NCAA conference championship spots at stake on TSN
As the NCAA season winds down, two huge matchups that have major conference championship implications go down this weekend on TSN with Louisville visiting Miami and Oregon State hosting Washington. Here's a look ahead at the weekend's action.
No. 9 Louisville (9-1) vs. Miami (6-4), Saturday at Noon ET/9am PT on TSN2 - Undefeated Florida State has already booked a spot in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 2 in Charlotte and another team can book their place on Saturday when Louisville visits Miami. Since the championship era began in 2005, Louisville has never played in an ACC Championship Game. In fact, the Cardinals are one of four ACC schools who have never won a conference title and Jeff Brohm's team hopes to be the first to bring one to Louisville. But before he can do that, he and his team will have to get past a supremely inconsistent Miami team that has shown equal flashes of greatness and disappointment in 2023. “I think the most important scenario is if we win and then we definitely help our cause," Brohm said this week of a potential title game. "I think at this point in the season, you’re always treated as if you want to advance you got to win, and I just think that’s going to be important that we do. You need to play your best football at the end of the year. We found a way to make a really good comeback in the last game [a 31-24 win over Virginia last Thursday night] when we had a time there where we were struggling, so we just got to kind of regroup and pick the pieces up and understand that it’s going to take our best performance in order to beat Miami.” Under centre for the Hurricanes will be the returning Tyler Van Dyke. The junior is once again Mario Cristobal's starting quarterback after Emory Williams, the true freshman who started last Saturday, incurred a fractured arm in the 27-20 loss to FSU. It will be a return to the field for Van Dyke following throwing three picks in a Nov. 4 loss to North Carolina State. Van Dyke conceded his season has been a bit all over the place in 2023. “I’ve proven I can be one of the top quarterbacks in the country when I’m at my best," Van Dyke said. "I’ve also proven when I’m not at my best, I can not be in the conversation at all. At the end of the day, playing quarterback you’ve got to be consistent throughout the entire season.” For his part, Brohm expects to see the very good version of the 22-year-old Glastonbury, CT native. "He’s throwing for 16 touchdowns, but he has thrown some interceptions, so we have to find a way to create some interceptions and turnovers and make him feel uncomfortable. But, if you give him time and you give him space, he’s played a lot of football and he can deliver the ball, so that’ll be the challenge. I know they went with another quarterback last week who gave them a spark. He had some energy, had some juice, and he ran around and made plays with a little bit of a different style." Not getting ahead of things for the Cardinals, but the door is slightly ajar for a College Football Playoff spot no matter how unlikely. Currently ranked No. 10, Louisville would need an ACC title and for a lot of help around them to reach that final four. Improbable? Very. Impossible? No.
No. 5 Washington (10-0) vs. No. 10 Oregon State (8-2), Saturday at 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT on TSN2 - There isn't much left standing in the way of an undefeated regular season for Kalen DeBoer's Washington, but Saturday night's game in Corvallis against Oregon State could be the Huskies' stiffest challenge to date. The Huskies have handled every one of the tough divisional matchups thrown at them this season with wins over Oregon, USC and Utah, 35-28 last week, and now sit at the precipice of a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Huskies need one win, either against the Beavers on Saturday or a win in the Apple Cup against Washington State next week, to clinch a berth in their first title game since 2018. But the Huskies are after a bigger prize. They are currently ranked No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings and know that one of the teams ahead of them is guaranteed to lose next week because No. 2 Ohio State plays No. 3 Michigan. Winning these final two regular season games and the Pac-12 title almost assuredly returns the Huskies to the CFP for the first time since 2017. Standing in their way will be a Beavs team with designs of a Pac-12 Championship appearance of their own. If Jonathan Smith's team wins its final two games, against the Huskies and then versus Oregon next week, they will book a place in the modern conference championship for the first time ever. The Beavs' lost conference title came in 2000. To get a win against Oregon State, DeBoer says his team will need to effectively deal with Beavers quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who has settled in nicely with the team since his transfer from Clemson. “I think he has adjusted well to the offensive system and continues to grow in it and get better each and every week," DeBoer said of the fourth-year junior. "You can see that happening. The ability to still use his feet when he needs to. But got the arm that you’re looking for. And, like I said, I think that they continue to work the offense around him adjusting to the offence." Like his counterparts, Smith says his team will have its work cut out for them coming up against Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. “He’s accurate as all get-out,” Smith said of Penix. “He’s got a big-time arm. He’s got a ton of confidence, which he should… Doesn’t take sacks, gives guys chances, accurate, stands in there when he needs to. That’s why he’s one of the best in the country.” Penix needs to finish the season strong to cement his Heisman candidacy. FanDuel currently lists Penix and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels at +370 for the honour, the second-best odds behind favourite Oregon QB Bo Nix (-110).