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Week Four Viewer's Guide: Conference Play Kicking Off

Conference play kicks off in the Big XII and PAC-12 this week as the number of undefeated teams is decreasing after every week.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday Night

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Memphis Tigers Cincinnati Bearcats Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (Memphis) 7:30 ESPN -10.5

This game is your only option if you want to watch an FBS game Thursday night. While it doesn't jump off the page, you might want to get a look at Memphis. The Tigers are undefeated with a blowout win over a Big 12 team and a transitive win over a Big Ten squad. At this point in the season, they look like one of the top G5 teams in the country. Cincinnati lost a disappointing game to a surprising Temple team, but former Irish QB Gunner Kiel has put up big numbers in every game this year. At the very least, this one should feature points galore and be an entertaining start to the football week.

Friday Night

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Boise State Broncos Virginia Cavaliers Scott Stadium (UVA) 8:00 ESPN -2.5
Stanford Cardinal Oregon State Beavers Reser Stadium (OSU) 9:00 FS1 -15.5

Two solid games featuring Irish opponents make up the Friday night slate of games. First, Virginia hosts Boise State to complete their murderous OOC slate (UCLA, ND, and Boise) in Charlottesville. Matt Johns has another solid game last week, and the Hoos will need him to have one more if they hope to pull the upset. Boise lost a heartbreaking game to BYU two weeks ago. While that loss hurt, it doesn't eliminate them from New Year's Six Bowls just yet. Out west, Stanford and Oregon State face off in a PAC-12 conference game. Stanford had a memorable 41-31 win over Southern Cal on the road last week, but this team also lost to Northwestern while putting up just six points. The Beavers defense looked solid in the Big House a couple weeks ago, and they'll need that to continue if they're to pull the upset against the Cardinal.

Early Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Michigan Wolverines BYU Cougars Michigan Stadium Noon ABC -5.5
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Duke Blue Devils Wallace Wade Stadium (Duke) Noon ESPN2 -9
LSU Tigers Syracuse Orange Carrier Dome (SU) Noon ESPN -24
Rutgers Scarlett Knights Kansas Jayhawks High Point Solutions Stadium (RU) Noon BTN -12.5

Michigan hosting the Cougars of BYU highlights this week's noon slate. I double checked this line, but the Wolverines are actually favored which seems like a mistake. BYU is 2-1 having lost to UCLA on the road by a single point last week. On the other side of the field, Jim Harbaugh will hope to pick up his first marquee victory as Michigan's coach. Last week's Irish opponent travels to Duke where they will open ACC play. Duke lost a close game to a surprisingly good Northwestern team, so they'll also be looking to bounce back from a loss. Hopefully for Irish fans, GT helps out the strength of schedule throughout ACC play. In one of the stranger OOC games of the season, LSU travels way up north to play Syracuse in the Carrier dome. This game shouldn't be close, but tune in to see Leonard Fournette do terrible things to Cuse's overmatched defense before taking a nap in the second half. Lastly, if you love terrible football and want to test the limits of common decency, you can watch Kansas play at Rutgers. This game isn't suitable for viewers of any age, but for some reason it's being televised on Big Ten Network. Just know you'd kill to be able to watch something this bad come June.

Afternoon Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Notre Dame Fighting Irish UMass Minutemen Notre Dame Stadium 3:30 NBC -28.5
Oklahoma State Cowboys Texas Longhorns DK Royal Memorial Stadium (UT) 3:30 ESPN -3
Florida Gators Tennessee Volunteers Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (UF) 3:30 CBS -1.5
TCU Horned Frogs Texas Tech Red Raiders Jones AT&T Stadium 4:45 FOX -7.5

If the Irish start to run away from UMass, and ND fans start to get bored, there's a few other options in the mid-afternoon. First, Texas hosts Oklahoma State a week after an absolutely brutal 45-44 loss to Cal. The Horns looked solid on offense with Jerrod Heard at QB, but the defense looked eerily similar to the one that took the field in South Bend. The Pokes are undefeated having played a murderer's row of Central Michigan (on the road), Central Arkansas, and UTSA, so this will be their first test against real competition. In the SEC, Tennessee travels to Florida in a game that could have Eastern Division repercussions. The Vols lost a heartbreaker at home to Oklahoma in OT, and struggled against #MACtion's Bowling Green while the Gators are undefeated having played close games against Kentucky and East Carolina. While a loss wouldn't eliminate either squad, a win would position them next to UGA as the frontrunners in the East. In the Big XII, TCU travels to Lubbock to face Texas Tech. The Red Raiders won a big game over Arkansas last week before their coach Kliff Kingsbury threw some shade at Hogs coach Bret Bielema. TCU hasn't looked like a preseason playoff contender having allowed 37 points to SMU, after just beating Minnesota by just seven points. While the Frogs should win this one, weird things can happen in Lubbock.

Night Shift

Favorite Underdog Venue Time (ET) Network Line
Texas A&M Aggies Arkansas Razorbacks AT&T Stadium (Dallas) 7:00 ESPN -7
UCLA Bruins Arizona Wildcats Arizona Stadium 8:00 ABC -4
Oregon Ducks Utah Utes Autzen Stadium (UO) 8:45 FOX N/A
Southern California Trojans Arizona State Sun Devils Sun Devil Stadium 10:30 ESPN -5.5

There's some solid games Saturday night, and while they probably won't reach the highs of last weekend, they're pretty solid in their own right. First, Arkansas will try to stop their free-fall in the Southwest Classic against Texas A&M at JerryWorld. The Hogs have lost two straight to Toledo and Texas Tech, and neither of those squads are nearly as good as the Aggies. A&M seems to have found a defense to go with coach Kevin Sumlin's spread attack. Watch out for Aggies DE Myles Garrett who has been unblockable so far this season. College Gameday is broadcasting from Tucson, the site of the Arizona-UCLA game. Rich Rod has done great things in the desert, and this would be a huge win for his program. They'll try to slow down Josh Rosen and the Bruins who just squeaked by BYU last week. Zona All-American Scooby Wright injured his knee in week 1, but hopes to return this week. If he's able to play and is close to 100%, the Cats upset hopes will improve drastically. The last two games are also PAC-12 conference clashes. First, Oregon hosts Utah in Eugene where Ducks may be without starting QB Vernon Adams. The Oregon signal caller broke a finger in his throwing hand during the Michigan State game two weeks ago, and he is questionable for the Utah game. The Utes sit at 3-0 and in the top-20 of most polls, and they should provide a significant test for the Ducks. If they're to pull the upset, Utes backup QB Kendall Thompson will have to play lights out in his first road start in place of the injured Travis Wilson. If the Irish QB situation is indication, he'll be just fine. To close out the night, Southern Cal will try to rebound from their disappointing home loss to Stanford. Arizona State should provide a stiff test for the Trojans defense that allowed 41 points to Stanford last week. Sun Devils QB Mike Bercovici has seven TDs to go with just one INT this season, but his offensive line struggled to keep him upright against the A&M pass rush in week one. The SC offense should have few problems moving the ball, but if the Trojans hope to avoid a shootout, they'll need to generate some pressure to make Bercovici uncomfortable.