How will the Top 25 clashes shake out? Bold predictions for Week 4 in college football

We've reached the point of the college football season where most teams are entering conference play and facing opponents they're more familiar with. That would seem to forecast results that are less surprising. But this is college football after all. There are always going to be surprises on Saturdays.

The hard part is sorting out when and where they're going to come from. Week 4 does offer plenty of opportunities with seven games matching ranked opponents and several other intriguing matchups.

The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Scooby Axson, Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with their bold predictions for this weekend.

Alabama gets back on track against Mississippi

Look for Alabama to right the ship with its quarterback situation against Ole Miss. Now that Jalen Milroe is back as QB1, it will give the Tide more versatility at the position, and Nick Saban is not going to continue to play musical chairs with his signal callers, especially after the fiasco that was the South Florida game. Saban knows one more loss virtually eliminates them as national title contenders, so going with Milroe makes the most sense at this point. — Scooby Axson

Colorado, Deion Sanders finally taste defeat

Deion Sanders has already made me eat a lot of crow. What he’s done in his first season at Colorado has been tremendously impressive and the Buffaloes are undeniably the story of the 2023 season. That being said, they are going to lose this week. Frankly, they’re lucky to be entering Autzen Stadium at 3-0 – after watching his team blow an 11-point lead, bold-talking Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell chickened out when presented with an opportunity to win the game with a two-point conversion in the first overtime. But take nothing away from the Buffaloes; they powered through the door Norvell left open. The effort seemed to take a lot out of them, though, and they lost star two-way force Travis Hunter in the process. Hunter’s presence, particularly in the secondary, will be missed as Bo Nix and the No. 11 Oregon Ducks hand Sanders and his No. 19 Buffaloes their first defeat. — Jace Evans

Clemson keeps playoff hopes alive against Florida State

You could make a bold prediction based on any one of the seven games between ranked teams on a loaded Saturday. I’m going with Clemson scoring a borderline upset at home against Florida State after seeing the Tigers’ offense take a step up the past two weeks and the Seminoles struggle to put away Boston College in a way-too-close win. Could it be that FSU isn’t quite ready to take the next step and become the new ACC powerhouse? We’ll find out Saturday. But I think Clemson finds a way to control the pace of play and score the sort of win that should refill the program’s bandwagon. — Paul Myerberg

Notre Dame gets memorable defeat of Ohio State

You may not know every word to "Notre Dame Victory March” but you should know one of the more famous phrases — wake up the echoes. And that's exactly what is going to happen Saturday night in South Bend when the Fighting Irish square off with No. 4 Ohio State. This an opportunity for Notre Dame to announce itself as a national title contender. The Fighting Irish have a significant edge at quarterback with Sam Hartman behind center and they should be able to move the ball consistently. On the opposite side, the Buckeyes have an inexperienced signal caller in Kyle McCord facing one of the toughest environments in college football. It all adds up to one of those special nights where Notre Dame becomes the top storyline of the weekend after a huge victory. — Erick Smith

Follow The College Football Fix Podcast:
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts

Prepare to Safety Dance in Penn State-Iowa clash

I’ll give you a twofer of bold predictions involving the Penn State-Iowa clash on White Out night in State College. The Nittany Lions will win it, and there will be at least one safety scored in the game. OK, that first one isn’t all that bold. Things don’t often go according to script in this series, but the home-field advantage should help PSU survive what will almost certainly be a defensive struggle. As for that second one, safeties don’t happen all that often, but the Hawkeyes got one last week on special teams and famously had two in a game last season — a contest they won without scoring a touchdown. And who could forget that infamous 6-4 tennis match these two teams staged in 2004, in which Iowa preserved the win — also sans TD — by conceding a second safety in the closing moments. There will probably be at least one touchdown this time — we won’t be that bold — but this game is a good candidate for a two-pointer. — Eddie Timanus

Lane Kiffin leads Mississippi past Alabama

There are lots of reasons to believe this is the week that Alabama gets off the mat and plays like Alabama. Nick Saban has done it many times before, and Lane Kiffin probably didn't help himself with comments claiming that Travaris Robinson was now calling Alabama's defense instead of coordinator Kevin Steele, which Saban denied. Why would Kiffin stir the pot like that, especially when he's 0-for-3 against Alabama? Who knows. But sometimes the game is simple, and Ole Miss is going to win because it has a significantly better quarterback and offense. Alabama's performance last week at South Florida was even more concerning than its loss to Texas, and now the Tide is flipping back to Jalen Milroe at quarterback. Milroe, who didn't play last week, is clearly Alabama's best option but still looks quite limited as a passer. If Ole Miss can get an early score and force Alabama to play from behind, this is going to be the year that Kiffin upsets his old boss. — Dan Wolken

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football bold predictions for Week 4 schedule of Top 25 games