College Football: Previewing the Biggest Games in Week 4
Week 4 of the 2023 College Football season is just days away, and this weekend’s affairs are brimmed with premier matchups that feature powerhouse teams facing each other. The biggest games of Week 4 are analyzed and broken down.
No. 4 Florida State vs Clemson
The Seminoles haven’t beaten the Tigers since 2014, when current Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher was at the helm along with former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston throwing passes.
Clemson came into the season ranked No. 9 in the preseason rankings, but suffered a lop-sided loss to Duke 28-7 back in week 1. After defeating Florida Atlantic and Charleston Southern handily by outscoring both teams 114-31, Dabo Swinney’s team look to win their 8th straight game against the Seminoles.
Florida State on the other hand are having a resurgent season under fourth-year head coach Mike Norvell, as the Seminoles are ranked in the top 5 for the first time since 2014. Quarterback Jordan Travis has positioned himself as one of the nation’s premier pass throwers after a prolific outing against the then-ranked No.5 LSU Tigers in week 1. Travis along with Michigan State transfer pass catcher Keon Coleman and deep threat 6-foot-7 wideout Johnny Wilson, are responsible for having the Seminoles offense ranked seventh in the nation in points per game (47.3), respectively.
The Seminoles escaped a competitive game against Boston College last weekend 31-29, but this game in Death Valley has College Football Playoff implications for the 2013 national champions. The winner of this game likely competes in the ACC championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina, and if the Seminoles lose to an unranked, mistake-riddled Clemson team and fail to compete in the conference championship game, the Seminoles potentially could miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
No. 22 UCLA vs No.11 Utah
Utah has been resilient since star senior quarterback Cameron Rising suffered an ACL injury in the 2023 Rose Bowl back in January. In his absence, junior quarterback Bryson Barnes and dual-threat redshirt freshman pass-thrower Nate Johnson have been keeping the Utes afloat at 3-0. The Utes defeated a competitive Florida team in week 1 and went on the road to beat a desperate Baylor team (a six-game losing streak dating back to 2022). It also helps that the Utes have a solid, physical defense, as their defense is ranked second in third-down conversion percentage (.200) and tenth in rushing defense, respectively. The reigning 2022 PAC-12 champions hope Rising can suit up this weekend, as it was reported that he “looked good” during practice.
Chip Kelly is in his 6th season at the helm in Pasadena (30-29 overall record), as he aims to lead the Bruins to the PAC-12 championship game for the first time since 2012. Bruins true freshman quarterback Dante Moore has emerged as one of the nation’s upstart players so far in 2023. In 2023, Moore ranks fifth in passing efficiency and has accounted for 7 touchdown passes to only one interception.
How will Moore fair in a hostile environment in Salt Lake City, Utah with the chance that Rising does play and going against a stout defense?
No. 15 Ole Miss vs. No.13 Alabama
Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe is back under center after being benched following a 34-24 home loss to Texas back in week 2. Quarterbacks Ty Simpson and Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner struggled in a 17-3 road victory over South Florida last weekend, which prompted Alabama head coach Nick Saban to give Milroe another chance at throwing the football. Even though Milroe struggled with making reads and throwing intermediate passes, he can extend plays using his athleticism and throws a solid deep ball, two attributes that Simpson and Buchner don’t have in their arsenal.
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin hopes to win his first game against his former boss, as he served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2014-2016, respectively. Ole Miss junior quarterback Jaxson Dart, who stands at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds is in his second season with the Rebels after previously playing at USC in the 2021 season. Dart is currently sixth in the country in passing efficiency (202.45), second in yards per completion (18.93) and leads the Rebel offense to fifth in total offense, respectively. Dart’s mobility is also a major aspect in his game as he has accumulated 213 rushing yards with an average of 6.7 yards per rush, which leads the team.
The Rebels are hoping star senior pass catcher Tre Harris is back from suffering a lower-body injury against Tulane on Sep. 9. Harris has caught five touchdowns (leads team) in four quarters of play so far this season with a per catch average of 23.23 yards, respectively.
Alabama will have to contain Dart from extending plays and getting into the open field, but that’s easier said than done. The Crimson Tide had trouble even containing dual-threat South Florida pass thrower Byrum Brown last weekend, who accounted for 92 rushing yards against the Alabama defense.
