Bleacher Report’s Expert College Football Predictions for Week 11

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Washington QB Jake Browning

With only five undefeated teams left in the FBS, the pressure is on during the final month of the season.

Will any of the unbeaten teams fall in Week 11? Who can solidify a spot in the College Football Playoff? Can USC spring the upset on Washington?

Bleacher Report experts Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee, Christopher Walsh, Greg Couch and Michael Felder answer the week’s biggest questions in this edition of expert picks.

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Will USC Ruin Washington's Playoff Dreams?

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USC RB Ronald Jones II

Adam Kramer

Let me delay a rather difficult decision momentarily by saying how giddy I am for this game. It is startling how much more functional USC looks in many areas—starting, obviously, at quarterback. Freshman Sam Darnold is electric, Ronald Jones II is on a tear, and the defense is playing well.

All of those things said, I believe Washington stays unbeaten. The fact that the Huskies are playing at home is incredibly significant. And as good as USC has looked, Jake Browning and friends have been doing this pretty much all season.

I expect both quarterbacks to have ridiculous stat lines. I expect points. I just expect Washington to score a few more of them.

   

Barrett Sallee

Joe Mathis’ absence at the defensive end spot gives me a little bit of hesitation to pick Washington in this one. After all, he was the most productive edge-rusher in the country, according to Pro Football Focus. But now that the moment has passed, I’m sticking with the Huskies. Washington’s defense might have trouble stopping Darnold, Jones and Co. But I’m not sure anything can stop Browning right now. Give me Washington at home in a fun one.

   

Christopher Walsh

USC has won five straight games and is beginning to look like the team everyone thought it could be this season. Jones tied a school single-game record with four rushing touchdowns, and Darnold had 309 passing yards against a bad Oregon team last week. The Trojans’ athleticism makes them dangerous, and this could be the make-or-break game for the Huskies. I like the home team, Washington, in a close game, maybe by a field goal. 

   

Greg Couch

USC isn’t the same team that Alabama humiliated at the start of the year. It has five straight wins now, usually by blowout, and Darnold doesn’t make many mistakes. But Washington is just too physically powerful for everyone on its side of the Mississippi. USC keeps this one close for a while, then will wear out late.

   

Michael Felder

No, Washington is going to take care of business, because as much as people who don’t watch the team will talk about Browning, the defense is the best part of this team. At every level, there are playmakers. This group is going to frustrate both Darnold and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Sidney Jones has been a monster at the cornerback spot. With his quick hips and fluidity in and out of breaks, he will be a tough test for Smith-Schuster, whose NFL stock has consistently skyrocketed this season. Up front, expect Vita Vea and Greg Gaines to set the tone by tossing their power around as the defense leads the Huskies to a win.

Will Auburn Get, and Does It Need, Style Points vs. Georgia?

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Auburn QB Sean White

Kramer

The Auburn Tigers should win this game, although I don’t expect it to be by some lopsided score. The injuries to the Auburn offense could play a significant role in this, especially with quarterback Sean White and running back Kamryn Pettway, who have been so critical to this revival.

Even with these questions, Auburn should be able to handle Georgia. Maybe not by a ton, but enough.

As for style points, quite honestly, it doesn’t matter at this point. If the Tigers beat Alabama, it will break the style-points thermometer. There also isn’t a surplus of teams ready to leap this team, either. The Tigers continue to win; they’ll be fine.

   

Sallee

Auburn doesn’t need style points. The four Power Five undefeated teams, Ohio State and Auburn are the only teams that truly control their playoff destiny, in my mind. Wisconsin is on the fringe, but if Auburn wins out, which would include a win over Alabama and an SEC title, it’s in.

It’ll get those style points against Georgia between the hedges. The Tigers are double-digit favorites on Odds Shark for a good reason—Georgia’s offensive line is “horribad,” and Auburn’s defensive front is terrifying. Sure, the injuries to White and Pettway are concerning. But Auburn can win ugly, too, and won’t allow Georgia’s offense to get much done. That will allow the Tigers to pull away, and cover, in the second half.

   

Walsh

Auburn won’t get any style points, but at this point, it doesn’t need any, as it is one of the few teams that can probably determine its fate by winning out. However, it struggled against Vanderbilt last week, and injuries are becoming an issue. White (shoulder) only played in the second half, and Pettway (a “pulled something“) had to leave. This is a rivalry game, so expect it to be close, but expect the Tigers to win—and Alabama to get a good look at how Auburn attacks a similar defense. 

