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College football Week 4: Picks and preview

Week 4 of the college football season is filled with plenty of stellar matchups, including three pitting Top 25 teams against each other and one that might have College Football Playoff implications.

Weekly point spreads are from BetOnline.ag, and are current as of 10 p.m. ET Tuesday. For up-to-date spreads, check out the BetOnline.ag site.

All time Eastern.

 
1 of 25

Air Force (2-0) at No. 20 Boise State (3-0), 9 p.m., Friday, ESPN2

Air Force (2-0) at No. 20 Boise State (3-0), 9 p.m., Friday, ESPN2
Brian Losness/USA TODAY Sports

Boise State has won two straight in this series after losing three in a row to the Falcons. The Broncos have also won three of four at home vs. Air Force. However, the Falcons just held Colorado to 325 total yards while pulling off a 30-23 overtime upset at Boulder.

Prediction: Air Force (+8)

 
2 of 25

No. 10 Utah (3-0) at USC (2-1), 9 p.m., Friday, FS1

No. 10 Utah (3-0) at USC (2-1), 9 p.m., Friday, FS1
Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports

Utah is the Pac-12's best team, no doubt, but is it College Football Playoff-worthy? We'll see. The Utes defense has allowed just 29 points, and quarterback Tyler Huntley is completing 77.8 percent of his passes. Is this the year Utah finally beats the Trojans at the Coliseum? Meanwhile, at USC, another loss might finally cost coach Clay Helton his job.

Prediction: Utah (-3.5)

 
3 of 25

Southern Mississippi (2-1) at No. 2 Alabama (3-0), Noon, Saturday, ESPN2

Southern Mississippi (2-1) at No. 2 Alabama (3-0), Noon, Saturday, ESPN2
Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports

It's going to be a hot one in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, so the Crimson Tide might want to get this one over quickly. Alabama has won six in a row over Southern Miss, and the teams last met in 2014. The Tide won by 40 that day, and it's likely they'll be in for another lopsided win. Tua Tagovailoa has thrown 12 touchdowns without an interception.

Prediction: Southern Miss (+39) 

 
4 of 25

Tennessee (1-2) at No. 9 Florida (3-0), Noon, Saturday, ESPN

Tennessee (1-2) at No. 9 Florida (3-0), Noon, Saturday, ESPN
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports

With Feleipe Franks done for the season , Kyle Trask has been given control of the Gators offense. He did a nice job rallying the team past Kentucky last week and should have ample opportunity to shine in this home start. The Vols finally have a 2019 victory, but they have not won in The Swamp since 2003. Expect that slide to continue.

Prediction: Florida (-14)  

 
5 of 25

No. 23 California (3-0) at Ole Miss (2-1), Noon, Saturday, ESPNU

No. 23 California (3-0) at Ole Miss (2-1), Noon, Saturday, ESPNU
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

Cal enters the Top 25 looking to start 4-0 for the first time since 2015. Running back Christopher Brown Jr. (324 rushing yards) is off to a strong start, and star linebacker Evan Weaver has recorded at least 10 tackles in 10 consecutive games. The Golden Bears have won nine straight regular-season non-conference games, including 27-16 over Mississippi in 2017.

Prediction: Cal (+2) 

 
6 of 25

No. 4 LSU (3-0) at Vanderbilt (0-2), Noon, Saturday, SEC Network

No. 4 LSU (3-0) at Vanderbilt (0-2), Noon, Saturday, SEC Network
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

We know LSU's defense would be stingy, but even Tigers fans should be a little floored with how the team's spread offense has taken off through three games. The Tigers have scored 165 points and amassed 1,309 passing yards. Vanderbilt yielded 72 points in two games and allowed 509 passing yards to Purdue.

Prediction: LSU (-23.5)

 
7 of 25

No. 11 Michigan (2-0) at No. 13 Wisconsin (2-0), Noon, Saturday, FOX

No. 11 Michigan (2-0) at No. 13 Wisconsin (2-0), Noon, Saturday, FOX
Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY

Both teams should be well-rested and prepared after being idle last week. Michigan has won two of the last three meetings with Wisconsin, but the Badgers have taken four straight in the series at Madison. The way Michigan has looked through two games and how strong Wisconsin has performed on defense leads to believe the Badgers home fun will continue.

Prediction: Wisconsin (-3.5)

 
8 of 25

No. 22 Washington (2-1) at BYU (2-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC/ESPN2

No. 22 Washington (2-1) at BYU (2-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC/ESPN2
Jennifer Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports

Will Washington be the third straight upset victim of BYU after it knocked off Tennessee and USC in back-to-back games? That would be a great story, but the Vols and Trojans are not in the same class as the Huskies at the moment. They had a nice bounce back against Hawaii after losing by one to Cal and should be focused for this road test.

