If there is any place to be this Saturday, it is in front of a TV.
Week 4 of college football is sure to be great, with six games involving two Top 25 teams, a return to in-conference play (in some cases with new opponents), and electric atmospheres. With that, let us take a look at the games throughout the day that will keep fans on the couch, and maybe on the edge of their seats.
Starting out the day, a possibly season-defining ACC matchup goes down in Death Valley as No. 4 Florida State faces Clemson. The Seminoles (3-0), led by head coach Mike Norvell, look to prove that they are the kings of ACC against perennial powerhouses Tigers (2-1), who have won the ACC crown seven out of the last eight years. Despite going into this game with two straight wins, questions have arisen around Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney for his lack of using the transfer portal, especially after their 28-7 loss to Duke to start off the year. This game will be a true test for the Tigers and Clemson’s dynasty against Norvell’s upstart Seminoles. Made up of some great pickups from the transfer portal, FSU has started non-conference play with a 21-point victory over No. 5 LSU and a 53-point victory over Southern Mississippi before a nailbiter at Boston College last weekend.
Also in the noon slot (on the East Coast) is the first in-conference matchup as a member of the Big 12 for the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1), as they host the No. 16 Oklahoma Sooners (3-0). Despite a promising start from starting quarterback Emory Jones, the Bearcats were upset at home last week by the Miami Redhawks, losing the Battle of the Victory Bell for the first time since 2005. On the other side, Cincinnati’s defense has a tough test facing Dillon Gabriel, who has the 3rd highest QBR in FBS (92.5), leading the Oklahoma offense to a 55.7 points per game average through three contests this year. Many are wondering whether or not the Bearcats belong in the Big 12, and they will have anything but a soft entrance this weekend.
Onto the 3:30 PM ET slot which includes two intriguing games involving some of the most notable programs in the country right now.
First, let’s head to Eugene, as Coach Prime and the No. 19 Colorado Buffaloes (3-0) face the No. 13 Oregon Ducks (3-0). The Buffaloes roll into Pac-12 play fresh off beating in-state rivals Colorado State in a thrilling 43-35 win in Boulder. Despite two-way standout Travis Hunter being ruled out with a lacerated liver, Colorado’s offense is still lethal. Led by quarterback Shadeur Sanders, the junior has racked up 1,251 passing yards (2nd in FBS) and leads a passing offense that averages 418.0 yards per game (4th in FBS). However, the Buffs’ defense is in for a test without Hunter, as the Ducks average 587.0 total yards per game (2nd in FBS). While Sanders has flash, Oregon quarterback Bo Nix has experience, with this being his 5th year as a starting quarterback and his 2nd with Oregon. With this being Colorado’s first conference matchup in the Deion Sanders era, added in with some offseason criticism from Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, this game is shaping up as Colorado’s first big test of the year. The hype around the program has been deafening to this point, but after this game, we will see if Colorado can be a Pac-12 contender.
Down in Tuscaloosa, the No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide is also having their legitimacy questioned. They have won six national championships under head coach Nick Saban, appearing in seven College Football Playoffs and three BCS National Championship Games. However, the Tide find themselves at 2-1 to start the year. The loss came at home to current No. 3 Texas 34-24, their first double-digit loss at home since 2004. While they did win in Tampa against USF this past weekend, it was a struggle to put up points, winning 17-3 with both touchdowns occurring in the second half. This week, Alabama hosts the No. 15 Ole Miss Rebels (3-0), who have won all three of their games this year (including against No. 24 Tulane) by at least 17 points. The Rebels have been known to play competitively against the Crimson Tide, only losing by six to Saban’s side last year, and even beating Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the site of this upcoming matchup, in 2015.
Finally, the evening slot. At 7:00 PM, the ironmen of the Pac-12 play another one of the conference’s ranked matchups this weekend, as the No. 14 Oregon State Beavers go up against the No. 21 Washington State Cougars in Pullman. The Beavers roll into this battle with transfer quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who has posted 630 passing yards, six TDs and two INTs through the first three games. Oregon State’s defense has also shown up, allowing on average 11 points per game (11th in FBS). They take on a Wazzu side that had a great non-conference stretch, including a 26-point victory over Colorado State on the road and a nine-point victory over Wisconsin. The winner of this matchup has bragging rights to a rivalry and partnership that might continue to build should both teams stay in the same conference in the future.
The headliner of the evening slot, and the day, goes down in South Bend with the No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Notre Dame: Two programs that together have 19 claimed national titles, 1,895 program wins, and 202 All-Americans. A great piece of college football history involves these two powerhouses, and that background only makes the stage for this faceoff bigger. Last year in their most recent meeting, the Buckeyes handled the Fighting Irish at home 21-10 in a cagey matchup at Ohio Stadium. This year, the series shifts to Notre Dame Stadium, as the Fighting Irish look to take down the Buckeyes for the first time since 1936. Both teams had some key changes from last year, as each side is under the commands of new quarterbacks with other talent graduating to the NFL. The newcomers to both programs have a chance to show their talent: for their coaches, their programs, and the nation on Saturday night. More importantly, the winner puts themselves in a prime position for the rest of the season to qualify for the College Football Playoff.