The first College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday night, with the Ohio State Buckeyes holding the top spot. Interestingly, the AP Poll tells us this week’s matchup between LSU and Alabama is between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country, while the CFP rankings have these teams at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. While these rankings don’t mean much just yet, it does give teams an indication of how the committee views them. Strength of schedule, metrics, and the “eye test” all factored into the committee’s first set of decisions on where to rank teams. It will be interesting to see if any teams use these rankings as motivation this week, perhaps trying to win games more convincingly than they otherwise would have before the rankings came out.
For the first time since the AP Poll began in 1936, there are two games in the same week between teams with 8-0 records or better. In this week’s edition of Best Bets, we will preview everything from the most significant games (LSU-Alabama, Penn St-Minnesota) to the games that are under the radar.
Here are my five best bets for Week 11 of the college football season.
Best Bets for Week 11: College Football
(odds courtesy of FanDuel)
Last Week: 3-2
Penn State (-6.5) at Minnesota
This is the biggest game for Minnesota in what feels like ages. The Golden Gophers are 8-0 for the first time since their 1941 national championship season. They are also 5-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in 58 years. This is by far Minnesota’s biggest competition of the year to date, as their previous eight opponents are a combined 33-37. Minnesota’s offensive line will get tested by Penn State’s stingy defensive front. The Nittany Lions rank in the top ten in the country in total defense and sacks. They rank second in the country in PPG allowed (9.6) and are first in rush yards allowed per attempt (1.9).
They say a great defense always travels, and I expect Penn State’s dominant defense to play well in front of a raucous Minnesota crowd. Look for the Nittany Lions to use their big-game experience to their advantage and shellack a Minnesota team that hasn’t played anyone of Penn State’s caliber.
Florida State at Boston College (-2)
Florida State’s football program is an absolute mess right now. They just fired head coach Willie Taggart after he went 9-12 in less than two full seasons. Seminoles defensive line coach Odell Haggins will serve as the interim coach for the remainder of the season. Florida State lost their most recent trip to Boston College in 2017 by a score of 35-3. In that game, Boston College running back A.J. Dillon ran for 149 yards and a touchdown. I expect an even stronger game on the ground from Dillon and the Eagles in this game. Outside of their loss to Clemson, BC’s offense has been humming lately. They have scored 58, 45, and 39 points in their last three games that were not the Clemson game. Boston College will control the tempo and open up big running lanes on the Seminoles defense that currently allows 154.7 rushing YPG.
LSU at Alabama (-6)
I don’t care what the CFP rankings say because these are the two best teams in the country at the moment. Joe Burrow has come from way down the preseason list of Heisman candidates to stand as the frontrunner. A solid day statistically, win or lose, could be the thing that solidifies his Heisman candidacy.
All eyes this week are on Tua Tagovailoa’s ankle injury and status for Saturday’s game. Alabama coach Nick Saban is being coy with his details about Tua, possibly to force LSU to prepare for him as well as backup quarterback Mac Jones. If Tua plays, his running ability will be limited. However, he has so many dynamic receivers to throw to that scoring should not be an issue. DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III are often times uncoverable.
70% of bettors are on LSU +6, and 88% of bettors took LSU on the +190 money line. Perhaps the reason bettors love LSU is that in the last five regular-season No. 1 vs. No. 2 AP matchups, in which the AP No. 1 was an underdog, the AP No. 1 is 5-0 SU. However, Vegas is rarely on the wrong side of a betting discrepancy like this, so these numbers have me loving Alabama.
Auburn provided a blueprint for how to slow down the explosive LSU offense, holding them to a season-low 23 points. They dropped more people in coverage and clogged the short throwing lanes for Joe Burrow. In a sense, they dared LSU to run the ball against their stout four-man front. When you give Nick Saban a blueprint for how to slow down an opponent, he is more than capable of using that same blueprint and enhancing it. Look for the Alabama defense to limit LSU’s explosive plays and keep their scoring down. Even if they don’t, they have more than enough weapons of their own to win a shootout.
Wake Forest at Virginia Tech (+2.5)
Virginia Tech has played much better football of late. They had Notre Dame on the ropes last week until they allowed two fourth-down conversions on ND’s last drive to set up their go-ahead touchdown. Before this game, the Hokies had won three straight, including two impressive victories at Miami and against North Carolina. Wake Forest is ranked No. 19 in the country and comes in with a 7-1 record. However, I am not confident they are as good as their record says they are. Louisville exposed the Demon Deacons, scoring 62 points on them in Winston-Salem. Recently, Wake Forest has not looked impressive, squeaking out wins over Florida State and Boston College. Winning in Blacksburg against a team that is playing great football over the last month is a tough ask.
USC at Arizona State (-1.5)
USC’s bid to win the Pac-12 South took a major hit after a devastating 56-24 home loss to Oregon in primetime. USC committed four turnovers and allowed 405 total yards in the loss. Now, rumors about head coach Clay Helton’s job status have resurfaced. More distractions are the last thing that USC needs right now, as another loss would make catching Utah for the division crown nearly impossible.
Arizona State is primed to take advantage of a sour and distracted Trojans team. Though the Sun Devils are just 5-3, they are 3-1 at home. Arizona State has lost two games in a row by an average of 14 points. The fact that oddsmakers made them a small favorite leads me to believe they know something here. Look for Herm Edwards and Arizona State to add to USC’s misery this week.