College Football Week 9: Power Ratings, Betting Picks and Predictions for HUGE Ranked Matchups

I’m going to jam-pack everything into this single post: my updated power ratings, the betting lines and picks, and then finally the game predictions for the three most important games of the weekend:

  • (1) Tennessee at (3) Georgia
  • (6) Alabama at (10) LSU
  • (4) Clemson at Notre Dame

I’ll just say it right now: I think all three underdogs are going to win, or at least can win. But I will explain in greater detail shortly.

First up: the initial CFP rankings.

Tennessee at number one. That’s a bit of a surprise, but once you think about really what the CFP rankings are, it starts to make sense. They don’t care about the AP poll. They don’t care about the preseason rankings. They don’t take that stuff into account.

And if you just look at what Tennessee has done compared to everyone else, they’ve been the most impressive team thus far I would say. They have a win over Alabama, they went down to LSU and won big, they dominated Kentucky, they went on the road to beat a Pitt team that is solid–they have more quality wins than anybody else out there.

Ohio State I don’t think can be ranked #1 right now with how poorly their run game has been in recent weeks. Their passing attack is undeniably elite, and their offensive talent is second to none. And they do have a quality win over a good Penn State on the road, as well as a week one win over a team, Notre Dame, that was ranked #5 at the time. Once Notre Dame beats Clemson this weekend, Ohio State will get a bit more respect. But as for now, I just think Tennessee is more deserving of the top spot.

Georgia we know is a good team. They absolutely hammered Oregon 49-3 in week one. But I also think that that game was a little bit “fake” in a way. For one, it was basically a home game for Georgia as it was played in Atlanta. Second, it was head coach Dan Lanning’s first ever game as a head coach. Bo Nix was playing his first game for Oregon after transferring. New coaching regime, new system, new QB, all new everything–I just don’t think Oregon was ready for that game, and it showed.

I think if they played this weekend, Georgia would be favored by 14 or more, and deservedly so, and they’d probably cover that spread, too. But I don’t think it would be a 49-3 obliteration again. Georgia was just much more experienced, had much more continuity, and plus, Kirby Smart probably knew everything about what Dan Lanning was going to try to do on defense. However, Georgia gets credit for that win, for sure, and no one can deny that they are a top-tier team. If Georgia loses to Tennessee, though, they are probably not getting in to the playoff. They can’t coast off that Oregon win for much longer. On the flip side, if Georgia beats Tennessee this weekend, they automatically move up to #1. So if anything this is just fuel for them going into the weekend. The target is now on Tennessee’s back, even though Georgia is the defending National Champion.

As for Clemson, who comes in at #4, it was pretty much a tossup between them and Michigan. Clemson is probably fraudulent and overrated, as they really haven’t been all that impressive with a really easy schedule. Their three ranked wins are over Wake Forest, NC State and Syracuse. None of those teams are particularly good, and I have no idea how the committee still has Syracuse ranked after they just got donkey punched at home by Notre Dame.

But then you compare Clemson’s schedule to Michigan’s, and you probably have to give Clemson the nod. Clemson’s non-conference schedule has some cupcake games–Furman, Louisiana Tech–but they also have Notre Dame on the road this weekend. Michigan, on the other hand, deserves nothing but ridicule and slander for their nonconference schedule of Hawaii, Colorado State and UConn. That’s pathetic. They were supposed to play UCLA this year (and on the road next year), but in 2019, they paid $1.5 million to cancel those games, in favor of playing Hawaii at home this year and East Carolina at home next year. That is just pathetic, and they deserve to be docked for it.

Plus, Michigan hasn’t been all that impressive in any of their Big Ten conference games outside of Penn State. They were dominant against Penn State, but they’ve had close calls with Iowa, Maryland and Indiana. I don’t think Michigan has done enough to deserve a top-4 ranking. They have one quality win on the season, and Ohio State has already matched it. Now, Michigan will get to play #16 Illinois in three weeks, which is another chance for a quality win before the Ohio State game. Don’t just pencil that game in as a win for Michigan, though. Illinois is tough and they can stop the run. But Michigan is going to have to beat Ohio State to get into the playoff. There’s no two ways about it.

As for Alabama, they’re kind of the forgotten team right now after losing to Tennessee. But they’re very much alive right now. They have to beat LSU, who the committee generously put up at #10 to give Alabama a chance at a top-10 win, and then they have to play Ole Miss. But Alabama controls its own destiny. They win out, they go to the SEC Championship, and they will have either a chance at revenge against Tennessee, or a chance to take down a potentially top-ranked Georgia team. Alabama wins out and they are in the playoff, no doubt.

Then we have the TCU Horned Frogs sitting there at 7. They’re even more forgotten than Alabama. And unlike Alabama, TCU is undefeated. Granted, I don’t think there’s any way TCU would be favored over Alabama on a neutral field, so I think it’s fine for Bama to be ranked ahead of them.

But Joel Klatt brought up a great point about TCU vs. Clemson:

I get why Bama is ahead of TCU. But I don’t get why Clemson is, other than name brand recognition. And Klatt is 100% correct about Texas and Oklahoma compared to TCU. If either Texas or Oklahoma had TCU’s resume, they’d definitely be ranked inside of the top 4. No doubt in my mind.

