We’ve had a pretty sedate first month of the season. LSU-Texas, and I guess ‘Barn-Ducks, have been the only ones of national importance (though the CyHawk game and the annual UF-UK mudwrestle last week were hilariously bad and competitive).
But, this week, this week promises to be different. There are some outstanding games (on paper, at least) that should shape the season going forward.
First, here’s your schedule. All times Eastern.
Week 4 Schedule
|Southern Mississippi at #2 Alabama||12:00 PM||ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|#4 LSU at Vanderbilt||12:00 PM||SEC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|Tennessee at #9 Florida||12:00 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|#11 Michigan at #13 Wisconsin||12:00 PM||FOX||FoxSportsGo.com|
|#23 California at Ole Miss||12:00 PM||ESPNU||WatchESPN.com|
|Western Michigan at Syracuse||12:00 PM||ACC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|Elon at Wake Forest||12:00 PM||ACCNX||WatchESPN.com|
|Boston College at Rutgers||12:00 PM||BTN||FoxSportsGo.com|
|UL Monroe at Iowa State||12:00 PM||FS1||FoxSportsGo.com|
|UConn at Indiana||12:00 PM||BTN||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Michigan State at Northwestern||12:00 PM||ABC||WatchESPN.com|
|Morgan State at Army||12:00 PM||CBSSN||CBSSports.com|
|Coastal Carolina at UMass||1:00 PM||NESN||NESNGo.com|
|Louisiana at Ohio||2:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|Troy at Akron||3:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|Central Connecticut at Eastern Michigan||3:00 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Miami (OH) at #6 Ohio State||3:30 PM||BTN||FoxSportsGo.com|
|#8 Auburn at #17 Texas A&M||3:30 PM||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|#15 UCF at Pittsburgh||3:30 PM||ABC/ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|#22 Washington at BYU||3:30 PM||ABC/ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|SMU at #25 TCU||3:30 PM||FS1||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Temple at Buffalo||3:30 PM||ESPNU||WatchESPN.com|
|Bowling Green at Kent State||3:30 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Wyoming at Tulsa||3:30 PM||CBSSN||CBSSports.com|
|South Alabama at UAB||3:30 PM||NFL||None|
|Louisville at Florida State||3:30 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|Appalachian State at North Carolina||3:30 PM||ACCNX||WatchESPN.com|
|Central Michigan at Miami||4:00 PM||ACC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|Kentucky at Mississippi State||4:00 PM||SEC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|South Carolina at Missouri||4:00 PM||SEC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|West Virginia at Kansas||4:30 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|New Mexico State at New Mexico||4:30 PM||AT&T Sportsnet||None|
|Hampton at Liberty||6:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|William & Mary at East Carolina||6:00 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Wagner at Florida Atlantic||6:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|#16 Oregon at Stanford||7:00 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|Old Dominion at #21 Virginia||7:00 PM||ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|Southern Illinois at Arkansas State||7:00 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Georgia State at Texas State||7:00 PM||ESPN+||ESPN+|
|Baylor at Rice||7:00 PM||CBSSN||CBSSports.com|
|Ball State at NC State||7:00 PM||ESPNU||WatchESPN.com|
|Charlotte at #1 Clemson||7:30 PM||ACC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|Oklahoma State at #12 Texas||7:30 PM||ABC||WatchESPN.com|
|San Jose State at Arkansas||7:30 PM||SEC Network||WatchESPN.com|
|UTSA at North Texas||7:30 PM||None|
|#7 Notre Dame at #3 Georgia||8:00 PM||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Nevada at UTEP||8:00 PM||ESPN3||WatchESPN.com|
|Nebraska at Illinois||8:00 PM||BTN||FoxSportsGo.com|
|Colorado at #24 Arizona State||10:00 PM||Pac-12 Networks||Pac-12.com|
|Sacramento State at Fresno State||10:00 PM||None|
|Toledo at Colorado State||10:15 PM||ESPN2||WatchESPN.com|
|UCLA at #19 Washington State||10:30 PM||ESPN||WatchESPN.com|
|Utah State at San Diego State||10:30 PM||CBSSN||CBSSports.com|
|Central Arkansas at Hawai'i||11:59 PM||Spectrum Sports|
No. 2 Alabama (-39) vs. Southern Miss: The secondary coaches seem to have settled on the six best, with Jobe the first man off the bench. But, there are a lot more questions to answer in the front seven given the Tide’s youth, inexperience, and injuries. There’s also that little matter of an interior OL that must get ironed out soon. SoMiss is better than this point spread. And they live for this game.
