Two of the top four teams in the nation fell during college football Week 11, and if not for a late-game surge by Alabama it would have been three. Counting Friday night’s upset at Stanford, four top-nine teams lost this weekend.
Needless to say, the CFP committee has its work cut out before making its next verdict on Tuesday night.
Here are the top takeaways from a wild slate of games in Week 11.
Auburn is the best two-loss team in the nation
Georgia has been so impressive all year, but we were eyeing an upset in Week 11 because of how darn good Auburn has been recently, and because the Tigers were at home.
That said, we didn’t see this coming. The Bulldogs were absolutely blown out of the building, losing by the score of 40-17. Jordan-Hare jettisoned them like a case of bad apples after Auburn pummeled them into submission.
AUBURN TAKES DOWN NO. 1!
The Tigers record the largest win ever over a top-ranked team in the CFP Rankings. pic.twitter.com/D5cSqAdgF4
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 12, 2017
There wasn’t any aspect of this game Auburn didn’t dominate. The Tigers held Georgia’s formidable rushing attack to just 46 yards on 32 carries. Jake Fromm gained just 184 yards on 13-of-28 passing.
As he’s done of late, Jarrett Stidham was efficient and on target deep, completing three touchdown passes, and he also ran in another score. Kerryon Johnson carried the load magnificently as the bell-cow running back, going for 167 yards on 32 carries.
Now, this game does not eliminate Georgia from playoff contention. The Bulldogs win out, win the SEC Championship and they’re in. However, it certainly will shake up the rankings.
And the outcome showed just how tough Auburn really is, despite its two losses. It also helps bolster the idea that the playoff needs to be expanded, because there are too many good teams to just let it come down to four at the end of the year.
Defense ailing, Bama’s offense came to the rescue
We knew Alabama’s defense was going to be tested. You can’t lose that many key defenders, especially up front, and not feel the impact of their losses. Even if you are Alabama and continuously stock your roster with NFL-caliber talent.
Mississippi State took full advantage of the missing defensive linemen and linebackers that have fallen by the wayside this year. They ended up rushing in three touchdowns, which had never happened before in the Nick Saban era at Alabama.
This is the first time Alabama has allowed 3 rushing TDs in a game in the Nick Saban era.
— Ben Jones (@BW_Jones) November 12, 2017
Nick Fitzgerald and Aeris Williams combined to rush the ball 43 times for 155 yards and those three touchdowns. Led by the offense and an aggressive defensive strategy to pressure Jalen Hurts up the middle as much as possible, Mississippi State ended up taking a 24-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Hurts, running back Damien Harris and receiver Calvin Ridley took the game over.
The final three offensive possessions of the game for Alabama led to 26 plays, chewed up roughly nine and-a-half minutes off the clock and resulted in 14 points. If not for a doinked field-goal attempt, it would have been 17 points.
Hurts finished the game with 282 total yards and two scores, the first of which was capped off by a touching celebration in which he honored the military men and women present. Harris went off for 93 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries, and Ridley caught five passes for 171 yards to spark the passing game.
Once again, Alabama staved off a team’s best shot and remains undefeated. After Georgia’s huge loss, it’s clear which team is No. 1 in the nation…for now.
The U is most definitely, undeniably, without a shadow of doubt, back
Notre Dame was among the hottest teams in the nation heading into Saturday night’s prime-time matchup against Miami. And for most of the first quarter, the Fighting Irish looked like they’d have a fighting chance to take down the Hurricanes.
Then, in the relative blink of an eye, Miami scored 14 points in the span of about five minutes of real time (watch).
A bit later on, Brian Kelly ended up benching quarterback Brandon Wimbush after his second interception.
/Brandon Wimbush answers sideline phone
OC: What was that?
Wimbush: coach (gulps with fear) the U… They're back
— Kyle Deck (@thekyledeck) November 12, 2017
Things tumbled downhill fast for the Irish, who capped off a brutal first half with a third interception that went for six points and put Miami up 27-0.
