Mandatory Credit: Photo by Reggie Hildred/CSM/Shutterstock (13630786aq) Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) looks to pass during the NCAA football game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Ohio State Buckeyes at SECU Stadium in College Park, MD NCAA Football Ohio State vs Maryland, College Park, USA – 19 Nov 2022
We are officially a week before conference championship week, and most of those matchups remain in up the air. The SEC Championship is set in stone, with LSU taking on Georgia regardless of what happens this weekend. The same goes for the ACC Championship, with Clemson and North Carolina facing off. With that said, there are many games left to decide who’s in and who’s out, and here, you will find the best of those matchups from outside the region.
No. 3 Michigan @ No. 2 Ohio State
Game Time: 11 a.m. CT
TV/Radio: FOX, Sirius XM 195 & 196
This is the game of the weekend by a wide margin. The classic matchup between Michigan and Ohio State may have never seen a time when both teams were so good at the same time. This is the first time since 2006 that both teams come in undefeated. Both are undefeated at 11-0 and are fighting for not only a Big 10 championship berth but also a College Football Playoff berth. The loser of this game is likely eliminated from contention for the CFP despite there being scenarios where both could get in. This is bound to set up as one of the games of the year.
For Michigan, it is all about the health of star RB Blake Corum. Corum has been arguably the best running back in the nation this season, but he injured his left knee last week versus Illinois. However, reports say that he feels fine and is expected to play. If Corum does play, that gives Michigan a significant boost offensively, as he has carried them on that end all season. Corum has rushed for 1,457 yards and 18 touchdowns on 245 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He has been the center of this offense leading them to the tenth-ranked rushing offense and the ninth-ranked scoring offense in the nation. With Corum handling the ground game and helping the Wolverines keep control of the football, J.J. McCarthy has a seemingly very simple job. Do not turn the ball over, and do not miss too many open receivers. The running game can only be as good as your passing game’s ability to open up the field will allow it to be. Michigan has the weapons. They just need a solid performance from their quarterback. Michigan’s defense should be able to hold its own in this one as the third-overall defense in college football. However, this is Ohio State, and we know what they can do. The Wolverines are third in the nation in rush defense and can take advantage of Ohio State’s ground attack, especially if the Buckeye’s running back tandem is hobbled.
Ohio State is coming in as the presumed favorite to win the national championship outside of the SEC and needs to prove it this weekend. They face a similar question to Michigan. Will the health of Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson be a factor? The star RB tandem has combined for over 1,300 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. They can compete with Corum on the ground when healthy, but will they be healthy? However, the star of this offense is QB C.J. Stroud, who can take over a game when need be. He has thrown for 35 touchdowns and just four picks, and he has not thrown an interception in five weeks. He simply does not make many mistakes, so Michigan will have to keep the ball away from him if possible. Ohio State wins the battle at wide receiver between these two programs with Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. They have combined for 19 touchdowns on almost 2,000 yards receiving on the year. This weaponry has been the reason for Ohio State’s top-ranked scoring offense in the nation. They score points, and it is impossible to stop them. This game could come down to who makes fewer mistakes and who keeps the ball away from the other. It should be the game of the year.
No. 9 Oregon @ No. 21 Oregon State
Game Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
TV/Radio: ABC, Sirius XM 197 & 198
Oregon has been one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country this season, and it is in big part to QB Bo Nix, who many argue should be in the Heisman conversation. With that said, Nix’s health is a concern as he has been dealing with an ankle injury. It very clearly affected him in last week’s win over Utah, where he only carried the ball one time when typically, his legs are a huge part of his game. If Nix isn’t limited on Saturday, Oregon should have no problem consistently moving the ball. Nix is completing 72.4% of his passes for over 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is also third on the team in rushing and leads the Ducks in rushing touchdowns with 14. This is an offense that beats you in multiple ways. The running back tandem of Noah Whittington and Mar’Keise Irving has been one of the best in college football, combining for over 1,500 yards and seven touchdowns. They rank fourth in the nation in scoring offense. Since the Georgia loss in the opening week of the season, Oregon has been held to under 40 points twice. If you are going to beat them, you have to outscore them. That remains possible with this defense. The Oregon pass defense remains one of the most vulnerable in college football, surrendering almost 300 yards per game through the air. If Oregon State can attack that, they can catch the Ducks on their heels.
Oregon State is coming off two straight wins since losing a tight one to Washington on the road. This week, they are reminded what an explosive offense like Oregon’s looks like. Oregon State needs to do their best not to give Oregon any unnecessary fuel. QB Ben Gulbranson has been solid this season, playing his role in this offense, not turning the ball over, and hitting open receivers. Gulbranson is not a stat-stuffer, but he has only thrown three interceptions this season. The Beavers will look to RB Damien Martinez, who has been the primary source of offense for this team this season. He is averaging over six yards per carry with 867 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. They have done a nice job on third down this season, converting 43 percent of the time, which ranks in the top 50 of college football. If they can contain the run, which they have been able to do for most of the season, and not turn the ball over, Oregon State could steal a nice win at home in a rivalry game to end the regular season.
No. 15 Notre Dame @ No. 6 USC
Game Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
TV/Radio: ABC, Sirius XM 84 & 129
Since losing the first two games of the season, including a tough one to Ohio State, Notre Dame has played good football against tough opponents. They have taken down teams like North Carolina, Clemson, and Syracuse and made it look easy. Notre Dame is a good football team and should not be slept on. The Irish are another team that loves to run the ball with a running-back tandem. Logan Diggs and Audric Estime have been a great combo all season, combining for over 1,400 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns. Estime has accumulated 11 touchdowns this season, which leads the team. They have also gotten solid play out of QB Drew Pyne who has thrown for 19 touchdowns and five picks this season. Notre Dame comes in with one of the better pass defenses in the nation, which could be a problem for USC, which likes to air the ball out. If the Irish can contain Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison, they have a real shot at stealing a win to end the regular season.
USC has had one of the best overall offenses in the nation this year, with Lincoln Riley at the helm. They rank fourth in total offense, sixth in passing offense, third in scoring offense, and eighth in third down conversion rate. They have been mostly dominant on that side of the football, with their one loss coming on a one-point road loss to Utah. They are coming off a shootout win against UCLA, where they were tested by a team that could keep up with them offensively. This week, they face a different challenge. Can they overcome the strong pass defense of Notre Dame? QB Caleb Williams has been remarkable this year, completing 65% of his throws for almost 3,500 yards with 33 touchdowns and three picks. He has also rushed for seven touchdowns. The combination of Williams and star WR Jordan Addison has been one of the most lethal in the country. Nobody can question the explosiveness of this offense. However, they can be taken advantage of defensively. USC does not run the football that well and struggles at times to control the clock. Their defense gives up 425 yards per game, mainly through the air. However, the run defense is not much better. It could be a tough night for the Trojans if Notre Dame can run the ball against this team and limit the opportunities for USC’s offense.