Might as well get this out of the way: Given the state of the game -- distrust, paranoia, Stalions run amok -- how does any team even wear numbers this weekend? Welcome to Week 9 where there are still nine undefeated teams and double that still in contention for the College Football Playoff.
Texas redshirt freshman Maalik Murphy gets his first start against BYU subbing for the injured Quinn Ewers. However, coach Steve Sarkisian already has said Arch Manning could see time. That would be a story within a story. Does the Manning family want Arch to play? If he plays in no more than four games, does it make a difference (as he'd still be eligible for a redshirt)?
So, grab your popcorn, Lane Kiffin, and watch an Elimination Saturday.
Cocktail Party could go aerial
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party looks like a soirée that will be decided in some fashion by the passing game. Florida quarterback Graham Mertz is , and the Gators almost have to pass to win despite entering the season with what seemed to be a dominant running game. For the first time in coach Billy Napier's career, the offense is calling more passes (53.2%) than runs.
On the other side, Georgia quarterback Carson Beck is surprisingly eighth nationally in passing yards per game ... but the Bulldogs' rushing attack is averaging its fewest yards per game (172.4) in 10 years.
Keep in mind this will be No. 1 Georgia's first full game without star tight end Brock Bowers. If you need a reminder, he's the Dawgs' best receiver/downfield threat. His 26 catches of 10-plus yards are more than both Army and Navy have as entire teams. Before his injury against Vanderbilt, Bowers became the second tight end this season with three consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
The defenses don't get home, either. Georgia doesn't do a good job of pressuring the passer (No. 87 nationally in pressure rate, T107 in sacks) and Florida is last in the SEC in sacks (11).
But some things never change. Georgia leads the SEC in total defense and scoring defense. Since 2016, Kirby Smart's first year, the Dawgs have allowed just 16.2 points per game. No team in the country has been stingier. The last time Florida won the Cocktail Party scoring 17 points or less was in 2005, a 14-10 win.
Elimination game in Salt Lake City
No. 8 Oregon has lost six straight road or neutral-site games to ranked teams. That streak started two years ago in a pair of losses two weeks apart against the Utes, the latter of which was the Pac-12 Championship Game. No. 13 Utah, meanwhile, has won four straight at home against ranked teams. This has the feel of a Rice-Eccles Stadium ambush. How do you game plan for a strong safety (Sione Vaki) who rushed for 158 yards a couple of weeks ago in his first game as a running back? And Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes? -- 5-0 in his career -- with two years of eligibility left after this season.
Marvin Harrison Jr.'s moment
Ohio State's star leads the Big Ten with 766 yards receiving -- 243 more than the next best Big Ten pass-catcher, Northwestern's Bryce Kirtz. With the No. 3 Buckeyes breaking in a new quarterback (Kyle McCord) in a conference known for defense, Harrison should receive special Heisman Trophy attention; he won the Penn State game last week almost by himself. However, Harrison just happens to play a position that doesn't produce the type of volume numbers that gets voters' attention. Remember: Before Alabama's DeVonta Smith won the Heisman in 2020, the last receiver to do so was Tim Brown in 1987.
Prediction: Top four of first CFP Rankings
- Ohio State
ACC Championship Game race could get wacky
Just perusing ACC standings and if….— 💫🅰️♈️🆔 (@ADavidHaleJoint) October 26, 2023
beats Cuse, BC, NCSU & UVA
beats WF, UNC, UVA and Pitt
beats GT, Clemson and NCSU
beats Duke, VT and UVA
beats UVA, NCSU, FSU and BC
We’d have a 5-way tie at 6-2 for the 2nd spot in the ACCCG.
Napier lost 12 games, total, at Louisiana. He has nine Ls already at Florida. The only Gators coach with more losses through his first two seasons was Ron Zook, who hit 10 between 2002-03. … Florida has faced the fewest defensive snaps among FBS teams (382, 54.5 per game). The Gators still are surrendering 5.73 yards per play (No. 85 nationally) and only have four takeaways … No. 10 Penn State (vs. Indiana) is tied with Northwestern for fewest offensive plays of at least 10 yards among Power Five teams … Penn State's Drew Allar is the first quarterback since 2018 to throw at least 13 touchdown passes without an interception since Tua Tagovailoa. For now, that is where the similarities end … No. 4 Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis (at Wake Forest) has multiple touchdowns in 14 straight game, the longest active FBS streak … Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (at Stanford) has been held without a touchdown pass in two fo the last three games. Meanwhile, the No. 5 Huskies lead FBS in yards per play (8.1) … If No. 6 Oklahoma wins at Kansas, the Sooners will be 8-0 for the second time in three years. That after going 17 years without an 8-0 start … Happy birthday in advance to Nick Saban, who turns 72 on Tuesday. You may start your Halloween references now ... In the season in which he turned 72 (1998), Joe Paterno went 9-3 and won the Outback Bowl. Bobby Bowden, in the season in which he turned 72 (2001), went 8-4 and won the Gator Bowl.