College football games to look forward to in Week 4
Week 3 of the college football season is in the books and it was a pretty wild one. The slate didn't look all that promising before the weekend, but we saw legitimate scares put into the hearts of the Florida State Seminoles, Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs. We also saw a statement win by the Florida Gators, who beat up on the Tennessee Volunteers. The night then ended with an overtime win for Coach Prime and the Colorado Buffaloes, who were able to squeak by the rival Colorado State Rams. This week, we should be in for a lot more drama. I know a lot of people say that they're going to glue themselves to the couch for a day full of football. But you're actually going to want to buy some super glue and do it this week. This is one of the most loaded college football slates in recent memory. Keep reading to find out why.
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Week 4 Games of the Week
This was supposed to be the game that decided the top spot in the ACC. But Clemson’s 28-7 loss to Duke in Week 1 feels like it changed things. The Tigers are no longer ranked, and people are down on the group. But Clemson has won its last two games by a total of 83 points. The Tigers have also scored 114 points over the last two games, showing that they might be figuring things out in new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley’s system. With that in mind, this Clemson team isn’t dead yet. And winning in Death Valley is one of the most difficult tasks in sports, so the Seminoles will have their work cut out for them. Florida State hasn’t earned a road win over Clemson since 2013, and the Seminoles are facing some question marks after a sloppy win over Boston College last week. Will Jordan Travis and Co. show up the way they did against LSU? Or was last week’s disjointed effort a sign of things to come? One thing working in Florida State’s favor is that the team is 4-0 straight-up and 3-1 against the spread as a road favorite under Mike Norvell. The Seminoles also have the pass rushers required to take advantage of a weak Tigers offensive line, and Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik isn’t great under pressure.
This game was setting up to be the ultimate litmus test for Coach Prime’s team, as there’d be nothing left to say if the Buffaloes were able to find a way to hang around with the Ducks in Eugene. But Colorado star Travis Hunter is out for three weeks after the dirty hit he took in last week’s overtime win over Colorado State. That’s going to be a massive blow to the Buffaloes, as Hunter is a high-level player on both sides of the ball. They’ll especially miss him on defense, where Colorado really could have used his ball hawking ability against an elite Oregon passing game. Without him, Bo Nix will likely pick apart the Buffaloes secondary. But I have been wrong about Colorado already this season, and I’ll surely be wrong about the team again. Maybe the Buffaloes will find a way to avoid a blowout loss in this spot. However, Oregon is 11-3 ATS as a favorite under head coach Dan Lanning. The team is also 7-1 ATS at home since he became the coach. And Lanning is a defensive-minded coach, so he’ll take pride in finding a way to shut down Shedeur Sanders for the first time all year.
The outcome of this game could come down to the availability of Utah star quarterback Cameron Rising. The senior is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season. There was some optimism that Rising would be available for the opener against Florida, but we still haven’t seen him. If Rising can go, Utah would love its chances of beating this UCLA team. The Utes have a very good defense and are especially strong in the secondary. They’re also damn near unbeatable when playing at Rice-Eccles Stadium. But this game will be a lot harder for Utah to win if it’s in the hands of backup quarterback Nate Johnson. Johnson has filled in admirably early in the season, as he has thrown for 281 yards with a touchdown and no picks in what has really been a little over a game’s worth of action. Johnson wrestled the starting job way from Bryson Barnes, with his ability to use his legs being a big reason why. Johnson has run for 148 yards and three touchdowns already this season, and the Utes are going to dial up plenty of designed runs for him if he ends up starting this game. But Johnson really isn’t all that reliable as a thrower. So, if this game turns into a shootout, UCLA just might steal a road win. Chip Kelly’s offense has turned things up a notch since turning to star freshman Dante Moore under center. And UCLA just so happened to deal Utah one of its two Pac-12 losses last year, so the Bruins know they can beat the Utes if they play a solid game.