One additional thing I want to add: there is absolutely a chance we see three SEC teams in the playoff this year. Say Georgia beats Tennessee close this weekend, Bama beats LSU close, and then, in the SEC Championship, Bama beats Georgia close. All three of the major SEC teams finish with one loss, and LSU, who is already up at #10, finishes with a respectable 3 losses, with 2 of them being to Tennessee and Bama.

Then imagine Oregon wins the Pac-12–the same Oregon team that got blasted 49-3 by Georgia to start the season.

If Tennessee losses a thriller to Georgia this weekend, in Athens, it comes down to the very end, Tennessee is not going to fall that far. They’re at #1 right now, they would not fall further than 5-6. Georgia moves up to #1, Ohio State stays at #2, Clemson moves up to #3, and Michigan takes over #4. Tennessee is sitting there at #5, Bama is still at #6, even though Bama would have a road win over #10 LSU, because Bama lost to Tennessee, and there’s no way you can have Bama ahead of Tennessee in the rankings just three weeks after Tennessee beat Bama head to head. Believe me, ESPN and the Committee probably would want to, but there’s no way you can do that. Especially with Tennessee already having beaten LSU, which kind of negates the credibility Bama would gain by beating LSU themselves.

Okay, so Tennessee is at #5, Bama is at #6. Tennessee then wins out, Bama then wins out, Georgia then wins out.

By the way, if Clemson loses this weekend to Notre Dame, three SEC teams are guaranteed in the playoff. Guaranteed, assuming Georgia beats Tennessee and Bama beats LSU.

Because then next week’s top four would be Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, and then probably Tennessee would stay in the top-4. Alabama would be sitting at #5, TCU at #6.

With Clemson out of the picture, it then just becomes the three SEC teams, plus Ohio State and Michigan, and obviously they play each other later in the month, so that will sort itself out there. Only one of them comes out of the Big Ten. Michigan does not have a good enough schedule to get into the playoff as a one-loss non-conference champ. Ohio State might if Notre Dame beats Clemson and keeps this turnaround of their season going, but probably not. So I’m pretty confident only one Big Ten team is getting in to the playoff.

Clemson is really the only team standing in the way of three SEC teams in the playoff. If Clemson goes 13-0, they’re getting in to the playoff, as suspect as they may be.

Assuming Ohio State and Michigan are each 11-0 when they play, and the winner of their game goes on to win the Big Ten Championship (likely over Illinois, but possibly Purdue), a Big Ten team is in to the playoff.

Then you’re still in a situation where two SEC teams make the playoff, which is kind of starting to become the default nowadays.

In fact, the only way two SEC teams don’t make the playoff is if Tennessee beats Georgia this weekend, and then beats Alabama again in the SEC Championship. And even then, there would still be an outside chance that Georgia gets in to the playoff as a one-loss non-SEC Champion, with their only loss being to this juggernaut Tennessee team that did the seemingly impossible and beat Bama twice and Georgia once in the same season.

TCU could throw a monkey wrench in the whole thing by going undefeated and winning the Big 12. At that point, they’re going to get the nod over a one loss, non-SEC Champ Georgia for the playoff, even though there will still be a compelling argument in Georgia’s favor over them (i.e. Vegas would probably have Georgia favored over TCU at a neutral site).

Now, let’s say Georgia and Bama both win this weekend. Tennessee then wins out but obviously misses the SEC Championship game. Georgia then beats Alabama in the SEC Championship, eliminating Bama from playoff consideration.

Clemson wins out and gets a spot, Ohio State/Michigan gets a spot, and then you have TCU sitting there as undefeated Big 12 Champs. The debate would then be between Tennessee and TCU. It would be tough, but are you confident the committee would leave one-loss Tennessee out in favor of TCU? I’m not. It’s very much possible TCU could go undefeated and get snubbed.

The three SEC team playoff would be averted if LSU beats Bama this weekend. If that happens, and Notre Dame beats Clemson, we’d probably be looking at a playoff of Georgia, Ohio State/Michigan, TCU and probably Tennessee.

The four team playoff is increasingly untenable. This whole thing just doesn’t work anymore. It’s broken.

Right now, I look at the rankings, and I see multiple deserving teams. There are more than four teams that deserve a chance to play for a National Championship. Georgia, Tennessee and Bama all are great teams. The only reason I am against them all making the playoff is because there’s only four spots.

But if there were 12 spots, I would absolutely be in favor of those three teams getting in. I’d have no problem with that. Ohio State and Michigan are both deserving teams this year. Clemson, if they go undefeated, would be deserving. TCU is deserving.

And then we haven’t even talked about the USC/UCLA/Utah/Oregon foursome out in the Pac 12. Utah beat USC, UCLA beat Utah, and Oregon beat UCLA already. Utah and Oregon play in a few weeks. USC and UCLA play in a few weeks.

There’s still a lot that has to be sorted out in the Pac-12, but what if UCLA beats USC, and then in the Pac 12 Championship game beats Oregon and gets revenge for that loss up in Eugene? Why would a one-loss UCLA team with wins over Utah, USC and Oregon be left out of the playoff? What if USC beats UCLA, and then beats Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship? Their only loss would be a razor-thin 43-42 road night game loss at Utah. Why do they get left out?

