Every week throughout the season we give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We pick those games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective. However, the Week 4 schedule is so good we couldn’t narrow it down to just five.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had this loaded of a college football schedule at this point in the season.
There are six ranked vs. ranked matchups on Saturday, and that doesn’t even include the ACC showdown between Florida State and Clemson (Clemson was the first team out in the AP Top 25 voting). According to Fox Sports’ Chris Fallica, it’s the first time there has been this many ranked vs. ranked games on a September Saturday since 2006.
We usually preview the best five games in this space, but how could we not give you a super-sized look at Week 4 and highlight all seven of those marquee games?
(Note: All times ET, odds from BetMGM)
No. 4 Florida State at Clemson
Time: Noon | TV: ABC | Line: FSU -2.5 | Total: 55.5
Clemson opened the season with an ugly loss at Duke, but has the chance to prove it should still be considered among the elite programs in the country when it hosts No. 4 Florida State. Clemson has won seven of the last eight ACC titles but has fallen short of CFP expectations in recent seasons mainly due to a lackluster offense. The offense struggled in the Duke loss before scoring a combined 114 points in wins over Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic. A visit from FSU represents a major step up in competition and marks the first time that Clemson is an underdog at home since 2016.
While Clemson lost in Week 1, FSU posted an impressive 45-24 victory over LSU. The Seminoles followed that up by beating Southern Miss before narrowly avoiding a disaster last weekend on the road vs. Boston College. FSU built a 31-10 third quarter lead before allowing BC to storm back to within two, 31-29. FSU eventually put the Eagles away, but it was a close call. The Seminoles will have to be much sharper to win in Death Valley for the first time since 2013.
Nick Bromberg: FSU -2.5, Sam Cooper: FSU -2.5
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Oregon -20.5 | Total: 70.5
Deion Sanders and Colorado will face their biggest test of the season by far on Saturday with this trip to Eugene to face Oregon. The Buffs won just one game last fall but are off to an electrifying 3-0 program under Sanders’ guidance. His son, Shedeur, is putting up incredible numbers at quarterback but the Buffs will be without two-way star Travis Hunter for several weeks after an injury sustained in the double-overtime win over Colorado State. Hunter is Colorado’s top cornerback and a big-play threat at receiver, so it’s a significant loss as CU opens Pac-12 play.
Oregon, meanwhile, is also off to a 3-0 start with wins over Portland State, Texas Tech and Hawaii. The Ducks weren’t challenged in the two home games, but the Texas Tech game came down to the wire. Through three games, quarterback Bo Nix has thrown for 893 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 77.6% of his attempts. The Ducks have deep groups at both running back and receiver and should also present a lot of challenges to the Buffaloes in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
Nick: Oregon -20.5, Sam: Oregon -20.5
No. 22 UCLA at No. 11 Utah
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: Utah -4.5 | Total: 52.5
UCLA has been flying under the radar in a loaded Pac-12. It did not take long for five-star true freshman Dante Moore to step in as the Bruins’ starting QB. He has had a few learning moments, but he’s also shown what made him such a coveted prospect. In addition to Moore, UCLA has a strong group of skill position players, including Ball State transfer RB Carson Steele, and an underrated defense that has already posted 11 sacks on the year.
However, UCLA’s competition through three weeks hasn’t been very strong and Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium has proven to be one of the toughest road venues in the country. Dating back to the 2018 season, Utah has won 28 of its last 30 home games. And to make things tougher on UCLA, the Utes could see quarterback Cam Rising make his season debut. Rising injured his knee in last year’s Rose Bowl and has not played this season. The Utes, the two-time defending Pac-12 champions, have gotten off to a 3-0 start without him and could be ready to take their play to another level if he can return to the lineup.
Nick: Utah -4.5, Sam: UCLA +4.5
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Alabama -7 | Total: 55.5
What is going on with Alabama? The Crimson Tide struggled mightily on offense in a 17-3 win over South Florida as the quarterback snaps were split between Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson. Neither were impressive, and now Nick Saban said he is going back to original starter Jalen Milroe for the SEC opener against Ole Miss. Milroe played well in the Week 1 win over Middle Tennessee but threw two ugly interceptions in the Week 2 loss to Texas. Still, Saban said he’s played the best of the three and will get the chance to run the offense moving forward.
On the Ole Miss side, Lane Kiffin is desperately hoping to get a win over Saban, his old boss. The Rebels are off to a 3-0 start with wins over Mercer, Tulane and Georgia Tech. The Rebels have been dealing with some injuries in the early going but quarterback Jaxson Dart looks much improved compared to last season. Will Dart’s strong play translate to a really tough road environment in Tuscaloosa?
Nick: Alabama -7, Sam: Ole Miss +7
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Time: 7 p.m. | TV: Fox | Line: OSU -3 | Total: 57.5
The two teams that remain in the crumbling Pac-12 are looking to compete for the conference title before the league disappears as we know it. Oregon State is coming off a 10-win season and is off to a strong start in 2023 with dominant wins over San Jose State, UC Davis and San Diego State. The Beavers brought in Clemson transfer QB DJ Uiagalelei in the offseason to elevate a run-heavy offense, but he is coming off a game where he completed only 14 of 30 attempts and threw two interceptions. He’ll need to play a cleaner game for the Beavers to get out of Pullman with a win.
