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College football guide: On Florida State vs. Louisville and Penix

FSU can clinch a playoff spot, and Tampa’s Michael Penix Jr. makes his final Heisman Trophy push.
 
The FSU football team will try to beat Louisville for the ACC championship. A Florida State victory would likely send the Seminoles to the College Football Playoff.
The FSU football team will try to beat Louisville for the ACC championship. A Florida State victory would likely send the Seminoles to the College Football Playoff. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Dec. 1, 2023|Updated Dec. 1, 2023

Viewing guide

Lamest time window: Early Saturday looks like the most skippable slot, if you can’t sit around all weekend.

Friday

8: Here’s hoping the Pac-12 championship between No. 3 Washington vs. No. 5 Oregon (ABC) is as exciting as their first matchup (a 36-33 Huskies win). This one is an unofficial playoff play-in game.

Saturday

Noon: No. 7 Texas needs to beat No. 19 Oklahoma State (ABC) in the Big 12 title game and get some help to secure its first playoff appearance. If that game gets out of hand, check out the MAC championship between Miami (Ohio) and No. 23 Toledo (ESPN). The Rockets won the first meeting by four after the RedHawks lost a late fumble near midfield.

4: No. 1 Georgia can keep its quest for a three-peat alive by topping No. 8 Alabama (CBS) for the SEC title. There are also scenarios where the Bulldogs and/or Crimson Tide stay in the playoff picture with a ‘Bama victory.

8: The fair questions about No. 4 Florida State’s playoff candidacy end if the Seminoles beat No. 15 Louisville (ABC) convincingly for the ACC title.

Heisman watch

Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Michael Penix Jr. has one final game to boost his Heisman Trophy candidacy.
Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Michael Penix Jr. has one final game to boost his Heisman Trophy candidacy. [ LINDSEY WASSON | AP ]

Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. (Tampa Bay Tech) and Oregon’s Bo Nix remain two of the top Heisman Trophy contenders. Here’s how they compare against the other frontrunner, LSU’s Jayden Daniels (whose team isn’t playing this weekend):

Michael Penix Jr.

Passing yards: 3,899 (second nationally)

Completion percentage: 65.6 (29th)

Passing efficiency: 163.25 (12th)

Touchdowns responsible for: 35 (sixth)

Total offense: 3,885 yards (fifth)

Bo Nix

Passing yards: 3,906 (first)

Completion percentage: 78.6 (first)

Passing efficiency: 189.8 (second)

Touchdowns responsible for: 43 (second)

Total offense: 4,065 yards (second)

Jayden Daniels

Passing yards: 3,812 (third)

Completion percentage: 72.2 (seventh)

Passing efficiency: 208.01 (first)

Touchdowns responsible for: 50 (first)

Total offense: 4,946 yards (first)

Local of the week

Alabama tight end Amari Niblack is a player to watch in the SEC title game.
Alabama tight end Amari Niblack is a player to watch in the SEC title game. [ JULIE BENNETT | PREPS | al.com ]

Alabama tight end Amari Niblack (Lakewood High)

The area’s top 2022 recruit is the Crimson Tide’s No. 3 receiver (18 catches, 304 yards, four touchdowns). A few tight ends have made plays against Georgia, like the touchdown by Florida’s Hayden Hansen and Rivaldo Fairweather leading Auburn in receiving. Niblack should have a chance at a big moment or two.

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UNLV history

Barry Odom has resurrected his head coaching career at UNLV.
Barry Odom has resurrected his head coaching career at UNLV. [ MADELINE CARTER | Las Vegas Review-Journal ]

Former Missouri coach Barry Odom has transformed UNLV. The Rebels have won nine games for the first time since the Randall Cunningham era (1984) and are bowl-bound for the first time in a decade. UNLV hasn’t beaten Boise State since 1976; a win Saturday gives the Rebels the Mountain West title and cements Odom’s case for national coach of the year.

