Bleacher Report Expert Predictions for Week 11 in College FootballNovember 9, 2018
Bleacher Report Expert Predictions for Week 11 in College Football
If the betting lines are an accurate representation of what's to come, Week 11 of the 2018 college football season is going to be an uneventful one. Every team in the Top Seven of the College Football Playoff rankings is favored by at least two touchdowns, even though No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia is each facing a ranked opponent.
But if history instead repeats itself for a fourth time, you might want to strap in for all the upheaval coming our way. Since the CFP's inception in 2014, at least four CFP Top 10 teams have suffered Week 11 losses each year.
Don't believe it? Here's the list of each team that lost:
- 2014: No. 3 Auburn^, No. 7 Kansas State, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 10 Notre Dame
- 2015: No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Stanford^, No. 9 LSU^, No. 10 Arizona*
- 2016: No. 2 Clemson^, No. 3 Michigan*, No. 4 Washington, No. 8 Texas A&M^, No. 9 Auburn*
- 2017: No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 6 TCU, No. 9 Washington*
*Lost on the road to an unranked opponent
^Lost at home to an unranked opponent
Who joins that dubious club this year? Our college football experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—were asked eight questions about Week 11 to help let you know who is most at risk.
Spoiler alert: Michigan is not one of the teams at risk.
Will Clemson's Perfect Season Come to an End at Boston College?
Matt Hayes (Twitter: @MattHayesCFB)
No. I don't see BC throwing the ball with enough consistency to beat Clemson. The No. 17 Eagles are solid on defense, and they can play keep away with tailback AJ Dillon and a terrific run game—but only if QB Anthony Brown makes good decisions and doesn't get rattled early. Brown played well the last two weeks in big wins over Miami and Virginia Tech, but he has had stretches this season where his uneven or poor play (see: Purdue, NC State) put too much pressure on the BC run game. He must play well for the Eagles to have any chance.
David Kenyon (Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR)
No, though I'm not expecting a blowout. This is Trevor Lawrence's first major test on the road as a starter. He told reporters he's never been north of Virginia. It'll be cold, at night, with a loud crowd. (The current weather forecast is for a low of 34 degrees.) Boston College probably understands it can't match Clemson's front seven straight up, so like the Eagles did against Miami, expect a whole bunch of misdirection and trick plays. Clemson will be challenged, for sure.
Adam Kramer (Twitter: @KegsnEggs)
No. Although if it's going to happen before the ACC championship, this feels like it'll have to be the spot.
I love what Boston College has put together this year, and watching Dillon run the football is a glorious feat of mass being put in motion. But Clemson has not so quietly found its rhythm after a slow start (following Kelly Bryant's departure). As seen in the performance against Louisville, it's not just about Trevor Lawrence making plays. Boston College could very well hang tough, but Clemson will gut this out by double digits (and probably cover the 20 points).
Kerry Miller (Twitter: @kerrancejames)
The Tigers have been on some kind of rampage lately. In four games since that close call against Syracuse, their average margin of victory has been 51 points. That's more than seven touchdowns, for crying out loud. While I believe Boston College is competent enough to not get its teeth kicked in that badly at home, it's hard to come up with a scenario where Brown paces the Eagles offense to a stunning victory. Give me Clemson in a 38-17 type of snoozer.
Brad Shepard (Twitter: @Brad_Shepard)
Clemson is going to get tested this weekend. I really like Steve Addazio's team, and the Eagles are a better squad when Dillon is healthy and running the way he has the past couple of weeks. The problem is he's banged up, and BC needs him healthy to be able to hang with the Tigers.
While Lawrence hasn't been consistently brilliant, the true freshman is playing within himself and letting Travis Etienne, Tavien Feaster and Co. do the heavy lifting. Oh, and that defense is pretty darn good, too, by the way.
Clemson looks to be on a crash course with Alabama, and I don't see that changing this weekend. Again, this game could be close-ish for a half, but the Tigers will win something like 34-14 and continue to cement their status as the nation's second-best team.
Ian Wharton (Twitter: @NFLFilmStudy)
No. Here's a fun fact: Only six teams (Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah State, UCF, Houston and Ohio) have averaged more points per game in conference play than Clemson's average margin of victory (39.3) through six ACC games. Clemson's 236-point differential is easily first in the country, as the Tigers have hit their stride over the last month. Boston College is a good team, but the Eagles' run game will be slowed to a halt and they lack the explosiveness outside of Dillon to overcome such a talented Clemson roster.
Does Either SEC Division Champion Slip Up This Week?
The Mississippi State game always follows the LSU game in Alabama's schedule, and the Tide have had mixed results. They have won 10 straight in this series, but they needed a late drive last year to win in Starkville and won by just five in 2014. But it'll be too much Tua Tagovailoa, too much Alabama offense this time around. Georgia will win, too, as the Dawgs are beginning to find themselves offensively. QB Jake Fromm is beginning the same late, efficient push he had last season.
Alabama and Georgia have similar tasks. The opposing defense is somewhere between very good and excellent, but the opposing offense desperately needs to run the ball to succeed. Otherwise, a strong defensive effort from Mississippi State or Auburn, respectively, will be wasted. I anticipate that's what happens Saturday.
I just don't see it, although maybe both games will be closer than expected?
If Alabama were to have a letdown, this feels like an ideal spot for it—coming off a big victory and winning the West Division. Most normal teams might struggle here. It's just hard to imagine this game being all that close, despite the fact that Mississippi State (No. 16 in the CFP) is a solid team.
The same can be said about Georgia vs. Auburn—a matchup we saw twice last year. Auburn (No. 24 in the CFP) has been resilient. That is for certain. But I worry about the offense in a game that will require consistent drives. I could see the Tigers covering the 14-point spread, but I just can't pull the trigger on predicting either upset.
Alabama just annihilated the No. 3 team in the nation on the road. Unless you want to have that stupid annual debate about whether the Crimson Tide could beat the worst NFL team, there's no way I'll be predicting them to lose any time soon.
The Auburn-Georgia game should be more competitive, but not by much. The Tigers don't have the defense to shut down Georgia's run game, nor do they have the offense to score more than two or three times against the Bulldogs. Alabama and Georgia both survive the week and will get to the SEC Championship Game with a combined record of 23-1.
If I had any belief in Nick Fitzgerald, I'd be excited about the Mississippi State-Alabama game, just because the Bulldogs defense plays at a high level. Unfortunately for MSU—even though Fitzgerald has been much better the past few weeks—he hasn't risen to the occasion against quality defenses. This Alabama D is getting better each week and was flat-out dominant against an LSU team that couldn't throw the ball downfield consistently. It'll be much the same this weekend.
Georgia has to face an Auburn team that is playing much better recently. This is going to be a close game in Athens, and UGA is going to look worrisome on offense again, much like it did against LSU. But the difference in this game will be Fromm making just enough plays to win. I'll take the Dawgs, 24-20.
Alabama definitely will not. But the Tigers have a shot at beating Georgia if their offense can continue the momentum created in the fourth quarter last week against Texas A&M. Auburn will have to force turnovers, but it has the defense to give Jarrett Stidham and the offense a chance. I'll pick Georgia to win because it's hard to trust Stidham this year, but it's possible he again rises to the occasion by delivering clutch throws.
Will No. 10 Ohio State Stay in Playoff Hunt by Beating No. 18 Michigan State?
Ohio State will follow this formula this week: struggle early, trail early, protect QB Dwayne Haskins better in the second half and watch him complete some big throws. Once that happens, the run game with J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber seals it. That formula, though, only lasts two more weeks (including next week at Maryland) before The Game arrives Nov. 24 and changes everything.
Yes, but it's not that I trust Ohio State. MSU is sticking with Brian Lewerke at quarterback, and he simply hasn't developed into the player that was expected. While he's fought injuries lately, he was horrible against Michigan and frustrating at Maryland. The Spartans should hang around thanks to their defense, but the Buckeyes hang on for the win.
Yes, but barely. Although I can't say I feel at all good about picking Ohio State given the way the Buckeyes have played. (Seriously, this is one of the strangest 8-1 teams I can ever remember.)
But Michigan State is not going to overwhelm Ohio State's defense. Home field will undoubtedly help, and Urban Meyer's defense will by no means be perfect. But I think the Buckeyes will find a way, and leaning on a rushing attack that was outstanding (finally) last Saturday is where I would start.
Close. Ugly. About right. Ohio State 31, Michigan State 28.
Ohio State's defense is atrocious, especially away from home. Between the neutral-site tilt with TCU and the road games at Penn State and Purdue, the Buckeyes have allowed 34.3 points and 514.0 total yards per game. Those numbers are about on par with what Illinois has been giving up all season long, which is the furthest thing from a compliment. What's more, Ohio State's offense has to deal with a Michigan State defense that hasn't allowed a passing touchdown in nine quarters. So yeah, I'll take the Spartans at home.
It feels like Ohio State is in trouble. There's some fragility there, and anybody that has a semblance of an offense can do some damage against the Buckeyes. The problem with Mark Dantonio's team is Sparty don't have the offense to hang.
