We are getting to the interesting part of the college football season. Last weekend saw some great games in more of a nail-biter Saturday the final rankings and College Football Playoffs are starting to get a bit clearer (very slightly). Last week, we saw Georgia get an important win against a 12th ranked Missouri team, Washington won in a shootout against perennial power USC, Alabama got a key victory against conference foe LSU and Texas need overtime to get a win against Kansas State.
This week shapes up to be no different with a lot of great games that should help make the picture clearer for the final season of the four team playoffs. Let's take a look at the top five games to have our popcorn ready for.
Florida State v Miami - At number five is a rivalry game between two in-state rivals. For the Seminoles, they are looking to continue their winning ways. Receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson look poised to make their return to the field for the important game. With the Seminoles having secured a spot in the ACC Championship, Jordan Travis and company look to keep climbing toward their shot at the playoffs. The Hurricanes enter the contest at 6-3 and have had an up and down season and would love nothing more to derail the Seminoles season.
Jordan Travis is poised to have his best season at Florida State. Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili should benefit from the team being healthier with the return of Wilson and Coleman. Tyler Van Dyke and the Hurricanes will need to play one of their best games and minimize the interceptions by Van Dyke in order to keep the game close. Prediction - Seminoles win by three scores. The offense gets back to their scoring ways. Also, the defense led by Jared Verse and Kalen DeLoach prove to much for a younger offensive line for the Hurricanes. Causing Van Dyke to struggle here could prompt coach Cristobal and his staff to make a change at the position.
Missouri v Tennessee - When the Volunteers meet the Tigers, it will be a matchup of strength versus strength. Both teams have running games that teams envy with quality runners and depth at the position. Cody Schrader and the Tigers gave the Bulldogs a challenge last week and the Volunteers host the Bulldogs next week (11/18). The winner of this game keeps slim hopes alive for an SEC Championship berth. With the oddsmakers having this as a toss-up, it smells like a potential trap game for Tennessee as they have Georgia coming up.
For the Tigers, Schrader has been running with a purpose and it has enabled quarterback Brady Cook and the offense to thrive. The three-headed monster of Schrader, Theo Wease Jr., and Luther Burden III have led an offense that has scored 30 or more points in seven of their nine games. The Volunteers utilize a three-pronged attack on the ground with Jaylen Wright, Jabari Small, and Dylan Sampson who help set up the passing game. Led by Joe Milton III, the offense has an innate ability to air it out. Milton has the prototypical arm and size that will serve him well at the NFL level. This year, receivers Squirrel White (12.4 yards per catch) and Ramel Keyton (averaging 17.2 yards per catch) are the beneficiaries. Prediction - After a back-and-forth, Tennessee pulls away late and gets the win by seven.
Michigan v Penn State - As the third entry on my list, is the Wolverines' biggest challenge of the season on the road against Penn State. The Wolverines have been dominant in their games to this point against teams that they should win against. The backdrop of the game is the sign-stealing investigation that is taking place with the University of Michigan football team. Will it be a distraction to them on the field? Michigan is currently number three in the rankings and heads to Happy Valley to face a team looking for a signature win of their own this year and avenge a 41-17 loss last year.
Michigan has been playing like a well-oiled machine all season. Led by JJ McCarthy and Blake Corum on offense and a stingy defense that has only surrendered 44 points all season led by Junior Colson. McCarthy has gotten himself into the Heisman discussion for his efforts this year where he is currently third in the conference in passing (2,134 yards). For the Nittany Lions, Drew Allar will lead the charge on offense with the help of KeAndre Lambert-Smith (12.6 yards per catch). With an equally stingy defense (85 points allowed) defensive end Adisa Isaac and corner Daequan Hardy will look to lead the defense to their biggest win of the season. Prediction - In a back-and-forth battle between two heavyweight defenses, the hostile environment provides a backdrop for a three-point win by Penn State.
Georgia v Ole Miss - In the second spot on my list, is the Bulldogs top ten matchup against the Rebels in Athens. After a nine-point win against 12th ranked Missouri last week, the Bulldogs will look to continue their winning streak and earn another resume-building win against ninth ranked Ole Miss. While the Rebels still need help to get to the SEC title game (meaning a loss to Alabama) the incentive to get a marque win against the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs and potentially spoil their efforts for a three-peat will motivate Lane Kiffin's team.
For the Bulldogs, there is no rest for the weary, in the middle of their toughest stretch before the SEC title game, the Bulldogs will look to Carson Beck to continue leading the offense. The two headed rushing attack of Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton has helped Beck and the passing game grow as Ladd McConkey and Dominic Lovett have stepped up with the injury to Brock Bowers. Defensively, Tykee Smith and Malaki Starks anchor the secondary, and Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon Jr lead the defensive front in disrupting opposing offenses and creating pressure on the quarterbacks. For the Rebels, the offense is led by Jaxson Dart. He is a fighter as a quarterback and can make a variety of throws to all areas of the field. On the ground Quinshon Judkins and Ulysses Bentley IV lead the charge and complement each other well. Defensively, the Rebels will need to rely on John Saunders (leads the team in tackles), and Cedric Johnson, Jared Ivey, and Isaac Ukwu (top three on the team in applying pressure) to continue their play. Prediction - The Rebels challenge the Bulldogs but ultimately fall short by seven.
Washington v Utah - In my top sport this week is a Pac-12 battle with the fifth ranked Huskies hosting the 18th ranked Utes. With Washington currently on the outside looking in, a convincing win against a ranked team will help their efforts to earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Michael Penix Jr and Rome Odunze have established themselves as one of the top duos in college football. The performance of Dillon Johnson in last week's game against the Trojans stood out to me when only 86 yards of his 256 yard performance came after contact. He also had four touchdowns on the day, both season highs for Johnson. For the Utes, running back Ja'Quinden Jackson has been a bulldozer when he runs earning 418 of his 598 yards on the ground after contact. Bryson Barnes has fought his way into the starting lineup for Utah as Cameron Rising continues to recover from his injury at the end of the 2022 season.
While the game matters most for the Huskies season, the Utes have made a habit of spoiling seasons for their conference counterparts. Heisman front runner Penix Jr. is set for another standout performance, he's currently averaging an insane 356 yards per game this season and has thrown for 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Odunze and fellow wide receiver Ja'Lynn Polk have aided in the Huskies' performance this season (both in the top-10 in the country in receiving yards). On defense, edge rusher Bralen Trice has made a living this season disrupting offenses with 48 total pressures and leads the team with four sacks. Linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio leads the team in tackles and shows his ability to cover sideline to sideline and make plays. For the Utes, Barnes and Jackson have galvanized the offense as they currently sit 7-2 on the season. Defensively, edge Jonah Elliss has been a sack machine (13 on the season). Prediction - The Huskies win in this contest to further secure their spot in the conference championship and keep playoff hopes alive. Huskies win the contest by 10.