Like we’ve done in years past, every week throughout the season we’ll be highlighting the best games of the coming weekend. We’ll be doing it a little differently this year, however. We’ll rank the top five games we’re most intrigued by while also providing some insight on other games that will be worth your time.
Week 3 proved that no matter what a day of games looks like on paper, there are always a few that turn into must-see TV. In Week 4, there are only two games featuring ranked opponents, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be fun football to watch all day long.
Starting with the five best games, we broke the slate down for you:
[Watch on Yahoo: Ravens vs. Jaguars live from London Sept. 24]
5. No. 1 Alabama (-19.5) at Vanderbilt (3:30 p.m., CBS): We know Vanderbilt’s defense is good, but is it good enough to keep things close into the fourth quarter with Alabama? The confident Commodores were impressive in last week’s 14-7 win over then-No. 18 Kansas State, turning Wildcats QB Jesse Ertz into the one-dimensional threat (126 rushing yards, 10-of-28 for 76 yards passing) he was last year. But the Crimson Tide have a heck of a lot more firepower than KSU.
‘Bama QB Jalen Hurts keeps doing his thing, putting up big numbers on the ground while making enough plays through the air to make defenses pay when they overcommit to stopping the run. Expect that recipe to continue Saturday in Nashville, but don’t be surprised if Vandy, with Kyle Shurmur and Ralph Webb on offense, keeps things interesting.
4. No. 7 Washington (-11) at Colorado (10 p.m., FS1): Colorado is hoping things go much better against Washington on Saturday than it did in December. The Buffs were blown out 41-10 by Washington in last year’s Pac-12 title game as UW continued its march to the College Football Playoff. In 2017, both teams have started 3-0, but CU comes into this one unranked while the Huskies are No. 7.
With wins over Rutgers, Montana and Fresno State, Saturday’s trip to Boulder is the first test of the year for Washington. Colorado was expected to take a step back, especially on defense, after last year’s surprise run to the Pac-12 South title, but the Buffs have allowed only 27 points through three games. And even though UW lost quite a bit of talent to the NFL, Jake Browning, Dante Pettis and company have all been stellar to start the season. This one has a lot of #Pac12AfterDark potential.
3. No. 8 Michigan (-10) at Purdue (4 p.m., Fox): The hire of Jeff Brohm was almost universally acclaimed when Purdue brought him in from Western Kentucky. Most expected the Boilermakers to make some improvements, but not this quickly. Through three weeks, Purdue is 2-1 having almost beaten Louisville and dismantled Ohio and Missouri.
Jim Harbaugh said Brohm is already a coach of the year favorite, and now Harbaugh is going to see Brohm’s team up close and personal in West Lafayette. Michigan has kind of been what we expected in the early going: dominant on defense and a little shaky on offense. The Wolverines offense has been dreadful in the red zone, but have been able to start 3-0 thanks to the defense and the leg of freshman kicker Quinn Nordin, who has already hit 11 field goals on the year.
For Purdue to pull off the upset, QBs David Blough and Elijah Sindelar (both will play) need to avoid costly interceptions when under pressure.
2. No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Georgia (7 p.m., ESPN): Mississippi State showed it will play a part in this year’s SEC race by demolishing LSU at home, 37-7, last weekend. This week, MSU plays Georgia, which will likely still be without starting QB Jacob Eason again. That presents MSU with an opponent that, like LSU, will skew toward the running game offensively.
That’s not to say freshman Jake Fromm can’t throw — he has 449 yards and five TDs with just one INT in three games — but the MSU defense should be able to key in on UGA backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel like it did with LSU’s Derrius Guice. On the other side, it’d be a huge surprise if Nick Fitzgerald and the MSU offense could put up the same kind of production against UGA it did against LSU. Two weeks ago against Notre Dame, UGA allowed only 55 rushing yards on 37 attempts. In the Irish’s two other games, they have run for 422 and 515 yards.
1. No. 16 TCU at No. 6 Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m., ESPN): With wins over Arkansas and an improved SMU, TCU is sort of quietly off to a really nice 3-0 start in 2017 after going 6-7 last fall. But the fact that SMU was able to put up 463 yards on the Horned Frogs last weekend does not bode well for their trip to Stillwater to face high-powered Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, with Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph at QB, absolutely shredded Pitt to continue its torrid start to the season. Rudolph and his array of weapons will be a huge challenge for TCU.
