Winners and Losers of Week 11 in College Football
Four undefeated teams survived Week 11 with a goose egg in the loss column, but Kerryon Johnson led Auburn to a 40-17 upset of previously undefeated No. 1 Georgia, making the Tigers some of the biggest winners and the Bulldogs some of the biggest losers of the week.
As if that wasn't enough of a shake-up to the College Football Playoff picture, No. 2 Alabama barely escaped against Mississippi State, No. 3 Notre Dame got destroyed by Miami, and No. 4 Clemson's 17-point win over Florida State wasn't anywhere near as comfortable as that final margin would have you believe.
But there were about 60 other games played this week, and we're interested in finding the biggest winners and losers from all of them—such as Jackson Abresch for Northern Illinois or Dameon Baber for Nevada, each of whom caught our attention because of blocked punts.
Read on for the rest of Week 11's biggest winners and losers.
Winner: The Turnover Chain
The brainchild of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has officially become the one visual we will always equate with the 2017 college football season. The turnover chain seems to go viral every week, and it was a virus for which Notre Dame could not find a cure, as the No. 7 Hurricanes stomped the No. 3 Fighting Irish 41-8.
The Irish turned the ball over four times—three interceptions and one fumble—while Miami didn't cough up the ball once. The Hurricanes entered the night with a plus-11 turnover margin and will rank in the top three nationally in that category. The irony is Notre Dame was a little better at plus-12 and had only turned the ball over seven times all season.
But the chain knows no bounds.
It'd be one thing if Miami forced a few turnovers and didn't do a darn thing when it got the ball back, but the 'Canes turned all four turnovers into points. Twenty-four of them, in fact. Three of the turnovers occurred in Notre Dame territory, setting up easy scoring opportunities. And the fourth was an interception returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Trajan Bandy.
It's funny that people have almost unanimously rallied behind the power of the turnover chain when Tennessee's turnover garbage can was despised by pretty much everyone outside of Knoxville earlier this year.
It's also funny to think that two weeks ago, we were calling Miami one of the weakest undefeated power-conference teams in recent memory. The 'Canes needed some dumb luck to get by subpar teams such as Syracuse and North Carolina, but they have put a defensive hurting on Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in their last two games. They have now locked up the ACC Coastal division and should have little difficulty getting to the conference championship game with an 11-0 record.
Loser: All Heisman Bets Not Placed on Baker Mayfield
Well, gang, it was a fun ride.
First, there was preseason Heisman candidate Sam Darnold, but the USC quarterback's push ended almost before it started. Throughout the year, guys such as Saquon Barkley, Bryce Love, J.T. Barrett, Jonathan Taylor, Josh Adams and Khalil Tate all popped up as viable candidates for college football's most prestigious honor. Even Lamar Jackson had a solid case for repeating until the Louisville defense lost so many games that we've inexplicably disregarded a dude who's averaging 300.3 passing yards, 117.6 rushing yards and 3.6 total touchdowns per game.
But that's because Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield would need to literally shoot himself in the foot to not win the Heisman at this point.
He started to run away with the award last week when he threw for 598 yards and accounted for six total touchdowns in a road win over Oklahoma State. One more solid performance this week against No. 6 TCU was all he needed to seal the deal, and Mayfield delivered in a 38-20 win over Horned Frogs.
Running back Rodney Anderson was actually the biggest star of the game. He had 151 rushing yards, 139 receiving yards and a combined total of four touchdowns. But, per usual, Mayfield was almost flawless. The two-time Heisman finalist threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in victory. He also rushed for 50 yards, just for good measure.
Mayfield is now averaging 355.9 passing yards per game and has accounted for 36 total touchdowns. And he hasn't even faced Kansas or West Virginia yet, otherwise known as two of the worst defenses in the Big 12.
Not only has he locked up the Heisman, but Oklahoma could also climb as high as No. 2 in the next edition of the CFP Top 25. The Sooners debuted at No. 5 two weeks ago. Since then, Nos. 1 and 3 have suffered a loss and the Sooners have beaten a pair of Top 11 opponents. Whether they're at No. 2, 3 or 4 on Tuesday, they're now in the driver's seat for a spot in the playoff.
