College Football Week 11: Previews and Predictions for the Top 10 Games

Josh Sachnoff@@JSachnov17Contributor IIINovember 7, 2013

College Football Week 11: Previews and Predictions for the Top 10 Games

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    This is the week of college football everyone has been looking forward to since the beginning of the 2013 season.

    Week 11 will start with a showdown in the Big 12 between Oklahoma and Baylor, while Pac-12 foes Oregon and Stanford clash on “The Farm” in what will likely be for the Pac-12 Championship. 

    Saturday will be filled with conference championship and BCS implications as well. 

    Nebraska will travel to “The Big House” in hopes of keeping itself in the Big Ten Championship picture against Michigan, and Wisconsin will host a talented BYU team in a midseason nonconference matchup.

    Saturday night will consist of AAC newcomers Houston and UCF battling it out in Orlando, as well as Virginia Tech traveling to Miami (Fla.) with ACC Coastal Division title hopes on the line.

    The big game of the day, though, will be LSU and Alabama squaring off in what should be another close game between these two bitter rivals. 

    With many important matchups heading into Week 11, here are the top 10 games to watch:

No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor

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    Baylor junior quarterback Bryce Petty against Iowa State on Oct. 19.
    Baylor junior quarterback Bryce Petty against Iowa State on Oct. 19.Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Thursday: No. 10 Oklahoma @ No. 6 Baylor, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1

    The winner of this Thursday night matchup could decide who takes the Big 12 title this season.

    The last time Oklahoma traveled to Waco, it lost 45-38 in a heartbreaking upset to Robert Griffin III and company. Now it’s the Sooners' turn to ruin Baylor’s conference title and BCS hopes. 

    Oklahoma comes in off a bye week and will look to keep itself in the conference title discussion. The Sooners have a balanced offensive attack that could test a Baylor defense that's only played two FBS teams over .500 this season. 

    Quarterback Blake Bell can make plays both through the air and on the ground. Bell’s main target in the passing game will be Jalen Saunders, who recorded 153 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Texas Tech on Oct. 26. Running backs Brennan Clay and Damien Williams will also look to make plays out of the backfield and get into the end zone.

    The Sooner defense, which is allowing just 314.3 yards per game and 18.8 points per game, has the task of containing the most explosive offense in the country.

    Baylor’s No.1 ranked offense was challenged by Kansas State on Oct. 12 but has not been by any other opponent this season.

    Quarterback Bryce Petty (2,453 yards, 18 touchdowns and one interception) continues to make defenses pay with his ability to get the ball to main targets Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese. Lache Seastrunk has been dangerous in the backfield to opposing defenses as well this season with his 124.1 yards per game.

    This will be the game where the country finds out if this Baylor team can play with the top teams of the Big 12 or not. The Sooner defense must at least contain the Bears offense if it wants any chance of winning this one. 

    Prediction: Baylor 42, Oklahoma 35

    Result: Baylor 41, Oklahoma 12

No. 3 Oregon at No. 5 Stanford

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    Oregon running back Byron Marshall against UCLA on Oct. 26.
    Oregon running back Byron Marshall against UCLA on Oct. 26.Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    Thursday: No. 3 Oregon @ No. 5 Stanford, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

    It’s the game Oregon has had circled on its calendar since being upset by Stanford 17-14 in overtime last season.

    Once again, the two Pac-12 heavyweights will likely battle it out for the Pac-12 Championship for a fourth consecutive year. 

    The Ducks are undefeated and looking to make the BCS National Championship game for the second time in four years, but will Stanford’s physical defense shut down Oregon’s dynamic offense again this season? 

    Against Stanford last season, the Oregon offense was held to just 198 rushing yards and 14 points, its lowest amount of points scored since 2009. If De’Anthony Thomas can back his comment up, the Ducks should have no problem scoring points this time around. 

    Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota has caused nightmares for opponents this season with his 2,281 passing yards, 29 total touchdowns and no interceptions. The offense also has become more lethal with a three-deep backfield consisting of Thomas, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, as well as a receiving corps with Josh Huff and Bralon Addison

    The Stanford defense will be without senior defensive end Ben Gardner, who is out for the remainder of the season with a pectoral muscle injury, but it doesn’t mean this Cardinal defense won’t be capable of containing the Oregon rushing attack. Linebacker Shayne Skov leads a Stanford defense surrendering just 103.3 rushing yards per game. 

    The Cardinal offense has averaged only 22.0 points in its last two wins against UCLA and Oregon State. If the defense can’t stop Oregon, which it did last season, a lot of pressure will be placed on the shoulders of quarterback Kevin Hogan to make big plays in the passing game and get into the end zone. Stanford’s rushing attack led by Tyler Gaffney will also need to step up against an Oregon defense, which has held its opponents to only 16.9 points per game. 

