Week 11: Alabama survives, but Auburn hurts SEC playoff dream & more
Editor’s note: As promised, Week 11 delivered some major shakeups in college football.
Four of the nation’s top 10 teams lost, which will cause much movement in the College Football Playoff committee’s new rankings next week.
Below, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel offer their five biggest takeaways from the weekend.
First up: The SEC and the unforeseen hit it took.
SEC’S DREAM OF TWO PLAYOFF TEAMS ALL BUT GONE
Two years ago, Texas A&M brought a freshman QB to the state of Alabama to face a top-three opponent and stunned the college football world.
OHIO STATE CONTROLS THE B1G – WILL THAT BE ENOUGH?
With their 49-37 upset at No. 8 Michigan State, Urban Meyer’s 8-1 Buckeyes finally got the statement win they’ve been lacking and could not have been more impressive doing it. With quarterback J.T. Barrett racking up 300 passing yards, 86 rushing yards and five combined touchdowns, Ohio State’s offense scorched Michigan State’s respected defense like few have. The Buckeyes’ 568 total yards were the most allowed by Pat Narduzzi’s defense in four years. Ohio State is now 5-0 in the Big Ten and firmly in control of the East division. It will be heavily favored to win all of its remaining games, including any possible Big Ten title matchup.
But the Buckeyes are still going to need a lot of help to reach the College Football Playoff. This was the Buckeyes’ first win over a top 25-caliber team all season (remarkably, it was Meyer’s first over a top-15 foe in his three seasons in Columbus). Every other power conference’s champ — and in some cases a second team, too — figures to have considerably better resumes. The Virginia Tech loss was bad, but it was so long ago the committee might not even hold it against the Buckeyes, who have scored at least 49 points in six of their past seven games. The bigger problem is lack of quality wins.
ARIZONA STATE CONTROLS ITS DESTINY
ASU’s rebuilt D, which looked so brutal when the Sun Devils allowed visiting UCLA to score 62 points earlier this season, showed how far it’s come by harassing Everett Golson and snuffing out Notre Dame’s playoff hopes in a 55-31 romp. The Sun Devils sacked Golson seven times. He’d been sacked only 14 times in the Irish’s first eight games this season. ASU also forced Golson into five turnovers, including three in a four-minute stretch in the first half. ASU’s 55 points are the most the Irish have allowed in 14 years.
The 8-1 Sun Devils now have consecutive games against Oregon State and Washington State — teams that are a combined 3-10 in Pac-12 play — before they visit arch-rival Arizona. If Todd Graham’s squad wins all three, and then can knock off Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, a playoff bid would seem likely, which would’ve seemed pretty crazy in late-September after that Thursday night debacle against the Bruins.
ND came into the game banged up, missing their defensive leader in LB Joe Schmidt, who was lost for the season with an injury in last week’s Navy game. The Irish now drop to 2-6 in their last eight games after playing Navy and its triple option attack, and teams this season are now 2-9 the game after facing the Middies.
BAYLOR, TCU COULD HAVE AWKWARD BIG 12 ENDING (BOTH TIED AT 11-1)
The state of Texas is looking like it’s likely to have a rep in the College Football Playoff, but it’s not going to be the traditional powerhouses — Texas or Texas A&M. Upstart Baylor followed TCU’s lead by blasting Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma, 48-14. It was the Bears’ first road win ever at OU in 12 tries and their first road win against a ranked team in Art Briles’ six seasons as Baylor’s head coach.
The Bears’ blowout win was bad news for No. 6 TCU, which later in the day thumped No. 7 K-State, making it four wins over ranked opponents in the Horned Frogs’ past six games. Gary Patterson’s team, now 8-1, is essentially done with the heavy lifting with their remaining three games coming against opponents with a combined record of 10-18, giving TCU a pretty smooth path to a 11-1 record.
However, it might not be enough to trump No. 12 Baylor, which seems primed for a big jump in the playoff poll and still has K-State left to play, especially since the Bears own a win over TCU from mid-October. On the other hand, the Horned Frogs have the better non-conference schedule over Baylor thanks to a 30-7 win over Minnesota, which is now 7-2.
ALABAMA BEATS LSU BUT PAYS A PHYSICAL PRICE
The LSU game is rarely easy for the Tide, especially in Baton Rouge, and Saturday was no exception. ‘Bama needed Blake Sims to lead a last-minute field-goal drive to send the game to overtime, then a fantastically tricky pass play involving a monstrous tackle/tight end to survive, 20-13. Nick Saban’s team will likely enter the committee’s top four heading into next week’s showdown in Tuscaloosa with undefeated Mississippi State.
But while the Bulldogs were playing a glorified bye Saturday against Tennessee-Martin, ‘Bama took a beating against the physical Tigers, which ran the ball 56 times. Most troubling, star tailback T.J. Yeldon sustained a “twisted ankle,” per Saban, which was evident on his fumble that set up LSU’s go-ahead field goal with 50 seconds left. Yeldon did not play during overtime. While Mississippi State is the nation’s No. 1 team, the more established Tide will be widely expected to win at home. They’ll need to recover quickly.
MANDEL’S HEISMAN TOP FIVE
1) Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon Ducks
2) Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State Bulldogs
3) Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin Badgers
4) Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
5) Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville (three INTs to raise season total to 13, one shy of FBS record)
FELDMAN’S HEISMAN TOP FIVE
5) Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona Wildcats