Saturday Slant: Georgia Leads CFP Rankings, Ohio State-Michigan Collision Course

Georgia leads playoff rankings, but a potential undefeated Ohio State-Michigan matchup is only a week away.

November 16, 2023

The Saturday Slant gives you deep insights on some of the best games — and bets — of the week in college football.

We have a new No. 1 team in America. The College Football Playoff committee decided to reward the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs this week for an emphatic win over Ole Miss by putting them in a spot they’ve grown pretty familiar with over the last few years.

Of course, this comes with the usual caveat: College football is a weird, weird sport, and there’s plenty that still has to happen between now and by the time the four teams that will play for a national championship get selected. While this Saturday isn’t quite as box office as what we’re going to see over the next few weeks, there’s still a lot of good football on, and we’re here to get you prepped for the games that will have the biggest say in the race for a national title.

The Playoff Contenders

1. Georgia

Last week: More than enough to take the No. 1 ranking away from Ohio State. The Bulldogs knocked Ole Miss out of the top 10 with one of the more comprehensive beatdowns we’ve seen. They accrued 611 (!!!) yards of total offense en route to a 52-17 win.

This week: Another week, another showdown with a ranked SEC team. This time, Georgia is making its way to Knoxville to take on Tennessee, which sits 18th in the latest Playoff ranking. It’s a good time for the Bulldogs to get them, as the Vols are coming off of a 36-7 loss to Mizzou.

2. Ohio State

Last week: Took care of business against Michigan State in Columbus. The Buckeye defense was stellar once again, while Kyle McCord had his best performance of the season in a 38-3 win that makes it clear that the Buckeyes are peaking at the right time.

This week: The team plays its final game before they head to Ann Arbor for what is effectively a College Football Playoff play-in game. Ohio State will host a struggling Minnesota side in its home finale, and don’t be surprised if they try to use this one as another opportunity to build up McCord and the passing attack before they take on Michigan. Hey, on that note…

3. Michigan

Last week: Grinded out a win in Happy Valley. With Jim Harbaugh watching from a hotel somewhere, the Wolverine offense went all-in on running the ball — JJ McCarthy threw eight passes — and their defense got the opposing offensive coordinator fired the following day in a 24-15 win over Penn State.

The Wolverines should be able to roll against a Terps squad that has seen its season go sideways in recent weeks…

This week: A tricky one right before they welcome the Buckeyes, as Michigan has to go up against Maryland. The Wolverines should be able to roll against a Terps squad that has seen its season go sideways in recent weeks, but maybe Taulia Tagovailoa and their collection of receivers can move the ball a bit and catch them looking forward to next week.

4. Florida State

Last week: Miami’s defense gave their offense some trouble (particularly on the ground), but 17 consecutive second half points by the ‘Noles was enough to support a nice effort from their defense en route to a 27-20 win over the Hurricanes.

This week: North Alabama. I don’t think I need to say too much about this one other than I think the ‘Noles are going to win by a lot of points.

5. Washington

Last week: Utah didn’t make life easy on them, in large part because the Utes don’t make life easy on anyone. But Michael Penix and the Huskies passing game did what they normally do, Dillon Johnson continued his recent hot streak on the ground, and their defense pitched a second half shutout. As a result, Washington moved to 10-0 with a 35-28 win.

This week: Their brutal final month continues, as Washington will play its third-straight ranked conference matchup. This time, the Huskies are heading up to Corvallis to take on 11th-ranked Oregon State. The Beavs’ rushing attack hammered Stanford last week, so look for them to lean on that and hope that they can keep Penix and company on the sideline as long as possible.

6. Oregon

Last week: Kept USC at arm’s length. A late scoring drive helped the Trojans make things look a little more respectable, but the Ducks put up 552 yards of total offense, Bo Nix looked like the Heisman frontrunner, and USC’s offense just could not keep up in a 36-27 win for Oregon.

This week: A trap game with the Civil War on the horizon? Probably not, as Arizona State isn’t great, but regardless, the Ducks are going to Tempe for their final road game of the year.

7. Texas

Last week: A second straight survive-and-advance game for the Longhorns. After beating Kansas State by three, the team turned around and beat TCU by the same margin. It’s the second week in a row that Texas nearly choked away a lead in the fourth quarter — they’re getting outscored in that frame 36-3 over the last two games — but they were still able to win in Quinn Ewers’ return from injury.

