Good things come to those who wait in college football. On the heels of a feeble weekend slate devoid of any marquee matchups, the Bowl Subdivision returns with an historic Week 4 smorgasbord jampacked with games between teams ranked in the US LBM AFCA Coaches Poll.
There are seven games matching teams in the coaches poll on Saturday, the most in any single weekend since there were six on Nov. 11, 2017. According to the Associated Press football poll, there have been only six weekends with seven games between teams in the rankings since the rankings debuted in 1936.
While most make-or-break weekends don’t occur until deeper into the second half of the regular season, this Saturday promises to have an outsize impact on conference races across the Power Five and the eventual makeup of the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls.
From brunch through lunch, second lunch, midday snack, dinner and dessert, the buffet is open with seven of the tastiest matchups of the 2023 season:
No. 3 Florida State at No. 23 Clemson (12 p.m. ET, ABC)
Clemson’s offense has rebounded from a disastrous season-opening loss to No. 18 Duke to put up over 1,000 yards in wins against Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic. Likely looking ahead to this weekend, Seminoles survived a hiccup against Boston College to remain unbeaten. At stake is the answer to one of the national subplots of this season: Is FSU ready to take the ACC back from the Tigers?
No. 19 Colorado at No. 11 Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
All of college football is glued to the Deion Sanders show, co-starring his son, Shedeur, one of the nation’s rising stars. But Colorado will be without superstar receiver-cornerback Travis Hunter, who will miss at least three weeks after being injured in last weekend’s epic overtime win against Colorado State. Quarterback Bo Nix and the Ducks provide a different sort of test than what the Buffaloes have seen so far, however, and they’ll have to play an A-level game to avoid being exposed against of the nation’s best teams.
No. 25 UCLA at No. 10 Utah (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)
Utah has played without senior quarterback Cam Rising and not missed a beat in stacking together two Power Five wins in non-conference play, and might’ve even identified the quarterback of the future in freshman Nate Johnson. He’s thrown for 281 yards and run for another 148 yards with four touchdowns through three games. Chip Kelly has his own impressive freshman in Dante Moore, who has seven touchdowns and one interception in just 51 attempts.
No. 16 Mississippi at No. 12 Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
The Alabama bandwagon has thinned out quicker than Bryant-Denny Stadium in the fourth quarter of this month’s loss to No. 5 Texas. The flaws are obvious − an inept offense, abysmal quarterback play and no explosiveness in the pass rush, just for starters − and could easily turn this into the program’s worst season since the pre-Nick Saban era. You think former Alabama assistant Lane Kiffin wouldn’t get a kick out of throwing another shovelful of dirt on top of the Crimson Tide?
No. 15 Oregon State at No. 24 Washington State (7 p.m. ET, Fox)
Pick your favorite underdog, America. Is it Oregon State, the most physical team west of the Rockies? How about plucky Washington State, which has topped Wisconsin in back-to-back years and climbed back into the Top 25 despite being picked seventh in the preseason Pac-12 poll? The last two teams standing in what used to be one of the proudest conferences in college sports now carry the flag only for themselves and face a dire future outside of the Power Five. Pac-12 football will close for good in December; the Beavers or Cougars might as well go out and win the whole thing.
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
Two of the great programs in college football history meet in a pairing that in another weekend might have the nation’s undivided attention. Ohio State’s slumbering offense jolted to life against Western Kentucky with 562 yards on 9.4 yards per play. Notre Dame has looked the part of a championship team through four games, even if only one (North Carolina State) came against the Power Five. Down the road, the result in South Bend could have enormous influence on how the playoff selection committee views the Big Ten, the Irish and the tiebreakers that can determine the final four.
No. 22 Iowa at No. 7 Penn State (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
The weekly updates on offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s job status have largely overshadowed the way Iowa has looked the part of the best team in the Big Ten West and a strong New Year’s Six contender. A defense that has done a wonderful job with halftime adjustments will borrow a page from Illinois’ game plan for slowing down quarterback Drew Allar and the Nittany Lions: load the box, make Allar move his feet and force an unpredictable receiver corps to make plays in single coverage. A loss might doom Penn State’s playoff hopes with games still to come against No. 2 Michigan and the Buckeyes.