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College football week 4 preview: SEC triple header takes center stage

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Some intriguing matchups highlight Week 4’s slate.

Outback Bowl - Northwestern v Tennessee
Tennesse head coach Butch Jones
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Four ranked matchups take place this week - one from the Big Ten and the other three from the SEC. Several games could help shape the early playoff picture, including Wisconsin/Michigan State, Stanford/UCLA, and Georgia/Ole Miss. Here’s just a few games to watch tomorrow.

All rankings from Coaches Poll

Michigan State v Notre Dame Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

#10 Wisconsin at #8 Michigan State, noon, Big Ten Network and BTN2Go

As both teams head into the game ranked inside the top ten, Wisconsin enters the game with a new QB. After the Badgers struggled with Georgia State last weekend, trailing in the fourth quarter, head coach Paul Chryst decided to bring in redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook at QB. Hornibrook led the Badgers to a fourth quarter comeback versus Georgia State in an eventual 23-17 win. Michigan State enters the contest in a much better position.looking to add a top-ten win to the resume fresh off a huge 36-28 win at Notre Dame. The Spartans got great games from RBs Gerald Holmes (100 yards, two TDs) and LJ Scott (98 yards, TD) last week, so as long as the Spartans take care of the ball and feed the backs, they should be able to handle the Badgers at home. Wisconsin could have had a moment last week where they were looking ahead, but with a freshman QB on the road, it is hard to see them winning in East Lansing. In terms of the Big Ten race, it’s a bigger game for Michigan State, who cannot afford to drop an early game outside of the division.

Nicholls v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

#11 Georgia at #21 Ole Miss, noon, ESPN and WatchESPN

If the Rebels had held on to a 22 point lead against Florida State and a 21 point lead versus Alabama, they would probably be the number one team in the land. Instead, the Rebels playoff hopes, barring a miracle, are over, but the have plenty of opportunities to play spoiler. The first chance comes this week vs Georgia. The Bulldogs have struggled with Nicholls (FCS) and Missouri since their week one win over North Carolina. After a disappointing night in Missouri despite a win, look for the Bulldogs to get Nick Chubb back on track. He shouldn’t have a problem getting going as the “Land Sharks” have been getting shredded on the ground. The Rebels gave up 334 yards on the ground to Alabama last week, 233 to Wofford in week two, and 161 vs Florida State in the opener. The Rebels will also be facing their third freshman QB on the season in Jacob Eason. FSU’s Deondre Francois lit up the Rebels for 419 and two scores through the air, and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts ran for 146 yards last week. If the Rebels get off to another fast start then they need to protect the ball - Chad Kelly already has six turnovers. He threw three INTs vs FSU and also fumbled. His two fumbles vs Alabama last week were returned for touchdowns. He should be able to have a good day vs Georgia, but if they build another big lead, he must protect the ball.

North Texas v Florida Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

#16 Florida at #12 Tennessee, 3:30, CBS and CBSSports.com

Far from the days of Steve Spurrier vs Phillip Fulmer, the rivalry has gone stale for a decade as the Gators are on a streak of eleven wins in a row against the Vols. Last year was a new low for the Vols after they blew a 13 point lead in the final five minutes of the game in a 28-27 loss in Gainesville. This year was supposed to be the first time in eleven years where Tennessee would really handle Florida., but after struggling with Appalachian State and Ohio in two of the first three games, doubt has begun to creep back into the mind. Florida started the season the same as last year, fantastic on defense yet struggling on offense. Transfer QB Luke Del Rio looked as if he was finally getting it rolling until suffering a leg injury last week. Del Rio is out for at least a few weeks, leaving graduate transfer Austin Appleby from Purdue to lead the Gators out in Knoxville. Florida will lean heavily on the ground game as they had four different RBs score last week in a 32-0 win over North Texas. The Gators still hold one of the nation’s top defenses, only giving up 14 points through three games. Tennessee will also try to get the ground game rolling with dual threat QB Josh Dobbs to go with a backfield pair of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara. Dobbs hasn’t been impressive through the air so far this season with an interception in each of the first three games. The Vols’ top target, WR Josh Malone, has started well, but will have a tough task going against the Gators’ secondary on Saturday. Expect a low scoring affair, but if Florida can’t get anything going on offense, the Vols may exorcise eleven years’ worth of demons on the Gators. If Tennessee fails to end the streak, head coach Butch Jones will be firmly planted on the hot seat.

#6 Stanford at UCLA, 8pm, ABC and WatchESPN

The big game out west this weekend sees the Cardinal travel to L.A. to take on the Bruins in their first road game of the season. The Cardinal enter the game off an easy home win over Southern California. Christian McCaffery led the way with 238 yards and two touchdowns rushing and receiving. Their trip to UCLA preludes a trip north to #9 Washington. The Bruins bounced back after their overtime loss at Texas A&M, defeating UNLV and winning on the road at BYU. QB Josh Rosen recovered from a slow start with strong games the last two weeks. The Bruins’ postseason hopes are being helped out by a surging A&M - if UCLA can run the table from here on, 12-1 with a Pac-12 title should be enough to overlook a week one OT loss at A&M to get a spot in the playoff. The Bruins avoid Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12 North and get both Utah and USC at home in the South. If they can pull the upset Saturday night, they would be back in the conversation quickly.

NCAA Football: Texas State at Arkansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

#18 Arkansas vs. #13 Texas A&M (in Arlington, TX), 9pm, ESPN and WatchESPN

Jerry Jones welcomes his alma mater to AT&T Stadium as they take on the Aggies. The Hogs have avoided the early season blunder that has plagued Bret Bielema’s tenure. After surviving a 21-20 scare vs Louisiana Tech, the Hogs went up to Fort Worth and upset TCU in double overtime. They then cruised to a 42-3 win over Texas State last week. Texas A&M is coming off a 29-16 win in Auburn last week. This game went to overtime last season with the Aggies coming out winners. Kevin Sumlin will be trying to stop the trend of his team falling off after September. With the struggles of LSU and Ole Miss, the winner of this one could be the challenger to Alabama in the SEC West, as both teams play the Tide next month.

Others to watch:

USC at #23 Utah, 9:00pm, FS1 and Fox Sports GO

Penn State at #5 Michigan, 3:30pm, ABC and WatchESPN

Colorado at Oregon, 5:30pm, Pac-12 Networks and Pac-12 Networks Live

#17 LSU at Auburn, 6:00pm, ESPN and WatchESPN