The newest regular-season battle between the highest two groups within the AP ballot passed off almost eight years in the past to the day. It pitted No. 1 LSU towards No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and it was a traditional, the 137th-greatest sport of all time, in reality. Though the purpose totals will possible be quite a bit totally different, we are able to solely hope for one thing as stirring on Saturday as AP No. 1 LSU once more visits T-City to play No. 2 Bama.
That 2011 sport featured a tremendous undercard — primarily, a sport between No. Three Oklahoma State and No. 14 Kansas State that outlined the Huge 12 race and saved Oklahoma State’s nationwide title hopes thriving. It is the identical story this time round. Earlier than LSU-Bama (No. 2 vs. No. 3, per the School Soccer Playoff rankings) kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS, No. Four Penn State takes on No. 17 Minnesota at midday ET on ABC.
Let’s stroll via the keys to every sport.
Can Minnesota hold with the massive boys?
The largest sport within the 10-year existence of Minnesota’s TCF Financial institution Stadium will in some ways pit a identified towards an unknown.
Minnesota would be the fourth consecutive SP+ top-30 opponent that 8-Zero Penn State has confronted, following Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions aren’t new to large video games; they’ve ranked within the CFP high 10 sooner or later in 4 straight seasons.
Minnesota, alternatively, hadn’t been ranked within the AP high 15 in 15 years till final week, and the Gophers’ back-loaded schedule means they have not confronted a crew higher than Nebraska (50th in SP+) thus far. Plus, in a hell of a quirk, they have not performed a full sport towards a crew’s first-string quarterback since Week 2. Some QBs have been knocked out of motion throughout the video games, and others weren’t taking part in to start with.
The Gophers have established a powerful identification, however we do not know all the pieces we have to learn about their move protection as a result of they have not had an opportunity to indicate us.
How a lot of a distinction does the “backup QBs” factor make?
Clearly quite a bit, at the very least within the CFP committee’s eyes. With a sequence of shaky nonconference wins and maybe artificially inflated blowouts of mediocre Huge Ten groups, the Gophers acquired the bottom CFP rating ever for an unbeaten energy convention crew.
Minnesota’s success, nonetheless, can’t be ascribed merely to taking part in towards the fallacious QBs. For starters, the Gophers rank eighth in offensive SP+. Plus, their move protection was stable final season, too, and the pursuit capability of Minnesota’s linebackers and edge gamers is excellent sufficient to grade them 11th in speeding SP+. The protection has fairly a bit to supply, even when the diploma of issue hasn’t been extremely excessive.
The “backup QBs!” debate will finish quickly sufficient: PSU’s Sean Clifford is a good first-string QB, and the Nittany Lions have among the finest 1-2 receiving punches within the nation.
Clifford’s first season as starter has seen some predictable suits and begins, however towards Michigan (third in defensive SP+) and Michigan State (11th) the previous two video games, he accomplished 56% of his passes, with seven TDs and one INT and a 147.Eight passer score. Nobody has fared higher towards Michigan’s protection than Clifford.
Speedy KJ Hamler and tight finish Pat Freiermuth are PSU’s anchors. They’ve 62 catches, 901 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, together with seven scores towards UM and MSU. If the Minnesota secondary, led by star security Antoine Winfield Jr. and corners Benjamin St-Juste and Coney Durr, can rein these two in and forestall any secondary weapons (specifically, sophomores Jahan Dotson or Justin Shorter) from doing an excessive amount of injury, they will have earned all of the cred they want.
The Gophers do what they do (however will it work?)
The Minnesota offense is simple and efficient. The Gophers will run inside zone as a lot as you will allow them to, combine in some exterior zone or break up zone as a change of tempo, and perhaps throw sometimes — in all probability both go routes or slants towards wrong-footed defenders.
It is predictable, but it surely works as a result of the Gophers have precisely the items they want. The offensive line is hilariously large — anchored by mountainous proper sort out Daniel Faalele, the two-deep up entrance averages 6-foot-6, 326 kilos — and the working again corps is deep and gifted. Plus, Tanner Morgan throws a reasonably deep ball, and he has quite a lot of WRs able to working beneath them.
