Week 4 might be the toughest, yet easiest, week of the season. Bye weeks are in full swing, and fans are seeing what an additional week can do to the schedule. Simply put, there aren't many bad matchups to avoid this week. There are very few conference contests, and a plethora of FCS, or "worse," opponents on the lineup. As a result, it's a week to not overthink. It's also a week where you can find some bargain plays.
Ball State (at Eastern Michigan) - If it's not broke, don't fix it. This column has picked on the Eagles rush defense for two weeks, so why not continue that trend? Eastern Michigan has given up 202, 251 and 185 yards on the ground through three games. Ball State isn't exactly a rushing juggernaut, averaging 119.3 yards over their three tilts, but expect the Cardinals to find success and stick with what's working.
Western Kentucky (vs. Morgan State) - The Morgan State Bears have allowed 815 yards rushing to Army, Liberty and Robert Morris. Not much else needs to be said, as the Hilltoppers should have their way, and does anyone think coach Bobby Petrino will go easy on his opponent?
Vanderbilt (at Massachusetts) - UMASS has the second worst run defense in the nation statistically; allowing 323 yards per game over three contests. The Commodores, on the other hand, haven't been terrific on the ground, but the key is they've run the ball at least 33 times in all three of their games. Wesley Tate and Jerron Seymour should set the tone early, and look for home-run threat Brian Kimbrow to bust a long run as well.
Louisville (vs. Florida International) - The recurring theme this week isn't great rushing attacks; it's horrible rush defenses. There are simply too many cupcakes, name-your-score matchups on the Week 4 docket. The Cardinals ran for 242 yards last week at Kenucky, and face a Panthers defense that's allowing 242 yards per game. Senorise Perry, Michael Dyer and Dominique Brown are licking their chops.
Oregon State (at San Diego State) - This may be a tough sell, as the Beavers look like a pass first, second and third team. They've run for just 210 yards through three games and will be without their top rusher, Storm Woods, due to a concussion. Their opponent, San Diego State, has allowed 435 yards over two contests, including 172 to Eastern Illinois. This feels like a game where the Beavers allow quarterback Sean Mannion to rest his shoulder and get their ground game some much needed confidence before conference play continues.
Miami (vs. Savannah State) - The Hurricanes are a whopping 60-point favorite against a Tigers team that's been outscored 163-32 through three games, while somehow winning one of those. Quarterback Stephen Morris and coach Al Golden have talked about opening up the playbook a bit, but don't expect Morris to get much more than a few hundred yards before this contest is completely out of control. An interesting stat on Morris: since taking over fully as starter in 2012, Morris has topped 360 yards four times and has been held to less than 223 yards in his other 10 contests. Again, Morris won't get enough snaps Saturday to post gaudy numbers. As a result, Duke Johnson, Eduardo Clements, Gus Edwards and Dallas Crawford are going to get a ton of yards.
UNLV (vs. Western Illinois) - Quarterback turned wide receiver turned quarterback Caleb Herring is back under center for the Rebels, and early returns are encouraging. He completed 24-of-28 passes last week against Central Michigan. His top target, Devante Davis, is one of the best receivers nationally you've probably never heard of. Davis has five touchdowns on the season, three of which came with Herring under center last weekend.
Western Kentucky (vs. Morgan State) - It's a rare occurrence when one team is a solid play with both their passing and rushing attacks, but the Hilltoppers have pulled of that feat. Quarterback Brandon Doughty has struggled with interceptions, tossing eight through three games, but is still averaging 258 yards per game while facing SEC opponents Kentucky and Tennessee. Morgan State is overmatched here, and coach Bobby Petrino will get his quarterback some confidence this weekend.
UAB (vs. Northwestern State) - The Blazers represent yet another team you'd likely not think about, but have a favorable matchup. Their season stats are a little skewed after a tough outing in Baton Rouge two weeks against LSU. Quarterback Austin Brown feasted on a Troy defense in the season opener, tossing for 301 yards and three scores. He should do the same against Northwestern State. For more on the Demons inept pass defense ...
Cincinnati (at Miami (OH)) - Newly anointed starting quarterback Brendon Kay was virtually perfect a week ago against Northwestern State, as the Bearcats quarterbacks combined to hit on 20-of-22 passes for 345 yards and five scores. Cincinnati's opponent allows a nation-high 350 yards per game through the air, facing Marshall and Kentucky, which aren't exactly Texas A&M and Texas Tech through the air. Look for the Bearcats to feast.
LSU (vs. Auburn) - In one of the few matchups of Week 4 where both teams are household names, the Tigers of LSU face a pass defense in the Tigers of Auburn that's shown steady progress weekly, but isn't striking fear. LSU signal-caller Zach Mettenberger has shown tremendous growth in 2013 with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. Look for that trend to continue as Mettenberger and his supporting cast make a statement in primetime Saturday night.
North Carolina (at Georgia Tech) - The Tar Heels represent this week's gut-feel selection. The Yellow Jackets' pass defense has been very impressive on paper, holding Duke and Elon to just 286 total yards through the air. But that was Duke with a new starting quarterback, and Elon. Their option offense burns clock and limits opponents' possessions as a result. Hence, the Tar Heels will need to throw to keep up. UNC's run game hasn't found much success, and this is an opportunity for quarterback Bryn Renner to find wide receiver Quinshad Davis for some big plays.
Virginia (vs. VMI) - If UNC is the gut feel this week, the Cavaliers represent this week's reach. Quarterback David Watford and coach Mike London have been outspoken this week about establishing a vertical passing attack. For once, it's wise to believe this coach speak. Watford needs to build his confidence as the Cavs head into conference play, and they have a few banged up running backs as well. Look for wideout Tim Smith to get behind the Cadets' defense with frequency, while Watford and potentially backup Greyson Lambert show what they're capable of.