What if Oregon runs the table, wins the Pac 12, and their only loss on the season is way back in week 1, to Georgia, with everyone acknowledging that Oregon is much improved since then? I don’t see how they should be kept out.

If somebody gets out of the Pac 12 with only one loss, they should not just be discarded.

So this whole 4-team playoff model is broken.

The 12-team playoff format cannot come soon enough.

Week 9 Power Ratings

Here are the updated ratings after 8 weeks of action:

I’m surprised but Ohio State is really separating from the pack. They’re #1 in the nation in net points per game, #1 in net yards per play, #2 in net total yards per game–they’re basically top-5 in everything, at the very least top-10. The only category they are outside of the top-10 in is net rushing yards, which they’re #15 in. But in terms of net yards per carry, they still rank #3 in the nation even after two terrible rushing performances against Penn State and Iowa.

After the Penn State game, Ohio State’s strength of schedule jumped up. And with Notre Dame looking better each week, that also helps the cause for Ohio State.

One additional thing I wanted to add: South Carolina was ranked last week. They were ranked #25. I have them as the 59th best team in the country.

It is an absolute joke that they were ranked in the top-25.

One last thing I want to include here is my own strength of schedule rankings. I just take a team’s opponents and average out their power rating.

Here’s what I have. I’ve only done the top-7 teams but maybe in the coming weeks I’ll do more teams. The higher the number the better, or tougher your schedule:

Alabama has played the toughest schedule of the top-7 teams, apparently. They have played some bad teams (Utah State, UL-Monroe and Vanderbilt) but they’ve played two teams with power ratings over 100: Tennessee and Texas. Now, the obvious caveat is that Bama is the only one of these teams with a loss, but perhaps it’s a bit more forgivable given that they’ve played a tougher schedule than any of the other top teams.

Ohio State is just narrowly behind Alabama, which is kind of a surprise, but the difference is that Ohio State just hasn’t really played any truly terrible teams. The worst team they’ve played is Arkansas State, but they’re nowhere close to as bad as some of the cupcakes other teams have played. For example, Georgia played Samford, Clemson has played Furman, Louisiana Tech, Georgia Tech and Boston College. What helps Ohio State is that they have played and beat three teams that I have in the top-30: Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Penn State. Toledo even ranks pretty darn high for being a MAC team–I have Toledo as the 57th ranked team in the country, which is even ahead of Iowa, Michigan State and Rutgers.

Tennessee comes in third. They’ve obviously played Alabama, but also LSU. But they have bad teams like Akron, UT-Martin and Ball State on their schedule as well.

Michigan comes in 7th place in strength of schedule. They really get knocked for playing such a pathetic non-conference schedule: Colorado State, Hawaii and Utah. Penn State and Maryland are the best teams Michigan has played, but outside of them it’s a bunch of badness.

(6) Alabama at (10) LSU, 7pm EST (Bama -13.5, o/u 58)

That line is giving Bama a ton of respect. They’re implying a final score of 36-22 Bama.

My own power ratings have Bama 21.5 points better than LSU on a neutral field, but at LSU I have Bama as a 14.5 point favorite. So I’m pretty close to what Vegas has for this game.

You know my thoughts on Alabama. I think they’re fraudulent and are lucky they don’t have 3 losses right now.

The jury is still out for me on whether Nick Saban has fallen off as a head coach, but I’ll just say, if they lose to LSU on Saturday night, I think the answer is yes.

They have no real superstars on offense outside of Bryce Young, and he’s basically their entire team. He carries them.

They need him to play out-of-his-mind good in order to have a chance against good teams.

LSU qualifies as a good team. So in order for Bama to win this game, they will need Bryce Young to be playing out of his mind. They need him to look like Mahomes out there.

I found this a bit alarming, though:

So they’re not quite as bad as Ohio State running the ball, but they are bad.

But then again, why do we actually think LSU is good?

I guess just the Ole Miss win. They were down 17-3, and then came back to win 45-20. That’s very impressive, but I also don’t know how good a team Ole Miss actually is. They’ve been ranked highly all year, and they still are ranked highly, but I don’t know how good they truly are.

They lost to Florida State in week one. It was close, and they lost on a fluky blocked extra point at the very end of the game, but it was still a loss. And Florida State isn’t really all that great.

I’m starting to talk myself into Bama for this game. There’s a reason they’re favored by 13.5 on the road. Vegas knows something.

It would be difficult to imagine Brian Kelly coming down to LSU and beating Saban on his first try as coach of LSU. While he was at Notre Dame, Kelly went up against Saban twice: in the 2012 National Championship (Bama won 42-14) and in the 2020 Playoff (Bama won 31-14).

But it’s all different now with Kelly at LSU. Saban’s Bama team right now is not nearly as good as it was in 2020 and in 2012–those were some juggernaut teams. This Bama team is not a juggernaut.

And my dilemma with Bama is similar to my dilemma with Ohio State: during the week, I believe in both those teams. I’m sold on them. But then I watch them play on Saturdays, and I don’t like a lot of what I see. Bama it’s been throughout the season, Ohio State it’s been more in the past two weeks.

