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Hot or Not: Week 10 Championship Heat Check

November 10, 2023
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ATHENS - Hot or Not: Week 10 Championship Heat Check

We’re at that point of the season where craziness happens. Teams that beat up on mediocre competition through the early part of the season are now facing squads that may be on par, or just below, where these contenders sit. Some of these contenders make the College Football Playoff committee’s job pretty easy, though by self-selecting out of consideration. Looking at you, Oklahoma. 

With only three regular season games remaining, the chances to impress the committee are waning. Further, the chances to redeem a poor performance are vanishing quickly. Without a contest against a ranked opponent remaining, teams that need some help will have to rely on the top contenders to lose in order for the chaos required to vault the also-rans to the top. So, let’s take a look at this week’s list:

Hot:

Georgia – In the first of three consecutive ranked matchups, the Dawgs ultimately put a plucky Missouri team away by two scores, all while maybe playing a “B” level game at best. Missouri did enough, off a bye week, to make this a stressful contest but overall talent ultimately won out. The Dawgs continue to get healthy with two more ranked opponents still on the docket and a trip to the SEC Championship still at stake. Ole Miss will present some challenges with an up-tempo offense and talent at the skill positions against a Georgia defense that showed some cracks against Missouri. Up next: Ole Miss

Oregon – The Ducks pulled away from Cal after a sloppy start to the game and hung 63 points on a conference foe.  Up 14-13 early in the second quarter, Oregon put 3 touchdowns on the board before halftime to turn a close game into a rout. USC visits Eugene this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how disciplined the Ducks are against a still-dangerous Trojan squad. Up next: USC.

 

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Simmering:

Florida State – The Seminoles played without two of its top receivers and it showed. In what is becoming an alarming trend, FSU took a slim lead into the second half and ultimately pulled away from their outmanned opponent. The Seminoles don’t have a ranked team left on their schedule, and as the injuries continue to mount the chances of an upset grow as well. I’m not as sold on this team as I was just a few weeks ago. Ranked #4 in the CFP, they are the team that can least afford a slip up. Up next: Miami

Ohio State – The Buckeyes were down at the half to Rutgers. Rutgers! An early second half Pick 6 put Ohio State on top for good. This score came after Rutgers had moved inside the OSU 10-yard line with a chance to extend a 2-point lead. This trend of playing down to their opponent hasn’t cost the Buckeyes…yet. Playing poor first halves only to come alive in the second half has been OSU’s calling card this season, and yet the CFP committee still has them as #1. OSU has two “quality” wins this season which is what the CFP committee sees. I see a team that may be good, but not top-ranked good. And there is only one game remaining on their schedule that will ultimately answer the question. And that game ain’t this weekend. Up next: Michigan State

Michigan – The Wolverines beat up on another stellar Big 10 team, whipping Purdue 41-13 despite the external noise created by the cheating allegations against Jim Harbaugh and his program. While his team continues to perform well, Michigan still hasn’t played a team with a pulse. That changes this weekend as they travel to Happy Valley to face Penn State. In what will be their toughest test to date, is this the weekend that the outside “noise” becomes too much? Is this the game where the “it’s us against the world” caca is finally proven to be just words? If anyone else was coaching Penn State, I might have to say yes. Up next: at Penn State

Washington – The Huskies continue to rack up wins but are also making folks wonder if the win against Oregon was a fluke. 94 total points were scored between UW and USC with over 1,000 yards of offense combined, with the Huskies coming out on top on the road. It’s always tough to win on the road, especially when you don’t play defense (see USC, LSU). UW shut out the Trojans in the 4th quarter as Michael Penix threw for 256 and Dillon Johnson ran for 256 as well. The Huskies have struggled to put their last 3 opponents away since beating Oregon but still continue to win. A home game against Utah awaits, and the Utes know how to play defense. This could be interesting. Up next: Utah

Texas – The Longhorns own the season’s biggest win at Alabama. Since then, though, Texas hasn’t exactly lit it up. Holding a 13-point lead at home against Kansas State, the Longhorns preceded to give up 16 4th quarter points as the Wildcats forced overtime. Texas was fortunate to win this game and keep their playoff hopes alive. A potential rematch with a now out-of-the-playoff Oklahoma is the only chance for the Longhorns to impress the committee as their last 3 games don’t inspire excitement. Up next: at TCU

Alabama – So….it takes a truly bad defense for Alabama to score? Got it. And up until LSU’s Jayden Daniels left the game after a controversial roughing the passer call the Tide was struggling to keep the Tiger offense in check. The 14-point margin of victory can be chalked up to the best player on the field not being available. Jaylen Milroe had 374 yards of offense, living up to the preseason expectations. But it was against LSU….but still impressive. The Tide travel to Lexington to face a Kentucky squad that plays well at home. An early kick plus cooler temperatures add some intrigue to this matchup. Up next: at Kentucky

Ole Miss – No one can fault Ole Miss for potentially looking past the Aggies to this week’s colossal matchup against the defending champs. However, the consequences of that showed up as it took a late rushing touchdown and a blocked field goal attempt as time expired to survive Texas A&M’s upset attempt. Jaxson Dart threw for 387 yards and 2 TDs in the home win. Why is that important? He completes 8% fewer passes on the road vice being at home. The Rebel defense was gashed for 457 yards with a road tilt against Georgia on the docket for this weekend. If the road Rebels show up, this may get ugly. Up next: at Georgia



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Ice Cold:

Oklahoma – Losing to Kansas wasn’t great. Losing to Oklahoma State in the last scheduled. Bedlam game was even worse. Having treated the Cowboys like a stepbrother for years didn’t work out well for the Sooners as they were upset 27-24 on the road, removing any chance of a CFP playoff spot. While this season has been a turnaround year for Brent Venables, missing out on a playoff berth after starting the season 7-0 is disappointing. Up next: West Virginia

Air Force – I gave the Falcons a nod last week in homage to my wife….and they lose at home to Army. While my camouflage heart is happy, I was looking forward to seeing what would happen with an undefeated service academy and the CFP rankings. Alas, maybe next year. Up next: at Hawaii 

Penn State – Even though the Nittany Lions thumped a decent Maryland team, they stay here in the “ice cold” section out of spite for James “I can’t win a big game” Franklin. Beat the “us against the world” Wolverines this weekend and we’ll talk about moving you up. Up next: Michigan

Watch List:

Nobody. There’s no one left this late in the season that can make a serious run at a playoff berth.

The next three weeks will be filled with opportunities for contenders to strengthen their resume` and to maybe pass the all important “eye test” of the CFP committee, although I admit to not knowing what that eye test entails (see Ohio State). Georgia, Washington, Michigan and Oregon are the only Top 10 contenders with multiple ranked opponents left on their schedule. Ohio State has 1, while Florida State, Alabama, and Texas have none. Conference championships will most likely be the litmus test for who makes it into the final four playoff spots. Will multiple ranked opponents derail Georgia, Washington, Michigan, or Oregon or will it make them stronger? Will mediocre competition hurt the remaining contenders? Hard to say right now, but the picture is gaining more focus by the week. With several ranked-on-ranked games this weekend the picture will only gain more clarity. The Dawgs will close out the day with the final ranked matchup. At home. At night. Maybe in the rain. All of which makes games like this the reason we love college football. It ALWAYS means something!


 
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