Saturday Slant: Two Top 10 Matchups and College Football Best Bets

It's a very big week for James Franklin’s Penn State squad, playing the third-ranked Michigan Wolverines in Happy Valley.

November 9, 2023

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

Through one week, it looks like the College Football Playoff committee did a pretty good job identifying the 10 best teams in the nation. Nine of the 10 teams won last week, with the only loser (Oklahoma) falling on the road against another ranked team (Oklahoma State). As a result, we have a new addition to the top 10 this week in Penn State, which … well, let’s just say it’s a very big week for James Franklin’s squad, as they are playing the third-ranked Michigan Wolverines in Happy Valley.

There’s a whole lot more on the docket this week than just that battle at the top of the Big Ten East, as there are a few matchups between ranked squads on Saturday. We’ll highlight them today, along with everything else going on in the race to make the College Football Playoff this year.

The Playoff Contenders

  1. Ohio State

Last week: The first half against Rutgers was awfully tense. The second half was not. While the Scarlet Knights asked some questions of Ohio State’s run defense, the Buckeyes still got out of New Jersey with a 35-16 win.

This week: Michigan State is making its way to Columbus. It’s been a battle in years past, but unless they figured some stuff out with last week’s 20-17 win over Nebraska, the Buckeyes will be quite the hill for the Spartans to climb.

  1. Georgia

Last week: Missouri really pushed the two-time defending champs. It was a game into the fourth quarter, but interceptions by Nazir Stackhouse and Javon Bullard ended the Tigers’ very real aspirations of an upset and helped Georgia win, 30-21.

Keep an eye on how the Bulldogs rushing defense holds up against the Ole Miss rushing attack.

This week: Ole Miss is coming to Athens for a night game. The Rebs have been in a bunch of close games since they lost to Alabama earlier in the year,  and they keep winning them. Georgia, meanwhile, is awfully good at keeping teams at arm’s length. Keep an eye on how the Bulldogs rushing defense holds up against the Ole Miss rushing attack.

  1. Michigan

Last week: The Wolverines raced out to a 20-0 lead on Purdue in the Big House and cruised to an emphatic 41-13 win. J.J. McCarthy, in particular, had a nice game, going for a season-high 335 yards, with Roman Wilson catching nine balls for 143 yards. And while Blake Corum didn’t have his best game, he still found the end zone three times.

This week: Fun fact: The Wolverines are 111th nationally in strength of schedule so far, the lowest mark among Power 5 teams. Their final three games? Well, they’re the toughest in the nation. That starts this week when the team goes to Happy Valley to play Penn State. Michigan really pushed the Nittany Lions around last year, and if they can do the same, they should be able to pick up a win, even if they have to work for it. If not? It’s gonna be one heck of a game.

  1. Florida State

Last week: Not the best game for the ‘Noles, which fell into an early hole against Pitt. But they were able to get back on track, and eventually, they took care of business with a 24-7 win.

This week: Miami is making its way to Tallahassee. The wheels have come off of the ‘Canes a bit the last few weeks, and it’s unclear if they’ll make a change at QB heading into the game. Miami’s defense is capable of keeping them in this game, and it’ll be on Jordan Travis, Trey Benson, and the Seminole receiving corps to keep that from happening.

  1. Washington

Last week: Punted once. The Huskies went to Los Angeles and put forth an offensive explosion against USC — 572 total yards, 316 of which came on the ground, in a 52-42 win. Their defense struggled against a high-powered Trojan offense, but the offense (namely RB Dillon Johnson) was so good that it did not matter.

This week: No rest for the weary, as Utah is making its way up to Seattle. It’ll be a very different game, as the Utes will hope to drag them into the mud after UW experienced such a high last week. We should know early on in this one if Washington can avoid a hangover against a physical, tough, nasty Utah squad.

  1. Oregon

Last week: Cal put a scare into them for about 1.5 quarters before Oregon took over. Bo Nix was once again great, Tez Johnson was a monster, and the Ducks picked up a 63-19 win that once again made them look like they’re gearing up for a rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 title game.

This week: USC is coming to Autzen. It’s worth wondering if the Trojans — which fell out of the top 25 altogether and fired embattled defensive coordinator Alex Grinch after their loss to Washington — will be capable of throwing their best punch. If they can? They’re gonna be able to move the ball and score, although their defense might not have any answer for Oregon’s offense — which might be the best in the nation.

