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College Football Preview Week 11: LSU-’Bama has major playoff implications and is the game of the week

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Who will be driving in the SEC West when this weekend is over?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This is an open thread for college game chat.


#1 Ohio State @ Maryland: Are the Buckeyes on upset watch vs the Terrapins? 12 PM ET FOX

Maryland does not look like a great team to upset the #1 team in the country but in year’s past, the Terrapins have always got up to play stiff competition and have shocked a team or two. The Buckeyes will be heading into this game without one of their very best players as DE Chase Young is suspended for an NCAA violation. If there was ever a time to take advantage, it’s now:

This year, Young has been on a tear. The junior defensive end is the only defensive player within the Heisman conversation, ranking first nationally in sacks (13.5), sack yards (95) and second in forced fumbles (five).

The team captain has 29 total tackles this year, which is fourth on the team, and only needs one more sack this season to set the single-season Ohio State record previously set in 2007.

“His size, his speed, his athleticism and his power are all the things that make him a great player,” head coach Mike Locksley said on Tuesday, when it seemed like he was playing. “You can bet that he’ll have our full attention in how we protect and turn the protection and help make sure that we don’t allow him to disrupt what we want to do to try to move the football.”

A product of DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland, Young was ranked as the No. 7 recruit in the Class of 2017, per the 247Sports Consensus. He received offers from 41 schools, including Maryland, but ultimately decided to play under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

Prediction: Young or no Young, give me the Buckeyes by a wide margin in this one. Talent is too heavy for the letdown.

#4 Penn State @ #17 Minnesota: Who stays perfect between 8-0 Nittany Lions vs 8-0 Golden Gophers? 12 PM ET ABC

We got a big showdown in the BIG-10, the toughest test by far for Minnesota. If they can get the home victory and upset Penn State, they’ll be the talk of the town. If the Nittany Lions pull out the victory then they further their argument in the CFP picture. The Golden Gophers will present another defensive test for Penn State but it’s not like they haven’t already passed a few tests.

Penn State has faced some of the nation’s top defenses in the first eight games. This trend will continue as Minnesota will be the sixth team ranked in the top 20 for total defense that the Nittany Lions have faced thus far. While most upstart programs like Minnesota will rely on a few standouts to carry the team, the Gophers defense is quite different. There are no outliers on the stat sheet that really jump out, but rather, a large group that contributes pretty evenly.

The one player who will without a doubt be playing on Sundays is safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Not only is he second in the nation with five interceptions, he’s also tied for the team lead with 46 tackles, including two sacks. He’ll be lined up all over the place on Sunday in hopes of forcing a mistake by Sean Clifford, who has been very careful with the football in his first year as a starter. Fellow defensive back Chris Williamson is used in a similar fashion, and is often used on delayed blitzes. Carter Coughlin is a senior with an excellent track record of getting after the quarterback, finishing with 9.5 sacks in 2018 and leads the team with five sacks and 3.5 TFLs this season.

Prediction: Though Minnesota has a shot in this one, we’re betting against the Nittany Lions. Penn State by 10.

#2 LSU @ #3 Alabama - A renewed SEC rivalry between two CFP heavyweights on deck for the Game of the Week - 3:30 PM ET CBS

The LSU Tigers haven’t beat the Crimson Tide since 2011 and this one has a ton riding on it. The winner will put themselves in the driver’s seat of the SEC West and have a huge advantage in the playoff picture. Both teams are undefeated, both teams have Heisman-worthy candidates at quarterback, both teams have blood boiling in this one. What must the Tigers do to reverse their fortunes against Nick Saban’s Alabama?

For the Tigers, this will almost certainly come down to the big players making big plays. For Burrow, if there’s going to be a Heisman moment, it’s going to come on Saturday. The receivers have to be special when their time comes. And on defense, the Grant Delpits and the Derek Stingleys have to be prepared to make big things happen when opportunity presents.

But even then, remember that the last time LSU had success in this match-up, it took special plays off the bench. Jordan Jefferson running the ball with Michael Ford in 2011. Jarrett Lee completing a pass late in 2010. Young talents like Eric Reid and Tharold Simon subbing in at big moments. This year, maybe it’s a big run from Tyrion Davis-Price, or a freshman defender like Jay Ward or Marcel Brooks — or a reserve thrust into a bigger role, like Damone Clark.

Small edges can make for deep cuts in a game like this.

Prediction: Give me the LSU Tigers on the arm of Joe Burrow to come away with the win here. That LSU offense is too high-powered to be stopped.

#18 Iowa @ #13 Wisconsin - If you like defensive slug fests, this game is for you as the Hawkeyes travel to the Badgers - 4 PM ET FOX

This one features two of the country’s top defenses, the Hawkeyes are third in scoring defense with just 10.1 points per game, right behind at 11.3 points allowed is Wisconsin. Now, the Badgers have come away victorious the last three times these two have squared off. Can the Hawkeyes get it done on the road? If they are going to pull it off, they must stop the Badger’s running game and force QB Jack Coan to throw the rock:

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the Wisconsin Badgers having a dominant running game.

Yet even by the incredibly high standards set by Wisconsin’s running backs over the years, Jonathan Taylor still stands out as one of the program’s all-time greats. Eight games into his junior season, Taylor has already eclipsed 5,000 career rushing yards. He leads the conference in both touchdowns (19) and plays from scrimmage (194) and is second in rushing yardage with 1,009 yards on 177 carries (an average of 5.7 yards per run). Taylor has incredible vision, can run through tackles, is deceptively fast, and has noticeably improved catching the ball out of the backfield, making him an even more versatile weapon and allowing him to stay on the field even in obvious passing downs.

Jonathan Taylor is arguably the best running back in college football, and its little surprise that Wisconsin built its offense around him. However, that decision was made easier by the Badgers’ struggles in the passing game. Quarterback Jack Coan has been extremely efficient this year, completing nearly 75% of his passes and posting a 10:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Yet Coan’s numbers are heavily inflated by Taylor’s dominance on the ground, which forces opposing defenses to stack the box in an effort to stop him and allows him to hit open receivers in the flat and target his wideouts in single coverage down field. Despite the huge advantage that Taylor gives his quarterback, it’s revealing that Wisconsin is still reluctant to throw the ball, and ranks 115th nationally in pass attempts and 104th in passing yardage per game. Make no mistake, head coach Paul Chryst wants to put as little pressure on Jack Coan to win games with his arm as possible.

Prediction: Badgers make it four-in-a-row as they sneak by with a three-point win at home.

The full college TV schedule is here.