That is all properly and good, however the Gophers have not confronted a protection wherever close to the caliber of Penn State’s. They’ve averaged 41 factors per sport since Huge Ten motion started, however Illinois’ protection (51st in SP+) has been the most effective on the docket up to now. Penn State’s D ranks sixth.
Much more worrisome: Penn State is first in speeding SP+. The tackles occupy blockers, and the ends and LBs (Yetur Gross-Matos, Shaka Toney, Micah Parsons, Ellis Brooks) swarm.
Minnesota will in all probability ask Morgan and harmful receivers Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell to hold extra weight on this sport. To this point, they’ve handed their exams with flying colours, however this can be a enormous check.
SP+ projection: Penn State 28, Minnesota 26 (PSU’s win likelihood: 55%)
Joe Burrow sits down with Marty Smith to debate LSU’s showdown towards Alabama and the way magnified this matchup is for title implications.
A (far more high-scoring) sequel, eight years within the making
Again in 2011, Alabama and LSU completed the season first and second, respectively, in defensive SP+. The sport, as traditional because it was, featured 15 whole factors in 4 quarters and two additional time possessions.
It might be a shock if these groups do not mix for 15 factors per quarter this time round. The defenses are nonetheless first rate sufficient — Alabama is eighth in defensive SP+ and LSU 18th — however the offenses are otherworldly. Bama is second in offensive SP+ and averaging 49 factors per sport, and LSU’s revamped assault is third and averaging 47. Caesars has set the over/below at 63 whole factors.
These offenses are so astounding that we’re in all probability finest served by focusing this preview totally on the issues at which they are not excellent.
An vital notice: I am penning this piece below the belief that this sport’s main injured events — Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa, LSU security Grant Delpit, and so forth. — all play and are at the very least affordable approximations of themselves. Clearly, an absence (particularly that of Tagovailoa) would change the matchups considerably, however within the title of knowns vs. unknowns, let’s assume the important thing gamers will play.
Bend, do not break — all day
Regardless of having performed the previous sport and a half with out Tagovailoa, Bama’s offensive numbers are just about unassailable: third in general success fee, fourth in speeding SP+, second in passing SP+, fourth in normal downs SP+ and first in passing downs SP+. Whereas LSU’s offensive overhaul has gotten the headlines, Bama has discovered methods to match or enhance on final season’s work.
There’s, nonetheless, a two-step recipe for stopping the Tide or at the very least holding them to a few factors per possession.
1. Nothing large on the bottom. The Alabama run sport is as environment friendly as ever (first in speeding success fee), however the Tide are 97th in speeding marginal explosiveness. Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. have mixed for 184 carries however solely 4 of 20-plus yards. If Tagovailoa is restricted or out, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian may lean extra closely on the run.
Wholesome Tua or no, you are not going to utterly hem on this passing sport. The foursome of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith (who has been battling a shoulder harm), Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle have mixed for two,213 yards and 24 TDs. The Tide are going to get their large performs. However when you can stop gashes on the bottom and make them work methodically into the pink zone, you are in first rate form. LSU’s protection ranks a stable 13th in speeding SP+; this appears doable.
2. Discipline targets all day. Bama is 17th in common factors per scoring alternative (first downs contained in the opponent’s 40), however that features lengthy touchdowns. The Tide rank 31st in success fee between the 11 and 20, 38th contained in the 10 and 34th on the objective line. None of that is terrible, but it surely’s an space by which this elite offense is lower than elite.
Discipline objective makes an attempt might be main victories for both protection on this sport, particularly as a result of Bama’s is shaky. The Tide rank 93rd in my FG effectivity measure: Sophomore Joseph Bulovas has missed two FGs and a PAT, and freshman Will Reichard (three missed FGs and a PAT) is preventing a hip harm.
