College football’s fourth weekend of action is highlighted by a huge battle in the ACC Coastal Division, an intriguing showdown between Arizona and Oregon in the Pac-12 and Michigan’s trip to Notre Dame in a rare night game in South Bend. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.
No. 37 Baylor at No. 60 UL Monroe
After splitting two overtime decisions against SEC West foes in consecutive weeks — a win at Arkansas and a loss at Auburn — UL Monroe returns home to host Baylor on national television. The Warhawks have been a popular upset pick, but Baylor is also eager to prove itself in the first season post-RG3.
No. 121 Florida Atlantic at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season.
No. 2 LSU at No. 47 Auburn
The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago.
No. 24 Arizona at No. 3 Oregon
The Rich Rodriguez era is off to a great start in Tucson. The Wildcats are 3–0 and playing an exciting brand of football. Now the real fun begins: A trip to Eugene to face an Oregon team with legitimate national title hopes.
No. 22 Kansas State at No. 4 Oklahoma
It’s rare when a 10-win college football team gets outgained by 450 yards in one of its losses. That’s what happened when Kansas State, 7–0 at the time, hosted Oklahoma last October: The Sooners outgained the Cats 690-to-240 en route to a 58–17 win. It won’t be quite as bad this time around.
No. 108 UAB at No. 5 Ohio State
UAB’s tough road trip began with a trip to South Carolina (and a 49–6 loss) and will end in Columbus vs. the Buckeyes. Expect another productive game from sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
Ohio State 44-3
No. 53 Vanderbilt at No. 6 Georgia
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will be making his first start (we think) against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge.
No. 14 Clemson at No. 7 Florida State
The schedule has been ridiculously easy, but perhaps no team in the history of college football has been as statistically dominant as Florida State three games into the season. The Seminoles have defeated their three opponents — Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest — by a combined score of 176–3 and have outgained the opposition by an average of 440.4 yards per game.
Florida State 34-24
No. 83 Maryland at No. 9 West Virginia
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown for 734 yards in two games. Maryland, as a team, has 775 yards in three games.
West Virginia 41-10
No. 78 Kentucky at No. 10 Florida
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7.
No. 43 California at No. 12 USC
This game features some of the elite skill-position players in the nation — especially at wide receiver — but neither team has played well defensively this season.
No. 26 Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina
It’s the Battle of Columbia as Missouri and South Carolina meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. It’s also the battle of the injured quarterbacks. Both Connor Shaw and James Franklin are expected to start. The question is: Can they finish the game?
South Carolina 21-17
No. 16 Michigan at No. 15 Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has a reputation as one of the finest offensive coaches in college football, but his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting it done this season on defense. The Irish manhandled Michigan State 20–3 in East Lansing Saturday night and have now allowed a total of 30 points in three games.
Notre Dame 24-21
No. 55 Virginia at No. 17 TCU
Virginia gave up 461 yards rushing last week in a 56–20 loss to Georgia Tech. TCU has given up a total of 450 yards in two games.
No. 18 Louisville at No. 96 FIU
The Cards are eager for revenge after losing last September to FIU at home. They should get it. The Golden Panthers have been a disappointment this season.
No. 110 Eastern Michigan at No. 19 Michigan State
The Le’Veon Bell for Heisman talk has cooled over the last few weeks. After bruising his way to 210 yards vs. Boise State in the opener, Bell has a total of 147 yards in the last two games.
Michigan State 38-10
No. 42 Oregon State at No. 20 UCLA
UCLA’s hot start doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention on the national scene. The Bruins, 3–0 under new coach Jim Mora, are averaging 40.7 points and 622.0 yards per game. And those numbers aren’t simply a product of a soft schedule; the Bruins rolled up 653 yards — including 300-plus through the air and on the ground — in a Week 2 win over Nebraska.
Idaho State at No. 23 Nebraska
Idaho State has got to be the first team ever to play Black Hills State and Nebraska in consecutive games. (In case you are wondering, Idaho State beat Black Hills State 38–5. And in case you were wondering, Black Hills State is in Spearfish, South Dakota).
No. 119 South Alabama at No. 28 Mississippi State
Mississippi State is after its first 4–0 start since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
Mississippi State 42-10
No. 29 Rutgers at No. 52 Arkansas
Rutgers isn’t Alabama — which shut out Arkansas 52–0 last week —but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13).
No. 61 Miami (Fla.) at No. 30 Georgia Tech
Kansas State rushed for 288 vs. the Canes in a 52–13 win two weeks ago. That’s a troubling number for a Miami team that is preparing to face Georgia Tech’s option attack.
Georgia Tech 37-24
South Carolina State at No. 31 Texas A&M
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He’s good.
