2023 NCAAF: Week 11 Preview

November 10, 2023

Chaos is typically synonymous with “fun” when it refers to college football in the month of November, but that’s not always the case.

Around The Corn had the opportunity to attend the Wildcats Series at Wrigley Field this past weekend, a neat idea that pits Northwestern against an opponent at the hallowed grounds of the Chicago Cubs.

Only this season, that opponent was Iowa. Cue the gasps.

In a way, the game lived up to its billing. Neither team was expected to score many points (O/U 30.5), and boy, did they deliver on that. A scoreless halftime was improved upon only slightly in the second half, with Iowa driving down the field to clinch the game on a 53-yard field goal with less than a minute left.

One Twitter user summed up the event in the best way possible, fitting the highlights to a silent movie theme.

All in all, the experience was worth it, but the game was trash. And in the spirit of that sentiment, this week’s recap of the week that was is overwhelming negative. Enjoy!

3 Things We Learned in Week 10

Carrying the No. 1 ranking is a heavy cross to bear

At least, that’s what Ohio State would like you to believe. While six of the previous nine programs to have held the No. 1 spot after the first CFP rankings of a given season have gone on to play in the national title game, the Buckeyes offered little to doubters to suggest they deserved to be the top dog at this point in the year.

Yes, Rutgers has already met bowl eligibility requirements, and yes, its first half gameplan worked to near perfection. But more was expected, and must come from, the Ohio State offense if Ryan Day’s team is to ultimately make it to Houston. Lots still to play out, folks.

There won’t be a service academy in a New Year’s Six bowl

It had been easy to get behind Air Force, which was having a banner year up until last weekend when Army (not a typo) spoiled its unbeaten season and seemingly a shot at finishing as the highest ranked Group of Five program. Such a finish would have guaranteed the Falcons a place in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Last weekend’s result may have been a case of ‘know thy enemy’ – despite Air Force boasting the country’s top rushing offense, averaging a cool 284.2 YPG, the only two opponents to have held the Falcons to fewer than 240 yards on the ground this season are the other service academies.

We should buy all we freakin’ can of Clemson stock, apparently

Thanks for the insider tip, Dabo. The same week that the Clemson head coach went on a tirade about the “what have you done for me lately?” mentality of college football fans and administrators alike, his team went out and knocked off a Top 15 squad.

As cringey as his schtick is, he’s probably not entirely wrong. Outside of an uncharacteristically sloppy game to begin the season, the Tigers haven’t lost a game by more than eight points and two of those losses came in overtime. Clemson is having a down year, but the talent pool is still there and Dabo’s squad didn’t feel overmatched by current ACC leader Florida State, the odds-on favorite to challenge Clemson as the king of the hill in the conference moving forward.

5 Games You Need to Watch This Weekend

#3 Michigan at #10 Penn State (Saturday, 12 PM ET – FOX)

Amidst everything happening off the field, you may have forgotten that the University of Michigan is indeed still playing football games. The Wolverines have been pretty good, too, trouncing the majority of their opponents thus far. The Nittany Lions will serve as the first real test for Jim Harbaugh’s squad (or whomever is patrolling the sidelines this weekend) and they themselves will look to prove to the country that they are a true national title contender.

The blueprint for beating Penn State was effectively written a few weeks prior when Ohio State exposed Drew Allar and the collectively anemic offense. Allar has statistically still been very good this season, but will again face a defense like the Buckeyes this weekend, and one that over the course of the season has been slightly better at getting to the quarterback. The Wolverines don’t have a Marvin Harrison Jr. to turn to on third downs, but have enough elsewhere to dispatch of the Nittany Lions similar to the way Ohio State did. This all stands, Jim Harbaugh or no Jim Harbaugh.

My Pick: 27-10 Michigan (covers -4.5 spread)

#18 Utah at #5 Washington (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – FOX)

The Huskies have certainly made things fun in their marquee victories this season over Oregon and Southern Cal. Utah, with its Pac-12 leading defense that allows just over 280 yards per game, will attempt to act as the Fun Police this weekend in Seattle. The Utes have shown improvement during the second half of the season offensively, but won’t fare well in a shootout against Washington.

