn near legendary. Yes, I'm picking Penn State. But Iowa is probably the best defense Penn State will play all year (and yes, that includes Ohio State and Michigan), so Penn State is going to need to work for it.

Auburn at Texas A&M

Hang on, neither of these teams is ranked? Okay, it's not Alabama vs. Notre Dame, but these are two pround programs who generally play good football. I'm picking Auburn to win because I feel like buyer's remorse is the theme for the Jimbo Fisher era.

Oregon State at Washington State

Hang on, both these teams are ranked? Okay, it's not Oregon State vs. Northwestern but, actually one of the teams is Oregon State. Never mind.

I have absolutely no idea what to make of either team, because I haven't seen them play at all this year. Washington State has a slightly better resume thanks to a win over Wisconsin, and they are at home. Washington State it is.

Rutgers at Michigan

I'm picking Michigan. But Rutgers is undefeated and they do not play to lose. Expect the wacky stuff from Rutgers in this game. It won't change the final result, but I think this game is going to be worth watching all the same.


Was this a season-ending rivalry at some point? I feel like it should have been a season-ending rivalry.

Anyway, I'm picking TCU because they are a team that legitimately deserves to be ranked; they only made the mistake of losing a very close game in the first week of the season to a Colorado team that is better than people thought and when nobody knew anything about them, who they were, what they did on offense or defense, or what their players were truly capable of.

BYU at Kansas

Hang on a second, this is a game between undefeated teams? Huh. Go figure.

In other news, every time I try to type BYU, I always type BUY, which is something else entirely. Every. Single. Time. I have no idea why I'm admitting that.

Anyway, I haven't had a chance to see either team play, but I'll go with BYU, because I have a soft spot for the Mormons.


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