When the sun rises on Saturday, college football fans will awake to find several season-defining showdowns on the schedule.
Week 11 is all about intraconference competition, and as luck would have it, 14 of the Associated Press (AP) Top-25 ranked teams are squaring off against one another.
The action kicks off with top-ranked Alabama (9-0) visiting 18th-ranked Mississippi State (7-2) in a clash of SEC heavyweights.
The Crimson Tide are in typical form as the postseason nears, using dominant defense to defeat every opponent on the schedule thus far. That trend continued last week against then 19th-ranked LSU (6-3), as Alabama cruised to a 24-10 win that was never really that close.
Playing ranked teams hasn’t served the Bulldogs well, as Mississippi State has dropped its last two contests against AP Top-25 teams. Both of those losses were to strong SEC foes as well, so even with home field on their side, online sportsbook Bovada has the Bulldogs as 14-point underdogs against the best team in college football.
Second-ranked Georgia (9-0) has also shown off the SEC’s supremacy all season, and they’ll have a chance to keep it up when they visit 10th-ranked Auburn (7-2). But unlike Alabama, who has been there and done that plenty of times before, the postseason pressure might be affecting Georgia as the stretch run arrives.
Following a string of blowout wins, the Bulldogs were ranked first among the final four in the initial College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings two weeks ago. After an impressive streak of six games in which Georgia’s closest contest was a 25-point walkover, the Bulldogs saw an overmatched and unranked South Carolina (6-3) squad hang close throughout a 24-10 victory.
That hiccup seems to have had an impact on the bookmakers, as Georgia is only a slim 3-point road favorite against Auburn – winners of two straight blowouts themselves.
Third-ranked Notre Dame (8-1) also played a close one last week, but the 48-37 score-line in a win over Wake Forest (5-4) is deceptive. The Demon Deacons scored two touchdowns in garbage time to close the gap, and until then, it was a Fighting Irish rout.
Even so, the shootout left quarterback Brandon Wimbush nursing an injury to his non-throwing hand, which may leave Notre Dame in a pinch when they visit seventh-ranked Miami (8-0).
The Hurricanes are putting up 462 yards per game on the season, good for 25th in the nation, and that mark could very well go up against Notre Dame – which just allowed 587 yards to a mediocre Wake Forest offense.
This one should be close throughout, especially with Notre Dame clinging to a third-ranked CFP position, and Miami lurking just outside of the postseason picture in 10th. The linemakers at Bovada agree, posting Notre Dame as 3.5-point road favorites.
Fifth-ranked Oklahoma (8-1) just emerged victorious from one of the most entertaining games in recent memory. The Sooners downed in-state rival and then 11th-ranked Oklahoma State (7-2) in a 62-52 display of “defense optional” football.
Bettors could be in for more of the same this Saturday, when eighth-ranked TCU (8-1) comes to town. The Horned Frogs score 35.8 points per game, and that’s with a 7-point clunker two weeks ago against 24th-ranked Iowa State (6-3) factored into the mix.
Oklahoma is currently ranked fifth in the CFP standings, so they’ll be hoping to secure another resume-bolstering win in this pivotal Big 12 matchup.
With a raucous home crowd of more than 86,000 faithful fans expected to be on hand in Norman, the Sooners are 6.5-point favorites over the Horned Frogs.