As good as Washington has been this season offensively, its defensive performances do raise some concern. Utah also leads the conference in time of possession and would be wise to try to keep the ball out of the hands of Michael Penix Jr. A similar strategy did not work for the Utes two weeks ago against Oregon, but has a chance against the Huskies’ weaker run defense. Utah should be more competitive in this one and could raise some doubt about Washington as a national title contender.  

My Pick: 35-24 Washington (covers -8 spread)

#13 Tennessee at #14 Missouri (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – CBS)

The Tigers surprised and impressed Around The Corn last weekend by giving Georgia a scare. Missouri did this despite its two most dangerous offensive weapons, quarterback Brady Cook and wideout Luther Burden III, were mostly neutralized by the Georgia defense. In a way this could be viewed as a good thing for the Tigers, as Tennessee is unlikely to be able to do such a good job against those two. Expect both to have bounce back games in this one.

The Volunteers have shown flashes of being one of the best teams in the country this season, but haven’t been able to show it for a full game against the SEC’s best. Tennessee’s strong rushing attack will be key in this one, not only to move the ball against a balance defense but also to limit the number of opportunities for the Missouri offense. A victory for the road team would set up a massive tilt in Knoxville next weekend, but Missouri proved itself last weekend and Around The Corn are believers in the Tigers now.

My Pick: 30-27 Missouri (covers +2.5 spread)

#9 Mississippi at #2 Georgia (Saturday, 7 PM ET – ESPN)

This season, Lane Kiffin & Co. have avoided the upset (narrowly) that has plagued the program and prevented these types of matchups from being Top 10 battles in the past. Now the Rebels will get the opportunity to not only to pull off the upset of the season, but use it to propel themselves firmly into the CFP conversation.

Prior to this game, Missouri will have been the most potent offense that the Bulldogs have faced this season. Kirby Smart’s squad did an excellent job against the Tigers, becoming just the second team to force multiple turnovers against Missouri. While the Rebels are a top 15 offense nationally, operationally it draws a lot of similarities to the Tigers. Georgia’s performance last weekend feels like a good indication of how this one will go – Bulldogs are tested but ultimately victorious.

My Pick: 28-21 Georgia (does not cover -10.5 spread)

#7 Texas at TCU (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET – ABC)

The Longhorns narrowly survived a pesky Kansas State team at home last weekend, and now must travel across the state to Fort Worth to face another purple foe in the Horned Frogs. TCU has somewhat quietly dominated this series over the past decade, winning seven of the last 10. Fortunately for Texas, Quinn Ewers returns after a two week absence. Things weren’t particularly pretty in the Longhorns’ passing game last weekend, but Ewers may be able to ease back into things against a TCU pass defense that has struggled this season.

It’s hard to see this game being anything but a shootout. The Horned Frogs have announced that freshman Josh Hoover will start at quarterback, a decision that has garnered mixed results since Chandler Morris went down with an injury over a month ago. Texas has shown cracks in the armor defensively, but it doesn’t feel like Hoover & Co. will be enough to make it eight out of the past eleven for TCU.

My Pick: 41-24 Texas (covers -12.5 spread)

5 Games to Keep an Eye On This Weekend

#21 Arizona at Colorado (Saturday, 2 PM ET – Pac-12 Network)

The Wildcats have parlayed upsets over Top 25 opponents into their own ranking, but now comes the difficult part – keeping it. This feels like exactly the type of game that Colorado can use to get back on a winning track.

Rutgers at #22 Iowa (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – Big Ten Network)

As difficult as the game at Wrigley Field was to watch last weekend, the Hawkeyes came away with a victory and a spot atop the Big Ten West standings. Don’t expect anything but a defensive battle in this one.

West Virginia at #17 Oklahoma (Saturday, 7 PM ET – FOX)

The Mountaineers are one of the most improved teams in the country compared to the program’s 2022 campaign, and a victory on the road in Norman would see West Virginia with a legitimate shot at playing in Arlington the first weekend of December.

Duke at #24 North Carolina (Saturday, 8 PM ET – ACC Network)

Injuries have derailed what could have been a special season for the Blue Devils. Strange things can happen in a rivalry game, though, and the Tar Heels haven’t exactly struck fear in opponents as of late.

Southern Cal at #6 Oregon (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET – FOX)

The Trojans’ defense again let Lincoln Riley’s team down last weekend against Washington, and the punishment is a date with Oregon, which is as good offensively and better defensively than the Huskies.

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