The final week of the 2023 college football regular season is here. Last week, everyone in the top ten held serve and came away with a victory. But eight teams still remain ‘in the conversation’ when it comes to the College Football Playoff (sorry, Louisville). This isn’t a space to debate all the different scenarios; we’ll hang tight, and let the games be played before prognosticating. But the loss of Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis can not be understated. The senior was having a great season, linking up with wide receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson on the regular all year. Does the injury mean FSU are out of the running for the playoff? Most certainly not. The undefeated Seminoles travel to play a night game at the always raucous Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as ‘The Swamp.’ And despite the rough year for Billy Napier and the Florida Gators, they have plenty of talent and would love nothing more than to spoil their in-state rivals’ season. Let’s see how backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker does in these next couple of games. ‘Noles fans would be wise to remember the 2014-15 season, when injuries put Ohio State’s third string quarterback, Cardale Jones, under center, and they won a national title. The fact remains: going undefeated in a power five conference has to mean something.
And we haven’t even mentioned the biggest game of Thanksgiving weekend: ‘The Game’ doesn’t get any bigger than this.
Here’s a look at this week’s slate of the best college football on DISH.
Games to Watch:
#15 Oregon State at #6 Oregon – Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR
Friday, November 24 at 8:30pm ET on FOX
Writing that this is the final edition of the Civil War in Pac-12 history makes our heart heavy. The Ducks will be moving to the Big 10 next season, while Oregon State still is in limbo as to where they’ll play ball next year. The Beavs put up a valiant effort in a wet and wacky game last weekend in Corvallis against Washington, and will now try to go out on top and ruin Oregon’s exceptional season. It seems common amongst the sports shouters to declare that the Ducks are the best team in the Pac-12, in spite of their loss to Washington. Should the Ducks take care of business, they’ll meet Washington again in the Pac-12 title game in what’s likely a ‘win and get in’ game for the two schools (assuming Washington wins the Apple Cup this weekend vs Washington State). Oregon is one of the most balanced teams in the country and are coming off a 49-13 drubbing against a corpse of an Arizona State team last week. The Ducks opened as 13.5 favorites and you know the always aggressive Dan Lanning will want to put on a show against their in-state rival. Jonathan Smith’s team will have to muddy this game up, run the ball behind Damien Martinez, and force turnovers to keep Bo Nix off the field. It will be a tall task, as Oregon has been a buzzsaw the last five weeks. This is a must-watch game on Friday night.
Texas Tech at #7 Texas
DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX
Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7:30pm ET on ABC/ ESPN3
It may not look pretty, but the fact of the matter is Steve Sarkisian’s Texas Longhorns continue to keep winning. The game against Iowa State looked closer than it was, as Texas had a couple touchdowns called back, but now they will welcome a resurgent Texas Tech team in the final game of the season. Quarterback Behren Morton has been a revelation for the Red Raiders, as he is 4-1 as the starter, and has won three straight since returning from injury. On the other side, Texas has a bad case of the injury bug. After losing star running back Jonathan Brooks two weeks ago to an ACL injury, wide receiver Xavier Worthy and right guard DJ Campbell left the game vs Iowa State. Sark provided an update saying he is “confident” both will be available this weekend. As we mentioned, Texas has been slipping by opponents, and has everything to lose going into this game. The Longhorns and Oklahoma State control their own destiny to make it to the Big 12 title game. Should Texas lose, then it gets complicated and you can read those scenarios here.
#2 Ohio State at #3 Michigan
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Saturday, Nov. 25 at 12:00pm ET on FOX
The main course of the weekend. ‘The Game’ between Ohio State and Michigan is arguably the best rivalry in college football. We won’t take a side in that argument, but the reality is, this round of battle is as meaningful as any they’ve had in their 118 game history. After losing eight in a row and fourteen-of-fifteen to the Buckeyes, Michigan has won two straight in this rivalry. The first thing that comes to mind – no, not the Michigan sign stealing saga – is just how evenly-matched these two teams are. Position-by-position, both ball clubs have difference-makers everywhere. But we believe this game will hinge on Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord. McCord has progressed well this year, but he doesn’t need to be superman in this game, and he needs to understand that. Wide Receiver ‘Maserati’ Marvin Harrison Jr. will keep the Wolverines busy, but the Ohio State running game needs to be successful for the Buckeyes to keep the pass rush at bay. We don’t expect Ohio State to keep him upright all game, but McCord needs to cash in on plays when he has a clean pocket, and not get rattled by the pressure he’ll face. If he can stay on his feet, and has the support of a solid rushing attack, that will open it up even more for Harrison Jr and Emeka Egbuka.
Sticking with that theme on the other side, the Wolverines defensive line against Ohio State’s O-line could be the matchup of the day. The Buckeye’s line has been inconsistent all year, and could struggle to keep Jaylen Harrell and Josiah Stewart off McCord. Offensively, JJ McCarthy was the star of this game last year, despite the absence of star running back Blake Corum. Donovan Edwards ran wild instead, and now the Wolverines have both at their disposal on Saturday. WR Cornelius Johnson, who destroyed the Buckeyes last year, returns and has the help of a much-improved Roman Wilson, who leads the team in receiving. Michigan has not had to show a lot of their offense this year; their running game, offensive line and defense have really been all they’ve needed, so it will be interesting to see if that unit has some tricks up their sleeve for the Ohio State defense. Jim Harbaugh won’t be on the sidelines for this one, and after a lackluster performance against Maryland, you can’t help but wonder if his absence could have an effect on this game. Harbaugh is allowed to coach the team through the entire week, but Sherron Moore will be calling the shots Saturday. This is as big as it gets in college football. Settle in and enjoy what should be an absolutely electric Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Upset Alert – #5 Florida State at Florida
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN
It’s been a tough year for this portion of the column, especially compared to last year. The fact of the matter is, this college football season has been especially chalky. We have five teams that remain undefeated, and another four with just one loss. But we’re not in the excuse-making business; we’re in the winner-giving business. So let’s venture down to Gainsville where the Gators came through for us all the way back in week three when Billy Napier’s team upset #11 Tennessee. Have the Gators lost four straight games? Yes. But their heartbreaking loss on the road to #10 Missouri this past weekend showed that this team still has some fight left in them, and there is no better time than a Friday night at The Swamp to catch Florida State in an in-state rivalry game. FSU’s Tate Rodemaker, who takes over for the injured Travis Jordan, has been in the program for four years with very limited action, and will make his second career start in a hostile environment. Florida State has everything to lose here, while Florida has nothing to lose but bowl eligibility. Just like the Seminoles, the Gators will be turning to a backup quarterback, with Graham Mertz suffering a collarbone injury. Redshirt Freshman Max Brown will make his first career start and has had limited action, but is much more comfortable running the ball than Mertz. It’s tough to predict with two unknowns at quarterback, but maybe this is where a College Football Playoff domino falls.
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