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Non TCU Game of the Week: Week 4

Three top 25 matchups and the real College Gameday site headline this Saturday’s schedule.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Headliner:

#20 Florida at #11 Tennessee (-10.5) Saturday, September 24th 2:30 pm CBS

College gameday will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee for a top 25 matchup between two SEC east rivals moving in different directions in the AP poll. The Vols have been climbing in the rankings after a win at now number 24 ranked Pitt in overtime. Starting quarterback Hendon Hooker is off to a very strong start to the season with over 800 yards passing and 6 touchdowns and no interceptions. Hooker has done an excellent job spreading the ball around with 4 receivers over 100 yards on the season. Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman have led the way with 267 and 247 yards receiving respectively. Unfortunately for the Vols, Tillman is unlikely to play versus the Gators on Saturday due to an injury suffered last week. Hyatt is a big play threat with excellent top-end speed and should see a lot of safety help over the top on Saturday if Tillman doesn’t play. A key player for the Vols on Saturday is former 5-star Bru McCoy who rivals former Frog Zach Evans for one of the wildest recruiting stories in college football. McCoy was a top 10 recruit in his class coming out of powerhouse Mater Dei High School in California and could see more targets with the injury to Tillman on Saturday. Jabari Small leads the rushing attack for Tennessee and will play on Saturday despite suffering an injury last Saturday against Akron. Small has 94 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground and could see a slight increase in workload against a Florida defense that has given up over 200 yards on the ground twice through 3 games. The defense for the Vols has been opportunistic at the very least so far this season as they have forced 6 turnovers already including 3 interceptions and 3 recovered fumbles. The pass rush has been strong so far this season as well with Elijah Herring leading the way with two sacks. If Tennessee can get to Anthony Richardson and force bad decisions to create extra possessions for their explosive offense, they will have a very good shot at another top 25 win.

The key for Florida on Saturday will be to get Anthony Richardson back on track. After a very good performance week 1 against Utah, Richardson has fallen back to Earth in a loss against Kentucky and a close win against USF. Richardson is yet to throw a touchdown pass this season and has thrown 4 interceptions in the last two games. The talent is there as Richardson has a very strong arm and is a great athlete with the ability to make plays happen with his legs but needs to improve his accuracy quickly if Florida is going to pull off the upset on Saturday. Kentucky and USF also did a good job keeping Richardson in the pocket, limiting his rushing ability as he only had 28 rushing yards in those two games combined compared to the win over Utah where Richardson had over 100 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Richardson being able to use his athleticism is key for Billy Napier as they will need to find explosive plays to keep up with Tennessee. Montrell Johnson Jr. has been the lead back for the Gators this season with 240 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9.6 yards per carry. Trevor Etienne and Nay’Quan Wright have also been very good both with over 100 yards rushing on 22 and 24 carries respectively. While the passing attack has been inconsistent for the Gators, the ground game has been very effective with 3 very solid running backs and a dual threat quarterback in Richardson. The defense is being led by senior safety Trey Dean III who has 30 tackles already to go along with half a sack and a pass breakup. The pass rush only has 3 sacks so far this season and needs to create more pressure on Saturday to make Hendon Hooker uncomfortable in the pocket.

My pick: Tennessee wins (-355) Tennessee covers (-10.5) Full game over (62)

The Undercard:

Duke at Kansas (-7) Saturday, September 24th 11:00 am FS1

The Blue Devils visit the Jayhawks in a matchup between two unbeaten traditional football powerhouses in what should have been the host for College Gameday this week. Both teams are off to 3-0 starts this season and will face off in front of a sold-out David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Kansas appears to have taken a massive step forward in their second season under Lance Leipold with wins over West Virginia and Houston already this season. Starting quarterback Jalon Daniels has been excellent through 3 games through the air and on the ground. Daniels has 566 passing yards and 7 passing touchdowns to just 1 interception as well as over 200 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Daniels has led a very potent offense for the Jayhawks this season, scoring over 45 points in all 3 games and twice clearing 55 points. Running back Devin Neal has helped Daniels put up those points averaging over 7 yards per carry for 204 yards total this season. Daniel Hishaw Jr. has also been a very effective back for the Jayhawks with 170 yards on just 26 carries. Both backs are receiving threats out of the backfield and are part of a large number of non traditional wide receivers to catch passes for Kansas this season. Tight ends and running backs have caught 5 of the 7 passing touchdowns for Kansas so far this season, showing the versatility in personnel that the Jayhawks have at their disposal. The Jayhawks’ defense did let up a combined 72 points to Houston and West Virginia but have shown an ability to get to the quarterback frequently. The pass rush has 9 sacks already on the season led by edge rusher Lonnie Phelps with 3 sacks. Senior linebacker Rich Miller leads the team in tackles this season with 27 after coming in second on the team in tackles in 2021. Safety Kenny Logan Jr. won the tackling title last year and is off to a solid start in 2022 with 19 tackles to go along with an interception.