Purple zone points have been a large hindrance in Alabama’s blowout loss to Clemson in final season’s nationwide title sport. The Tide had six drives that ended contained in the Clemson 30 however managed solely 16 factors from them. The recipe hasn’t modified since then.
Push LSU backward … when you can
Regardless of dealing with a more durable set of defenses — specifically, Florida’s and Auburn’s — LSU’s season-long offensive success fee (58.0%, filtering out rubbish time) has truly been barely higher than Alabama’s (57.6%). The Tigers have skilled some goal-to-go problems with their very own (50th in inside-the-10 success fee, 80th on first-and-goal) and have not been very spectacular in short-yardage conditions.
The largest alternative for the Tide protection, nonetheless, may come far earlier on a given drive. The Tigers aren’t working the ball almost as a lot as they used to, however 17% of their carries are gaining zero or fewer yards (38th general). In the meantime, Joe Burrow has been so calm and comfy within the pocket on early downs that he has change into too snug at occasions, taking sacks on 6% of standard-downs move makes an attempt (81st).
This was significantly problematic towards Auburn. LSU went three-and-out on its first drive after a first-down sack, then noticed its second drive stall out after one other one. Two short-yardage run-stuffs killed a second-quarter drive, and a sequence of zero- and 1-yard runs prevented the Tigers from killing extra of the fourth-quarter clock throughout a late Auburn comeback try. LSU received 23-20, however the Tigers have been not on time fairly a bit.
Alabama’s protection may need a greater shot of pushing the Tigers backward than the LSU D can do to the Crimson Tide. However this hasn’t precisely been an Alabama power.
Though the Tide have survived harm and excessive youth within the entrance seven — freshman linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris are amongst their high 4 tacklers, and a number of freshman linemen have been pressed into motion — there was a worth in terms of disruption. Bama has fallen from 33rd to 95th in stuff fee and from 14th to 76th in standard-downs sack fee.
The Tide are reactive on early downs earlier than teeing off as regular on passing downs. They may must be extra aggressive on this sport in the event that they wish to ever see passing downs.
Tua vs. Joe
Here is a fast tale-of-the-tape have a look at two of your Heisman front-runners. It is easy to say that these two passing video games are each superior and depart it at that, however let’s take a look at what differentiates one from the opposite.
The fundamentals: Tagovailoa ranks first within the FBS with a 95.Eight Whole QBR, and Burrow is fourth at 91.2. Burrow has a 78.8% completion fee at 13.7 yards per completion, and Tagovailoa has a 74.8% completion fee at 14.6. Tagovailoa has taken sacks on 3.8% of dropbacks, versus Burrow’s 5.5%.
Speeding: Burrow has carried 37 occasions (4.6 per sport) for 223 yards and a 60% success fee. Tagovailoa has carried 11 occasions (1.6 per sport) for 74 yards and a 73% success fee.
Level guard vs. gunslinger: As decrease sack and interception charges would counsel, Tagovailoa will get the ball out of his arms extra shortly and takes fewer dangers. He has thrown 29% of his passes this season behind the road of scrimmage, however these passes are extremely efficient: 8.5 yards per try with a 191.7 passer score. Burrow has thrown solely 13% of his passes behind the road and is averaging 5.6 per move with a 141.9 score.
There’s loads of reward with Burrow’s threat, although. Burrow has thrown 11% of his passes 20 or extra yards downfield, and he has accomplished 63% of them for 37.Eight yards per completion. Tagovailoa is averaging an analogous 35 yards per completion on his deeper photographs however is finishing solely 38% of them.
SP+ projection: Alabama 34, LSU 27 (Bama’s win likelihood: 66%)
Week 11 playlist
Listed here are 10 video games — at the very least one from every weekend time slot — that it’s best to take note of if you wish to get absolutely the most out of the weekend, from an data and leisure perspective. (I am omitting the 2 video games above below the belief that you do not want me to say something additional about why it’s best to watch them.)
All occasions Japanese.