Texas A&M 41-0
No. 32 South Florida at No. 93 Ball State
Ball State is 2–1 with wins over Eastern Michigan and Indiana sandwiched around a 52–27 loss at Clemson. The Cardinals have been able to move the ball in every game; they had 380 yards (including 252 on the ground) vs. Clemson and 440 yards (200-plus through the air and on the ground) vs. Indiana. This is a solid team that is good enough to beat South Florida straight up.
Ball State 34-31
No. 33 Nevada at No. 107 Hawaii
Nevada features two of the most explosive playmakers in college football. Tailback Stefphon Jefferson ranks second nationally in rushing (176.3 ypg), and quarterback Cody Fajardo is eighth in total offense (362.3 ypg).
No. 120 Akron at No. 34 Tennessee
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.
South Dakota at No. 35 Northwestern
After opening the season with wins over three AQ conference teams, Northwestern dips down into the FCS ranks for what should bean easy win.
No. 91 Bowling Green at No. 36 Virginia Tech
The Hokies were on the wrong end of one of the most surprising scores of the season: Pittsburgh 35, Virginia Tech 17. Frank Beamer’s club should get back in the win column this week, but the Hokies will have issues the rest of the season unless some playmakers emerge on offense to complement quarterback Logan Thomas.
Virginia Tech 34-13
No. 38 Utah at No. 50 Arizona State
For the third straight week, Arizona State will be facing a backup quarterback. Nathan Scheelhaase (Illinois) and James Franklin (Missouri) were hurt, and Utah’s Jordan Wynn retired from football due to injury after a Week 2 loss to Utah State.
Arizona State 27-17
Norfolk State at No. 40 Ohio
Ohio survived a scare last week but held on for a 27–24 win at Marshall, keeping its dream of a perfect season alive. There is no significant danger of losing this weekend.
The Citadel at No. 41 NC State
This might not be as easy as some Wolfpack fans would like. The Citadel is 3–0 highlighted by a 52–28 win over Appalachian State last week. This is a solid FCS club.
NC State 30-17
No. 86 UTEP at No. 46 Wisconsin
UTEP is playing an AQ conference team for the third time in four weeks. Wisconsin isn’t nearly as formidable as we thought before the season started, but it’s still a very tall order for the Miners to win in Madison.
No. 48 Utah State at No. 109 Colorado State
Utah State is a missed 37-yard field goal away from being 3–0 with wins over Utah and Wisconsin. Still, this is a very good team that will challenge Louisiana Tech for supremacy in the WAC.
Utah State 30-7
No. 56 Louisiana Tech at No. 54 Illinois
Louisiana Tech has scored exactly 56 points in its first two games and is ranked No. 56 in the Athlon Sports 124. Very interesting.
Louisiana Tech 31-23
No. 100 Army at No. 57 Wake Forest
Army is up to its old tricks: The Black Knights rank second in the nation in rushing (384.0 ypg) and No. 120 in passing (29.0 ypg). Wake must rebound after a humbling 52–0 loss at Florida State last weekend.
Wake Forest 30-10
No. 68 East Carolina at No. 58 North Carolina
North Carolina came extremely close to completing one of the great comebacks in college football history last weekend. The Tar Heels cut a 36–7 halftime deficit to 39–34 with 4:23 remaining. Louisville fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but North Carolina was unable to punch the ball in the end zone in the final minute. It will be interesting to see how this team responds.
North Carolina 27-10
No. 111 Central Michigan at No. 59 Iowa
Iowa is the only team in the nation that has not converted an extra point vs. another FBS opponent this season. That better not be the case after this week’s game vs. Central Michigan.
No. 84 Temple at No. 62 Penn State
Penn State struggled to beat Temple in Philadelphia last year, escaping with a 14–10 victory at Lincoln Financial Field. And that Nittany Lion team had far more talent than the 2012 version. But this game is at home, and I’d expect Penn State — with a win under its belt — to play well.
Penn State 24-13
No. 63 Connecticut at No. 79 Western Michigan
These two teams played one of the most exciting fourth quarters of the 2011 season. Western Michigan outscored UConn 21–14 in the final 15 minutes en route to a 38–31 win in West Hartford. The two quarterbacks, Johnny McEntree and Alex Carder, combined to throw for 779 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. Don’t expect as many fireworks this time around.
No. 65 Syracuse at No. 64 Minnesota
Syracuse is 1–2 and looked much better in its two losses (by one to Northwestern and 13 to USC) than its win (by 11 over Stony Brook). Ryan Nassib has been terrific for the Orange, averaging 379.7 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Syracuse ranked 90th in the nation in total offense last year with 348.2 yards per game. The Orange rank 15th through three games this season with 533.3 per game. This could be a shootout. Take the Orange at the other dome.