If this one turns into a shootout, TCU QB Kenny Hill is going to have to be on the top of his game. Through three weeks, he has looked pretty good with the performance against SMU — 24/30 for 365 yards and four touchdowns — probably being the best he’s had in a TCU uniform. Hill has also completed 75 percent of his passes this year with only two interceptions. He may have to go throw for throw with Rudolph on Saturday.
Keep an eye on …
NC State at No. 12 Florida State (Noon, ABC/ESPN2): Florida State hasn’t played since its opening loss against Alabama three weeks ago because of Hurricane Irma. Now, with freshman James Blackman starting at QB in place of injured Deondre Francois, FSU goes up against an NC State team that has been pretty underwhelming so far but still has one of the better defensive fronts in the ACC.
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (Noon, ESPN — in Arlington, Texas): You won’t find a game featuring teams with more dejected fanbases than this. Fans of both Arkansas, which looked terrible vs. TCU, and Texas A&M, which collapsed at UCLA, barely beat Nicholls and struggled with UL-Lafayette, are clamoring for their coaches to be fired. Now their problems will be magnified in front of a national television audience in an NFL stadium.
No. 4 Penn State at Iowa (7:30 p.m., ABC): Games against Iowa haven’t always been kind to ranked Penn State teams, so expect the Nittany Lions to be locked in for a tough, nighttime road atmosphere in Iowa City. Saquon Barkley and the PSU offense gets the praise, but the Nittany Lions are off to a really good start on defense. It will be a challenge to corral Iowa RB Akrum Wadley for four quarters.
UCLA at Stanford (10:30 p.m., ESPN): Hey, more #Pac12AfterDark! Stanford, coming off back-to-back losses to USC and San Diego State, will look to get back on track against a UCLA team that can put up a ton of points but can’t stop anybody. While Bryce Love puts up huge rushing numbers, maybe Stanford can finally get its passing game going against the Bruins, who got torched by Memphis last week.
No. 23 Utah at Arizona (+3.5) (Friday – 10:30 p.m., FS1): Darren Carrington is already comparing Utes QB Tyler Huntley to a certain Oregon QB now in the NFL. That’s premature, but Huntley still has been fun so far this year. He’ll get his first road test at Arizona, which has its own electric dual-threat QB in Brandon Dawkins. The Utes defense needs to be locked in to avoid the upset.
No. 22 San Diego State at Air Force (+3.5) (7 p.m., CBSSN): San Diego State has beaten Pac-12 teams in back-to-back weeks while Air Force was able to hang with Michigan for four quarters in Ann Arbor. Playing Stanford is always physical. To follow that on the road against Air Force’s option attack is going to be a real challenge for the Aztecs. SDSU will need another big game from Rashaad Penny.
Toledo (+13.5) at No. 14 Miami (3:30 p.m., ACCN): Miami is another team returning from a long layoff because of Irma. Toledo beat Tulsa 54-51 in a wild one last weekend and is capable of putting up some huge numbers offensively with QB Logan Woodside leading the way. Miami better be ready to play from the opening kick, or it could find itself in a shootout with the Rockets.
No. 20 Florida at Kentucky (+3) (7:30 p.m., SECN): Will Florida build off the momentum from the last-second win over Tennessee, or revert back to the Gators of the first seven quarters of their season? It’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle, and Kentucky showed with a road win over South Carolina it is capable of playing a real grind-it-out type of game. The Wildcats may finally snap their losing streak (now at 30 games) to the Gators Saturday night.
Channel surf through …
UCF at Maryland (3 p.m., FS1): UCF, which hasn’t played since Aug. 31, is a good test for Maryland heading into Big Ten play. Both teams play fast.
No. 5 USC at Cal (3:30 p.m., ABC): The Golden Bears are off to a surprising 3-0 start, but haven’t faced a team anywhere near as talented as USC. Sam Darnold needs to cut down on the interceptions.
Wake Forest at Appalachian State (3:30 p.m., ESPN3): Wake Forest is going to upset somebody this year, so you might as well start paying attention to the Demon Deacons now.
Arkansas State at SMU (7 p.m., ESPN3): SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn (an LSU transfer) are one of the most underrated WR duos in the country.
Notre Dame at Michigan State (8 p.m., Fox): With Brandon Wimbush and Josh Adams, Notre Dame’s running game — fifth-best in the country — is really fun. MSU is No. 17 nationally against the run.
More college football from Yahoo Sports:
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