ESPN 2023 College Football Power Rankings after Week 4

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Sunday, September 24, 2023

There was bound to be a shakeup in the Power Rankings with eight games featuring teams that were 3-0 or better (Notre Dame was 4-0) entering Week 4.

One of those highly anticipated matchups ended up a blowout as Oregon made a statement in its 42-6 rout of Deion Sanders' upstart Colorado Buffaloes. Another became an instant classic when Ohio State scored in the final seconds to edge Notre Dame 17-14.

Also out West, Washington continues to impress. Among the rest of the top 10, Florida State took overtime to beat Clemson and remain unbeaten while Georgia, Michigan, Texas and Penn State all won handily.

Here's a look at how those outcomes affected the Power Rankings after Week 4.

No. 1Georgia Bulldogs(4-0)

It took four games, but All-American tight end Brock Bowers broke the 100-yard receiving mark and notched his first receiving touchdown this season during a convincing win against UAB. Quarterback Carson Beck might have had his best game, too, scoring four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) while not committing any turnovers. The only area coach Kirby Smart will likely point to as needing improvement is ball security after the team committed three fumbles, losing two. Against a non-conference Group of 5 opponent, you can survive that kind of carelessness. Against an SEC opponent, maybe not. -- Alex Scarborough

Up next:at Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 2Florida State Seminoles(4-0)

The Seminoles found a way to beat ACC nemesis Clemson for the first time since 2014, though it was not easy and it was not pretty at times. Jordan Travis threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Keon Coleman in overtime, giving the Seminoles a 31-24 victory and perhaps signaling a changing of the guard in the ACC. But the offense was stagnant at times, thanks to an inability to run the ball or make plays consistently in the passing game. It should be noted Travis reaggravated a left shoulder injury and played hurt. At times, the defense looked out of sorts, too, allowing Clemson quarterbackCade Klubnik to make some impressive plays. But when the pressure was turned up, the defense came through: A scoop and score from Kalen DeLoach and a defensive stand in overtime were two huge keys. There is an open date before Virginia Tech comes to town. -- Andrea Adelson

Up next:Oct. 7 vs. Virginia Tech

No. 3 Michigan Wolverines(4-0)

The Wolverines played their first game with coach Jim Harbaugh back on the sideline after serving a self-imposed three-game suspension. The game started a little shakily with Rutgers scoring on the first drive via a 69-yard pass. Michigan was able to settle in, however, and put it away with a 31-7 win over the Scarlet Knights. A turning point came when Rutgers decided to go for it on fourth-and-2, down 10 points in the third quarter in Michigan territory. Michigan defensive back Mike Sainristil intercepted the pass and took it back for a touchdown. The Wolverines' offense had a balanced effort with 214 yards through the air and 201 on the ground as running back Blake Corum scored twice and quarterback J.J. McCarthy threw for one touchdown. The Wolverines go on the road for the first time this season next week. -- Tom VanHaaren

Up next:at Nebraska (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

No. 4Washington Huskies(4-0)

The Michael Penix Jr. Heisman campaign is picking up steam, but by the time he stepped onto the field Saturday night against Cal, the Huskies had already taken a 14-0 lead. Edefuan Ulofoshio returned an interception for a touchdown on the game's opening drive, then Rome Odunze returned a punt for a touchdown. Penix then added four touchdown passes and 304 passing yards before exiting with a 40-point lead late in the third quarter. The Huskies are impressing voters, climbing from from No. 7 last week all the way to No. 4. -- Kyle Bonagura

Up next: at Arizona (10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)

No. 5Texas Longhorns(4-0)

The Longhorns, who had lost in their past two trips to Baylor, dominated the Bears in Waco, an emphatic start to their first Big 12 game in their final season in the league. Texas piled up 503 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per play, while the defense held Baylor to just 1.9 yards per carry and swarmed starter Sawyer Robertson all night, sacking him five times (two byByron Murphy)and adding three hurries. Quinn Ewers completed 18 of 23 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown and added a 29-yard TD run. Jonathon Brooks had a 40-yard touchdown run, one of two TDs he had on the day along with 106 yards, while tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders had 110 yards on five catches. -- Dave Wilson

Up next:vs. Kansas (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 6Ohio State Buckeyes(4-0)

