One of the beautiful things about college football is that the stakes are always high — no matter the opponent — but at the same time, things get more and more intense as the season rolls on.
Every win is vital and every loss is a backbreaker, and that’s the situation many teams across the nation are facing as they look ahead to week four of the college football season.
That’s not even considering the fact that the in-conference schedule is now in full swing.
It’s going to be intense, crazy, fun, and exciting. It may also be heartbreaking for the below four schools because they’ve got a ton to lose this weekend.
at Vanderbilt, 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS (-19.5, O/U 43)
In most universes, No. 1 Alabama taking on an unranked opponent would be chalked up as an easy win, and full-disclosure, it still could be.
With that said, Vanderbilt has been impressive this season, and there’s a very good chance the Commodores give the Crimson Tide a run for their funny.
Specifically, Vandy’s defense has been very good so far this season. Sure, they haven’t played an opponent of Alabama’s caliber just yet, but they have only given up 13 points through three games. That includes a 42-0 shutout of Alabama A&M and a 14-7 win over No. 18 Kansas State.
Vanderbilt is confident and the game will be at Vanderbilt Stadium so this will be a test for the Tide. One loss may not exactly knock Alabama out of the CFP picture, but perhaps it could, so there’s a lot on the line.
at Cal, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC (-16.5, O/U 64)
The No. 5 Trojans conquered a huge demon last weekend by defeating Texas in a rematch of one of the greatest games of all-time. USC won the game, 27-24, but things aren’t going to get any easier for Clay Helton and his team.
USC now looks ahead to a two-game road stretch, the first contest coming against a 3-0 Cal team that has beaten two good teams already this season in North Carolina and Ole Miss.
Yes, this is by far Cal’s biggest test of the season while USC has already beaten No. 14 Stanford and the Longhorns in a huge rivalry game, but don’t underestimate the Golden Bears. They’re hot right now, and with their game sandwiched in between Texas and USC’s clash at No. 18 Washington State, this could be the perfect trap game for the Trojans.
vs. TCU, 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (-14, O/U 72)
The best chance Oklahoma State has to make the CFP this season is to run the table, but the No. 6 Cowboys have two big roadblocks in the way of that goal. The first is No. 16 TCU, a team Oklahoma State has to play this weekend. The second is No. 3 Oklahoma, but there’s a lot of season between then and now, so first things first. If the Cowboys want to remain CFP contenders, they’ll have to beat TCU.
Frankly, that’s going to be easier said than done. Luckily for OSU the game is at Boone Pickens Stadium, but this matchup will still be tough.
The Horned Frogs are putting up 507.3 yards per game while only allowing 265 against. Oklahoma State can counter that with its 607 yards put up per game on offense, but the Cowboys’ defense hasn’t been as good, allowing just over 332 yards per game.
This has the potential to be a high-scoring game, and those type of contests always have the potential to go either way.
at Iowa, 7:30 p.m. on ABC (-13, O/U 52)
Penn State is clearly one of the best teams in the nation, checking in at No. 4 in the AP Poll, but the Nittany Lions have a very tough task ahead of them in 3-0 Iowa.
Sure, the Hawkeyes aren’t ranked and they didn’t look particularly good against C-USA opponent North Texas last weekend, but Iowa is always a tough team to play, and that’s not even considering the fact that this will be a rare night game at Kinnick Stadium — an already tough venue to play at for an away team.
All the pressure in the world will be on James Franklin and his team, and keep in mind, this game has prime-time billing on ABC. On the other-hand, Kirk Ferentz’s team has nothing to lose. If they lose, it’s not unexpected.
If they win, though, there’s a great chance the Hawkeyes make a big jump into the Top 25 and at that point, they’d have to be considered contenders for the Big Ten crown.
If all that doesn’t convince you that this will be tough for Penn State, just remember the last time a highly-ranked team played a night game at Iowa. Here’s what happened:
Hold on to your hats, this one could get crazy.