Winner: Auburn's Defense
Over the past few weeks, Auburn's defense hadn't been that impressive. After holding each of their first five opponents to 14 points or fewer, the Tigers had given up at least 20 points in each of their last four games. They allowed 259.2 yards per game and 3.77 yards per play in September; those numbers were 367.3 and 5.25, respectively, since the beginning of October.
But, apparently, they were just saving up energy for this massive showdown against Georgia, which resulted in a 40-17 win over the No. 1 team in the country.
The Bulldogs had rushed for at least 185 yards in every game this season, averaging just under 280 yards and three rushing touchdowns per game. Per CFB Stats, they were tied for fourth in the nation in rushes that went for at least 20 yards, with 30 of them.
Auburn wasn't having any of that. Never mind a 20-yard run, Georgia didn't have a single carry go for more than 10 yards—and even that 10-yard run came late in the fourth quarter on a meaningless drive with the game already out of hand. Take out that possession and Georgia carried the ball 28 times for just 23 yards.
As a result, freshman QB Jake Fromm was repeatedly forced into 3rd-and-long situations, in which he very much looked like a freshman QB trying to read an elite defense. Prior to the aforementioned inconsequential drive, Fromm was 8-of-19 for just 133 yards.
Though we're officially calling the Auburn defense the winner here, the offense was doggone impressive, too. Against what had been one of the best defenses in the nation, Jarrett Stidham threw for 214 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a rushing touchdown early in the third quarter that effectively sealed the game.
The Tigers outgained the Bulldogs 488-230, ensuring there will be a significant shake-up in the next CFP Top 25.
Loser: Florida and Florida State
Though both teams made things interesting midway through the fourth quarter, Florida and Florida State each fell to 3-6 this week with losses to South Carolina and Clemson, respectively.
As a reminder, in the preseason AP Top 25, Florida State was No. 3 and Florida was No. 17. Injuries are to blame for the Seminoles. The Gators have also been unexpectedly without several key players for this entire season due to felony charges for credit card fraud. But regardless of the how or why, the what and when is that both of these teams are kind of dreadful.
So, raise your hand if you thought Central Florida, South Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International would all be better than both Florida and Florida State this season.
OK, maybe the Gators or Seminoles would beat the Owls or the Golden Panthers in a head-to-head game, but the non-major Florida schools are all bowl-eligible while the SEC and ACC versions are not.
Earlier this week, Florida State did announce that it has rescheduled its previously cancelled game against Louisiana-Monroe for Dec. 2, so there's still a chance the 3-6 Seminoles could win out and become bowl-eligible. There has been no indication yet that the 3-6 Gators plan to reintroduce a 12th game—their contest against Northern Colorado was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma—so they are already ineligible for a bowl game as far as we know.
As a result, the typically sensational regular-season finale between these two programs is A) not actually the finale for Florida State and B) about as intriguing as the third-best Sun Belt game of the day.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Winner: Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Midweek #MACtion always gets overlooked in all the predictions and general hullabaloo of the buildup to each week, but we would be remiss if we didn't give Jarvion Franklin a shoutout.
Western Michigan's senior running back—one of the only noteworthy holdovers on this offense from last year's 13-1 team—rushed for 191 yards and a touchdown in a 48-20 victory over Kent State. On the last play of the first quarter, he broke free for a career-long 72-yard touchdown. It helped put the Broncos ahead by a 21-14 margin, and they never looked back.
After rushing for 1,353 yards last season, Franklin shouldered big expectations. However, he got out to a painfully slow start, including a 10-carry, eight-yard game against Idaho. At the end of September, he was averaging just 46.4 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry.
But then October began and he became a workhorse again. In his last five games, Franklin has averaged 165.8 yards per contest and 5.9 yards per carry.
As a result, 6-4 Western Michigan is bowl-eligible, and Franklin is rushing up the all-time leaderboard.
