With College Football Playoff’s 10 conference championships taking place on Friday and Saturday — and a myriad of storylines, bowl berths and College Football Playoff implications at stake — it was only right to do one final top-10 power ranking this weekend for the 2023 season.
(All point spreads come from BetMGM; click here For live odds. All kickoff times are Eastern and Saturday unless otherwise noted. All rankings are via the College Football Playoff.)
10. Conference USA: New Mexico State (10-3) at No. 24 Liberty (12-0), 7 p.m. Friday, CBS Sports
A potential window for post-realignment championship games is here as the Aggies travel over 1,800 miles to take on the Flames. All credit to Liberty, in only its sixth season of FBS football and first as a member of Conference USA, for achieving the first undefeated regular season in the program’s 50-year history, including a 33-17 home win over New Mexico State. Back on September 9th. The Flames are the favorites at home, but even with a victory, they would likely need a loss to Tulane to clinch their sixth Group of Five bid in the new year. Regardless, it was a commendable season under first-year coach Jimmy Chadwell.
9. Sunbelt: Appalachian State (8-4) at Troy (10-2), 4 p.m., ESPN
Props to App State, a perennially successful program that has now appeared in four of the six Sun Belt Conference title games ever — even if that one was by technical, winning the East Division despite finishing one game behind ineligible James Madison. The Mountaineers did their part, for what it’s worth, knocking out the Dukes two weeks ago. They’ll have to pull off another upset against a stingy Troy team that has lost to only JMU and Kansas State and has a defense that ranks 11th in the FBS at 4.74 yards allowed per game and a defense that ranks 10th at 16.7 points allowed per game.
8. MAC: Miami (Ohio) (10-2) vs. Toledo (11-1), noon, ESPN
Toledo is seeking back-to-back titles in the only conference that remains free of the blight of realignment. This should be fun. These two teams have the best offenses in the league, with the Rockets averaging 6.6 yards per game and 35.3 points per game while the RedHawks are averaging 5.83 yards per game and 27.3 points per game. Miami’s only losses were to Toledo and other Miami. The Rockets haven’t lost since a two-point loss to Illinois in the season opener. It will be interesting to see if this is finally Toledo’s offseason coach Jason Candle getting a P5 opportunity.
Line: Toledo -7.5
7. Big Ten: No. 2 Michigan (12-0) vs. No. 16 Iowa (10-2), 8 p.m., Fox
Listen, Iowa deserves its roses even though it had the biggest 10-2 regular season in college football history. The Hawkeyes found ways to win in a disappointing Big Ten West, and they got their just reward. Which will likely lead to a crushing defeat at the hands of Michigan as coach Jim Harbaugh returns to the bench. The Wolverines’ win over Ohio State on Saturday was essentially the league championship — no one expects this to be a major rivalry, which is why it ranks so low on this list. There’s clearly a playoff spot on the line for Michigan, but this feels like the surest outcome of the weekend. The bigger question is whether the overall total will stay below 35.5 points.
Line: Michigan -23.5
6. Mountain West: Boise State (7-5) at UNLV (9-3), 3 p.m., Fox
The computer rankings were forced to advance this matchup after San Jose State pulled away a upset over the Rebels on Saturday to force a three-way tie for first place in the standings… only for the Spartans to remain sidelined. UNLV will make its first appearance in the Mountain West Championship Game. Boise State, despite the firing of coach Andy Avalos and the loss of quarterback Maddox Madsen in recent weeks, has won three straight games to end the regular season and secure a spot in the title game. It’s still surprising to see the Broncos favored on the road over Barry Odom and a Rebels team that leads the league in points per game.
Line: Boise State -2.5
5. AAC: SMU (10-2) at No. 22 Tulane (11-1), 4 p.m., ABC
This has to be the best G5 tournament and could be one of the best games of the weekend. Both teams are unbeaten in the league. Tulane is the top-ranked G5 program, and a win would send it to its sixth bowl for the rookie year in a row, one season after the Green Wave’s dramatic comeback over USC. SMU has the best offense (6.55 ypp) and defense (4.5 ypp) in America, and an upset could be enough to vault the Mustangs ahead of Liberty in the NY6 spot. Tulane’s Willie Fritz has been mentioned for the Houston job and SMU is about to venture into the ACC. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they will have to accomplish the goal without star quarterback Preston Stone, who suffered a broken leg in the regular season finale against Navy. But the line has been moving toward SMU in recent days.
Font: Tulane -3.5
4. Big 12: No. 18 Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. No. 7 Texas (11-1), noon, ABC
What an accomplishment it’s been for Oklahoma State to get to this point, led by Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Ollie Gordon II at running back and Coach of the Year Mike Gundy — who gets the nod over Texas’ Steve Sarkisian. Whether this fuels any additional incentive for Sark and the Longhorns probably won’t matter. It seems unlikely the Pokes will have enough to knock off a Texans team playing for a potential playoff berth, though Oklahoma State was full of upsets, including an upset win over the same Oklahoma team that beat the Horns. But for Texas, this game represents a chance to overcome some of the disappointment that has plagued them over the past decade-plus in the Big 12, and it’s on its way out the door no less.
Line: Texas -14.5
3. ACC: No. 14 Louisville (10-2) vs. No. 4 Florida State (12-0), 8 p.m., ABC
This is a lot more interesting than many expected two weeks ago due to the season-ending injury to Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis — this line is unlikely to be anything short of a field goal if he is healthy. Plus, the Cardinals, who had an impressive and unexpected season in Year 1 under Jeff Brohm, are a little tired after losing to Kentucky on Saturday. But even with backup Tate Rodemaker behind center for the Seminoles, who are coming off a competitive win of their own over Florida, the stakes are clear: Win while they’re in. The committee does not keep undefeated P5 out of the CFP, regardless of any major injuries. This should be a great way to end the tournament weekend.
Line: Florida State -2.5
2. Pac-12: No. 5 Oregon (11-1) vs. No. 3 Washington (12-0), 8 p.m. Friday, ABC
There’s a lot of great narrative around this one. Washington is undefeated, in control of its playoff destiny and with a straight-up win over Oregon, yet the Ducks are the favorite and have looked like a better, more complete team since that loss to the Huskies in October. Will an Oregon win be enough to secure a playoff spot? Can Washington hang on for another Pac-12 win? There’s also a Heisman Trophy race that appears to be on the line between quarterbacks Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. It is a great aperitif on a Friday night.
Font: Oregon -9.5
1. SEC: No. 1 Georgia (12-0) vs. No. 8 Alabama (11-1), 4 p.m., CBS
I admit I don’t have a good feeling about this. Georgia, almost calmly (?!?) hunting down a three-peat, could beat a Bama team that needed a last-second miracle to take down Auburn. Or this could be another classic prize fight between SEC heavyweights. Neither scenario would surprise me, though the chaos worker in me wants to see the Crimson Tide win and leave the mess to the CFP selection committee to sort out. Either way, with the stakes, the potential repercussions, the characters involved, and the final trip to the Securities and Exchange Commission on CBS, this game takes the top spot.
Font: Georgia -5.5
(Carson Beck Photo: Rich Von Pepperstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”