There's plenty to keep an eye on as Week 9 of the 2023 college football season kicks off. Here's what you need to know as the season rolls into October.
Bo Nix can jump back into the Heisman race
Bo Nix can have a Heisman moment on Saturday. The No. 8 Ducks head to No. 13 Utah in the marquee game of the day. The matchup may be both an elimination game for the Pac-12 title and a College Football Playoff spot and is the perfect chance for Nix to throw his name back into the Heisman mix. The Oregon QB is completing over 78% of his passes and has thrown 19 TDs to just one interception. While he undoubtedly would like a couple fourth-down throws back, Nix didn’t back down in the Ducks’ loss to Washington. If he throws for 337 yards and 2 TDs against Utah like he did against Washington, you have to like Oregon’s chances of getting a road win.
Can Kansas pull the upset with a backup QB?
Kansas would be a trendy upset pick if QB Jalon Daniels was playing on Saturday against No. 6 Oklahoma. But Daniels is reportedly out because of a back problem once again and backup QB Jason Bean is in line to make his fifth start of the season. Bean has been perfectly serviceable as Kansas’ primary QB this season and is averaging nearly 10 yards an attempt. But Kansas would be less than the 10-point underdog it is if Daniels was on the field. A win for the Jayhawks would also get KU bowl eligible for the second straight season.
Georgia’s first test without Brock Bowers
No. 1 Georgia is still a 14.5-point favorite without one of the best offensive players in college football. But we’re still fascinated to see how the Georgia offense operates in Brock Bowers’ absence. The tight end may be out the rest of the regular season after sustaining a high-ankle sprain against Vanderbilt. Someone needs to step up in his absence. WR Dominic Lovett is the only other Bulldog with more than 18 catches this season and he’s averaging just nine yards a grab.
How much will Arch Manning play?
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian announced Thursday that Maalik Murphy would start at QB in Quinn Ewers’ absence against BYU. Ewers is week-to-week after suffering a sprained right AC joint in the No. 7 Longhorns’ win over Houston in Week 8. Both Murphy and five-star freshman Arch Manning got snaps during practice this week and Sarkisian declined to reveal just how much Manning would play, if at all. We’re betting he’s in for a series or two and makes the first pass attempt of his career.
Washington’s offense looks for a get-right game
We’re not going to hold the No. 5 Huskies’ lackluster offensive performance against Arizona State against them unless the turnover woes continue against Stanford. Washington didn’t score a TD and QB Michael Penix Jr. had four turnovers in a rainy 15-7 win over the Sun Devils. Stanford is a great opponent for Washington to get back to its high-powered ways, too. The Cardinal are allowing opposing QBs to complete nearly 70% of their passes for 316 yards and 2.7 TDs per game.
Penn State needs to blow out Indiana
After a frustrating offensive performance against Ohio State in Week 8, the Penn State offense needs to jump on a moribund Indiana team early and often. No. 10 Penn State has a top-flight defense, but the passing offense isn’t where it needs to be to consider the Nittany Lions a threat to Michigan. QB Drew Allar hasn’t thrown an interception but is averaging just 6.5 yards per pass and barely averaging 200 passing yards a game.
Ohio State aims to avoid a trap game
No. 3 Ohio State may have to grind out yet another win in Week 9. The Buckeyes visit Wisconsin as the Badgers will start backup QB Braedyn Locke because of an injury to Tanner Mordecai. Wisconsin is allowing just 18 points per game and will likely try to hold onto the ball as long as it can every possession to minimize the chances of WR Marvin Harrison Jr. breaking the game open.
Colorado gets the prime-time treatment
Saturday night is a test of Colorado’s continued appeal after the Buffaloes have lost three of their last four games. Colorado visits No. 23 UCLA in ABC’s prime-time game as ESPN is banking on Colorado’s big viewership numbers to continue. If the Buffaloes can steal a win against the Bruins, their quest for a bowl game becomes a lot easier. Colorado needs two wins to get bowl eligible and may not be favored the rest of the season.
Texas A&M and South Carolina both need wins
South Carolina visits Texas A&M as both teams desperately need a win. The Gamecocks have lost three straight games and need to go 4-1 the rest of the way to make a bowl game. Texas A&M enters on a two-game losing streak after losses to Alabama and Tennessee by a combined 13 points. Jimbo Fisher was extremely conservative in those two losses. Maybe he gets aggressive against the Gamecocks. It could be what the Aggies need to get back on track.
Nebraska is inching closer to bowl eligibility
The Cornhuskers can move to 5-3 with a home win against Purdue. The Huskers have quietly won four of their last five games, though the victories are over Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech, Illinois and Northwestern. But it’s not Nebraska’s fault the Big Ten West stinks. With no ranked opponents remaining on the schedule, Nebraska fans can start dreaming of a bowl game if Saturday’s result is a victory.