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HomeSportsWeek 4 college football preview: 6 top-25 matchups highlight loaded Saturday slate

Week 4 college football preview: 6 top-25 matchups highlight loaded Saturday slate


The first three weekends of the college football season have allowed fans the opportunity to miss some games. 

In Week 3, while great games were played, not one top-25 game was on the schedule and fans on the East Coast were forced to stay up until the wee hours of the morning in order to watch Colorado defeat Colorado State in overtime. 

Colorado Buffaloes tight end Michael Harrison, #87, celebrates with the fans on the field after winning the Rocky Mountain Showdown against the Colorado State Rams 43-35 in double over time at Folsom Field Sept. 16, 2023. (Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Week 4 of the college football season will not allow fans to take any breaks. 

It is a loaded schedule with six top-25 matchups littered throughout the day. 

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Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes are the talk of the sport after finding a way to remain undefeated against CSU, but the schedule now gets real. 

Can the Buffaloes prove they’re legit with a win over a top-10 team on the road? Will Dabo Swinney and Clemson show that their Week 1 performance was just a blip on the radar? Is Alabama’s dominant run on hold without a legitimate option at quarterback? 

Nick Saban talks with Jalen Milroe

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban talks to quarterback Jalen Milroe, #4, on the sideline during a college football game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Sept. 2, 2023 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Answers are coming shortly as an unbelievable Saturday of college football kicks off. 

Get the errands done early and mow the lawn at the crack of dawn. This is no time to be away from the TV.

Let’s take a look at the games to be aware of in Week 4. 

Clemson vs. No. 4 Florida State – Noon ET

The Seminoles survived a scare from Boston College in Week 3, and Clemson looks to have solved their offensive woes, albeit against inferior opponents. 

Florida State has lost seven straight to Swinney and the Tigers, last winning in 2015. Mike Norvell now has a team capable of snapping the losing streak as he takes his Seminoles into Death Valley. 

Dabo Swinney coaches against Duke

Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney looks at the scoreboard during the fourth quarter against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

“Mike has done a great job in really building their program and putting it back together,” Swinney said Tuesday. “It’s one thing to have good players, it’s another thing to get them to play hard, to play together, and to play with the right character and attitude. 

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“All those things jump out when you watch Florida State play. And it starts with their quarterback.” 

After a dominant second half against LSU to open the season, Florida State survived a scare against Boston College, putting into question whether the Seminoles are a team ready to knock Clemson off its ACC perch. 

Jordan Travis will be tasked with ending the Clemson losing streak after throwing for 222 yards and two touchdowns in Week 3. 

Jordan Travis passes against LSU

Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis, #13, passes the ball during a college football game against the LSU Tigers on Sept. 3, 2023 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“It’s loud,” Travis said of Clemson’s home atmosphere. “You can’t control the crowd, but go early and score a bunch of points, yeah, you can control that.”

Against Florida Atlantic, Clemson scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions to put the game away early. 

The Tigers last lost to Florida State at home in 2013, while the Seminoles hold the fourth-longest winning streak in the nation (9).

No. 10 Oregon vs. No. 19 Colorado – 3:30 p.m. ET

Sanders and his Buffaloes have taken the college football world by storm. There are bound to be a few fans looking for the hype train to come to a screeching halt, and Oregon presents the biggest challenge for Sanders in his first season in Boulder. 

Against Colorado State, CU needed a 98-yard drive in order to force overtime as the Colorado defense allowed 499 yards of offense on the night. 

“I’m going to tell you exactly what he said,” Shilo Sanders told reporters Tuesday when asked about the offense taking the field first in overtime. “I was like, ‘Dad, why don’t defense go first?’ He said, ‘Man, y’all ain’t stopped them all day!’”

Deion Sanders celebrates with his son

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders celebrates with quarterback Shedeur Sanders, #2, after a fourth quarter touchdown against the Colorado State Rams at Folsom Field on Sept. 16, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

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The defense will need to make stops against Bo Nix and the explosive Oregon offense in order to move to 4-0 on the season. 

“I respect the heck out of this man, what he’s accomplished stepping in taking over a program and keeping it not only rocking steady but accelerating it,” Sanders said of Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, according to Oregon Live.

