B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 11

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2019

B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 11

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    LSU or Alabama? Penn State or Minnesota?

    Those are the most pressing questions facing the college football world in Week 11, and Bleacher Report's crew of experts―David Kenyon, Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter and Brad Shepardassembled to provide their thoughts on the upcoming slate.

    Other topics include top-ranked Ohio State and its impressive defensive streak, a second Top 25 showdown in the Big Ten and Florida State's first game after firing Willie Taggart.

    At this point of the campaign, many results have a significant impact on conference standings and the College Football Playoff race. Get ready for another exciting week around the country.

Who Wins the Showdown in Tuscaloosa: No. 2 LSU or No. 3 Alabama?

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    David Kenyon

    As long as quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is availableand the latest updates are encouraging, despite Nick Saban slow-playing the situationI think Alabama wins at home. Texas and Florida both had success against this LSU defense, and Alabama's talent is superior to those teams. LSU will probably hit 30 points, but the Tide win by a field goal.

              

    Kerry Miller

    I've had Alabama penciled in for 13-0 for months, and I'm not about to waver now. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow might be better than Tua, and he's certainly healthier. And if this thing ends up being decided by a field goal or a PAT, heaven knows that has always been an issue for the Crimson Tide. But I have more faith in Alabama's defense, its offensive line, its wide receivers and its running backs. Factor in Alabama's 48-1 record at home in its last 49 games, and I'm picking the Crimson Tide in a 35-27 gem.

                 

    Joel Reuter

    LSU. Burrow didn't have any trouble carving up solid Florida (21-of-24, 293 yards) and Auburn (32-of-42, 321 yards) defenses, so he should be up to the task against the Crimson Tide secondary as well. Also, Alabama's best victory is, what, a road win at Texas A&M? Meanwhile, this LSU team is as battle-tested as any in the country. Throw in the uncertainty surrounding Tua's health, and LSU looks like the smart pick.

                

    Brad Shepard

    I'm wondering about Tua's ankle. Is he healthy? Will he just be able to go but be hobbled? You know LSU is going to come after him, and the difference in the game may be whether a paltry pass rush can get home and rattle him a little bit. Unlike most years, this is going to be a high-octane offensive showdown, and while I like LSU's receivers, I like Alabama's better. I love Burrow, but I like Tua's experience in games like this more. With it being in Tuscaloosa, I'm going with the Tide, 38-34 in a classic.

Which Big Ten Team Stays Undefeated: No. 4 Penn State or No. 17 Minnesota?

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    David Kenyon

    While the team's strengths are clear, Minnesota hasn't played competition anywhere close to Penn State's caliber so far this season. That alone isn't exclusionary; the Golden Gophers have wrecked their opposition since Big Ten play started. But this is a pretty dramatic jump for Minnesota, while Penn State has toppled Michigan and Iowa behind an elite defense. The Nittany Lions score late to seal a low-scoring win.

             

    Kerry Miller

    Row the boat! Minnesota's schedule hasn't been special by any means, but the Golden Gophers have nearly doubled their last four opponents in total offense (1,878 yards vs. 946 yards). Meanwhile, Penn State has struggled to move the ball, especially on the road against Iowa and Michigan State. And now the Nittany Lions have to take that show on the road against a team playing in its biggest game since World War II. Look for the Golden Gophers to get the job done in a low-scoring affair: Minnesota 20-14.

               

    Joel Reuter

    Penn State. This one comes down to Minnesota's run game against the Penn State rush defense. The Golden Gophers are averaging 204.5 rushing yards per game (31st in FBS) and the Nittany Lions are allowing just 68.4 rushing yards per contest (2nd) and 1.99 yards per carry (1st). If Penn State can force Minnesota to abandon the ground game, a pass rush that has racked up 30 sacks this season will take over.

                 

    Brad Shepard

    The Golden Gophers are a good, well-coached team, but I'm not a believer in this paper undefeated season. They've played an awful schedule, and it's about time for them to be exposed by a better team. This is going to be an exceptional season for head coach P.J. Fleck, who is building a great program, but they're not quite there yet. Penn State is strong in the passing game, the run game and especially on defense. Minnesota is going to be ready to play, but Penn State will win 31-21.

Will Ohio State Make It 8 Straight Games of Allowing 10 Points or Less?

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    David Kenyon

    Maryland's collapse is truly remarkable. The Terps had consecutive 600-yard games to start the season and are now coming off back-to-back games of less than 250. They also didn't score any points in three red-zone trips against Michigan last week. Yeah, this streak is heading to eight opposite the nation's best defense.

