After three weeks of funky bounces and sweet, glorious home crowds, the focus for Week 4 of the college football season shifts, strangely enough, to neutral sites. The two biggest games of the week are in NFL stadiums: first No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin at Soldier Field in Chicago, then No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 16 Arkansas at Jerry World -- aka AT&T Stadium -- in Arlington, Texas. Unlike a lot of neutral-site games, the atmosphere in both should be fantastic, and the games could be barn burners.
Few top-10 teams beyond A&M, No. 4 Oklahoma (vs. West Virginia) or No. 9 Clemson (at NC State) are taking on decent tests this week, but that's fine -- this is college football. There are countless teams worth paying attention to, and we always learn a lot no matter the slate. So let's dive into the biggest storylines for Week 4 before conference play begins in earnest next week.
All times Eastern.
The real fun begins for Notre Dame
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin (noon, Fox)
No matter what your feelings were about Notre Dame at the beginning of the season -- College Football Playoff contention? Rebuild year? -- one thing was certain: The middle of the schedule was going to be rough. With perhaps three tighter-than-expected wins in the books, the Irish will now play Wisconsin in Chicago, Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and Cincinnati, USC and North Carolina at home between now and Halloween. Four of those teams rank 17th or better in SP+, and the one that doesn't (Virginia Tech) has already beaten one of those four other teams and rushes the passer brilliantly.
Notre Dame can, of course, win each of these five games. But the Irish are slight underdogs to Wisconsin on Saturday, and SP+, which correctly predicted some of their early struggles, quantifies the four games after Wisconsin as almost exactly 50-50 toss-ups. It gives the Irish only about a 3% chance of winning all five ... and a 3% chance of losing all five.