Week 11 college football picks, games, odds: Georgia, Notre Dame on upset alert
Week 11 of the college football season could dramatically shift the playoff landscape
The answer is often right in front of you. Week 10 of the college football season was great for upsets, Ohio State going on the road against Iowa, a team known to be difficult at home, should have been a clear red flag, but we live and learn.. In hindsight,
Week 11 has a chance to be is just as chaotic. Lord knows there are plenty of games to send the season into a spin. For instance, the top three teams in the AP Top 25 poll and College Football Playoff rankings are on the road. Will they survive or will the playoff landscape look dramatically different this time next week?
Each week, we give you the top five upset alert games based on matchups, injuries/suspensions and other factors. As an extra challenge, we try to avoid games whose lines are within a touchdown with exceptions being made for cases that warrant them (which, as you'll read, there are this week).
No. 9 Washington at Stanford
When: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET | Where: Palo Alto, California | Opening line: Washington -8
Why it's listed: Washington got its "forgot how to football properly" game out of the way against Arizona State, but #Pac12AfterDark on Friday nights can get looney. It's a short week and a road trip for the Huskies. That's never easy. Neither is defending Stanford running back Bryce Love, who remains the nation's leader in rushing yards per game (182) despite a down week in a loss to Washington State. Still, Love is the most productive running back Washington will face this season.
Stanford wins if: It can win the field position battle. Both teams are actually quite good at this. This is key for the Cardinal for a few reasons. One: I don't trust their offense to drive the field, nor do I have much faith in their weapons outside of Love. Two: Washington's kicking game is suspect, so putting them in positions to go for it on fourth down or punt will be huge. Three: Stanford's red zone defense is sub par, which could mean exchanging touchdowns for field goals if they don't make stops earlier. Shorten the field, though, and Stanford gives itself a chance. Oh, and P.S.: don't kick to Dante Pettis.
Washington wins if: It can contain Love. Washington State did it in Week 10 by holding him to 69 yards and a touchdown. That was a season-low for Love and his lowest rushing output in nearly a calendar year. Overall, I like this matchup for Washington, which has the best run defense in the Pac-12 by a considerable margin. In fact, the Huskies are one of three teams to not have allowed a run of 30 yards or more all season. Love, meanwhile, has made his living on long touchdown runs and Stanford's run blocking isn't as efficient statistically as you'd think.
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Auburn, Alabama | Opening line: Pick'em
Why it's listed: This game goes almost entirely against the upset alerts mantra. Not only is the spread still well within a touchdown -- it's up to 2.5 points in favor of Georgia -- it was a pick 'em when the line opened. Still, this is the No. 1 team going on the road in a key SEC game in November. In that way, the small line is actually what makes this upset potential so fascinating. There's also still a novelty to the new target on Georgia's back. That being said, a loss doesn't hurt the Bulldogs much in the big picture. They've already locked up the SEC East and if they win out, they're in the final four regardless. But an Auburn win would make the Iron Bowl against Alabama all kinds of interesting.
Auburn wins if: Its good offense shows up because the Tigers have the defense to win. Auburn had one of its most complete games of the season offensively against Texas A&M. Its running game led the way and quarterback Jarrett Stidham was an efficient 20-of-27 with three touchdowns and nearly 10 yards per pass attempt. Stidham has the leg up in the quarterback battle with Jake Fromm because of his dual-threat capability. He was brought in to be the missing piece, so this is the game to fill the void. Georgia's defense is stingy, though, allowing just 4.2 yards per play. If there was ever a game for coach Gus Malzahn to work his offensive magic, this is it.
Georgia wins if: Its two-headed rushing attack of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel take care of business as usual. Though neither back is in the Heisman Trophy conversation, that's probably the backfield most coaches would take right now if they had the choice. Auburn's run defense is right there with Georgia's, but rotating Chubb and Michel means fresh legs deep into the second half. A good run game also takes the pressure off of Fromm, who, despite his breakout year, has yet to throw 30 passes in a game. The closest he came was in his debut against Notre Dame (16-of-29, 1 TD, 1 INT, 4.9 yards per attempt).