So I’m starting to talk myself into Bama as the week progresses.

And yet, Bama has not looked good on the road this season. Their defense got shredded on the road by Tennessee, and they just barely beat Texas on the road when Texas was missing Ewers for 3/4 of the game.

Let’s dive in to the main stats now:

It’s a clean sweep for Alabama. They’re better on offense and defense, and it’s not really that close.

It’s not looking very good for LSU here.

You can’t really make an argument for them based off the stats, at least at a surface level.

But I would just say that perhaps, based on the tweet above, Alabama’s rushing offense is illusory. Against run defenses with a pulse, they don’t really get much going.

But LSU has the 78th ranked run defense.

And so Alabama should be able to run the ball decently well against this LSU defense.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how LSU is ranked in the top-10. Probably SEC bias, and to give Alabama a boost. It’s the same reason Texas is still ranked in the top-25 despite having three losses–a ranked win for Bama!

LSU really only has that one quality win over Ole Miss, who was ranked #7 at the time.

But then again, why was Ole Miss ranked #7? How did they get up so high? Well, they started off ranked, and that’s about it. Their best win was a 22-19 home win over Kentucky, the same Kentucky team that lost 44-6 to Tennessee. Ole Miss’ other wins are over Troy, Central Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Tulsa, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Texas A&M. And they were kind of in a dog fight with Auburn, too. We know Auburn is not a good team. Ole Miss also barely beat A&M.

The only way to really make an argument for LSU is to say they turned a corner when they came back and beat Ole Miss, but Ole Miss hadn’t really done anything to prove they were a good team. Sure, LSU exposed them as frauds, but that doesn’t mean LSU is some great team or anything.

But here’s the way I see it: it’s really tough to win games down there in Baton Rouge. And LSU always tends to play Bama tough no matter what (most of the time at least).

Last year, a pretty bad LSU team went into Tuscaloosa and lost 20-14.

LSU is better this year than they were last year, and Bama is worse than they were last season. The game is in Baton Rouge, Bama has not been good on the road, and overall, I just think Bama is vulnerable.

Brian Kelly is hungry for his signature win at LSU to announce his arrival in the SEC, and he’s going to have his team ready to play in this game. I feel like he’s had this game circled all year now. This is probably the best chance he’s ever had to beat Nick Saban, and I doubt he’s going to take it for granted.

The game for LSU is all on Jayden Daniels. He’s completing 70% of his passes, and he’s run for 524 yards and 9 TDs on the season. The dude is a playmaker. Anytime the pocket breaks down, he’s outta there and scrambling for big yards. I swear he was the only reason that game against Florida State was even close.

He’s not Bryce Young or anything, of course, but he can make some plays. It’s going to be imperative that he scrambles for big, big yards in this game and picks up a bunch of first downs with his legs to keep drives alive.

If at the end of the night on Saturday LSU has won this game, it will be because Jayden Daniels had a great game.

I think LSU is going to win for some reason. I don’t have any real data to back that up. The only things I can point to are Bama’s multiple close calls this years and their vulnerability on the road.

As for a final score, I’m going to say 27-26 LSU. This one will go right down to the wire.

I just have a feeling.

(1) Tennessee at (3) Georgia, 3:30pm EST (UGA -8, o/u 66)

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: The biggest game of the year to date, surpassing Tennessee vs. Alabama. You’ve got the #1 team in the CFP rankings, Tennessee, and the #1 team in the AP Poll, Georgia. I think I saw on ESPN that this has never happened before in the CFP era.

It’s not quite to the level of the 2019 Bama vs. LSU “Game of the Century II.” I mean you had the President of the United States in attendance for that game.

This is a big game, but not quite up to the “Game of the Century” billing. We all believe Tennessee is really, really good, but there’s still some hesitation with them, I think, because they’ve been bad for so long. Like, are they really, really for real? Are they completely, all the way back and here to stay?

We’re going to find out on Saturday afternoon.

Vegas is implying a 37-29 Georgia win in this one.

I really don’t know how to read this one. My initial thought was that Tennessee would win in a blowout. If Tennessee could hang 52 on Alabama, and the only reason Bama was in that game was due to the Herculean efforts of Bryce Young, I figured there’s no way Georgia could keep up with Tennessee. Stetson Bennett is no Bryce Young.

And then I started looking in the other direction: what if Georgia actually blows out Tennessee? I think, and have thought since about week 2, that Georgia is a better team than Alabama. Georgia is playing at home. And Georgia has a better secondary than Alabama does.

I think whoever wins this game wins in a blowout.

Georgia only allows 5.65 yards per passing attempt on defense. Alabama this year allows 5.78, which is pretty close, but Alabama has also played Tennessee and allowed 12.4 yards per passing attempt to the Vols. So Bama’s good passing defensive numbers are more of a reflection of the fact that they just haven’t played any good passing offenses other than Tennessee. Utah State, Texas without Ewers, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Texas A&M, ULM–those are some bad passing offenses. Mississippi State is the only other team Bama has played this year besides Tennessee that can throw the ball close to competently. But even MSU, which is 10th in passing yards per game, is still wildly inefficient throwing the ball: they may average 321 passing yards a game, but they do it on 48 attempts, or 6.65 yards per attempt. That’s not good at all.