He is now at an even 4,700 career rushing yards. Per Sports Reference, that puts him at No. 40 in FBS history. He's guaranteed at least three more games, possibly four if WMU wins its next two and represents the MAC West in the conference championship tilt. Thus, 5,000 career yards is attainable, and based on the way he has been running, he might even get to 5,200 to finish in the top 15.
In a big season for four-year running backs, fellow seniors Royce Freeman (Oregon) and Justin Jackson (Northwestern) will finish ahead of him on that list. Still, it's impressive what this guy has accomplished.
Loser: Toledo Rockets
The national media has tried to convince you there's only one conference in the running for the Group of Five's spot in the New Year's Six bowls: the American Athletic Conference. With UCF as the front-runner, and Memphis and South Florida not far behind, it's almost a foregone conclusion that the AAC champion will appear in the Top 16 of the CFP selection committee's final poll.
But one team that could have thrown a wrench into the AAC's NY6 dream was Toledo.
Take note of the use of past tense, though..
The Rockets entered the week with an 8-1 record and boasted one of the most prolific offenses in the country, averaging 517.8 yards and 39.0 points per game. Their lone loss was to undefeated Miami, and they were leading at halftime of that game.
If Toledo could win out and get to 12-1 while UCF slipped up at some point, there was at least a shot that the Rockets would end up ranked higher than any AAC team.
But that went flying out the window with their Wednesday night 38-10 loss to Ohio.
Toledo fumbled in the red zone on its first possession, and it was all downhill from there. The Rockets never got rolling on offense and could not stop Ohio from scoring in the second half. And just like that, it officially is AAC or bust for the Group of Five.
Winner: Jackson Abresch, Northern Illinois
OK, I promise: This is the last section devoted to midweek #MACtion. But you're going to want to check this out.
Jackson Abresch is a redshirt senior safety for Northern Illinois who hasn't done much. He entered Thursday night with 41 career tackles, two interceptions and two passes defended. But he is part of the punt-return team for the Huskies, and he was in the right place at the right time on two separate occasions.
Late in the first quarter, Trayshon Foster blocked a would-be punt by Ball State's Nathan Snyder. Abresch scooped it up and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown.
No big deal, right? Blocked punts turn into touchdowns all the time.
But in the fourth quarter—with place-kicker Morgan Hagee handling the punting duties for the Cardinals because Snyder was injured on the first block—Jauan Wesley blocked another punt. Abresch fell on it in the end zone for his second touchdown of the day. It helped push Northern Illinois ahead by its final margin of 63-17.
Technically, those count as punt-return touchdowns for Abresch. Per Sports Reference, dating back to 2000, there had only been 20 instances of multiple punt returns for a touchdown in one game by the same player, but those feats were accomplished by, you know, punt returners. Texas A&M's Christian Kirk (Oct. 29, 2016) was the only player to do so this year or last year.
Sortable data for blocked punts returned for touchdowns isn't readily available, but I'm going out on a limb to say Abresch at least tied an FBS record in that category, if he didn't set a new record.
Loser: Washington Huskies and FS1 Scheduling
Unless things get nuts in the other major conferences, Washington was the Pac-12's last good chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff. Maybe you could make a case for USC at No. 11 in the latest CFP Top 25, but aside from Washington, every team in the conference had already suffered at least two losses.
However, between needing to play at Stanford, vs. Washington State and in the Pac-12 championship game (presumably against USC), the Huskies looked unlikely to win out and get to 12-1. And they eliminated that tightrope-walking drama early with a 30-22 loss to Stanford on Friday night.
Entering the game, Washington had one of the best rushing defenses in the nation. Opponents were averaging 2.6 yards per carry and 91.1 yards per game. The Huskies had only allowed three rushing touchdowns in their first nine games. But Bryce Love—despite appearing to reaggravate a left ankle injury early in the game—could not be stopped. He ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
Or so we're told.
The real loser was FS1's scheduling, as the entire first quarter of this game was relegated to FS2—a channel that might be available in fewer households nationwide than the Pac-12 Network. The reasoning? A Camping World Truck Series race that ran almost an hour longer than expected because of multiple stoppages due to accidents.
