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  • For college football's Week 11 slate, keep an eye out west for some underdog magic.
By Joan Niesen
November 10, 2017

We’re getting down to the wire in college football season. Just two weekends of games remain after this one before bowl games are allocated. It’s crunch time, but in a weekend that features four matchups of top-10 teams, I don’t see much in the way of upsets coming from that slate. Instead, the weekend’s best shot at surprise games come among teams that, for the most part, have no shot at the playoff. (The exception here is Washington, which needs to win out to stay in the hunt.) Instead, we’re looking for Bryce Love to continue his recovery, an offensive showdown in Manhattan, Kansas and an ACC matchup of two good teams trending in opposite directions.

Stanford over Washington: It sounds like running back Bryce Love, who missed Stanford’s Oct. 26 game against Oregon State—a way-too-close 15-14 win—with an ankle injury and was limited last week, is getting better every day. Odds are also that it won’t be spitting snow in Palo Alto Friday night. Those two factors alone are enough to convince me that the Cardinal, which dropped out of the AP Poll for the second time this season after losing to Washington State in the snow last week, can pull off the home win over No. 9 Washington. The Pac-12 has a fair amount of parity this year, and it’ll only continue to cannibalize itself as the season goes on; Washington losing this game would almost certainly end the conference’s hopes of a playoff bid.

Washington is favored by six points on the road—a lot for a team that hasn’t faced much of anyone yet this season. Stanford will be the Huskies' toughest opponent until they get Washington State on Nov. 25, and if Love looks like a Heisman contender again, it’s going to be difficult to stop the Cardinal. For context, the running back, even after being limited to a season-low 69 yards last week, is still averaging 9.6 yards per carry. He’ll almost certainly hit 1,500 yards for the season against Washington, and no one should envy any defense planning for him.

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West Virginia over Kansas State: These teams have lurked around the fringe of the top 25 this season, and even unranked, they’re both a fun watch. Kansas State is a 2.5-point favorite at home, but it’s not hard to imagine the Mountaineers running away with this one. Last week, West Virginia finished with 524 yards of total offense against an Iowa State defense that went into the matchup ranked No. 32 in total defense. Kansas State, meanwhile, is the No. 94 defense, allowing opponents an average of more than 400 yards per game—a number West Virginia’s productive offense could easily top on Saturday. This one will likely be a shootout, which both teams are plenty familiar with in 2017. But if it’s coming down to offense, West Virginia gets the edge; averaging 516.3 yards per game, it’s the No. 8 unit in the country; meanwhile, the Wildcats’ offense is ranked No. 88.

Virginia over Louisville: Virginia has been one of the most fun teams no one is talking about this season. Is it a great team? Absolutely not. But Bronco Mendenhall, who took over last year after an impressive 11-season run at BYU, went 2-10 in his debut season at Virginia, and now his team is bowl eligible in early November. That’s a quick turnaround, and the Cavaliers are on the upswing just as Louisville looks decidedly like it’s declining from its peak. In the past month, the Cardinals have lost to Boston College and Wake Forest, both teams they’d have manhandled in recent seasons. Virginia also lost to the Eagles, and it’s probably just about the same tier of team as Louisville, but even on the road, I’m giving the edge to a Virginia team energized about its impending bowl berth, the first the Cavaliers have earned since 2011.

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