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Monday, 3 November 2014

Weekly College Football Games Menu - Week Eleven

Halloween weekend was an exciting one in college football and we certainly had our share of treats, as well as a few tricks in there as well.  Third ranked Auburn defeated fourth ranked Ole Miss on a fumble on the goaline, TCU topped West Virginia in a Big 12 showdown while Arkansas nearly knocked off number one ranked Mississippi State, Florida State barely maintained their perfect season on Thursday night and Florida upset Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  As we enter week eleven, it promises to be another big week which will shape the playoff picture in a major way.  Big matchups are in the queue and the winners hope to catch the eye of the playoff committee.


Playoff Appeal

One of the biggest matchups of the weekend is one that has been circled on the calendar all season.  It’s not often that the games we thought would be major battles at the onset still carry the same weight eleven weeks in.  Eighth ranked Michigan State hosting sixteenth ranked Ohio State for control of the Big Ten East, a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and the most likely candidate from the Big Ten to make the playoff, however, makes the cut.  The Spartans have had a week to prepare for the Buckeyes and both teams boast solid defenses to compliment their top five ranked scoring offenses.

Another matchup of ranked opponents pairs tenth ranked Notre Dame against fourteenth ranked Arizona State.  The Irish looked a little rusty in their week ten win over Navy after suffering their first loss to Florida State and then having a bye week.  They need to be ready to go against Arizona State, however, who hosts the Irish and beat out red hot Utah in overtime in week ten.

The Pac-12 has several big games this week as Washington hosts UCLA and Oregon travels to Utah.  UCLA looked more like the team we thought they were at the start of the season in Week Ten against Arizona, but must overcome the talented strategic mind of Head Coach Chris Petersen on the road in Washington.  Oregon, meanwhile, will hit the road as well against a Utah team that is playing better and better.  While the Utes fell to Arizona State in Week Ten, they are a dangerous team, and might be the biggest challenge the Ducks have faced since Michigan State in Week Two.

Outside of the Pac-12, the Big 12 has a major contest as Baylor faces off against Oklahoma.  While both of these teams are a long shot to make the playoff, whichever loses this week is most certainly eliminated.  The Sooners could make a case with two losses due to their strength of schedule and slim margin of losses, but the Bears will fall significantly should they come up short again.  Both teams also have a chance at the Big 12 Championship with TCU and Kansas State facing off this week as well, but again, they must win this week to stay in the race.

While most power conferences have solid games in Week Eleven, the SEC is taking something of a breather.  Third ranked Auburn should have a much easier time against a struggling Texas A&M team with a suspended quarterback than they had against Ole Miss in week ten.  After beating South Carolina in Week One, the Aggies only conference win has come against Arkansas.   If Auburn finds a way to lose this game at home, look for them to tumble out of the playoff rankings.

In an even more absurd Week Eleven matchup, number one ranked Mississippi State will host lower division FCS opponent Tennessee-Martin.  Tennessee-Martin completes Mississippi State’s ridiculously weak non-conference schedule consisting of South Alabama, UAB and Southern Miss, four teams who combine for eleven wins against FBS teams and zero against power five teams.  With Mississippi State’s struggles against Arkansas in Week Ten and the cake walk schedule, it would be encouraging to see the playoff committee punish the Bulldogs for even playing this game, but more likely this will serve as just another bye on the number one ranked team’s schedule.

The only other undefeated team in college football has a much stiffer test, though it would be rather difficult not to.  Florida State hosts 4-5 Virginia, who had some solid wins early, particularly over Louisville in Week Three, but who have struggled recently.  While the Seminoles should be able to keep their perfect record intact, they can’t have a let down after the big road win against Louisville. 


Local Flavor

While most of the SEC rests in Week Eleven, there is one major contest.  While Alabama and LSU are separated by the state of Mississippi, these two teams know each other well, and it is a rivalry that has been intense throughout the BCS era.  One of these two teams has represented the SEC West 13 out of 22 seasons in the SEC Championship Game and over that same time, the series is split with eleven wins apiece.  With big name coaches like Nick Saban and Les “the hat” Miles at the helm and so much on the line every year, this rivalry has a definite familiarity to it.  While LSU is outside the playoff picture looking in with two losses already, they took out Ole Miss in Week Nine and would love to give Alabama their second loss of the season as well, forcing the playoff committee to drop the tide down the rankings as well.


Game of the Week

While the local flavor provides a big time matchup this week, the Game of the Week is without question the clash in the Big 12 as seventh ranked TCU hosts ninth ranked Kansas State for the top spot in the Big 12 and possible inclusion in the playoff field.  The Horned Frogs were able to outlast 22nd ranked West Virginia in Morgantown in Week Ten and the Wildcats decimated Oklahoma State at home, so both teams have good momentum entering this showdown.  While Kansas State still needs to face the Mountaineers as well as Baylor to close out their season, a win by TCU would give them a high probability of finishing the season with a single loss.  A one loss Big 12 Champion would be hard to keep out of playoff contention with the strength of the conference schedule, but these two teams must first find a way to win in Week Eleven.


Pillow Fight of the Week

Week Eleven not only has big games between power teams, but it also holds one of the best Pillow Fights in recent weeks.  SMU, the only winless team remaining in college football has one of their best chances to pick up a victory this week as they face 1-7 Tulsa, whose only win came in double overtime against Tulane in Week One.  Since then, the Golden Hurricane has been dismal, ranking near last in both points for and points against.  The only thing worse would be ranking dead last in both these categories, a distinction held by their opponent SMU.


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