If a couple of upsets last Saturday weren’t enough of a sign, the 2018 season is about to get chaotic. There will be stunning results, and players will put up massive stat lines.
While analyzing the matchups, we’ve tried to pinpoint the most likely opportunities for an attention-grabbing performance to enhance your Week 4 viewing.
As always, a rule on bold predictions: Bold must be realistic, but realistic cannot mean ordinary. If the favored team is picked to win, for example, the prediction needs to be a special accomplishment.
Let’s get bold.
UCF hangs 600 yards on FAU
Friday night offers an enormous showdown for Group of Five purposes. In 2017, Central Florida capped an undefeated year with a Peach Bowl triumph over Auburn. Largely thanks to the return of quarterback McKenzie Milton, UCF is considered a front-runner to grab the New Year’s Six slot. Although FAU garnered praise as a threat this offseason, its defense has struggled. Even after Oklahoma’s beatdown, the Owls ceded 27-plus points and 5.7 yards per play to both Air Force and Bethune-Cookman. UCF should surge past the 600-yard plateau, a remarkable barrier.
Washington State sends USC to 1-3
Despite dropping games to both Stanford and Texas, USC enters its Pac-12 clash with Washington State as 3.5-point favorites, according to OddsShark. Sure, the visitors aren’t always reliable on defense, but USC has yet to roll out a reliable offense to this point. Graduate transfer Gardner Minshew has settled into the Wazzu offense, topping 400 yards in two straight games. Unless he throws multiple interceptions and gifts USC points, the Trojans somehow need to match his pace. We haven’t seen the evidence they’re capable of doing that.
Georgia intercepts Drew Lock three times
Last year, Drew Lock paced the Football Bowl Subdivision and set an SEC record with 44 touchdown passes. Along the way, he never tossed more than two interceptions. That trend has carried into 2018 with 11 scores to only one pick. Plus, a Georgia defense hasn’t grabbed three interceptions in a single game since 2016. Missouri won’t have any answers for the Bulldogs attack, though. The Tigers will be playing from behind all game, and it’ll place an unfair burden on Lock to match UGA’s pace. Mistakes will be made as Missouri tries to force the issue.
Nathan Rourke leads Ohio to upset over Cincinnati
The 2018 season hasn’t been kind to Nathan Rourke. During the opener, he mustered a 2-of-8 line before getting pulled in favor of Quinton Maxwell. Then in Week 3, Rourke completed 51.6 percent of his passes at Virginia. On the other hand, Cincinnati has rolled to a 3-0 record with victories over UCLA, Miami (Ohio) and Alabama A&M. For good reason, the Bearcats are eight-point favorites, per OddsShark. However, since Cincinnati’s offense is no better than average, the Bobcats will have plenty of possessions. This is a favorable moment for Rourke’s turnaround.
Sutton Smith helps on three sacks at Florida State
Among the many problems on Willie Taggart’s team, the offensive line is a wreck. This weekend, Sutton Smith and Northern Illinois heads to Tallahassee. He’s only one of the most productive pass-rushers in the country, no big deal. A second-team AP All-America choice in 2017, he’s already notched three sacks — all of which happened opposite Iowa or Utah — this season. Smith’s quickness in the middle of his pass rushes will be challenging for Florida State’s subpar line to handle. The Seminoles should pull out a win, but Smith will be in the backfield often.
Vanderbilt upsets South Carolina
Hurricane Florence cancelled South Carolina’s clash last weekend, so it would be understandable if Will Muschamp’s team opens Week 4 slowly. Vanderbilt, conversely, took Notre Dame to the wire and was a dropped fourth-down conversion from likely springing the upset. With two blowout victories prior to that contested loss, the Commodores are playing at a high level right now. They’re currently an underdog at home, per OddsShark, but a shaky start from South Carolina will allow Vanderbilt to build the cushion it needs to survive a tight fourth quarter.
Nick Fitzgerald totals 400 yards at Kentucky
As productive as Nick Fitzgerald has been for Mississippi State over the last two-plus years, the dual-threat quarterback hasn’t reached 400 yards of total offense since November 2016. The Bulldogs might need every bit of that during an SEC clash at Kentucky. So far, the Wildcats have only surrendered 46 points in three games, but their 46.8 third-down conversion rate means offenses can sustain drives. Since Mississippi State won’t finish all of those possessions with touchdowns, Fitzgerald will be racking up big numbers as the Bulldogs try to distance themselves from UK.
Texas Tech, Oklahoma State combine for 110 points
Go ahead and keep your defensive struggles. Give us offensive shootouts every day of the week. Entering this Big 12 meeting, Texas Tech ranks third nationally at 55.7 points per game. Oklahoma State isn’t far behind, posting the seventh-highest average with 52.3. Make the scoreboard is working, Stillwater, because it’s about to get a workout. Given that Texas Tech quarterback Alex Bowman threw for 605 yards and five touchdowns in Week 3, OSU can hardly build a lead the Red Raiders aren’t capable of overcoming. Keep the points coming.
Stanford doubles Oregon’s rush yards allowed
Not only did Bryce Love miss Stanford’s recent victory over UC Davis due to an undisclosed injury, the vaunted offensive line hasn’t played as well as anticipated. Oregon, meanwhile, has showcased a feisty run defense in three straight wins. Opponents have mustered only 231 yards on 118 total attempts. But that all changes Saturday. Love, who is expected to return in Week 4, will spearhead an efficient night on the ground for the Cardinal. He’ll break off a couple of 40-yard runs — something he’s only managed once in 2018 — to frustrate Oregon.
Iowa holds Jonathan Taylor below 100
You know that “Death, taxes and…” trope? You could throw “Jonathan Taylor running for 100 yards” on there, and it’s one of the most believable college football endings. In 17 career appearances, he’s eclipsed the century mark 13 times — including eight of the last nine. Iowa, however, presents a massive challenge for the sophomore star. Through three weeks, the Hawkeyes have surrendered a total of 126 yards on 82 attempts. This prime-time contest features two slow-paced offenses, and running lanes will be difficult for Taylor to find.