The 2023 college football season moves into Week 11, and the pressure is on. Conference championship races, division races, New Year’s Six bowl races, and most of all, the College Football race are all coming into focus. One unexpected loss from one high-profile team could have a significant domino effect which ripples through the rest of the sport and altars the calculus in the chase for the national championship. Teams which have already lost one game but have not completely been eliminated from conference and national races get one last chance to prove themselves and make a run at the brass ring.
A good example of that kind of team is Penn State, which has one loss and is not at the forefront of the national picture, but which can change all of that this weekend with an upset win over Michigan, a team currently in position to make the College Football Playoff. Let’s look at Michigan-Penn State and the other really big games in Week 11. Odds provided by Bovada (see full Bovada review).
Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions
Odds: Michigan -4.5
This is the biggest game of the week. It’s the second of the three huge games involving the top three teams in the Big Ten Conference. Ohio State beat Penn State in the first game. Ohio State will play Michigan in the third and final game. This second game will determine the stakes involved in the Ohio State-Michigan game.
Penn State has been a good team this season. And in general, over the past several years too. But the Nittany Lions have had trouble busting through Ohio State and Michigan when the Buckeyes and Wolverines are good. Penn State lost at Ohio State, but this game is on the Nittany Lions’ home turf. It’s a golden opportunity to beat Michigan and get back in the Big Ten championship chase. If Penn State beats Michigan here and Michigan beats Ohio State, the three teams will all be tied.
Michigan has won the Big Ten championship and made the College Football Playoff each of the past two seasons. If the Wolverines win this game, they would be in a position to win the Big Ten East Division championship by taking care of Ohio State in a few weeks. If Michigan beats Penn State, it could lose on November 18 and still win the Big Ten East by defeating Ohio State on November 25.
In terms of sizing up the actual matchup, Penn State quarterback Drew Allar looked well below average in the 20-6 loss to Ohio State a few weeks ago. Penn State’s offense never really threatened to score a touchdown. There was never a play or a series of downs in which PSU got especially close to the Ohio State goal line. The only touchdown Penn State almost scored against Ohio State was on a scoop-and-score following a strip-sack. That score was wiped out by a defensive penalty. It turned out to be the key play of the game.
The reality for Penn State is that Allar will not put up big numbers against Michigan’s defense. Penn State won’t score a lot, at least on offense. The Nittany Lions will have to get multiple turnovers. On top of that, big special teams plays to have a realistic chance of winning. That could happen, but you wouldn’t want to count on that scenario. Michigan has the better offense, a perfectly good defense, and the generally better team. Michigan should be able to take control of this game in the fourth quarter.
Pick: Michigan -4.5
Alabama Crimson Tide at Kentucky Wildcats
Odds: Alabama -10.5
The Alabama Crimson Tide are doing something remarkable. This Alabama team looked horrible in the month of September. It has played a number of below-average games this season. The Crimson Tide were in big trouble on a number of occasions, but they managed to survive the games in which they played especially poorly, except for their one loss to Texas.
Alabama beat Ole Miss in a very ugly game. It overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to beat Tennessee. It held off Arkansas by a narrow margin. The Tide figured to be in real trouble against LSU last weekend, given that LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels had a better overall career resume – with more big-game experience – than Alabama quarterback Jaylen Milroe. However, Milroe played really well, and LSU’s cornerbacks were lost in coverage for most of the night. Alabama was able to pull away from LSU and win.
The Tide somehow have only one loss this season. Two months ago, it seemed this team was likely to lose at least two or three games. Alabama has overachieved to this point, and yet when a team overachieves, it also means it could very possibly have a comedown game when it doesn’t overachieve and its limitations become exposed. Kentucky, with a defense which is far better than LSU’s, could force Milroe to make multiple big mistakes. Alabama is probably good enough to win due to Kentucky’s offensive flaws, but the Crimson Tide probably won’t cover the point spread on the road.
Pick: Kentucky +10.5
Miami Hurricanes at Florida State Seminoles
Odds: Florida State -14.5
The rivalry between Miami and Florida State, which was such a central and dramatic part of college football in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, hasn’t been very good or special for the past 18 years. In the 2005 college football season, the Atlantic Coast Conference moved to a two-division format. It was expected that Miami and Florida State were going to win their respective divisions – Miami the ACC Coastal, Florida State the ACC Atlantic – and meet many times in the ACC Championship Game.
They never did.
This year, the ACC does not have a two-division format. It instead has a system in which the top two teams in the overall conference standings meet in the ACC Championship Game. Florida State is doing its part to make the ACC title game, with an unbeaten record and a first-place position in the standings. Miami, however, has lost multiple times and is almost certain to miss the ACC title game.
Florida State is firmly in the hunt for the College Football Playoff. The Seminoles have won every game, but they have not always been dominant. Miami will be energized for this rivalry game, but Florida State has a lot more skill and depth than the Hurricanes do. The game might be close for one half, but FSU is likely to pull away in the second half and win big.
Pick: Florida State -14.5
Utah Utes at Washington Huskies
Odds: Washington -9.5
Utah is a tough and physical team under coach Kyle Whittingham. That’s why the Utes have been able to win each of the last two Pac-12 championships and make consecutive Rose Bowl games. Utah has earned a considerable amount of respect on a general level, and it enters this game against a Washington defense which has given up a combined total of 75 points in its last two games, 33 at Stanford and then 42 last week at USC. Utah has a chance in this game.
However, Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes entered this season as a backup quarterback. He started only because No. 1 quarterback Cam Rising was injured and has not been able to play. Barnes scored just six points for Utah in a blowout loss to Oregon. Washington’s defense might be weak, but Barnes is not the quarterback who is going to expose that defense. Washington’s offense won’t dominate Utah’s offense, but it should be able to do more than enough to win the game, probably by at least 10 points.
Pick: Washington -9.5
Ole Miss Rebels at Georgia Bulldogs
Odds: Georgia -10.5
This is a matchup of teams both ranked in the top 12 in the country. However, Ole Miss lost to the best team it has faced so far this season, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Ole Miss is a good team, but the Rebels have not yet proven that they are a great team which belongs on the same level and in the same conversation as Georgia, the two-time defending national champion. Georgia has not been overwhelmingly imposing and brilliant this season.
The Bulldogs beat Missouri by a modest nine points last week. Georgia was outplayed in the first half by South Carolina several weeks ago. Georgia beat Auburn by only seven points. This team has slogged through a number of its games and has won in less-than-convincing fashion.
However, Ole Miss does not seem to be strong enough in the trenches to hang with Georgia for the full 60 minutes. That’s why they’re a double-digit dog at most books, including BetOnline (see full BetOnline review).
Ole Miss allowed 35 points to Texas A&M last week. A team which gives up 35 to A&M will probably give up at least that much to Georgia. If Ole Miss does allow 35 to Georgia, odds are that the Rebels probably won’t score nearly enough to win. Georgia would be more than likely to cover the spread in such a scenario.