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Good morning and happy Friday! We’re heading into a huge weekend of college football action, and there are a pair of interesting games on tonight — UCF at Tulsa and Washington at Oregon State. Then, on Saturday, Penn State visits Minnesota and Alabama hosts LSU.

What are people talking about around the country as we head into an important Saturday? Here’s a look at the buzz nationwide ahead of Week 11 action.

Clemson was put at No. 5 in the first Playoff rankings. Should the reigning champs feel disrespected?

When the first College Football Playoff rankings of the 2019 season came out on Tuesday night, many fans were surprised to see reigning national champion Clemson at No. 5, behind Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and Penn State. Of course, there are still opportunities for the Tigers to move into the top 4 before the season ends, and that’s all that really matters.

However, many think the No. 5 ranking shows disrespect to the reigning champs. Should the Tigers feel disrespected? Let’s take a look at some of the reaction around the country:

  • Let’s start with coach Dabo Swinney’s comments on the matter. The Clemson coach loves being the underdog, so being No. 5 is actually something he probably enjoys. “I would say they don’t give any trophies after nine games, last time I checked,” Swinney said. “Thank goodness, right?” However, he did add that he doesn’t know what the CFP committee could possibly be looking for from the Tigers. “I don’t know what else we can do on the field,” he said. “We’ve had the best offensive production we’ve ever had. Ever. Ever.”
  • Now, let’s move on to a beef over at ESPN between a pair of hosts. On Wednesday’s “First Take,” Stephen A. Smith went on a rant about how Clemson should feel disrespected. However, most of his points were about things the Tigers have done in previous years. Paul Finebaum was quick to point that out, ripping Smith. “The point is, it doesn’t matter how many games they’ve won,” Finebaum said. “It doesn’t matter how many titles they’ve won. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone to Clemson and spoken to the team. What matters is what they’ve done on the field. That’s what this committee is basing it on, and you just can’t get that through your skull. All this other stuff is extraneous. It’s irrelevant. Pay attention to the games. They’ve been OK. They haven’t been overwhelming. You know why? Because they haven’t played anyone.” Shots fired!
  • Many fans and analysts thought the Tigers would be No. 4 in the rankings. However, after Tuesday night’s rankings show, CFP chair Rob Mullens explained why the Tigers were No. 5, citing Penn State’s more-impressive resume. “Penn State has marquee wins against 14th-ranked Michigan and a road win at 18th-ranked Iowa,” he said. “In addition, they have a non-conference win over Pitt, which is a pretty good win at this point.”
  • Fans mostly agree with Swinney’s take on the rankings. Overwhelmingly, fans reacted by saying they’re excited to see how Clemson uses this perceived slight. ESPN’s Rece Davis said on the rankings show that Swinney might be the happiest coach in America right now.
  • The main point is this — win out and Clemson is likely in the Playoff. Alabama and LSU play this weekend, Penn State and Ohio State still have to play. Therefore, there are opportunities for Clemson to move up if it keeps winning. And it would be a major upset if the Tigers lose during the regular season. Right now, Clemson is favored heavily by ESPN’s FPI in its three remaining regular-season games. The lowest chance of victory comes at South Carolina on Nov. 30, when FPI gives the Tigers a measly 89.1% chance to win.

So, as of right now, being No. 5 in the rankings doesn’t matter. Clemson could be in the top 4 by this time next week. For now, the rankings only serve as debate fodder, and there has certainly been plenty of that around the Tigers this week.

Key Week 11 lines

There are a ton of important games this weekend that will have impacts on conference standings and the College Football Playoff picture. With so many high-stakes games, we’re sure to see some upsets and some other surprising results.

So, as we head into the weekend, here’s a look at who is favored to win some of the biggest college contests of the Week 11 slate:

  • No. 4 Penn State (-6.5) at No. 17 Minnesota
  • No. 2 LSU at No. 3 Alabama (-5.5)
  • Florida State at Boston College (-2.5)
  • Maryland at No. 1 Ohio State (-43)
  • Vanderbilt at No. 10 Florida (-26.5)
  • No. 12 Baylor (-2.5) at TCU
  • UConn at No. 20 Cincinnati (-35)
  • Illinois at Michigan State (-14.5)
  • No. 19 Wake Forest (-2) at Virginia Tech
  • USC at Arizona State (-1.5)
  • No. 16 Kansas State at Texas (-7)
  • Appalachian State at South Carolina (-6)
  • Mizzou at No. 6 Georgia (-16)
  • Washington State (-7.5) at Cal
  • No. 5 Clemson (-33) at NC State
  • No. 15 Notre Dame (-8) at Duke
  • Tennessee at Kentucky (-1)
  • Iowa State at No. 9 Oklahoma (-14)
  • Wyoming at No. 22 Boise State (-13.5)

How many ranked teams will go down this weekend? How will the CFP rankings change? We’ll find out on Saturday as these big games get underway.