Wimbush returned to action in the second half but didn’t fare much better. The Irish managed one touchdown all game long and tallied 261 total yards. Heisman candidate Josh Adams was held to 40 yards on the ground and 2.5 yards per carry.
Miami went into cruise control offensively in the second half and easily won, 41-8.
It was as big a statement as any team has made all year. And given the two losses to teams in the top four, including Notre Dame, we’d be surprised not to see Miami ranked No. 4 this upcoming Tuesday.
Baker Mayfield for Heisman
The Oklahoma Sooners bulldozed yet another team, and this time it just so happened to be the No. 6 team in the nation. TCU was incapable of slowing down the offensive machine that Baker Mayfield pilots, and the quarterback put together another stellar individual performance in the 38-20 blowout.
Mayfield passed for 333 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added another 50 yards on the ground to finish with 383 total yards. He threw passes of 46 yards (twice) and 50 yards against a TCU team that entered Week 11 with the No. 6 ranked unit in the nation in total defense.
The Sooners also got a breakout performance by running back Rodney Anderson, who totaled 290 yards and four touchdowns.
But regardless of who’s benefiting in the scoring department for Oklahoma, it’s been Mayfield all year pulling the strings. He’s the undeniable Heisman favorite at this point, and it would take some doing to unseat him heading into the final weekends of play.
Wisconsin’s defense flexed serious muscle, but Badgers still vulnerable
The only offense Iowa got on Saturday in Madison came from cornerback Josh Jackson, who hauled in two pick-sixes. He’s on an unbelievable run right now, having tallied five interceptions and two touchdowns in his last two games.
#Iowa DB Josh Jackson with his 2nd Pick-6 of the game!
If you're keeping track that's 5 INTs, a FF and 2 TDs in his last 7 quarters pic.twitter.com/XWIqnWJzJB
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) November 11, 2017
Other than that, Iowa got nothing. Less than nothing. Wisconsin’s defense pitched a shutout of epic proportions, holding the Hawkeyes to 66 total yards, five first downs and not allowing a single third-down conversions in 13 tries.
So, it’s hardly surprising the Badgers rolled, winning 38-14. But let’s not make too big a deal out of this win. Alex Hornibrook remains a liability — he’s thrown at least one interception in his last seven games for a total of 11 in that span — and the Badgers still haven’t played a big-time team this season.
With that in mind, I’m still unimpressed by this team overall in terms of any playoff consideration.
Cowboys end up on the right side of a barnburner
Last weekend, Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State Cowboys found themselves on the losing end of a firework-filled offensive shootout. Baker Mayfield proved too potent a foe in that game, and they lost, 62-52. The trail to victory didn’t get any easier this weekend for the Cowboys, either. Iowa State has been one of the more impressive teams around the nation this year and had already beaten the likes of TCU and Oklahoma.
Saturday’s contest lived up to the hype and then some. Iowa State went blow for blow against one of the highest-scoring offenses in the nation and pushed the contest to the final whistle. In the end, they came literally inches away from potentially tying the game when Cowboys defensive back A.J. Green ripped the ball out of Marchie Murdock’s hands to intercept a pass in the end zone.
The last play in the end zone.
— Brian Powers (@bpowersphoto) November 11, 2017
In total, these two teams piled up 1,013 yards in the 49-42 win for Oklahoma State. Aside from that final interception, it was a clean game offensively, and extremely fun to watch.
Bryce Love on one leg is better than your team’s running back
The Pac-12 is pretty much toast for any playoff consideration after Washington lost to Stanford Friday night. It’s fitting, because the conference has been so inconsistent all year. This was magnified as Stanford ran over one of the best defenses in the nation en route to winning, 30-22.
Bryce Love missed Week 9 with an ankle injury and hobbled through last weekend’s loss to Washington State. Still not 100 percent to start the game, Love had a defender roll up his ankle early Friday night and was clearly hobbling once again. Time and time again, he re-entered the game only to limp off the field.
