What to watch: Georgia, Alabama can clinch spots in SEC title game, No. 2 Michigan at No. 9 Penn St
Wed, Nov 8, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)
It's that time of the college football season when clarity arrives for many of the conference races.
No. 1 Georgia and No. 8 Alabama can clinch spots in the SEC title game on Saturday, No. 13 Utah is fighting for survival in its bid for a third straight Pac-12 title and No. 9 Penn State needs a win against No. 2 Michigan in the Big Ten East.
Georgia hosts No. 10 Mississippi at night and will go into the game as East champion if No. 16 Missouri beats No. 14 Tennessee earlier in the day. Otherwise, the Bulldogs win the East by beating the Rebels.
If Tennessee wins and Georgia loses - which would end its 37-game regular-season win streak - it would set up a huge East showdown in Knoxville next week.
Alabama visits Kentucky and will win the West if it beats a Wildcats team that has dropped two straight home games.
No. 5 Washington can take a big step toward its first Pac-12 championship game (and title) since 2018 with a win over No. 13 Utah in Seattle. The Utes would be out of the race with a loss. No. 6 Oregon, which hosts Southern California, has the inside track for the second spot in the Pac-12 title game.
If No. 11 Louisville beats Virginia at home Thursday, the Cardinals will move closer to a matchup with No. 4 Florida State in the ACC championship game. The Seminoles host Miami, which would be eliminated with a loss or a Louisville win.
No. 7 Texas and No. 15 Oklahoma State, the Big 12 co-leaders, both have manageable remaining games and are on a collision course to meet for the championship. The Longhorns visit TCU and the Cowboys are at UCF.
No. 2 Michigan (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) at No. 9 Penn State (8-1, 5-1), Saturday, noon ET (Fox)
This top-10 matchup is part of the three-team round robin that will decide the East champion, assuming there are no upsets.
Michigan has kept rolling off wins amid the sign-stealing scandal threatening to blow up its season. This will be the toughest test to date for the Wolverines, whose best-in-the-nation defense will be tasked with stopping an offense averaging better than 40 points per game.
If Michigan wins, the East would come down to the Wolverines' home game against No. 3 Ohio State on Nov. 25. If Penn State wins and Ohio State beats the Wolverines, the Buckeyes win the division outright.
If Penn State wins out and Michigan beats the Buckeyes, the three teams would be tied and the East representative in the Big Ten title game would be determined by a comparison of non-divisional opponents' conference records. Penn State currently holds that tiebreaker.
The top five contenders are all quarterbacks: Washington's Michael Penix Jr., Oregon's Bo Nix, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy, Florida State's Jordan Travis and Georgia's Carson Beck, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Penix (plus-140) and Nix (plus-200) are the top betting favorites by a wide margin. All five play key games this week and will have ample opportunities to make impressions.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
1/133 - Air Force is first in the nation in rushing. Hawaii, its opponent, is last.
4 - Navy's starting quarterbacks this season, most in the nation.
30 - Texas has scored at least this many points in each of its first nine games, a program first.
100 - Years since Pittsburgh and Syracuse met in the first college football game in Yankee Stadium. The teams square off in the new Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
188 - Consecutive pass attempts without an interception by Florida's Graham Mertz, 15 behind Tim Tebow's school record (2007-08).
UNDER THE RADAR
Duke (6-3, 3-2) at North Carolina (7-2, 3-2), Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (ACC Network)
Both are among the five teams tied for fourth in the ACC and likely playing for a best possible bowl.
It's an intriguing quarterback matchup. Drake Maye is projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2024 NFL draft, so this likely will be the third-year sophomore's last Victory Bell Game. True freshman Grayson Loftis, who led Duke to a win over Wake Forest last week, is in line to start again in place of the injured Riley Leonard and Henry Belin IV.
Jimbo Fisher's seat at Texas A&M could become intolerably hot if the Aggies don't beat Mississippi State at home. Texas A&M was less than five minutes from pulling out a huge road win against Mississippi but lost 38-35 after giving up a late touchdown and having a field-goal try partially blocked.
The Aggies' best win is against Auburn and those close losses to Alabama and Tennessee are still losses. Here come the Bulldogs, who are 1-5 in the SEC.
Get alerts on the latest AP Top 25 poll throughout the season. Sign up here. AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football"