It was comical to watch the jokes/outrage on Twitter as people tuned in to watch football and instead saw a bunch of trucks parked on a racing course in front of about 37 fans. Perhaps worst of all, FS1 continued airing post-race footage and interviews for a solid 15 minutes after the event mercifully ended. And when they finally switched over to the football game, they immediately went to a commercial because the last play of the first quarter had just transpired.
What a mess. And for poor Stanford fans, it's the second straight week something like this has happened. Last week's game against Washington State was moved to Fox Business Network (seriously) because the Michigan State vs. Penn State game was in a three-hour weather delay.
Love belongs near the top of the Heisman conversation, but this rushing machine isn't getting the respect he deserves because it has been such a challenge to see him in action.
Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes
The College Football Playoff selection committee decided this past Tuesday that Michigan State has a better resume than Ohio State, as it ranked the Spartans at No. 12 and the Buckeyes at No. 13. Michigan State shot up the rankings following their Week 10 win over Penn State, and it was considered enough to bypass Ohio State, which was in free fall following a blowout loss to Iowa.
But the gambling public knew better, as Ohio State was a 17-point favorite by the time the game began, per OddsShark. Even that wasn't nearly enough. The Buckeyes raced out to a 35-0 lead in the first half before they cruised to a 48-3 victory and reclaimed their spot atop the Big Ten East standings.
Sophomore running back Mike Weber hasn't been much of a factor this season, as freshman stud J.K. Dobbins has displaced him. There was plenty of room for both guys to put up impressive numbers against the Spartans, though. Weber ran for 162 yards on nine carries, including touchdowns from 47 and 82 yards out. Dobbins had 124 yards of his own, as the Buckeyes shredded Michigan State for 335 rushing yards and four TDs on the ground.
OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett wasn't quite as unstoppable as he was in Weeks 3 through 9, but he was much better against Michigan State than he was against Iowa. Barrett threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more in the blowout.
Could the Buckeyes still reach the playoff? They'll probably climb back into the Top 10 this week and have marquee games remaining at Michigan and against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, but that might not be enough. As far as style points go, though, beating the tar out of Michigan State won't hurt matters.
Loser: Defenses in Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State
"Defense" in the Big 12 is a relative term, but Iowa State and Oklahoma State have had two of the best defenses in the conference for most of the season. Even though the Cowboys gave up 62 points and nearly 800 total yards last week in Bedlam, they were No. 4 in the Big 12 in yards allowed per game. The Cyclones were No. 2. Moreover, Iowa State's offense hasn't been anything close to crisp lately, so this one had all the makings of a 27-21-type of affair.
Instead, it was a 91-point, 1,013-yard offensive bonanza that didn't feature a single turnover in the first 59 minutes.
An injury knocked Iowa State's Kyle Kempt out of the game in the first half, but even fourth-string, freshman QB Zeb Noland couldn't slow down the Cyclones offense. David Montgomery had some great runs—often out of the Wildcat formation—for 105 yards and three touchdowns. Star wide receiver Allen Lazard made some incredible plays of his own for 126 yards and two scores. And, oh yeah, QB-turned-LB Joel Lanning was responsible for a pair of offensive scores.
But it wasn't quite enough to keep pace with Mason Rudolph and Justice Hill.
Oklahoma State's senior QB completed 25 of 31 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the sophomore running back gashed the Cyclones' front seven for 134 yards and three touchdowns.
The game ended on a joint-possession interception in the end zone by Oklahoma State's A.J. Green. Otherwise, Iowa State would've tied it up, and they'd probably still be scoring touchdowns against each other in the seventh overtime.
Winner: Demry Croft, Minnesota
To put it lightly, throwing the football has not been Minnesota's forte this season. Through nine games, the Golden Gophers had a completion percentage of 48.7 that ranked in the bottom 12 nationally. Their collective QB rating (112.19) and yards per game (147.2) weren't much better.
