Opposed to the upsets that we saw in the previous weeks, the ninth week was all about teams separating themselves. Oregon and Utah both scored impressive road victories and appear to be on a collision course in the PAC 12 Championship game. And, Georgia took control of the SEC East by virtue of their victory over Florida. This week, we have three matchups in the top 25 including the game of the year to this point in the season. Now, let’s dive into the week 11 college football watch guide.
Much like we saw last week in the Florida versus Georgia matchup, this LSU against Alabama matchup will likely determine the SEC West and more importantly quite possibly the College Football Playoff. Then, we have a critical Big 10 matchup where Penn State and Minnesota conceivably control their own destiny. Will the college football madness ensue as we begin Championship November? Let’s preview the weekend as we look at our week 11 college football watch guide.
Note: All game times are in central standard time
Week 11 College Football Watch Guide
In a surprise to most, Penn State was in the top four of the initial College Football Playoff rankings released on Tuesday evening. They’ll take that number four ranking into Minnesota to face the undefeated Gophers. Sean Clifford has been impressive in his first season as the starting quarterback in Happy Valley with 20 touchdowns through the air and only three interceptions. Meanwhile, Minnesota started slow but found a way to win each of their first four games by seven points or less. However, they have been more dominant in the last four in winning by no less than 23 points. Tanner Morgan has been equally as impressive for the Gophers with 18 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
Baylor, not Oklahoma or Texas, is the Big 12 team that controls their own destiny. That’s just how everyone envisioned the season to play out, right? The Bears take their 8-0 record into Fort Worth for their final test before hosting Oklahoma next weekend. Baylor has relied on a strong defense and a balanced offense. Charlie Brewer has not been spectacular, but he’s been efficient for the Bears. TCU’s calling card has always been their defense, but even that has been inconsistent for the Frogs this season. Two weeks ago, they harassed Sam Ehlinger into four interceptions but last week they gave up over 200 yards rushing to Heisman hopeful Chuba Hubbard.
SEC fans have been pointing to this game ever since LSU found an offense. The total for this game is 65 points and that may not be enough. The game likely hinges on the collective left and right arms of Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow who have combined to throw 57 touchdown passes and only six interceptions on the year. These two teams are about as evenly matched as you would think. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase have 1,568 yards receiving 18 touchdowns on the year for LSU. Meanwhile, Devonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy have combined for 1,403 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air. On the ground, neither team runs the ball near as much as they have historically. But, when they do Clyde Edwards-Helaire has 683 yards for the Tigers and Najee Harris has 642 yards for the Tide. We may see a Big 12 game break out in the SEC on Saturday afternoon.
The roles are reversed as unraked Texas hosts the ever-improving Kansas State Wildcats. After proclaiming they were back after the Sugar Bowl last year, the Longhorns find themselves at 5-3 and in a must-win scenario. Texas is coming off a bye week and must find some improvements defensively as this season they are on pace for the worst season in Longhorn history. For Kansas State, they are improving each week and followed up their upset victory over Oklahoma with a dominating win over Kansas. A win here would effectively end Texas’ bid for a back-to-back championship game appearance and keep the Wildcats firmly in the mix.
Believe it or not, Wake Forest actually controls their destiny in the ACC Atlantic. Now, part of that destiny is facing Clemson in Death Valley. But, before that, they travel to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. They still finish the season hosting Duke and then traveling to Syracuse, but one would think if the Deacons can get this win then an Orange Bowl appearance is very likely. For Virginia Tech, one wonders how they will come back from their heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame last week. The Hokies desperately will need to find some offense quickly to come up with a win here.
(18) Iowa at (13) Wisconsin
Both Iowa and Wisconsin find themselves two games back of league-leading Minnesota. So, this game is essentially a conference championship eliminator. After looking like one of the best teams in the country early on, Wisconsin has been humbled by back-to-back defeats. But, the Badgers still have one of the best running backs in the country in Jonathan Taylor. Iowa is 12 points away from being 8-0 coming into this game. The schedule for the Hawkeyes is inviting down the stretch. But, they must get better play from quarterback Nathan Stanley. The first team to 17 points may win this game.
The loss last week at home to Georgia Southern was crippling to their New Year’s Six bowl chances. Be that as it may, they could certainly bolster their chances if they were to defeat both North Carolina and South Carolina in the same year. They have the weapons to do that with Zac Thomas and Darrynton Evans on offense. Meanwhile, this is a must-win for Carolina’s bowl chances with Texas A&M and Clemson remaining. Bryan Edwards had a career game against Vanderbilt and his production will be critical down the stretch of the season.
As crazy as it sounds, Tennessee is in a good position for a bowl berth sitting at 4-5 with Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt remaining on the schedule. They have gotten better play by committee on the offensive side both at quarterback with Jarrett Guarantano, JT Shrout, and Brian Maurer and at running back with Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan, and Eric Gray. And, for Kentucky, they have been limping along offensively since the injury to Terry Wilson. They had their best offensive performance last week in quite some time against Missouri as Lynn Bowden Jr had over 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns. With solid defenses on both sides, this one has the makings of a defensive struggle.
Both the Sooners and Cyclones come into this game with a chip on their shoulder. Oklahoma’s playoff chances took a serious hit with the loss to Kansas State. Meanwhile, Iowa State must win this game to have a chance at playing for a conference championship. For Oklahoma, they will try to shake their worst defensive performance of the season and find out if that was an anomaly or perhaps they’ve hit their ceiling. Iowa State had an uncharacteristic performance from Brock Purdy against Oklahoma State where he threw three interceptions. It’s gut-check time for both teams.