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CFT Cheat Sheet: What to know for Week 4

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A quick primer on who, what and where to look for as we head into Week 4 of the 2019 college football season.

WEEK 4 STORYLINES

  • After a Week 3 that saw no Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchups for the first time since October of 2017, Week 4 brings three such games, with the most noteworthy being No. 7 Notre Dame — and ESPN‘s College GameDay roadshow — traveling to Athens to square off with No. 3 Georgia in a primetime non-conference affair.  The football bluebloods have faced each other just twice previously, the most recent in 2017 (one-point UGA win in South Bend) and the first coming in the Sugar Bowl following the 1980 regular season.  When it comes to this year’s playoff picture, this game is exponentially more important to Notre Dame than Georgia as the Fighting Irish, without a conference championship to pad its résumé, would have a tough row to hoe in getting in as a one-loss independent while the Bulldogs could overcome such an early-season loss by winning out the remainder of the regular season and knocking off a team like Alabama or LSU in the SEC title game.  Right now, though, the sportsbooks really like UGA as the Bulldogs are listed as anywhere from a 14- to 15-point favorite as of this posting.
  • All told, there are four games that will see two undefeated teams meet, including the one mentioned above as well as Air Force at No. 20 Boise State Friday night (I’ll address the other two further down). Additionally, there are 11 games featuring undefeateds going up against one-loss teams: No. 1 Clemson (3-0) at Charlotte (2-1); Wake Forest (3-0) at FCS Elon (2-1); Virginia (3-0) at Old Dominion (1-1); Oklahoma State (3-0) at No. 12 Texas (2-1); Utah State (1-1) at San Diego State (3-0); Cal (3-0) at Ole Miss (2-1); Colorado (2-1) at No. 24 Arizona State (3-0); No. 10 Utah (3-0) at USC (2-1); Southern Miss (2-1) at No. 2 Alabama; No. 8 Auburn (3-0) at No. 17 Texas A&M (2-1); and Appalachian State (2-0) at North Carolina (2-1).
  • Let’s get this out there right up front: in no way, shape or form is David Shaw even remotely close to sitting on a stool that’s slightly above room temperature let alone a hot seat.  That said, there has to be some level of concern in the Land of the Tree.  Coming off four straight wins to end the 2018 campaign, hopes were high that the Cardinal would again be deep in the mix in the Pac-12 South race.  A sloppy 10-point win over Northwestern in the opener caused some trepidation; two straight double-digit losses (USC, UCF) — the first time they’ve lost back-to-back games by 18-plus points since 2016 — have raised red flags all over The Farm as the Cardinal’s remaining schedule features games against five teams currently ranked in the Top 25, including No. 16 Oregon this weekend.  A loss to the Ducks would give the Cardinal a 1-3 record to start a season for the first time since 2007, and place in serious jeopardy the program’s streak of 10 straight years with eight-plus wins.
  • How has the 2019 campaign gone for Willie Taggart and his flailing Florida State football program?  Already this season, we’ve seen a bizarre hydration situation play out and a four-year-old’s parent-fueled lemonade stand creation looking to help buy out Taggart’s contract, as well as the addition of Jim Leavitt as a defensive analyst a week ago.  Related to that latter development, FSU’s defense has suffered second-half collapses all three games, two of which resulted in come-from-ahead losses and the other a one-point overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe in Tallahassee.  After halftime — ya know, when coaching adjustments are usually made — the Seminoles have been outscored 75-31; in the two losses, to Boise State and Virginia, it was 38-10.  With a home date against 2-1 Louisville on tap this weekend, this is about as close to a must-win game in Week 4 as you can get; if not, expect to hear a helluva lot more (again) about Taggart’s $17 million buyout in the weeks to come.
  • Can BYU keep the upset Mormentum going and make it three in a row?  The football independent went into Neyland Stadium two weeks ago and added fuel to the dumpster fire that is Tennessee football, then knocked off then-No. 24 USC last Saturday to crank up the heat (again) under Clay Helton‘s seat.  Both of those upsets came in overtime, incidentally. This week should prove to be a much tougher test for BYU as they will play host to No. 22 Washington, whose lone loss of the season thus far came at unbeaten Cal, now ranked No. 23, in Week 2.  At least on paper, this should be a close matchup as the sportsbooks have Washington in the neighborhood of a touchdown favorite.