Prediction: Washington (-6)

 
9 of 25

Miami (OH) (1-2) at No. 6 Ohio State (3-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Big Ten Network

Miami (OH) (1-2) at No. 6 Ohio State (3-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Big Ten Network
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State has won nine straight games and outscored its opponents this season 86-13 in the first half. Miami, meanwhile, last beat a Top 25 squad from a Power Five conference in 1998. Combine all that, and the Buckeyes should be looking at another lopsided triumph while continuing to show they're ready to challenge for the national championship.

Prediction: Ohio State (-39)

 
10 of 25

No. 15 UCF (3-0) at Pittsburgh (1-2), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC/ESPN2

No. 15 UCF (3-0) at Pittsburgh (1-2), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC/ESPN2
Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports

The Knights' regular-season winning streak is at 27 games, but this is an intriguing matchup. Freshman Dillon Gabriel (nine touchdown passes, zero interceptions) has staked his claim to the UCF quarterback position, but he could be in for a serious Power Five test. Pitt held Penn State to 17 points in a seven-point defeat and should be desperate to avoid its season from slipping out of control at this early stage.

Prediction: Pittsburgh (+12)

 
11 of 25

SMU (3-0) at No. 25 TCU (2-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1

SMU (3-0) at No. 25 TCU (2-0), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, FS1
Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports

The Horned Frogs have been pretty balanced through two games, but it's uncertain who will start at quarterback between Max Duggan and Alex Delton. Of course, TCU's backbone is still defense. That unit has looked solid while yielding 20 points through two games. The Frogs have won seven straight and 17 of the last 19 vs. SMU.

Prediction: TCU (-9.5)

 
12 of 25

No. 8 Auburn (3-0) at No. 17 Texas A&M (2-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS

No. 8 Auburn (3-0) at No. 17 Texas A&M (2-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS
John Reed/USA TODAY Sports

Here's a chance to see how much weight Auburn's 3-0 start has. It's the first true road test for freshman Bo Nix and the Tigers, and that can't be understated. The Aggies defense suffered one poor quarter against Clemson earlier this month and should be eager to get after a rookie quarterback. Texas A&M has also won seven straight at home but is 0-3 at College Station vs. Auburn.

Prediction: Texas A&M (-3.5)

 
13 of 25

No. 16 Oregon (2-1) at Stanford (1-2), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

No. 16 Oregon (2-1) at Stanford (1-2), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY Sports

Oregon has lost three straight to the Cardinal and might still be stinging from last year's fourth-quarter collapse at home. Perhaps Stanford presents a mental challenge for the Ducks, but there's good reason to believe things will change. Notably, Stanford just allowed 724 yards and seven touchdowns through the air to USC and UCF. Oregon star Justin Herbert has thrown 11 TDs and no interceptions.

Prediction: Oregon (-10.5)

 
14 of 25

Old Dominion (1-1) at No. 21 Virginia (3-0), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2

Old Dominion (1-1) at No. 21 Virginia (3-0), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN2
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Old Dominion stunned then-No. 13 Virginia Tech but lost to the Hokies earlier this month. Don't expect the Cavaliers to come close to suffering the same fate as their rivals did in 2018. Virginia needed 21 fourth-quarter points to beat Florida State last week but should not have the same amount of trouble here.

Prediction: Old Dominion (+30)

 
15 of 25

Charlotte (2-1) at No. 1 Clemson (3-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network

Charlotte (2-1) at No. 1 Clemson (3-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ACC Network
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney feels his current team is in better form than his 2018 national champs were at this point a year ago. That's not shocking. The Tigers are a complete squad, and Charlotte figures to be another speed bump on the way to the College Football Playoff. However, keep an eye on 49ers coach Will Healy, who could be running a Power Five program soon.

Prediction: Charlotte (+41) 

 
16 of 25

Oklahoma State (3-0) at No. 12 Texas (2-1), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC

Oklahoma State (3-0) at No. 12 Texas (2-1), 7:30 p.m., Saturday, ABC
Rob Ferguson/USA TODAY Sports

It's a statement game for undefeated Oklahoma State, which has won five straight at Austin. For the Longhorns, their defense can show they've improved after failing to stop LSU in the fourth quarter earlier this month. However, that might not be easy against a Cowboys offense that's averaging 49.3 points and 547 yards.