Unless something changes, this OSU team won't beat Michigan. This weekend's game is not a guarantee, either. But unless Lewerke returns to his 2017 form and turns the page on a frustrating season, I'll take the Buckeyes by another narrow margin.
Yes. There's a lot on the line for Ohio State this game. The Buckeyes' abysmal defense has been a cure for ailing offenses all year, but the Spartans are bringing an especially limited unit to this fight. If the Spartans can grind out a win despite what has been a terrible passing game lately, the Buckeyes' defensive staff will only continue to draw more ire. Counting out Dantonio is never a wise idea, but Ohio State should be desperate enough to win this week.
Will Fresno State Keep Its New Year's 6 Bowl Hope Alive at Boise State?
There are a couple ways to look at this question: Fresno State not only needs to beat Boise State on the road (not going to happen), but it would also need UCF to eventually lose a game (not going to happen). Brett Rypien saved his best for his senior season and continues to make big plays in big games. He'll make a few more this weekend to get the Broncos another step closer to defending their Mountain West Conference championship.
All seven of Fresno State's wins are by 18 points or more. The defense has limited four of its last five opponents to seven points or fewer. This isn't a fluky 8-1, and it's ridiculous the CFP committee has pinned the Bulldogs at No. 23. Whatever. Point being, yes: Fresno wins. Rypien has thrived after a rough 2017, but he tends to struggle against comparable defenses. This is an excellent one.
Before I make a pick, let me first implore you to watch this football game. Please. This might be my favorite game during Week 11. Fresno State has been fabulous, and the blue turf is always a quality watch. Seriously, watch this game.
That said, I will take Fresno State. Since the Bulldogs' Week 2 loss at Minnesota—a loss that looks super weird many weeks later—the team has been awesome. The Bulldogs have balance, and I think that's important heading into a game against Boise State.
The Broncos have also found their rhythm over the past month, and a win at home certainly wouldn’t surprise. But I will take Fresno State in a late Friday night game for which I will fire up the ol' coffee pot.
This is the first legitimate litmus test Fresno State has had in a while. The Bulldogs have done a fine job of completely shutting down teams who aren't very good, winning their last five games by a combined score of 184-36. But this is their chance to really show something to the CFP selection committee and perhaps make a move toward that Group of Five spot in the New Year's Six Bowl that we've been reserving for UCF all year long.
And I think they capitalize on the opportunity. This defense is nasty with a capital N. Fresno State has not allowed a single opponent to gain more than 375 yards this season. While I suspect Boise State will end that streak, the Broncos aren't going to drop 35 points on the Bulldogs. And Marcus McMaryion (70.9% CMP, 20 TD, 3 INT) will do more than enough against a rather pedestrian Boise State secondary to get the W.
I believe in Jeff Tedford, and the work he has done with McMaryion is exceptional. The Bulldogs are an exciting team, and aside from a cross-country trip that resulted in a loss to Minnesota, this team has a spotless record. But the real exciting thing for the Bulldogs has been the defense, which continues to be one of the nation's best. This team is equipped to go on the road and win tough games, especially when that trip isn't thousands of miles away.
Going to Smurf Turf Country isn't easy, and the Broncos have ebbed and flowed this year as Rypien has. When he's been good, Boise has been, too. And Rypien has elevated his play lately. This is going to be one of the best, most evenly matched games of the weekend. In the end, the difference will be that Fresno D, which will force Rypien into a late mistake for a huge road win.
Both teams are similar in makeup. Neither is a strong running team and instead rely on top-25 passing attacks to create offense. Rypien has been a key playmaker as he's stepped up his play as a senior. But I'll take the Bulldogs to win because they've been an elite defense at creating turnovers, ranking fourth in the nation. Winning the turnover battle in this matchup will be critical.
Is Pittsburgh Actually Going to Win the ACC Coastal Division?
Virginia Tech has lost two straight because it cannot stop the run. Guess what Pitt does best? Run the ball with Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. These are games when those who have been in the situation before embrace the moment, while those who haven't tend to play tight. I still like Pitt to find a way at home and put itself in position to play in the ACC Championship Game. Quick aside: UCF beat Pitt by 31 points in September—for all those who still complain that UCF has played no one.
Pitt lost to Penn State 51-6. Pitt lost to UCF 45-14. Pitt lost to North Carolina, which is UNC's only victory of the season. And here the Panthers (5-4, 4-1) are, a win against Virginia Tech away from effectively wrapping up the Coastal. What a bizarre season. But, no, Virginia Tech wins. And that pick is basically because I refuse to believe the Coastal will provide a clear front-runner with two weeks remaining. It strings us along all year, but we can't let it go.
