SportsPulse: College football insiders Paul Myerberg and Dan Wolken discuss what the committee got right and wrong in the second playoff reveal of the season.
Unpredictable events are often the norm during the college football season, especially as the playoff chase heats up in the final weeks and the stakes get higher.
The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, George Schroeder, Erick Smith and Eddie Timanus — weighs in with some bold predictions for the games during Week 11.
Assuming QB Ian Book isn’t ready to go, No. 3 Notre Dame could be in trouble against Florida State. The Seminoles’ defense is pretty easy to read: they can’t stop the pass but bottle up the run; their pass defense is 121st in the FBS (282.6 yards allowed per game) but a very respectable 17th vs. the ground game (111.1 yards). Brandon Wimbush, the Notre Dame starter should Book be unavailable, lost his job after Week 3 because of his struggles throwing in the absence of the same punishing ground attack the Fighting Irish used to open things up in 2017. Wimbush is completing just 55.3 percent of his passes this year, with one touchdown and four interceptions – the same number Book has thrown on 128 more attempts. The Wimbush-led offense put up 24, 24 and 22 points this year, those latter two games coming to Ball State and Vanderbilt.
All that is to say this: Wimbush is unlikely to throw all over Florida State, meaning this will be a lower-scoring game that the Seminoles can steal. If they do, it will bring much-needed good vibes to Willie Taggart’s program that has experienced a bumpy ride in his first year in Tallahassee. It would even give them an outside chance to extend their bowl streak. Bigger picture, a Notre Dame loss would throw the College Football Playoff race into chaos, creating a wild last few weeks and perhaps the most contentious top four debate yet.
Tennessee beats Kentucky to notch the second strong win of Jeremy Pruitt’s first season. This would qualify as an upset: Tennessee is 4-5 and Kentucky is 7-2 after last week’s loss to Georgia. And while the Volunteers have been up and down for the entire year, this seems like the sort of matchup where the Volunteers’ home-field advantage might provide the difference.
Arkansas’ season under first-year coach Chad Morris has been disappointing. The Hogs’ postseason plans don’t include a bowl game (in part because their season doesn’t currently include an SEC victory). But in Fayetteville, they’ll catch LSU coming off that 29-0 shellacking by Alabama, and they’ll find a way to hand the Tigers a second consecutive loss.
Rivalry games are a different animal, even if one team is heavily favored. Both Georgia and Oklahoma are expected to have easy days against Auburn and Oklahoma State at home, respectively. But that’s not always how things go, especially with a motivated underdog.
The Tigers have the defense to slow down the run game of the Bulldogs and force quarterback Jake Fromm to beat them. LSU employed the same strategy with effectiveness last month. The key will be if Jarrett Stidham can make enough plays for the Auburn offense to possess the ball and give its defense a break.
We’ve seen the Sooners look dominant on offense all season. There’s no reason to expect the Cowboys to slow them down. The OU defense, though, is always capable of keeping its opponent in the game. Texas Tech had its way with them last week, and Oklahoma State’s combination of QB Taylor Cornelius and RB Justice Hill are good even to keep things close.
Don’t be surprised if both games are tight in the fourth quarter and maybe we see a big upset.
If a sunflower falls and nobody is around, does it make a sound?
Now that basketball season is underway, football becomes even more of an afterthought in the Sunflower State. Even so, there’ll be a few interested spectators on hand when Kansas and K-State get together in Manhattan.
It’s been a forgettable season all around where the deer and the antelope, well, don’t actually play. Though the Jayhawks’ 3-6 mark is an improvement on last year, the school will still be bidding adieu to coach David Beaty at season’s end. His Jayhawks just might provide him with a parting gift, however, as the Bill Snyder era helming the Wildcats looks to be running out of steam. K-State has won the last nine in the series, but that’s about to end. KU will pull out a win in a low-scoring affair that will in no way resemble Big 12 football. But it’s all right, because — did we mention it’s hoops season now?