Bryce Love limping off the field. (Ps I’m saying bye to my uncle FYI) pic.twitter.com/N0m9VqIFeS
— Emily Van Buskirk (@Emilnem) November 11, 2017
Yet when it was all said and done, the junior Heisman candidate had racked up 166 yards and three touchdowns to spark the big win for the Cardinal.
And he did it against a defense that had given up just 820 yards (2.58 yards per carry) and three touchdowns all year heading into Friday night’s game. On one leg. That’s what you call a signature performance.
When will UCF get its proper due from the CFP committee?
Based on how the CFP committee has regarded UCF to this point in the proceedings, it seems clear the Knights won’t make it into the playoff even if they go undefeated the rest of the way.
They entered Week 11 as the No. 18-ranked team in the nation, per CFP rankings. Meanwhile, Wisconsin was No. 8, despite some eerily similar circumstances.
Thank you @ESPNCFB @ESPN for bringing attention to this disparity in how #CFBPlayoff ranks teams. 10 spots and a bunch of 2 loss teams separate #Wisconsin and @UCF_Football (9-0). #UCONNvsUCF #UCF #RiseAndConquer pic.twitter.com/nIpO1vhkkv
— AJ Ansari (@AJAnsariNAV) November 11, 2017
Wins vs. CFP Top 25:
Wins vs. winning records:
-UCF: 4 (FIU, Memphis, Navy, SMU)
-Wisconsin: 2 (FAU, Northwestern)
Games vs. common opponent:
-UCF 38-10 at Maryland
-Wisconsin 38-13 vs. Maryland
Just some food for thought (thanks 280 characters!)
— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) November 8, 2017
UCF handily dispatched UConn Saturday at home, winning by the score of 49-24.
The Knights continue to feature the nation’s most explosive offense, and if they win out they deserve a shot at testing their mettle against the big dogs in the Power Five.
Will it happen? Probably not. There’s too much bias against the Group of Five at this point, which is why Jim Harbaugh’s suggestion about the playoff makes perfect sense.
Welcome back to the land of the living, Ohio State
After laying an egg last weekend on the road against Iowa, Ohio State woke up from its slumber in a major way Saturday at home.
Leaning on the running game for the first time in weeks, the Buckeyes backed a dump truck over their Big Ten rival a few dozen times to the tune of 335 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Mike Weber, who’s been nearly invisible recently, exploded with 162 yards and two rushing touchdowns on just nine carries, and the rout was on.
Sparty had no chance. In fact Michigan State shot itself in the foot, to boot. Quarterback Brian Lewerke had three turnovers (one lost fumble and two picks) that turned into 14 points.
In the grand scheme of things as it concerns the playoff rankings, this huge win likely means nothing for Ohio State. Last weekend’s embarrassing loss to Iowa closed that door for good. Still, it was pretty sweet seeing this offense running at full speed.
Clemson’s defense is ridiculous
Florida State isn’t a good offensive team. We knew that going into Week 11, and we expected Clemson to roll, which it did. That said, just check out what the Seminoles were able to do in the first half: Punt, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt. They ended up running just 26 plays and gained just 46 yards.
By this time, the game was over for all intents and purposes. Clemson led 17-0 heading into halftime.
Here's #Clemson defensive numbers in first half: 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 5 passes broken up, 2 forced fumbles…..and it seemed like a lot more. Tigers lead 17-0.
— Scott Keepfer (@ScottKeepfer) November 11, 2017
And while Florida State did cut it to three points in the second half Clemson’s defense eventually woke back up from its brief nap to slam the door shut, which sparked two offensive touchdowns late.
We give James Blackman a ton of credit for his fearless play in the face of ridiculous pressure. He finished with 208 yards and a touchdown. He also completed just 13-of-32 passes and threw an interception, but at least he never stopped fighting. Florida State’s running game, on the other hand, was stymied, and Clemson’s defensive front was in the backfield seemingly on every single passing play.
