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Burning questions for CFB’s biggest Week 4 games

Matt Johnson
© Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After an exciting Week 3 of college football action that delivered plenty of intrigue even without ranked matchups, this weekend offers the chance to be the most entertaining of the season.

A slate of action that features a clash of two powerhouse top-10 programs, exciting top-20 battles and some rivalry games sprinkled is thrilling. Of course, so many big games also carry significant questions surrounding the matchups that will determine their outcome and the 2019 season.

Here are the most burning questions for college football’s biggest Week 4 games.

Can the Trojans save Clay Helton’s job for one more week?

The clock is ticking on Helton’s USC tenure following a brutal loss to BYU. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis struggled on the road and now must face No. 10 Utah, with a defense allowing under 190 passing yards per game, in a much tougher matchup.

Utah enters as a four-point favorite and a single-digit loss for USC could keep Helton afloat for a little longer. If the Trojans fall in humiliating fashion on national television, the athletic department might fire Helton before the weekend is over.

Will Jonathan Taylor carry Wisconsin over Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines?

Saturday’s clash between Wisconsin and Michigan isn’t just about them making early arguments for the College Football Playoff. It also could be a defining game in Taylor’s run for the Heisman Trophy.

Michigan must prepare for his abilities as a pass-catcher, a new element that makes his game even more deadly. The Wolverines have held up against the run this season by allowing just three yards per rush, but Taylor has scored four touchdowns in each of his two games this season. If he can repeat that success against Michigan and keep its offense off the field, it’ll be a defining moment for Wisconsin and his Heisman campaign.

Is Auburn QB Bo Nix ready for his first trip to College Station?

The Tigers have been fortunate this season not to have relied on Nix. Now they’ll have no choice when the true freshman takes the field to compete against Texas A&M’s high-powered offense.

College Station is one of the most difficult environments in all of sports to play in. Nix will be tasked with competing with an offense that can drop 30-plus points and a defense that is holding quarterbacks to 184.7 yards per game with five interceptions. Saturday’s game will either be the first step in Nix’s legacy at Auburn or wipe out the team’s CFP hopes this season.

Will Oklahoma State’s offense stun No. 12 Texas in Austin?

If football fans are seeking a potential upset during Week 4, the Cowboys offer the potential to steal a win from the Longhorns. All it will take is Oklahoma State’s dynamic offense putting on an offensive clinic in Austin. The Cowboys enter as only a six-point underdog because of this ideal matchup.

Running back Chuba Hubbard already has two 200-yard games this season and one big run could set the tone early. If Texas commits to stopping the run, receiver Tylan Wallace can use his speed to exploit a secondary that has allowed the seventh-most receiving yards (1,048) in the FBS this season. This will be a high-scoring battle in Austin and one big play could swing the game for the Cowboys.

Could Tennessee stun the Gators and backup QB Kyle Trask?

The Volunteers will walk into “The Swamp” as a 14-point underdog and carry a 16-year drought without a win in Gainesville. A blowout is expected given the state of Tennessee’s program, but a few critical injuries could put Florida in jeopardy. The Gators will be without quarterback Feleipe Franks and big-play weapon Kadarius Toney on Saturday.

It’s a significant loss for Florida and we saw the impacts in its narrow win over Kentucky. If the Volunteers can pressure Trask into turnovers, protect quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and eliminate the mistakes that always hurt them, a path to a shocking upset exists. If not, the Gators will win this game by three touchdowns.

Will Arizona State keep its undefeated season alive?

Arizona State is scorching hot with three consecutive wins to open the season. Now coming off its upset over Michigan State on the road, the Sun Devils return home for their first conference game.

Herm Edwards’ program is in excellent position to keep the winning streak alive. Arizona State will need to see more from an offense that scored 29 points in its last two games. Running back Eno Benjamin should have open space to run against Colorado’s run defense. The Sun Devils must hope it’s enough to match the big plays made by Buffaloes’ wide receiver Laviska Shenault.

Can Ian Book lead the Fighting Irish over No. 3 Georgia’s defense?

This is the must-watch game of September between two programs craving that need marquee win to begin the season. Georgia enters as a two-touchdown favorite, but the Fighting Irish have revenge on their mind.

Notre Dame finally has a reliable playmaker at quarterback. Book continues to prove himself this season with jaw-dropping performances and now faces a battle against one of the SEC’s best defenses. The Fighting Irish will almost certainly get gashed on the ground by Georgia’s dominant run game. That will leave it up to Book to eliminate any mistakes, be efficient with his opportunities and make the money throws to run out of Sanford Stadium with a win.