The potential game of the year takes place in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Will Alabama or LSU take control of the SEC?

Is it the game of the century, the game of the year, or just a game? No matter how you look at Saturday afternoon’s matchup between No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Alabama, it’s a big one. And it will have a major impact on the College Football Playoff rankings.

The Crimson Tide have beaten the Tigers the last eight times they’ve played, dating back to the national championship game following the 2011 season. But, many think this is the year the Tigers have the squad to snap that streak. Let’s take a look at what people are saying about this huge SEC West showdown:

  • This could end up being a game decided by injury severity. Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa is trying to return from ankle surgery, but how effective he’ll be is up in the air. Kirk Herbstreit spoke to his sources in Tuscaloosa and expects Tua to be near full strength. Star LSU S Grant Delpit is also dealing with an ankle issue. Like Tagovailoa, though, Delpit is expected to go on Saturday, according to coach Ed Orgeron.
  • Alabama doesn’t have much experience being the lower-ranked squad. However, Nick Saban does have some experience in that regard. Saturday Down South’s David Wasson broke down Saban’s record as how Saban has fared in games against higher-ranked squads, and the results are pretty impressive. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg took it a step further, noting Alabama’s history at home under Nick Saban since he took over the program. FOX Sports host Colin Cowherd also likes the Tide on Saturday, picking them to win “big.”
  • Alabama’s receiving corps might be the best in college football this year. However, if you were to look up the SEC’s two leading receivers in terms of yards, you’d find LSU’s Justin Jefferson (819 yards) and Ja’Marr Chase (749) atop the list. LSU coach Ed Orgeron says he’s confident in his defense’s ability to stop the Crimson Tide offense because the Tigers experience matchups against receivers of the same caliber as Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle “every day.”
  • Each team has a legitimate chance to win this year, unlike other years. Saturday Down South colleagues Les East and David Wasson debated who would win Saturday’s showdown. Wasson broke down five reasons Alabama would win, while East detailed five reasons the Tigers would prove victorious.
  • For trash talking purposes, Saturday Down South’s Houston Barber has you covered. This week, he broke down 20 reasons why it’s better to be an LSU fan. But don’t worry, Alabama fans, he also wrote a piece on 20 reasons why it’s better to be an Alabama fan. Great stuff for any contentious tailgate party.

Who will win and take control of the SEC West on Saturday afternoon? Will LSU snap its losing streak against Alabama? Tune in to CBS at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time to find out.

Good Reads

  • Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is being mentioned as a Florida State option. He’s turned the Wildcats into a strong program, so it’s understandable that he’s being mentioned in rumors. Saturday Down South’s Joe Cox takes a look at whether Kentucky can keep Stoops in Lexington. After all, Cox wonders, can the Cats afford to lose the man who turned the program around?
  • Rutgers beat Princeton 6-4 in the first college football game 150 years ago. However, the “football” those two teams played is a lot different than what we watch today. Banner Society’s Matt Brown looks back at that game 150 years ago this week and describes how Rutgers’ influence on college football mostly began and ended that day.
  • Wake Forest beat Virginia Tech 6-3 in a comically bad game five years ago. That game featured 18 punts and five missed field goals. ESPN’s David M. Hale recounts that mess of a game, played in cold, wet conditions and helps certain people involved in the game that one called a “tragicomedy” and Wake coach Dave Clawson says “put offensive football back 100 years.” Hopefully this weekend’s game between the two ACC squads is a little less sloppy.
  • Like Mark Stoops, Penn State’s James Franklin is the subject of rumors. However, with his Nittany Lions at No. 4 in the CFP rankings, would he really consider leaving State College? Saturday Tradition’s Connor O’Gara explains why Franklin is way more likely to get a raise and an extension to remain at Penn State.

USC has a new AD (finally). Is the race for Urban Meyer on or not? Does anyone know?

The USC Trojans have a replacement for Lynn Swann two months after he resigned from the school. The Trojans are bringing in Mike Bohn from Cincinnati to be the new athletic director, and this was an important hire for USC, especially for the future of the football program.

