Everything you need to know following a wild Week 11
November is never dull in college football and this weekend was one of the wildest in recent history. The No. 2, 3 and 4 teams all fell and your playoff bracket is in shambles. Of course, yesterday’s madness may have meant more under the BCS system as every team that lost still has an avenue open for redemption down the stretch, and perhaps that’s what we always wanted from the College Football Playoff.
A loss is no longer a season-crusher, and while we want to see flawless teams in the national title hunt, the reality is that there are few teams that can dominate from wire-to-wire. That’s what makes Alabama’s run so special this season, but also what makes a day like Saturday an important, but not back-breaking event. There’s a lot to sort out, but that’s the beauty of college football.
Here’s how it all went down on this Saturday in November.
- No. 2 Clemson loses to Pitt
After playing with fire all season, Clemson finally got burned on a last-second field goal to lose to Pittsburgh 43-42. The Tigers lucked out earlier in the season when NC State missed a potential game-winning field goal, keeping their playoff hopes alive, but this week, a 48-yarder by Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt did them in. The big picture is not bleak, however, as Clemson saw the rest of the top teams across the country lose as well, and they still control their own destiny with two regular season games to go and the ACC Championship game.
So while all hope is not lost on the season, Clemson has some concerns with how the game against Pitt played out. The defense could not make the big stop for much of the game and QB Deshaun Watson continues to make uncharacteristic poor decisions with the ball, including another red-zone interception that ultimately cost Clemson the game. All playoff hopes are not dashed for the Tigers, but they’ve played down to multiple teams this season and they can’t afford any more slip-ups along the way.
- No. 3 Michigan loses to Iowa
The running joke that Michigan would be challenged in their first game outside the state of Michigan against a team with a conference win proved to be much more than just a joke. The question for Michigan has always been quarterback Wilton Speight, who had made huge strides in recent weeks but he struggled with his accuracy, completing only one of his 13 attempts thrown beyond 10 yards. The result is Michigan playing with no margin for error the rest of the way, as they have to beat Indiana next week before their must-win showdown against Ohio State in two weeks. If they can get through both games and win the Big Ten Championship game the following week, Michigan will still be in the playoff, but their margin for error is minimal with their loss to Iowa.
- No. 4 Washington loses to USC
The third top-four team goes down (though they lost before Michigan in real-time) as the Huskies lose to a hot USC team that controlled the action Saturday night. The Washington defense was picked apart by USC QB Sam Darnold who went 11-for-12 for 199 yards on passes thrown at least 10 yards in the air in between the numbers. On the other side, Washington QB Jake Browning had by far his worst game of the season, living dangerously all night and floating a number of passes into coverage. Washington appeared to miss edge rusher Joe Mathis who grades as one of the nation’s best pass-rushers, but his absence gave Darnold too much time to throw and he made Washington’s secondary pay.
However, like Clemson and Michigan, Washington’s playoff hopes are not dashed, though they have a difficult schedule to close out the season with regular season games against Arizona State and Washington State before a potential Pac-12 Championship game. If they can win those final three, it will be difficult to keep them out of the playoff picture, but last night’s game was not a pretty sight for a Washington team that looked like one of the better all-around teams in the nation.
- No. 1 Alabama… dominates
It was status quo for Alabama who manhandled Mississippi State 51-3 in a dominant performance on both sides of the ball, and an Auburn loss to Georgia locked up their spot in the SEC Championship game. They were already playing with house money, but that money may have just doubled with the shenanigans happening behind them in the rankings. They have Chattanooga, Auburn, and the SEC title game remaining, and they can afford to lose the Auburn game with no consequence. Every week we seem to highlight just how far Alabama has pulled away from the pack and this week was no different as the offense bounced back from a subpar effort to put up 615 yards of offense in a well-balanced effort.
- Ohio State in the driver’s seat for the playoff, but not the Big Ten
With chaos occurring across the nation. Ohio State has kept a steady hand since losing to Penn State back in Week 8 and they have now won their last two games by a score of 62-3 with Maryland the latest victim. They’re in an odd spot of rooting for an unexpected Penn State loss to either Rutgers or Michigan State as even if the Buckeyes win out, they do not own the tie-breaker over the Nittany Lions and they may not even see the Big Ten title game. However, with so many teams losing, Ohio State should be fine when it comes to the playoff picture as long as they take care of business against Michigan State and Michigan.
