Most compelling matchups in college football Week 11

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins
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The second release of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Week 11 of the 2018 NCAA football season also marks the second release of the College Football Playoff rankings. Already there’s been a shakeup in the hierarchy, thanks to top-ranked Alabama’s 29-0 victory over previous No. 3 LSU last weekend.

The Crimson Tide passed easily their toughest test of the year in Baton Rouge. They continue to be the prohibitive national title favorite. Naturally, coach Nick Saban’s powerhouse program is featured in this edition of most compelling matchups.

Read on for more about Alabama’s next step toward a perfect record, along with the other duels most worth tuning in for this Saturday.


No. 16 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith is one of the best college football players in the nation

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For the second week in a row, the Tide square off against a hard-nosed, run-heavy opponent, albeit with less talent. And the game is in Tuscaloosa. So the odds of Alabama losing certainly lengthen.

Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has shown sudden improvement as a passer of late, though. In his past two starts, he’s completed 31 of 50 passes for 484 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Fitzgerald is a burly, tough ball-carrier who can be a lethal playmaker if his typically scattershot passing accuracy is on point. The one type of player the Tide’s defense has struggled to find answers for during Saban’s tenure is a dual-threat quarterback.

If Fitzgerald plays out of his mind, a major upset could be in store. That’s a big “if,” of course.


No. 2 Clemson at No. 17 Boston College

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Well, the bold move to turn from Kelly Bryant to Trevor Lawrence under center has paid massive dividends for the Tigers. Lawrence’s passing ability could be what ultimately puts Clemson in the national title game.

Let’s not look too far into the future, though. The Eagles have the enviable role of playing spoiler, which has happened far too often in years past to be discounted now. Running back AJ Dillon is backing up his breakout freshman campaign with 897 yards rushing in 2018.

Dillon may find running room hard to come by against Clemson’s front four, which is loaded with future NFL players. He’s also dealing with an ankle injury, which could further doom the Eagles, even at home.


Oklahoma State at No. 6 Oklahoma

Kyler Murray

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This latest entry in the Bedlam Series should be a barn burner. The Sooners dominate this intrastate rivalry to the point where “rivalry” is a courtesy term to the Cowboys.

Only twice since 2002 has Oklahoma State won this matchup. The deck is stacked against the visitors in this one again, as Oklahoma has probably the hottest quarterback in the country in Kyler Murray on its side.

Murray has more than capably filled in for departed Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and has a chance to hoist the Sooners to another quality win. With that could come a slight bump in the next CFP rankings and prime positioning for a top-four berth.


TCU at No. 9 West Virginia

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The Horned Frogs have had an absolutely brutal schedule, which explains their 4-5 record. They’ve lost to Ohio State, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Only the latter defeat was a blowout.

West Virginia signal-caller Will Grier has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions in two straight wins. His cast of receivers consists of big red-zone target David Sills V, explosive senior Gary Jennings Jr. and another big-play threat in Marcus Simms.

Grier distributes the ball to his primary weapons rather evenly, which keeps opposing defenses off balance. Due to TCU being a battle-tested, desperate team with postseason eligibility still uncertain, this Big 12 duel has upset potential.


Oregon at Utah

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Back-to-back road losses derailed what remained of the Ducks’ playoff hopes. Now their solace will come from salvaging the best bowl game possible. Week 11 in particular is a prime showcase for Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert.

Widely considered the best NFL draft prospect at his position, Herbert has completed less than 60 percent of his throws over his past four starts. His chances of breaking that plateau aren’t great against a Utah defense that ranks 17th nationally in yielding only 314.7 yards per game.

The Utes have a fantastic tailback in Zach Moss who already has 1,092 yards rushing this season. Moss must have another 100-yard performance for Utah to keep the ball away from Herbert and remain ahead in the Pac-12 South race.


Tom Herman vs. Kliff Kingsbury

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Two of the game’s most gifted offensive minds go head-to-head in this premier coaching matchup at AT&T Stadium.

After helping Case Keenum set all-time NCAA passing records at Houston and calling plays for Johnny Manziel’s 2012 Heisman Trophy campaign at Texas A&M, Kingsbury took over the Red Raiders program. He then oversaw the development Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes.

Herman held the head job at Houston for two years before helming the Longhorns starting in 2017. Coming off two losses by a combined four points to drop its ranking to 19th, Texas should have an aggressive, nothing-to-lose mentality.

Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger has thrown 16 touchdowns to only two picks this year. His superior ball security to counterpart Alan Bowman (17 TDs, 7 INTs) should help Texas pull out a win.


J.K. Dobbins/Mike Weber vs. Michigan State front seven

2017 Heisman Trophy candidate Mike Weber of Ohio State

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The 18th-ranked Spartans have the best run defense in the country and it isn’t particularly close. Dobbins and Weber give No. 10 Ohio State one of the nation’s elite running back combos.

In order to conquer a hostile environment in East Lansing, it’s vital for the Buckeyes to at least establish some ground game to support quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Dobbins and Weber both blend explosiveness and power the likes of which Michigan State hasn’t really seen this year.

One X-factor in this matchup could be Haskins. The huge, strapping signal-caller doesn’t often run but is plenty capable of making plays with his feet. The Buckeyes could use some innovation after a close call against Nebraska at home last week.


Gardner Minshew vs. Steven Montez

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The Buffaloes blew a 31-3 lead against Oregon State and are coming off a shootout loss to Arizona. Meanwhile, Washington State looked sluggish in a 19-13 win over California. That had to contribute to the Cougars’ No. 8 CFP ranking, behind a two-loss LSU.

Minshew is the catalyst for the nation’s No. 1 passing offense, though, and came through in the clutch last week with a game-winning touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining.

At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Montez has the tools and arm talent to be an NFL prospect, albeit a raw one. He shouldn’t be underestimated, and home cooking may be just what the Buffaloes need to play spoiler after playing three of four on the road.

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