College football games, matchups for Week 11: Opportunities for Auburn and 'The U'
The Tigers and Canes each have the chance to make a statement in their put-up-or-shut-up games
Gus Malzahn has options.
Some of them he doesn't need or want, but Auburn's fifth-year coach certainly could see his star rise, fall or just plain flame out in the next four Saturdays.
Such are the vagaries of the SEC, big-time college football and just being Gus.
With No. 1 Georgia looming Saturday in one of three top-10 matchups this week, all the above results are still in play. For one of the most innovative offensive coaches of this generation -- for college football this season -- that is significant.
Some details …
Even at 7-2 going into Week 11, Malzahn is, was and might always be on the hot seat. You wouldn't understand, it's an Auburn thing … so much so that if he doesn't beat Georgia or Alabama in the coming weeks, Malzahn could be fired. The fact that the athletic director who hired him, Jay Jacobs, is on his way out doesn't help matters. Gus is 16-16 since the 2013 run to the BCS championship game. In that span, he is 1-5 against Georgia and Alabama.
Short of getting fired, Gus could beat the posse out of town and leave on his own. Arkansas would be a safe landing spot if Bret Bielema is let go. After five seasons of Bielema Ball, Arkansas would welcome its old offensive coordinator with a Dickson Street parade.
But Gus could also get a contract extension. All the Tigers have to do is beat Georgia and Alabama -- the top two teams in the nation -- to clinch the SEC West and start that conversation. In that case, Gus would be in a position to win the SEC in a rematch with Georgia in the conference title game. At that point, how do you keep an 11-2 Auburn with wins over (most likely) three top-five opponents in four weeks out of the College Football Playoff? Answer: You don't.
From unemployment line to playoff. That is Malzahn's range of options right now. In that sense, he and his team control the fortunes of Georgia, Alabama, the entire SEC and the playoff.
You can't put a price tag on that. Actually, you can, but Greg Sankey doesn't want to think about how much money the SEC would gain/lose based on how much Auburn rises or falls.
Boom or bust. That sort of describes all the contenders' plight heading into Week 11. Starting at Jordan-Hare, some coaches have more options than others.
2. Catholics vs. Comebacks: I wonder if Notre Dame understands what it's walking into Saturday night at Miami. It hasn't been to South Florida since 1989. Expect it to be hot, humid, maybe a shower or two, surely a lot of invective hurled in packed Hard Rock Stadium. Miami (ninth worst in time of possession!) should try to hold onto the ball and turn up the noise against a vulnerable Notre Dame D.
There have to be some holes for the Canes to see on film after the Irish gave up nearly 600 yards last week against Wake Forest. Running back Josh Adams will have to dominate. He checked out after the first quarter last week after five carries due to fatigue and "a high academic load." Try that Miami front seven on for size, #33Trucking. My guess: Miami 33, Notre Dame 28.
3. The oldest rivalry in the deep South: I keep saying, sooner or later, Jake Fromm has a clunker in him. I keep being wrong. If Georgia is going to keep its playoff hopes alive, Fromm is going to have to convert some third-and-7s on this Auburn D. Fromm has thrown a scant 22 times on third-and-7 or longer this season. Half of his four interceptions have come in those situations. With two top-25 run defenses on the horizon (Auburn, probably Alabama in SEC title game), Fromm is going to have to grow big shoulders. The game eventually is going to be on his throwing arm.
4. Alabama depth check: Bama can afford to lose at Mississippi State. We know this because, in 2011 and '12, the Tide lost in November and won national championships. They only have to finish in the top four, not be No. 1. As long as Bama reaches Atlanta with no more than one loss, it has a chance to be in the playoff. That makes the words of CBS Sports' Gary Danielson less concerning. Danielson calls the injuries to Alabama's Shaun Dion Hamilton and Minkah Fitzpatrick the . Fitzpatrick is expected to play against Mississippi State, but Hamilton is out for the season. This is a test of the true depth of Alabama's roster.
5. Heisman heist: Baker Mayfield is such a prohibitive favorite now it might not matter if the Sooners lose between now and the Heisman Trophy ceremony (Dec. 9). It definitely matters in the playoff chase with TCU coming to town. The Sooners face the Big 12's best defense as well as the nation's best special teams. This is a playoff elimination bout. The Heisman? It has been decided.
6. Thirteen and uh-oh: No pressure, Wisconsin but it's all on you -- the Big Ten's playoff hopes, that is. All you need to do is win out against Iowa (Saturday), Michigan, Minnesota and your opponent the Big Ten title game. . It's 13-0 or bust for Wisconsin and the Big Ten.
7. Scarlet and pray: Ohio State is favored by 15.5 points Saturday against Michigan State. Our friends in the desert have apparently forgotten the Bucks have lost every significant game they've played since the iPhone 6 was released. They've also forgotten that a quarterback whose name I still can't quite pronounce -- Brian Lewerke -- has thrown for 400 yards in back-to-back games for the Spartans. That's something J.T. Barrett has never done in his career.
8. Elsewhere in South Florida: Bravo for two resuscitated careers: No. 25 (in my Power Rankings) FAU heads to Louisiana Tech with the nation's seventh-longest winning streak (tied, five). In the same season, Lane Kiffin's brother -- defensive coordinator Chris -- is both a candidate for the Broyles Award (nation's best assistant) and a potential NCAA penalty forcing him out of his job after featuring prominently in the Ole Miss allegations. Meanwhile, FIU (6-2) hosts Old Dominion with two walk-ons in Butch Davis' starting secondary. FAU-FIU meet next week to decide the Conference USA East.
9. Quick kicks: Wonder if the CFP Selection Committee takes this sort of thing into account: In Miami, Notre Dame's Brandon Wimbush will face his third top-seven pass efficiency defense this season. Mayfield will face his first top-50 such defense against TCU. … Forget about Les Miles at Oregon State for now. The school has not contacted him despite reports this week Les was interested in the opening. (Update: Les is interesting in every opening.). … Army (7-2) is trying to go undefeated at home for the first time since 1996. The Black Knights are going to back-to-back bowls for the first time since 1984-85.… Tommy Tuberville said this week "there is no one more qualified" to be the next Auburn AD than him. I don't disagree.
10. Quote of the week: "They don't like to hear it, but the bottom six in our conference would crush the bottom six in the SEC." -- Washington State's Mike Leach on the Pac-12
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