An emotional come-from-behind win at Notre Dame that saw coach Ryan Day snap back at Lou Holtz and other critics could springboard Ohio State toward another CFP run. The Buckeyes certainly showed their toughness when it mattered, driving 65 yards in the closing seconds to stun the Fighting Irish. But Ohio State still doesn't look like the most confident team, either from a playcalling and execution standpoint, and it could be getting more out of its supreme talent base. The Buckeyes were pushed around at times by Notre Dame and struggled to get their top wide receivers involved. Quarterback Kyle McCord grew up in crunch time, though, and could reference the Notre Dame comeback in future big-stage opportunities. Ohio State's defense bent but rarely broke against Sam Hartman and Notre Dame, as safety Lathan Ransom and others stepped up. -- Adam Rittenberg

Up next:vs. Maryland, Oct. 7

No. 7USC Trojans(3-0)

It was a sloppy game for the Trojans against Arizona State despite scoring 42 points and being buoyed by the magic of Caleb Williams, who threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for two more scores in what could be the last night game in Tempe between the two teams for a while with both departing for new conferences next season. This road trip seems to always be tricky for USC, and though they escaped with a 42-28 win, the defense once again showed worrisome trends that won't stand as well in the face of tougher upcoming opponents. -- Paolo Uggetti

Up next:at Colorado (noon ET, Fox)

No. 8Penn State Nittany Lions(4-0)

Seventy-six. Penn State gave up 76 yards to Iowa on Saturday night in Happy Valley. We know Iowa's offense is bad, we know the Hawkeyes are banged up and, well, really bad offensively. But this was still a ridiculous defensive performance. On a sloppy track, Penn State's Drew Allar went a safe and conservative 25-for-37 for 166 yards and four touchdowns while Iowa's Cade McNamarawas 5-for-14 for 42. The game was pretty much over when Alex Felkins made a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter, but the Nittany Lions saw out an easy win over what is typically a frustrating opponent. They move to 4-0, and with games against Northwestern and UMass up next, they can start preparing for their Week 8 trip to Columbus. -- Bill Connelly

Up next:at Northwestern (noon ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 9Oregon Ducks(4-0)

In the face of plenty of Colorado hype coming into Saturday's matchup, the Ducks were the ones who shined as their offense, defense and special teams fired on all cylinders en route to a commanding 42-6 win. It was clear Dan Lanning's team was motivated to not just win, but do it in commanding fashion. Over 500 yards of offense and a suffocating defense did their job against Deion Sanders' team while Bo Nix threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, reminding the rest of the nation that Caleb Williams and Michael Penix Jr. aren't the only Heisman contenders in the Pac-12 this year. -- Paolo Uggetti

Up next:at Stanford (6:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 network)

No. 10Utah Utes(4-0)

Until further notice, the road to the Pac-12 title continues to go through Salt Lake City. Linebacker Karene Reid's 21-yard interception return for a TD on the first play from scrimmage was a rude introduction to conference play for UCLA freshman quarterbackDante Moore, courtesy of the two-time defending conference champions. Utah held a Bruins' offense that came into Saturday third in the FBS in rushing (270.3 YPG) to just 9 rushing yards (7 in the first half) and kept Moore under wraps to the tune of 15-of-35 passing for 234 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Starting in place of Cameron Rising for a fourth straight week, Nate Johnson managed the game well, completing 9of 17 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown while letting the Utes' defense handle the heavy lifting against the high-powered Bruins. -- Blake Baumgartner

Up next:at Oregon State (9 p.m. ET, FS1)

No. 11Alabama Crimson Tide (3-1)

It wasn't a pretty win by any means. The Crimson Tide offense remains a work in progress, with Jalen Milroe still struggling to make good decisions in the passing game and the line allowing too much pressure. But the defense deserves credit for holding the usually potent Rebs offense to just 10 points. The pass rush, which struggled through the first three games of the season, showed up in a big way, pestering Jaxson Dart all afternoon with six hurries and two sacks. And the secondary held up its end, including a nice interception by Terrion Arnold. Whether a good defense is enough to get back into the SEC championship hunt remains to be seen, but we'll find out more next week at Mississippi State. -- Scarborough

Up next:at Mississippi State (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 12Notre Dame Fighting Irish(4-1)

