Week 4's contenders, pretenders: Oregon, Colorado, Alabama and more

In terms of stakes and big matchups, Week 4 of the 2023 college football season was one of the biggest September weekends imaginable. We had loads of ranked-versus-ranked and unbeaten-versus-unbeaten games, we had referendum games of sorts for both Alabama and Clemson, and we had the first of many batches of incredible Pac-12 contests.

What we didn't necessarily have was a ton of close games. Florida State-Clemson and Ohio State-Notre Dame were great headliners, and others, such as Washington State-Oregon State and LSU-Arkansas, were fun and intense. But seven other games involving top-10 teams finished with an average score of 42-14, with no upsets.

Week 4 didn't upend the national title hierarchy, but it did offer quite a few teams an opportunity to deliver statements of intent. (It also gave other teams an opportunity to prove they weren't up to the task at hand.) Let's look at which teams stood out as contenders in Week 4 and, on the flipside, which ones look far more like pretenders.

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Ohio State's defense | Dabo's decision-making | Red River resurgence
Top-heavy Big Ten | Utah's defense
| Wazzu magic | Bama bounceback
Heisman of the week | Top 10 games

Contender: Oregon
Pretender: Colorado

We'll start with the obvious one.

Say this much for Deion Sanders: He knows how to take a punch. He might not always be the most gracious winner in the world -- case in point: his comments after his Buffaloes upset TCU in Week 1 -- but he's as gracious a loser as you could possibly imagine. When he made his debut as Jackson State's head coach, he had already made a number of high-profile acquisitions and ruffled a few feathers among SWAC coaches when he finally got to field a team in the spring of 2021. And after wins over Edward Waters, Grambling and Mississippi Valley State, the Tigers, with a roster that was still thin and incomplete, lost a tight game to Alabama State, then got walloped 34-14 against Southern.

"We got our butts kicked in every phase of the game," Sanders said after the loss to the Jaguars. "Glaring things ... I gotta do better. We gotta prepare them better ... we just didn't have it, and that's on me."

Fast-forward about 2½ years, and he was saying pretty similar things in the bowels of Autzen Stadium in Eugene.