Prediction: Oklahoma State (+5) 

 
17 of 25

No. 7 Notre Dame (2-0) at No. 3 Georgia (3-0), 8 p.m., Saturday, CBS

No. 7 Notre Dame (2-0) at No. 3 Georgia (3-0), 8 p.m., Saturday, CBS
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

In the marquee game of the week, it's possible the loser will have seen its College Football Playoff hopes dashed. The Irish will be looking for payback after the Bulldogs won at South Bend in 2017. To return the favor, a Notre Dame defense that's already yielded 461 rushing yards must contain a Georgia ground game that's averaging 287 yards.

Prediction: Georgia (-14)

 
18 of 25

Colorado (2-1) at No. 24 Arizona State (3-0), 10 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network

Colorado (2-1) at No. 24 Arizona State (3-0), 10 p.m., Saturday, Pac-12 Network
Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports

A lot of Arizona State's preseason talk involved running back Eno Benjamin. However, it's been the play of a defense that allowed seven points in each of the first three games that should be the story. The Sun Devils last started 4-0 in 2016 and are 4-0 at home against Colorado since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12.

Prediction: Arizona State (-7.5)

 
19 of 25

UCLA (0-3) at No. 19 Washington State (3-0), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN

UCLA (0-3) at No. 19 Washington State (3-0), 10:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins just allowed 48 points to Oklahoma and now travel to the Pacific Northwest to face a team that's totaled 148 points through three games. This can get ugly, and quick. However, a Washington State defense that's yielded 48 points this year might be eager to get a crack at UCLA's pedestrian offense. Is it too early for a Bruins' winless watch?

Prediction: Washington State (-18.5)

 
20 of 25

Michigan State (2-1) at Northwestern (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ABC

Michigan State (2-1) at Northwestern (1-1), Noon, Saturday, ABC
Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports

Regardless how frustrating last week's loss to Arizona State ended for Michigan State, the reality is that the program's offense remains quite maddening to fans. But the Spartans will remain in games, and certainly win enough, because of a defense that's allowed 34 points. That might not bode well for a Northwestern offense that is still finding its identity.

Prediction: Northwestern (+9.5)

 
21 of 25

Appalachian State (2-0) at North Carolina (2-1), 3:30 p.m., ACC Network Extra

Appalachian State (2-0) at North Carolina (2-1), 3:30 p.m., ACC Network Extra
Nell Redmond/USA TODAY Sports

Mack Brown made his collegiate head-coaching debut with Appalachian State in 1983 and then left after that year to become offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. He now has the Tar Heels in position to top their two-win total from 2018. The Mountaineers, however, are no pushovers. They've won eight straight and 13 of 14 since losing at Penn State in overtime last season.

Prediction: Appalachian State (+3)

 
22 of 25

Kentucky (2-1) at Mississippi State (2-1), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

Kentucky (2-1) at Mississippi State (2-1), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports

Both teams will look to bounce back from frustrating home defeats. The Wildcats, specifically, need to leave a fourth-quarter collapse against Florida in the past and take advantage of a Mississippi State squad that's allowed 419 rushing yards this season. The Bulldogs, though, have won four straight at home in this series.

Prediction: Mississippi State (-6)

 
23 of 25

South Carolina (1-2) at Missouri (2-1), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network

South Carolina (1-2) at Missouri (2-1), 4 p.m., Saturday, SEC Network
Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports

Kelly Bryant has helped Mizzou bounce back from a loss at Wyoming, but he hasn't been anything special. Meanwhile, South Carolina freshman Ryan Hilinski, brother of late Washington State QB Tyler Hilinski, just threw for 324 yards against Alabama. The Gamecocks have won three straight in the series, but the Tigers are riding a 10-game home winning streak against unranked teams.

Prediction: Missouri (-9.5)

 
24 of 25

West Virginia (2-1) at Kansas (2-1), 4:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN+

West Virginia (2-1) at Kansas (2-1), 4:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN+
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

Kansas did not win its third — and final — game of the 2018 season until late October. After beating Boston College for their first Power Five road win since October 2008, Les Miles' Jayhawks now look  to snap a five-game losing streak against West Virginia. Keep an eye on KU running back Khalil Herbert (187 yards vs. BC).

Prediction: Kansas (+4.5)  

 
25 of 25

Nebraska (2-1) at Illinois (2-1), 8 p.m., Saturday, Big Ten Network

Nebraska (2-1) at Illinois (2-1), 8 p.m., Saturday, Big Ten Network
Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY Sports

The Cornhuskers bounced back from losing at Colorado by rolling over an underachieving Northern Illinois squad. They've won five of six against Illinois, but their defense could face a  sizeable challenge in Illini running back Reggie Corbin. The senior ran for 144 yards on 18 carries in last week's loss to Eastern Michigan, but has totaled 140 in three games vs. Nebraska.

Prediction: Nebraska (-13)

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.


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