Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tim Gangloff/CSM/Shutterstock (13554320z) Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the NCAA football game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the University of Kentucky Wildcats at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville TN Tim Gangloff/CSM NCAA Football Kentucky vs Tennessee, Knoxville, USA – 29 Oct 2022
This is the first weekend of college football after the CFP selection committee released their rankings, heightening the stakes for the top teams contending for a spot. The list saw three SEC teams in the top six, two of which are facing off this weekend in what looks to be the game of the year. With that said, plenty can change in the final weeks as the games we cover get increasingly important. Here, we cover the best games from outside the region.
#1 Tennessee @ #3 Georgia
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
TV/Radio: CBS, Sirius XM 81 & 191
This is the game. This is it. This college football game is what all other college football games strive to be. Quite possibly, the two best teams in the country facing off in a game that could play a significant role in determining each other’s fate going forward. However, the most interesting part is that this game features the two best teams in the SEC, and neither is Alabama. Not only is there a new king in the conference, there seems to be two.
Tennessee has put together the most impressive resume of any team in college football remaining undefeated through eight games while knocking off Florida, Kentucky, LSU, and Alabama for their most prestigious win in program history. This team is rolling hence the number one ranking. QB Hendon Hooker looks like the Heisman favorite to this point putting up numbers that are hard to achieve in videogames. Hooker is completing 71% of his throws with 21 touchdowns and only one interception on the season. Not to mention his 338 yards and four scores on the ground. His favorite target WR Jalin Hyatt has been the best wideout in the nation pulling in 14 touchdowns on 907 yards. This is a dangerous offense and nobody has been able to contain them. This is also a team that does not give an inch on the ground ranking in the top 20 in run defense. The Vols have been a juggernaut this season and they do not give teams an opportunity to gain any momentum. They inject life into the building while also sucking the air out.
Georgia went into the season as the consensus number-one team in the nation and has lived up to the hype. However, some vulnerability shown against teams like Missouri and Kent State left some believing this team can be conquered down the line. On top of that, outside of a crushing win against Oregon in Week 1, Georgia’s resume sits on the weaker side. With that said, nobody can deny the talent this team possesses and the production they have put together. Georgia sits as one of the best defensive teams in the nation, ranking sixth in total defense and allowing only a 29% conversion rate on third down. Georgia’s identity is to get after it up front and force teams to pick their poison. They rank in the top 10 in run defense and the top 30 in pass defense. You do not get a break with them. Offensively, they put up numbers, but it does not always look pretty. QB Stetson Bennett has thrown only nine touchdowns this season with three picks. He has not produced at the level many expected; however, the Bulldogs still rank as one of the best offensive teams in the country. They are efficient with the football, they run the ball well, and they convert on third down.
This is poised to be one of the best matchups in college football this season, and the winner could find themselves in the top spot as soon as next weekend.
#6 Alabama @ #10 LSU
Game Time: 6:00 p.m. CT
TV/Radio: ESPN, Sirius XM 81 & 191
Alabama found itself outside the top four in the college football playoff rankings due to an airtight loss to Tennessee on the road. As the Vols and Georgia remain undefeated, Alabama is the odd man out, as strange as that sounds. Well, they have an opportunity to gain some momentum back as they take on another top-10 opponent in LSU. The Crimson Tide are coming off a nice win at home against Mississippi State, where their defense showed up in a big way allowing only six points. That would be the fourth time this season holding a team to a sub-double digit point total. Alabama has only given up more than 26 points once, and it was to Tennessee. Not a terrible excuse. Make no mistake, Bama is still Bama, and they can kill you in multiple ways. QB Bryce Young is always the name to watch as one of the most dynamic players in the country. The future top-10 pick is showing out as expected, but the other major star of this offense has been RB Jahmyr Gibbs, who torches everyone he plays. He is the team’s leading rusher averaging almost seven yards per carry, and the team’s leading receiver with a team-high 31 catches for over 300 yards. He has been a beast, and stopping Alabama begins with containing him.
Despite being a two-loss team, LSU has had a nice run under Brian Kelly. The loss in Week 1 to Florida State is what killed them. They would be in the conversation with the best teams in the SEC if it were not for that loss. However, they face one of their toughest tests this weekend and are looking to put Alabama out of the conversation. QB Jayden Daniels has shown signs of brilliance throughout the year but has also shown signs of mediocrity. He leaves plenty of completions on the field and does not always make the right decision, but you cannot deny his versatility. Daniels has become a more accurate passer to go along with his elite running ability. The issue is that this offense relies on him having a great day. He is the team’s leading rusher by a wide margin and can be exposed at times in the passing game. LSU needs it all to be there for them to have a shot. Death Valley is a tough place to play, so if the Tigers can control time of possession and force Alabama to play at their pace, they could sneak a great win at home shaking things up in the SEC.
#21 Wake Forest @ #22 NC State
Clemson looks to have the ACC in the bag at this point, but this game is still worth mentioning. Both teams are sitting at 6-2, and both have shown some inconsistency as well as brilliance throughout the season. NC State’s season outlook took a massive hit after losing QB Devin Leary to a torn pectoral. They have gone 1-1 in his absence with Jack Chambers under center, and the offense does not have nearly the same explosiveness as it had prior to the injury. With that said, NC State’s identity has always been defense. They do not give up yards easily and can take the ball away at a solid rate. In order for the Wolfpack to win this one, this defense has to step up in a big way against a high-powered Wake Forest offense because this NC State offensive unit just cannot keep up without Leary.
Wake Forest scores plenty of points, and it is because QB Sam Hartman can flat-out sling that pill. Hartman has been highly productive this season, throwing for 22 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards. That has been how this team wins games. They air it out with Hartman and A.T. Perry, usually winning the battle in the air. However, the Demon Deacons simply cannot run the football! They have struggled to get solid production from their backs all season long, and there is no reason to think that will change this late in the year. Wake Forest is coming off a loss to Louisville, where they picked off Hartman three times. That Louisville defense is nowhere near as impactful as NC State, and if the Wolfpack can keep Hartman in check, Wake Forest does not have another way to beat you. That is the key to this game. The Wake Forest offense has the opportunity to blow the doors off NC State, but if they can keep it close, NC State could control the game and earn a win at home.