We may all be in agreement that Georgia has had an easy schedule, but that’s not entirely true. We can’t just forget about that Oregon game from week 1. I know we all believe Oregon is much improved since then, and Georgia has not looked as good in any game since then, including matchups against teams like Mizzou and even Kent State, but the game still happened. We can’t just act like it didn’t happen.

Georgia absolutely dominated Oregon in that game. Bo Nix this year looks better than ever, he’s out there throwing laser beams all over the field. I’m extremely impressed with his development as a passer since transferring to Oregon.

But Georgia absolutely shut him down in week 1. 21 of 37 passing for just 173 yards, no TDs and 2 INTs. That’s 4.67 yards per attempt. Right now, Bo Nix is 14th in the nation in passing yards per attempt at 8.9. He’s 7th in the nation in passer rating. He’s completing over 72% of his passes, which is 5th best in the country right now.

I know a lot of people wrote him off after he transferred out of Auburn (looks like a smart move now, doesn’t it?), and then after Georgia just absolutely dicked Oregon in week 1. But Bo Nix has really bounced back in a major way as a passer.

Georgia just made him look bad. He’s not bad at all. In fact he’s a really good quarterback–that’s not even an opinion, it’s just an undeniable fact at this point.

But he was bad against Georgia.

Look, I know that game was a long time ago, and Oregon may not have been playing anywhere near their best, but it’s really all we have to go off of in terms of trying to answer the question, “How will Georgia fare against Tennessee’s passing attack?” We can only really look at the Oregon game, and in that game, Georgia did great against the Oregon passing attack.

Statistically, Oregon is a top-5 offense in the country right now, and Georgia held them to just 3 points. That has to count for something, doesn’t it? I can’t just ignore that and say “Oregon is a different team now.”

They are, but that game still happened.

And here’s the thing about that game: Georgia didn’t sack Nix once. Not once. Oregon has a really good offensive line, actually, and they allowed no sacks. Not even one QB hurry, either, according to ESPN.

So that tells me the Georgia secondary is really good, because Oregon was forced to abandon the run pretty early in that game, and they still couldn’t get anything going in the passing game.

Now, a big issue for Georgia is that their top edge rusher, OLB Nolan Smith, is out for the season with a torn pec. He is currently the team leader in both sacks and TFLs for Georgia, and they’re not going to have him again this season. That’s a big loss for them.

Given that it is Georgia, and they have an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent, I’m sure they’ll just plug in some 18 or 19 year old freak athlete and keep going. But it’s still a big loss for a Georgia team that doesn’t really have an elite pass rush.

In fact, you could even say it’s pretty bad: Georgia ranks 117th in the country in sacks per game. (Side note: what is with these elite teams and just having massive, glaring deficiencies in certain areas? Georgia is abysmal rushing the passer, Ohio State literally can’t run the football, Alabama can’t run the football against decent teams, etc.)

So an already weak pass rush just got weaker. And that means Hendon Hooker will have a lot of time to throw the ball. He had a clean pocket most of the time against Alabama, to the point where I was wondering if Will Anderson even played in that game. He did, Tennessee just neutralized him.

I am a bit worried for Georgia from this perspective. I just don’t think you can give Hendon Hooker a clean pocket for 3-5 seconds consistently and hope to contain him.

Georgia is good-not-great against the run, allowing 3.2 yards per carry and just 85.5 rushing yards per game. Given the weakness of their competition, you’d like to see those numbers a little better (just 18th in the nation in YPC allowed), so I do think Tennessee will be able to run the ball fairly well. Tennessee is a running team. People think of them as a pass-happy offense, but they really aren’t. They rank 67th in the nation in passing attempts per game with 31.4.

Tennessee runs the ball way more than they throw it. 43.4 rushing attempts per game, 16th most in the nation. Even against Alabama, Tennessee was pretty balanced: 31 rushing attempts, 35 passing attempts. And they ran the ball well against Bama, too: 39 carries for 182 yards and 2 TDs.

Georgia actually throws the ball more than Tennessee does. Georgia ranks 22nd in pass attempts per game at 37.6. I was surprised to learn that because the perception is that Georgia just runs the ball all the time, while Tennessee throws it on every play. But Georgia ranks 72nd in rushing attempts per game with 35.8.

Now, when Georgia does run the ball, they’re efficient. They average 5.7 yards per carry.

Tennessee’s defense is strongest against the run, but Georgia really doesn’t run the ball a whole lot.

Where Tennessee’s defense is susceptible is against the pass.

This is a strength vs. strength matchup in most categories, but the one big mismatch that I see is Georgia’s passing attack vs. the Tennessee passing defense:

Georgia’s run defense against Tennessee’s running game is a slight mismatch in favor of Georgia, but the real mismatch here is against Tennessee’s passing defense. They’ve been susceptible, and Georgia is surprisingly efficient passing the ball.

Now, I just wonder how much of that is “real,” though. What I mean is, I feel like I don’t see Georgia throwing the ball deep down the field all the time. I don’t see them as having this prolific, high-flying passing attack like Tennessee or Ohio State.