SIX-PACK OF MUST-SEE GAMES

  • No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M (-3½) — If you’re a fan of offensive fireworks, you might want to find yourself another game.  A&M is tied for 12th nationally in giving up 11.3 points per game, while Auburn is 22nd at 14.3 ppg.  Were it not for A&M’s lone loss to No. 1 Clemson, this would’ve been yet another battle of undefeateds.  The Tigers have won two straight and three of the last four over their SEC West rivals, and have also won all three games in College Station since the Aggies joined the conference.
  • No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin (-3½) — Coming off a bye weekend, unbeaten Wisconsin has yet to allow a point this season.  This isn’t USF or Central Michigan, though, as undefeated Michigan is in the middle of the pack nationally in averaging 32 points a game.  The outcome of the third game featuring two teams with no losses could very well come down to the right arm of Shea Patterson.  The Michigan quarterback has been average at best this season, completing just over 60 percent of his passes for 410 yards and three touchdowns; he’ll need to be much better than fair-to-middling if the Wolverines hope to steal a win in Madison.
  • Oklahoma State at No. 12 Texas (-5½) — This game just missed being another Top 25 matchup as Oklahoma State was second in the “others receiving votes” category in the most recent Associated Press poll.  Texas’ run defense, 24th nationally at 87.3 yards per game, will face a stiff test as OSU’s Chuba Hubbard leads the nation in rushing.  Texas’ pass defense, 125th out of 130 FBS schools, won’t get a rest, either, as OSU’s Tylan Wallace leads the country in receiving yards (390) and receiving touchdowns (six).  Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger, meanwhile, will test a Cowboys defense that’s 75th in passing yards per game (225.3).
  • Colorado at No. 24 Arizona State (-8) — Colorado scored an impressive come-from-behind win over Nebraska in Week 2, then coughed up an overtime loss to underdog Air Force the following week.  Arizona State, meanwhile, capped off an undefeated three-game start to the season with a dramatic win over Michigan State that quite possibly shouldn’t have happened.  The winner of this game, the conference opener for both, will certainly receive an early boost in the race for the Pac-12 South title.  For what it’s worth, the home team has won each of the last four matchups between the schools.
  • No. 10 Utah (-4) at USC — Which USC team will Utah face Friday night, the one that started the season 2-0, including an impressive 25-point win over then-No. 23 Stanford, to move to No. 24 in the rankings or the one that fell to underdog BYU in overtime? A win by the Trojans would be yuge as it would move them to 2-0 in conference play already, with one of those wins coming against the preseason favorite in the South; a loss, especially if it’s in some form or fashion a beatdown, would increase the drumbeat for Clay Helton‘s head on a silver platter.  A win for the Utes, meanwhile, would put a conference road scalp on its résumé for future playoff consideration.
  • SMU at No. 25 TCU (-9½) — Whoever expected this one to be the fourth of the battle of the unbeatens in Week 4, raise your hands.  Now, put all your all’s hands down as y’all are lying.  SMU is 3-0 for the first time since 1984, and could match that season’s 4-0 start with a road win over the Power Five school.  TCU has beaten SMU in seven straight games, with the Mustangs last win coming in 2011.  One area to watch: TCU is 15th in the nation in rushing yards per game at 273, while SMU is giving up just 105.7 ypg.

BEST/WORST WAGERS OF WEEK 4

  • BEST: Wisconsin (-3) at home against Michigan.  Jim Harbaugh is 0-6 in games at Michigan in which he has been an underdog.  U-M is also 1-5 on the road vs. ranked teams under Harbaugh, with those five losses coming by an average of 15.2 points; just one of the five was by less than seven and none were by less than three. Oh, and Wisconsin is simply the better team at this point in time, so give me the Badgers and give up the points.
  • WORST: No. 21 Virginia (+28½) at home against Old Dominion.  The last time Virginia beat a Group of Five team by more than four touchdowns? Sept. 27, 2014, vs. Kent State.  In its six-year history at the FBS level, Old Dominion has seven losses to Power Five programs; of those seven, five have been by less than four touchdowns. Additionally, there’s been one win — over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech last season.  The Cavaliers won’t suffer the same fate as the 2018 Hokies, but they also won’t cover.
  • COVER SPECIAL: No. 19 Washington State (-18½) at home against UCLA. UCLA is a dumpster fire that’s on steroids and all jacked up on Mountain Dew.  The Bruins have lost three straight this season and 12 of 15 overall under Chip Kelly, including a woodshedding at the hands of pass-happy Oklahoma in Week 3.  Wazzu leads the nation in passing, while UCLA is 108th in passing yards allowed per game.  You do the math.

HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH

  1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 1) — In the Week 3 rout of UCLA, Hurts became the first OU quarterback ever to pass for 200-plus yards and rush for 100-plus in the first half of a game. 103 of those rushing yards came in the first quarter… and 99 of those came on the first drive of the game.
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (No. 3) — The junior had a career-high with 444 passing yards and tied a career-high with five passing touchdowns in the win over South Carolina. The yards were the third-most in Crimson Tide history.
  3. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (No. 2) — With 11 touchdown passes in three games this season, Burrow now has 27 in 16 appearances since transferring from Ohio State to LSU; in the two years prior to his arrival, Tiger quarterbacks accounted for 29 in 25 games.
  4. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (No. 4) — With four scores (three passing, one rushing) in win over Indiana, Fields became just the third Buckeye the last two decades (J.T. Barrett, Dwayne Haskins) to account for at least four total touchdowns in each of their first three games.
  5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (No. 5) — Taylor, who was off with the rest of the Badgers in Week 3, has eight touchdowns (five rushing, three receiving) in two games, although his average of 118.5 yards per game is down from his career average of 154 per coming into the season.
  6. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (No. 6) — Ehlinger has thrown 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in three games while completing just over 85 percent of his passes.
  7. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (No. 7) — The preseason Heisman favorite has five interceptions in three games (97 attempts) this season; a year ago as a true freshman, he threw four picks in 15 games (397 attempts).
  8. Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State (unranked) — In the first three starts of his collegiate career, the fifth-year senior has thrown for 420, 464 and 440 yards.
  9. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (unranked) — Hubbard currently leads the nation in rushing yards (521) and name awesomeness, and is tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (seven) with SMU’s Xavier Jones.
  10. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (No. 10) — After catching 18 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games, the junior had a quiet statline of 6-68-0 in the romp over South Carolina.

(DROPPED OUT: Oregon QB Justin Herbert (No. 8), Clemson RB Travis Etienne (No.9))

WEEK 4 BRAZEN PREDICTIONS
BRYAN FISCHER (@BryanDFischer): While last week had a number of Top 25 upsets, I’m raising the stakes and will say three top 10 teams go down on Saturday. And if this qualifies as bold, Michigan State finds the end zone three times on offense (and once on D), Rutgers comes close to beating Boston College and Cal-Ole Miss features six turnovers.
ZACH BARNETT (@zach_barnett): Kansas keeps the mojo going and moves into a tie for first place in the Big 12 with a win over West Virginia, thereby winning back-to-back games over Power 5 opponents for the first time since taking four straight over the 2008-09 seasons.
KEVIN MCGUIRE (@KevinOnCFB): Two of the biggest games of the season may take place this weekend. Georgia will bring Notre Dame’s playoff hopes to a crashing halt with a lopsided win in Athens. Take Georgia and the points. In the Big Ten, Michigan’s bye week won’t be enough to refine the new offense and Wisconsin will send them home with a loss, forcing Michigan to chase Ohio State the rest of the season.
JOHN TAYLOR (@CFTalk)
: Coming off a rough (ruff?) Week 3, the ACC will go 9-0 in non-conference play in Week 4, which means that, yes, Pitt knocks off No. 15 UCF at home. The other ACC non-conference matchups this weekend are Boston College at Rutgers; Western Michigan at Syracuse; Elon at Wake Forest; Appalachian State at North Carolina; Central Michigan at Miami; Old Dominion at No. 21 Virginia; Ball State at NC State; and Charlotte at No. 1 Clemson, so it’s not like I’m going out on that much of a limb.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH
This week, our pals over at Rotoworld zero in on offensive and defensive line matchups in the Notre Dame-Georgia game as pro prospects to watch.  For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.

BYU starting QB vs. Boise State to be game-time decision

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Last week, Jaren Hall became the first black quarterback to start a game at BYU.  Whether he becomes the first black quarterback at the university to start two games remains up in the air.

In the fourth quarter of the Week 7 loss to South Florida, Hall was knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms.  There was some encouraging news on that front midweek, though, as Hall returned to full practice on Wednesday.

Despite that, it will likely be a game-time decision as to whether Hall, who himself replaced Zach Wilson after the season-opening starter underwent thumb surgery, will be available for the Boise State game Saturday night.  One hint that it could be Hall again?  Passing-game coordinator Aaron Roderick acknowledged that Hall took the most first-team reps of any of the Cougars quarterbacks during that Wednesday practice.

If Hall is ultimately unable to go, freshman Baylor Romney would very likely get the starting nod.  In replacing the injured Hall against the Bulls, Romney completed 6-of-10 passes for 73 yards on a couple of fourth-quarter drives.

