I’m Learning Here, People: Five Games to Watch in Week Four

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, this is late, but life happens, ok? Deal with it. You are now free to suffer… err, enjoy Kevin’s latest writing.

 

Wow.

Just wow.

Welcome to the upset party Temple, Eastern Michigan, Air Force, The Citadel (FCS!), BYU (begrudgingly and technically for the second time), and UCF (even though they were the favorite).

That is a total of SIX FCS/G5 teams who upset the Power Five apple cart just in week three, which matches the total of the same in week one. From week Zero on that total is up to 18 separate upsets, with only Hawai’i and BYU responsible for more than one.

Not to mention the almost as many close calls (FSU-ULM, Army-Michigan, everyone Minnesota played, etc.)

This week having more of a general focus on beginning conference play in a lot of circles diminishes the possibility of more, but that same fact looming for some or starting for others makes games going forward even more important than an upset.

Here are my five to watch, with the token couple on back burner:

Toledo at Colorado State (Saturday, 10:15 p.m.,  ESPN 2)

Well, for one, it is another rendition of MWCAFTERDARK, which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine (even if I miss more than I see this year).

Secondly, both teams could really use a statement win before charging into conference play the following weekend.

The Rams have had two near misses, losing a challenging game against the Buffaloes, and then pushing Arkansas to the brink before collapsing late in the fourth quarter in a 55-34 loss that was a LOT closer than the score.

This is definitely a more winnable game, especially being back home. And with a conference road game against the Aggies looming next week, a win here would big a helpful momentum boost.

For the Rockets, they remain in the conversation for a MAC title, but have gained little traction outside of those circles. They had a solid showing in their opener at Kentucky, but only have had a bye week and a lopsided win against an FCS team since.

They can’t look past this game either, because they host nonconference BYU next. So an upset here would supercharge them going forward.

 

Air Force at Boise State (Friday, 9 p.m., ESPN 2)

It’s strange that this could be a competitive game, as heading into the season it did not seem like it would carry as much weight, at least for Boise.

But the Falcons come into this short week Black Out showdown off their biggest win yet, an overtime thriller in Boulder. Adding their name to the list of MWC wins over the Pac is one thing. Proving that they can go into a heavy underdog road game against a rival, and fight to a win, puts a lot more energy into this likely sold-out game.

Boise State, ranked since they surprised the Noles, have shown uncharacteristic weakness at home. While they have pulled off two straight wins in two straight games, they were largely shut down by the Thundering Herd in the first one and kept Portland State close to them for longer than most anticipated.

For a Friday night MWC opener, it would be nearly impossible to ask for a better one than this game.

Western Michigan at Syracuse (Saturday, Noon, ACC Network)

Miami of Ohio almost made the cut last week, and boy was I wrong about that game.

The MAC gets a representative this week in what could be their biggest upset possibility for a while.

The Broncos, instead of the narrow victory (or even defeat) many expected, went to GAST and knocked out the Panthers in a lopsided victory. It solidifies their standing as a team to watch in the MAC and shows they can go into hostile non-conference games and dominate.

The Orange, instead of the going-15-rounds fight many expected, stumbled early and often in a disappointing primetime loss to Clemson. Proving that their seemingly upset loss to the Terps was not a fluke and that they are indeed truly vulnerable at home and in general.

It may not be the most eye-catching match, but I can definitely see it going down to the wire. If the Broncos prep well enough and adjust in-game well enough, this would be a statement win before they start conference play next week.

#15 UCF at Pitt (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN 2)

I genuinely hope more of you get to see this game, as the timeslot is split between this and Washington-BYU, and this is definitely the more compelling and interesting matchup.

On one hand, the Knights just got their first win against a Pac-12 team in school history. They welcomed the Cardinal, who beat them like they were winless four years ago (because they were), and trounced them like they were the winless team (even though they are not).

It moved UCF up more (though arguably not enough), and really cemented their name in the national conversation. Which is probably why they are so widely displayed this weekend.

On the other side is a Pitt team that is definitely better than their record. Their win is at home (which helps here) against a strong Ohio team. Their losses are a heartbreaker in their opener at home to Virginia, and a down-to-the-wire loss last week in Happy Valley.

 

Utah State at San Diego State (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., CBSSN)

#MWCAFTERDARK ends the weekend with Hawai’i hosting a sneaky but likely overwhelmed Central Arkansas, and this conference opener for both teams.

Living in the shadow of Boise State and Fresno State, and in the conference of strength in the Group of Five, both teams are fully aware of the stakes, even this early in the season.

For the Aggies, having an extra week to prepare definitely goes in their favor. Their only test so far was a three-point loss on the road against Wake Forest, so they have already shown they have the power and ability to contend. With division foes Boise and Air Force also squaring off, a win here could put them in the title race from the beginning.

For San Diego State, watching their foe Fresno State start 0-2 while stomping through their own games has given the fan base a major jolt of excitement and extra hope for this year to be their year. It will also be a welcome back home after beating UCLA and NMSU the last two weeks. They get their bye week next, so a win here would be the best momentum heading into that.

 

Honorable Mention: Appalachian State at North Carolina (Saturday, p.m., ACCNX)

Mack Brown has a lot to prove, after the controversial and uneven loss to arch-rivals  Wake Forest.

Unfortunately for him, his team has an even bigger challenge this week.

Appalachian State has never fully left the conversation since that upset in Ann Arbor, but this is their first game on a television station this year, and it’s an early test to prove that their dominance of the schedule so far is not a fluke.

Plus, it helps that they share a state, which App State has already won in this year (over Charlotte), while the aforementioned loss puts the Tar Heels a bit behind.

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