No. 8 Utah at USC (+4.5): This one is expected to be close for a reason. The Utes are a vastly different team on the road, and they have traditionally struggled against the speed of the Trojans in LA. Last week, Slovis and Co. got caught looking ahead in their road trip to BYU...and they lost. So, a fundamentally sound defense, stout running game, and nibbling passing game can still negate their talent and speed (and new air raid offense). Utah is just another type of team that can do it too. That said, and it bears repeating, Utah on the road is always a thorny prospect.
No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin (-3.5): If too much passing has you down, then this is your throwback game. Should be a physical, nasty affair with tons of erotic punting and baffling coaching decisions, as required by Big 10 bylaws. One team can’t throw, the other doesn’t know how, and both teams are going to halfback dive for 3 tasteful yards a carry for a full sixty minutes. Toss in the 11:00 Central kick, Shea Patterson the human turnover machine, and we’re gonna’ party like it’s 1989, baby.
No. 15 A&M (-3.5) vs. No. 10 Auburn: This has been a close series since the Aggies joined the SEC. Given the two teams’ struggles in passing, Auburn’s running game issues, on top of a 47% freshman starter under center, the Aggies’ propensity to play uneven ball, and a very good ‘Barn defense, and it is easy to see another close one. The circular firing squad in the West begins.
One of these SEC games should turn out to be compelling, I just can’t tell you which: Kentucky at Mississippi State (-6.5) is going to have the defense and running game you crave, while Mizzou vs. South Carolina (+9.5) should see an excellent shootout of sorts between Kelly Bryant and Ryan Hiliniski. For now my money is on the latter, but both of these could turn out to be must-watch affairs.
Utah State at San Diego State (+4.5): Two of the top four in the Mountain West go head to head in the nightcap. The gratuitous manball of the Aztecs vs. the aerial attack of the Aggies is can’t-miss television. This is going to be a really fun game to put a bow on a big Saturday.
Be Ready To Grab The Remote:
No. 21 Cal at Ole Miss (-3.5): Cal is such a pain in the butt to play — they’ll batter, beat you down, play defense, and wait for mistakes. Ole Miss has the mental toughness of chewing gum left on the dashboard in July and a coaching staff that still hasn’t gelled. The wrong team is probably favored here...if it were a neutral field. The weather and time zone could inure to the Rebels advantage. It’ll be exceptionally nasty weather for the Bay Area Bears...and a 9:00 a.m. kick
Colorado at No. 24 Arizona State (-8.5): Don’t look now but the Sun Devils are ranked. But, theirs is an illusory undefeated record. They were pressed early by Kent State, and Michigan State had their way with the secondary. Colorado has one of the best WR corps in the game, and if anyone can put points on ASU through the air, this is probably one of the teams to do it. Should be a one-score game, either way. Winner becomes a relevant player in the South race with USC/Utah. Is it too soon for a must-win?
No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 3 Georgia (-14): Don’t let this “matchup of Top 10 teams” fool you. There are Top 10s and then there are Top 10s. Does anyone believe that ND is a top 10 team as of this week? Georgia should have their way at home with the Golden Domers. Butttttttt, be ready to reach for the remote, if they start to Kirby this thing all up.