Alabama is coming off one of the worst performances in the program’s recent history. The Tide were 34.5-point favorites in a road game against South Florida, but they were only able to come away with a 17-3 victory in that game. Alabama’s quarterback situation also proved to be even messier than we originally thought, as the team turned to Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson in that one. Neither one of the two quarterbacks played at an even competent level, so Nick Saban made the decision to go back to Jalen Milroe. At least the Tide know that Milroe has dynamic running ability. If none of his quarterbacks are going to be able to throw the ball, he might as well utilize Milroe’s athleticism. But overall, Alabama’s offense looks like a disaster, and the offensive line play has been one of the main culprits. That’s the reason this line has dropped nearly a full touchdown. Ole Miss has the offense required to give Alabama some trouble. So, if the Crimson Tide don’t find a way to start scoring some points, Lane Kiffin just might leave Tuscaloosa with a victory. And that would destroy Saban, especially with Kiffin publicly stating that he believes the legendary head coach secretly demoted defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
In what might be a preview of the Pac-12 championship from 2024 to the end of eternity, the Cougars host the Beavers in a battle between two teams that are a lot better than the average fan thinks they are. Oregon State had already started to make some noise in the conference before this season, with Jonathan Smith leading the Beavers to a 10-win season in 2022. But Washington State is somewhat new to the party. The Cougars went 7-6 in Jake Dickert’s second year with the program, but they look like they have taken another leap in 2023. Washington State beat a rock-solid Wisconsin program in Week 2, and that win came after a complete domination of a Colorado State team that put up a fight against Colorado last week. The Cougars are going to have a chance to win a lot of games with Cameron Ward playing quarterback. He has thrown for 986 yards with nine touchdowns and no picks this season, and he has also rushed for 95 yards and two scores. There aren’t many quarterbacks that impact the game quite like him, and that’s where Oregon State is going to need to figure things out here. Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei is coming off a rough performance against San Diego State last week, as he completed only 46.7% of his passes and threw two picks in that one. That type of performance isn’t going to cut it in Pullman this weekend. But Oregon State is 10-2 ATS as a favorite since the start of last season. The Beavers are also 10-1 ATS after a win by 17 or more points in that time. And overall, there just aren’t many coaches that can be relied on quite like Smith. His Beavers are 9-3 both SU and ATS in games with lines of +3 to -3 since he took over, showing he generally presses the right buttons in big games.
There are a lot of good games this week, but it’s hard to pick a better one than this one. This game legitimately feels like it could determine who gets a spot in the College Football Playoff. If Ohio State doesn’t find a way to win here, it’s going to be very hard for the Buckeyes to play their way in. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish aren’t part of a conference still, so they need to win games like these in order to boost their resume enough to make up for the fact that they don’t play in a conference championship game. Fortunately for Notre Dame, it does genuinely feel like the team is ready to take a game like this. Quarterback Sam Hartman has this Fighting Irish offense clicking on all cylinders, as he has thrown for 1,061 yards with 13 touchdowns and no picks this year. Notre Dame has been lacking this type of passing game for quite some time now. And when you combine the Irish’s ability to throw with what head coach Marcus Freeman has built on the other side of the ball, not many teams are as dangerous as Notre Dame. Speaking of Freeman, he just so happens to be getting Ohio State in a year in which the Buckeyes don’t have a lot of stability under center. Quarterback Kyle McCord is beginning to settle in and look sharp as the replacement for Houston Texans quarterback CJ Stroud. But McCord struggled in a road game against Indiana in Week 1, and he is very unproven right now. So, it’s a big leap of faith to say that he’s ready to go into South Bend and lead the Buckeyes to a win like this. But you can never count out a Ryan Day-led offense. The Buckeyes are 16-1 SU and 10-7 ATS as road favorites under Day, so it’s possible that the moment won’t be too big for them.
Penn State is going to have an early opportunity to show the world that quarterback Drew Allar and the nation’s 14th-ranked scoring offense are legit. Iowa is coming to town and it’s bringing a defense that is allowing only 12.3 points per game this season. And if a small sample size is a concern for you, the Hawkeyes gave up only 14.4 points per game a year ago. That was good for the nation’s sixth-best scoring defense last year. The reality is that Kirk Ferentz’s teams are always reliable on that side of the ball. So, the Hawkeyes are going to be able to ask a lot of questions of the Nittany Lions offense. The question is whether Iowa has enough juice offensively to stay in this game. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz ripped into the people that have been making fun of the new contract stipulation that calls for the Hawkeyes to average at least 25.0 points per game this season. He believes that people should get off his back after a 41-point performance against Western Michigan last week. But scoring 41 points against a MAC program is nothing like doing it against an elite Big Ten team. So, how will quarterback Cade McNamara and this Iowa offense look against Penn State? I’d personally guess that it won’t be pretty. But this does feel like a very big spread for a team that plays at such a high level defensively. And Iowa is 34-16-1 ATS in games with totals of 42 or less under Ferentz. The Hawkeyes are also 3-1 ATS as road underdogs of 14.5 to 21 points. And the reason for that is that it’s hard to blow teams out in low-scoring games.
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