               

    Kerry Miller

    Maryland was shut out by Penn State, its only touchdown against Michigan was on a kick return, and it was unable to move the ball worth a darn against Minnesota until after that game was already a blowout. Can't imagine that team is going to waltz into the Horseshoe and score multiple touchdowns. So, yes, Ohio State's streak extends to eight games, and you can go ahead and call it nine, too, considering Rutgers is the next sacrificial lamb on the Buckeyes' schedule.

            

    Joel Reuter

    Since exploding out of the gates for 142 points in their first two games, Maryland is averaging just 17.7 points, and that figure is inflated by a 48-7 victory over Rutgers. They were shut out by Penn State, held to 10 points by Minnesota and limited to seven points at home by Michigan last week. A goose egg from the Terrapins on Saturday against the stacked Ohio State defense is a very real possibility. The streak lives on.

                 

    Brad Shepard

    This is the best defense in the country, and I don't think it's close. The only reason why it's not statistically the best is because the offense is so good, the defense is on the field a lot. Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young is the best player in the country and should be right in the thick of the Heisman conversation. The cornerbacks are elite, and Maryland is struggling to do anything good right now after that hot start to the season. Ohio State will call the shots against the Terrapins, and it'll wind up something like 48-7. So, yeah.

How Will Florida State Fare in the First Game Post-Willie Taggart?

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    David Kenyon

    There is no "bright side" of the first game after firing a head coach, but at least Florida State won't be facing another excellent defense. Miami ranks 11th nationally in yards allowed per play, while Boston College is an ugly 108th. The 'Noles will probably score 30 points, but their secondary is a mess. I'll take BC in a 38-34 track meet.

                

    Kerry Miller

    The only thing in the ACC worse than Boston College's defense is Florida State's offense, and firing a coach isn't going to magically fix that. Aside from the understandable difficulty moving the ball at Clemson, BC's offense has been impeccable, averaging at least seven yards per play in four of the last five games. The 'Noles will have no answer for Boston running back AJ Dillon, and they will fall short of bowl eligibility for a second straight year. Boston College rolls 41-24.

             

    Joel Reuter

    Poorly. It's going to be a chilly day in Massachusetts, and a few early scores from the Eagles could be enough to quickly take the fight out of the Seminoles. Boston College pounded out 496 yards on the ground against Syracuse last week, and Florida State's run defense has been mediocre at best. A grind-it-out game appears to favor the Eagles.

            

    Brad Shepard

    This trigger was pulled too quickly. Don't @ me. I know the team was a dumpster fire after Taggart went to Tallahassee, but you've got to give coaches longer than 20 games to build a program. The Seminoles deserve the coaches high on their list turning them down and forcing them to settle. I don't like it, and I don't agree with what happened. Boston College is going to prove this week that it wasn't just Taggart. Jimbo Fisher left little to work with, and the Eagles are going to run all over the 'Noles in a close win.

Does No. 16 Kansas State Keep Rolling at Texas?

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    David Kenyon

    Although K-State is riding a three-game winning streak and the Longhorns have struggled recently, Texas is still a touchdown favorite, per Caesars. To me, that is concerning. Vegas always knows. What does Vegas know? Texas had an extra week to prepare and is at home, but the defense has played poorly for a month. Kansas State is my pick, though Vegas is probably going to make me look foolish.

                

    Kerry Miller

    Texas has allowed at least 30 points in all six games against Power Five foes, and Kansas State has found its way on offense over the past two weeks. Yes, the Wildcats get the win, furthering the Longhorns' plunge into obscurity. I never understood the preseason hype surrounding Texas, but I never thought it would get this bad, either. A loss here followed by road games against Iowa State and Baylor could get ugly in a hurry.

             

    Joel Reuter

    Yes. The Wildcats do an excellent job taking care of the football, with just seven turnovers all season. Meanwhile, the Longhorns have turned it over six times the past two weeks alone against middling opponents in Kansas and TCU. That could prove to be the difference in this one as K-State looks to run its winning streak to four games.

                  

    Brad Shepard

    Look, Texas is a mess, and it's not the Longhorns' fault, really. Injuries have ravaged a young, inexperienced secondary that wasn't very good to start with. Head coach Tom Herman has done a good job recruiting to the position, but they've been without four or five rotational guys the past few weeks. Safeties B.J. Foster and Caden Sterns likely will return this week to help bolster the defense, but the Wildcats aren't torching teams through the air, anyway. They're finding other ways to win, and I think they'll keep it going: quarterback Skylar Thompson and K-State in a close one.

No. 18 Iowa or No. 13 Wisconsin to Stay Alive in the Big Ten West?

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    David Kenyon

    I'm expecting a bounce-back performance from Wisconsin. The manner in which the Badgers lost at Illinois and Ohio Stateyou know, actually losing to Illinois and then a blowout in Columbusisn't encouraging because Iowa's defense is talented enough to limit Wisconsin's attack. But I don't trust the Hawkeyes to accomplish much of anything offensively, either. Give me the Badgers with 30 total points.