“I’m not a fan of anybody except for some of the celebrities that got a tremendous gift but not in sports. I respect the heck out of him. I love what he’s accomplishing. I love who is, the way he runs his team. I love the way he operates. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Oregon’s offense has put up massive numbers behind quarterback Nix, averaging 587 yards and 58 points per game. 

Bo Nix celebrates

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, #10, celebrates with wide receiver Troy Franklin, #11, and offensive lineman Marcus Harper II after Franklin’s touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Eugene, Oregon. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson)

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On the other hand, Colorado’s defense is dead last in the Pac-12 in total yards (460.3) and rushing yards (195.3) allowed per game while allowing 30.3 points per contest. 

“We have not played a complete game. We have not played a game with offense, defense and special teams all showing up in the same manner,” Sanders said. “The offense is playing well, the defense is hot garbage. If the defense is playing well, the offense is horrible and special teams aren’t special. We have to put it all together to be able to defeat a team like Oregon.”

No. 11 Utah vs. No. 22 UCLA – 3:30 p.m. ET

The Pac-12 is as good as it has ever been as the conference heads toward extinction. 

With eight teams in the top-25, the Pac-12 is the deepest conference in college football, but Saturday’s slate will certainly thin the herd. 

UCLA is looking to show that its 3-0 start is no fluke, while Utah is simply trying to weather the storm as the injuries continue to mount. 

Kyle Whittingham coaches

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches a replay during the first half of their game against the Weber State Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium Sept. 16, 2023 in Salt Lake City. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

“Hopefully this week we can get some of them back. As we sit here right now, I can’t say for certain on any of them. That’s where we are,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday of his injured players, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “We lost another two, three, maybe four guys in the last game that will be questionable this week. It’s been really crazy the way that has played out.”

The status of quarterback Cam Rising is up in the air, as the senior attempts to come back from a torn ACL suffered in the Rose Bowl against Penn State

Both UCLA and Utah have leaned on their running game while also stopping the run on the defensive side of the football. 

The Bruins are third in the country in rushing yards per game (270.3) and 11th in the country in stopping the run (69.7 yards per game). Utah rushes for 186.7 yards per game (fifth in the Pac-12) and allows just 65 rushing yards per game on the ground (10th best in the country). 

Dante Moore prepares to throw

Dante Moore, #3 of the UCLA Bruins, prepares to throw during the second quarter at Rose Bowl Stadium on Sept. 16, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Harry How/Getty Images)

True freshman quarterback Dante Moore leads the country with 19.22 yards per completion and has not turned the ball over, throwing just one interception through three games, per ESPN.

“There’s a maturity to him,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday of Moore. 

“I also think he has a great work ethic,” he continued. “So, his confidence comes from preparation. He works extremely hard at it.” 

The Utes have allowed just three touchdowns this season.

No. 13 Alabama vs. No. 15 Ole Miss – 3:30 p.m. ET

Does anyone remember the last time Alabama had two losses before the calendar flipped to October? The answer is 2007, and Ole Miss presents a real threat to drop the Crimson Tide to 2-2 and out of the national championship picture. 

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, who coached under Saban at Alabama from 2014-16, returns to Tuscaloosa looking to beat his mentor for the first time. 

“In my three years there, we lost only one time at home and that was to Ole Miss,” said Kiffin. “Sometimes that can kind of humble the team, can reset things. You see that often. People have a loss early, people start discounting them and all of the sudden they start playing better and they fix the issues.”

ALABAMA’S NICK SABAN HAS ‘TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF RESPECT’ FOR DEION SANDERS

Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin talk

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban converses with Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin prior to facing each other at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Oct. 2, 2021 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Tide will turn back to quarterback Jalen Milroe after a woeful offensive performance against South Florida.

With Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner splitting time in Week 3, Alabama’s offense managed just 107 yards through the air. 

“This is all I’m going to say about this,” Saban said of the quarterback situation on Monday, per ESPN. “Jalen really showed the leadership I was looking for in terms of supporting his teammates.”

The Rebels enter Saturday’s matchup first in points (52.7) and second in yards (526.7) per game in the SEC. 

No. 21 Washington State vs. No. 14 Oregon State – 7 p.m. ET

It is a battle between the two remaining Pac-12 schools that do not have a new conference after the 2023 college football season. 

Washington State and Oregon State were the two schools left out of the conference realignment fireworks, but both schools have their sights set on a conference championship before the Pac-12 crumbles. 

Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith is not worried about what the future holds right now. 

“The meaning is game 1 of conference play, and you want to get off to a good start,” Smith said Monday, according to The Oregonian. “It’s going to be competitive over there and obviously, we’re trying to win the game. Those are the kinds of things I think about.”

Jonathan Smith on the field as his team warms up

Oregon State Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith on the field as his team warms up before the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl against the Florida Gators at Allegiant Stadium on Dec. 17, 2022 in Las Vegas. (David Becker/Getty Images)

The Beavers feature one of the best defenses in the country, while the Cougars have a high-flying offense. Oregon State is allowing just 11 points a game while Washington State is scoring 48.3 points per game. 

Oregon State quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei was solid against San Jose State in Week 1 but threw two interceptions and completed just 14 of 30 attempts against San Diego State in Week 3. 

No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 6 Ohio State – 7:30 p.m. ET

The Buckeyes visit South Bend in a game that has major playoff implications. 

For the fifth straight time, Ohio State and Notre Dame will face off as top-10 opponents, with the Buckeyes taking a five-game winning streak into the game. 

Notre Dame has found a playoff-caliber quarterback as transfer Sam Hartman has put himself in the Heisman conversation. Through four games, Hartman has thrown for 1,061 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Fighting Irish are also averaging 204.5 yards per game on the ground under new offensive coordinator Gerad Parker. 

“You can tell Hartman is a veteran,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said on Tuesday, according to On3. “He’s been around. He’s played a lot of football. Accurate. Intelligent. A lot of good attributes for a quarterback. He’s very good. He won a lot of games at Wake Forest and obviously he’s 4-0 now. Efficient. And I think they are doing a really good job with him.

A view of Notre Dame stadium

A general view of Notre Dame Stadium sell out crowd during the college football game between the Central Michigan Chippewas and Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sept. 16, 2023, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“They’re running the ball. Running the ball out of various personnel groupings. Efficient. I think just a different style of quarterback than when they had [Tyler] Buchner last year. That was more of a quarterback run, spread run game. This is more pro style.”

Notre Dame running Audric Estime is second in the country in rushing yards per game (130.2), according to ESPN.

For Day and the Buckeyes, the defense has been stellar, allowing just 20 total points through three games. 

Despite having a new quarterback in Kyle McCord, the Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten in yards (474.7) and points (40.3) per game. 

“What we want to do is to make sure we limit the big plays,” Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman told reporters Monday, per The Columbus Dispatch. “We want them to truly drive down the field. We limit those big plays. Offensively, we want to have success. We’re not going to throw deep balls every play. It’s complementary football and we still want to win time of possession and those type of things that really factor into your success.”

Kyle McCord throws against Western Kentucky

Kyle McCord, #6 of the Ohio State Buckeyes, throws a pass in the third quarter against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 16, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

McCord was named the starter for the rest of the season just days before he threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns against Western Kentucky. 

“I think he’s grown each week,” Day told reporters Tuesday, according to Fox Sports. “Not everything is perfect, nothing is. And I think this week will be a big challenge to see where we’re at. But it’s been a gradual build-up for our whole team and for him to this point. So now, it’s time to go play and see what we’ve got.”

No. 7 Penn State vs. No. 24 Iowa – 7:30 p.m. ET 

It has been six years since Penn State last played in the Big Ten Championship game, but the Nittany Lions look ready to compete with the likes of Michigan and Ohio State. 

Penn State quarterback Drew Allar has played turnover-free football through the first three weeks of the season, throwing four touchdowns with zero interceptions. The Week 4 matchup against Iowa will be Allar’s first against a ranked opponent, but head coach James Franklin is done discussing “firsts” for his QB. 

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“I think we’re really done with the whole first-time stuff. … We’re done talking about that stuff,” Franklin said during his Tuesday news conference at Beaver Stadium, per 247 Sports. “He had a first start. We’re past that. We had a first road start. We’re past that. First home game, we’re past that. Now he is no longer kind of going through the firsts.”

The Hawkeyes’ offense has struggled once again in the first three weeks, gaining just 302 yards per game, second-worst in the Big Ten. Iowa’s defense is allowing just 12.3 points per game. 

Iowa is looking to start the season 4-0 for the third time since 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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