We have reached the point in the college football calendar in which conference play will be in full swing going forward.
The first three-plus weeks of the season have featured a handful of contests that count in league standings. Some of those even have long-term ramifications - more on that below. But this final September weekend provides a full slate in most of the major conferences.
As such, this is when unexpected results might start to occur with more regularity. We therefore repeat our standard caveat that while we offer these games as the top viewing options, one should always keep an eye on the scoreboard and look in on other venues should events warrant.
With all that out of the way, here is our guide to what we think will be the best tune-in options in Week 4, a line-up featuring three Top 25 clashes and several other key conference encounters.
No. 5 Clemson at No. 16 Wake Forest
Saturday, noon ET, ABC
Why watch: This game matches the defending ACC Atlantic winner against Clemson. Yes, you read that correctly. The Tigers are expected to reclaim division and conference superiority, but the Demon Deacons hope to make an early statement that last year's trip to the conference championship game was not a fluke. The path to 3-0 wasn't smooth all the way for either team. Wake needed to stop a late two-point conversion attempt to get by Liberty last week, while the Tigers have posted impressive scoring margins but have been slow out of the gate offensively. Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei has done better with ball security this season but is averaging just 7.5 yards per attempt with few explosive playmakers in the huddle. Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman has plenty of weapons but might not have time to find them with pressure from the Tigers' D-line, still the team's biggest strength and with DT Bryan Bresee rejoining the group, bringing the heat.
Why it could disappoint: The Deacons are going against a lot of history here, not having beaten Clemson since 2008. Wake's inability to run the ball against Liberty might have been another sign of trouble.
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No. 22 Florida at No. 12 Tennessee
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Why watch: The level of optimism in Knoxville is higher than it's been in years with the Vols flying high. They'll have to be ready to take on a desperate bunch of Gators, whose league hopes would be all but extinguished if they lose a second SEC East contest. Florida QB Anthony Richardson still seeks his first TD pass of the season as defenses have taken away his running lanes since his strong opening performance against Utah. He can expect more of the same, with Vols LB Aaron Beasley likely to provide the surveillance. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker is pick free through three games, making excellent use of WRs Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman. Gators LB Amari Burney, whose end-zone INT saved the Utah victory, will try to make Hooker's job difficult.
Why it could disappoint: Tennessee is also fighting history, having dropped 16 of the last 17 series meetings. But Florida might not have the fire power to mount a rally should it fall behind on the road.
No. 10 Arkansas vs. No. 19 Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Why watch: We head to the SEC's other division for this prime-time clash of potential challengers to Alabama's throne in the West. Both the Razorbacks and Aggies are coming off wins, though neither instilled confidence for their respective fans. A&M was able to bounce back from the Appalachian State setback to get a quality victory against Miami (Fla.), but the Aggies' offensive difficulties were still in evidence even with the switch to QB Max Johnson. Arkansas was nearly caught flat-footed but managed to survive against FCS member Missouri State and former Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino, thanks in large part to a Bryce Stephens punt return.
Why it could disappoint: The Aggies' two explosive weapons, RB Devon Achane and WR Ainias Smith, will have trouble getting loose if no other playmakers emerge, and LB Bumper Pool and the rest of the Arkansas defense will try to make sure they don't. On the other side, both Razorbacks QB K.J. Jefferson and RB Raheim Sanders must be more careful with the ball.
Maryland at No. 4 Michigan
Saturday, noon ET, Fox
Why watch: The Wolverines open defense of their Big Ten title against the Terrapins, who took care of their own business in non-league play and now hope to move up the conference standings in 2022. It's fair to say Michigan didn't exactly challenge itself with its schedule to date, outscoring its trio of overmatched visitors by a cumulative tally of 166-17. Maryland had to work a bit harder to get past its most recent opponent but managed to outlast SMU 34-27. The Michigan backfield duo of QB J.J. McCarthy and RB Blake Corum have been able to move the ball at will but should encounter more resistance this week. The Terrapins also have excellent offensive balance with QB Taulia Tagovailoa and RB Roman Hemby.
Why it could disappoint: Maryland must demonstrate it can match scores with the Wolverines from the outset in order to neutralize the 'Big House' crowd. Michigan is well equipped to put the game on ice if it grabs an early lead.
No. 18 Oregon at Washington State
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Fox
Why watch: We should mention here that the likely best game of the day in the conference, No. 7 Southern California at unbeaten Oregon State, was relegated to obscurity on the Pac-12 Network, a crime against humanity that should draw international scrutiny. But there is a lot of potential with this one as well as the Ducks look to follow up their triumph over Brigham Young against another set of Cougars. Washington State is off to a 3-0 start in its own right, including a win at Wisconsin, and now hopes to inject itself into the league race. Oregon QB Bo Nix has been much more efficient since his nightmarish outing against Georgia, but he must now show he can deliver in unfriendly environs. He has yet to be sacked this season, though LB Daiyan Henley, who does just about everything for the Cougars' defense, will look to change that. WSU QB Cameron Ward has settled in after a shaky Week 1 start against Idaho, but he must steer clear of Ducks DE Brandon Dorlus.
Why it could disappoint: It probably won't produce as many fireworks as that above-mentioned game in Corvallis. But if it's a low-scoring contest, it should still be close throughout.
Kansas State at No. 6 Oklahoma
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox
Why watch: This figured to be the first major test for the Sooners in their quest to reclaim the Big 12 crown. It still might be, and OU would be advised to take it seriously despite K-State's surprising 17-10 home loss to Tulane last week. The Wildcats had been riding high after dismantling Missouri, but QB Adrian Martinez and RB Deuce Vaughn were held in check by the Green Wave. The Sooners face the opposite problem, needing to avoid overconfidence after QB Dillon Gabriel and Co., did whatever they wanted against Nebraska.
Why it could disappoint: Quite simply, the Wildcats have to play better. If they don't, the Sooners will put it away quickly. But the last three encounters in this series have been one-score affairs with K-State taking two of them, so a blowout seems unlikely.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida-Tennessee headlines college football's best Week 4 games