The sting from Saturday night's loss to Ohio State likely won't wear off for a while for the Irish. Notre Dame seemingly had Ohio State beat, but several questionable coaching and personnel mistakes cost the Irish a signature win for coach Marcus Freeman against his alma mater. Notre Dame generally controlled the line of scrimmage but struggled to finish drives until the second half, when quarterback Sam Hartman and others came alive. An incredibly balanced offense -- 176 rushing yards, 175 passing yards -- and a defense that rendered Ohio State star Marvin Harrison Jr. a nonfactor wasn't enough, as disaster struck in the final minute. Notre Dame's path doesn't get any easier with Duke, Louisville and USC up next. -- Rittenberg

Up next:at Duke (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 13LSU Tigers(3-1)

There were a lot of sighs of relief coming out of Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. LSU flirted with its second loss of the season, but Damian Ramos kicked a 20-yard field goal with five seconds to play in a 34-31 win over Arkansas. It was the kind of game you've come to expect in the SEC, one team getting down but fighting to hang around. Arkansas and KJ Jefferson wouldn't go away, but LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels showed his experience and poise when it counted. He engineered the game-winning 72-yard drive and finished with 420 passing yards and four touchdowns. Had it not been for LSU's red zone defense, the Tigers could have really been in trouble. They forced the Hogs to kick two short field goals in the first half. -- Chris Low

Up next:at Ole Miss (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 14Oklahoma Sooners(4-0)

The Sooners made their first (and last) Big 12 trip to Cincinnati and the Bearcats kept it tight, but Dillon Gabriel completed 26 of 38 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown and added a 1-yard scoring run in the third quarter to put the game out of reach in the 20-6 win. The Sooners' defense held the Bearcats to 3-of-15 on third downs and 1-of-4 on fourth downs and intercepted Emory Jones twice, allowing 376 yards but just six points. -- Wilson

Up next:vs. Iowa State (7 p.m. ET, FS1)

No. 15Duke Blue Devils(4-0)

For the first time in program history, Duke has won its first four games in a season by at least 20 points, after racing out to a 27-0 halftime lead and not looking back in the 41-7 victory. It can now shift its focus to perhaps the biggest game in program history -- Notre Dame coming to Durham, North Carolina, next week for a prime-time matchup on ABC. A pair of touchdown runs from running back Jordan Waters were supported by a rushing TD from Riley Leonard, who threw for 248 yards and a score, finding six different receivers. Jordan Moore and Jalon Calhoun combined for 14 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown. The Blue Devils' defense stymied the Huskies' offense all afternoon, holding it to 203 total yards (32 in the first half), with defensive tackle DeWayne Carter providing some scoring in returning a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown. -- Baumgartner

Up next:vs. Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 16Washington State Cougars (4-0)

While the scoreboard shows just a three-point win for WSU over Oregon State, 38-35, this was a much more comprehensive victory. The only nervy moment for the Cougars came on OSU's onside kick with just over a minute remaining, when it wasn't immediately clear who came up with the ball. WSU played in control for nearly the entire game -- it scored a 63-yard TD on the second play from scrimmage -- in what was a breakout performance for QBCam Ward. Against one of the best defenses in the country, Ward completed 28 of 34 passes for 404 yards with four touchdowns and has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. --Bonagura

Up next: at UCLA, Oct. 7

No. 17North Carolina Tar Heels(4-0)

Just when you think Drake Maye has done it all, he does something to make you think again. Maye threw for 296 yards and scored three touchdowns, but his dazzling left-handed touchdown throw to Kobe Paysour in the second quarter is worth finding online if you have not seen it yet. The Tar Heels defense stymied Pitt, forcing three turnovers and knocking quarterback Phil Jurkovec out of the game. North Carolina is 4-0 for the first time since 1997 with an open date next week. -- Adelson

Up next:vs. Syracuse, Oct. 7

No. 18Miami Hurricanes (4-0)

The Hurricanes racked up 543 total yards and Tyler Van Dyke tossed three touchdown passes as Mario Cristobal's crew handled its business against Temple 41-7. Two of Van Dyke's three TD passes went to Xavier Restrepo, who hauled in seven of Van Dyke's 17 completions. Henry Parrish Jr. gashed Temple for 139 yards and two touchdowns to help pace a running attack that churned out a season-high 323 yards. Miami was efficient in the red zone, scoring six of the seven times it found itself there, including five touchdowns. The Hurricanes' defense dictated matters on the ground and didn't permit the Owls much breathing room, limiting them to 11 rushing yards. -- Baumgartner

Up next:vs. Georgia Tech, Oct. 7

No. 19Oregon State Beavers(3-1)