    If the Stanford defense can't slow Oregon’s offense down and put them in situations where they need to rely on special teams to get points, it will be hard for its offense to keep up the entire game on the scoreboard. Expect the Ducks to get revenge in Palo Alto on Thursday night and keep its BCS title hopes alive. 

    Prediction: Oregon 41, Stanford 24

    Result: Stanford 26, Oregon 20

Nebraska at Michigan

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    Michigan senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon against Michigan State on Nov. 2.
    Michigan senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon against Michigan State on Nov. 2.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Saturday: Nebraska @ Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

    Nebraska saved its division title hopes with a Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired to win 27-24 over Northwestern last week, while Michigan received a 29-6 beatdown at Michigan State.

    For the second consecutive week, quarterback Taylor Martinez will likely not play for the Huskers due to multiple injuries. Tommy Armstrong would get the start again and likely split time with Ron Kellogg IIIAmeer Abdullah (1,108 rushing yards and six touchdowns) has been solid the entire season, but it will be the Nebraska receivers that will need to be the big playmakers on Saturday. 

    While Michigan has been strong against the run this season, it has struggled mightily against the pass by giving up 255.0 yards per game (93rd in the country). It will be up to Husker receiver Kenny Bell, who is questionable with a groin injury, and Quincy Enunwa will be critical for the offense’s success. 

    Michigan’s offense, on the other hand, will try to bounce back after a rough outing against Michigan State’s top-ranked defense. The offensive line was manhandled by the Spartan defensive line and allowed quarterback Devin Gardner to get sacked seven times. The Nebraska defense has been a work in progress the entire season, especially its rush defense. 

    The Wolverines have a chance to open up its rushing attack with Fitzgerald Toussaint if Gardner can establish a passing game with talented wide receivers Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess

    Since entering the Big Ten in 2011, Nebraska is just 6-4 in conference road games and has been notorious for getting blown out in at least one of its road games. This could be that rough road loss this season, especially since third-year head coach Brady Hoke has yet to lose a game at Michigan Stadium during his tenure. 

    Prediction: Michigan 41, Nebraska 27  

Houston at No. 21 UCF

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    Junior UCF quarterback Blake Bortles against UConn on Oct. 26.
    Junior UCF quarterback Blake Bortles against UConn on Oct. 26.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Saturday: Houston @ No. 21 UCF, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

    Who could have seen this one coming? AAC newcomers Houston and UCF are now the top contenders to win the conference title. 

    Houston’s only loss this season was a one-point loss to nonconference opponent BYU on Oct. 19. The Cougars have since knocked off AAC opponents Rutgers and South Florida. 

    The offense continues to be led by one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems in the country with John O’Korn and Deontay Greenberry. O’Korn has passed for 2,121 yards and 22 touchdowns (tied for eighth in the country), while Greenberry has 948 receiving yards (ninth in the country) and nine touchdowns (tied for eighth in the country). 

    UCF already defeated AAC favorite Louisville on the road on Oct. 18, and a win over Houston could be what it needs to earn an AAC title and an automatic BCS bowl bid.

    The Knights have been a surprisingly dangerous team this season with quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson leading the way. 

    The defense, led by linebacker Terrance Plummer, has been successful thus far by holding opponents to an average of 349.0 yards per game and 19.3 points per game. 

    Houston has managed to hang around this long in the AAC race, but its hopes will likely be shattered in Orlando Saturday night, as UCF looks to go 5-0 to end the regular season. 

    Prediction: UCF 35, Houston 31 

No. 13 LSU at No. 1 Alabama

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    Senior quarterback AJ McCarron against Tennessee on Oct. 26.
    Senior quarterback AJ McCarron against Tennessee on Oct. 26.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Saturday: No. 13 LSU @ No. 1 Alabama, 8 p.m. ET, CBS

    In recent years, this has been the biggest rivalry in college football and has had BCS title implications on the line.

    This year though, a two-loss LSU squad will attempt to knock undefeated two-time defending national champion Alabama out of the BCS National Championship race. 

    Les Miles’ Tigers are more than likely out of the SEC West Division race, but getting revenge against the Crimson Tide after last year’s loss with less than a minute remaining in regulation would at least keep them in the BCS at-large picture. 

    Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger has 2,492 passing yards and 19 touchdowns on the season, while running back Jeremy Hill is approaching 1,000 rushing yards and scored 12 touchdowns.

