The college football season moves into Week 4 with what is frankly not that exciting a slate. There are two games that rise above all others and they are the first two that we will tackle. There are three other games of importance but they won’t sizzle on a national level. Here are the five best games of the week for the final weekend of September. Yes, this college football season is flying by.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Odds: Wisconsin -6 (at Chicago)
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Wisconsin Badgers have both looked sluggish and sloppy on offense. They have both had subpar play from their respective offensive lines. They have both been unable to finish drives with the regularity and consistency they expect. They both have a lot to prove entering this neutral-site game in Chicago. Notre Dame should have a lot of fans on hand in Chicago, maybe a 55-45 split, so the crowd’s effect on this game will be hard to measure. The spicy element of this game comes from the fact that Notre Dame starting quarterback Jack Coan used to play at Wisconsin. He left the program because he knew that Graham Mertz was going to replace him. Mertz has better arm strength than Coan. That’s why Wisconsin coaches wanted him to be the new leader of the offense after Coan guided Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl against Oregon in the 2019 season.
However, Coan does a better job of surveying the field and running the ball when a play breaks down. Coan made steady improvements over the course of the 2019 season at Wisconsin, evolving into a very solid quarterback. Mertz has not yet shown he is ready to lead Wisconsin to top-tier results. He is still growing into the position and learning on the fly. His progress this year, after a COVID-19-interrupted freshman season, has not been as rapid or as smooth as Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst would have liked. Coan is waiting to get revenge on his former team. Even though Notre Dame’s offensive line has been shaky, the Fighting Irish are 3-0 and they have so much to improve upon. They will give Wisconsin a fierce battle and the game should be close down to the wire. The points might be the play here if you bet online.
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Odds: Texas A&M -4½ (at Arlington, Texas)
The Texas A&M Aggies lost starting quarterback Haynes King to injury early in their Week 2 game against Colorado, which means they were not likely to score a huge amount of points in that contest. However, no one was expecting A&M, even in the worst circumstances, to score just 10 points against Colorado, and to put up its only touchdown with under three minutes left. A&M has a lot of problems to solve on offense. The Aggies have to prove they are an SEC West Division championship contender after finishing second in the division last year.
Arkansas blew out Texas 40-21 in Week 2. Coach Sam Pittman has done another really good job of developing players and teaching technique on this team, which is physical and fundamentally sound. Arkansas has to draw a lot of confidence from the performance against Texas. We will see if A&M, guided by a backup quarterback, has the depth and the offensive flexibility needed to outscore Arkansas. This game figures to be close at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, so keep that in mind for your college football picks.
Clemson Tigers at North Carolina State Wolfpack
Odds: Clemson -10
This is a fascinating game. Clemson is the defending ACC champion. The Tigers have won the ACC each of the last six years. They have played in three of the last six national championship games. They have made the College Football Playoff six years in a row. Yet, they don’t look anything like their normal selves right now on offense. They look great on defense, having allowed just 14 total points in three games, but their offense scored just three points against Georgia and 14 against Georgia Tech. Those are terrible numbers from an offense that was supposed to make quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei a Heisman Trophy candidate. Yet, Clemson is a 10-point favorite on the road. Why?
North Carolina State got blown out by Mississippi State on the road. The Wolfpack had a chance to make a big statement but instead tripped all over themselves. Clemson being favored by 10 is more an indication of how little N.C. State is trusted than a sign that the Tigers are trusted. Clemson has to show it is ready to be a better team on offense. North Carolina State will never have a better chance to beat Dabo Swinney at home, but are the Pack ready to play well and handle such pressure? It’s hard to trust that N.C. State is ready.
UCLA Bruins at Stanford Cardinal
Odds: UCLA -4½
The Stanford Cardinal have won 12 of 13 against UCLA. The Bruins did beat LSU and they could certainly win this game, but Stanford has had UCLA’s number and will pose a very formidable challenge for Chip Kelly’s team. Stanford started Jack West at quarterback and rotated him with Tanner McKee in Week 1 versus Kansas State. That decision was poor and coach David Shaw adjusted. He made McKee the full-time starter, without midgame substitutions, in Week 2 and Stanford responded by scoring 42 points at USC and 34 against Vanderbilt. Stanford has to like its chances in this game.
Texas Tech Red Raiders at Texas Longhorns
NCAA Odds: Texas -9
The Texas Longhorns are still fuming after losing to Arkansas by 19. Texas Tech is 3-0 and feeling good about itself under coach Matt Wells. Will Texas regroup this week, or will Texas Tech score one of the notable upsets of the young Big 12 Conference season? Texas deserves the edge, but it’s not a big one.