Coastal Carolina at No. 66 Toledo
Toledo is off to a solid start under first-year coach Matt Campbell. The Rockets aren’t quite as explosive on offense as a year ago, but they are 2–1 with the only loss coming in overtime at Arizona.
Gardner-Webb at No. 69 Pittsburgh
College football can be tough to figure out. The same Pittsburgh team that lost by 14 points at home to Youngstown State beat Virginia Tech by 18 points. How does that happen?
No. 82 Southern Miss at No. 70 Western Kentucky
The challenge for Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart this week — other than scoring more points than Southern Miss — is to keep his team grounded. The Hilltoppers have been the talk of the state after beating Kentucky in overtime in Lexington last week. If the Toppers can play with focus, they should pick up win No. 3.
Western Kentucky 27-23
No. 122 Memphis at No. 71 Duke
Duke should be halfway to bowl-eligibility at about 9 p.m. on Saturday night. Getting three more wins, however, will be a challenge for a program that hasn’t played in the postseason since 1995.
No. 73 Fresno State at No. 72 Tulsa
Fresno State delivered one of the epic beatings in recent memory last weekend. The Bulldogs led Colorado 35–0 after one quarter and 55–7 at the half on their way to a 69–14 win. Colorado is bad (obviously), but I think Fresno State is better than we think.
Fresno State 30-28
Alcorn State at No. 75 Arkansas State
Alcorn State has scored a total of nine points in its last two games, losses at James Madison and vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Braves will need to score about 40 to beat Arkansas State.
Arkansas State 40-3
No. 77 Ole Miss at No. 114 Tulane
Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Note to Hugh Freeze: Give Scott the ball.
Ole Miss 31-10
No. 112 Colorado at No. 80 Washington State
There is still a lot of football to be played, but Colorado is in the midst of an historically bad season. The Buffs are 0–3 with losses to Colorado State (which lost to an FCS team the next week), Sacramento State and Fresno State. And while there’s no shame in losing to Fresno State, there is plenty of shame in being down 35–0 at the end of one quarter.
Washington State 41-10
No. 90 Kansas at No. 81 Northern Illinois
Kansas is a 9-point underdog to a team from the MAC. That tells you all you need to know about how far this program has fallen in recent years. Just five years ago, the Jayhawks capped a 12–1 season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois 31-30
No. 85 San Jose State at No. 88 San Diego State
San Jose State is very quietly having a solid season. The Spartans are 2–1, and the only loss came by three points at Stanford. This would be a huge win for Mike MacIntyre’s club.
San Jose State 30-27
VMI at No. 87 Navy
Navy should break into the win column this week, but the Midshipmen have not looked very good this year. The schedule has been relatively difficult — Notre Dame in Ireland and at Penn State — but they are averaging only 366.0 yards per game and have scored a total of 17 points.
No. 89 Rice at No. 94 Marshall
Rice is scoring some points this year — the Owls have averaged 28.7 against UCLA, Kansas and Louisiana Tech — but is also having trouble stopping the opposition. The Owls rank 117th in total defense and 118th in scoring defense.
No. 92 Air Force at No. 116 UNLV
Air Force leads the nation in rushing, averaging 387.0 yards in its two games, a win over Idaho State and a six-point loss at Michigan. The Falcons could run for 500 yards vs. UNLV.
Air Force 38-17
No 97 Troy at No. 102 North Texas
Troy rolled up 572 yards of offense against Mississippi State in a 30–24 loss last week. To put that in perspective, Auburn had 216 total yards the week before vs. MSU.
Stephen F. Austin at No. 99 Texas State
Texas State dips into the FCS ranks after splitting its first two games against in-state foes. The Bobcats stunned Houston in the opener before falling at Texas Tech 58–10.
Texas State 31-13
No. 123 UMass at No. 104 Miami (Ohio)
UMass’ first season in the FBS isn’t going too well. The Minutemen aren’t quite giving up a point per minute, but it’s close (48.3 ppg). Miami quarterback Zac Dysert should have a productive game.
Miami (Ohio) 37-10
No. 105 Wyoming at No. 124 Idaho
Wyoming’s season has taken several disappointing turns. After losing the opener at Texas (no shame), the Cowboys have lost consecutive games at home to Toledo and Cal Poly.
No. 117 New Mexico at No. 113 New Mexico State
New Mexico State has won three straight in the Battle for the Land of Enchantment. Neither team is very good, but the Aggies are not quite as bad.
New Mexico State 34-20
Last week: 58–9
By Mitch Light