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College football Week 4 primer: Heisman Watch, upset picks, predictions and more

The Southeastern Conference returns in Week 4 of the college football season.  

All 14 SEC schools will debut with their conference-only schedule, and eight of those teams are ranked in the AP Top 25. No. 23 Kentucky travels to No. 8 Auburn in the only matchup between ranked teams, and No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia and No. 6 LSU — the defending national champion — will debut their new quarterbacks. Four first-year coaches also are on the sidelines in Mississippi State’s Mike Leach, Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin, Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz and Arkansas’ Sam Pittman.  

MORE: Eight reasons we’re excited SEC is back

That is all part of what should feel like the first full weekend of college football in 2020. COVID-19 remains a factor in the season and has led to several postponements, but the games are still going. Every week, Sporting News will survey the landscape looking for Heisman contenders, coaches on the spot, upset alerts and other trends. With that in mind, get ready for Week 4.   

Heisman Watch   

Florida’s Kyle Trask was voted the SEC Preseason first-team quarterback by the coaches, and it was kind of a default position. He is the top returning passer with 2,941 yards and 25 TDs.  

Trask took over the starting job when Feleipe Franks suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Franks transferred to Arkansas, and Trask is tasked with pushing No. 5 Florida back to the top of the SEC East. 

Alabama replaces Tua Tagovailoa with Mac Jones, LSU replaces Joe Burrow with Myles Brennan and Georgia replaces Jake Fromm with either D’Wan Mathis or JT Daniels.  

For Trask, that season starts with a trip to Ole Miss, where Kiffin can be creative with John Rhys Plumlee, a quarterback who rushed for 1,023 yards and 12 TDs last season.  

This is the first opportunity for Trask to live up to the high standard set by former Florida Heisman winners Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerffel (1996) and Tim Tebow (2007).  

No pressure, right?  

Coach on the spot   

South Carolina’s Will Muschamp and Tennessee’s Jeremy Pruitt both lost their openers in 2019, and it created a burst of hot-seat talk that both coaches dealt with in different fashions.  

Muschamp is still feeling that coming off a 4-8 season. He is 26-25 and banking on Colorado State transfer Collin Hill at quarterback to jump-start the offense. Pruitt, meanwhile, led the Vols to a bowl victory and put together another solid recruiting class.  

Those storylines converge in Columbia, S.C. Tennessee has lost five of its past six trips to Wiliams-Brice Stadium, but the Vols won last year’s meeting in convincing fashion with a 41-21 blowout.  

This should be a hot SEC East opener, with temperatures in the high 80s and thunderstorms in the forecast.  

Upset alert   

Army was 21-5 from 2017 to 2018 and took Michigan to overtime last season before falling off the radar with a 5-8 season.  

Jeff Monken, however, has brought the Black Knights back to the AP Top 25 at No. 22. Army has outscored its first two opponents 79-7, and it has done that with just nine passes. The rushing attack is humming at 388 rushing yards per game on 6.1 yards per carry.  

No. 14 Cincinnati is a 12-point favorite in this game, and Bearcats coach Luke Fickell has split the past two meetings with Navy. The Bearcats also have high hopes in the American Athletic Conference this season.  

This game won’t get the same pub as the other ranked matchups, but it could come down to the last few minutes. If that is the case, then you don’t want to be trailing the Black Knights with them running down the clock.  

MORE: Week 4 picks against spread

Over/under   

No. 20 Virginia Tech and N.C. State were supposed to play Dec. 12, but that game was pushed back because of COVID-19 concerns. The Hokies also had last week’s game against Virginia pushed back, and the logistical hurdles are not over.  

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said the Hokies will not have a full roster against the Wolfpack on Saturday because of COVID-19 protocols.  

“We will not have a full roster,” Fuente said. ”I hope we’re able to play.” 

This leads to questions about how many players should be on a roster for any given game, and what is becoming a problem in the ACC. No. 7 Notre Dame had to push back Saturday’s game against Wake Forest because of positive COVID-19 tests. The Irish and Demon Deacons now will play Dec. 12. 

That means North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech — 40 percent of the 15 schools playing — have had to move or postpone games. It’s not even October yet.  

Expect this to be a factor every week of the college football season.  

Think about it …   

Here is the obligatory section where we pine for the Miami-Florida State rivalry of yesteryear. No. 12 Miami and Florida State meet Saturday on two different paths.  

Miami is coming off a big victory against Louisville, D’Eriq King is working into the fringe of the Heisman Trophy conversation and the Hurricanes are double-digit favorites.  

Florida State opened the season with an embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech, coach Mike Norvell tested positive for COVID-19 and the Seminoles are unranked for the fourth straight year heading into this matchup.  

It’s a far cry from the 1990s, when these teams had five top-10 matchups that were often billed as the Game of the Year. Here’s a look at how the tenor of this rivalry has changed on the national scope:  

DECADE BOTH IN TOP 10 BOTH IN TOP 25 1 RANKED NO TOP 25
1990s 5 2 3 0
2000s 4 3 1 2
2010s 1 1 6 2

We’re still excited for this matchup in prime time. But these schools might need each other more than they think to raise the profile of this long-lost national rivalry.  

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