One week before the CFP rankings, candidate lists are clearer. Week 9 of the 2023 season has only two ranked-versus-ranked matches but many intriguing places for teams wanting to make a statement. Kyle Wittingham has kept the Utah Utes competitive each game without Cameron Rising, making them one of the season's most intriguing stories.
Utah's playoff dreams remain alive heading into a crucial Pac-12 game against Dan Lanning's Oregon Ducks. How No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs will compete without standout tight end Brock Bowers is the greatest SEC concern. Will Kirby Smart's squad ultimately fall this week with No. 2 Michigan on their heels in the AP Poll and a more than game opponent in the Florida Gators?
Consider Kyle Whittingham's Utah season. Without standout quarterback Cameron Rising, the Utes are 6-1 and have a 50% chance of making the College Football Playoff if they win the Pac-12 Championship. Whittingham has done a wonderful job with this club, but Saturday against No. 8 Oregon will be a challenge.
Last week, Michael Penix Jr. opened the way with a difficult game. I still like him with over 2,500 yards, 20 TDs, and 5 INTs. Penix drives the ball down the field more than anybody else, making the Huskies the nation's most entertaining offense.
The Heisman is expected to be won in November in an open contest. Unfortunately, this has become about the best quarterback on the highest-ranked team rather than a "most valuable player" award. McCarthy, Gabriel, Penix Jr., and Travis have excelled. Knowing the prize's status is vital. Marvin Harrison Jr. gets my vote.
I expect Penn State and Ohio State to end McCarthy's Heisman lead. Jayden Daniels is my Week 9 Heisman choice at +300. Daniels has 30 touchdowns and second-best QBR after McCarthy in 8 games. His November 4 win over Alabama will give him primetime exposure and a chance to lead the SEC West.
I like Utah to OR. Last year, I called the Utes' Autzen win over the Ducks on ESPN Radio. One of the hardest CFB teams is Utah. Kyle Wittingham constructed an amazing place. Winning with various QBs this season shows skill and culture are strong.
Florida Gators beat Georgia. If you want an upset special this weekend, go to the world's largest outdoor cocktail party. I'm not sure. Bulldogs quarterback Carson Beck hasn't been pushed yet without tight end and top receiver Brock Bowers. I think Graham Mertz and Ricky Pearsall can help Florida achieve that.
Duke is a 4-point underdog at Louisville this week. Last week, the Blue Devils showed the nation how terrific they were, playing a playoff-contender Florida State close on the road. Even without quarterback Riley Leonard, I think Duke will win.
UCLA Bruins lose against Colorado Buffaloes (+17). Are we still discussing Colorado? They can't defend yet score frequently. That sounds like UCLA. I expect a shootout and think the Buffaloes will cover, even if Colorado loses.
My favorite bet this week is No. 12 Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt at Oxford, Mississippi. While the Rebels average over 40 points per game, the Commodores and LSU Tigers are one of two FBS teams to go above the number in all eight games this season. Please exceed 63.5 in Vanderbilt-Ole Miss.