Three Games to Watch: Week 11

Vanderbilt Commodores beat the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 31-17 on Saturday, November 4th, 2017. Photo by Brent Szklaruk.

With three games between Top 10 teams and four others between ranked teams, Week 11 has the potential for a big shake up at the top of the Playoff Committee rankings.

Here are three games to watch this week:

3 Notre Dame at 7 Miami (FL)

The heated rivalry between Notre Dame and Miami is a historic one, dating back to the Catholics vs. Convicts days of the ’80s. However, since I’ve been alive, I haven’t seen a matchup between the two teams that has had as much on the line as this one.

This is the first time in more than twenty-five years that both teams are in title contention going into their contest. The winner of this game will almost certainly be ranked in the top four in the next playoff rankings, and the loser could very well fall out of national championship contention.

Last week, after a season of shaky wins against subpar teams, Miami cemented itself into the playoff picture with a statement 28-10 win over No. 13 Virginia Tech. Miami’s defense held Virginia Tech to its lowest point total and offensive output of the season. The Hokies averaged a measly 2.4 yards per carry against the Hurricanes. With the win, Miami remains undefeated on the season, with their last loss, fittingly, against Notre Dame last October.

Notre Dame comes into this week at No. 3 in the most recent College Playoff ranking. Last week, they defeated Wake Forest 48-37 in a game that was much more lopsided than the score suggested. The Irish put up over 700 yards of total offense, despite running back and Heisman hopeful Josh Adams sitting out much of the second half and quarterback Brandon Wimbush sitting out a few series due to injury concerns. The Irish offense will face an athletic Miami defensive line that will challenge their ground game. Look for the matchup between Notre Dame’s offensive line and Miami’s front seven to be a big factor.

2 Georgia at 10 Auburn

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is Week 11’s biggest SEC matchup. No. 2 Georgia clinched the SEC East last week with a win against South Carolina and a Kentucky loss. Auburn, despite having two losses on the year, still controls its destiny in the SEC West. It’ll be a hellish, nearly impossible task, but if Auburn wins out, they could still work their way into the top four.

Despite being ranked No. 1 in the College Playoff ranking, Georgia still has plenty to prove. Many argue that with Georgia’s weak strength of schedule against a lackluster SEC East division, the Bulldogs haven’t truly been tested. This week’s matchup against Auburn could solidify Georgia’s spot at the top.

The Tigers face a Georgia defense that is among the nation’s best. The Bulldogs are ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and fifth in rushing defense. An interesting matchup will be Georgia’s deep front seven, which has allowed an average of only 3.1 yards per rush, against Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. Johnson has been on a tear this season, ranked third nationally in rushing touchdowns in addition to being the only SEC running back to average more than 100 yards per game.  

The Tigers also possess the best passing offense the Bulldogs have faced this season. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham, with 17 throws of 30+ yards this season, has shown serious big play ability. If Georgia’s defense has any weakness, it’s that it can, at times, be vulnerable to giving up big plays on the back end, as evidenced in their game against Missouri.

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm has been solid for the Bulldogs this season after taking over the starting job, but there’s no doubt that Georgia’s real strength lies in its ground attack. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are arguably the best running back tandem in college football, and the Bulldogs boast the 8th best rushing offense in the nation. The question for the Tigers’ defense will be if they can force Fromm to beat them out of the air. If Auburn can contain Georgia’s rushing attack and force the Bulldogs into third-and-long situations, an upset could be on the horizon for the Tigers.

25 Iowa at 6 Wisconsin

After moving up only one spot to No. 8 in the Playoff Committee rankings, Wisconsinites everywhere will cry that the unbeaten Badgers aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Four one-loss teams are ranked ahead of the Badgers, who have their soft schedule to blame. A win over Iowa, who hammered Ohio State 55-24 last week, would be huge for its playoff resume.

It won’t necessarily be an easy feat, however. Iowa has been unpredictable this season, scoring only 27 combined points against Northwestern and Minnesota before putting up an offensive explosion last week against the Buckeyes. Iowa scored 31 unanswered points against Ohio State, and quarterback Nate Stanley threw for four touchdowns during that stretch. The Hawkeyes also put up 243 rushing yards, executing a balanced attack that kept Ohio State guessing all game. They’ll face a physical Badgers defense that is ranked in the top five nationally in scoring defense and run defense.

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook hasn’t been outstanding this season, but he’s done enough to win games, which is all that the Badgers have needed out of him so far. It’s undeniable that Wisconsin is best when they run the football. Running back Jonathan Taylor currently sits at 3rd in the NCAA in rushing yards and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. This Hawkeyes rush defense, however, is arguably the best the Badgers have faced this season. The key to an Iowa upset will be loading the box to stop the run and forcing Hornibrook to make plays. He’ll have to do so without his leading receiver Quintez Cephus, however, who recently had season-ending surgery.

Wisconsin has everything to lose in this game. A loss to Iowa would all but guarantee the Badgers’ elimination from playoff contention. Can the Hawkeyes play spoiler two weeks in a row?

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