2019 NCAAF Week 11 Weekend Preview

November 8, 2019

Not that this is any surprise, but the College Football Playoff committee did its best to remind you, in case you forgot, that their existence is justified by producing some interesting results for the first CFP rankings of the season.

Clemson hasn’t played anyone all season, you say? The Committee agrees! Put em’ at number five!

Still surprised that the Pac-12 has a couple of teams in contention for a Playoff bid? So is Around The Corn. At any rate, the Committee made sure to give Oregon and Utah just enough love so as not to upset the balance that is the SEC Championship Game as a de facto play-in.

Sorry, Ducks fans, but your team’s close loss to SEC foe Auburn isn’t enough to override the fact that Georgia’s body of work is just too strong…except that, uh…”uncharacteristic performance” against 4-5 South Carolina. If the Dawgs happen to win the SEC title game, they’re still in over you.

Of course, this is all wasted text, because so much will happen between now and the next four weekends that the rankings are bound to look vastly different in early December. But that’s what we in the media do – waste your time with our opinions.

In the head-to-head prediction game, my sister took the weekend, and my pride, winning by a single game to bring the guests back to even on the year. The overall standings as of this week:

K. Becks – 34-17

Guests – 34-17

This week, a guest will attempt to kick me while I’m down. My sister’s boyfriend, Zach, who I am told helped my sister with her predictions last week, will make his inaugural appearance on the blog and try to make it two in a row for the guests.

Let’s take a look at the best games of the weekend, a schedule that is fairly frontloaded on Saturday afternoon.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#4 Penn State at #17 Minnesota (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

If it weren’t for a pretty big one in the state of Louisiana, no doubt this game would be the biggest matchup of the weekend. For Minnesota, the attention of the country isn’t required – this is the biggest game for the Golden Gophers since the WWII era. Seriously. P.J. Fleck leads an 8-0 program into Saturday, the first time Minnesota has started this well since 1941, a season in which the Golden Gophers played only eight games. Generally speaking Fleck’s squad hasn’t received much credit yet, however, thanks to a favorable schedule it has navigated perfectly. But as many will find out, this Minnesota team is very talented offensively and has the firepower necessary to hang with the Nittany Lions.

The name Tanner Morgan may not ring a bell, but the sophomore quarterback trails only Justin Fields in the Big Ten in QBR and has tossed 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions this season. Morgan is one of the main reasons why Minnesota has been such a pleasant surprise this season, combining a strong arm with decision making beyond his years. One thing that can be expected in this game is that despite the cold, the Golden Gophers will look to air it out. Penn State’s pass defense is shaky and for Minnesota to win this game, it’ll need the ability to score points quickly. Both teams average over 38 points per contest, so expect touchdowns. Penn State will win this game if Morgan isn’t on thanks to its run defense, but Morgan will likely be on, so a single-digit game in the fourth quarter should come as no surprise.

My Take: 31-24 Penn State

Zach’s Take: Penn State – 27 Minnesota – 10

#2 LSU at #3 Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Both LSU and Alabama are ranked in the top four in the inaugural CFP rankings this season and both come into this game undefeated. Just the way we all wrote it up back in August, right? Predictability aside, it highlights the weekend in college football and should be a terrific game, unlike the dud last season that saw the Crimson Tide completely outclass the Tigers. This year LSU has a not-so-secret weapon at quarterback that completes 78.8 percent of his passes, which should make Coach Saban more than a little worried. Joe Burrow is the best passer that the Tigers have had in over a decade and has transformed LSU from a team that relies on its defense to one that can attack offensively. With the number of young players Alabama employs defensively, notably at linebacker, the Crimson Tide may have trouble slowing down Burrow.

Even if that does happen, expect the Crimson Tide to at least be within striking distance in the fourth quarter, if not winning. Tua coming back from tightrope surgery on his ankle, the second such operation in the past two seasons for the Alabama quarterback, is great news for Saban’s offense. The junior will be able to stretch the LSU defense in a way that no other team this season has been capable of doing, which is saying something considering that the Tigers have been previously torched in the secondary by both Florida and Texas. His mobility will be a question mark, but he is smart enough to let his athletes on the outside and running backs do the heavy lifting. If LSU wins this game Burrow may as well accept the Heisman on Sunday, but winning in Tuscaloosa will be no easy task.

My Pick: 34-30 Alabama

Zach’s Take: LSU – 24 Alabama – 17

#16 Kansas State at Texas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Texas’s Big 12 title hopes are on life support at this point, currently two games behind conference leader Baylor and a game behind second place Oklahoma, whom the Longhorns lost to earlier this season. Kansas State is in a similar position, but beat the Sooners and have a leg up on everyone else if Lincoln Riley’s team slips up again. Following the big win over Oklahoma, the Wildcats didn’t let up against the Jayhawks last weekend, a testament to coach Chris Klieman’s ability to prepare his team for a potential trap game. Kansas State has been surprising this season, showing the ability to score enough points to compete in the Big 12 without racking up a ton of yards on offense.

