Week 4 of the college football season brings the best Saturday schedule of the season so far with three matchups of ranked opponents and a few other high-profile matchups to savor.
There are two major showdowns in the SEC with No. 12 Tennessee hosting no. 22 Florida and No. 10 Arkansas and no. 20 Texas A&M meeting in Arlington, Texas. In the former matchup, the Gators – already with a loss to Kentucky – must win on the road in Knoxville to keep their division hopes alive. The Volunteers have lost 16 of the last 17 in the series, so a win that keeps them unbeaten would be especially sweet. The latter clash, the winner between the Razorbacks and Aggies receives a major boost in the SEC West chase to keep pace with Alabama.
The biggest game from a ranking standpoint takes place in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where No. 5 Clemson pays a visit to No. 16 Wake Forest. This sets up as a significant matchup in the ACC Atlantic race with the winner holding a critical tiebreaker advantage. The Demon Deacons won the division last year but lost in the regular season to the Tigers.
Also worth noting outside of the games involving ranked opponents, No. 2 Ohio State gets a visit from Wisconsin, No. 6 Oklahoma hosts Kansas State and No. 7 Southern California faces a tricky test to Oregon State.
The battle of the basketball schools between Duke and Kansas will end just as the Jayhawks basketball season did last season… with a victory. Kansas has to be the most surprising team in America, and they have the ability to fight through adversity as they have been down double digits in the last two games and have come back to win.
Whether this is sustainable is another issue. After the game against the Blue Devils, their October looks like this: home games against Iowa State and TCU and road games against Oklahoma and Baylor and which could easily send them to a winless month.
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No. 7 Southern California is riding high, with QB Caleb Williams leading a top-10 scoring attack that has helped reinvigorate the program. But the defense has been nothing to write home about so far, sitting 82nd in the country in yards allowed per game. That group may struggle going against an Oregon State offense that can score in bunches. The 3-0 Beavers will have the home crowd behind them and will be armed with the confidence they gained from last year’s beatdown of USC in Los Angeles. I think they find a way to win a shootout to hand USC its first loss under Lincoln Riley.
Oregon State beats Caleb Williams and Southern California to earn a spot in the Top 25 and completely shake up the race in the Pac-12. While USC has taken on front runner status with Utah and Oregon already holding a loss, a loss on Saturday would leave OSU in position to finish in the top two and play for a New Year’s Six bowl. The Beavers could end up being one of the surprise teams of the season.
Iowa has scored 41 points in three games – almost half less than the next-lowest scoring team in the Big Ten. Rutgers has scored 38 points in its two games against FCS competition. So when these two teams meet Saturday, don’t expect a lot of scoring. In fact, don’t be surprised if there’s a repeat of the infamous 2014 game between Virginia Tech and Wake Forest that ended with a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation. The more likely outcome, however, is that the Hawkeyes find the end zone (gasp) at least once and eke out a close victory.
Kansas is hosting Duke Saturday. Phog Allen Fieldhouse will be absolutely lit as two of the nation’s most storied powers square off in a top-five showdown for the ages and … What’s that? It’s not a basketball game? Oh.
OK, all jokes aside, what these two non-traditional football programs have accomplished so far on the gridiron should absolutely be taken seriously. First and foremost, both are 3-0, something that hasn’t been true for KU since 2009 and for the Blue Devils since 2018.
The Jayhawks have two solid road victories in hand, including a conference win at West Virginia and an even more convincing triumph at future Big 12 foe Houston. Naturally, this has supporters of a certain school from a neighboring state wondering aloud if Jayhawks’ coach Lance Leipold might be interested in another gig after less than two years in Lawrence.
Duke’s win at Northwestern might not have as much long-term value, but the Blue Devils’ Week 1 blanking of Temple was a good tone setter for the Mike Elko era.
So even though the ball isn’t round and the game will be on turf rather than hardwood, we feel comfortable nominating it as your sneaky-good game of the week. How will it go? We’ll take the host Jayhawks in a close one, but FS1 should be worth a few check-ins during the noon ET television window.
Do you trust Texas? I don’t. Too much scar tissue. Too little evidence that things have actually turned around under Steve Sarkisian. The Longhorns have played all three games so far at home, which could be providing a false sense of security about their level of play. Now they have to go on the road and play a Texas Tech team that notched a nice win over Houston a couple of weeks ago and is averaging 475 yards of offense. That’s not great news for a Texas’ defense that still seems a bit like a work in progress. The Longhorns may get starting quarterback Quinn Ewers back, which would undoubtedly jolt their passing game. But the environment at Texas Tech may be a bit too much of a shock to the system after starting the season in such a friendly environment. The tortillas will be flying in Lubbock as the Red Raiders have a big win.