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Week 4 College Football Picks: Challenge Athlon Sports Experts


The college football season is just getting interesting, and the competition off the field is nearly as heated as the competition on game day.

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Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:

College Football Podcast: Week 3 Recap and Analysis

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Saturday’s Games

Georgia Tech at Duke

The ACC opener finds both teams needing to reboot themselves on offense after tough losses last week. The two teams went a combined 6-of-32 on third downs. The Yellow Jackets know their offensive identity while the Blue Devils are still trying to find their way with Thomas Sirk at quarterback. Tech has won 10 of the last 11.

Fox’s prediction: Georgia Tech 35–21

UCF at South Carolina

One team here will get a win it sorely needs after both programs have fallen apart in the early going. UCF is 0–3 with home losses to Furman and FIU. South Carolina is 1–2 with losses to Kentucky and Georgia. UCF’s putrid offense (2.5 yards per carry, 4.9 yards per pass attempt) should be a welcome sight for South Carolina’s tepid defense.

Fox’s prediction: South Carolina 31–14

LSU at Syracuse

Syracuse has allowed 140 rushing yards all season … because the Orange have faced Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan. Leonard Fournette might double that figure.

Fox’s prediction: LSU 42–10

Texas A&M at Arkansas

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury already picked this game as a butt-kicking for his former employer Texas A&M. We’re inclined to agree after Texas Tech completed 27-of-31 passes for 315 yards against the Hogs. The Aggies' passing game is just as dangerous.

Fox’s prediction: Texas A&M 41–21

UCLA at Arizona

UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen (three interceptions vs. BYU) is dealing with adversity for the first time as college player. Good thing he has a stout run game to bail him out. We don’t have a great read on Arizona after the Wildcats have made easy work of three overmatched opponents. Their chances will improve if Scooby Wright returns healthy, but UCLA’s defense dominated this matchup last year for a 17–7 win.

Fox’s prediction: UCLA 35–27

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss

Sandwiched between the 43–37 win over Alabama and a road trip to Florida, a game against Vanderbilt should have the Rebels on let-down alert. That, and the Commodores’ improved defense, will make this game closer than it should be, but the Rebs will pull away.

Fox’s prediction: Ole Miss 31–13

USC at Arizona State

Cody Kessler and Mike Bercovici have a combined touchdown-to-interception ratio of 17-to-1. Both defenses gave up chunks of yards in the passing game in their only notable games this season, both losses (USC to Stanford, Arizona State to Texas A&M). Because of those losses, this is approaching must-win territory for both teams.

Fox’s prediction: USC 41–38

Mississippi State at Auburn

Just what Auburn’s ailing defense didn’t want to see: The top quarterback in the SEC. Perhaps Mississippi State’s inconsistent run game gives Auburn an advantageous matchup, but the Tigers have been tested by just one above-average passer this season. Dak Prescott rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns against Auburn last year but also threw two interceptions in the win.

Fox’s prediction: Mississippi State 34–27

Tennessee at Florida

The Volunteers have every reason to believe this is the year to end the losing streak to Florida, which reached 10 games with a 10–9 defeat in Knoxville last season. Tennessee has the talent advantage, and Florida under Jim McElwain doesn’t look too different from Florida under Will Muschamp so far this season.

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Fox’s prediction: Tennessee 28–20

Utah at Oregon

Oregon’s main task will be to slow down Utah running back Devontae Booker. The Ducks gave up 5.3 yards per carry in their only game against a legitimate run game (Michigan State), but they also held Booker to 65 yards on 18 carries in last year’s matchup with the Utes. The Ducks expect Vernon Adams and his finger to be healthy, but backup Jeff Lockie proved he could hold down the fort.

Prediction: Oregon 34–20

Oklahoma State at Texas

At long last, Texas has found its quarterback and playcaller. The Longhorns’ 650 total yards were the most against a Power 5 opponent since September 2012. Oklahoma State hasn’t needed to show much this season as the Cowboys cruised through a non-conference schedule of Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 33–24

BYU at Michigan

UCLA’s run game gashed BYU last week — a development perhaps more surprising than the Cougars not winning the game on their final snap. Michigan still is struggling at quarterback, but the tandem of Ty Isaac and De’Veon Smith is giving Jim Harbaugh the ground game he needs.

Fox’s prediction: Michigan 28–21

Virginia Tech at East Carolina

Maybe the Hokies aren’t doomed with Brenden Motley playing quarterback. The sophomore has completed 31-of-47 passes for 453 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers in his starts against Furman and Purdue. East Carolina isn’t an ACC-level test this season, but the Pirates won last year’s meeting 28–21.

Fox’s prediction: Virginia Tech 28–14

Central Michigan at Michigan State

Injuries are mounting for the Michigan State defense, but the Spartans should have too much trouble with the 1–2 Chippewas.

Fox’s prediction: Michigan State 41–14

Western Michigan at Ohio State

The Buckeyes need to figure out why their quarterbacks are underachieving, but their defense is dominating right now. Western Michigan might be the most talented team in the MAC, but Ohio State might be the most talented team in the country.

Fox’s prediction: Ohio State 44–20

Missouri at Kentucky

Missouri scored nine points Saturday and won. Kentucky scored nine points Saturday and lost. Oddly enough, Kentucky might have more potential to turn its offense around this week.

Fox’s prediction: Kentucky 21–14

Cal at Washington

Texas’ missed extra point allowed Cal to escape Austin despite giving up 650 yards of offense. Washington freshman quarterback Jake Browning is getting better, but he’s faced Sacramento State and Utah State the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Jared Goff will face a defense that hasn’t allowed a passing TD this season.

Fox’s prediction: Cal 44–31

TCU at Texas Tech

TCU’s status as a playoff contender may be in question. The Horned Frogs are undefeated in the standings but the injury list is taking its toll. Texas Tech should be playing with confidence after defeating Arkansas — and should be playing with an edge after losing 82–27 to TCU last year.

Fox’s prediction: Texas Tech 44–40

Rice at Baylor

Baylor hasn’t been as sharp as we’ve come to expect, even against it paper-thin schedule. Did the Bears regroup during the off week?

Fox’s prediction: Baylor 49–24

UMass at Notre Dame

With a big win over Georgia Tech last week and a road trip to Clemson next week, Notre Dame might be worth watching for a let-down. UMass, though, probably isn’t good enough to finish the job.

Fox’s prediction: Notre Dame 28–10

Last week: 14–6

Season to date: 45-15