We’re breaking down some of the biggest movers in our top 25 and revealing our TRACR projection model’s NCAA football predictions for Notre Dame-Ohio State, Colorado-Oregon and the rest of the biggest college football games.
The Showdown in South Bend
Notre Dame won’t have history on its side Saturday night when it tries to hold on to our No. 1 ranking in one of the biggest games of the college football season so far.
The Irish haven’t beaten Ohio State, fifth in our rankings, since 1936. After that meeting, Notre Dame didn’t see the Buckeyes again until 1995 and has dropped the five matchups since, including Fiesta Bowl losses in 2005 and 2015.
In last year’s season opener in Columbus, the Irish led 10-7 at halftime after an Audric Estime 1-yard TD run in the second quarter. But eventual No. 2 NFL Draft pick C.J. Stroud threw a 24-yard scoring strike late in the third quarter and Miyan Williams capped the 21-10 win with a 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
Estime managed only 21 yards on nine carries in that contest, but he’s starring for the Irish heading into this meeting. He’s the nation’s leading rusher with 521 yards on 8.3 per carry to go along with five touchdowns after he had a career-high 176 yards in a 41-17 home win over Central Michigan in Week 3.
Estime’s performance has opened things up for Sam Hartman in the passing game. Hartman has thrown for 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. As a result, Notre Dame (30.4) has moved past USC (27.5) as the top team in offensive TRACR after rolling past Navy (42-3), Tennessee State (56-3), NC State (45-24) and Central Michigan.
TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) is a net efficiency metric that evaluates how well a team performs based on who it plays. The model, which is trained on over 10 years of data, is based on an EPA (expected points added) calculation weighed by who teams play. It rewards big wins over good teams and punishes losses to bad ones or even wins that are closer than expected.
A team with a TRACR of 0.0 is considered an average team in the FBS. The rankings, along with projected record, probability of running the table and chances of becoming a bowl-eligible team, are being updated throughout the season on our TRACR college football rankings page.
Hartman may have make some big plays through the air in this showdown. That’s because Estime and the running game are facing their toughest test yet against an Ohio State team that ranks third in the country in defensive TRACR (D-TRACR) against the run.
Other Matchups to Watch
The ND-OSU matchup between teams with College Football Playoff aspirations isn’t projected to be the closest game involving top-25 teams, but it is projected to be the most exciting, per SmartRatings.
SmartRatings is an AI-based platform that calculates excitement ratings based on six primary variables: pace, parity, novelty, momentum, context and social buzz. It has this showdown at a 76, which places it in the “good game” category.
The Florida State-Clemson clash between ACC powerhouses comes in at a close second with a 75 rating. The Seminoles, fourth in the Associated Press Top 25, have a 73.7% chance of snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Tigers.
The Irish have a 64.6% win probability against the Buckeyes, while No. 24 Kansas State only has a 60.6% chance of knocking off 33rd-ranked Central Florida at home. That’s projected to be the closest matchup involving top-25 teams.
Ole Miss climbed from 24th to 20th following a 48-23 win over Georgia Tech last weekend. Now the Rebels will get a chance to see just how good they are Saturday afternoon. The Crimson Tide, who have won seven straight in the series, are given a 72.6% win probability at home.
Deion Sanders and Colorado made headlines by soaring from 114th to 58th in our rankings following wins over TCU and Nebraska. The Buffaloes, however, fell back to 64th after slipping past rival Colorado State in the “Rocky Mountain Showdown” in overtime. But we’ll find out a lot about Coach Prime’s squad over the next two weeks: at Oregon and vs. USC.
How do our model’s projections compare to the sportsbooks’ moneyline odds? Check out the college football picks for all the TRACR top-25 matchups.
Week 4 NCAA Football Predictions
TRACR No. 1 Notre Dame 64.6% over No. 5 Ohio State
No. 2 Washington 97.3% over No. 68 California
No. 3 USC 98.7% over No. 110 Arizona State
No. 4 Michigan 89.8% over No. 31 Rutgers
No. 6 Oklahoma 92.9% over No. 50 Cincinnati
No. 7 Florida State 73.7% over No. 19 Clemson
No. 8 Miami (FL) 95.7% over No. 87 Temple
No. 9 Alabama 72.6% over No. 20 Ole Miss
No. 10 UCLA 71.3% over No. 26 Utah
No. 11 Oregon 89.0% over No. 64 Colorado
No. 12 Georgia 95.6% over No. 95 UAB
No. 13 Texas 88.9% over No. 65 Baylor
No. 14 Duke 96.5% over No. 111 Connecticut
No. 15 Penn State 81.1% over No. 45 Iowa
No. 16 Oregon State 84.1% over No. 56 Washington State
No. 17 Wisconsin 88.2% over No. 73 Purdue
No. 18 North Carolina 73.1% over No. 40 Pittsburgh
No. 21 Florida 96.5% over No. 122 Charlotte
No. 22 Syracuse 77.4% over No. 43 Army
No. 23 Arizona 95.5% over No. 115 Stanford
No. 24 Kansas State 60.6% over No. 33 Central Florida
No. 25 LSU 72.4% over No. 46 Arkansas
Louisiana State is back in the top 25 after bouncing back from its opening loss to FSU with wins over Grambling State and the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
On the outside looking in are No. 26 Utah, No. 27 Tennessee, No. 28 Maryland, No. 29 SMU and No. 30 Texas A&M. Rutgers, Auburn, UCF, Memphis, Air Force, Tulane, TCU, Louisville, Kansas and Pittsburgh round out 31-40 in the rankings.