December 8, 2023

We’re a few weeks away from conference championship games around college football, which means Week 11 can upset the apple cart in the upcoming College Football Playoff rankings.

There’s a big top-10 matchup “between the hedges” in Athens when No. 9 Ole Miss plays against two-time defending champion No. 2 UGA. Big 10 East foes No. 3 Michigan and No. 10 Penn State meet at Beaver Stadium in another game featuring two top-10 teams.

No. 5 Washington is the third of the five remaining undefeated teams to face a ranked opponent this week when No. 18 Utah visits Seattle for a game with significant ramifications in the Pac-12.

Georgia Bulldogs head football coach Kirby Smart
Head Coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts at the conclusion of the 30-21 victory over the Missouri Tigers at Sanford Stadium on November 4, 2023, in Athens, Georgia. Georgia plays Ole Miss on Saturday.
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

While there are several essential games across the nation, including No. 6 Oregon vs USC and No. 4 Florida State playing against its rival Miami, our focus this week is on three games with top-5 teams facing ranked opponents on the Week 11 slate.

No. 2 Georgia vs No. 9 Ole Miss

If the rankings aren’t enough to let you know this game is weighty, then Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin’s departure from trolling tactics he’s used against other coaches should be a clear signal.

“We’ve got to have a really good week of practice,” Kiffin told reporters during Tuesday’s press conference. “This is a very challenging combination now of having elite, phenomenal players and elite phenomenal coaches combined on the road. There’s the trifecta of what’s the hardest thing to pull off. This would be it.”

Smart and Kiffin were on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama and won a national championship together. Smart shared fond thoughts of Kiffin.

“He was a head coach at a really young age,” Smart told reporters during his press conference on Tuesday. “He taught me a lot of things about what he believes in being a head coach and doing it your way. He’s certainly had a unique experience in terms of the places he’s been able to work as a head coach.”

Ole Miss enters the game on a five-game winning streak, including last week’s 38-35 win against Texas A&M. The sole blemish on the Rebels’ record is the loss against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Georgia defeated No. 12 Missouri last week and is on a 26-game winning streak going back to the 2021 season.

The game will likely come to Georgia’s defense being better than Ole Miss this season. Both teams are among the top 15 in points per game. However, Georgia’s defense has only had two games where an opponent scored 21 points. The Rebels defense allowed 49 points in a win against LSU and 35 against the Aggies.

Georgia is favored by 10.5 points, according to Thursday’s odds on BetMGM Sportsbook. ESPN will air the game with a 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff.

No. 3 Michigan vs No. 10 Penn State

There might not be a coach happier to play a football game than Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Speculation about possible punishment due to ongoing investigations into an alleged sign-stealing scandal won’t matter for a few hours while the Wolverines try to leave Happy Valley with a win against Penn State.

Michigan’s strength of schedule hasn’t been much to write home about, but the Wolverines blasted each of their opponents to an undefeated record. While it won’t be a night game, this will be the most hostile environment the Wolverines will face this season.

Last week, the Wolverines totaled 445 yards, including Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback J.J. McCarthy’s 335 passing yards. Blake Corum scored three of Michigan’s five rushing touchdowns.

Penn State’s 51 points in last week’s victory against Maryland marked the third time the Nittany Lions scored 50 points this season. The Nittany Lions have lost back-to-back games, but a win would alter the Big 10 East race and keep the Nittany Lions in the mix for a spot in the CFP final four.

Michigan is favored by 4.5 points according to Thursday’s odds on BetMGM Sportsbook. FOX will have the game with kickoff at noon.

No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 18 Utah

Washington is 9-0 for the fourth time in its program history following last week’s victory against the University of Southern California.

The Huskies feature one of the best quarterbacks in the nation with Michael Penix Jr., as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Penix leads the FBS in passing yards this season and passing yards per game, second in total offense and third in touchdown passes.

Utah enters the game after racking up a season-high 513 yards on offense, including 161 yards through the air, a season-best 352 rushing yards, and seven total touchdowns (3 rush, 4 rec) in last week’s 55-3 victory against Arizona State.

This game presents a contrast of styles. Utah leads the Pac-12 and is tenth in the nation in yards allowed at 282.3 per game. The Utes are also one of four teams in the FBS that rank in the top 10 in rushing defense, scoring defense, and total defense (Penn State, Michigan, Air Force).

Things could get interesting if Utah’s defense can keep Penix and the high-powered Huskie offense in check. BetMGM’s Thursday odds have the Huskies favored by 9.5 points. Washington vs Utah will air on FOX with kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET.