Week 11 College FB Forecast: Elimination Saturday

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Week 11 College FB Forecast: Elimination Saturday
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There's a simple reason—beyond the money and the stubborn administrators—why college football doesn't have a playoff system:

Late-season excitement at the top of the rankings. 

If there were a playoff, would LSU or Ohio State or Oklahoma or even Kansas have any incentive to play well down the stretch?

No—they could sit their starters, because they'd be basically guaranteed spots in the 16-team playoff system that seems to be the most popular proposal.

As it stands, this weekend brings a number of matchups that are essentially elimination games.

Playoff games, if you will.

Yes, there's only one matchup of Top 25 teams, and many of the nation's top teams are likely to go untested. But as we've learned so frequently this season—never assume a win, because assuming a win is the surest way to earn yourself an upset.

Conference championships still hang in the balance, and there should be some clarity after this Saturday, as the outcomes of several contests will send quality teams home without a shot at hardware.

It should be an exciting, emotional week in college football.

Then again, what week HASN'T been exciting and emotional this season...

 

IconPOWERHOUSE SHOWDOWN: No. 18 Auburn @ No. 10 Georgia

Is there any doubt that Saturday's only Top 25 showdown is the game of the week?

With all the rumors swirling around Tommy Tuberville's future, and Texas A&M doing very little to stop them, how will the Tigers respond?

They'd better be really good to stop a Georgia offense that has overcome Matthew Stafford's inconsistencies thanks to freshman RB Knowshon Moreno, who's only seeing the field because of a slew of injuries in the Bulldog backfield.

Moreno is one of the most energetic players in the country; he almost runs harder to the huddle than he does when he carries the ball. He'll need another big game like the one he had last Saturday, when he just missed 200 yards.

The only question mark is Georgia's defense—which struggled in the second half against Troy last week—and its ability to stop Brandon Cox. Cox is one of the least productive QBs in college football (eight TD, seven INT), yet he continues to win games.

I like Georgia at home. The SEC East is still up in the air, and the Bulldogs will win it if Tennessee loses another conference game. That's motivation enough.

 

BIGGEST BLOWOUT: No. 20 Boise State @ Utah State

Boise State is still in line for a BCS berth, and is surely looking forward to its season finale on November 23rd—at Honolulu against Hawaii for the WAC title.

Still, Utah State is 0-9 and has lost 15 consecutive games. The Aggies are 116th nationally in total offense and 102nd nationally in total defense.

If the Broncos don't get to 50 points, something is desperately wrong.

 

IconBIGGEST IMPLICATIONS: Wake Forest @ No. 21 Clemson

Very simply, the winner still has a shot at the Atlantic Division title.

The loser can start booking plane tickets to Boise or Orlando.

The road to Jacksonville is much more simple for Clemson. All the Tigers have to do is beat Wake this week, then beat Boston College next week, and they're in.

Aside from that, only a complete collapse by the Eagles, in which they lose their final three games, would get Clemson into the ACC title game.

Wake, on the other hand, would need some help from BC, even with a win in Tiger Town on Saturday.

This is the first time Clemson has ever sold out for Wake Forest. I had a Clemson fan tell me that this final four- (or five-) game stretch could shape the future of Clemson football for the next decade.

I always love Clemson's chances at home, especially when the crowd is amped up. But Wake always gives the Tigers trouble, so the Tigers have to be wary of a letdown.

 

TEAM WITH THE MOST TO PROVE: No. 4 Kansas

Even after a 9-0 start, many voters and analysts—myself included—don't think the Jayhawks are for real. A road win at Oklahoma State, where the Cowboys should still be smarting from their fourth-quarter collapse against Texas last week, would certainly help its national perception.

 

IconPLAYER WITH THE MOST TO PROVE: Darren McFadden, Arkansas

After a superb performance against South Carolina in which he rushed for an SEC-record-tying 321 yards and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass, the junior tailback is back at the top of many Heisman leaderboards.

The next victim?

The Tennessee Volunteers, who are ninth in the 12-team SEC in rush defense.

McFadden could duplicate his numbers from last week, although another performance like that one can't possibly be expected.

If nothing else, it looks like McFadden is beginning to step his game up just in time for the stretch run, as he and his offensive line begin to get healthy.

In a thin year for true Heisman candidates, another dominant game would pay huge dividends in McFadden's quest for the ultimate individual award in college football.

 

MOST LOPSIDED POSITIONAL MATCHUP: West Virginia's Backfield vs. Louisville's Defense

With Louisville's defensive unit approaching abysmal, West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton should have a field day.

The Cardinals are an abject failure—the only team in America that can waste a 500-yard passing performance on multiple occasions.

The story gets worse after White and Slaton are done with them.

 

UPSET ALERT: No. 4 Kansas @ Oklahoma State

Kansas has stepped up every time it has had to this season. Now the Jayhawks face a Cowboy team that will either be furious or devastated following its meltdown a week ago.

Still, I think Mike Gundy's spread offense can cause some problems for KU. Zac Robinson is a dynamic passer with sensational playmaking ability.

I'm calling Kansas' joyride to end this week in Stillwater.

 

IconBURNING QUESTIONS

- Can Texas fall behind against scoring machine Texas Tech and stage another fourth-quarter rally? (My gut says no.)

- Will Clemson come to play against Wake Forest in an early game, with a huge showdown with Boston College looming next week?

- Will Cal knock USC out of the Top 25?

- Can Steve Spurrier motivate his troops to beat Florida despite a three-game losing streak?

- Will Virginia beat Miami by more than a field goal? Or at all?

- Will Matt Ryan and BC let Florida State beat them twice against a banged-up Maryland Terrapin squad?

- Speaking of FSU, can the Noles make it two straight road upsets in Blacksburg over Virginia Tech?

 

BOLD PREDICTIONS

- Arkansas will gain 400 rushing yards against a struggling Tennessee defense.

- Ohio State will struggle with Illinois, even though the Buckeyes are more talented and experienced, and are playing at home.

- Georgia's Knowshon Moreno will run for 150 yards on Auburn's vaunted defense.

- Clemson will score a non-offensive touchdown against Wake Forest.

- Matt Ryan's touchdown total will not exceed his interception total against Maryland.

- Vanderbilt will gain bowl eligibility with an upset win over Kentucky.

- Graham Harrell of Texas Tech will throw for six touchdowns against Texas.

- Cal will have over 400 yards of offense against USC's underachieving defense.

- Florida State will force at least four turnovers against Virginia Tech.

- Steve Spurrier will throw his visor at least 10 times during the South Carolina-Florida game.

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