College football Week 11 primer: Heisman Watch, upset picks, predictions and more

Sporting News

Week 11 of the college football season features the biggest matchup of the regular season — and a lot more.

No. 1 LSU travels to No. 2 Alabama in a regular-season "Game of the Century" at Bryant-Denny Stadium. That game between the Tigers and Crimson Tide features SEC West and College Football Playoff implications, and the duel between quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa — if he plays — could decide the Heisman Trophy.

MORE: Will Tagovailoa play vs. LSU?

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That is one of three games between ranked teams. No. 5 Penn State travels to No. 13 Minnesota in a battle of Big Ten unbeatens (noon, ABC), and No. 18 Iowa travels to No. 16 Wisconsin (4 p.m., FOX).

Every week, Sporting News will survey the landscape looking for Heisman contenders, coaches on the spot, upset alerts and other trends. With that in mind, get ready for Week 11:

Heisman watch

Let's hope that Tagovailoa matchup materializes, which would add the Heisman layer to the Alabama-LSU matchup. Keep in mind that the quarterbacks who have finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the Heisman voting have met twice this century in the regular season.

Tagovailoa (2,166 yards, 27 touchdowns, two interceptions) ranks second in the FBS in passer rating at 212.4, one spot ahead of Burrow (2,805 yards, 30 touchdowns, four interceptions) at 204.5. This one should to be a high-scoring affair like those other regular-season shootouts.

In 2008, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (28 of 39, 387 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions) and Texas' Colt McCoy (28 of 35, 277 yards, touchdown) put on a show in the Longhorns' 45-35 victory. In 2016, Clemson's Deshaun Watson (20 of 31, 306 yards, five touchdowns, three interceptions) and Louisville's Lamar Jackson (27 of 44, 295 yards, touchdown, interception) did the same in the Tigers' 42-36 victory. In both cases, the Heisman winner was on the losing team while the losing quarterback played for a national championship.

Makes sense, right?

Coach on the spot

This is LSU coach Ed Orgeron’s big moment on the big stage, and he could solidify Coach of the Year candidacy with a victory against the Crimson Tide.

Orgeron has a chance to deliver LSU's first victory against Alabama since the No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdown in 2011. That was the last time Les Miles beat Alabama and part of a stretch from 2011-13 where he was 1-3 against the Crimson Tide and 32-4 against everybody else.

So far, Orgeron is 0-3 against Alabama and 30-6 against everybody else.

Upset alert

Baylor is putting its undefeated record on the line against TCU this weekend, and the Bears have not won this game since the legendary 61-58 shootout in 2014 that ended up keeping both teams out of the College Football Playoff.

TCU coach Gary Patterson offered a small jab this week, too.

The Horned Frogs are 3-1 at home — the lone loss a 41-38 shootout with SMU on Sept. 21. TCU averages 41.3 points per game at home. Baylor better be careful here.

WEEK 11 PICKS: Straight up | Against the spread

Over/under

Minnesota can take control of the Big Ten West with a home upset of Penn State on Saturday under third-year coach P.J. Fleck. The Gophers have a two-game lead on Wisconsin and Iowa — and the loser of that game will be all-but eliminated from the division race with three weeks left in the regular season.

The Gophers beat Wisconsin 37-15 last season, too. Minnesota will play three ranked teams in the final four weeks and could potentially face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Keep in mind Iowa went undefeated in the regular season in 2015 and Wisconsin followed in 2017. Is this Minnesota’s turn

Remember, a 13-0 Big Ten champion is 100 percent getting in the Playoff.

Think about it …

Alabama and LSU are both candidates to get in the Playoff, regardless of what happens Saturday. But the Tigers should be a little more wary of the short history of the rankings. Alabama has opened in the top four of the rankings in every season except 2014 — when they were knocked out in the Sugar Bowl by Ohio State.

LSU, meanwhile, opened in the top four in the first time. A look at the other SEC schools that were in that spot in the first poll reveals a tough trend:

Year

Team

W

L

2014

Auburn

8

5

2014

Ole Miss

9

4

2014

Mississippi State

10

3

2016

Texas A&M

8

5

2017

Georgia

13

2

2018

Georgia

11

3

Those schools finished a combined 59-22 — an average of almost four losses per team. That is one trend LSU will hope to buck in the final month of the season.

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