In fact, they may be the big winner in all of this as they control their own destiny with those two remaining games likely getting them into the playoff, but they won’t have the added opportunity for the slip up in the Big Ten Championship. While the playoff committee will want to see a conference championship on the resume, it will be difficult to keep Ohio State out of the mix if they win down the stretch, especially against the Wolverines. The key to watch is the Ohio State offensive line that was destroyed by Penn State in their loss, as QB J.T. Barrett was under pressure on only four of his 31 dropbacks yesterday as the line’s improvement may be the key to the season for the Buckeyes.
- Louisville has a scare, then pours it on against Wake Forest
While everyone was falling around them, Louisville was in a dangerous spot of their own, down 12-10 heading into the fourth quarter before outscoring Wake Forest 34-0 the rest of the way. It was another game that proves that Louisville certainly has issues along their roster, but having the Heisman Trophy frontrunner leading the offense cures a lot of ills. QB Lamar Jackson took some time to get going, but he finished with 183 yards on 17 carries and Louisville finished up with 376 rushing yards on 32 rushes, a gaudy 11.8 yards per attempt. Early turnovers slowed the Cardinals offense, but they ultimately showed how explosive that offense can be. They have an uphill battle to make the playoff, but there’s something about the Lamar Jackson trump card that makes me want to put them in the top four and see what he can do in a playoff situation. For now, the Cardinals have to win out against Houston and Kentucky while receiving help along the way.
- Wisconsin is still lurking around
Armed with a strong defense and their only two losses coming to Ohio State and Michigan, Wisconsin is still hanging around the top 10 and ready to pounce if chaos strikes again. They trounced Illinois 48-3 and if they win their two remaining games against Purdue and Minnesota, Wisconsin will face either Ohio State, Michigan, or Penn State in the Big Ten Championship. They have a chance to play spoiler for the Big Ten, potentially knocking off a playoff contender while perhaps sneaking into the dance for themselves. The offense is still a big question mark for the Badgers, but with one of the nation’s best group of linebackers, Wisconsin’s defense keeps them in every game and they’ll at least make things interesting down the stretch.
- Is the Big 12 alive again?
Have we been too quick to dismiss the Big 12? West Virginia is still sitting here with one loss at 8-1 after defeating Texas 24-20, and they’re headed for a showdown next week against the conference’s hottest team, Oklahoma. Everyone expects the Sooners to beat West Virginia before going into Bedlam against Oklahoma State for a de facto Big 12 title game. But what if West Virginia pulls the upset before beating Iowa State and Baylor in the season’s final two weeks? West Virginia may still have a case, as does Oklahoma, as they can run the table in impressive fashion and perhaps get the committee to include them on the “playing the best right now” clause. Is Oklahoma State still alive with their two losses, one of which never should have happened against Central Michigan? It’s unlikely, but after writing off the Big 12 for many weeks, they may have just enough life remaining if either West Virginia or Oklahoma can go on a dominant run over the next few weeks.
- Performances that caught the eye
- “Maybrook” continues to roll as Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (78.9 game grade) threw for 300 yards on 20-of-25 passing while WR Dede Westbrook (76.9 game grade) caught four passes for 88 yards and both of Mayfield’s touchdowns
- Tennessee edge defender Derek Barnett (88.2 grade) continued his dominance with a sack, two QB hits, and five hurries on his 31 rushes.
- LSU RB Derrius Guice (89.1 grade) ran for 252 yards and two scores on 21 carries as LSU bounced back from last week’s shutout against Alabama to beat Arkansas 38-10.
- PFF Stats to Know
- While it occurred way back Tuesday night, Ball State CB Marc Walton (90.4 grade) had the game of his life allowing only one catch on 12 targets while breaking up four passes and intercepting another
- Penn State QB Trace McSorley attempted an insane 54.8 percent of his attempts at 20-plus yards down field, completing seven of them for 247 yards to go with a touchdown and two interceptions.
- Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara forced six missed tackles on just 10 carries on his way to 128 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky.
- SMU WR Courtland Sutton averaged 5.72 yards per route with 166 receiving yards on only 29 routes.
- Utah edge defender Hunter Dimick finished with five sacks and seven hurries on his 41 rushes against Arizona, good for a national-best pass rush productivity of 25.0 for the week.