The College Football Playoff Rankings are out and it couldn’t come at a better time with Week 11 of the college football season setting up to be one of the best in 2019.
Everyone’s focus will be on the highly anticipated clash in Tuscaloosa between No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Alabama. It’s the biggest game thus far in the 2019 season, though, it’s not the only one with major College Football Playoff implications.
Saturday’s thrilling slate opens with No. 4 Penn State rolling into TCF Bank Stadium with a battle against No. 17 Minnesota. The duel between undefeated teams will be the proving grounds for both programs to make a case for a playoff spot.
Of course, there are even more compelling matchups in Week 11 for fans to enjoy. Now let’s examine the burning questions that will help determine the outcomes.
Will Gophers’ offense find a rhythm against Penn State’s defense?
Minnesota feels confident coming out of the bye with an 8-0 record and the perfect chance to prove itself on a national stage. The Gophers are averaging 38.6 points per game. However, they’re facing a defense allowing the second-fewest points (9.6) and rushing yards (68.4) per game this season.
Running backs Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim, who have played a massive role in Minnesota’s undefeated start, will find very few open running lanes. If the run game struggles, sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan must excel as a passer. It comes down to the line of scrimmage. If the Gophers win there, it will make life easier for the running and passing attacks and can lead to a win.
Can TCU’s offense create enough explosive plays to compete with Baylor?
The Horned Frogs are in a difficult spot entering Week 11. After knocking off Texas in Week 9, TCU’s offense came up short in Stillwater. Now with a 4-4 record and freshman quarterback Max Duggan dealing with a finger injury, the Horned Frogs season and a shot at redemption are at state.
Baylor’s offense is a well-balanced attack averaging more than 280 passing yards and nearly 200 rushing yards per game. TCU’s defense already demonstrated it couldn’t be relied on, so its offense must come through. If Duggan can connect with star receiver Jalen Reagor, which has been a problem this year, the Horned Frogs might have one last upset in store.
How effective is Tua Tagovailoa after ankle surgery?
It’s the ankle that will shape this matchup and could define the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. Tagovailoa underwent surgery for his high-ankle sprain on Oct. 20. Now with more than two weeks to recover, his availability for the SEC battle and his mobility on the ankle linger over this game.
The junior is a game-time decision, though, he is expected to play given his participation in practice and the magnitude of this game. Tagovailoa’s surgically-repaired ankle could limit his mobility and his ability to navigate pressure. LSU’s defense will likely bring blitzes early to test Tagovailoa. If he struggles to move around as effectively, then it will limit this explosive offense. Alabama needs him to win on Saturday and how he plays through pain will determine this game.
Does Texas’ offense get back on track against No. 16 Kansas State?
Many expected 2019 to be the year it all came together for Texas and the program would finally be a championship contender. It’s now quite clear, especially following losses to Oklahoma, TCU and a last-second win over Kansas, that Tom Herman’s team isn’t close to contention.
Now it’s about salvaging the season with a few marquee wins. To accomplish that against Kansas State, Sam Ehlinger must rebound from a miserable four-interception performance and play up to his Heisman-caliber talent. If he can do that and make up for Texas’ defense, which needs an entire offseason to be repaired, the Longhorns can win out and enter 2020 with renewed confidence.
Will Jonathan Taylor carry Wisconsin over No. 18 Iowa’s defense?
Wisconsin saw its dreams of a spot in the College Football Playoff and Taylor’s Heisman hopes likely dashed with consecutive ugly losses. Now, the Badgers must fight back in a pivotal matchup against Iowa’s defense.
Taylor carries this team and he’s set to face another difficult test against a Hawkeyes’ defense allowing the eighth-fewest rushing yards (87.8) per game. Taylor averaged 3.56 yards per carry on 74 attempts in his past three contests. The Badgers can’t afford another underwhelming performance from Taylor. For Wisconsin to beat Iowa, Taylor’s effectiveness must increase and he needs to be used more as a receiver. Otherwise, it’ll be three straights losses for the Badgers.