Previewing the marquee match-ups of college football, week 4

I’m back with my college football analysis for 2023. We’re a quarter of the way through the season, and this week will start to show some separation for the playoff chase. Just like last year where I handicapped the playoff chase each week, I will be doing that again this year. But not this week. It’s too early in the season to start that. However, there are several marquee games this week though that will start to shape the playoff chase. So without further ado, here are the games of the week that will shape the playoff chase:

Florida State vs. Clemson: Who would have thought that week 4 would be a must win game for Clemson? Clemson has to win this game if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, or they’re done for. They would have 2 losses, and both would be in conference play, which would severely hamper their chances to play in the ACC Championship Game and the opportunity for that 13th data point the playoff selection committee values. If Florida State wins, they’d control their destiny for a playoff spot. Look for Clemson to win though and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Ole Miss vs. Alabama: Much like Clemson, who thought Alabama would face a must win in week 4? There are some differences between Alabama’s and Clemson’s losses though. Clemson lost a conference game to Duke, while Alabama lost a non-conference matchup to Texas. Alabama would also be alive despite 2 losses due to SEC bias, but their playoff hopes would be on life support. They’d lose tiebreaker to Ole Miss to play in the SEC Championship Game, and would still have to play LSU and Auburn. This game isn’t a make or break for Ole Miss, but they’d rather win this game to have the tiebreaker over Alabama before facing LSU the following week. Given Alabama’s uncharacteristic struggles so far this year, I’m going with Ole Miss to pull off the upset.

Utah vs. UCLA, Oregon State vs. Washington State: In the final year of the Pac-12 as we know it before 10 members leave, they have 8 teams ranked in the top 25. There isn’t much to gain from these games yet, as all the ranked teams are 3-0, and only USC has played a conference game against bottom feeder Stanford. The winners will get an early jump on a chance to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game though. Utah and Oregon State are my winners for these games.

Game of the week #1: Oregon vs. Colorado: Again another Pac-12 matchup that won’t tell us much in the standings, but this one has hype to it. This will be Coach Prime’s (trademark pending) first true test. If Colorado wins, the hype train will get even louder before Colorado plays USC next week. So far, he’s lived up the hype. Look for Colorado to win despite the loss of 2-way star Travis Hunter. Deion will have his players ready, especially after last week’s comeback to win in double overtime.

Game of the week #2: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame: The biggest game on the schedule this week involving ranked teams. The winner gets a resume building win. The loser, while not eliminated, would have no margin for error. Being an independent, Notre Dame doesn’t have a conference championship game and an opportunity for that 13th data point. If they lose, they still have Clemson and USC on their schedule. If Ohio State loses, they’ll have to run the table if they want to make the playoff, which would involve beating Michigan and Penn State. Last year, this game helped Ohio State make the playoff despite losing to Michigan. The Buckeyes don’t want to lose to them for the 3rd year in a row, but having that cushion does help. Ohio State is my pick to win this one.

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