But one way to get around that passing inefficiency is for your quarterback to do his best Khalil Tate impression, and that's exactly what Demry Croft did for Minnesota in a 54-21 beatdown of Nebraska.
Factoring in sacks as a loss of rushing yards, Croft had rushed 24 times for negative-five yards in the previous two games against Iowa and Michigan. That guy was nowhere to be found against the Cornhuskers, as he rushed 10 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns—which even includes a 14-yard sack against him. He ran for a 73-yard touchdown and broke free for another 64-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
Factor in 134 yards from Rodney Smith and 93 yards and three TDs from Kobe McCrary, and Minnesota had 409 yards and six touchdowns on the ground against Nebraska. It was the first time since Wisconsin's 581-yard, seven-touchdown game in 2014 that Nebraska gave up that many rushing yards or touchdowns.
With the victory, Minnesota improved to 5-5 and maintained hope of a sixth consecutive bowl appearance. The Golden Gophers will either need to win at Northwestern next week or vs. Wisconsin in the regular-season finale to get there. But if they can get another group rushing performance like this one, they can steal one of those games.
Loser: Virginia Tech Hokies
Two weeks ago, Virginia Tech was on the fringe of the College Football Playoff picture, ranked No. 13 in the initial Top 25. But after back-to-back disappointing showings on the road, the Hokies aren't even a viable candidate for a New Year's Six bowl anymore.
It started last week against Miami. They were held to a season-low 299 total yards and 10 points while getting plowed over by the Hurricanes' rushing attack. Things were even worse in a 28-22 loss to Georgia Tech, as the Hokies gave up more rushing yards (261) than the total yards they gained on offense (258).
Freshman QB Josh Jackson was held without a passing touchdown for the second straight week, and Virginia Tech did not have a single rushing attempt go for more than 15 yards in either game.
This was never a particularly proficient offense, though. The bigger concern are the defensive struggles.
The Hokies entered the Miami game on a seven-game streak of holding opponents below 345 total yards. On average, those seven opponents gained 240.6 yards and scored 9.7 points. But they have given up more than 400 yards and four touchdowns on defense in two straight games to fall completely out of the running for a spot in the ACC title game.
Winner: John Wolford, Wake Forest
Syracuse's defense has improved by leaps and bounds since its 2016 season-ending 76-61 loss to Pittsburgh. The Orange actually entered the week allowing an average of 365.1 yards per game, compared to 501.1 one year ago.
But that defense failed to show up in a 64-43 loss to Wake Forest.
Demon Deacons running back Matt Colburn II had 237 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and he wasn't even close to being the biggest star of the day. That honor belongs to suddenly unstoppable QB John Wolford.
Wolford torched Syracuse with his arm and his legs. Despite recently losing leading receiver Greg Dortch for the season to an abdominal injury, Wolford threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 136 yards and three more touchdowns.
Here's a fun fact about Wolford's performance: Per Sports Reference, dating back to 2000, there has only been one other instance of a quarterback's throwing for at least 360 yards, rushing for at least 135 yards and scoring multiple touchdowns via both the ground and the air: Johnny Manziel against Louisiana Tech in 2012.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new Johnny Football!
Wolford was held to 271 passing yards or fewer in each of his first six games this season, but over the past three contests, he has amassed 1,155 passing yards and 10 TDs, as well as 209 rushing yards and five more scores.
Wake Forest is now bowl-eligible at 6-4, and you better believe we're rooting for a showdown with Arizona and Khalil Tate in the Sun Bowl.
Loser: SMU's Plan for Slowing Down Navy
Stopping the run has been a significant challenge for SMU as of late. The Mustangs had allowed at least 200 rushing yards and 28 points in four straight games—a predictably awful precursor for a matchup with Navy. They scored 40 points, but it wasn't enough to make up for the 43 they allowed.
To SMU's credit, it did a great job defending the pass. Navy only threw the ball once in the entire game, and it resulted in an interception. But there was no good reason for the Midshipmen to try anything in the air, because they were running at will against the Mustangs.