The Mike Elko era at Duke is off to a great start as the former Texas A&M defensive coordinator has already matched the Blue Devils’ win total from last year. The Blue Devils have been led by a prolific passing attack courtesy of sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard. Leonard has over 700 passing yards already this season with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Like Daniels, Leonard is also very mobile with 147 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Leonard’s top target this season has been converted quarterback Jordan Moore who has hauled in 13 passes for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns this season. Moore is very difficult to bring down in the open field and has all the athletic tools to develop into a very good route runner as he gets more comfortable at receiver. Jalon Calhoun has also been a solid target and big play threat with 12 catches for 198 yards good for an average of 16.5 yards per reception. The running back tandem of Jaylen Coleman and Jordan Waters presents a scary threat to the Kansas defense this Saturday as both backs have over 170 yards on the ground and averages of over 6 yards per carry. The Duke defense has done a very good job forcing turnovers this season with 5 forced fumbles and an interception. Duke will need to produce a couple of extra possessions for their offense on Saturday to keep up with Kansas. I think this will be a very high-scoring game that Jalon Daniels takes over and leads Kansas to a victory.

My pick: Kansas wins (-292) Kansas covers (-7) Full game over (63.5)

The Undercard (part 2):

#5 Clemson (-7) at #21 Wake Forest Saturday, September 24th 11:00 am ABC

Wake Forest hosts a top 5 Clemson team as the Demon Deacons look to defend their Atlantic title and Clemson looks secure a statement victory on the road. Star quarterback Sam Hartman appears to have not missed a beat in recovering from a non-football-related illness that caused him to miss week 1. Hartman has 625 yards passing and 7 touchdowns through just 2 games. Hartman has been at Wake Forest since the 2018 season and has plenty of experience in the RPO-heavy system that they run making it very hard to defend their offense as he rarely makes a bad decision on the field. Hartman will be facing a very talented Clemson defense that has yet to let up more than 20 points in a game this season. The secondary for the Tigers has been outstanding so far for Clemson with 5 interceptions through 3 games. The offense has been another story as DJ Uiagalelei has not inspired a lot of confidence that he has taken a step forward from a tough year in 2021. Uiagalelei has put up decent numbers with 662 yards and 5 touchdowns to just 1 interception but these have come against a very easy schedule of Georgia Tech, Furman, and Louisiana Tech. I think the Clemson defense plays well enough to win against Wake Forest in a close game.

My pick: Clemson wins (-285) Wake Forest covers (+7) Full game over (55.5)

Upset Watch:

#23 Texas A&M (-2.5) vs #10 Arkansas Saturday, September 24th 6:00 pm ESPN

The Aggies and Razorbacks will face off in Arlington at Jerry World as both teams have had similar seasons so far. Both teams have a win over a top 25 team with Arkansas beating what was then a number 23 ranked Cincinnati team in week 1 and A&M bouncing back with a victory over then number 13 ranked Miami at home last week. Arkansas played a very close game at home against Missouri State last week at home and Texas A&M lost to App State at home two weeks ago (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA). Jimbo Fischer made a quarterback change following the App State loss and handed the reigns over to LSU transfer Max Johnson. Even with the new quarterback, the Aggies struggled to put up points on Miami, scoring just 17 and gaining only 264 yards total. The defense did a great job holding the Hurricanes under 10 points, especially with the offense’s struggles and lack of sustained drives. They will face a tougher task in a very physical Arkansas team that has solid weapons on the outside as well. The Hogs have a dominant rushing attack led by running back Rocket Sanders and quarterback KJ Jefferson. The two have combined for over 600 rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns this season. Jefferson has done a good job finding playmakers in the passing game as well with 770 yards and 6 passing touchdowns to just 1 interception. The defense for Arkansas is led by the excellent linebacking corps of Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool who have combined for 56 tackles and 6 sacks so far this season. The secondary is a point of weakness for the Hogs but their mistakes are often masked by a pass rush that has produced a staggering 17 sacks through 3 games. I don’t think the Texas A&M offensive line will be able to give Johnson enough time to expose the holes in the Hogs’ secondary and Arkansas will win Saturday night.

My pick: Arkansas wins (+110) Arkansas covers (+2) Full game over (50)

(Yes I know I picked 4 straight full game overs, life is too short to bet the under)