Welcome to Week 11 of The Lowe Down.
With only a few more weeks until the end of the college football regular season, it’s getting crunch time for the contenders and pretenders.
Sure, top-ranked Alabama looks like the best team in the country, but the Crimson Tide was put to the test for three-and-a-half quarters last week in Baton Rouge and showed it could possibly, and I mean possibly, be taken down by a team with a great defense.
Bama’s D, well, it’s outstanding. And that pass rush is as good as I’ve ever seen in college football. But there may come a time when freshman sensation Jalen Hurts will have to beat a team with his arm if the Crimson Tide can finish strong and make the College Football Playoff for the third time in as many seasons.
As for the other top teams at the moment, I’m still not sold on Washington. Yes, they are a good outfit, but the Huskies take on a surging USC team this weekend and still have to play at Washington State, a team that’s won seven in a row, to conclude the year, so Chris Petersen’s bunch has some challenging games remaining.
Clemson is tough. And Deshaun Watson is the type of playmaker at quarterback that could give Bama’s defense — or any other D for that matter — problems again. But the Tigers aren’t as good on defense as they were a year ago.
Ohio State is talented but young. And Michigan has a tremendous defense, but is quarterback Wilton Speight could enough to beat, say… an Alabama in the Final Four?
And then there’s Louisville. If the Cardinals can somehow make the playoff, I think they could be very dangerous due to quarterback Lamar Jackson. He’s an X-factor due to his elite dual-threat ability.
Sorry couldn’t produce a column last week. We were knee-deep in a Cubs mag. And thanks to all the veterans out there. I hope you enjoyed Veterans Day.
The yearly record is 139-50. To the games we go…
Friday, November 11
Boston College (4-5) at No. 18 Florida State (6-3) 6:30 p.m. CT
Florida State lost to North Carolina and Clemson by a combined five points so Jimbo Fisher’s team could easily be 8-1. After a hard-fought win over NC State last week, the Seminoles should be poised to put a beat-down on the Eagles at home. Boston College has had a hard time stopping potent offenses this season and that trend should continue squaring off against Deondre Francois, Dalvin Cook and company.
The Lowe Down: Boston College 17, Florida State 39
Saturday, November 12
Mississippi State (4-5) at No. 1 Alabama (9-0) 11:00 a.m. CT
After a hard-fought win over LSU in Baton Rouge, Alabama will need to be on its toes (who am I kidding right?) against a Mississippi State team that’s fresh off an upset of Texas A&M. For the Bulldogs to have any sustained success against the Crimson Tide’s rugged defense, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, a talented dual-threat, must make plays, especially on third down, to keep drives alive. If Fitzgerald, who passed for 209 yards and two TDs and rushed for 182 and two TDs in the win over the Aggies, is limited, which he likely will be, the Bulldogs won’t be able to score enough to keep up with the Crimson Tide.
The Lowe Down: Mississippi State 14, Alabama 45
Baylor (6-2) at No. 11 Oklahoma (7-2) 11:00 a.m. CT
After getting pummeled by 40 points at home to TCU last week, you have to wonder where the Bears are mentally. Throw in the fact that the school’s all-time leading rusher, Shock Linwood, has been suspended for this week’s game by interim head coach Jim Grobe for getting into an altercation with a graduate assistant, and all signs point to another L for the visitors. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield has been on fire as of late (328 yards and four touchdowns through the air last week), and should continue that trend against a slumping defense. The Sooners also welcome back leading rusher Joe Mixon (one-game suspension) and possibly Samaje Perine, who has missed the last three games due to a hamstring injury, which doesn’t help Baylor’s chances at all.
The Lowe Down: Baylor 24, Oklahoma 52
No. 16 West Virginia (7-1) at Texas (5-4) 11:00 a.m. CT
Charlie Strong has been on the hot seat for pretty much the entire year in Austin, but a win over West Virginia would be Texas’ fourth in its last five games — and could put the Longhorns in prime position to win out with games at Kansas and at home against TCU remaining. A huge key in this game will be the Longhorns ability to slow WVU dual-threat QB Skyler Howard and a talented one-two punch of Justin Crawford and (587 yards rushing, four TDs) and Kennedy McKoy (averages nine yards per carry) in the run game. If Texas can somehow do that, then it has a real shot at pulling the upset. Conversely, the Mountaineers will have their hands full trying to contain 6-0, 238-pound battering ram D’Onta Foreman, the nation’s leading rusher. Foreman and true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele have sparked the recent Longhorn revival.
The Lowe Down: West Virginia 34, Texas 37
Pittsburgh (5-4) at No. 2 Clemson (9-0) 2:30 p.m. CT
Although he passed for two scores and ran for another before exiting in the first half with a bruised shoulder in a 54-0 win over Syracuse, Deshaun Watson should be good to go when Clemson takes on a defensively-challenged Pitt team. Watson is the key to a potential championship run for the Tigers and he’s the one guy Dabo Swinney can ill-afford to lose, so it’s imperative that he remains healthy. Pitt’s defense has allowed 90 points in back-to-back losses, so Watson and his array of weapons should light up the scoreboard with relative ease here.