UCF at Tulsa (7 p.m., ESPN2): Poor Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane have been aggressive in virtually each sport however have a 2-7 document to indicate for it, due to the AAC West’s absurd depth. UCF is once more totally weaponized, having averaged 49 factors per sport since a Week 7 bye.
SP+ projection: UCF 38, Tulsa 16
Washington at Oregon State (10:30 p.m., FS1): You can forgive Oregon State followers for getting a bit hopeful right here. The Beavers have a legitimately thrilling offense and want two wins of their last 4 video games to succeed in a bowl. UW’s nonetheless awfully good, however the confidence meter may not be all that prime after three losses in 4 video games.
SP+ projection: UW 40, OSU 26
No. 12 Baylor at TCU (midday, FS1): TCU is one in every of many groups coping with a stream of QB harm points, however the Frogs nonetheless have the protection and run sport to threaten Baylor’s unbeaten document. You may be focusing totally on PSU-Minnesota at the moment, however this can be a stable check-in throughout commercials.
SP+ projection: Baylor 30, TCU 24
The night would not have a ton going for it, however this may be probably the most loaded afternoon slate of the season.
ESPN CFB150 Showcase Recreation: Princeton vs. Dartmouth (3:30 p.m., ESPNU): Per SP+, Dartmouth has the second-best protection in FCS, and Princeton has the third-best offense. The Inexperienced have been the one crew that even barely slowed Princeton down final season, however the Tigers nonetheless received the Ivy with a 14-9 victory. Revenge time at Yankee Stadium? Or did Dartmouth use all of its magic with final week’s unimaginable Hail Mary win?
SP+ projection: Dartmouth 28, Princeton 25
No. 18 Iowa at No. 13 Wisconsin (Four p.m., Fox): If Minnesota loses to PSU as projected, the Huge Ten West race principally boils down to 2 video games: Iowa vs. Wisconsin and the Iowa-Wisconsin winner vs. Minnesota. Stylistically, you realize what to anticipate from this one, however the Hawkeyes and Badgers are fairly good at these kinds this season.
SP+ projection: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 17
No. 16 Kansas State at Texas (3:30 p.m., ESPN): Texas’ protection has allowed 40 factors per sport in its previous three contests, and KSU’s offense has averaged 43 in its previous two. At 5-Three general and having misplaced two of three video games (with only a two-point win over Kansas stopping a shedding streak), the Horns actually, actually want this one.
SP+ projection: Horns 33, Cats 31
USC at Arizona State (3:30 p.m., ABC): Watching USC is an enchanting expertise this season: You are concurrently watching a enjoyable however flawed, younger crew making an attempt to develop and discover its manner … and a crew making an attempt (and maybe failing) to save lots of its coach’s job. The Trojans may win out, or Clay Helton may get Kiffin’d after a loss in Tempe. Each are on the desk.
SP+ projection: USC 29, ASU 27
Iowa State at No. 9 Oklahoma (Eight p.m., Fox): At 18th in SP+ however with only a 5-Three document to indicate for it, ISU is without doubt one of the most snakebitten groups in FBS. Does that matter in Norman? Do the Sooners rediscover a fifth gear after a bye week spent stewing over the Ok-State loss?
SP+ projection: OU 37, ISU 24
No. 15 Notre Dame at Duke (7:30 p.m., ACCN): Think about this a Plan B. Appalachian State-South Carolina was shaping up as probably the most impactful sport of the night when it had New Yr’s Six bowl implications, however App State’s loss to Georgia Southern ended that. There are worse comfort prizes than this, although.
SP+ projection: Irish 30, Blue Devils 20
Wyoming at No. 22 Boise State (10:15 p.m., ESPN): We’re one upset away from a spectacular mess within the MWC Mountain. Boise State is your division favourite at 4-0, however Air Pressure, Wyoming and USU all have only one convention loss, and the BSU protection has been springing leaks in latest weeks.
SP+ projection: BSU 33, Wyoming 22