For a team that entered the season with Pac-12 title aspirations, Oregon State's 38-35 loss to WSU is a significant blow. The Beavers' usually stout defense had no answers for WSU's passing game and couldn't move the ball well enough through the air to keep pace. But with a short week before Friday's game against Utah, the Beavs have to put it behind them quickly. A win against the Utes would represent a nice springboard into a more manageable five-game stretch that follows: at Cal, UCLA, at Arizona, at Colorado and Stanford. -- Bonagura

Up next:vs. Utah (9 p.m. ET, FS1)

No. 20Tennessee Volunteers(3-1)

Even though Tennessee might have lost some of its edge in the third quarter, the Vols still won convincingly in a 45-14 beatdown of UTSA, the kind of pick-me-up Josh Heupel's club needed after last week's disappointing loss at Florida. Tennessee jumped on UTSA (which was without star quarterback Frank Harris) early and built a 31-0 lead at the half. Quarterback Joe Milton III, no doubt hearing the rumblings from some in the Tennessee fan base who wanted to see highly touted freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava, accounted for three touchdowns in the first half. He had an 81-yard run on the first play from scrimmage and also connected on touchdown passes of 48 and 18 yards. Tennessee did get a few players banged up in the game, including Milton. Iamaleava made his Neyland Stadium debut and played two series in the fourth quarter. -- Low

Up next:vs. South Carolina (7:30 pm. ET, SEC Network)

No. 21Ole Miss Rebels(3-1)

Maybe Lane Kiffin and the Rebs should have worried less about who was calling the Alabama defense. Because the offense, which entered the weekend averaging 52.7 points, fell absolutely flat after a first quarter touchdown on the road in Tuscaloosa. The line couldn't block and star running back Quinshon Judkins couldn't get anything going. Meanwhile, quarterback Jaxson Dart struggled to push the ball downfield. To get things back on track against LSU next week, Ole Miss must reestablish the running game and relieve some of the pressure on Dart to make things happen. -- Scarborough

Up next:vs. LSU (6 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 22Florida Gators (3-1)

The excitement from a week ago in the Swamp was tempered Saturday night. The Gators, coming off the big win over Tennessee, followed up with a ho-hum 22-7 win over Charlotte. At this point, a few games into his second season of trying to rebuild the program, Florida coach Billy Napier isn't in a position to thumb his nose at any victory. But there were certainly some concerns, notably the Gators settling for five field goals, three of those coming after drives stalled inside the 10. Charlotte entered the game ranked 129th out of 131 teams in scoring defense (39.4 points per game) and gave up 568 yards to Georgia State last week. Quarterback Graham Mertz completed 20 of 23 passes for 259 yards, but Florida couldn't score touchdowns once it reached the red zone, which will catch up with the Gators down the road. -- Low

Up next:at Kentucky (noon ET)

No. 23Fresno State Bulldogs(4-0)

Mikey Keene threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns as the Bulldogs finished their nonconference slate undefeated with a 53-10 win against Kent State. There's a strong case to be made now that Fresno State is the best Group of 5 team in the country and should have the inside track to the New Year's Six. Its 29-0 win against Arizona State looks even better now that ASU responded by having a much better game against highly ranked USC on Saturday. Fresno State will ease in the Mountain West next week against winless Nevada before things ramp back up. -- Bonagura

Up next: vs. Nevada (10:30 p.m. ET)

No. 24Kansas Jayhawks(4-0)

The Jayhawks were inhospitable hosts, handing BYU a loss in the Cougars' first Big 12 game, including Cobee Bryant delivering a big hit, forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown on the game's first drive. Jalon Daniels threw three TDs, Luke Grimm caught two in the second half and KU got off to a 4-0 start in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1915. The defense held BYU to 9 rushing yards, their fewest since 2017, while the Kansas offense has now scored 30 or more points in all four games this year. A showdown with Texas in Austin on Saturday awaits. -- Wilson

Up next: at Texas (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

No. 25Louisville Cardinals(4-0)

With native son Jeff Brohm taking over his hometown Cards, optimism was high headed into the season. A month into the season, the Cardinals have delivered. Louisville dominated Boston College 56-28, rolling up 582 yards of total offense and scoring on its first seven possessions. Maybe more impressive, Louisville has had a halftime lead of at least 21 points in three straight games for the first time since doing it four straight times spanning the 1912 and 1913 seasons. Louisville is 4-0 for the first time since 2016. -- Adelson

Up next:at NC State, Friday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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