With just a few weeks to go in the college football regular season, every single game in Week 11 is a big one, but a few stand head and shoulders above the rest.
As the SEC gets into the heart of conference play, seemingly every game is important, as the nation’s top teams have to square off against each other and see who gets to remain at the top of the BCS standings.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t action in the other conferences as well. In fact, the ACC has a huge matchup this week that will likely determine who advances to the conference’s championship game in Charlotte.
Read on to learn more about the keys to each game and who will likely come out on top in these three key tilts.
Virginia Tech Hokies at No. 11 Miami Hurricanes
The Virginia Tech Hokies lost in a blowout to the Alabama Crimson Tide to start the season, but in their subsequent six games, they've looked like a dominant team.
The Hokies defense ranks in the top five of almost every statistical category, and for a few games, Logan Thomas played inspired, mistake-free football.
That all changed over the course of the last two games. The team lost their first home game ever to the Duke Blue Devils and then got embarrassed on the road by the Boston College Eagles.
It might not seem like the ideal way for the Hokies to approach their most meaningful game since Alabama, but Tech is actually in pretty good shape to pull the upset here.
The Miami Hurricanes got blown out by the Florida State Seminoles in their last game. While their poor performance could be excused by the excellence of Jameis Winston and company, their issues didn’t start with the Seminoles.
They barely scraped by in games against the lowly Wake Forest Demon Deacons and North Carolina Tar Heels, and now they’re without star running back Duke Johnson.
Quarterback Stephen Morris has looked particularly shaky recently, throwing eight of his 10 interceptions during ACC play, including this one against UNC.
By contrast, senior cornerback Kyle Fuller is finally feeling healthy for the Hokies. He’s listed as probable on the injury report, and this video demonstrates exactly what he brings to the table when he’s at 100 percent.
It’ll be a tough game for both sides, but if the Hokies defense can take advantage of the Hurricanes’ weakened offense, they’ll have the upper hand.
I say the Hokies take this one, 20-17.
No. 13 LSU at No. 1 Alabama
The LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide have played their fair share of big games against each other, and this one is no exception.
Both teams boast impressive defenses once more, but LSU is considerably more offensively focused than they’ve been in years past.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 19 scores and has helped the offense average 40.2 points per game, yet the defense isn’t quite of the same caliber.
The biggest difference has been its inability to make plays in the backfield.
LSU’s opponents average 2.1 yards before contact this season, a full yard more than last season.
In LSU’s loss to Georgia, the Bulldogs ran for 3.9 yards before contact per designed rush, the most LSU has allowed all season.
Georgia had four separate carries when rushers were not touched until at least 15 yards down the field, more than LSU allowed in its other four SEC games combined.
T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake have been very efficient running the ball for the Tide, helping the team average 6.9 yards per carry. They’ll present a very tough test indeed for the reeling Tigers defense.
If LSU can put up points on Alabama’s top-ranked unit, then they’ll have a chance at turning this into a shootout and making it interesting.
But that just doesn’t seem terribly likely. Alabama will win this one, 24-10.
No. 9 Auburn at Tennessee
One team intently watching the LSU-Alabama game will be the Auburn Tigers.
With a 4-1 SEC record, they’d love to see Alabama suffer their first loss, with a chance to hand the Tide another one in their season-ending matchup.
However, they’d be wise to not look past the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols may only be 1-4 in the conference and 4-5 overall, but their record isn’t wholly indicative of how well they’ve played at times.
Not only did they score a big upset over the South Carolina Gamecocks on the road, 23-21, but they also forced overtime against the Georgia Bulldogs before finally falling 34-31.
Their success has largely been thanks to the combination of Rajion Neal and Marlin Lane at running back. The pair has combined for 1,168 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, and this video perfectly demonstrates Neal’s explosiveness.
The difference for the Vols is that quarterback Justin Worley is out indefinitely with a thumb injury, forcing the inexperienced Josh Dobbs into his spot.
Dobbs managed to throw for 315 yards against the Missouri Tigers, but Auburn shouldn’t feel too threatened by him. Although the Tigers do tend to struggle on defense, allowing 398 yards per game, they’re gaining 494.9 yards each game on their own.
This game could very easily turn into a shootout, but that’d be good news for the Tigers.
I’ll say that Auburn takes this game, 42-24.
No matter who wins each game, these contests will have a huge role in shaping division races all over the country.