Jeff Brohm’s turnaround

Louisville's Jeff Brohm is the first coach to lead two different teams to conference title games in back-to-back years.
Louisville's Jeff Brohm is the first coach to lead two different teams to conference title games in back-to-back years. [ TIMOTHY D. EASLEY | AP ]

Louisville’s Jeff Brohm should be mentioned in coach of the year discussions, too. If nothing else, he has had a remarkable two-year stretch that made him the first coach ever to take two different teams to league title games in consecutive seasons. A good omen for FSU: His Purdue team lost to Michigan by 20 points in last year’s Big Ten championship.

AACtion

SMU faces Tulane for the AAC championship.
SMU faces Tulane for the AAC championship. [ ALONZO ADAMS | AP ]

Aside from what should be one of the most entertaining games of the day, the AAC title game between SMU and No. 17 Tulane has major bowl implications. A Green Wave win means Tulane is headed to a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl (perhaps the Peach Bowl) for the second year in a row. SMU wasn’t ranked by the committee this week, so a Mustangs victory could send Liberty to a big-time bowl (assuming the No. 20 Flames top New Mexico State for the Conference USA crown).

Big Ten title

A Big Ten championship celebration will feel different Saturday if Michigan beats Iowa.
A Big Ten championship celebration will feel different Saturday if Michigan beats Iowa. [ JACOB HAMILTON | mlive.com (2021) ]

Barring injuries, awful turnover luck or a bout of food poisoning, we can’t see a path to No. 2 Michigan losing to No. 18 Iowa. Instead, two thoughts: Hawkeyes punter Tory Taylor breaking the school’s single-season punting record (3,766 yards) for the third consecutive year is the most Iowa thing ever. And imagine the awkwardness if/when Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti presents the trophy to the coach he suspended, Jim Harbaugh.

29 in a row

Georgia's 29-game winning streak matches the one Florida State compiled from 2012-14.
Georgia's 29-game winning streak matches the one Florida State compiled from 2012-14. [ Associated Press (2014) ]

Georgia’s 29-game winning streak is tied with Florida State (2012-14) among others for the fifth most of the modern era. Comparing the current Bulldogs to that ‘Noles run:

Scoring offense

FSU: 1,227 points (42.3 per game)

Georgia: 1,158 points (39.9 per game)

Scoring defense

FSU: 494 points allowed (17 per game)

Georgia: 432 points allowed (14.9 per game)

Wins by at least 20 points

FSU: 15

Georgia: 18

Wins over ranked teams

FSU: 9

Georgia: 11

Texas is back?

Xavier Worthy and the Longhorns are favored to win their first Big 12 title since 2009.
Xavier Worthy and the Longhorns are favored to win their first Big 12 title since 2009. [ MICHAEL THOMAS | AP ]

A hard-to-believe stat: Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2009 and the days of Colt McCoy and Mack Brown. That opponent (Nebraska) hadn’t even decided it was leaving for the Big Ten yet. Now Texas is a deserving double-digit favorite to end the drought in its last season before ditching Oklahoma State et al. for the SEC.

By the numbers

Florida State is looking for its first ACC championship since Jimbo Fisher's 2014 squad.
Florida State is looking for its first ACC championship since Jimbo Fisher's 2014 squad. [ MIKE MCCARN | AP (2014) ]

4-1 — FSU’s record in ACC title games

13 Combined touchdown catches by Toledo’s Jerjuan Newton (Clearwater Central Catholic) and Junior Vandeross (Jesuit High).

12 — Combined touchdown catches from the rest of the Rockets

0 — Interim coaches to win a conference title game. Boise State’s Spencer Danielson can become the first

1 — Player to score in every game: Michigan’s Blake Corum

5 — Sacks allowed by Oregon, four fewer than any other team (a group that includes Washington)

8 — SMU receivers with at least 300 yards

48 — Career games for Boise State’s Ethan Carde (Bloomingdale High). The former juco transfer from Texas Tech played three positions in his first three Broncos games (tight end, left tackle and starting left guard)

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