Like Oregon State, Washington State is also off to a 3-0 start. The Cougars blasted Colorado State on the road and upset Wisconsin at home before taking care of Northern Colorado over the weekend. Cameron Ward is underrated among the many great QBs in the Pac-12 and he has been excellent in his second season at WSU. Through three games, Ward has thrown for 986 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception as he’s fit seamlessly into first-year offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle’s offense.
Nick: WSU +3, Sam: OSU -3
No. 6 Ohio State at No. 9 Notre Dame
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: NBC | Line: OSU -3 | Total: 55.5
Whether it’s fair or not, there’s pressure for Ohio State coach Ryan Day to deliver in games like this. Day is 48-6 since taking over as the full-time head coach, but losing to Michigan in back-to-back years and coming up painfully short in last year’s CFP semifinal puts added scrutiny on Day heading into the first of three marquee matchups on Ohio State’s schedule this season. The Buckeyes are off to a 3-0 start, but working in new starting QB Kyle McCord has been a process. How will he handle his first raucous road environment?
And on the other side, this is one of the biggest games at Notre Dame Stadium in years and a major opportunity for second-year head coach Marcus Freeman. The Irish went 9-4 with some ugly losses in Freeman’s first season but are off to an impressive 4-0 start in 2023 led by transfer QB Sam Hartman. Hartman left Wake Forest as the ACC’s all-time leader in touchdown passes and represented a major upgrade at the position for the Irish. It’s very rare that an Ohio State opponent has the advantage at quarterback, but that’s definitely the case with Hartman donning the Notre Dame uniform.
Nick: OSU -3, Sam: ND +3
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: PSU -14.5 | Total: 40.5
Is this the year Penn State can get back to the top of the Big Ten? The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten back in 2016. That was the first of four top 10 national finishes under James Franklin, but it was the only time the Nittany Lions have gotten past Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten East. Perhaps it can happen again this year. PSU is off to a 3-0 start with wins over West Virginia, Delaware and Illinois. The offense, with first-year starting QB Drew Allar, sputtered a bit in the 30-13 win over the Illini, but the defense forced five turnovers.
There could be similar opportunities ahead for the defense with Iowa coming to Happy Valley for the annual “whiteout” game. The Hawkeyes are 3-0, but their offensive woes from recent seasons have not gotten much better with Brian Ferentz, longtime Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz’s son, still in place as offensive coordinator. Injuries haven’t helped. Transfer QB addition Cade McNamara hasn’t looked 100% after hurting his quad during preseason camp and now tight end Luke Lachey is out after suffering what appeared to be a serious leg injury in Week 3. The Hawkeyes may need to force some turnovers of their own to be able to go into Beaver Stadium and pull off an upset.
Nick: Iowa +14.5, Sam: PSU -14.5
Head-to-head ATS: Nick: 3-12, Sam: 11-4
Week 4 best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 0-3, Overall: 4-5)
Arizona (-11.5) at Stanford: After a horrible week in Week 3 you may want to fade every single pick I make this week. It could be a really long year for the Cardinal. Stanford lost, 30-23, at home to Sacramento State a week ago while QBs Justin Lamson and Ashton Daniels were a combined 11-of-24 for 207 yards, a TD and two interceptions. Coach Troy Taylor could use both again against the Wildcats and that’s not good news. Arizona should win this game comfortably. Pick: Arizona -11.5
No. 3 Texas (-15.5) at Baylor: The Bears scored just 13 points against Utah in backup QB Sawyer Robertson’s first start and he’s expected to start against the Longhorns with Blake Shapen still sidelined. Baylor should be fired up to play the Longhorns for the final time as Big 12 opponents, but I’m not sure that will translate to offensive success. The Bears could also cover as I think points will be at a premium. Pick: Under 51.5
UCF at Kansas State (-4.5): UCF enters this game without QB John Rhys Plumlee while Kansas State QB Will Howard’s availability is in doubt because of a leg injury he suffered against Missouri and RB Treshaun Ward is doubtful. If Howard can’t go, KSU will run the ball a lot with QB Avery Johnson. I sense a relatively low-scoring game. Pick: Under 52.5
Sam Cooper (Last week: 0-3, Overall: 3-6)
No. 4 Florida State (-2.5) at Clemson: I’m usually somebody looking to play home underdogs, but I just don’t see many personnel edges for Clemson. I don’t even think Clemson’s defensive line is as good as advertised. And on offense, Cade Klubnik has underwhelmed and the Tigers just don’t have the weapons at receiver. FSU will be re-energized after a scare at BC last week. Pick: FSU -2.5
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest (-3.5): I’ve watched way too much Georgia Tech football so far this season. The Yellow Jackets moved the ball pretty well against solid Louisville and Ole Miss defenses and can do the same against Wake Forest. At the same time, I don’t think Wake will have much issue passing on the porous GT secondary. Pick: Over 59.5
No. 6 Ohio State (-3) at No. 9 Notre Dame: I think Ohio State’s defense has taken some noticeable strides in Year 2 under Jim Knowles, but I don’t trust first-year starting QB Kyle McCord to really thrive in this environment. Notre Dame has the better QB with Sam Hartman, but can the Irish receivers win one-on-one matchups? I’m not sure. Pick: Under 55.5
For Week 4 picks from Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger, subscribe to the College Football Enquirer.