Preview Thursday: Week 4

Six ranked matchups are on the docket in Week 4, and this week should reveal some true contenders. 

Three of those ranked bouts will feature Pac-12 Conference members, and the conference couldn’t have gotten out to a better start to the year beginning 17-0. 

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This week’s top-10 game will take place in South Bend, Indiana, while the No. 1 Bulldogs and No. 2 Wolverines will play at home and No. 3 Texas and No. 4 Florida State will be on the road. 

Here are several games to watch this week. 

No. 16 Oklahoma at Cincinnati 

The first Big 12 matchup between the Sooners and Bearcats will take place at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, and both teams will bring an amount of momentum that will make for a competitive contest. 

No. 16 Oklahoma is 3-0 to start the season under second-year head coach Brent Venables, who recalled the challenge and prestige the Cincinnati football program has attained in recent years. 

“That’s a team that used to winning,” Venables said. “They have high standards when they play at home or when they play on the road, but it’s going to be a, again, a great atmosphere. they got a strong culture, great belief system. Those players expect success. And again, they had a tough loss in overtime. They were a play away from winning the game so I’m sure they’ve got great perspective. They haven’t lost their mind through a little adversity, and they’ll be ready to compete.” 

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Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel earned a place on this week’s Big Board after a big outing last week. Gabriel set the program record with a 90.3% completion against Tulsa, and he added five touchdowns and 421 passing yards. 

Saturday will mark Cincinnati’s first-ever Big 12 game, and it comes with high stakes. The Bearcats suffered a home rivalry loss to Miami (OH) in overtime a week ago. 

Gabriel will go against Cincinnati quarterback Emory Jones, who started the season hot with five touchdowns in Week 1 and has seven touchdowns and a 66.3% completion rate this far. 

No. 19 Colorado at No. 10 Oregon 

Colorado’s hype train is about to face its biggest test of the season. 

The No. 19 Buffaloes eked out an overtime win over rival Colorado State in Week 3, taking a 43-35 victory and riding momentum between a 3-0 start to the year. 

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Across the field in Week 4 will be the No. 10 Ducks who entered the top-10 for the first time this season. Oregon head coach Dan Lanning earlier this season took a big picture approach and questioned whether Colorado has “won anything” in its program history. 

Colorado head coach Deion Sanders had only respect for Lanning and the way he runs the Oregon program. 

“I respect the heck out of this man. What he’s accomplished stepping in, taking over a program and keeping it not only rocking steady, but accelerating it,” Sanders said. “I’m not a fan of anybody I mean, except for, you know, some of the celebrities that got a tremendous gift but not in sports — I respect the heck out of him. I love what he’s accomplishing. I love who he is, the way he runs his team. I love the way he operates. So I’ve got a lot of respect for him.” 

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Lanning said he didn’t regret what he said about Colorado’s program and clarified that he wasn’t talking about Sanders’ team specifically. 

Ducks quarterback Bo Nix and Oregon have outscored opponents 174-47 so far this season. Nix has 893 passing yards and eight touchdowns along with no interceptions this season. 

Lanning said the Pac-12 is off to a great start this season and that only showcases the talent the conference has, and a lot of it will be on display between Colorado and Oregon on Saturday. 

“I think there’s a lot of great teams in this conference and I think that’s really evident with how they’ve performed outside of the conference,” Lanning said. “We kind of talked to our players about, ‘Hey, preseason (is) over, right. You’ve been playing opposing conferences, other teams but now this is when we get into the meat and potatoes of what really matters for us and our goals that we want to accomplish.’ So there’s some great teams. I think we’ll continue to see that each week. I think we have a really tough schedule, and certainly a tough opponent coming up here this week.” 

No. 6 Ohio State at No. 9 Notre Dame 

In a rematch of last season, the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish will meet to determine which top-10 team this time around has the edge over the other. 

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Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman will look to upend his alma mater at home when the Fighting Irish host the Buckeyes at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Buckeyes took a big season-opener a year ago 21-10 in a game that showed both defenses were strong. 

Offense in this matchup will likely take the focus. Ohio State will trot out Kyle McCord at quarterback, as he is in his first year as starter, while Notre Dame will do the same with Sam Hartman. 

Hartman has played like a veteran. After four games, he leads the NCAA with 13 touchdown passes and has 1,061 passing yards. 

McCord and Ohio State will face a different level of adversity. McCord has had his fair share of ups and downs to start his campaign, but has settled in well and has thrown 815 yards with six touchdowns albeit alongside an interception. 

In a battle between two highly ranked, top-10 teams, Saturday will give way to one team over the other and show which is ready for the limelight after four weeks of the season. 

“This is, again, a top-10 game on the road and this is why, again, these are the kind of games why you come to Ohio State,” Day said. “This is an exciting series because it’s not something that happens very often. Ohio State-Notre Dame, two of the bigger teams in the Midwest getting together for a home-and-home. Last year’s atmosphere was electric. It’ll be the same way on Saturday night so our guys are really fired up for this.”