This would be the perfect season for a 12-team College Football Playoff. There's a lot of hand-wringing about an expanded playoff field -- with considerable worry that it will devalue this sport's regular season -- but a four-team playoff seems like a disservice when the potential field is so loaded.
There are eight teams that can make a real case for the playoff, and plenty on the fringe that would be worthy of a spot if one or two breaks go their way. Conference championship weekend could -- and in all likelihood will -- create an absolute nightmare scenario for the selection committee. Georgia looks like the only team you could bet the house on making it at this point. The Bulldogs should wrap up their third-straight 12-0 regular season and, in that event, could afford a loss in the SEC Championship Game.
Everything else is up in the air. Washington, Florida State, Michigan and Ohio State all remain undefeated. The Seminoles likely lost Jordan Travis for the year against North Alabama, which severely hinders their outlook, but they have a better strength of record than Texas, Georgia and Alabama to this point. Michigan and Ohio State have to play each other to conclude the regular season, so at least one of them is guaranteed a loss. Even then, both the Wolverines and the Buckeyes have enough talent and sufficient coaching to push for a national title if given the opportunity.
What about surging teams like Louisville? The Cardinals could finish the year 12-1 with a win against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. Meanwhile Oregon has played as well as any team in the nation since its loss to Washington. It could avenge that loss in the Pac-12 Championship Game and present a situation where both are 12-1.
We could sit here all night and present teams that deserve a shot on the playoff stage, running through various hypotheticals that create a messy logjam in the four-team CFP model. Why wait a year? Let's get this 12-team party started in a season that so richly deserves it.
Carson Beck will be a Heisman finalist in 2024
That is, if he actually comes back for another year. With the way Beck has played over the past few weeks with Georgia, he's starting to garner some hype as a legitimate option in the 2024 NFL Draft. It's not hard to see why.
The 6-foot-4 and 220-pound Beck has ideal size for the position with a huge arm and an underrated ability to make plays with his legs. He rushed for a few first downs in Saturday's 38-10 win against Tennessee while also cerebrally picking apart the Vols' secondary with 24 completions on 30 attempts for 298 yards and three touchdowns.
Beck averaged 312 passing yards in Georgia's last four games against ranked opponents, and throwing for 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions in that span. He has thrown for at 250 yards in all 11 of Georgia's games this season. If he comes back and maintains that type of production, there's no doubt he'll be positioned for a Heisman Trophy run.
Lincoln Riley doesn't belong on the hot seat -- yet
The takes were flying on social media after USC's 38-20 loss to UCLA Saturday. The general consensus, from this writer's understanding, is that fans around Los Angeles are already quite over the Lincoln Riley era. Some major pundits were even throwing around hot-seat talk.
All of this seems awful early. There's no denying that this season was mostly an embarrassment. Any team that wins just one game over the last six weeks after starting the year 6-0 deserves plenty of criticism. It's also fair to question Riley's faith in certain members of his staff, and his hesitancy to make moves -- like firing defensive coordinator Alex Grinch -- before it was ay too late to have any sort of meaningful impact. Largely wasting a talent like Caleb Williams counts as another strike.
But smart money says that Riley has a rebound in him. He's won at least 10 games in five of his seven years as a head coach. He shouldn't have any trouble continuing to attract talent to Los Angeles, a place that does a good job of selling itself. It is fair to say this pending defensive coordinator hire could define the rest of his tenure. But placing him anywhere close to a hot seat is premature.
It's time for Tennessee to make a major change
There is no upside to playing Joe Milton at quarterback anymore. It's not like he elevates this team's ceiling. The Vols have seen serious regression in their passing attack, and there isn't much left to play for with a 7-4 record and no wins against ranked opponents. Milton's in his sixth year. At this point, he is what he is.
The Vols would gain from getting freshman phenom Nico Iamaleava -- the No. 2 overall prospect from the class of 2023 -- some meaningful playing time. There's no excuse not to, frankly. He still has one game remaining before he loses his redshirt. That means he could play in a fairly low-pressure situation against Vanderbilt and in Tennessee's bowl game (the postseason doesn't count towards a player's redshirt total) without this year counting against his eligibility.
Give him a chance to build steam towards 2024 -- when he's expected to be Tennessee's full-time starter -- and give Vol fans a reason to be excited about the future after an overall disappointing 2023 outing.
David Braun is Big Ten Coach of the Year
And he should be in the running for national coach of the year. Comparatively speaking, he's done as good a job as any coach in the nation. Northwestern won four games total from 2021-22. Pat Fitzgerald, the program's all-time winningest coach, was fired just under two months before the season began after reports of a hazing scandal rocked the program. Now the Wildcats are eligible for a bowl with one game remaining in the regular season.
Northwestern, which entered the year with preseason win totals as low as 2.5, boast the largest win improvement in the nation after advancing to 6-5 with Saturday's 23-15 win against Purdue. Fittingly, Northwestern removed Braun's interim title three days ago and officially tabbed him as Fitzgerald's successor.
Braun's work this season is made even more impressive given his rapid ascension. Prior to 2023, he had never coached at the FBS level. He was hired as Northwestern's defensive coordinator in January after four seasons in the same position at North Dakota State. He made the jump to the FCS level in 2015 as the defensive line coach at UC Davis. Given the circumstances at play entering the year, it seemed improbable that Northwestern would so much as sniff at the postseason. Yet here it is.