Washington Walks into Top 4 as Rivalry Week Looms
Another week, another minimal amount of movement at the top. The only alteration to the top 10 that the committee chose to make from a week ago was to swap Washington and Florida State, sliding the Huskies up into the fourth and final College Football Playoff position at the cost of the Seminoles.
This status quo is nearing its conclusion. This weekend, Ohio State and Michigan are slated for one of the fiercest forays in their rivalry’s history. Oregon has its local feud with Oregon State. Alabama, Georgia, Washington, Florida State, and Louisville all have their own heated rivalries to worry about. Then the conference championships will come, and the final weeding out will be complete.
Alabama and Georgia can’t both win the SEC. Washington and Oregon can’t both win the Pac-12. Ohio State and Michigan can’t both win the Big Ten. Florida State and Louisville can’t both win the ACC. Considering how late we are in the season, we have remarkably little answers. But they are coming. Trust that they are coming.
Keep in mind, I am merely providing a snapshot of how the New Year’s Six games would look if not another kickoff occurred between then and now. No. 2 Ohio State would match up with No. 3 Michigan in this mythical world that we all know won’t be. But to look through the window into the future, we must first understand the present.
It’s time to start considering your picks for this bowl season. Starting Dec. 4, Splash’s NCAAF Bowl Pick X contests will be available, and commissioners can customize their competitions in a number of ways: decide which bowls are included, assign and adjust point values, determine when games lock, and more. Bowl season is just around the corner. Get prepared.
Rose Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 1 Georgia (SEC #1) vs. No. 4 Washington (Pac-12 #1)
The Bulldogs beat down on another ranked conference opponent, terrorizing Tennessee, 38-10, in Knoxville on Saturday. Georgia’s defense held the Volunteers to under 19 percent on third down, and the fifth-best scoring defense in the nation did what it does, holding Tennessee below the 15.1 points per game it allows upon average. That’s now 28 times in a row that Georgia has outscored its adversary come the final whistle, by far the longest active success streak in the nation and inching closer to history. If Georgia takes care of Georgia Tech in 2023’s Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate and outlasts Alabama in Atlanta, then its future in the playoff is unquestionable. With the benefit of the doubt this team might receive even with a loss, the playoff is reachable.
Georgia’s remaining schedule: at Georgia Tech, vs. No. 8 Alabama (SEC Championship Game)
Washington won its third-straight game against a ranked opponent in its last outing, ousting Oregon State, 22-20, in Corvallis to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Huskies have arguably the most impressive resume in the country, but to play in the playoff, it’s looking like they have no margin for error. That’s well within reach with Michael Penix Jr. leading the most prolific passing offense in the nation but is still easier said than done. At a minimum, a New Year’s Six spot is likely, but that’s not the goal.
Washington’s remaining schedule: vs. Washington State, Pac-12 Championship Game (opponent to be determined)
Sugar Bowl (CFP Semifinal): No. 2 Ohio State (Big Ten #1) vs. No. 3 Michigan (Big Ten #2)
Minnesota provided little resistance in Columbus over the weekend as Ohio State improved to 11-0, 37-3. TreVeyon Henderson gashed the Gophers for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and Ohio State’s defense continued to do what it has done all year: keep the opponent barely active on the scoreboard. The Buckeyes are allowing 9.3 points per game, the second-fewest in the FBS, and their defense has been their engine throughout 2023. But the ultimate test for both sides of the ball will come this weekend in Ann Arbor. You already know the rest.
Ohio State’s remaining schedule: at No. 3 Michigan, Big Ten Championship Game (if applicable)
It wasn’t comfortable for Michigan at Maryland, but the Wolverines held off the upset-minded Terrapins, 31-24, to remain unbeaten. The offense had its struggles, but the defense and special teams carried enough of the burden to get the job done. The only defense in the country holding its opponents to fewer points than Ohio State is Michigan (9.0), and on Saturday we will see which one gives. How the hostilities in Ann Arbor will shake out is to be determined, but we do know one thing: Jim Harbaugh won’t be on the sideline.
Michigan’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Big Ten Championship Game (if applicable)
Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Missouri (SEC #3) vs. No. 11 Penn State (Big Ten #3)
It wasn’t easy for the Tigers against the Gators in Columbia, but a 30-yard field goal via the leg of Harrison Mevis clinched the ninth victory of the season for Missouri, 33-31. With two losses and no chance at a conference championship, Mizzou will not be in the College Football Playoff, but a New Year’s Six bowl is all but guaranteed so long as the team takes care of business when it goes to Fayetteville this weekend to challenge 4-7 Arkansas. The Tigers have toppled the Razorbacks in seven of their nine games as SEC opponents.
Missouri’s remaining schedule: at Arkansas
Penn State managed Rutgers, 27-6, to bounce back from its disappointing defeat to Michigan in the prior week. Drew Allar left the game in the second half, seeming to have issues with his right arm and shoulder. Beau Pribula stepped up in his stead and saw the Nittany Lions through to their 17th-straight triumph over the Scarlet Knights. After the game, James Franklin said he doesn’t see the injury being “significant,” but we’ll see what it means for Penn State’s regular season finale at Michigan State. Assuming the Nittany Lions shake the Spartans, a New Year’s Six spot is all but guaranteed.
Penn State’s remaining schedule: at Michigan State
Orange Bowl: No. 5 Florida State (ACC #1) vs. No. 8 Alabama (SEC #2)
Florida State did as expected and mopped the floor with North Alabama, 58-13, but that wasn’t the story of the weekend in Tallahassee. In the first quarter of the game, the sixth-year senior quarterback suffered a serious leg injury that required him to be carted off the field and ended his career at Florida State. Travis has been seminal to the Seminoles this season, but it’s now Tate Rodemaker’s team. He will have to guide Florida State through their rivalry with Florida this Saturday, then the ACC Championship Game against Louisville after, for the Seminoles to play in the College Football Playoff.
