2018 NCAAF Week 4 Weekend Preview

September 20, 2018

It’s been a rough start to the season for me in the head-to-head prediction game.

Another sub-.500 showing last week has me in a hole that only seems to be getting deeper. I’m also 0-2 this season against friends with whom I share a group text.

After the loss to Trent, the standings now look like this:

K. Becks – 7-8

Guests – 10-5

This week, Trent’s kid brother Matt will take a shot at increasing the guest’s lead. But since I’ve been somewhat of an idol to this guy ever since college, I just can’t let that happen. Sorry, Cheeks.

Before we take a look at the games, here are my “Three Thoughts” after last week:

1. Jimbo Fisher left Florida State in shambles. You know it’s bad when Mia Khalifa starts a GoFundMe page just two weeks into the season to fire the Seminoles head coach (although, similarly bad is the paltry $31 the fund received in the first 18 hours). Taggert’s offense is struggling mightily and the defense isn’t helping matters, allowing 300 yards per game through the air. But let’s remind ourselves that these are Jimbo’s players – he did this to the House that Bobby Built.

2. If the Big Ten were a person, it wouldn’t be able to stand. Why, you ask? Because the conference is so top heavy, it’s gross. After Ohio State and Penn State, there isn’t anything to get excited about. Losses last week by Wisconsin (24-21 at home to BYU), Rutgers (55-14 to Kansas), Maryland (35-14 to Temple), Nebraska (24-19 at home to Troy), Purdue (40-37 to Missouri, dropping the Boilermakers to 0-3) and Northwestern (39-34 to Akron) are a sign that we should all put the whole “Big Ten vs. SEC” argument on hold for a bit.

3. It’s not surprising to see NFL kickers having such a hard time if you watch college football. Seriously, where do you think those guys come from?

Let’s take a look at the top games for the weekend.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#22 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

While Florida State suffers, former head coach Jimbo Fisher has gotten the country to perk its ears up when hearing the name Texas A&M. The Aggies looked competent against Clemson at home two weeks ago, nearly taking down the No. 2 Tigers. Now Fisher’s team takes aim at the No. 1 team in the nation, but Nick Saban’s team probably won’t be as kind. While Kellen Mond is a talented athlete at quarterback, he’s not quite Johnny Manziel and can be contained with disciplined linebacker play. Despite replacing the majority of that unit, Alabama has shown it is still very talented in all respects on the defensive side of the ball.

Expect Texas A&M to hang around for about a half and then fade away as Alabama’s offense begins to wear down the Aggies. The Crimson Tide can get it done on offense through the air or on the ground, and with Texas A&M having an athletic defensive front, it’ll probably be through the air a lot in this one.

My Pick: 45-20 Alabama

Cheek Clapper’s Take: Alabama 41 Texas A&M 14

#17 TCU at Texas (Saturday, 4:30 PM ET)

The Longhorns are back in the good graces of the fans in Austin after destroying Southern Cal at home last weekend, but there’s no time to rest as the Horned Frogs come to visit after suffering a tough loss against Ohio State. Both teams showed the ability to score a lot of points last weekend, but TCU’s performance was the more impressive one. If it weren’t for a crazy four minute stretch near the end of the third quarter, we may be talking about a top 10 team playing at DKR Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Horned Frogs are extremely athletic and possess a tremendous amount of speed on both sides of the ball. While Southern Cal has shown in the last two weeks that it is clearly missing its now departed stars from last season, TCU is finding out just how dangerous its receiving corps can be in a conference where offensive shootouts are the norm. Texas’s victory surprised me last weekend, but this weekend I’d be even more surprised if TCU doesn’t bounce back and handle the Longhorns fairly easily.

My Pick: 38-17 TCU

Cheek Clapper’s Take: TCU 56 Texas 31

#14 Mississippi State at Kentucky (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

I really like the direction that both of these programs are headed, which is why it’s exciting to see them both starting off well this season. No one was quite sure how Mississippi State would fare after the departure of Dan Mullen as head coach, but the Bulldogs look stout defensively and are rolling along just fine on offense. Kentucky is mostly an afterthought as far as SEC football is concerned, but after 31 years the Wildcats finally beat Florida two weekends ago, and now anything seems possible. Well, in this game, both teams have a legitimate shot to win.

