College football Week 4 preview: Florida heads to Knoxville, Wisconsin visits Ohio State at the ‘Shoe’
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Football is simply better during the fall months and Week 4 of the college football season happens to land on the first Saturday of autumn.
Couple that with a phenomenal slate of college games, and there are zero reasons for fans of the game to leave the couch for anything other than a quick mow of the lawn on Saturday.
The conference schedule is in full swing, and we have four high-quality matchups in the Big Ten, SEC, and ACC.
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Let’s take a look at a few games to be aware of Saturday as the college football season kicks off Week 4.
No. 21 Wake Forest vs No. 5 Clemson – 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
The Demon Deacons have become nationally relevant, winning the ACC Atlantic division and reaching the 2021 ACC title game in head coach Dave Clawson’s eighth season in Winston-Salem.
Yet, it has been 13 years since Wake Forest defeated Clemson, 0-8 with Clawson leading the program.
Even in a wildly successful season, and a down year for Clemson, Wake Forest still could not beat the Tigers, losing 48-27 on the road.
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“The bottom line is we haven't played well against them,” Clawson said. “So I just want to go out Saturday and I want our team to play at the level that we're capable of.”
It's the first ranked matchup between the two schools since 1950 as both enter the game undefeated.
Clemson has remained high in the rankings without a quality win, and we still are unsure of just how good they are.
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Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei has looked better after a difficult first season as the starter, throwing for five touchdowns and just one interception. However, Clemson’s first three opponents are a combined 4-5, with Wake Forest being the first real test of the season for the Tigers.
“We still don’t know what they are,” ESPN college football host Matt Barrie said. “We know they’ve got a great defense. We know that. We know they’ve got Will Shipley, a really good running back. Joseph Ngata’s [Clemson wide receiver] played pretty well over the first couple of weeks. We just still don’t know about the quarterback yet.”
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“DJ Uiagalelei has done enough to be good, but is he doing enough, has he grown enough to make Clemson hang around that top four College Football Playoff conversation? At least for now, they’re undefeated, they’re ranked fifth.”
Wake Forest is led by quarterback Sam Hartman, who missed the first game of the season recovering from a blood clot, and has thrown for seven touchdowns and two interceptions in two games.
“They're the Atlantic Division champs,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “And they know what that looks like it, and they're confident in that.”
No. 11 Tennessee vs No. 20 Florida – 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
It has been six years since Tennessee last beat Florida, but this appears to be a different Vols team than college football fans have seen in past years.
Tennessee is 3-0 for the first time since 2016, and they are doing it with one of the more high-powered offenses in the country.
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The Vols are averaging 553.7 yards per game – third most in the country – and scoring 52.0 points per game, good for fourth in the nation. With quarterback Hendon Hooker under center, the Vols are averaging 371.3 yards per game in the air. Hooker has thrown six touchdowns with zero interceptions, including a 27-42 game for 325 yards and two touchdowns against then-No. 17 Pittsburgh.
However, Hooker wants more, with an eye on breaking the run of looses to the Gators.
“I haven’t played to my standards yet, but we’ve been winning ballgames and that’s the total end story that I’m looking for, is are we winning?” Hooker said “It doesn’t matter how I play or how somebody else plays if we’re winning.”
Florida will visit Neyland Stadium in Billy Napier’s first year as head coach as he’ll head into the rivalry as 10.5-point underdogs, according to Fox Bet.
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For the Gators, another loss in the SEC – Florida lost to Kentucky in Week 2 – would be a tough hole to dig out of in the SEC East. They will be counting on quarterback Anthony Richardson, who has struggled since Florida’s win over the then-No. 7 Utah Utes.
“Frankly, if Florida doesn’t up their quarterback play, it’s not going to be good enough against the competition they’re going to face in this game (against Tennessee) or maybe the rest of their schedule,” CBS analyst Gary Danielson said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Richardson, who rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns against Utah, has gained just 28 yards on the ground since and has thrown four interceptions without a passing touchdown on the season.
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The rivalry between the Vols and the Gators will be renewed Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, with Tennessee hoping to break the streak of Florida dominance, who have won 16 of the last 17 meetings between the schools.
“Probably 30 seconds after I arrived on campus,” second-year Tennessee head coach Josh Huepel said when asked when he learned of the rivalry. “This is one of the ballgames that this fan base and our players point to.”
No. 23 Texas A&M vs No. 10 Arkansas – 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Arkansas found a way to survive becoming a victim of an FCS school in Week 3, beating Missouri State after being down 10 in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M was not able to survive their upset in Week 2, losing to an unranked Appalachian State team before beating No. 13 Miami in Week 3.
The Razorbacks are looking to start the season 4-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1988-1999 and 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2006.
Texas A&M’s defense is stingy, ninth in the nation in points allowed per game (8.7). The Aggies are allowing just 301 yards per game but have allowed 154.3 yards per game on the ground.
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Enter Arkansas and running back Raheim Sanders, who are 10th in the country in rushing yards per game with 243.7. Sanders is the leading rusher in the SEC with three consecutive 100-yard games to start the season.
Quarterback KJ Jefferson has rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for six touchdowns in Arkansas first three games.
Defensively, the Razorbacks’ secondary had been atrocious, dead last in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game (353.0).
“Well, we have to get better, both of them, really. But obviously there’s a little bit more urgency of covering people,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said, according to the Fayetteville Flyer. “Now we can live with guys getting good throws. We can’t live with guys wide open. … Somebody is going to beat us. They need to beat us with us attempting to cover the guy.”
The problem for Texas A&M is that they are not exactly lighting it up with their passing attack, averaging just 208 yards per game through the air, 99th in the nation.
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The Aggies made a change at quarterback against Miami, starting LSU transfer Max Johnson in place of Haynes King.
“I think offensively moved the ball much better, had some really nice opening drives of both halves,” Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said this week about his offense against Miami. “Could have finished a couple of drives, got stuck at the 40 there a couple times which we think we can get ironed out.”
Arkansas is looking to win its second game in a row against Texas A&M after snapping a nine-game losing streak last season.
Saturday’s game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
No. 3 Ohio State vs Wisconsin – 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The Buckeyes, despite starting the year as the No. 2 team in the country, have remained somewhat under the radar.
After beating then-No. 5 Notre Dame in Week 1, Ohio State soundly beat Arkansas State and Toledo. The win over the Fighting Irish no longer looks as impressive after Notre Dame lost to Marshall to drop to 0-2 on the season and needed a fourth quarter comeback to beat Cal.
However, Wisconsin presents a Big Ten test, and a different level of competition.
“Big Ten play is more challenging, it's more physical up front, no disrespect (to other conferences),” Buckeyes offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said the other day.
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“When you get into Big Ten play, it's a line-of-scrimmage league, it's a tough league,” he said. “It wears on you week after week after week. We're starting with a big challenge with a great line-of-scrimmage team on both sides coming up when Wisconsin walks into the ‘Shoe.”
Ohio State’s offense really got going against Toledo, gaining 763 yards and scoring 77 points behind five touchdowns from Heisman-hopeful quarterback C.J. Stroud. The offensive explosion puts Ohio State as the top offensive team in the country, averaging 563.3 yards per game.
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Wisconsin’s defense will look to slow down the high-powered unit with a defense that has allowed just 246 yards through its first three games, good for 11th in the country.
“I can say this for a lot of guys — you dream about games like this,” Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig said.
The Badgers are led by second year quarterback Graham Mertz and are 2-1 after being upset by Washington State in Week 2.
The Associated Press contributed to this report