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Friday Football Thoughts: Fallout from the chaos of week 11

Friday Football Thoughts Template (4)
Rent Like A Champion
Friday Football Thoughts Template (4)

Week 11 was one of the wildest weekends of college football we can remember. LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Oklahoma needed every one of its 42 points to beat Iowa State at home. Minnesota is 9-0 for the first time since before Oklahoma was even a state. And Indiana football - yes, that Indiana football, is now ranked for the first time in more than two decades.

But when the entirety of the college football landscape shifts, it opens up a whole new slate of big time match-ups with big time implications across the country.

Which ones will we have our eyes on this week? Let’s dig in now...

The Game of the Week
(5)Georgia at (13)Auburn

Saturday November 16, 2019 @ 2:30 PM CST
Jordan-Hare Stadium
ESPN Spread: Georgia -2.5

The game of the week column should just park itself in the Southeast because most of our top games this year have come from the SEC. This week’s top game features two rivals who both want nothing other than to ruin the other’s New Year’s Six bowl or CFP hopes.

Welcome to the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, folks.

Georgia’s offense is at its best in the red zone. The Bulldogs are second in the nation in red zone percentage, scoring on all but one of their 39 red zone trips. A big reason why Georgia is so successful when it matters most is its run game. Running back De’Andre Swift leads the team with 147 rushes for 921 yards and seven touchdowns. If Georgia can find running lanes against Auburn’s excellent front seven, the Bulldogs should have a good Saturday.

Auburn’s defense has been waiting to face Swift ever since he ran for 186 yard against the Tigers last year. Auburn allows just 112.7 rushing yards per game, good for 21st in the country. The stout front seven is led by defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, who have wreaked havoc against opponents all season. Brown has forced and recovered two fumbles, while Davidson has forced two of his own fumbles. Those two will be swarming Swift and backup running back Brian Herrien, trying to strip the ball from them and flip the game for Auburn.

I went back and forth for my pick, but I think Georgia is on a mission to prove to the college football world that the loss to South Carolina was a fluke, and a road win against a top SEC team will surely quiet the critics. I’ll go with the Bulldogs, 34-28.

-Betsy Goodfriend

The B1G West Game With Sudden Title Implications
(7)Minnesota at (23)Iowa

Saturday, November 16 | 4:00PM EST
Kinnick Stadium
ESPN Spread: Iowa -3

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, Minnesota got arguably the biggest win in program history last week when they upset the 4th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions at home. Now, the Gophers are 9-0, their best mark since 1904, are the driver’s seat of the Big Ten West… and are suddenly a prominent part of the College Football Playoff discussion.

But their victory over the Nittany Lions this past weekend wasn’t the end to their regular season tests - indeed, it was only the beginning. This weekend, PJ Fleck’s team will take their new national spotlight to perilous Kinnick Stadium (where they haven’t won in 20 years) for the “Battle for the Floyd of Rosedale.” 

On paper, Minnesota matches up extremely well with the Hawkeyes, as their fantastic team defense led by Antoine Winfield Jr. at the safety position and Carter Coughlin at the linebacking spot should be able to keep Iowa’s offense in check. As good a QB as Nate Stanley is, Sean Clifford had been playing better coming into last week, and the Gophers absolutely smoked him.

But the Gophers offense will get another test this week against a tough Iowa defense that is statistically on par with the unit Minnesota faced a week ago. And while the Hawkeyes won’t generate nearly as much pressure along the line as the Nittany Lions (66th in sack rate), their secondary is significantly better. Look for Minnesota to get back to their rushing attack this week behind Rodney Smith, as the Hawkeyes rank just 96th in opportunity rate allowed this season.

Still… strange things happen to top teams who head to Kinnick Stadium this time of year, and while Iowa’s talent and experience may feel as though a 6-3 record represents a bit of a missed opportunity - you can bet they’ll be happy to play spoiler for their conference rival. I’ll still take Minnesota, but it's gonna be a close one, 27-24.

-Hank Greene

Upset Watch of the Week
(9)Penn State vs. (24)Indiana

Saturday, November 16 | 12:00PM EST
Beaver Stadium
ESPN Spread: Penn State -14.5

On the other side of last week’s thrilling match-up in Minneapolis, Penn State will return home this weekend to take on another Big Ten team having a historic season: the Indiana Hoosiers.

Indeed, for the first time in 25 years, the Indiana Hoosiers are ranked in the AP Poll, and at 7-2, the Hoosiers will be looking to make more history by beating the Nittany Lions in State College for the first time ever. And, not for nothing, they’ve got a few things going for them…

First, their passing game is one of the better attacks in the conference - even with starting QB Michael Penix Jr. out for the year with a collarbone injury. Peyton Ramsey is a more-than-adequate back-up who has performed exceptionally well so far this season (including a two-game stretch against Maryland and Nebraska that saw him go a combined 47-67 for 544 yards). And with top receiving targets like Whop Philyor leading the way, the Penn State secondary that got exposed a week ago could have their hands full again tomorrow.

And it’s also impossible to ignore the recent history: in each of the last two seasons, Penn State has followed their first loss of the season with another flat performance in the following game. Against Indiana, they can’t let that particular piece of history repeat itself.

I’m an Indiana alum, and so while I don’t feel great about the pick… I’ve got to do it for my alma mater. I’ll take Indiana, 38-34.

-Hank Greene

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