With Zach Abey banged up with a shoulder injury he suffered last week against Temple, running back Malcolm Perry was the "quarterback" in the triple-option offense. He carried the ball 33 times for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Perry had five carries go for at least 19 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown late in the first half.
And he was barely even half the story. Anthony Gargiulo ran for 145 yards and a touchdown. Four other Midshipmen had at least one rush go for more than 10 yards. As a team, they ran for 559 yards and six scores.
This marks the second time this season that a team rushed for at least 555 yards. Navy is responsible for both of those games, as it had a 569-yard explosion earlier this year against Cincinnati.
Winner: Wisconsin's Defense
One week ago, Iowa shocked the college football world. It's not that the Hawkeyes beat Ohio State. It's that they obliterated the Buckeyes with 55 points and nearly 500 yards of total offense. The blowout win vaulted Iowa to No. 20 in the CFP rankings in advance of this week's road game against Wisconsin.
That offense, um, didn't show up to face the Badgers.
Shutdown corner Josh Jackson had a great game for Iowa, taking not one but two interceptions to the house. However, that was all the scoring the Hawkeyes could muster in the 38-14 loss.
Nathan Stanley threw for five touchdowns last week against the Buckeyes, but he completed just eight of 24 passes for 41 yards against Wisconsin. Factor in the four sacks, and he accounted for just six yards of total offense.
Iowa's running game wasn't any better. Akrum Wadley and James Butler combined for just 53 yards as the Hawkeyes were held without a single rush that went for 10 or more yards. Heck, they didn't have a pass go for more than 10 yards, either, as they amassed 66 yards of total offense and only managed five first downs in the game.
Say what you will about the strength of their schedule, but there's no questioning the strength of this Badgers defense. They have held each of their last six opponents to 17 points or fewer and have not allowed more than 286 total yards in more than a month.
Loser: Utah's Quest for a Comeback
As far as offense is concerned, Utah's first quarter against Washington State could not have gone much worse than it did. The Utes went three-and-out on their opening possession, proceeded to commit three turnovers on their next eight offensive plays and lost 22 yards of field position before punting on their fifth possession.
By the time the quarter mercifully came to an end, Utah was down 13-0 and looked deader than disco.
The Utes were still down 26-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, but they finally woke up and refused to go quietly into the night, scoring TDs on two of three possessions. With three minutes remaining, they got the ball back trailing by just eight points. However, Tyler Huntley threw an interception to end a 39-yard drive. They got the ball back one more time, but Huntley's Hail Mary attempt was picked off at the goal line for Utah's seventh turnover of the game.
It feels like a lifetime ago, but Utah was undefeated and ranked No. 20 in the nation in early October. But here we are in mid-November and the Utes still haven't qualified for a bowl game thanks to five losses in their last six games.
They'll play at Washington next week, which will likely put them at 5-6 for the season finale against Colorado, which also fell to 5-6 this weekend with a loss to USC. That game won't be as noteworthy as the Iron Bowl, but it's hard to argue with a mutual win-or-go-home contest for bowl eligibility.
Winner: Dameon Baber, Nevada
Gotta say, I was not expecting to write anything about 1-9 San Jose State vs. 1-8 Nevada. However, Dameon Baber had one of the most incredible individual defensive efforts in the history of this sport.
On the first drive of the game, San Jose State marched 61 yards down the field before throwing an interception to Baber. A few possessions later, Wyatt Demps—who also had 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns—blocked an SJSU punt, which Baber scooped up and returned six yards for a touchdown.
A few possessions after that, Baber ended another long Spartans drive with an interception in the red zone. This time, though, he returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. And then late in the third quarter, he got both his third interception and third touchdown of the game on a 39-yard pick-six.
Nevada cruised to a 59-14 victory, but that's a meaningless result in a game between two teams going nowhere fast.
What will be interesting to monitor is what this does for Baber's eventual NFL draft stock. He was already one of the best defenders in the Mountain West Conference. This was the second three-interception game of his career—the last came in 2015, which was also the last time he intercepted any passes in a game.