Both teams love to run the football – the Bulldogs are fifth in the country averaging 311 yards per game rushing, while Kentucky isn’t terribly far behind averaging 282 yards per game on the ground. That doesn’t mean that this won’t be a high scoring affair, however. The two teams have combined to score 25 rushing touchdowns this season. And while Mississippi State is a tough train to stop once it gets going, there is going to be a lot of energy at Kroger Field on Saturday evening as this is a chance for the Wildcats to start 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1977. I think they get it done.

My Pick: 31-27 Kentucky

Cheek Clapper’s Take: Mississippi State 31 Kentucky 21

#7 Stanford at #20 Oregon (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Last year’s battle between the two most consistent programs in the Pac-12 North over the last decade set the record for most lopsided victory, a feat which Stanford can claim after a 49-7 drubbing of the Ducks. That is highly unlikely to happen this season, however. Under first year head coach Mario Cristobal, Oregon is off to a hot start offensively, averaging just over 500 yards per game behind a powerful rushing attack led by the freshman-senior duo of CJ Verdell and Tony Brooks-James. The Ducks have yet to play a Power 5 school this season, though, so the statistics could just be smoke and mirrors.

Stanford’s defense will be the first true test for this Oregon offense. We saw what happened to JT Daniels a couple of weeks ago, and while Justin Herbert isn’t a true freshman quarterback, he has struggled with accuracy. Expect the Cardinal to make Herbert prove he can throw downfield in order to win this game, because David Shaw’s team has the ability to slow down the rushing attack. It’s very difficult to go into the Autzen Zoo as a visiting team and come out with a win, but Stanford is solid enough on both sides of the football to do it. Oregon isn’t back quite yet.

My Pick: 28-24 Stanford

Cheek Clapper’s Take: Oregon 28 Stanford 24

Arizona State at #10 Washington

After coming up short against San Diego State last weekend, the Sun Devils have to prove that they weren’t simply the flavor of the week upon upsetting Michigan State two weeks ago. Unfortunately for Herm Edwards, Washington appears to have righted the ship after a disappointing opening weekend. Arizona State is heavily dependent on the passing game and the Huskies will be well aware of that. Although stopping the pass doesn’t guarantee a victory, it appears as though the Sun Devils will go as Manny Wilkins goes this season.

Washington is the more talented football team, but Arizona State could make this one very interesting if Coach Herm employs an aggressive game plan on defense. The Sun Devils currently lead the Pac-12 in turnover margin, forcing five while giving up just one. Jake Browning has the ability to go toe-to-toe with Wilkins in this game, but he has yet to throw for more touchdowns than interceptions in a single game this season. The Huskies may win in spite of Browning, but if he isn’t on, this one will be close.

My Pick: 35-28 Washington

Cheek Clapper’s Take: Washington 28 Arizona State 7


Akron at Iowa State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Cheek Clapper is an Akron alumnus, and after last weekend’s thrilling victory over Northwestern in Evanston he believes that the sky is the limit for the Zips. While last weekend’s performance was certainly impressive for a MAC school, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Iowa State was competitive against a Top 5 team last weekend and can move the football at will.

I know that the Akron faithful would like to make it two in a row against the Power 5, but that isn’t going to happen this weekend.

My Pick: Iowa State 41-27

Cheek Clapper’s Take: Akron 31 Iowa State 30

5 To Flip To

Washington State at Southern Cal (Friday, 10:30 PM ET)

Both schools have had to replace talented quarterbacks coming into the season, but Washington State hasn’t missed a beat as Gardner Minshew II leads the country averaging over 400 yards passing per game. The Southern Cal defense may be in trouble.

#2 Georgia at Missouri (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Bulldogs made a statement two weeks ago by crushing South Carolina on the road, so this could be yet another example of “K Becks’s wishful thinking”… but Missouri can score a lot of points and may give Kirby Smart’s defense some issues.

Texas Tech at #15 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Now that Big 12 play has begun, we can expect at least one game a week where the total scoring creeps toward 100. This has a strong chance to be that game.

#24 Michigan State at Indiana (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Hoosiers are off to a 3-0 start and have a star in the making at running back in true freshman Stevie Scott. The 236 pound Scott racked up 204 yards against Virginia in Week 2, but Michigan State has allowed just 69 total yards all season. If the freshman is able to do work in this one, the rest of the Big Ten better watch out.

#18 Wisconsin at Iowa (Saturday, 8:30 PM ET)

Iowa is extremely difficult to beat at home (ask Ohio State), and under the lights is just an added benefit. However, Wisconsin will be hungry after losing to a BYU team that probably isn’t truly a Top 25 squad. Wisconsin has an uphill battle back to Playoff contention, but it will start with a hard earned victory over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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