When I watch Georgia, I feel like they just dump it off to Brock Bowers 10x a game and he does all the work. Brock Bowers is an absolute stud at tight end for Georgia; I feel like their entire offense is just getting the ball to him in space and letting him run downfield. Short passes that turn into big passing plays due to Bowers’ ability to gain YAC.

In other words, it feels like Georgia’s passing offense is more of an extension of the run game–screens, dump-offs, etc.

I can’t find stats for ADOT (average depth of target) or air yards for college football (the NFL has way more robust statistical data), but I would wager Georgia’s ADOT and air yards figures are pretty low, while Tennessee’s are super high (a lot of deep passes).

I don’t know how much this distinction really matters, but it is worth pointing out. When we talk about Tennessee being weak against the pass, what we think of is them having a poor secondary. You know: getting burned deep, not being able to cover receivers, etc.

And then we see Georgia’s passing offense ranked highly in efficiency, and we think Stetson Bennett is just going to shred Tennessee’s secondary and pick them apart. But I don’t know how accurate that assessment really is because, just based on what I’ve seen of Georgia, they are not a prolific down-field passing attack, they are more of a short pass turns into yards after catch sort of team.

I don’t know if this means Tennessee will have better success against the Georgia passing attack. The key will be to play sideline-to-sideline, seal off edges and not let guys get around the corner and get up field.

When you can run the ball well, you will force the defense to gravitate towards the box and load up against the run. And then, that’s when you hit them with the screen pass to the outside. If the defense is gravitating towards the box, then you can throw a quick bubble screen to the sideline, and the defense will be forced to run a further distance from where they started. Normally, you can throw a pass to a receiver on the sideline faster than the defense can turn and run to him. That’s why these screen plays work so well against loaded boxes, typically (although not for Ohio State this past weekend).

But regardless, it’s going to be a different type of challenge for the Tennessee secondary against Georgia. Stetson Bennett is not capable of doing to Tennessee’s defense what Bryce Young did. Bryce is just a far better downfield thrower.

This might be good news for Tennessee in that they’re not going to be facing a Bama-style passing attack. But they are going to have their hands full with Bowers and McConkey running in space. Nobody has really been able to stop Brock Bowers thus far, and it’s going to be a tall order for Tennessee. I can just see it now: Bowers catching a bubble screen, making a man miss, and then rumbling 20-30 yards to the endzone. Once Bowers gets momentum and gets out into the open field, it’s really hard to stop him.

I’m beating around the bush here. I’ve got to really get down to business here: Tennessee is going to win. I wrote about this game a few weeks ago and I said I thought Tennessee had a legitimate chance. Now that the game is almost here, I’m picking them to win.

I know Georgia will be playing at home, and I don’t want to underestimate that. It is really, really hard to win games on the road in college football, period.

But I just don’t think Georgia is built to beat a team like Tennessee.

Here’s what swayed me on this game: since 2017, the first year the Dawgs were really good under Kirby Smart, they are just 1-8 in games where they allow more than 30 points to their opponent.

That’s crazy, isn’t it?

Take a look:

  • 2021, vs. Alabama, SEC championship: L, 41-24
  • 2020, vs. Florida (Neutral site in Jacksonville): L, 44-28
  • 2020, at Bama: L, 41-24
  • 2019, vs. LSU, SEC Championship: L, 37-10
  • 2018, at LSU: L, 36-16
  • 2018, vs. Alabama, SEC Championship: L, 35-28
  • 2017, at Auburn: L, 40-17
  • 2017, vs. Oklahoma, CFP Rose Bowl: W, 54-48 double OT

Only 1-8 in games where they allow 30 or more points to their opponent. 

And most games are not close at all. Most of the time they get blown out if they allow 30+ points. They can’t keep up. They’re not built to roar back from these large deficits. 

The only exception was that playoff game against Oklahoma in 2017. Georgia fell behind 31-14 in the first half in that game and still came back to win in double overtime. The reason is because Oklahoma had no ability whatsoever to stop the Georgia run game. Georgia ran for 317 yards on 34 attempts. That’s ridiculous. That’s almost 10 yards per carry on average as a team. Nick Chubb had 14 carries for 145 (10.4ypc) and Sony Michel had 11 carries for 181 yards (16.5ypc).

Tennessee’s defense may be a bit shaky, but it’s not that shaky. Tennessee is not going to allow 10 yards per carry on the ground.

Now, another thing you’ll notice is that none of those 9 games above I listed off were at home. They were all either on the road or at neutral sites.

Georgia does not let up many points at home.

Most points allowed at home by Georgia, since 2017:

  • 2022: 22 points to Kent State (!)
  • 2021: 13 points to both Kentucky (won 30-13) and South Carolina (won 40-13)
  • 2020: 24 points to Mississipi State (won 31-24)
  • 2019: 20 points to South Carolina (lost the game 20-17)
  • 2018: 27 points to UMass (won 66-27)
  • 2017: 28 points to Mizzou (won 53-28)

Georgia has not lost a home game since 2019, the South Carolina game. In fact, if you exclude Kirby’s first year at Georgia, 2016, that’s the only home game Georgia has lost.

One home loss in 6 seasons for Georgia.

Nobody has scored more than 30 on them at home in 6 years.

So it’s a very daunting task Tennessee to go in there, score 30+ points and get the win.

