Projecting the biggest CFB games of 2023: Week 4

This is Part 4 of a series where I go week by week ranking what I expect to be the biggest games in college football. For a longer description of what this series is, start with part 1 here!

In week 4, I finally had to really think about who might have some losses for this list. 1st and 2nd are nearly a coin flip for me. Depending on which conference or teams you watch more, you might agree or disagree with their placement. The same can be said for 3rd place, I guess. All 4 games vying for 3rd place were conference matchups from 4 different P5 conferences. In the end, I think I make my stance pretty clear. 

3rd – Iowa at Penn State

It’s the White Out. Do I really need to say more? 

I guess I should, it’s the point of this series.

It’s a testament to the quality of 1st and 2nd on this list that the White Out can be as low 3rd. I expect Iowa to be undefeated heading into Happy Valley and ready to extend their win streak. I’ve heard/read that the White Out and an LSU home night game are the top 2 home field advantages in college football, being valued at around 6.5 points on a Vegas spread. The crowd can, and does, affect the game. 

Penn State doesn’t have a cake walk to start the season, but the Drew Allar hype is so high no one can imagine them losing to anyone other than Ohio State and Michigan. Iowa should be undefeated too (I think Vegas is incorrectly favoring Iowa State in week 2), and the Defense will be great. It always is. Now the offense….. that will be interesting. Brian Ferentz only has a job because of nepotism and has made it clear he has no plans to change the offense. Is Cade McNamara and Erick All transferring in from Michigan enough to pump some juice into this pitiful unit? I doubt it, but the Defense and Special Teams are used to carrying this team so it would be nothing new.

2nd – Florida State at Clemson

The chalk pick for the ACC title game, except it’s being played in week 4. Barring any major surprises, the winner of this game likely punches their ticket to the ACC title game. The loser, I’m not so sure. And even more important, it will be very difficult for the loser of this game to not have 2 losses by the time the playoff rolls around. Clemson QB, Cade Klubnik, was solid last year but hasn’t shown any ability to carry the team on his back to a victory. Many in Death Valley expect him to make a jump this year. Florida State is a trendy playoff pick for everyone that has Clemson fatigue. After this game, they will know where they stand having also played LSU in week 1. I think the Heisman hype for QB Jordan Travis is a little overblown, but he’s still very good. 

Also, keep in mind, there is a sizable talent disparity here. Clemson has a blue chip ratio of 72%. Florida State is at 41% with transfers; well below the 50% considered to be necessary to win a national title. But as Josh Pate of Late Kick loves to point out, “has not, does not equal cannot”

1st – Ohio State at Notre Dame

Ohio State at Notre Dame is one of the premiere non-con games of the year. Last year’s edition was much closer than many were expecting, and this year Notre Dame gets the advantage of playing at home. Marcus Freeman should be improved as a head coach in year two, and this team has the potential to be great. Transfer QB (I feel like I’ve typed those words way too many times this offseason) Sam Hartman will be the best they’ve had at the position in a long, long time. They are rock solid on the offensive line which is highlighted by left tackle Joe Atl, a top 10 NFL draft pick in 2024. 

Ohio State is absolutely loaded everywhere. The only minor questions they have are run defense (see the last two Michigan games) and new quarterback Kyle McCord. I don’t know how one could accurately evaluate McCord with the NFL receiving core he gets to work with. The battle here is Ohio State’s run D vs Notre Dame’s secondary, which holds up the longest when they are clearly outmatched on the field. 

Honorable Mentions: UCLA at Utah, Ole Miss at Alabama, Texas at Baylor

All of these games are great, early-season, conference matchups that in a different week likely crack the top three. 

Want more Walk On Fan? 

Check out part 3 of this series here.

Check out part 2 of this series here.

This article was written by Cole Tollison and edited by Hayden Breene

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