College Football Teams on Upset Alert in Week 11
This is the playoff's inaugural season, but an upset can still ruin a team's national title hopes. We are at a point in the season where one team's failure could lead to a completely different playoff scenario.
Last week saw plenty of close calls and just in case you missed any of the action, here is a quick rewind:
- No. 1 Mississippi State avoided overtime with Arkansas by intercepting Brandon Allen as the Hogs were driving. The Bulldogs remained undefeated with the 17-10 win.
- No. 2 Florida State is no stranger to second half comebacks, and that is exactly what they needed to hold off Louisville in the 42-31 win.
- West Virginia narrowly missed pulling an upset after a late field goal lifted No. 7 TCU over the Mountaineers 31-30.
- All Florida needed was their ground game to take down heavily favored Georgia 38-20. The Gators racked up over 400 rushing yards.
- Everett Golson's six touchdown performance was just enough to prevent Navy from pulling a huge upset over Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish escaped with a 49-39 win.
- East Carolina's hopes of making it to a major bowl game are all but lost after falling to Temple 20-10.
We still have a lot of football to enjoy, so that almost guarantees another big time upset. Will the next one happen this week?
Alabama's journey to the College Football Playoff starts in Death Valley. Blake Sims has yet to play in an environment this hostile, and with the recent stadium expansion, this may be the loudest game in LSU history. Sims has to focus on hitting the open receiver and not forcing the ball. Sims will need good protection from his offensive line which might get tricky if Cam Robinson cannot play. Robinson or no Robinson, they also need to open up holes for a banged up T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.
On the other side of ball, Alabama will be in good shape if it stop Leonard Fournette and Terrence Magee. Les Miles has not shown a lot of trust in quarterback Anthony Jennings, which is why the Tigers rely so heavily on the ground game. The Tide's secondary is the achilles heal of the defense, but it is hard to imagine LSU straying from its rushing attack except maybe for the occasional deep ball downfield.
Anthony Jennings is the X factor in this game. Like we said, Alabama's secondary is not as good as years past. Jennings has not yet proven that he can hurt a team through the air. His 50% completion percentage is the second worst of any quarterback on a top 25 team. Fournette and Magee will get plenty of touches, but if they cannot move the ball, Miles has no choice but to go to the air.
That is not to say that Jennings will play bad and still lose the game. LSU's defense did enough against Ole Miss to hold them to just 7 points. Recent matchups between these two teams have been nothing but defensive battles. If the Tigers rattle Sims, it will give Jennings enough wiggle room to make a few mistakes of his own.
This is not the 'Game of the Century' that we saw a few years ago. It has the potential of being the game of the century for Tigers' fans who are looking to end the Tide's national title hopes.
Rich Rodriguez may have not been able to revive Michigan - neither has Brady Hoke - but he does deserve a lot of credit for the job he has done at Arizona. The Wildcats would be in the national title picture if not for close losses to USC and UCLA. By looking at the line and the overall record of the teams, it is easy to believe that Arizona will have no problem with Colorado. That might not be the case.
Quarterback Anu Solomon may have a difficult time putting up big numbers considering Colorado, statistically, has the second best pass defense he has faced all season. In last week's loss to UCLA, Solomon threw for a season low 175 yards and that led to only seven points. The Wildcats will struggle to score points if Solomon does not put up his usual passing numbers.
By now you must be wondering how we think a team that is 2-7 can even begin to slow down Solomon or any other Arizona player. For starters, Colorado is the PAC-12 version of Arkansas considering they have lost two conference games in double overtime. What makes them dangerous is combination of quarterback Sefo Liufau and wide receiver Nelson Spruce. Spruce has over 1,000 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns on the year. Liufau's 25 touchdown passes is already a school record. However, his 12 interceptions has caused him to not be as highly regarded.
The Buffaloes' defense will be the deciding factor on Saturday. The worst rush defense in the PAC-12 will be set with the task of stopping Arizona's ground game while also minimizing Anu Solomon through the air. Colorado cannot simply rely on their offense because Liufau turns the ball over too much.
Arizona is thriving with a lot of young talent. Their leading rusher and passer are freshmen, while their leading receiver and tackler are sophomores. Those young players have to learn to treat every opponent equally. If they fail to do so, Colorado will come out on top.
Alabama and Oregon are probably the two most consistent winning teams of the last five years. Both teams have fallen victims to upsets, but the cards have always played out in Alabama's favor. The Ducks suffered a heart-wrenching loss to Arizona early in the season, and now, the cards have turned in their favor and they can finally make a run at the national title. That's if they can avoid another loss. Oregon's last roadblock before they reach the PAC-12 Championship is the original BCS busters of college football, the Utah Utes.
Back in the days when the Utes were still Cinderella, and there was still a BCS, they never had to face the likes of Marcus Mariota. The Heisman frontrunner is the foundation of the number one offense in the conference. His performance against one of the best defenses in the PAC-12 will go a long way in determining how far this team will make it.
We always take a special look at a team's defense when evaluating upset alerts. Your offense may win you a game or two in the final seconds of a game, but defense wins championships. Right now, the Ducks have the second worst defense in the PAC-12. They have given up 162 plays of ten yards or more. California is the only Power 5 conference team with more. We have reached a point of no return, which means that if this has not improved by now, they are probably not going to improve.
As bad as things are on defense for Oregon, you still have to be able to outscore them. That is where Utah may struggle. The Utes lost their best wide receiver Dres Anderson to a season-ending injury against USC. In last week's overtime loss to Arizona State, quarterback Travis Wilson put up poor numbers and seemed lost without Anderson as a target. Wilson needs to lead a quick scoring attack that will shock Oregon early. On defense, if they attack a banged up offense line and take Mariota out of the equation, then they will win.
Utah has pulled some of the biggest upsets in college football history, but this is first season that they have truly competed in the PAC 12. Oregon is one of the best teams in all of college football, but every team is beatable. How vulnerable will the Ducks be on the road?