Let me explain my Pitt experience for the season. In my weekly tailgate column (shameless plug: read this weekly), I picked the Panthers to cover against Penn State...and they proceeded to lose by roughly 6,589 points. Was not thrilled about that, by the way. Since then, however, Pitt has been (mostly) good. Even the losses (for the most part) have come against quality teams and a really tough schedule.
The remaining schedule isn't easy, but it feels like Pitt is going to win this game and finish the drill. I'm not sure what that means for the ACC Championship Game ratings, but it would be a major feat for a program that we left for dead after only a few weeks.
Who is this team and what did it do with the September Pittsburgh? You remember that team, right? It was the one that got whupped by both Penn State and UCF and gave North Carolina its only win of the season—the one who reinforced the preseason notion that Pat Narduzzi was destined for the chopping block. Out of nowhere, the Panthers can't be stopped. They were underdogs in each of their last four games, but they won three of those games and were a pair of missed field goals away from upsetting Notre Dame in the other one.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has been a complete disaster for the past month. The Hokies were solid in that first game against Duke after losing Josh Jackson for the season, but they've been awful since then. It's kind of ridiculous that the Panthers are only a three-point favorite at home. They'll win this game easily, eventually clinch the ACC Coastal Division...and get stomped by Clemson in the championship game.
Late last season when the Panthers upset Miami, you could just feel that this team was getting ready to start playing well. Then the beginning of this year happened. Now, all of a sudden, they're getting good quarterback play, controlling games with defense, running well and winning because of it. The Virginia win last weekend was huge, and Virginia Tech has shown itself susceptible to the run, especially the past two weekends. (Georgia Tech just scored again, actually, even though the Hokies played Boston College since that game).
Pitt's run game and Bud Foster's team's inability to stop it will be the difference in this game, and the Panthers are going to win at home and go on to play Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. Yes, part of the reason is that division is awful, but Pitt is not. The Panthers are doing their part, winning games and taking on the rugged persona of Narduzzi. You have to like how they've blossomed at the right time.
No. Right now Pitt has a negative point differential (minus-29). They've continued to defy expectations and statistics en route to their position, which is one win and some help away from clinching the division. The Hokies have lost two in a row, but I'm more comfortable saying they'll win since they've been better throughout the course of the season.
Does Miami Suffer Its 4th Consecutive Loss (at Georgia Tech)?
The Hurricanes will leave Atlanta with another loss as well as another gut punch to a season of high hopes. Georgia Tech looked lost in September but has won four of its last five. The 'Canes are 1-3 away from Miami this season, and that number gets worse this weekend without game-changing plays from the most important position on the field (QBs Malik Rosier and N'Kosi Perry).
Safest answer is yes, right? I've picked Miami in three straight weeks, thinking its defense would buoy a reeling offense. Technically true (at least twice), but the 'Canes have scored a combined 39 points in those games. Mark Richt's play-calling is a disaster, and he's aimlessly flipping between QBs. Regardless of what happens this weekend, Richt needs to completely revamp the offense—from scheme to staff—this offseason.
Yep. It has been a bizarre, frustrating year for Miami, and I can't think of anything more frustrating for a frustrated team than having offensive linemen dive at your knees for a few hours.
Georgia Tech presents an uncomfortable challenge, and the Yellow Jackets have won four of five games since losing three straight. Freshman quarterback Tobias Oliver should give a quality Miami defense more than its fair share of issues, and I think the streak will continue as a result.
Side note: Miami has not scored more than 14 points since October 13. Not great.
Miami has one of the best defenses in the nation, but some good it's done them. The Hurricanes are ranked second in the nation in total yards allowed, yet they have more losses (four) than the other four top-five teams combined (three). In other words, their offense is a hot mess, as exhibited by three consecutive games with 14 points or fewer.
And they have struggled with this Georgia Tech triple-option offense, allowing at least 21 points and 226 rushing yards in each of the last six games against the Yellow Jackets. Usually Miami has enough offense to win the game anyway, but not this year. Georgia Tech wins this battle of five-win squads.
Yes. This team is clueless offensively right now. Playing the Yellow Jackets' porous defense can be therapeutic, but the Hurricanes haven't been their usual, opportunistic selves on defense recently, either. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's team isn't as well-equipped to handle Georgia Tech's triple-option attack as it's been in recent years, and GT is playing well on that side of the ball. After throttling Virginia Tech two weeks ago, Paul Johnson's team overcame a slow start to handle North Carolina last week.
Now comes Miami, a team that can't score enough to hang with the Yellow Jackets. Though it's just a slight favorite, this GT team will win by seven or more points. These are two teams trending in opposite directions.