No. 19 Colorado vs No. 10 Oregon
Colorado head coach Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes will face their stiffest competition so far this season, as they travel to Eugene, Oregon to face Bo Nix and the Ducks this weekend.
The Buffaloes already surpassed preseason expectations and have become one of the nation’s most talked about teams. Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders has become one of the nation’s most electrifying players as he garnered 1,251 passing yards (2nd in the nation), 10 touchdowns with a 78 percent completion percentage (4th in the nation) and only one interception so far this season.
The No.19 team in the country are coming off an emotional home victory against in-state rivals Colorado State in a double over-time affair. Sanders led the Buffaloes on a 98-yard drive touchdown drive and converted a two-point conversion to tie the game and send the game into overtime. In overtime, Sanders tossed for two more touchdown passes to finally put down the Rams.
The Buffaloes are without star defensive back/wideout Travis Hunter, as he suffered a lacerated liver due to enduring a late hit out of bounds by Colorado State defensive back Henry Blackburn. It was reported that Hunter will miss the next 3-4 weeks.
Oregon, who is led by star quarterback Bo Nix, has tossed for 893 passing yards, 8 touchdowns with no interceptions. The Ducks offense ranks fourth in the nation (579.7 yards per game) and is likely to be highly productive against a struggling Colorado defense. Oregon, along with Penn State, are the only teams that have yet committed a turnover this season.
The Colorado defense has given up 1,405 yards in total offensive yardage so far this season, as they face one of the top quarterbacks in the country in Nix along with wideouts junior Troy Franklin (17.2 yards per catch), sophomore Gary Bryant Jr. (14.7 yards per catch) and junior halfback Bucky Irving (8.0 yards per rush). Can the Buffaloes contain the Ducks running or passing game?
Sanders proved he can step up in clutch time in games against TCU and Colorado State, but the high-flying Ducks are a giant step above both of those teams, respectively. The former Jackson State quarterback will have to lean heavily on senior pass catchers Xavier Weaver (25 receptions, sixth in the nation) and Jimmy Horn Jr. (26 receptions, fifth in the nation) and freshman halfback Dylan Edwards (3 touchdown receptions), especially through the air. Can Sanders lead the Buffaloes to the biggest upset of the season?
No. 6 Ohio State vs No. 9 Notre Dame
Notre Dame grad transfer quarterback Sam Hartman and the Fighting Irish will do battle against the Buckeyes in South Bend this weekend as they look to improve to 5-0 on the season. Hartman has proven that he is one of the top pass throwers in the country by garnering 1,061 passing yards and 13 touchdowns without an interception.
In the backfield, junior halfback Audric Estime produces 8.3 yards per carry and has amassed 521 rushing yards (leads the nation). The Fighting Irish pass-catching room is filled with talent such as wideouts senior Chris Tyree (216 reception yards, leads team), sophomore Jayden Thomas (15.7 yards per catch), freshman Jaden Greathouse (3 touchdown receptions) and sophomore tight-end Holden Staes (four touchdown receptions).
Notre Dame’s offense is as good as any other in the country, as they will go up against the third-ranked Ohio State defense that is led by graduate linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, who recently reached 200 career tackles against Western Kentucky last weekend.
The biggest concern for the Buckeyes is the offense that is led by junior quarterback Kyle McCord, an offense that started off slow against Indiana in week 1, but looked better in games against Western Kentucky and Youngstown State. Star junior wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. looks back to his normal self after garnering 3 receptions for 126 yards along with a touchdown against Western Kentucky and junior pass catcher Emeka Egbuka (3 touchdown receptions) is definitely a difference maker. The Buckeyes backfield is well-grounded with the tandem of junior halfback TreVeyon Henderson (6.4 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns) and senior rusher Chip Trayanum (7.0 yards per carry).
Notre Dame’s defense is ranked fourth in the nation in total defense that is led by senior linebacker Jack Kiser (26 tackles) and sophomore defensive back Benjamin Morrison. Can McCord withstand a game of this magnitude against the Notre Dame defense on the road?
For the record, Notre Dame hasn’t defeated Ohio State since 1936.