I would not be surprised if Georgia wins this game. There’s a lot of data that points to them winning this game.

But I also don’t see how they hold Tennessee under 30 points. And if Tennessee gets 30+ points, they are going to win the game. This Georgia team is not equipped to claw back from a big deficit; they’re not built for shootouts.

They will not be able to get pressure on Hendon Hooker, and so even if they are able to limit the big downfield plays, he’ll just pick them apart underneath. Tennessee is capable of playing that type of game; I don’t think they have to rely on the deep ball in order to score. I think they’ll be able to move the ball methodically if they need to.

I’m taking Tennessee to win this game 41-31.

Tennessee will be able to score points, and Georgia won’t be able to keep up.

(4) Clemson at Notre Dame, 7:30pm EST (Clemson -3.5, o/u 44)

Clemson continues to fly under the radar. They’ve somehow snuck into the top-4 to put themselves into playoff position even though it’s hard to argue they’re deserving of their ranking. It feels like being #4 is a product of name brand recognition alone.

Vegas is implying about a 24-20 Clemson win in this game, and I agree that it will be low scoring.

Let’s look at the numbers:

It’s not like these are two strong defenses. It’s more like these teams are just bad on offense. Clemson is good, not great on defense, while Notre Dame is pretty middling.

But these offenses just aren’t good.

My case for Notre Dame here is straightforward: they started off ranked #5, lost their first game of the year to a really good Ohio State team, and then lost the following week at home to Marshall. Everyone wrote Notre Dame off after that–forgot about them.

This is just my guess, but Notre Dame probably put all their eggs in that Ohio State basket. Marcus Freeman is an Ohio State alum, played linebacker there in the 2000s, and he was obsessed with winning that game. When they didn’t, I think it was a huge emotional let down for that team. Marcus Freeman was only in his second game as head coach, and I think they were just really deflated after losing to Ohio State. They did not come ready to play the next week against Marshall. Plus, in that game, they lost their starting QB Tyler Buchner for the season.

It looks like Notre Dame is much improved nowadays. Sure, they have a really ugly loss at home to Stanford, and it really showed just how anemic their offense is. So that’s a legitimate concern.

But Notre Dame was able to go on the road and take care of Syracuse by multiple scores last weekend. That’s a Syracuse team that took Clemson down to the wire at Clemson.

Clemson has been cruisin’ for a bruisin’ for a while now. They should’ve lost to Wake Forest. They let Florida State back in and almost blew that game.

Clemson has not looked great this season.

In week 1, they played Georgia Tech. They ultimatley won 41-10, but that game was just 17-10 Clemson midway through the third quarter. Two weeks later, they played Louisiana Tech and were only up 13-6 at halftime before ultimately winning 48-20.

They were in a close one with a mediocre NC State team, they were only up 10-3 at halftime before pulling away to win 31-3 against a bad Boston College team.

Somebody’s going to beat Clemson one of these days. Why not Notre Dame this weekend in South Bend?

I have the Irish winning 23-20. It’s going to be close, it’s going to be low-scoring; I’m giving the advantage of the home team.

The Michigan-Michigan State Brawl

I want to preface this by saying that in no way am I condoning what the Michigan State players did. They straight up jumped that Michigan player, they were beating the hell out of him like 20 on 1. It was messed up.

But there’s video of that Michigan player running up with the Michigan State players as they headed to the locker room. He was instigating them. He was absolutely asking for it.

And why were the Michigan State players so pissed off and on edge? Because they lost, first and foremost–lost big.

But it’s also because of something we see time and again: Jim Harbaugh running up the score.

He is the king of doing it, he’s a total scumbag for it, and nobody ever talks about it.

He always does it whenever he gets the chance.

Last year in the Big Ten Championship against Iowa, Michigan went into the 4th quarter up 21-3.

They won the game 42-3.

Iowa was doing nothing on offense. You can’t tell me Harbaugh was afraid of Spencer Petras leading a massive comeback.

He ran up the score in that game. No two ways about it. Look at how Michigan scored their final touchdown, with a minute and 25 seconds left to play:

Three pass plays, up 35-3. Harbaugh was throwing the ball on first down.

He’s a total scumbag for that. And he does it all the time–every time he can, in fact.

And he was throwing the ball at the end of that Michigan State game, too, while up big:

Look at that. Multiple pass attempts on that last drive of the game, up 29-7.

That’s low. That’s scumbag shit right there.

This is why everyone that’s not a Michigan fan hates Michigan. There is no being indifferent towards Michigan. You are either a die hard fan or you hate their guts.

Nobody is neutral on Michigan. Nobody kind of likes them, or kind of dislikes them. If you are not a Michigan fan, you straight-up despise them.

I’m saying this as an Iowa alum; I grew up in Big Ten country, I know lots of people that went to other Big Ten schools. I know the Big Ten extremely well.

Everyone hates Michigan. Most of my friends from Iowa hate Michigan the most out of all the Big Ten schools.

A lot of people hate Ohio State, but not like they hate Michigan. There’s a general sense of respect in the Big Ten, I think, for Ohio State, where it’s like most other schools understand that Ohio State is just on a different level altogether.

