Winners and Losers from Week 11 of College Football
We can't give Joe Burrow the Heisman Trophy just yet. LSU isn't necessarily the national championship favorite.
But on Saturday afternoon, the senior quarterback and his Tigers moved one enormous step closer to both accomplishments. Burrow totaled 457 offensive yards and three touchdowns while LSU snapped an eight-game losing streak to rival Alabama in a dramatic 46-41 win.
In Week 11's other marquee game, Minnesota solidified its place as a national threat with a resounding 31-26 victory over Penn State. Baylor also stayed undefeated, but the Bears needed a long kick and a little help to navigate past TCU on the road.
Those victories highlight the winners and losers of Week 11.
Winner: All the MACtion W's
Toledo, Western Michigan and Miami (Ohio) all earned a victory in the return of midweek MACtion, and each triumph was significant.
First up was Toledo, which clipped Kent State 35-33 and improved to 6-3. The Rockets attained bowl eligibility for the 10th straight season.
Western Michigan survived a dramatic fourth quarter, scoring two go-ahead touchdowns in the final six minutes of regulation to edge Ball State 35-31. Toledo is still in the West Division race too, but WMU has tiebreakers over Ball State and Central Michigan.
Miami, meanwhile, took a commanding lead in the East Division. Thanks to a 24-21 victory over Ohio, the RedHawks are 4-1 in conference play and hold the tiebreaker on two-loss Ohio and Buffalo. With wins over Bowling Green and Akron in the next two weeks, Miami is headed to the MAC title game.
Loser: UCF's Pursuit of a New Year's Six Bowl
We'll always have the memories, national champs.
By appearing in the Peach and Fiesta Bowls over the last two years, UCF secured its place as a premier Group of Five team. However, the Knights are sliding off the national radar in 2019 because of a 34-31 loss at Tulsa, which hadn't won a conference game until Friday.
UCF mustered only a field goal on six second-half drives, committing two offensive turnovers and fumbling a kickoff return. Tulsa capitalized on the three giveaways and turned them into 10 critical points.
The loss dropped the Knights to 7-3 and ended their hope of a third consecutive bid to a New Year's Six game.
Minnesota's road to 8-0 was favorable. That much remains inarguable. The Gophers also deserved every bit of their 31-26 victory over fourth-ranked Penn State.
And now, they're a real contender.
Tanner Morgan demolished a terrific Penn State defense, completing 18 of his 20 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He connected with Rashod Bateman for 203 yards and Tyler Johnson for 104, throwing a score to both standout receivers.
Minnesota also intercepted three passes, turning the first two into touchdowns on each ensuing drive and sealing the game with the final takeaway.
In the next CFP rankings, P.J. Fleck and the Gophers should be rowing the boat right into the Top 10.
Loser: Chad Morris' Job Security
Welcome to Saturday thoughts with David.
11:57 a.m. ET: Chad Morris is probably getting fired soon, but maybe Arkansas can at least knock off Western Kentucky.
1:28 p.m. ET: Western Kentucky is up 35-7 at halftime. I'm not sure Morris is even leaving the locker room for the second half.
3:09 p.m. ET: Razorbacks lost 45-19. That press release is coming. It is most definitely coming today. Morris will end his once-exciting Arkansas tenure 4-18 overall and 0-14 in SEC play.
5:33 p.m. ET: Huh! Still not here yet. The night is young.
11:49 p.m. ET: Look at that! He made it until Sunday.
Morris was fired Sunday morning.
Winner: Florida State Saving Its Bowl Hopes
Following the loss to Miami last Saturday, Florida State fired head coach Willie Taggart. Star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson underwent season-ending hand surgery. This was a really bad week for the 'Noles.
Saturday, though, provided some positive news.
Under the leadership of longtime assistant Odell Haggins, the Seminoles traveled to Boston College and left with a 38-31 win. James Blackman racked up 346 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and backup quarterback Jordan Travis ran for 94 and two scores.
Most importantly for FSU, it avoided falling to 4-6 with Florida left on the schedule. Instead, the 'Noles are 5-5 and can secure bowl eligibility with a victory over Alabama State next weekend.
This doesn't solve the program's issue, but the extra two or three weeks of practices will be valuable.
Loser: Maryland's Recruiting Class at Halftime
As if a 42-0 halftime deficit wasn't deflating enough for Maryland, its 2020 recruiting class simultaneously took a hit.
While the Terps looked lifeless in a blowout loss to Ohio State, 3-star offensive lineman Jordan White announced he's opening up his recruitment. The in-state product had committed in March, but Saturday was apparently the final straw.
And it'd be foolish to blame him. Since the Terps' terrific 2-0 start, they're a paltry 1-7 with five losses by 26-plus points.
White has offers from LSU, Wisconsin and Virginia, among others. We're not blaming a guy for exploring other options while Maryland continues its remarkable decline in 2019.
