By Alan Brads
We are standing in the eye of the storm of the 2023 college football season. Behind us, seven (almost) consecutive action packed weeks of college football, broken up only by a sleepy week 9. Ahead of us, The Game, conference championship games, and the college football playoff. And here in week 12 … not too much. But the tide always recedes before a tsunami.
The SEC takes their annual November vacation to the FCS, sponsored by Downy Ultra Soft detergent no doubt. Hopefully, conference realignment puts an end to that nonsense, but I won’t hold my breath.
However, don’t confuse “not much” with nothing. We get one showdown on the West Coast, and in my deep digging this week I uncovered a diamond or two in the rough.
On the bright side, here’s your last chance to get ahead on Christmas shopping. Black Friday sales or not, you won’t catch me at Best Buy during rivalry weekend.
#3- Jalen Milroe’s transformation gives Tide new life
A week before the season started, no one, Nick Saban included, knew who would start at quarterback for Alabama. Milroe started in their Week 2 loss to Texas which featured two interceptions, then sat behind both Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson in a hideous 17-3 win over South Florida. Saban named Milroe the starter, and everything changed. The Tide won seven in a row, all against SEC opponents, three of which are ranked. Milroe averages three total TDs a game since the Texas loss, including six last week, three through the air, and three on the ground. Bama’s season once was lost, but Milroe found it. Now they are likely three wins away from a college football playoff berth. How’s that for a resurrection?
#2- Coaching carousel starts spinning
Texas A&M fired Jimbo Fisher on Sunday despite a 51-10 win over Mississippi State, who also fired their coach Zach Arnett after the game. Fisher will receive a $75 million buyout from Texas A&M, the largest buyout of all time. “Insiders” have floated Oregon’s Dan Lanning and Colorado’s Deion Sanders as possible replacements at A&M. Both denied any chance of leaving their current position, but we all know how much a coach’s honest promise that he won’t take a multi-million dollar pay raise means. Whoever takes the job for the Aggies will get a salary difficult to refuse, just ask Fisher. Mississippi State, a far less desirable job due to salary, recruiting and prestige, will finish the year with offensive analyst Greg Knox as the interim coach. It wouldn’t surprise me if Dan Mullen leaves ESPN and returns to Mississippi State’s sideline, where he previously coached for 13 years.
#1- Shakeup at the top
The college football playoff committee granted the number one spot to Georgia this week, following a 52-17 whipping of Ole Miss. Ohio State slid to number two, despite a 38-3 win over Michigan State. Since their inception, the committee only dropped the number one team following a win four times. At the end of the season, the number one overall team wins the luxury to choose whether to play their CFP semifinal in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans or the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. That looks to be a three-way race between Georgia, Ohio State, and Michigan, but if they all manage to fumble their conference championship games away, look for an opportunistic Florida State, Washington, or even Oregon to swoop in for the top spot.
#3- #1 Georgia @ #18 Tennessee – 3:30 P.M. on CBS
Do you believe in miracles? Georgia won the last six against Tennessee by an average of 26.2 points. Georgia beat the 11-2 Volunteers last year by two touchdowns, and that was Tennessee’s best team this century. This year’s Vols can’t hold a candle to their 2022 team, hence last week’s 36-7 spanking by Missouri. The good news for Tennessee fans: Georgia has regressed too, despite moving to the top spot in the CFP rankings. The 2023 Bulldogs are worse in almost every metric compared to the past two years, especially on defense. Plus the game is at Neyland, the site of Tennessee’s legendary upset over Alabama a year ago. I’m not saying the Dawgs are on upset alert, they’ve won 27 games in a row, but they’ve got to lose eventually right?
#2- (FCS) #4 Montana State @ #3 Montana – 2:00 P.M. on ESPN+
Before I even named my college football column I knew I wanted to discuss at least one FCS game. I am genuinely excited for this one, nicknamed the Brawl of the Wild. For 122nd edition of the Brawl of the Wild will be the first top-5 matchup between the rivals. Montana State (8-2) won five of the last six against Montana (9-1). A year ago Montana State blasted the Grizzlies 55-21 in front of the College GameDay crew, but those Montana Grizzlies are out for revenge. The FCS plays their final week during the FBS’ penultimate week, which creates a winner-take-all for the Big Sky Conference title, a de-facto conference championship game. Montana hasn’t won a conference title since 2009, and Montana State hasn’t won outright since 2011, though they shared last year’s title with Sacramento State. To top it all off, the winner claims not only rivalry bragging rights but the rivalry’s 306-pound Great Divide Trophy.
#1- #5 Washington @ #11 Oregon State – 7:30 P.M. on ABC
I can’t think of an upset alert box this game doesn’t check off. Oregon State, the underdogs, run the ball exceptionally well – check. Have a playmaker at QB – check. Play at home in primetime – check. And have a great turnover ratio – check. Washington, the favorites, do not force turnovers – check. Squeaked past too many inferior opponents – check. I use the terms ”underdogs” and “favorites” loosely, Vegas shockingly favors the Beavers by about two points (check). I made a pick on last week’s top game, Penn State vs. Michigan, and I was nearly dead on, so why not make it a tradition? I’m with Vegas on this one, Oregon State stuns the Huskies in Corvallis 37-34.
Alan Brads is a senior journalism student and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys playing the drums, speaking Spanish and watching Buckeye football like his life depends on it.
“Great Divide Trophy” Photo Courtesy of Billings Gazette