Two weekends ago, Texas was a surprise as well, in a bad way. The Longhorns did a pitiful job taking care of the football, turning the ball over 4 times en route to a 10-point loss to TCU. Kansas State is tied for the best turnover margin in the conference and has the fewest total turnovers (7), so there needs to be better discipline from Tom Herman’s offense if it want to avoid a similar result this weekend. The Wildcats also boast the Big 12’s stingiest pass defense, primed to counter Texas’s strength on offense. As much as it makes sense to choose the Longhorns because they won’t want to be embarrassed at home and have had an extra week to prepare, it’s difficult to ignore the statistics here.

My Pick: 30-28 Kansas State

Zach’s Take: Kansas State – 21 Texas – 28

#19 Wake Forest at Virginia Tech (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The hottest of hot takes: the ACC as a whole isn’t that deep this season. As a result, there aren’t a ton of matchups within the conference that deserve being on the list of “Games to Watch”. But as their performance against Notre Dame last weekend indicated, the Hokies are getting better every week and are going to be a tough team to beat for the remainder of the season. Wake Forest has gotten off to a terrific start behind Jamie Newman, who leads the ACC with 294 passing yards per game. The Demon Deacons are second to Clemson in terms of offensive firepower and will look to keep the hope of a New Year’s Six bowl bid alive with a win in Blacksburg.

Statistically, the Hokies do not match up well against Wake Forest, which will look to take advantage of a weak pass defense that has given up at least 275 yards through the air five times in 2019. And look deeper into the near upset over Notre Dame last weekend, and you’ll find that Virginia Tech forced three turnovers in sloppy weather. While it could happen again, it’s not worth the bet. Wake Forest has turned the ball over just seven times all season and just five times through the air. Doing what they do best should allow the Demon Deacons to continue their march toward a big matchup with Clemson next weekend with just a single loss on the year.

My Pick: 37-28 Wake Forest

Zach’s Take: Wake Forest – 17 Virginia Tech – 14

#18 Iowa at #13 Wisconsin (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

By the time this game kicks off in Madison, there will be improved clarity in terms of what each team will need to do to climb back into contention in the Big Ten West. Both Iowa and Wisconsin trail Minnesota by two games heading into the weekend, so a loss in this one would be damning to the chances of a Big Ten title game berth. Neither have played Minnesota yet this season, however, so all is not lost for the winner of this game. At one time, both of these teams were thought to have units that were among the best in the Big Ten, but those assertions have cooled in intensity following lackluster performances. For Iowa, it was a 10-3 loss at the hands of Michigan that ended talks of Iowa’s offense being one of the conference’s best. For Wisconsin, a 38-7 drubbing in Columbus had people selling stock on what was thought to be one of the country’s stingiest defensive units.

Although the two squads may have already been exposed this season, expect them both to try to assert dominance in ways they are most comfortable to win this game. Iowa doesn’t run the ball that well and would be stifled by the Badgers on the ground anyway, so for the Hawkeyes to have success a lot will rest on the shoulders of Nate Stanley. And while Wisconsin gained just 83 yards on the ground against Ohio State, it was the first time all year that the Badgers failed to eclipse 130 yards rushing. Iowa also doesn’t have a defensive end named Chase Young. Expect Wisconsin to be focused in an attempt to end a two game losing streak and provide the home fans with something to cheer about.

My Pick: 24-13 Wisconsin

Zach’s Take: Iowa – 21 Wisconsin – 35

5 Games to Flip To

#12 Baylor at TCU (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Although the Bears continue to fly under the radar at 8-0, opponents are beginning to realize that taking down Baylor would mean spoiling the season of a very legitimate Big 12 title contender, and possibly CFP contender.

UAB at Southern Mississippi (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Blazers once again were unable to get things done against an SEC foe, but have a chance to bounce back in a game that has significant ramifications at the top of the West Division of Conference USA.

#5 Clemson at North Carolina State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Dabo Swinney didn’t really need any additional motivation to get the Tigers up for this rivalry game, but got some in the form of a CFP committee snubbing that sees Clemson outside the Top 4 despite a perfect record thus far. You have to feel bad for the Wolfpack…

#15 Notre Dame at Duke (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Fighting Irish are out of the CFP race, but in a Battle of the Nerds, you know damn well these two programs have some true scholar athletes on the field.

Wyoming at #22 Boise State (Saturday, 10:15 PM ET)

The battle for the coveted New Year’s Six automatic bowl bid for the Group of Five is really heating up, with five teams from those conferences ranked between 20 and 25. The Broncos will have to impress voters down the stretch in order to jump some worthy AAC candidates.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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