— It was the Trace McSorley show for Penn State at home against Rutgers. As he’s done all year long, James Franklin leaned on his quarterback, rather than dynamic running back Saquon Barkley. This time around it worked out well for the Nittany Lions, as McSorley combined to score three touchdowns, setting a new school record while leading a 35-6 rout over the Scarlet Knights.
— Josh Jackson has a bright future, but the freshman quarterback was outshined in a big way by Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall. The dual-threat triple-option master totaled 204 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Yellow Jackets to an impressive 28-22 win.
— Kudos, NC State, for finding a way to stop the bleeding. It wasn’t easy, and Boston College nearly pulled off a huge upset at home. But the Wolfpack scored a late touchdown to pull ahead by the winning score of 17-14. The defense did the rest to close out a win that stopped a two-game skid from becoming three in a row.
NC State wins! Chubb seems pretty happy pic.twitter.com/WF2Npdl1u9
— Pack Pride (@PackPride) November 11, 2017
— Predictably, LSU had no trouble running the ball against Arkansas and won easily, 33-10. Derrius Guice was the main beneficiary of the Razorbacks’ squishy defense, and he romped for 147 and three touchdowns on just 21 carries.
— Florida is nauseatingly bad on offense. It managed just 12 first downs against South Carolina and converted 2-of-15 third downs. The Gators are also nauseatingly incompetent. They inexplicably let Malik Zaire come back and play on an obviously bad knee, and he ended up collapsing on the field. The Gamecocks played a pretty awful game themselves but still managed to win, 28-20. The season cannot end soon enough for Florida.
— Welcome back, Lamar Jackson. After a bye, the Cardinals quarterback was up to his old tricks again in a 38-21 win over Virginia. He totaled 342 yards and four touchdowns, which is actually a down day for last year’s Heisman winner. He also did this:
What a freaking throw. Impeccable placement for a touchdown. pic.twitter.com/NUeGC0VtbT
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) November 11, 2017
Louisville is pretty blah this year, and Baker Mayfield has been magnificent on a powerhouse team. So there’s no way Jackson repeats as a Heisman winner. But this young man is still one of the best players in college football.
— Florida Atlantic has now won six games in a row and is 6-0 in its conference. It’s been a very strong second half by Lane Kiffin’s Owls, who continue to score in bunches en route to a potential Conference USA title.
— Sam Darnold has finally gotten into a comfort zone late in the season. He threw nine interceptions in his first six games. Since then? The USC quarterback has just two interceptions in his last five games (compared to 12 touchdowns), and the Trojans have been on a roll, minus their big loss in South Bend against Notre Dame. They clinched the Pac-12 South title with their win over Colorado. It’s going to be very interesting to see if Darnold decides to stay in school another year as it’s been reported or declares for the 2018 NFL Draft.
— Another ho-hum win over a weak opponent moves Michigan to 8-2 on the year. Freshman quarterback Brandon Peters did manage to throw two touchdowns and avoided a turnover on 18 attempts, which is good. But Maryland is nothing like Wisconsin, which is the team the Wolverines are up against next weekend. We’re very intrigued to see how that game plays out, as both teams struggle offensively.
— Luke Falk and the Washington State Cougars escaped the state of Utah with a win, but boy was it ugly. Luke Falk added 311 yards to his Pac-12 career record passing and threw three touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. Utah turned the ball over an astonishing seven times yet still lost by only eight points. The Cougars are not exactly blowing teams out of the water right now but are 9-2, which isn’t nothing.
— It’s almost like Tennessee tries to outdo itself in terms of incompetence every week. The Volunteers were absolutely embarrassed Saturday against Missouri, which won 50-17. The Tigers out-gained them 659-285 and had no trouble doing so. Butch Jones must have serious dirt on some important people, because we cannot fathom how he is still employed.
— All David Sills does is catch touchdown passes. The former quarterback hauled in two more Saturday in West Virginia’s 28-23 win over Kansas State. That gives him 18 on the season, which is the most in the FBS by a lot.