Week 4 Storylines: Mismatches mean upsets
A 10-point viewing guide to college football's fourth Saturday of 2011:
• You've got something they want; don't trip: Mismatches abound on this last weekend before most teams dive into the thick of conference play. At a quick glance, there are at least 20 games on tap for Week 4 that feature either a Big Six program against a non-AQ team or an FBS-FCS matchup. That means this slate is ripe and ready for our second-favorite phenomenon (behind the fat guy touchdown): The highly publicized upset of a high-profile team by a squad that has been payed six or seven figures to show up and get steamrollered.
Among the mismatches with the outcome least in doubt and with a high probability of being called in the third quarter on account of sadness are Iowa-Louisiana Monroe, TCU-Portland State, Air Force-Tennessee State, Virginia Tech-Marshall, Wisconsin-South Dakota, Northern Illinois-Cal Poly, Illinois-Western Michigan, Minnesota-North Dakota State, Nebraska-Wyoming and Houston-Georgia State. But keep half an eye on UMass-Boston College, Tulane-Duke, Kent State-South Alabama, New Mexico-Sam Houston State, UNLV-Southern Utah and Hawaii-UC Davis.
As for a bold prediction? This is going to upset (HA! GET IT?) my lovely Maryland-bred, Syracuse-educated producer, but take your pick: Either Temple is going to knock off the Terps or Toledo is going to knock off the Orange.
• Spoiling for a fight in Week 4:
- San Diego State, taking an undefeated and Rocky Long-led squad to meet Brady Hoke's new family that he totally loves more.
- Oklahoma, boasting an even stronger team than last year's and raring to face the Mizzou team that issued the first loss to the Sooners' ultimately doomed 2010 national title campaign.
- Cal, out to avenge last year's loss to Washington, which kept it from postseason contention.
- And West Virginia, which is undefeated but tagged as an underdog at home to an LSU team that's surprising a lot of onlookers with its offensive potency absent its starting quarterback.
• Weebles, wobbling: At least one team in each of the following contests can write off the 2011 season with a poor showing this weekend:
- Notre Dame-Pitt. The Panthers' best win this year is against Buffalo, and they struggled with Maine. An Irish loss here would bury that ever-emerging return to glory for at least another year.
- Tulsa-Boise State. Don't count on seeing QB G.J. Kinne for a while, and don't count on seeing Boise State in a BCS bowl if it can't put on a fireworks show at the expense of the Golden Hurricane. This is the Broncos' last opponent of even middling regard before the end of October, and they're going to want to make that scoreboard earn its keep.
- Nevada-Texas Tech. Serious concerns persist about the Pack's WAC-winning ability after last week's zombiefied San Jose State win. Now Nevada has to compete against an actual football team.
- East Carolina-UAB. Are the Pirates the most unfairly maligned winless team after playing two ranked opponents to open the season? They won't find a wider target on which to stake a feel-good win. (Remember that time Tulane hung 49 points on UAB? Because it was last week.)
• Welcome, freshman: As predicted in preseason prognostications, Braxton Miller (is there a more quarterbacky name in the Big Ten?) will start for Ohio State against Colorado. If Ohio State was going to do this eventually, Week 4 against Colorado is probably the right time, especially when Weeks 5 and 6 bring Michigan State and Nebraska.
• Actual quality football, actually. It does exist! Conference games high on quality can be found in Week 4 in the form of Florida State-Clemson, Alabama-Arkansas and Oklahoma State-Texas A&M. George Schroeder says D will be key when the Tide face the Hogs, but not for the side you'd think. Bill Trocchi tells you everything you need to know about Cowboys-Aggies in his game of the week breakdown. As for 'Noles-Tigers? Better check the injury report...
• Doncha wanna dance/Say you wanna dance: Bold prediction: 2009's recruiting holdout and 2010's recruiting holdout will nod coolly from opposing benches during the Kansas State-Miami tilt, as Bryce Brown and Seantrel Henderson see slim to no playing time for reasons under and out of their control (being hurt, and being Bryce Brown).
• Is the undefeated Everett Withers era drawing to a close? A surprisingly undefeated North Carolina team travels to Atlanta Saturday to face a surprisingly potent Georgia Tech outfit that absolutely shredded Kansas last week, which is disappointing because "undefeated Everett Withers era" is really fun to type.
• Directional Michigan piñata party! Who'll beat up worse on a directional Michigan team this week? Penn State on Eastern after almost losing to Temple last week, or Michigan State on Central after actually losing to Notre Dame last week?
• UTEP is playing an undefeated ranked team at night: Just saying, that's when the UTEP stuff happens. Miners kick off against South Florida at 7:00 p.m. • Save the good stuff for the lullaby: Long the province of throwaway WAC games, the 10:15 Saturday night kickoff presents two surprisingly rich nightcap games this week. Give thanks for the heightened Pac-12 media presence in 2011, and for the late-night boons of Oregon-Arizona and USC-Arizona State.