Current coach Clay Helton doesn’t have the program where many think it should be, so this could be his final season in Los Angeles? And, where will Bohn go for the new coach if he does indeed decide to part ways with Helton? Let’s take a look at the rumors swirling at USC this week:

  • First, it seemed Bohn might have a last-second change of heart. There was a report from InsideUSC that school president Carol Folt told Bohn he couldn’t hire Urban Meyer to replace Helton. “That is considered a dealbreaker for Bohn, according to sources,” InsideUSC reports. Clearly something changed, though, as Bohn has now been introduced as USC’s new athletic director.
  • Bohn had some interesting comments at his first press conference. Obviously, he was asked about Helton’s future. “It’d be premature to be talking about coaches or any situation when I just arrived and am in the process of learning and trying to listen,” he said. However, a different comment also caught people’s eyes. “We always want to finish strong. Good programs finish strong,” Bohn said. Interesting.
  • Should the Trojans fire Helton and hire Meyer? Reaction is split from media members. LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke says hiring Mike Bohn brings integrity to USC, which means Meyer can’t be the hire. Ryan Abraham of 247Sports disagrees, saying USC needs Meyer to get back to relevance on the national scale. Whatever the case, Fansided’s Alicia de Artola says Bohn needs to make his decision quickly in order to stabilize the Trojans’ recruiting.
  • A couple of other notes on USC’s decision before we move on. After going through Mike Garrett, Pat Haden and Lynn Swann since 1993, this is the first USC AD that hasn’t been a former Trojan football player in that time span. AP reporter Ralph Russo tweeted that this is the first time in 35 years that USC has hired an athletic director with previous experience in the role. Wow. What do other ADs think of Bohn? Alabama’s Greg Byrne gave the hire a glowing review.

Bohn faces some big questions right out of the gate in his new position. How he handles them will shape USC athletics for years to come. No pressure, Mike!

The Week 11 slate is full of potential trap games for top teams. Which squads are on upset alert?

This weekend features some big matchups between top teams. We previewed LSU-Alabama above and discussed Penn State-Minnesota on Wednesday, but there are other ranked teams that face major challenges against unranked foes.

Which teams are on upset alert? We scoured the schedule and came up with five ranked squads that should be watching their backs on Saturday:

  • The Baylor Bears are one of the feel-good stories of the season so far. This year, they’re 8-0 and ranked No. 12 in the CFP rankings. However, this weekend, they must travel to Fort Worth to take on a feisty TCU squad. Yes, the Horned Frogs lost at Oklahoma State last week, but this is a different squad in Fort Worth. TCU is 2-0 at home in Big 12 play and 0-3 on the road. The Horned Frogs took down Texas two weeks ago, so Baylor will have its work cut out for it. Helping the cause for Matt Rhule’s squad is that TCU is absolutely devastated with injuries at the quarterback position. The Frogs could be down to their sixth-string QB if starter Max Duggan can’t play. Yikes.
  • The Notre Dame Fighting Irish haven’t shown much fight lately. In fact, after a narrow escape against Virginia Tech at home last weekend, the Irish face another tough ACC challenge. This time, they head to Duke. For a 6-2 team, there sure is a lot of negativity around the program. One writer is even calling for QB Ian Book to be benched. Both of Notre Dame’s losses this year have come on the road, so this trip to Duke isn’t as easy as it might have appeared before the season.
  • Wake Forest is No. 19 in the first Playoff rankings of 2019. That makes this game at Virginia Tech a huge one for the Demon Deacons (and for the ACC as a whole). However, it’s probably most important for Clemson — the team Wake Forest plays next weekend. If the Deacons remain ranked, it will give the Tigers a chance at their first quality win of the season. We linked to the story about the time Virginia Tech and Wake Forest battled to a 6-3 final five years ago in the “Good Reads” section, so we know anything can happen this Saturday night. Clemson will be watching closely.
  • The Wyoming Cowboys have proven capable of upsets this year. They have a Week 1 win over Mizzou on their resume and could add to that with a win over No. 22 Boise State on Saturday night. Boise State is going with all-black uniforms for some reason, eliminating their blue uniforms on blue turf advantage. Could spell trouble for the Broncos.
  • Oklahoma had an entire off week to stew about a loss at Kansas State. That could mean Iowa State is in for a long night in Norman on Saturday, but the Cyclones are no stranger to upsetting the Sooners. In fact, since Matt Campbell took over as Iowa State’s coach, the Cyclones are 1-2 against the Sooners with every game being within 10 points. The Cyclones actually won their last game at Oklahoma, upsetting the Sooners in 2017. Oklahoma will be a big favorite, but Lincoln Riley’s crew will have its hands full trying to avoid another upset.

Which of these teams will go down on Saturday? Will there be upsets we didn’t see coming? Saturday’s sure to be full of excitement, so tune in early and watch late!

Quote of the day

“When you watch Ohio State, they have performed at a very consistent level. … Explosive offensive playmakers and Chase Young is probably as disruptive a defensive player as there is in the country. They perform at a consistently high level every week.”

– CFP chair Rob Mullens on what makes Ohio State the No. 1 team in the first CFP rankings.


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