    It also has helped having wide receivers Odell Beckham (1,009 receiving yards and eight touchdowns) and Jarvis Landry (882 receiving yards and eight touchdowns) making an impact in an LSU passing game that averaged only 197.4 passing yards per game in 2012, per team rankings

    The LSU defense has not been as dominant this season (370.9 yards per game), but we’ll find out if it's good enough to contain an always-talented Alabama offense.

    Senior quarterback AJ McCarron (1,862 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions) will look for big plays from his backfield consisting of the always-quick T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, as well as a receiving corps with Kevin Norwood and Amari Cooper

    The Crimson Tide defense is holding opponents to an impressive 9.8 points per game and 280.9 yards per game.

    As usual though, it will be an upfront battle between both teams and an outcome that won’t be decided until late in the fourth quarter. 

    Prediction: Alabama 27, LSU 21

The Other Five

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    Minnesota junior running back David Cobb against Nebraska on Oct. 26.
    Minnesota junior running back David Cobb against Nebraska on Oct. 26.Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Saturday: Kansas State @ No. 25 Texas Tech, noon ET, ABC 

    While Texas Tech has dropped its last two games, Kansas State has won its last two and is looking for its third. 

    Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders are likely no longer a Big 12 title contender, even with its air-raid passing attack averaging 414.2 yards per game.

    Texas Tech could be in danger of losing its third consecutive game of the season against an improving Kansas State team.

    While Bill Snyder’s Wildcats have defeated less than subpar opponents the past two weeks, it's a step in the right direction after an opening-weekend upset loss to FCS North Dakota State and two close losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor. 

    The Kansas State defense led by free safety Ty Zimmerman has held its last two opponents to an average of 9.5 points per game and will be looking to shut down one of the most dangerous offenses in the country.

    The Wildcats have won the last two meetings against the Red Raiders, but the streak will end in Lubbock on Saturday. 

    Prediction: Texas Tech 35, Kansas State 28

    Saturday: Penn State @ Minnesota, noon ET, ESPN2

    Minnesota is one of this year’s biggest surprises and with a win over Penn State could hit eight wins for the first time since 2008

    The rushing attack led by David Cobb has played a major role in the Golden Gophers’ success this season. Cobb has averaged 143.0 yards in Minnesota’s last three games. 

    Penn State continues to be an inconsistent up-and-down team, as it was blown out at Ohio State 63-14 on Oct. 26 and hardily escaped Illinois in overtime with a 24-17 win last week. 

    With the Golden Gophers’ recent success and impressive three-game winning streak, it’s hard to pick against this team right now. 

    Prediction: Minnesota 31, Penn State 27

    Saturday: BYU @ No. 24 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

    It’s a big midseason nonconference matchup between two teams that rank 10th and 13th in rushing yards per game this season. 

    BYU quarterback Taysom Hill continues to win games for his team with his dual-threat ability. Hill has 2,019 passing yards, 841 yards and 20 touchdowns, but he will be up against an always-physical Wisconsin defense giving up only 90.4 rushing yards per game. 

    The Badgers will have its rushing attack ready to go with 1,000-yard rusher Melvin Gordon and James White as well.  

    It will be a tight battle, but Wisconsin will come away with a win and keep themselves in the BCS at-large discussion. 

    Prediction: Wisconsin 34, BYU 24

    Saturday: No. 22 Arizona State @ Utah, 4 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

    The Sun Devils have been on a tear since losing to Notre Dame on Oct. 5 by scoring 53.3 points per game. Quarterback Taylor Kelly is leading one of the best offenses in college football and is currently tied for fifth in the country with 23 touchdown passes this season. 

    The Utah defense will not only have to defend against Arizona State’s passing attack, but also shut down Marion Grice in the running game as well. 

    The Utes are home after a tough two-game road skid and will be looking to upset its second Top 25 victim of the season.

    Prediction: Arizona State 41, Utah 28 

    Saturday: Virginia Tech @ No. 11 Miami (Fla.), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Miami suffered its first lost of the season at rival Florida State but was hurt much more by star running back Duke Johnson's season-ending ankle injury. 

    Virginia Tech was off to a surprising 6-1 start but has since lost two close games in a row by a combined 10 total points to Duke and Boston College.

    It doesn’t mean the Hokies' ACC title hopes are out of reach, though. A win at Miami on Saturday night would put them in a tie for first place in the ACC Coastal Division. Virginia Tech would win in tiebreakers over both Miami and Georgia Tech if they were to knock off the Canes. 

    Miami is going to have its hands full against one of the top defenses in the country, but the Canes will win in dramatic fashion as they did in their two games prior to playing at Florida State. 

    Miami (Fla.) 24, Virginia Tech 21