The most highly anticipated weekend of the regular season has come and gone. We saw LSU’s explosive offense slice through a Nick Saban defense, Minnesota prove itself against Penn State to remain undefeated, and Baylor find another way to win. Here are the biggest winners and losers from a wild Week 11.
No. 2 LSU has sole possession of the mighty SEC West with its 46–41 win over No. 3 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. If you can believe it, those 46 points were the most points the Crimson Tide has given up at home since 1907.
The Tigers’ victory snapped an eight-game losing streak to its heated divisional rival, and they did it with quarterback Joe Burrow looking like the Heisman candidate he is, throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns while running for another 64 yards. LSU jumped out to a 20-point halftime lead, but the Tide made their way back during a chaotic fourth quarter by scoring three touchdowns and cutting the deficit. But the Tigers had all the right answers in those final minutes, with Burrow leading his team on back-to-back scoring drives and securing the win in the final minutes.
It’s too early to know if this officially marks a power shift in the SEC West. Bama has dominated the division for about a decade and nearly came back to win. But this critical victory puts LSU right where it wants to be: on track to meet Georgia in the SEC title game for a spot in the College Football Playoff. And really, depending what else happens these next few weeks, the Tigers could make the four-team playoff field no matter if they win the conference or not. With wins over Texas and Alabama on the road, plus ones over Florida and Auburn at home, LSU would have the best one-loss résumé in the country.
It’s safe to say that nobody outside of Minnesota believed the Golden Gophers were worthy of their undefeated record. Before last weekend, P.J. Fleck’s team was 8–0 for the first time since 1941, but the CFP selection committee still ranked them No. 17 in their first ranking last week. The so-called disrespect was due to their lack of strength of schedule given that at that point; they had only beaten one Big Ten opponent with a winning record (Illinois). With No. 4 Penn State coming to town, everyone thought Minnesota would get exposed and show its true colors.
Well, the latter definitely happened. The Gophers took advantage of their moment and held on for a 31–26 victory for their first win over a top-five team in 20 years. The fans rushed the field in a wild scene afterward.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan passed for 339 yards with three touchdowns and the Gophers are still very much on track to make their first trip to the Big Ten championship game. Although, with a back-loaded schedule that includes matchups at No. 18 Iowa and against No. 13 Wisconsin, things are only going to get tougher before a potential showdown with No. 1 Ohio State in Indianapolis.
Another week, another opportunity for the No. 12 Bears to find a way to win. This time, Baylor needed a 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, and eventually it beat TCU 29–23 in triple OT to remain undefeated. Matt Rhule’s team now has four comeback wins this season.
Things get more interesting for Baylor as it prepares for a colossal Big 12—and probably top-10—matchup against No. 9 Oklahoma at home this Saturday. College GameDay is headed to Waco for it so there’s going to be a lot of buzz on campus. While Baylor is coming off its own narrow win, OU has looked pretty vulnerable the past two weeks. Saturday, it needed a failed Iowa State two-point conversion to win as Parnell Motley intercepted Brock Purdy’s pass with 24 seconds left. The Sooners held on to beat the Cyclones, 42-41. The week before, Oklahoma lost to Kansas State on the road.
Regardless of what happens this week though, Baylor and Oklahoma could meet twice in four weeks for the conference championship with a playoff spot on the line for someone.
1. A CFP without Alabama
What does a College Football Playoff look like without Alabama? We’re on the brink of finding out. There’s never been a final four without Saban and the Tide in the five years the playoff has existed. But after a 46–41 home loss to LSU, too many things would need to happen in Bama’s favor in order for the selection committee to rationalize including them.
Alabama has no quality wins, with its best one coming against 6–3 Texas A&M. Its non-conference schedule was soft with games games against Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi and Western Carolina, and its SEC crossover opponents were Tennessee and South Carolina. The Tide still have to play Auburn, who beat potential one-loss Pac-12 champion Oregon in Week 1, and could beef up the résumé that way. But unless LSU loses two more games (unlikely with those opponents being Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M), an 11–1 non-SEC champion Alabama won’t have a path to the playoff.
After just 22 games, Arkansas pulled a Florida State and decided it had enough of head coach Chad Morris. Following a 45–19 loss to Western Kentucky on Saturday, Morris was promptly fired. This was the Razorbacks’ second loss to a Group of Five team this season, losing to San Jose State 31–24 at home in September. They’ve been on a seven-game losing streak ever since. Arkansas will owe Morris a $10 million buyout, which is 70% of the remaining compensation from his six-year, $21 million contract.
The Hogs have been outscored 198–60 in their past four losses (to Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State and Western Kentucky) and have given up 45 points or more in those games. Overall, Arkansas went 4–18 under Morris, who replaced Bret Bielema in December 2017.
So, who can return the Razorbacks to conference and national relevance? Possible candidates include Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, who has played and coached in the state, and Memphis coach Mike Norvell, who is also reportedly in the mix at Florida State.
After a 16–13 loss to Colorado on Saturday, Stanford is in jeopardy of not making a bowl game for the first time since 2008. The Cardinal had a 13–10 lead in the fourth quarter before allowing the Buffaloes to go on two scoring drives that ate up the clock. Colorado clinched the win with a 37-yard field goal as time expired.
Now Stanford is 4–5 and needs to win two of its last three games against Washington State, Cal and/or Notre Dame to keep its postseason hopes alive.