Florida State’s remaining schedule: at Florida, vs. No. 10 Louisville (ACC Championship Game)
Chattanooga never stood a chance. The Crimson Tide rolled their FCS competition, 66-10, but are now back to reality with the Iron Bowl and SEC Championship Game both up next. After falling to Texas in Week 2, Alabama has won nine in a row and is firmly in contention to return to the College Football Playoff after missing out last year. The team cannot afford another mistake if it wants to get back to the CFP, which means not only stiff-arming its in-state arch rival Auburn but also ending Georgia’s win streak (assuming Georgia Tech doesn’t beat them to it). A New Year’s Six bowl would still be a possibility depending on how a loss went, but two straight defeats would relegate the Tide to somewhere less prestigious.
Alabama’s remaining schedule: at Auburn, vs. No. 1 Georgia (SEC Championship Game)
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Louisville (ACC #2) vs. No. 23 Tulane (G5 #1/AAC #1)
Louisville secured its spot in the ACC Championship Game over the weekend by keeping Miami at bay, 38-31. Jack Plummer threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner, a 58-yard swing pass to Kevin Coleman with fewer than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The win kept the Cardinals alive for the college football playoff though they may need some help to actually get there. No amount of help will do them any good if they don’t navigate their way through their rivalry date with Kentucky and the matchup with Florida State in Charlotte for the ACC title.
Louisville’s remaining schedule: vs. Kentucky, vs. No. 5 Florida State (ACC Championship Game)
Tulane remains in the driver’s seat for the Group of Five automatic bid to the New Year’s Six. The Green Wave dispatched of Florida Atlantic, 24-8, in Boca Raton to stay unbeaten in AAC play behind three Michael Pratt touchdown tosses and a stout performance from their defense. That’s still not enough to confirm the team’s spot in the American Athletic Championship Game with SMU and UTSA both also 7-0 in conference clashes. That score will settle this weekend when the Roadrunners come to New Orleans. If Tulane wants to play in the Peach Bowl or another bowl of similar stature, it must outdo UTSA and whomever stands in its way for the conference crown.
Tulane’s remaining schedule: vs. UTSA, AAC Championship Game (if applicable)
Cotton Bowl: No. 6 Oregon (Pac-12 #2) vs. No. 7 Texas (Big 12 #1)
The Ducks demolished the Sun Devils, 49-13, to gain their fifth victory in a row and continue on their path to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Bo Nix offered another exhibit for the Heisman by completing 24 of his 29 passing attempts for 404 yards and six touchdowns in another statement of his and his team’s intentions this season. To keep the dream of a conference title and national championship alive, Oregon needs to keep it going against Oregon State on Saturday. The Civil War is heated enough, but given what the Ducks’ decision to leave for the Big Ten after this season means for the Beavers, there’s even more juice for this one than usual. To get into the College Football Playoff, Oregon will have to outclass its two biggest rivals – Oregon State and Washington – in back-to-back weeks. Could neutrals ask for anything better?
Oregon’s remaining schedule: vs. No. 16 Oregon State, Pac-12 Championship Game (if applicable)
Texas said farewell to Iowa State with a smile on its face, 26-16, in Quinn Ewers’ second game back from injury. Excluding the four-point loss to Oklahoma in October, the Longhorns have put down every opponent and are in position to reach the college football playoff, even if some help may be required. The easiest way for Texas to reach the Big 12 Championship Game is to handle Texas Tech in Austin this Friday, but the team could still get there even with a loss. But why make things complicated? Those CFP dreams would certainly be dashed if the Red Raiders achieved the upset.
Texas’s remaining schedule: vs. Texas Tech, Big 12 Championship Game (if applicable)
In the Hunt
No. 12 Ole Miss: the Rebels took their frustrations out on UL-Monroe, 35-3, to reach 9-2. A win in the Egg Bowl is all that’s keeping Ole Miss from its fourth 10-win season since 2003. The Rebels have never won 11 games in a campaign but if they beat Mississippi State and win their bowl game, then Lane Kiffin will have done the impossible. That bowl could be a New Year’s Six, assuming the team does what it should against the Bulldogs.
No. 13 Oklahoma: the Sooners stayed alive for the Big 12 title and a New Year’s Six bid by beating BYU, 31-24. The most straightforward way for Oklahoma to reach one of the premier bowls is by winning the Big 12 title in its last season in the conference. The other option is to take care of TCU on Friday, lose tiebreakers to get into the Big 12 Championship Game, and slip into an at-large spot.
No. 14 LSU: Georgia State rolled over for the Tigers, 56-14, in LSU’s penultimate week of the regular season. Jayden Daniels did what he does to the tune of more than 400 yards passing and six touchdowns. If he can replicate that performance against Texas A&M on Saturday in Baton Rouge, then the Tigers will remain alive for the New Year’s Six. But with four SEC teams currently ahead of them in the committee’s rankings, some help will also be necessary.
No. 15 Arizona: the Wildcats are still in contention for the Pac-12 Championship Game after waxing Utah, 42-18, for their fourth win over a ranked opponent in five games. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Arizona, and though the college football playoff is out of reach, that the team is in this position is an accomplishment in itself. If the Wildcats can handle the hate in Tempe this weekend and Oregon State ruins Oregon’s season, then Arizona will be one win away from a conference title.
No. 16 Oregon State: with three losses to their name following their 22-20 fall to Washington and no hope of a conference crown, the New Year’s Six seems out of reach for the Beavers. But there’s still plenty to play for – I am confident that Oregon State would be very content with tearing apart its in-state rival’s hopes of hardware this season. I would recommend you watch the 2023 Civil War.
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