              

    Kerry Miller

    A month ago, I probably would have picked Wisconsin by four touchdowns. I still expect the Badgers to get the win, but I'm nowhere near as confident after the misstep against Illinois and the butt-kicking via Ohio State. The Badgers still have an excellent defense, though, and the Hawkeyes aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut. It won't be a vintage Jonathan Taylor performance, but the running back will do enough for a 17-10 Wisconsin victory.

              

    Joel Reuter

    The Badgers have outscored opponents 206-29 at home this season, and after back-to-back losses on the road, they had a full week to prepare for a return home against the Hawkeyes. The Iowa run defense (87.8 yards per game) won't make things easy, but expect a well-rested Jonathan Taylor to have a big game and carry Wisconsin to victory.

                  

    Brad Shepard

    Wisconsin needed the bye week in a big way after losses to Illinois and Ohio State. But now they get a rugged Big Ten West showdown with Iowa at Camp Randall. This is one of those games that has 20-16 written all over it. I like the way Iowa's offensive line and defensive line are improving as the season is going on, though. While the game is in Madison, this is a classic Kirk Ferentz team that looks poised to win this big game. I'll go with the Hawkeyes.

The Most Entertaining Game Not Involving a Ranked Team Will Be...?

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    David Kenyon

    FSU/Boston College has high-scoring potential, so I'll probably throw it on a third screen. I'm always in for offense. That matchup is inconsequential, though. USC's trip to Arizona State is interesting to me because of Clay Helton Watch. If the Trojans lose again following a 56-24 beatdown by Oregon, are we getting another LAX tarmac firing? Tune in Saturday night for the answer!

             

    Kerry Miller

    There are a surprising number of good options this week, but I'm going to go with Washington State at Cal in a battle of 4-4 teams with extremely different approaches to the game. The Cougars are leading the nation in passing yards per game by a significant margin, but they are dreadful on defense. Cal boasts a talented secondary and has the second-best pass defense in the Pac-12, but the Golden Bears are an absolute train wreck on offense. Perhaps this oil-and-water combination just turns into an unappealing mess, but I think it could be a fun one.

                

    Joel Reuter

    Washington State vs. Cal. Senior quarterback Anthony Gordon leads the nation with 423.4 passing yards per game, and he'll be squaring off against a Cal defense that has allowed just seven passing touchdowns and 212.9 passing yards per game on the year. For a matchup of two 4-4 teams, this one should have plenty of entertainment value.

             

    Brad Shepard

    When I think of "fun" and "entertaining" in college football, I love those clash-of-style games. We get two of them this weekend when defensive-minded Cal takes on Mike Leach's pass-only Wazzu Cougars, but the game I'm most excited to see is Louisville at Miami. These are two teams a little bit ahead of where I figured they'd be under first-year coaches. The 5-3 Cardinals and the 5-4 Hurricanes still have a lot to play for, and it's going to be fun watching Manny Diaz's defense against Scott Satterfield's offense. I like Louisville to get a narrow win.

Which Team Outside the Initial CFP Top 10 Ends with the Highest Ranking?

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    David Kenyon

    Wisconsin. Recent weeks have not been kind to the Badgers, but they currently sit 13th with a manageable remaining schedule. Plus, teams that lose in conference championship week usually don't fall far. I expect it will be an unbeaten Ohio State on the winning end anyway. Wisconsin finishes 10-3 and inside the Top 10.

                 

    Kerry Miller

    I'm going with No. 13 Wisconsin here. I already picked the Badgers to beat Iowa, I certainly think they'll follow that up with wins over Nebraska and Purdue, and they might still win the Big Ten West if they finish the season with a road win over Minnesota. I don't imagine they would knock off either Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten championship game, but they'd finish no worse than No. 6 if they do.

             

    Joel Reuter

    Auburn. Both of the Tigers' losses have come on the road, and they were by a combined 12 points to Florida and LSU. Now they close out the season with three straight home games. This team is more than capable of winning out and picking up wins against Georgia and Alabama along the way, which would vault them considerably higher than the No. 11 spot.

             

    Brad Shepard

    I'll go with No. 12 Baylor. Auburn is ranked ahead of the Bears but will lose another game when it plays Alabama. Baylor beat Kansas State 31-12, and while the Wildcats are hot right now, the only game on the Bears' schedule you expect them to lose moving forward is Oklahoma. That means they'll be a one-loss team if they can beat Texas, TCU and Kansas. None of those are gimmes, but Matt Rhule's team is playing well. If the Bears go 3-1, they deserve to be ranked highly.