Every game, every win is valuable. Relative to team goals, though, conference play tends to take on a heightened level of importance.

For a strong majority of Football Bowl Subdivision programs, a league title is the pinnacle. Only a select group will legitimately compete for a national championship, so standing atop the conference is a key goal. Want to chase that national title? Typically, you need to win the league.

Oh, and also: Want to keep your job? Better not lose a bunch of conference games.

In Week 4, those contests start to become the foundation of the schedule. Most—not all, but most—marquee nonconference games are in the rear-view mirror. This weekend, the entertaining slate includes Arkansas against Texas A&M, Florida's trip to Tennessee and Clemson's showdown with Wake Forest.

B/R's panelists—Max Escarpio, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—are getting you ready for Week 4 with predictions for those matchups, the next pink slip and more.


What's the Best Matchup Outside the Top 25?

Morgan Moriarty

I considered North Carolina-Notre Dame here, but I'm going to have to ride with Appalachian State vs. James Madison. The Mountaineers have been a blast to watch all season. They put up 40 points in the fourth quarter against UNC in Week 1, only losing on a failed two-point conversion. Then, App State went into College Station and upset Texas A&M, giving the Mountaineers their first win over an AP Top 10 team since they joined the FBS in 2014.

App State was rewarded for its upset victory by a visit from ESPN's College GameDay last week—the first in school history. Hosting Troy, the Mountaineers had an incredible win on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game.

In Week 4, App State will host 2-0 James Madison. This is the Dukes' first season in the FBS, but JMU has been an FCS powerhouse in recent years. Fourth-year head coach Curt Cignetti has a 35-5 overall record at JMU. Dukes quarterback Todd Centeio has totaled 591 yards and accounted for nine touchdowns on the season.

App State is a seven-point favorite. JMU covers, but I won't be surprised if this one has another wild finish—it would be totally on-brand for the Mountaineers.


David Kenyon

Great minds, Morgan. Awesome game in the mid-afternoon window.

So, let's shift to a different matchup. Since we'll get to Duke and Kansas later, direct the spotlight to TCU and SMU.

TCU's coach is Sonny Dykes, who left SMU during the offseason to join the crosstown rivals. While at SMU, though, Dykes went 2-1 against his current school. However, he also served as an offensive analyst for the 2017 TCU squad that beat SMU—before he accepted the coaching job at SMU.

As if that's not enough of a full-circle storyline, current SMU coach Rhett Lashlee coordinated the offense for SMU's victory over TCU in 2019, and now he's taking his first shot at the rivalry as a head coach.

Also, for the degenerates among us: Iowa at Rutgers. Tory Taylor and Adam Korsak. Punter showdown, baby.