College football Week 4 is generally the start to conference play, with most non-conference games in the rearview mirror. It’s a week where teams begin to flesh themselves out and others needing to overcome prove-it situations that could seriously affect the rest of their year.
It’s a critical fulcrum that could expose teams who benefitted from a light out-of-conference schedule, or get teams who tripped up in OOC games back on track.
Here, we’ll take a dive into some of the best games of the week, including rivalries, neutral site slugfests, and plenty of prove-it situations for up-and-coming teams like Tennessee and Arizona State.
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College Football Week 4 Odds
|Date||Away Team||Home Team||Odds|
*neutral site game
College Football Week 4 Top Games
Notre Dame () vs. Wisconsin
Despite appearing like an age-old rivalry, Wisconsin and Notre Dame rarely meet on the gridiron; in 16 total matchups, the Irish lead the all-time series 8-6-2, with their last matchup coming in 1964 (seriously). This marquee battle between two of the midwest’s premiere programs is set to be a terrific ballgame and will be held at Soldier Field in Chicago (with the rescheduled follow-up happening in Green Bay in 2026).
The Badgers return hopeful superstar Graham Mertz as quarterback against what should be a tough Notre Dame defense. A season ago, the Irish held their own in a high-flying ACC that included two games against Clemson. Wisconsin’s 2020 season was mostly derailed by COVID-19 and they limped their way to a 4-3 final record (third in Big Ten West). The Irish finished first in the ACC regular season in their first year in a conference, but were defeated in the conference championship.
Notre Dame looks to replace Ian Book at quarterback and defensive Swiss Army Knife Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to the NFL. The loss of the two players drops Notre Dame’s projected wins to nine after winning 10 games last season. Neither team is a College Football Playoff contender particularly, but this game will have serious New Years Six bowl implications.
Texas A&M (OTB) vs. Arkansas
Odds will be placed here once they are released.
The Aggies and Razorbacks continue their rivalry, which was rejuvenated in 2010 after a 20-year hiatus. Texas A&M trails the all-time series 41-33-3 despite having won the last nine outings. This game is held annually at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, roughly halfway between their two campuses. The 2021 edition of the rivalry could have real implications for both teams– for A&M, it’s a prove-it game as a favorite (the Aggies are expected to be once odds are released) and on a year they’re expected to compete for a CFP berth. For Arkansas, they’re looking to build on momentum gained after bottoming out over the past several seasons in the SEC.
Both teams move forward without their veteran quarterbacks, with both Kellen Mond (A&M) and Felipe Franks (Arkansas) expiring their eligibility. Instead, the teams will look to their running game often, with the Aggies’ Isaiah Spiller being one of the most touted backs in the country. A&M looks to rebuild nearly their entire offensive front, but returns nine of their 11 defensive starters from a season ago. Arkansas returns their entire offensive line and tight end Blake Kern.
Colorado at Arizona State (OTB)
Odds will be placed here once they are released.
Talk about two Pac-12 programs with bright futures, both Colorado and Arizona State are looking for breakout seasons after 2020 was largely lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jayden Daniels leads the Sun Devils after showing flashes of brilliance over his first two seasons with the team. Arizona State also returns four of their five starters on the offensive line, as well as their five top rushers from a season ago. Expect them to use Daniels often, including his ability to extend plays with his legs. However, keep an eye on pending recruiting violation allegations that could have serious implications on this team.
Colorado is coming off a 4-2 season where they nearly found themselves in the conference championship game. They were gouged on the ground by Texas’ Bijan Robinson to the tune of 18.9 yards per carry, which caused the Buffs to part ways with their defensive coordinator. Linebacker Nate Landman returns to the lineup this season after suffering an injury that derailed an All-American campaign last year. They also added a handful of transfers on the defensive side of the ball, which should set this team up nicely for 2021.
The focus on defense for Colorado will be instrumental against Arizona State’s offensive attack.
Tennessee at Florida ()
College football Week 4 and beyond is where teams begin to enter “prove-it” games against their own conference and division. Maybe the best example of a prove-it game is this matchup between the Volunteers and Gators in Gainesville. New head coach Josh Huepel will have a couple weeks to iron out any wrinkled with his new team that includes quarterback Hendon Hooker (transfer from Virginia Tech). The Vols see just two returning starters from a season ago, but that Tennessee team fizzled to 3-7, meaning the high turnover could be good for them.
High turnover with Florida, however, is less welcome. Dan Mullen is feeling pressure after not having appeared in a College Football Playoff and after being blown out by Oklahoma in the 2020 Cotton Bowl. Gone is prolific passer Kyle Trask and speedster Kadarius Toney. To replace them steps Emory Jones and Clemson transfer back Demarkcus Bowman. The latter is a former five-star recruit who was buried under the immense talent in Clemson and now gets a fresh start.
The winner of this game will continue to compete in the SEC East while the loser could be facing early-season turmoil.