It feels like just yesterday the third-ranked Oklahoma Sooners and No. 5 LSU Tigers lost in the opening week, but the 2016 regular season is already beginning to wind down as teams head into Week 11.
The upcoming slate doesn’t feature a number of marquee clashes, but it will continue laying the groundwork for the College Football Playoff.
Below are the AP Top 25 Poll and two games that could have big implications for the playoffs.
AP Top 25 Poll
Week 11 Schedule
|Date||Time (ET)||Away||Home||TV Info||Odds|
|Tuesday, Nov. 8||7:30 p.m.||No. 14 Western Michigan||Kent State||ESPN2||WMU (-18.5)|
|Thursday, Nov. 10||7:30 p.m.||No. 15 North Carolina||Duke||ESPN||UNC (-10.5)|
|Thursday, Nov. 10||9:30 p.m.||No. 13 Utah||Arizona State||FS1||N/A|
|Friday, Nov. 11||7:30 p.m.||Boston College||No. 20 Florida State||ESPN2||FSU (-23)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||12 p.m.||No. 11 West Virginia||Texas||RSN||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||12 p.m.||No. 25 Baylor||No. 9 Oklahoma||ABC/ESPN2||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||12 p.m.||Mississippi State||No. 1 Alabama||ESPN||BAMA (-28.5)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||12 p.m.||South Carolina||No. 22 Florida||CBS||UF (-16)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||12 p.m.||No. 12 Penn State||Indiana||ABC/ESPN2||PSU (-6.5)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||3:30 p.m.||Illinois||No. 7 Wisconsin||ESPN2||Wisc. (-26.5)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||3:30 p.m.||No. 8 Auburn||Georgia||CBS||Aub. (-8)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||3:30 p.m.||No. 6 Ohio State||Maryland||ESPN||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||3:30 p.m.||Texas Tech||No. 17 Oklahoma State||FS1||Okla. St. (-11)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||3:30 p.m.||Pittsburgh||No. 3 Clemson||ABC||Clem. (-19)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||3:30 p.m.||Georgia Tech||No. 18 Virginia Tech||ESPNU||Va. Tech (-14.5)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||7 p.m.||Wake Forest||No. 5 Louisville||ESPN2||L’VILLE (-33)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||7 p.m.||No. 24 Boise State||Hawaii||CBSSN||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||7 p.m.||No. 19 LSU||Arkansas||ESPN||LSU (-7)|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||7:30 p.m.||Ole Miss||No. 10 Texas A&M||SECN||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||7:30 p.m.||USC||No. 4 Washington||Fox||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||7:30 p.m.||Minnesota||No. 21 Nebraska||BTN||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||8 p.m.||No. 2 Michigan||Iowa||ABC||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||10 p.m.||No. 16 Colorado||Arizona||FS1||N/A|
|Saturday, Nov. 12||10:30 p.m.||California||No. 23 Washington State||ESPN||N/A|
Sources: ESPN.com, Odds Shark
Games to Watch
No. 4 Washington Huskies vs. USC Trojans
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
East Coast bias has been a topic of discussion among college football fans for a few years and became an issue again after the CFP selection committee ranked Texas A&M ahead of an unbeaten Washington in Week 10.
Selection committee chair Kirby Hocutt cited strength of schedule as the reason for putting the Aggies into the Top Four, per Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman.
Every game has an added sense of urgency for Washington at this stage of the year. One loss could eliminate the Huskies from playoff contention, even if they go on to win the Pac-12 title.
USC has the potential to at least give Washington a major scare.
The Trojans have been a different team with Sam Darnold under center. They lost to Utah in his first start, which was a tough test for a freshman quarterback. Since then, USC has won its last five games.
In the past, voters have been guilty of giving USC more credit than it deserved. Now, however, USA Today‘s Dan Wolken argued that the team is actually underrated:
The refusal of AP and Coaches poll voters to acknowledge that USC is now a top-25 team is baffling. WATCH THE GAMES
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 6, 2016
Washington’s defense should be able to shut down Darnold and the Trojans offense. The Huskies are tied for 10th in yards allowed per play (4.6), per TeamRankings, and 11th in passing efficiency defense (105.07).
Barring a huge performance by Darnold, Washington will maintain its unbeaten record in Week 11, but this game could be close with the way the Trojans have improved in the second half.
Prediction: Washington 28, USC 24
Texas Longhorns vs. No. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers
Jackson Laizure/Getty Images
Beating Baylor provided Texas head coach Charlie Strong with a bit more job security, and a victory over Texas Tech doesn’t hurt either.
The Austin American-Statesman‘s Brian Davis highlighted the fact that the Longhorns defense has taken a big step forward since Strong took over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Vance Bedford:
Since Charlie Strong took over the Texas defense, five opponents came in averaging 37.7 points. Texas is allowing just 29.2.
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) November 6, 2016
“We’re going to take this team here and just watch how it just continues to grow together and develop together and become something special,” Strong said, per Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.
Should the Longhorns suffer a heavy defeat to West Virginia, questions may again hover over Strong’s future in Austin.
Some of the shine is already coming off the Baylor win after the Bears lost 62-22 to TCU, and the Mountaineers have the offensive strength to halt the progress the Texas defense has made in recent weeks.
West Virginia is averaging 33.3 points per game, and quarterback Skyler Howard has thrown for 2,293 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also 19th in the country in passing efficiency (151.8). That could be a problem for a Texas secondary that’s 123rd in passing efficiency defense (151.62) and 108th in pass defense (270.6 YPG).
Should the Mountaineers drop 40 or 50 points on the Longhorns, the optimism building in Austin may quickly fade.
Bigger than any impact on Strong’s status on the sideline, Saturday’s game and West Virginia’s three matchups after that carry significant consequences with regard to the playoff.
The CFP selection committee almost certainly won’t add a two-loss Big 12 champion to the playoff. The conference’s national championship hopes firmly rest on West Virginia. If the Mountaineers win out, then they could sneak into the semifinals. A slip-up any time over the next month will remove them and the Big 12 as a whole from the playoff conversation.
The Longhorns won’t lose so handily that Strong is once again on the hot seat, but West Virginia will leave Austin with a win in Week 11. The Mountaineers defense is a little better than it gets credit for. Football Outsiders ranks them 37th in S&P+ defense. Texas, meanwhile is 85th.
West Virginia will do just enough defensively to prevail in a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: West Virginia 40, Texas 31
Note: Game spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark.