College football Week 4: Ranking the seven best matchups for ideal weekend watching

College football Week 4: Keep up with scores and highlights all day Saturday!

There are all sorts of fun, family-friendly activities you can do over the weekend, getting away from all your TV screens and streaming devices. But not this Saturday. This is the week to plant yourself on the couch and enjoy the all-day festival of college football.

The Week 4 lineup on the college gridiron features seven – count’em, seven! – matchups of Top 25 teams in the US LBM Coaches Poll. A clash of playoff aspirants in prime time is the headliner, with a trio of high-profile encounters on the Pac-12 farewell tour adding plenty of tasty side dishes to the noon-to-night buffet.

Here’s our ranking and breakdown of the day’s top games.

No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Notre Dame: Predictions, picks how to watch

TIME/TV: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Why watch: The third top-10 showdown of the season gets top billing, as the Fighting Irish host one of their biggest games in recent memory. The Buckeyes seek a return trip to the playoff, and though this contest is not an eliminator for either team with opportunities for each still to come, but it would be a huge feather in the cap for the winner. After a somewhat slow start in the season opener at Indiana, Buckeyes QB Kyle McCord has improved his comfort level with the offense. Having a talent like WR Marvin Harrison Jr. helps, of course, and Notre Dame DB Thomas Harper will likely be needed to help contain him. Fighting Irish QB Sam Hartman has been as good as advertised since transferring in from Wake Forest, delivering 13 TD passes without a pick through four games. But the Ohio State defense, anchored by LB Tommy Eichenberg, represents his toughest test to date since arriving in South Bend.

Why it could disappoint: It shouldn’t, though there will likely be momentum swings both ways. If McCord again struggles out of the gate in hostile environs, he might find himself in comeback mode too early. But if the Buckeyes can keep RB Audric Estime under wraps, Hartman might be forced to take the kind of chances he hasn’t needed to yet.

USA TODAY Sports staff picks:

  • Scooby Axson: Notre Dame

  • Jace Evans: Ohio State

  • Paul Myerberg: Ohio State

  • Erick Smith: Notre Dame

  • Eddie Timanus: Notre Dame

  • Dan Wolken: Notre Dame

Notre Dame running back Audric Estime (7) runs the ball as Ohio State defensive end Jack Sawyer (33) makes the tackle during the third quarter at Ohio Stadium.
Notre Dame running back Audric Estime (7) runs the ball as Ohio State defensive end Jack Sawyer (33) makes the tackle during the third quarter at Ohio Stadium.

No. 19 Colorado at No. 11 Oregon: Predictions, picks, how to watch

TIME/TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Why watch: Of the three Pac-12 contests matching ranked opponents, this one is highest on the intrigue meter thanks to, if you’ll forgive the mathematical pun, the Prime factor. We’ll learn over the next two weeks if the remade Colorado Buffaloes are immediate league powers or if another season or two is still needed for future Big 12 contention. The first of the pivotal pair of games is this one in Eugene, where the Ducks are flying pretty high themselves. Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders will be without WR/CB Travis Hunter for the next few weeks, but WR Xavier Weaver and RB Dylan Edwards are also dangerous in open space. The Ducks counter with veteran QB Bo Nix, who has been pick free through the first three games with eight scoring throws. His arsenal features WR Troy Franklin and RB Bucky Irving.

Why it could disappoint: While the interest in this contest is undeniable, so is the game’s blowout potential. The defensive side of the ball hasn’t rebuilt quite as quickly for CU. The fire power is there to keep it interesting, but if the Ducks gain an early cushion things could snowball quickly.

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USA TODAY Sports staff picks:

  • Scooby Axson: Oregon

  • Jace Evans: Oregon

  • Paul Myerberg: Oregon

  • Erick Smith: Oregon

  • Eddie Timanus: Oregon

  • Dan Wolken: Oregon

No. 25 UCLA at No. 10 Utah: Predictions, picks, how to watch

TIME/TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox

Why watch: The Utes and Bruins have staged some entertaining contests in recent years, including UCLA’s 42-32 shootout victory last season in Pasadena. True freshman Dante Moore has assumed the QB reins at UCLA succeeding long-time starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He has spread the ball well, but WR J.Michael Sturdivant has emerged as Moore’s most explosive weapon. The status of Utah QB Cam Rising, injured in last season’s Rose Bowl loss, remains uncertain. The Utes have managed thus far with Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson splitting time. The unit has run more smoothly with Johnson at the controls, but more fire power might be needed to keep up with the Bruins.

Why it could disappoint: Utah’s stronger defense has carried the day in this series of late when squaring off in Salt Lake City. Should Rising return, the additional spark could swing matters even more for the Utes as Moore faces his first conference test away from home.

USA TODAY Sports staff picks:

  • Scooby Axson: Utah

  • Jace Evans: Utah

  • Paul Myerberg: Utah

  • Erick Smith: Utah

  • Eddie Timanus: UCLA

  • Dan Wolken: UCLA

No. 15 Oregon State at No. 24 Washington State: Predictions, picks, how to watch

TIME/TV: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox

Why watch: One might argue that this is the true championship game in the Pac-12, as the two schools still searching for a future home get together in Pullman. The Cougars are arguably more battle tested, having knocked Wisconsin out of the Top 25 and easily dispatched the same Colorado State bunch that took the Buffaloes to double overtime. But the Beavers handled a potentially challenging home date with San Diego State in their most recent action. The high-powered Washington State attack is again under the direction of QB Cam Ward, whose primary target is WR Lincoln Victor. Meanwhile, former Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei is enjoying the change of scenery with Oregon State, getting plenty of help from dynamic RB Damien Martinez.

Why it could disappoint: San Diego State’s largely punchless attack might not have been a good metric for the Oregon State defense. The Beavers are more than capable of keeping up with the Cougars should a track meet break out, but an early barrage of points would more likely be produced by the home team.

USA TODAY Sports staff picks:

  • Scooby Axson: Washington State

  • Jace Evans: Oregon State

  • Paul Myerberg: Oregon State

  • Erick Smith: Oregon State

  • Eddie Timanus: Washington State

  • Dan Wolken: Oregon State

No. 16 Mississippi at No. 12 Alabama: Predictions, picks, how to watch

TIME/TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Why watch: The SEC opener for these West Division contenders carries a sense of urgency for both teams. The visiting Rebels, with a potentially huge home date with LSU on deck, look to take advantage of an apparent ebb in the Crimson Tide’s fortunes. Alabama’s game at South Florida last week hardly felt like a win to its fans, as both Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson struggled to ignite the offense. As a result, the more athletic Jalen Milroe will be back under center, but he’ll need much better protection as LB Khari Coleman and the Ole Miss defense look to force him into the sorts of questionable decisions that got him benched. Rebels QB Jaxson Dart isn’t afraid to take off himself, but he’d probably prefer to let RB Quinshon Judkins do the heavy lifting in the ground game to avoid frequent contact with Deontae Lawson and the rest of Alabama’s hard-hitting LB corps.

Why it could disappoint: It seems almost unthinkable to write this, but Alabama is the more likely candidate to be on the short end of a rout. Milroe will hit on a deep ball or two, but the issues along the line won’t be fixed overnight. If the Tide’s short passing game isn’t working, it might be a very good day for Ole Miss.

USA TODAY Sports staff picks:

  • Scooby Axson: Alabama

  • Jace Evans: Alabama

  • Paul Myerberg: Alabama

  • Erick Smith: Alabama

  • Eddie Timanus: Ole Miss

  • Dan Wolken: Ole Miss

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No. 3 Florida State at No. 23 Clemson: Predictions, picks, how to watch

TIME/TV: Saturday, noon ET, ABC

Why watch: The top matchup of the early window is this pivotal ACC battle. Both these projected contenders have had this date circled from the outset, but the host Tigers now need this win even more in the wake of their Week 1 loss at Duke. The Seminoles haven’t beaten Clemson since 2014 but appear to have the team in place this year to end that streak. FSU QB Jordan Travis had an injury scare but finished the game at Boston College a week ago. The Eagles’ near comeback was concerning, but LB Kalen DeLoach and the Seminoles’ defense should be more dialed in this week. Clemson QB Cade Klubnik has made good use of WR Beaux Collins over the last couple of outings after a night of red-zone frustration in the Duke loss. LB Jeremiah Trotter will lead the Tigers’ defense in its bid to keep Travis from finding big-play WRs Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson.

Why it could disappoint: Last week’s near collapse by the Seminoles notwithstanding, it’s difficult to envision Clemson mustering the same sort of comeback given its offensive shortcomings and Klubnik’s tendency to make ill-advised decisions under pressure. If it’s a multi-score difference at halftime, it could be over.

USA TODAY Sports staff picks:

  • Scooby Axson: Clemson

  • Jace Evans: Clemson

  • Paul Myerberg: Clemson

  • Erick Smith: Florida State

  • Eddie Timanus: Florida State

  • Dan Wolken: Florida State

No. 22 Iowa at No. 7 Penn State: Predictions, picks, how to watch

TIME/TV: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Why watch: This is actually one of two battles of unbeatens in the Big Ten this week with second-ranked Michigan hosting a somewhat surprising Rutgers squad, but White Out night in State College gets the spotlight. Curious things have been known to happen when these far-flung rivals get together – who can forget the Hawkeyes’ win at Penn State in 2004 by the tennis-like score of 6-4? That level of offensive futility is unlikely to be duplicated this time around, but there still might not be many flashy plays. There’s a bit more potential for them from the Nittany Lions, though QB Drew Allar and WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith were largely held in check in last week’s Big Ten opener at Illinois. Even with the addition of Michigan transfer QB Cade McNamara, the Iowa attack is still averaging just 4.9 yards per play and is 119th in total offense.

Why it could disappoint: Did we mention there might not be a lot of points? The defenses figure to be the stronger units on the field no matter who has the ball. A significant lead either way could prove insurmountable.

USA TODAY Sports staff picks:

  • Scooby Axson: Penn State

  • Jace Evans: Penn State

  • Paul Myerberg: Penn State

  • Erick Smith: Penn State

  • Eddie Timanus: Penn State

  • Dan Wolken: Penn State

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football games this weekend: Saturday's 7 can't-miss games