Winner: Baylor Needs 3OT but Stays Undefeated
Had it not been for John Mayers, Baylor would've found itself free fallin' in the rankings.
The freshman drilled a 51-yard field goal to force overtime against TCU. The Bears needed three extra sessions and a helpful review, but they survived a trip to Fort Worth, Texas, and won 29-23.
Mayers accounted for all nine of Baylor's points in regulation before Charlie Brewer threw two scores and ran for another in overtime. The defense then iced the victory with an interception.
Baylor's offense must be significantly better next week, but Matt Rhule's squad enters the showdown with Oklahoma at 9-0.
Loser: Alabama's Championship Dreams, But...
Tua Tagovailoa returned from an ankle injury but committed two awful first-half turnovers. Both led to LSU touchdowns, and the second―which handed LSU its 20-point lead―meant Alabama had a slim chance at a comeback.
While the Tide fought back valiantly, they still lost 46-41.
After trailing 33-13 at the break, though, Alabama kept the 2017 storyline alive with its near-comeback. That year, the Crimson Tide finished 11-1 and didn't reach the SEC Championship Game yet still made the CFP. The selection committee may still consider Bama on a higher tier than a Big 12 or Pac-12 champion.
Is it unlikely? Perhaps. This will probably be the first season without the Tide in the College Football Playoff.
But that, because of the last 30 minutes, isn't definite.
Winner: Jarren Williams' Record Day
For much of the season, Miami lacked a threatening downfield passing attack. The Hurricanes entered November with only 11 passes of 30-plus yards in eight games.
That has changed in a major way over the last two weeks.
Against rival Florida State, the 'Canes picked up four 30-plus gains through the air. Then Saturday, Jarren Williams tallied three more on Louisville while throwing a school-record six touchdowns. He ended the contest with a dominant 15-of-22 line for 253 yards.
Not coincidentally, this has happened during Miami's best two performances from the offensive line. None of them are seniors, so it's an encouraging sign for 2020 if the unit maintains this level.
Most importantly for the 'Canes, they're 6-4 and headed to a bowl. That wasn't a certainty a few weeks ago.
Loser: Wake Forest's Dream of Dethroning Clemson
Barring a stunning result in Clemson's trip to North Carolina State, the Tigers will be going to the ACC Championship Game.
Wake Forest made a great run, but it's over.
The Demon Deacons just managed 301 yards of offense in a 36-17 loss at Virginia Tech. In the second half, the Hokies ripped off a 30-7 advantage. Deacons QB Jamie Newman tossed two second-half interceptions, and the takeaways led to 10 Virginia Tech points.
Sitting at 3-2 in conference play, Wake faces lowered stakes in its upcoming trip to Clemson. Upsetting a Top Five team would be awesome for the program, yes. But it would've been more meaningful if a potential Atlantic Division crown were part of the reward.
Winner: Lovie Smith! Illinois! Bowl Season!
Midway through October, the Illini had stumbled to a 2-4 record with losses to Eastern Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Michigan. Lovie Smith's future as the team's head coach sure didn't look promising.
Oh, how quickly things can change.
Illinois pulled off a wild comeback on the road at Michigan State on Saturday. The Illini trailed 28-3 and 31-10 but scorched the Spartans for 27 points in the fourth quarter. Brandon Peters hit Daniel Barker for the game-winning touchdown with five seconds remaining.
And now, for the first time in a half-decade―despite what seemed like a lost season―Illinois is finally returning to a bowl game.
Loser: South Carolina's Bowl Aspirations
Falling at Tennessee really hurt the Gamecocks’ postseason chances, but a loss to Appalachian State likely sealed their fate.
South Carolina's last-ditch effort wasn't enough in a 20-15 letdown. Though the defense made a crucial late stop, two holding penalties in the closing seconds crushed any hope of a dramatic win.
Holding a 4-6 record, the Gamecocks head to Texas A&M next weekend before hosting Clemson in the regular-season finale. They're unlikely to be a beneficiary of the APR-assisted five-win bowl teams, so two wins appear to be required.
We're not betting on that.
Winner: Top 10 Teams Under the Lights
Few expected any of Clemson, Georgia or Oklahoma to face midseason peril, but recent weeks offered reminders that nothing is certain. Clemson narrowly escaped a trip to North Carolina, while Georgia and Oklahoma had losses to South Carolina and Kansas State, respectively.
No such issues Saturday night.
Clemson cruised past North Carolina State behind a 335-yard effort from Trevor Lawrence, who totaled four touchdowns in his 40 minutes of action. Georgia dispatched Missouri 27-0 while holding the visitors to 198 yards of offense.
Oklahoma needed to hold off a 60-minute effort from Iowa State, but the Sooners earned a quality 42-41 win. Jalen Hurts amassed 341 yards and five scores in the nerve-wracking victory.
All three programs are alive and well in the CFP race.