5 Takeaways from College Football Week 11
Just when we thought we were beginning to understand this year’s college football season and were in for a status quo, boring Saturday, we got Week 11. On a weekend capping off a crazy election-week, college football saw arguably its most chaotic weekend ever. Three undefeated top-four teams and five of the top-ten teams all lost, yielding to what is going to be a much-argued College Football Playoff rankings. Even the nation’s longest win streak came to an end on Saturday when Division 3 Mount Union saw their 112-game streak snapped by John Carroll in a 31-28 defeat. Fans, hold on tight, this season is about to get bumpy.
- The Fall to Troy The fourth-ranked Washington Huskies saw their 12-game win streak broken by the number twenty USC Trojans, falling 26-13. The Trojans (7-3) are winners of six straight since replacing their quarterback with freshman Sam Darnold. Darnold outdueled Washington’s Heisman-hopeful Jake Browning by throwing for 287 yards and two scores. Helping lead the Trojan offense was running back Ronald Jones III who racked up 93 yards and a touchdown. Washington’s Browning looked average as he threw two interceptions to go with his 259 yards and single touchdown score. Browning was tackled in the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter as the Huskies tried to claw their way back. The Huskies’ loss could mean the end of any realistic playoff hopes for Washington. Despite still controlling their own destiny to the Pac-12 championship, Washington’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks 128th of 128 teams, doing little to gain them favor with the playoff committee.
- Clemson Blewitt The second-ranked Clemson Tigers saw their quest to perfection ended in a 43-42 loss behind the foot of Pittsburgh kicker Chris Blewitt. Blewitt, who earlier in the game missed an extra point and had a field goal blocked, connected on a 48-yard kick with six seconds remaining to give the Panthers the go-ahead score. The loss to Pittsburgh was Clemson’s first to an unranked team in 46 games. Despite putting up gaudy numbers, Clemson’s quarterback Deshaun Watson, who threw the ball 70 times for 580 yards and three touchdowns, ultimately led to his team’s demise with three interceptions. The most consequential throw of the night came when Watson threw a pick late in the fourth quarter that Pitt returned 70 yards. It set up a 20-yard touchdown run by James Conner that would draw the Panthers to within 42-40 of the Tigers. Conner, in his first season back since battling cancer, rushed for 132 yards while his quarterback Nick Peterman threw for five touchdowns. Despite the loss, Clemson probably controls its destiny to the playoff. The Tigers already boast strong wins over Louisville and Florida State, and an expected win in the ACC championship would serve to gain them entrance to the final four.
- Wolverines Wallow Iowa Hawkeyes freshman kicker Keith Duncan hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired to beat the third-ranked Michigan Wolverines 14-13. The Wolverines, who left the state of Michigan for just the second time thus far in their ten game season, were only able to muster 201 yards of total offense. Michigan appeared well on their way to another victory after intercepting Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard with 1:54 left and a 13-11 lead. After a quick three-and-out and one controversial facemask penalty on Iowa’s ensuing drive, the Hawkeyes found themselves just inside the range of their freshman kicker. Iowa’s Beathard finished the day with only 66 yards passing but had help in running back Akrum Wadley who rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown. Iowa’s win sends the Big Ten into a massive “What if?” scenario. Michigan still controls their own destiny ultimately to the playoff, but an Ohio State win over Michigan in two weeks, coupled with Penn State winning their final two games, would send the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten Championship against likely opponent Wisconsin. The Big Ten could end up with as many as two teams in the four-team playoff.
- Ouch, That Hurts In a week of chaos, at least we have Alabama. The top-ranked Crimson Tide cruised to an easy 51-3 rout of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts engineered the win with a sensational all-around performance. Hurts passed for 347 yards with four touchdowns all while rushing for 100 yards and another score before being replaced in the third quarter. Head coach Nick Saban now owns the most wins with a top-ranked team (40). The Tide can all but walk their way into the playoff. The pending Iron Bowl game against Auburn in two weeks has been rendered virtually meaningless thanks to a 13-7 upset victory for Georgia over the ninth-ranked Tigers, eliminating Auburn from SEC championship contention. Alabama can now easily stand to lose a game and still qualify for the playoff.
- Louisville Wakes Late; Big 12 Bailout Saving the world from even further chaos were the sixth-ranked Louisville Cardinals. After entering the fourth quarter trailing an average Wake Forest team 12-10, the Cardinals rattled off 34 quick points in the final 10:35 to blowout the Demon Deacons 44-12 despite a relatively mundane performance from Heisman front-runner Lamar Jackson. Jackson finished the day with only one touchdown to go with 145 yards passing and 153 yards rushing. Despite avoiding the upset, the Cardinals will likely still need help qualifying for the playoff due to a loss earlier this season to Clemson. Meanwhile, the weekend’s results helped keep two Big 12 teams’, West Virginia and Oklahoma, playoff hopes alive. West Virginia, 24-20 victors over Texas, and Oklahoma, 45-24 winners over Baylor, were both perhaps that biggest winners of the chaotic weekend. Heading into a matchup between the two teams this week, the winner might find themselves capable of representing the Big 12 and sneaking into the playoff.
Teams can only hope that Week 12 brings less madness and uncertainty to the playoff picture. The game of the week will be between the twelfth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners and sixteenth-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers to keep a sliver of hope alive for the playoff. LSU will also play host to a make-up rainout game against Florida who needs to win out in order to play in the SEC Championship game, and the Battle for L.A. takes places as UCLA hosts USC.