As crazy as it sounds, yes. Miami just doesn't have offensive talent that can win consistently in the ACC right now. Georgia Tech has struggled against the better teams on its schedule, but its unique offense is tough to game-plan against. The Yellow Jackets will eat up enough clock to further limit the Hurricanes' scoring chances, and it'll be enough for them to hold their home field for a win.
Will Bryce Love End His Season-Long Funk This Week Against Oregon State?
If it doesn't happen here for Love, it's not happening at all this season. Oregon State is awful on defense, and in a typical Stanford day, Love would get at least 150 yards. But this isn't your typical Stanford team, suffering losses in four of its last five games. Playing at home with little pressure should allow Love to produce, albeit for a week. The game next week at Cal will be brutal.
I'm not expecting a throwback 200-yard performance, but the answer is yes. Oregon State is dreadful against the run, so even a lackluster Stanford running game can thrive. Love seemed healthy in Week 10 against a terrific Washington defense. Give him the same volume, and he'll hit 100 yards.
If you would have told me before the season began that Love would have one 100-yard rushing game by mid-November, I would have very politely laughed at you or asked you to leave. Yet here we are. Of course, injuries have played a major role in this slump, but it didn't feel right out of the gate.
This week should be different, though. Oregon State is No. 129 in yards allowed per rushing attempt, giving up 6.77 yards. While I don't envision Love delivering a 250-yard rushing performance—the kind of game we grew to expect last year—I do think he gets going. Predicted line: 20 carries, 147 yards and two touchdowns.
I know he's been battling an ankle injury all year long, but Love's fall from grace has been tough to watch. I didn't think he'd win the Heisman, but I also didn't think he'd get into mid-November with fewer rushing yards (490) than he had three games into last season (524). But even a snail could run for 100 yards against Oregon State's defense.
Love—who missed last year's game against the Beavers—will make up for lost time with 200 yards in the process of ensuring Stanford becomes bowl-eligible. (He probably won't play in that bowl game, though.)
It's sad that Love hasn't been BRYCE LOVE like he was in 2017. We'll get to see a flashback this weekend, though.
The Beavers have been consistently horrific all year in trying to stop the run. Guys you've never heard of have just shredded them, and good runners have career nights. Last week, it was Aca'Cedric Ware's turn, gaining more than 200 yards. Love is going to show out and eclipse at least 150 this week. It's going to be fun to watch.
The Beavers have a truly atrocious run defense. The members of this panel might be able to combine for a decent day if we suited up against them (not really). But Love won't break out this week. Still listed as dealing with an ankle injury, Love has little incentive to rush back. His bet on himself to improve his NFL stock has gone terribly wrong, unfortunately. He's talented, though, and should continue to nurse his injury as his collegiate days wind down.
Over/Under: 3.5 Points Scored by Rutgers Against Michigan?
Over, but I have no idea why. I just think Rutgers will either stumble into a touchdown (special teams, defense, huge Michigan mistakes by backups in the fourth quarter, etc.), or it will catch lightning in a bottle with a blown Michigan coverage or missed tackle that allows a long score. Hey, it's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Over. Barely. One touchdown. I do not advise watching any minute of this matchup past the first quarter, when Michigan screams to a three-touchdown lead and forces Rutgers into minus-19 yards of offense because of three sacks. This Wolverines defense is something special.
Well, this is both a sad and hilarious note to end on. Hilarious because it's a legitimate question; sad because I am genuinely torn on my answer. I know this: the Michigan defense looks possessed right now. I also know that Rutgers has not scored more than 20 points since Week 1, which is not fun to type. (Seriously, hug a Rutgers fan if you see one this week.)
But we don't need 20 points here. We need four—a touchdown or two field goals. I am going to say that Rutgers finds a way to do this. It might come in the fourth quarter when Michigan's third string gets a crack. Or maybe on a freak play of some kind. But Rutgers will go over this total. I hope.
Under. Michigan leads the nation in yards allowed—and by a ridiculous margin. Rutgers is ranked dead last in scoring offense, and it has been held below 190 total yards three times this season—by defenses nowhere near as good as Michigan's. Not only will Rutgers not score a point in this game, but this could end up looking like last year's Kansas-TCU game, in which the Jayhawks lost 43-0 and only had 21 yards of total offense.
Over. Come on, guys. You don't believe in Chris Ash to coach the Scarlet Knights to more than three points? Michigan wins 48-6.
Over. It seems insane on face value, but weird things happen in college football. Rutgers scored 14 in last year's matchup, and the Knights can get lucky off one big run or a late drive. Michigan's defense is incredible, but the Wolverines are also coming off an emotional win and have little incentive to go all-out against the lowly Scarlet Knights.