   

Couch

It’s sort of weird how Auburn, and also Oklahoma, lost a few games early and everyone assumed the season was over. Now it’s sneaking back into the picture. But yes, Auburn will beat a crummy Georgia team. And no, it doesn’t need the style points. Just the win. The Tigers will have the chance for all of the style points they need against Alabama.

   

Felder

Georgia is not good, and Auburn is a nice team. Because of that, Auburn will get a win in this rivalry game. This Tigers team already has two losses, plus Alabama to end the season, which means at 9-3, the only way “style” helps is to get into a big bowl game ahead of another team in the same boat. So, sure, style point it up to get to the Sugar Bowl over Texas A&M or LSU or whatever.

Should Michigan Be on Upset Alert at Iowa?

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh

Kramer

No.

Here is Iowa’s biggest issue with this game: managing the line of scrimmage. It’s the core of the Hawkeyes’ struggles, and I cannot envision a worse matchup in that regard outside of maybe Alabama.

Michigan is just too explosive—on both sides—and too deep in areas that Iowa has struggled in.

The environment, even in a lost season, should be intense. But it would take an Iowa team we haven’t seen all season to make this one close.

   

Sallee

Nope. This is the 2015 version of Iowa. The 2016 version is disappointing, lacks a consistent offensive identity and isn’t up to par along the offensive line.

That plays right into Michigan’s strength—its defensive front. The top defense in the country will have a field day in the Hawkeyes backfield, force a few turnovers and give quarterback Wilton Speight and the Wolverines offense plenty of chances to find the end zone.

   

Walsh

Having grown up in Big Ten country, years of experience have taught me that Iowa is always a sound team that should never be underestimated. Yet the Hawkeyes got drilled last week against Penn State, 41-14, and the Wolverines are a lot better than the Nittany Lions. Iowa will play better, but it won’t matter as Michigan continues its march toward a Nov. 26 showdown with Ohio State.  

   

Couch

Nope. Iowa has lost all its mojo from last year and is still trying to determine if it’s mediocre or slightly better than that. Michigan will pound the Hawkeyes, especially if it learned how to open things up last week.

   

Felder

No. Michigan is one of the most disciplined and well-coached teams in college football. The Wolverines do their job on a week-to-week basis. With that in mind, the idea of them being shocked or surprised by Iowa just doesn’t hold to anything that we have seen out of them in the almost two seasons since head coach Jim Harbaugh took over in Ann Arbor. I’m going to stick with the trend of the Wolverines being over-prepared, incredibly efficient and handling their work quickly against an opponent they all know they should beat.

Does the Arkansas Game Impact Coach O's Push to Get the LSU Job at All?

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LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron

Kramer

Absolutely. We can argue whether it’s fair to judge a coach on a week-to-week basis, but interim head coach Ed Orgeron has a small window to make an impression.

With the Alabama upset bid out of the equation, there are a few challenging games remaining for Orgeron to appeal to LSU brass and boosters. As unfair as it might be, winning this game won’t guarantee Coach O the job. But losing it won’t help. (Again, this is a strange, radical profession.)

I believe LSU bounces back, and I believe the coaching decision at one of the nation’s best jobs remains undecided at least a while longer.

   

Sallee

Yeah, big time. LSU has lost two straight to Arkansas, and breaking that streak is far more important to Orgeron’s quest to keep this job on a full-time basis than the Alabama loss was. 

You can’t change an offensive philosophy in the middle of the season, which is exactly why LSU got shut out by Alabama. But you still can tweak things, and minor tweaks against this Arkansas defense will be enough to get the win. 

The reason is the Tigers defense, which will have enough success generating pressure on Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen, will force a few mistakes and set up LSU quarterback Danny Etling and Co. on a short field. LSU will win ugly and keep Coach O in the mix for the job.

   

Walsh

It does, because athletics director Joe Alleva isn’t going to hire Orgeron unless there’s overwhelming support to do so. LSU’s loss to Alabama shouldn’t disqualify him from keeping the head coaching job, but another setback to Arkansas probably will. The Tigers have lost two straight to the Razorbacks when trying to rebound from the Alabama game, 31-14 last year and 17-0 in 2014. A third straight defeat and fans will finally figure out that football under Coach O doesn’t look much different from Les Miles.

   

Couch

No. LSU doesn’t seem to want him. Orgeron’s only real shot was to beat Alabama. He is a Hall of Fame interim coach. Someone will give him a chance eventually. I’ve got to go with Arkansas this week, but LSU has Florida and Texas A&M after that, giving Orgeron plenty of chances.