With Michigan, it’s not like that. Michigan is closer to everyone else. They’re way more beatable than Ohio State.

And yet they act like they’re above you. They act even more arrogant and snobby than Ohio State, honestly. There’s just an air of entitled douchey arrogance with Michigan. They think they invented football or something. They look down on everybody.

People look at them like, “You’re not even that good, why are you so condescending?”

And then you have all the media talking heads who are hardcore Michigan partisans. Compare Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN’s Ohio State partisan, to Desmond Howard, ESPN’s Michigan partisan.

Herbie goes out of his way to act like he’s not biased in favor of Ohio State. He never tries to say anything good about them because he doesn’t want to come off as a homer. If you didn’t know Herbie went to Ohio State, you would never guess, would you? For crying out loud, his son Zak is on the Ohio State team right now. And yet he never shows favoritism towards Ohio State at all.

Desmond Howard, on the other hand, doesn’t even try to hide his Michigan homerism.

Next time you watch College GameDay, look out for this. Try to spot any hints of Herbie showing favoritism to Ohio State, and then take note of how Desmond talks about Michigan. You’ll spot the difference easily.

Again, this is not to say the Michigan State players were justified. Not at all. Just because someone is an arrogant douchebag doesn’t mean they deserve to get jumped by 20 guys.

But Michigan brings this out of people. This is the effect they have on everyone else.

The worst part is, they probably tell themselves, “It’s because they’re all jealous of us.”

No, it’s not. It’s because you’re condescending douchebags.

Michigan thinks they’re Alabama. They think they’re the premier program in college football.

I don’t know how or why they think this, but they do. Most Michigan fans truly believe it’s still the 1930s, which is the last time they were truly the gold standard of college football. It’s incredible.

A program that did the vast majority of its winning pre-World War II has somehow maintained the delusion that it is the envy of the nation.

Michigan is 4-16 against Ohio State since 2000, and yet they still think they run the Big Ten. Can you imagine just how delusion you have to be to go 4-16 against your main rival and still think you’re above not only them but everybody else?

Ohio State has 2 National Championships since 2002, and over that same span they’ve lost to Michigan 3 times. Up until last year, Ohio State had as many National Championships since 2002 as they had losses to Michigan.

And yet somehow Michigan still thinks they’re on Alabama’s level. It’s insane how delusionally arrogant they are.

Obviously that “fight” was terrible, it should not have happened, and those Michigan State players should be in big trouble. I think Mel Tucker needs to impose some discipline on his team. But that Michigan player was just asking for it the way he ran up to the Michigan State players and started chirping them.

And given the way Michigan treats everyone else, it’s no surprise that happened. Michigan brings that out of people.

Betting Picks

First, let’s look at last week’s picks:

There were a lot of high confidence picks (defined as when my power ratings believe the favorite to be 10 or more points better than the Vegas spread–so if Vegas has Tennessee favored by 12.5 over Kentucky, but my power ratings think Tennessee should be favored by 25, that’s a difference of 12.5 more than the spread, so that’s a high confidence bet).

The power ratings advised basically just hammering all the favorites. Had you done so, you would’ve gone 7-5, and it would have been 8-4 had Michigan just converted one more of those red zone trips into a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal. Jake Moody kicked 5 field goals in that game and they still won by 22, but did not cover the 23 point spread. So that’s a tough beat.

The low confidence picks hit, both of them. Penn State just barely covered the 15 point spread against Ohio State. For most of the game it looked like Penn State was going to cover for sure, but then Ohio State went on that run in the 4th quarter and it looked to be in doubt, as Ohio State went from being down 5 to up 20 in a span of about six minutes. Penn State was ultimately able to secure the back-door cover with that late garbage time TD drive. What a roller coaster that was.

And then the Medium confidence picks went 1-1. Louisville won by 27 as a 3.5 point dog thanks to EIGHT second half turnovers by Wake Forest, including SIX in just one quarter. Getting six possessions in a quarter is itself a crazy occurrence, but turning the ball over 6 times in one quarter is unheard of. College football is nuts.

Bad beat for anyone who had Georgia -22.5. They ended up winning by 22. If you were able to get Georgia without the hook, you pushed, but that should have been an easy bet win regardless. Georgia was up 28-3 at halftime, but then at one point Florida stormed back and made it 28-20. Georgia then woke up and pulled away, but not quite by enough.

Overall, my picks went 10-6 on the week, although I advise people not to take the low confidence games usually. I include them just to show you that you should probably stay away, because my power ratings don’t really show much of a mispricing in that particular game. We’re looking for big mispricings here, and when there isn’t one, the recommendation is to stay away.

So that brings the total gambling pick record to 38-32-1 on the season (dating back to week 5). If you include only the high confidence picks, it’s a solid 22-13, or a 63% win rate. Not too shabby for FREE picks:

We’re giving out free money over here at Fade the Public. These gambling picks for college football are hitting at a 63% clip, so we will see if we can stay hot in week 9.

Here are the picks for this week:

This post is getting really long.

That’ll be all for this week.

Looking forward to Saturday.

Enjoy the incredible slate of games and make yourself some money while you’re at it, will ya?

One thought on “College Football Week 9: Power Ratings, Betting Picks and Predictions for HUGE Ranked Matchups

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