The Lowe Down: Pitt 17, Clemson 48
No. 9 Auburn (7-2) at Georgia (5-4) 2:30 p.m. CT
Georgia is 8-2 against Auburn over the last 10 years so don’t think for a minute Gus Malzahn’s team is overlooking one of its biggest rivals. In fact, Auburn’s head coach acknowledged earlier in the week that the Bulldogs have had the Tigers number in recent years. Perhaps the biggest key to the game will be the play of Georgia’s front seven against Auburn’s powerful run game, which may be without the services of SEC leading rusher Kam Pettway. The Bulldogs have been strong against the run all season long, and if they can limit the Tigers on the ground, they should be able to keep this one close. If Pettway can’t go, look for Kerryon Johnson, who has been nursing an ankle injury, to shoulder the load, but the play of quarterback Sean White, who is nursing a shoulder injury, will also be vital to the Tigers offensive success. Georgia tailback Sony Michel is playing better than backfield mate Nick Chubb at the moment, but quarterback Jacob Eason will need to have a good game if the Bulldogs want to pull the upset. Eason will likely be under duress from Auburn’s talented front wall when he takes to the air so it will be crucial for him to make the right decisions in the passing game.
The Lowe Down: Auburn 31, Georgia 19
No. 24 LSU (5-3) at No. 25 Arkansas (6-3) 6:00 p.m. CT
LSU’s character will be tested when it takes the field against Arkansas following a heart-breaking loss to Alabama. The Tigers stood toe-to-toe with the top-ranked Crimson Tide for four quarters, but a lack of offense was the team’s downfall. Ed Orgeron’s squad should find the going a little easier this week against the Razorbacks, but Arkansas turned in its best defensive performance of the season in a win over Florida following its bye week. After giving up 543 yards on the ground to Auburn, Arkansas limited the Gators to just 12 yards rushing. Now that’s probably not going to happen facing off against LSU’s tandem of Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice, but it’s obvious the Razorbacks made an emphasis to tackle better after an embarrassing performance against Auburn. Also, look for another big day from Razorback quarterback Austin Allen, who is one tough SOB.
The Lowe Down: LSU 23, Arkansas 26
No. 20 USC (6-3) at No. 4 Washington (9-0) 6:30 p.m. CT
Just how good is Washington? That’s a tough call. I watched them absolutely destroy Stanford and barely squeak out a road victory over Utah, so I’m kind in limbo on Chris Petersen’s team. Look, Jake Browning is a heck of quarterback. Myles Gaskin is a heck of a running back. Kick returner/receiver Dante Pettis is one of the most electric playmaker’s in America. And the Washington defense is fast and aggressive. But I just don’t think the Huskies could beat Alabama or Clemson or perhaps Michigan or Ohio State or even Louisville. Now if they wipe the floor with USC and down Washington State on the road at the end of the year, I might change my mind. But I’m still not sold. Good team, yes. Great team, meh… don’t know. With that said, look for the Huskies to get by a resurgent USC team, but not by much.
The Lowe Down: USC 23, Washington 33
California (4-5) at No. 23 Washington State (7-2) 9:30 p.m. CT
Don’t look now, but Washington State, which is 6-0 in conference play, has won seven straight and remains a prime contender to Washington in the Pac-12 North. The Cougars, behind the right arm of Luke Falk, who ranks second nationally at 359.7 passing yards per game, are fresh off a 62-point win over Arizona and may score in the 70s this week against a Cal defense that often appears like it’s playing with nine guys instead of 11. The Bears own the worst run defense in college football, are allowing an eye-popping 44.4 points per game and rank 125 out of 128 teams in total defense (527.9 yards per game). On the bright side, Cal, behind its Bear Raid offense, led by gunslinger Davis Webb, can score with anybody. Shootout anyone? Shootout anyone?
The Lowe Down: Cal 38, Washington State 65
In other Saturday games:
No. 10 Penn State 27 at Indiana 17
Tulsa 27 at Navy 34
South Carolina 23 at Florida 20 (Upset special)
Kentucky 27 at Tennessee 34
Texas Tech 31 at No. 13 Oklahoma State 45
No. 5 Ohio State 48 at Maryland 17
Illinois 13 at No. 7 Wisconsin 38
Army 26 at Notre Dame 29
Georgia Tech 26 at No. 14 Virginia Tech 34
No. 22 Boise State 34 at Hawaii 27
Wake Forest 14 at No. 6 Louisville 52
Ole Miss 27 at No. 8 Texas A&M 31
Minnesota 20 at No. 19 Nebraska 17
No. 3 Michigan 38 at Iowa 10
No. 12 Colorado 31 at Arizona 14