  1. Texas

Last week: The Longhorns got pushed to the edge by Kansas State and just barely survived. The Wildcats scored 16 fourth quarter points to force overtime, but played to win and got smothered on a fourth-and-goal that gave Texas a 33-30 win.

Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, they haven’t been able to recapture the magic they had last year

This week: Texas will make its way to Fort Worth to go up against the defending national runners-up, TCU. Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, they haven’t been able to recapture the magic they had last year, as they’ve lost four of their last five. We’ll have to see if Quinn Ewers is back and healthy or if Maalik Murphy is under center again this week. (Update: Texas announced Ewers will start this weekend.)

  1. Alabama

Last week: Don’t look now, but the Tide are starting to peak. The team hammered LSU 42-28 behind a monster game from Jalen Milroe, who threw for 219 yards and ran for 155 with four scores. Their defense looked a little concerning before an injury to Jayden Daniels, but for the most part, it was a businesslike performance for Nick Saban’s squad.

This week: A nooner in Lexington against a Kentucky team that has struggled against the SEC’s best this year. While the Wildcat defense is good, it’s a tall task to ask Devin Leary and the Kentucky offense to put up points on the Tide.

  1. Ole Miss

Last week: Ole Miss’ explosive offense got them home against Texas A&M. Jaxson Dart threw for 387 yards and two touchdowns, Tre Harris caught 11 balls for 213 yards and a score, and Quinshon Judkins found the end zone three times en route to a 38-35 win. 

This week: They’re on their way to Georgia. The Rebel offense will need to be perfect, while their defense is going to have to hope they can confuse Carson Beck, who keeps getting better. The Dawgs can afford to not be perfect, but Ole Miss might not have that luxury.

  1. Penn State

Last week: The light came on for Nittany Lion QB Drew Allar, who looked great as the team went down to College Park and steamrolled Maryland. Between his four passing touchdowns and an emphatic performance by the defense, Penn State won, 51-15.

This week: As previously stated, the Wolverines are coming to town. Penn State will be home underdogs, but despite that, the questions about whether they can win the big one will be as loud as ever if they can’t knock off Michigan. Is this finally their week? Time will tell. 

Five more games to watch this week

Arizona vs. Colorado: Can the Buffs get literally anything going on offense this week? The move from Sean Lewis to Pat Shurmur as the offensive play caller against Oregon State just did not work at all, while Arizona continues to be one of the hottest teams in all of college football following an emphatic win over UCLA. If Colorado’s offense can’t figure things out at home this week, the Wildcats are going to give them some serious trouble.

The pick: Arizona -10.5

UConn vs. James Madison: James Madison is going to beat UConn, even though standout pass rusher Jalen Green is out for the year with a knee injury. This is mostly an opportunity for me to be the latest person to say that it is insane that a team as good as the Dukes are not eligible for their conference title or their bowl, and the NCAA should 100 percent change that immediately.

The pick: James Madison -24.5

Tennessee’s going to have to worry about Missouri’s ability to beat you in multiple ways…

Tennessee vs. Missouri: Seeing how Mizzou bounces back after last week’s heartbreaker in Athens will be interesting, because Tennessee is capable of scoring in bunches. Keep an eye for how the Tigers rushing defense, in particular, deals with the Vols’ running game. And on the other side of the ball, Tennessee’s going to have to worry about Missouri’s ability to beat you in multiple ways — Cody Schrader ran for 5.1 yards per carry against Georgia, while the passing game is great at creating big plays.

The pick: Over 58.5

Florida vs. LSU: The wheels are coming off for the Gators a bit, as they followed up a 23-point loss to Georgia by losing as home favorites to Arkansas last week. Now, they have to go to Death Valley to play an LSU team that is licking their wounds following a loss to Alabama. The wild card here is that the Tigers’ star QB, Jayden Daniels, is in concussion protocol, so it’s TBD if he or Garrett Nussmeier will start.

The pick: Florida +13.5

Duke vs. North Carolina: Sadly, Riley Leonard is hurt and won’t be able to play. Having said that, Duke’s pass defense going up against the high-flying Carolina offense in Chapel Hill is a real strength vs. strength matchup. It’s unclear if the Blue Devils can move the ball at all without Leonard, so Duke’s defense is going to need to put forth a Herculean effort here.

The pick: Under 50.5

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.