No. 20 Iowa at No. 8 Wisconsin
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET | Where: Madison, Wisconsin | Opening line: Wisconsin -13.5
Why it's listed: I figured the Badgers would have some trouble on the road against Indiana, a pesky home team that perpetually comes up just short. The Hoosiers got out to a 10-0 lead ... and then were outscored 45-7. We'll file that one under "partially correct." Anyway, Wisconsin faces a tougher task at home against the Hawkeyes, a team much closer to 8-1 or 9-0 than 6-3. We just saw what the Hawkeyes did to Ohio State, and with the Badgers basically being the Big Ten's last true playoff hope, there's a lot riding on this game.
Iowa wins if: It can slow Wisconsin's ground attack. What's new, right? But the key for any defense facing the Badgers starts with this. If the options are being mauled in the ground game or giving up some plays to quarterback Alex Hornibrook -- who, it's worth noting, will be without top wide receiver Quintez Cephus -- which would you choose? The Badgers are running out of healthy wideouts, too. Don't be surprised if Iowa puts an extra defender in the box and tries to force Hornibrook to win this with his arm.
Wisconsin wins if: Jonathan Taylor Touchdown takes over. He's been an exceptionally consistent back this season with 1,368 yards and 12 touchdowns, but only twice in Big Ten play has he scored multiple rushing touchdowns. If Wisconsin can have success running the ball against Iowa's defense, this likely means Taylor is the player of the game. A game with 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns would do the trick.
No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami (FL)
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET | Where: Miami Gardens, Florida | Opening line: Notre Dame -1.5
Why it's listed: I'm breaking my touchdown line rule for this game -- the line is up to -3 for Notre Dame -- because it has major playoff ramifications, both for the Fighting Irish and on the whole. It could not only determine whether Notre Dame steals a Power Five conference's spot in the top four, but it could also reframe our perception about who the best team is in the ACC. Miami has the aggressive defense to disrupt Notre Dame's ground attack, but can the offense do its part?
Miami wins if: Quarterback Malik Rosier plays his best game of the season. I typically don't want to put too much pressure on the quarterback, but a solid, smart performance by Rosier would complete this team. The Hurricanes can't expect to have three turnovers and still win like they did against Virginia Tech. Rosier has had his ups and downs, but if there was ever a game to put it all together, this would be it.
Notre Dame wins if: Running back Josh Adams gets back on track. He was banged up against Wake Forest last week, but coach Brian Kelly says Adams is a full go for this Saturday. Adams' role in the offense is critical. Not only is he an elusive runner that's tough to bring down, he forces defenses to account for two possible rushing options in the backfield when paired with quarterback Brandon Wimbush. The Hurricanes like to attack on defense. As a result, they get a lot of sacks, tackles for loss, turnovers and are good in the red zone. But they also give up some big plays in the process. That could bode well for Adams.
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET | Where: Norman, Oklahoma | Opening line: Oklahoma -7
Why it's listed: Fun fact when researching the history of this game: Every score in this series been decided by no more than a touchdown since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012. Given the line, one would reasonably expect more of the same. This game is strength vs. strength. Oklahoma has college football's best offense. Seriously, the Sooners are No. 1 in every S&P+ category. But TCU has the country's third-best defense by the same measurement and ranks fifth nationally in yards per play allowed. Who says Big 12 teams don't play defense?
TCU wins if: Its defense wins the day. Oklahoma's defense is the liability, and it's a big one for. If the Frogs can get just enough stops against the nation's best offense, they have a real chance because of their own offensive balance that puts an emphasis on the running attack. TCU doesn't typically run a ton of plays -- about 71 a game -- but they showed they can against Texas. They may again if that's what keeps Oklahoma's offense off the field.
Oklahoma wins if: Baker Mayfield does his thing. The Heisman leader has already played hero in the Beldam game with nearly six bills through the air. November is Heisman time and Mayfield is on a roll. If he's the difference maker, there aren't many teams who have someone to counter that.
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