The 2023 college football season moves into Week 4, and now we get to the good stuff, the really good stuff. This is one of the best college football weekends of the season, with several high-profile showdowns involving conference championship contenders with a real shot at the College Football Playoff. This weekend will reshape the college football season on several levels in many different parts of the country. It’s the kind of weekend schedule which makes college football so special.
Florida State Seminoles at Clemson Tigers
Odds: Florida State -2.5 at BetOnline
The Florida State Seminoles were favored by 25 points against the Boston College Golden Eagles last week, but they won by only two points in a game where Boston College had the ball with a chance to win inside the final few minutes. Florida State played horribly, raising fresh questions about its ability to win in Clemson. However, one of the things we often see in college football is a very talented team looking past one opponent and looking ahead to the following week for a big game against a high-profile adversary.
It sure seems that Florida State was looking ahead. The Seminoles looked great when they beat LSU in Week 1 of the season. The team which played that day – particularly in the second half – is a lot better than Clemson. Let’s remember that Clemson got hammered by Duke, 28-7, in its own season opener. Florida State has a higher ceiling than Clemson does. If both teams play at the same level, Florida State wins. FSU would need to play at a lower level than Clemson in order to lose this game.
Pick: Florida State -2.5
Oklahoma Sooners at Cincinnati Bearcats
Odds: Oklahoma -14.5 at Bovada
The Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns will move to the SEC next year, but this year, they are still in the Big 12 Conference. This season, Cincinnati is one of the new teams in the Big 12 Conference. This game is therefore a matchup between schools which will be Big 12 neighbors for only one season. In 2024 and beyond, any meeting between these schools will be a nonconference matchup, as was the case in 2022 and previous seasons. The atmosphere in Cincinnati will be festive, but Oklahoma – which looked really good last week in scoring 66 points against Tulsa – should be able to do what it wants on offense. Cincinnati lost at home to Miami of Ohio earlier this season. The Bearcats simply do not have the talent to keep pace with the Sooners.
Pick: Oklahoma -14.5
Colorado Buffaloes at Oregon Ducks
Odds: Oregon -20.5 at Bovada
This is not the biggest game of the week, but it might be the most-watched game of the week. Everyone is talking about Deion Sanders and his amazing turnaround at Colorado. The Buffaloes were expected to win three, maybe four, games in the entirety of the 2023 college football season. They have already won three games and have a very good chance of earning a bowl bid. Colorado hasn’t played a Pac-12 game yet under Deion Sanders. This is the conference opener against Oregon, a top-15 team with a high-powered offense.
Colorado receiver and cornerback Travis Hunter is injured and will not play in this game. That’s a big loss for a Colorado team which really depends on Hunter’s athleticism to generate big plays on both sides of the ball. Oregon has a very powerful offense which should be able to do well against Colorado’s thin and undersized defense. This game should be an Oregon rout.
Pick: Oregon -20.5
UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes
Odds: Utah -4.5 at BetOnline
Utah quarterback Cam Rising, who led the Utes to the Pac-12 championship in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, has missed the first few games of the 2023 season with a lingering injury. Utah is supposed to make an announcement about Rising’s status and availability later this week. The current line is based on Rising not being medically cleared to play. If Rising is medically cleared to play, expect this line to go up four or five points. You will want to see what happens with Rising. You’ll also want to see where you can get the most favorable line. Obviously the best sports betting sites will price the injury news differently. You should obviously wait for more information, but if Rising is playing, Utah becomes a heavy – not merely slight – favorite in this game.
Pick: Utah -4.5
Ole Miss Rebels at Alabama Crimson Tide
Odds: Alabama -7 at Bovada
This is a fascinating game because Alabama scored just 17 points last week – only 10 points in the first 59 minutes of the game – against South Florida. It was an abysmal showing by the Alabama offense, with Nick Saban trying to see if various quarterbacks could jump-start his offense. None of the choices worked.
The big revelation is that the one quarterback who didn’t play versus South Florida – Jalen Milroe – will be the quarterback for this upcoming game against Ole Miss. Saban wanted to see against South Florida if his non-Milroe quarterbacks were any better than the alternative. They weren’t, so Saban is going back to Milroe in this game. It is generally and widely thought that Milroe is clearly the best option, but that he is also very flawed. Milroe is not a great choice so much as he is obviously the “least bad” choice for the Crimson Tide. Can Milroe do enough against a solid Ole Miss defense to enable Alabama to win?
This is a game one should probably stay away from, given the enormous degree of uncertainty surrounding the two teams and their offenses, but if you had to lean in one direction, Ole Miss covering the spread is probably the best move. Alabama should be favored by 3.5 or 4.5 points instead of seven. That’s a little too much respect for a team which hasn’t played a good offensive game in either of the past two weeks.
Pick: Ole Miss +7
Oregon State Beavers at Washington State Cougars
Odds: Oregon State -3
This is a matchup between the two teams left behind in the Pac-12, the two schools which have not relocated to the Big 12 or Big Ten. This is going to be a very emotional game between two schools which are trying to figure out what conference they will play in next year and in the more distant future.
Washington State upset Wisconsin two weeks ago. Oregon State hasn’t faced an especially strong opponent yet this season. The game feels like a toss-up, but one thing we saw last season was that Oregon State had very strong line play, something it seems to possess this season. Washington State plays good defense, but the Cougars’ offensive line has been a weak spot. Oregon State’s defensive line should be able to outplay Washington State’s offensive line and shift this game in the Beavers’ favor. This game figures to be close the whole way, but if you’re choosing between the two, Oregon State should have the upper hand and is the better bet to take control in the fourth quarter.
Pick: Oregon State -3
Ohio State Buckeyes at Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Odds: Ohio State -3 at YouWager
This is the crown jewel, the biggest game of the weekend. Ohio State brings young and untested quarterback Kyle McCord into South Bend to take on Sam Hartman and Notre Dame. Ohio State has more speed and has far better wide receivers, but it remains uncertain whether McCord will be able to get the ball on time to his receivers and enable the Ohio State offense to thrive.
On the other hand, Notre Dame – while not having great receivers – has a proven quarterback in Hartman, a transfer from Wake Forest who has played in an ACC Championship Game and a lot of other big encounters against teams such as Clemson and Florida State. Having an experienced quarterback in a big game like this, and also playing at home, should give Notre Dame a crucial set of advantages. Take the Irish in what should be a thrilling game. The winner will get an early inside track to the College Football Playoff.
Pick: Notre Dame +3
Iowa Hawkeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions
Odds: Penn State -14.5 at MyBookie
This is a matchup between an experienced Big Ten quarterback and an inexperienced Big Ten quarterback. The experienced quarterback is Cade McNamara, the Iowa signal-caller who transferred from Michigan, which he led to the 2021 College Football Playoff. The inexperienced quarterback is Drew Allar of Penn State. If you’re basing this pick solely on experience, you’ll go with Iowa, but if you’re looking at talent, Allar is the choice. He has a lot more upside than McNamara and is playing this game at home. Penn State has a deeper, tougher team than Iowa, and that will reveal itself over 60 minutes.
Pick: Penn State -14.5
California Golden Bears at Washington Huskies
Odds: Washington -20.5 at BetOnline
This is a lopsided game. Washington just crushed Michigan State while Cal trailed Idaho by 17 points before rallying to win. They have elite talent while Cal is expected to be one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 Conference. Washington should win this game big.
Pick: Washington -20.5