Three games to watch: Week 11

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Ziyi Liu

Trent Sherfield (10) strikes a Heisman Pose as Vanderbilt picked up its first SEC win under coach Derek Mason 10-3 at Vanderbilt Stadium October 24, 2015

Jack Fader

As the college football season winds to a close, games start to have a significant impact on the postseason, whether it be conference championship games or bowl games. Here are three games to watch this week.

No. 9 Auburn at Georgia  

Auburn comes into this one having won six games in a row to put itself in control of its own destiny in the SEC West. The Tigers must take care of the Georgia Bulldogs on the road on Saturday to set up a winner-take-all showdown two weeks later against arch-rival Alabama. Auburn struggled last week at home against a stingy Vanderbilt defense and lost star running back Kamryn Pettway to injury in the process. The Tigers must force Georgia true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to beat them through the air, as Bulldog running back Sony Michel had a great day against Kentucky Saturday, rushing for 127 yards and a touchdown in the Georgia win.

For Georgia to have a chance at ruining Auburn’s season, it must stop Auburn’s rushing attack. Even if Pettway is unable to go for the Tigers, backup Kerryon Johnson is more than capable of leading the Auburn offense. If Georgia’s front seven is able to perform on the same level as Vanderbilt’s last Saturday at Auburn, the Bulldogs have the guns on offense to put Auburn under a lot of pressure as it fights for the SEC title.

No. 20 USC at No. 4 Washington

Washington comes into this game, the only game between two ranked teams this week, sitting fourth in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, moving up a spot after Texas A&M’s shocking loss to Mississippi State. The Huskies remained undefeated last weekend in a dominant win at California. Washington quarterback Jake Browning, a Heisman candidate, put up Heisman numbers in the win in throwing for 378 yards and six touchdowns while his offense put up 66 points.

USC comes into this one on a five-game winning streak after dismantling the Oregon Ducks at home this past weekend. Running back Ronald Jones tied a school record for the Trojans with four rushing touchdowns to go along with 171 rushing yards. For USC to go to Seattle and win, it must play an almost perfect game, as this is the best opponent for the Trojans since they were stomped by Alabama to begin the year. They must rely on Jones and quarterback Sam Darnold to put up points, as it seems unlikely that USC will be able to keep Browning and Co. off the board.

Vanderbilt at Missouri

With a lack of major power-conference games this week, it seems fitting that a game of the week can be a Vandy game. The Commodores come into this one coming off a good performance against a tough Auburn squad on the road, losing by just seven in a game where Auburn was a 26-point favorite. Vanderbilt, which sits at 4-5, can secure APR bowl eligibility with a win against Missouri on Saturday. APR, or Academic Progress Rate, is compared between teams that finish with five wins and comes down to the team’s academic standing. Since Vanderbilt’s is very good, it can expect a bowl invite even if it finishes at 5-7.  

Missouri may very well be the worst team in the SEC. The Tigers lost by double digits to South Carolina last weekend to run their losing streak to five in a row. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has struggled greatly this season, and the Tiger offense should have big trouble with the Vandy defense if the Commodores play the same as they did in Auburn. This is a big opportunity for Vanderbilt to set itself up for a big finish to the season, as the ‘Dores are trending in the right direction.