Oklahoma State at No. 13 Texas (-6.5): The Longhorns’ secondary is just gross, and they’ve got a monstrously large, athletic bunch coming into DKR this weekend. The Pokes are flying under the radar too, which is normally when they do their best work. OSU’s habit of mucking around early may cost them though; the ‘Horns offense should be able to score pretty easily here. Could turn into an old-fashioned B12 shootout; be ready to move into the Must Watch category.
Oregon (-10.5) at Stanford: Some bad blood awaits us in the North, and after last year’s epic collapse, where the Trees outscored the Ducks 31-7 in the second half/OT to claim a victory, it is also spiced with the element of revenge. This should not be a close game. Should. But Mario Cristobal just can’t hang on to big leads. He better against this bad ‘Furd team.
No. 16 UCF -11.5 at Pitt. Putting the Knights on upset alert here. They finally leave Orlando, riding high after putting a whooping on the Trees. Pitt is the most maddening team in the country; they can compete with just about everyone outside of the Top 10. And they can spring the upset on more talented, faster opponents. Call it intuition, but this could be a good one, esp. if the Panthers have their way slowing the game down and running the ball.
Northwestern (+9.5) vs. Michigan State. Northwestern has won 5 of the last 7 in this close series. And, like Cal, this is one of the most frustrating teams to play in the country — for largely the same reasons. Last week, Sparty lost their patience with a defense that made them earn their scores, and they paid for it. Northwestern did lose to ‘Furd on the road to open the season, but these are ‘cats of a different stripe at home. jNW has a habit of springing these upsets at home too. Could turn out to be a decent watch in the second half. That, or Michigan State shows up and takes care of its business like a respectable team with January bowl aspirations.
This Week’s Unwatchable Filth
Tennessee at No. 9 Florida (-14) — Oh, how the mighty have fallen. For the better part of 15 years, this one determined who would win the East. Then...stuff happened, and the last 15 years has seen a proud divisional rivalry relegated to a one-sided smearing — 13 and 1 Gators since 2005, with 10 of those swinging to UF by more than a touchdown
What happened? In a word, coaching.
We went from Spurrier and Meyer to...Muschamp, McElwain, and Mullen in the Swamp. The Power T boys dropped Phil Fulmer, lost golden boy Lane Kiffin, and replaced them in ever-declining quality with the likes of Derek Dooley, Butch Jones, and Jeremy Pruitt.
And this week’s game will pull the culmination of that foul cake out of the oven. Tennessee is a bad 1-2 team, with losses to (directional) Georgia and BYU...at home. Florida is a shaky 3-0, but now is down its best running back. top wideout, and starting quarterback — on an offense that couldn’t run to begin with. Feleipe Franks wasn’t god’s gift, but he was playing for two reasons: Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. They aren’t SEC starters, not yet. And passing was the lone bright spot for UF on an offense that hadn’t yet fully arrived. Trask’s first start? He gets to face a Tennessee defense that’s reeling, hurting, embarrassed — and second in the SEC in defending the pass.
The Vols’ offense isn’t better: buried at 12th in passing and middle of the pack in rushing. I wouldn’t expect many points here, even if everyone were healthy. Both teams give up under 23 PPG, with the Gators surrendering just 13.7. The line play is night and day, too. The Vols won’t get much pressure — they have just 6 sacks on the season, while the Gators have already have 16. But nor do the Vols surrender a lot of sacks. The Gator’s offensive line however does surrender more pressure and hasn’t been able to run the ball. The Gators are also near the bottom in penalties. The other bright spot for the Vols, in what should a low-scoring and sloppy effort, is special teams, where they average 50 yards a punt and are a perfect 8-for-8 in FGs. Florida...not so much. To call them average is about right. Then there’s also that “big game Mullen” sharting we’ve come to know and love.
If Tennessee were ever going to reverse their fortunes, this is the one to do it. But, with so many injuries, two bad offenses, one bad offensive line, one bad defensive line, some spotty coaching, and one iffy special teams unit, it won’t be as entertaining as a close final score would suggest. And it won’t be a fun watch, even for dye-hards of the two programs.