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Hot or Not: Week 11 Championship Heat Check

November 17, 2023

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ATHENS - With only two regular season games remaining, along with conference championship contests, the playoff picture is anything but clear. While several contenders have turned into pretenders in the past three weeks, the permutations of who can make it into the top 4 remains jumbled.

The current CFP committee top 4 (Georgia, Michigan, OSU, FSU) all have the simplest pathway – just win out. To be fair, all the contenders must win out. Losing this late in the season, even in a championship game scenario, would be devastating to any program’s chances. There are simply not enough playoff slots to accommodate every potential pathway. For instance, if Georgia goes undefeated in the regular season but loses to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, it’s likely that Georgia could miss out on the playoff given the other contenders below.

Frankly, each team that makes the playoff this season will definitely earn it. The field is crowded and
wins matter. Going undefeated over 12 regular season games is tough regardless of your strength of schedule. Conference and rivalry matchups await in the final two weeks, and each year some team crashes and burns in spectacular fashion. Looking at the next three weeks, there are definite opportunities for contenders to stumble. Doing so now could jeopardize any postseason aspirations. So, let’s look at this week’s list:

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1) Georgia – In the second of three consecutive ranked matchups, the Dawgs hung 52 on Ole Miss while putting up over 600 yards of offense on a chilly, rainy Athens Saturday night. No team in
the playoff era has gained 300 yards both on the ground and in the air against a top 10 ranked team. Georgia was the first. In what should be a frightening thought, the Dawgs seem to get
better each week. They’ll have to hold serve without the benefit of another home game as their last two games are on the road, starting with a trip to Neyland this weekend. Up next: at

2) Oregon – The Ducks held off a late USC rally, winning by two scores 36-27. Bo Nix continues to play well, having thrown for 29 TDs to just 2 interceptions. His completion percentage is
hovering around 77%, close to the record held by Mac Jones at 77.4%. This is a good team playing its best football now. Up next: at Arizona State

1) Florida State – I was sold on the Seminoles earlier in the season. I’m not anymore. Down in the third quarter again, FSU rallied to hold on for a 27-20 win over rival Miami. They were outgained by Miami, converted only 3 of 12 third down conversions, and were beaten on both sides of the
line of scrimmage. Still, they won. The issue with FSU is the early season wins against LSU and Clemson don’t look so hot anymore. Going by the dreaded “eye test” the Seminoles haven’t
looked the part in several weeks. Up next: North Alabama

2) Ohio State – The Buckeyes seem to play good offense against bad teams. Imagine that. OSU routed Michigan State 38-3 as Marvin Harrison, Jr. had a big day with 7 catches, 149 yards and 2
TDs. The OSU defense held the Spartans to just 182 total yards. With a contest against a middling Minnesota team up just before the annual tilt against the Michigan “Us Against the
World” Wolverines, the Buckeyes need to continue to refine an offense that’s been kinda “meh” this season. Not to get ahead, but can you imagine the hell that will descend on Columbus if the
Buckeyes lose to a head coach-less Michigan next week? Up next: Minnesota

3) Michigan – I used to think there were more unlikeable programs than Michigan. Jim Harbaugh is
a weird dude but has been a decent coach. But the way this program has responded to Harbaugh’s latest suspension (his second this season) reeks of desperation. From the t-shirts
and hats proclaiming “Michigan vs. Everybody” to the offensive coordinator’s truly strange post-game interview (replete with tears and F-bombs) the Wolverines want us all to believe they are
the victim. All of that junk took away from a good road win against Penn State. Michigan will play without Harbaugh for the remainder of the regular season as his suspension won’t be
challenged in court. They may be a really good team, but no one cares when the schedule is junk, and your coach is a potential cheater. Up next: at Maryland.

4) Washington – The Huskies played rather poor defense in the first half, as Utah scored touchdowns on 4 consecutive drives. In the second half, Utah crossed midfield once. Yet again,
Washington found a way to come out on top, reaching 10-0 for only the second time in school history. They tried to make it even more difficult by dropping a potential Pick-6 on the 1-yard
line. For the love of all that’s holy, just tote the rock a couple of steps more. It’s not that heavy. The Huskies’ road to the final PAC 12 championship gets tougher as a road matchup with
Oregon State is on the docket this weekend. Up next: at Oregon State.

5) Texas – Giving up 20 4 th quarter points is never a good thing. Giving up 20 to a bad TCU team in the 4 th quarter is worse. Texas had this game in the bag up 29-13 with 8 minutes left. Two
touchdowns later Texas needed a huge third down conversion deep in their own territory to hold off the Horned Frogs. The Longhorns welcomed back QB Quinn Ewers who threw for 317
yards and a touchdown. But Texas lost running back Jonathon Brooks for the season late in the game, making this a very costly win. Since beating Alabama, Texas has survived more than it has
impressed. Up next: at Iowa State.

6) Alabama – I truly thought Kentucky would put up a bigger fight against the Tide. At one point in the first quarter, it was 21-0 Bama. The Cats had no answer for Jalen Milroe, who continues to
impress by being the first player in program history to have both three rushing and passing scores in the same game. The Tide has continued to improve since the loss to Texas and the
embarrassing win at USF. This is still not the Alabama of old, as they lead the SEC with 37 sacks surrendered. They’ve secured their spot in the SEC championship game against Georgia, and
only have Auburn left that may provide any resistance. Up next: UT-Chattanooga

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Ice Cold:
1) Ole Miss – The Lane Train got derailed in Athens last weekend in a very ugly way. At one point the Rebels were tied at 14 with the Dawgs. Then the Rebels got flicked away like a gnat. Their
CFP chances were slim coming into the game. Now it’s nonexistent. Maybe one day Kiffin’s program will learn how to play better in a big game.

2) Penn State – My spite for James Franklin was well placed. Facing a Wolverine team playing without its head coach, Penn State allowed Michigan to run the ball 32 straight times. And still
lost even though they were down only 14-9 in the second quarter. To be honest, the score wasn’t truly indicative of just how inept Penn State is on offense. Or how inept James Franklin
really is. Maybe next year, Jimmy.


Watch List:

1) Louisville – I’ve held off putting the Cardinals on any list so far this season but sitting at #10 in the CFP poll means we must consider them as they march to a potential meeting with FSU in the ACC championship game. They just continue to win. A shocking loss to Pittsburgh right after upsetting Notre Dame is the lone blemish on their season. And strangely, they aren’t favored
this weekend against Miami. Huh. There are still very meaningful games to be played before conference championship games kick off in3 weeks. Rivalries, both in and out of conference, are still yet to be played and consistently provide drama late in November. The programs who are most worthy of postseason inclusion will be the ones that do what the others don’t – they win regardless of the circumstances. Chaos is still possible in the top 10 in the next three weeks, meaning the prognostications of who will occupy the top 4 positions aren’t truly relevant now. It’s fun to talk about, but it doesn’t mean anything. Teams must still play. And in the 3-month march to championship glory, the only thing that matters are the results when the clock strikes 0:00 each week. Which program will lose focus before the final poll results are in? Which team will buckle under the pressure? Someone will. Someone always does.

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