By Jordan Merritt

Week 4 of college football brings us some major matchups. Jordan Merritt gives you the four burning questions heading into what is set to be an exciting weekend.

Which ranked Pac-12 team will falter first?

Embed from Getty Images

Yes, I’m a big Pac-12 advocate, and I will not apologise for pumping the conference up for the second time in 4 weeks. Honestly, it’s with good reason, with Week 4 throwing up some treats. The slate features all-conference games, with 3 of them involving match-ups between ranked teams. However, with three ranked teams set to lose their winning records, who will be the ones to fall in the rankings?

With two games taking place simultaneously, let’s start with the surprise package from the Pac-12. 19th-ranked Colorado travels to Eugene to take on 10th-ranked Oregon. The narrative here is how the Buffaloes will cope without the injured Travis Hunter. Yes, one player doesn’t make a team, but if he can play both sides of the ball extremely well, it will affect your game.

Oregon has been quietly going about its business while other teams in the conference get talked up. The Ducks will be looking to stop the Sanders hype train, and Vegas thinks they should, having them 21-point favourites. Although a Colorado win seems unlikely, can they at least keep it competitive, which will bode well for the team?

At the same time, 11th-ranked Utah will be at home against 22nd-ranked UCLA. The reigning Pac-12 champions, Utah, have started strongly, with wins over Florida and Baylor. While the Bruins have had lesser opposition, they still look like a solid team under Chip Kelly.

Cam Rising will be missing yet again for the Utes. The QB play has been satisfactory; however, the defense has them in this position going into this crunch game. The question is, can they keep up this pace? UCLA are another team who aren’t getting talked about enough for the Pac-12 conference title. Freshman QB Dante Moore has looked the real deal for the Bruins. Can he keep up that pace as the games get tougher?

The final all-ranked conference game is in Pullman, with 21st-ranked Washington State welcoming 14th-ranked Oregon State. People are labelling this the Pac-2 rivalry match. Joking aside, these two teams show that they would be adequate additions to any conference.

Oregon State has been tipped as outsiders for the Pac-12 title, while Washington State pulled off a big win over Wisconsin in week 2, which sees them in this position. A win for either team in this one would be a statement, more so for the Cougars.

Can Ole Miss make the SEC Championship game?

Embed from Getty Images

Ole Miss sit at 3-0 going into a 2-game stretch that could define their season. Since the SEC division split in 1992, Ole Miss has never won the West, therefore never making an SEC title game. Is 2023 the time to change the narrative around the Rebels?

Offensively, Ole Miss have looked as fun as ever under Lane Kiffin. Even without key WRs and RB Quinshon Judkins underperforming, they have put up over 1,500 offensive yards in 3 games. Defensively, it’s been a tale of starting slow, but getting much better late on.

The first game of the prove-it two game stretch for the Rebels, a trip to Tuscaloosa against Bama. One thing is for sure, the Crimson Tide aren’t as feared this season. Ole Miss can win this game. However, they can’t start sluggish like they did against Tulane and Georgia Tech. They also have to have a clean game.

If that happens, then they have a massive chance. QB Jaxson Dart has taken a big step from last season and with WRs Franklin and Harris potentially back, this is a good team.

If they can register a surprise win against Alabama on Saturday, they then face LSU at home. A 2-game stretch that would answer the question in the title.

Are the Sooners legitimate challengers to Texas?

Embed from Getty Images

All the talk in the Big-12 is about Texas. Experts seem to think the Longhorns will stroll to the Big-12 championship game and win it. Once upon a last season and before, it was the Sooners alongside them as the two leading title contenders. What has changed?

Well, last season wasn’t pretty for Oklahoma. There could be a full article on why, but we are here now. Brent Venables has started to turn a few heads into thinking this team needs to be on notice. 

QB Dillon Gabriel played through injuries last season, but this year it looks like he has shaken those niggles off. Gabriel has already passed for 900 passing yards and 11 passing TDs. The WR room has some playmakers, while the RB by committee seems to be working. 

The Sooners are ranked 20th in yards allowed per game. They have played a tough SMU team but have still yet to be tested, some would say. 

The next two games are against struggling sides in Cincinnati and Iowa State. If Oklahoma comes away 5-0 with flashy displays, I expect them to be a ranked team. This will throw up an interesting conversation going into the week 6 Red River game against Texas.

Are Fresno State the best Group of 5 team?

Embed from Getty Images

We have seen some very good Group of 5 teams so far this season. Liberty, Georgia State, James Madison and a few others are strong outfits. 

The Fresno State Bulldogs are 3-0, like the above teams mentioned. The difference is, that they have two wins over Power 5 teams (Purdue and Arizona State), both on the road. Their latest win came against an Arizona State side still discovering their identity under new HC Kenny Dillingham. That aside, leaving Tempe restricting the Sun Devils to zero points is damn impressive.

Really, they should be an AP-ranked team, but they are surprisingly not. However, as it stands, are they the best Group of 5 team? It would be hard to argue otherwise, especially considering how they have started the season. 

This week, they welcome Kent State, with the outcome likely a win if they perform like they have. If that is the case, it will be a big surprise not to see them as the lone Group of 5 team with an AP rank. 

Shout out to the UK&I Football Media panel, who recognise what Fresno State has achieved. They had them at 25 in their latest rankings.


College Football Analyst

Ever since he entered Husky Stadium in 2017, Jordan has been a huge fan of College Football. Over the past 3 years he has covered the PAC-12 at 5 Yard College, While recently becoming a contributor at FanSided for The Husky Haul. Follow Jordan @jordm87!