   

Felder

Sure, if he loses. In a win, he can at least wake up in the morning and convince himself he has a shot to get this job. With a loss, he can basically stop trying to talk himself or anyone else who is listening into the idea that he will get this job. LSU will win the game, and the “can Orgeron get this job” questions can persist for a bit longer, instead of losing and taking that question out of the “low-hanging fruit” holster.

How Much Attention Should Be Paid to Oklahoma's CFP Chances vs. Baylor?

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Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

Kramer

A great deal. Not because a win here guarantees anything for Oklahoma, but because the room for error for that team, and perhaps even an entire conference, is so small. 

Oklahoma should beat a Baylor team that was just blasted by TCU. But if it doesn’t, then the Big 12 is in even deeper water than it is already. And while it might not be the most pressing story of a fascinating Week 11, the idea that a conference could be completely eliminated from serious playoff consideration early into November is a big deal.

Oklahoma wins. It stays alive. The Big 12 still needs help, but it does what it has to in the interim.

   

Sallee

A little. Unless you’re a fan of either school, this probably won’t be the primary game you pay attention to during the noon ET window. But you might want to keep an eye on the score just in case things get weird around the country.

Dominoes have to fall for two-loss Oklahoma to have much of a chance. But the offense is clicking despite running back attrition. The Sooners have the chance to post an unblemished conference record and at least be in the conversation in early December. For that to happen, though, Oklahoma not only needs to get past Baylor, but do so with authority. Style points matter for this squad, and it’ll get them this week.

   

Walsh

With each passing week, it’s looking less and less likely that a two-loss team will have a shot at the playoff. The wheels appear to be finally coming off of Baylor, which after two straight losses will get blasted all week for fans lining up to buy black shirts with the phrase #CAB (in support of former coach Art Briles) printed across the front. Even if Oklahoma wins big, and it probably will, it won’t get much attention unless it subsequently beats No. 16 West Virginia and No. 13 Oklahoma State to close the regular season. 

   

Couch

A lot, actually. If the Sooners win their last three games, they will be undefeated in the Big 12, with two out-of-conference losses—Houston in the opener and against Ohio State. That is a legit CFP resume. At this point, you have to figure the Big 12 will be left out. But when weird stuff starts happening, as it usually does, OU will be in a good spot to fall the right way.

   

Felder

I am not going to pay any attention to it. For Oklahoma, finding a way to win the Big 12 is a nice, personal story. But getting into the CFP is not something that I’m willing to entertain until it goes from “crazy hypothetical that is really annoying” to “reality because a bunch of other teams messed up so, so bad.” 

Can Mississippi State Pull Off Its Second Straight CFP Upset and Stun Alabama?

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Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald

Kramer

There are a few items working in Mississippi State’s favor. The Bulldogs are playing well, clearly. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is a big part of that, and his ability to run and throw is something that has burned Alabama in the past. 

Also, this is a letdown spot for the Tide after LSU. There is no denying just how much this game means.

All of that sounds lovely, and Alabama might be flat for a while on Saturday. But at home, with the talent gap as wide as it is, I just don’t imagine that Mississippi State will have what it takes to pull what would be an enormous, landscape-altering upset.  

   

Sallee

No, because Alabama’s defense is built too well to be confused by a running quarterback and tempo now.

Take nothing away from head coach Dan Mullen’s crew. The Bulldogs are playing well, have confidence and have established the identity on the ground to be dangerous moving forward. But not now. Not against this Alabama team.

The Tide will roll, and all eyes will look past next week’s game against Chattanooga toward an Iron Bowl for the ages. 

   

Walsh

The one bad thing about knocking off the No. 4 team in the nation the week before playing Alabama is that it killed any chance of catching the Crimson Tide off guard. You have to like what the Bulldogs did against the Aggies, targeting their weakness with Fitzgerald running for 182 yards in addition to passing for 209, sort of beating the Aggies at their own game. Alabama will be a little hungover from its annual scrum with LSU, but its defense is too good to lose against MSU. 

   

Couch

No chance. Yes, Mississippi State beat Texas A&M, but every time I look up, people are moving the ball on A&M. Nobody is moving it on Alabama anymore. Keep in mind, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Mississippi State lost to Kentucky. Most likely, the Bulldogs will lose out from here.

   

Felder

No. The Bulldogs couldn’t beat Alabama when they had one of the best players in college football, plus a roster with quality players on both sides of the ball. Fitzgerald can be dangerous and explosive when he gets loose, but I don’t trust the sophomore or his weapons to make the big plays necessary to make Nick Saban uncomfortable or, specifically, to force Jalen Hurts to have to be an actual good quarterback to win. The Bulldogs won’t push the game into the 30s, which means Alabama coasts on comfort for a win.