This week: They’re heading to Ames. Texas has to figure out what they’re going to do without star running back Jonathon Brooks, who tore his ACL against the Horned Frogs, while Iowa State’s pass defense has been quite good this year and should present a test for Ewers and his roster of receivers. Look for the Longhorns to lean on their defense in this one.

8. Alabama

Last week: Alabama took care of business yet again. Jalen Milroe just cannot stop finding the end zone, as he had six total touchdowns against Kentucky. Bama scored 21 points early, never got seriously threatened by the Wildcats, and walked out of Lexington with a 39-21 win.

The Mocs are 7-3 this year and ranked 16th in the FCS polls, but I, uh, don’t think they’re gonna win. 

This week: Chattanooga at home. The Mocs are 7-3 this year and ranked 16th in the FCS polls, but I, uh, don’t think they’re gonna win. 

9. Missouri

Last week: A statement was made in Knoxville. Tennessee scored a touchdown to go up 7-3 in the second quarter and then couldn’t figure out the Tigers defense again, while Cody Schrader demolished the Vols as a ball carrier (35 carries, 205 yards, a TD), and a receiver (five receptions for 116 yards). Final score: Mizzou 36, Tennessee 7.

This week: A Florida team that has lost three games in a row is coming to town. The Gators defense has allowed at least 465 yards in each of the last four games, including an absurd 701 yards to LSU last week. Brady Cook, Schrader, and Luther Burden III are probably licking their chops in what will be their home finale.

10. Louisville

Last week: A not especially great Virginia team had them on the ropes. UVA had a touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, but a pair of quick strikes by the Cardinals offense — a 52-yard reception by Ahmari Huggins-Bruce and a 73-yard run by Isaac Guerendo — gave them a 31-24 win. 

This week: A tricky one, as they’re on their way to Coral Gables for their conference finale against Miami. Things are at risk of really going off the rails for Mario Cristobal’s squad with a loss, which would be three in a row, so one or two haymakers from the Cardinals could go a long way here. Still, if the ‘Canes can get to Jack Plummer and slow down this passing attack, they have a shot.

Five more games to watch this week

Colorado vs. Washington State: A Friday night game, and one that holds a ton of significance for the Buffs. Colorado has no choice but to win out if it wants to make a bowl game. The problem is, they’ve lost four in a row and six of seven. Going to Pullman is never easy, but Wazzu has also struggled mightily lately with six losses in a row. Both teams are gonna put a ton on their quarterbacks, and the winning side will be determined by whether Shedeur Sanders or Cameron Ward plays better.

The pick: Under 63

Rutgers vs. Penn State: The Nittany Lions should win this one, but how will they respond to a program-defining loss to Michigan that got their offensive coordinator fired? Rutgers has struggled in recent weeks, but they put scares into Michigan and Ohio State for a half, and they can really run the football when they’re cooking. Don’t be stunned if this one is, to quote Lee Corso, closer than the experts think.

The pick: Rutgers +20.5

Utah vs. Arizona: This one is going to be a blast. The Wildcats are red hot, winning four in a row, and while the Utes have lost two of their last three, they’re still fighting and should provide an excellent test for Arizona QB Noah Fifita. I honestly have no feel for this game at all, I’m mostly just excited to see this Arizona squad against the best team it has played on its current run.

The pick: Utah +1

…the Tar Heels have to win out to hold onto any chance of making the ACC Championship Game…

North Carolina vs. Clemson: Things have started to click for the Tigers over the last two weeks, thanks in large part to their ability to force turnovers (seven combined, six of which were interceptions, in their last two games). Can they force Drake Maye into mistakes? He’s thrown two interceptions in conference play this year, so it will be tough, but if they can, they’ll give themselves a shot. The problem: the Tar Heels have to win out to hold onto any chance of making the ACC Championship Game — they really need some help to get there — so expect them to bring their A game.

The pick: North Carolina +7

Kansas State vs. Kansas: Here’s a stat no one in Lawrence will like: Kansas State is currently on a 14-game winning streak against Kansas. These are two really good football teams, although the Jayhawks will go into this one with questions under center, as QB Jason Bean got banged up last week against Texas Tech. Both of these squads can really run the ball — they’re tied for 18th nationally at five yards per carry — and are just fun to watch in general. If either defense can consistently get stops, that’ll go a long, long way.

The pick: Under 56.5

Bill DiFilippo
Bill DiFilippo is a writer and editor based out of Columbus, Ohio. You should not, however, assume that he is an Ohio State fan. Feel free to tell him why he's wrong about stuff on Twitter, @billdifilippo. Just be nice.