Current No. 3 Joe Critchlow would then serve as Romney’s backup in such a scenario.

Kansas State’s Kenyon Reed leaps headfirst into the portal

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It’s been a couple of days since we’ve kicked off a morning with a portal post, so we were due.

Speculation was swirling over the past couple of days that Kenyon Reed was considering a transfer from Kansas State.  Thursday, defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton confirmed to 247Sports.com and others that the defensive back has made his way into the NCAA transfer database.

According to the coordinator, he became aware of the impending departure the day before, although he wasn’t quite clear in the details surrounding the player’s decision.  To further buttress the coordinator’s confirmation, Reed’s official bio is no longer a valid link.

Reed was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2019 recruiting class.  The California high schooler surprised most observers by signing with K-State over UCLA earlier this year.

As Reed didn’t play a down this year, he can take a redshirt for the 2019 season.

UCLA thumps Stanford to break 11-game losing streak to in-state rivals

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UCLA has proven to a bad football team this season. On Thursday night though, we found out Stanford was worse.

The Bruins dominated their in-state rivals 34-16 to snap an 11-game losing streak and notch their second victory of the season in yet another case of a puzzling performance from both sides out of Pac-12 territory.

A lot of the effort — or lack thereof — on account of the Cardinal can be explained by their offense looking very much like one starting a walk-on third string quarterback for the first time. Jack West completed just 15 passes for 143 yards and had trouble seemingly every dropback behind an even more makeshift offensive line (seven sacks allowed). Running the ball was out of the question against a predictably stacked box and the team averaged just 1.8 yards per rush anyway.

All told, Stanford converted just three third downs all game and mustered only 198 yards total as they were booed off the field a few times by the sparse crowd in attendance. Kicker Jet Toner was also injured in the first quarter and the only other non-garbage time touchdown came off a blocked punt.

As bad as things were for the home side, they went equally well for a UCLA team that scored on their first drive and were in complete control of the game for the first time since Chip Kelly took over the program. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was electric with his arm (192 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) and legs (66 yards, 1 TD) while Joshua Kelley notched 176 yards on the ground with a score of his own.

In the process of stealing Stanford’s soul, the Bruins managed to end a long losing streak to their rivals in the Bay, winning on the Farm for the first time since the Karl Dorrell era in Westwood and first time overall since 2008. Coincidentally, that latter year was the last time the Cardinal missed a bowl game or won fewer than eight games — a streak that very much appears to be ending in 2019 unless the team invents a time machine in the next week or runs the table the rest of the regular season.

Make no bones about it, this was a very ugly and hard to watch rock fight between two bad teams that not even #Pac12AfterDark juju could save.

It remains to be seen just where these two programs go from here but at least on Thursday night, Kelly was able to overcome an old adversary and put an end to a streak many at his school thought would go on for a while. It didn’t however as UCLA can celebrate on their way back to Southern California while David Shaw‘s team will have a few extra days to contemplate just what kind of team they are this season.

UCLA leads Stanford at halftime in another Pac-12 game that’s hard to make sense of

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If you can make sense of Pac-12 football, congrats on your impending move to Las Vegas to take advantage of it. Case in point? Strange first halves of football games like UCLA 21, Stanford 10 on Thursday night in Palo Alto.

The Bruins, looking for their second win of the season, looked uncharacteristically sharp on the offensive side while their defensive counterparts had one of their better performances through two quarters in recent memory in order to jump out to the early lead between California rivals.

UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson marched the team right down into the end zone on their first two drives, hitting the halfway mark with 100 yards passing and two touchdowns (one pick) while adding five carries for 67 yards and another score. Joshua Kelley notched 87 yards on the ground as well for a team that had previously struggled to move the ball at all.

Instead it was the Cardinal offense who couldn’t muster much on the offensive end. They had just 86 yards total in the game and starting quarterback Jack West very much looked like a walk-on making his first start at the position. It didn’t help that the offensive line (five sacks allowed) did him no favors but pretty much every series ended predictably in a setback before trotting out the punt team.

In fact, were it not for special teams, this first half would have been even more lopsided. Kicker Jet Toner nailed a 42 yard field goal but was injured and had to be taken to the locker room while Brycen Tremayne recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for six in perhaps the only sign of life in the contest for Stanford.

Somehow this Cardinal squad beat Washington by 10 points and somehow this UCLA side has just one win on the season. But first half performances like the one we saw on the Farm Thursday night are a good reminder as to why they play the game… and how hard it is to make sense of things out West on the gridiron.