3: 00 AM ET
Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer
- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
If Saturday was supposed to separate the pretenders from the contenders, LSU and Ohio State were the big winners.
The Tigers and Buckeyes once again looked like the most complete teams in the country. LSU ended an eight-game losing streak to Alabama with a 46-41 victory on the road. Ohio State won its ninth game in nine tries by 24 points or more by dismantling Maryland 73-14.
Clemson, the defending national champion, might have been upset about being No. 5 in the initial College Football Playoff selection committee rankings. The Tigers probably won’t be there again Tuesday night after winning their 25th consecutive game, 55-10 at NC State.
The other big winners Saturday were unbeatens Minnesota and Baylor and one-loss Oregon and Utah, the latter two of which saw their CFP chances improve without even taking the field.
Here are the ESPN Power Rankings after Week 11:
1. LSU (9-0)
The Tigers exorcised eight years of frustration by knocking off Alabama 46-41 on the road Saturday. The Tigers jumped on the Crimson Tide and led 33-13 at halftime before holding on for their first victory in Tuscaloosa since a 9-6 decision in overtime in 2011. That was also the most recent season in which LSU won an SEC title, and the Tigers took a big step in getting back to the conference championship game by beating the Tide. Quarterback Joe Burrow was terrific once again and cemented his place as the Heisman Trophy front-runner, completing 31 of 39 passes for 393 yards with three touchdowns. Burrow is only the third quarterback to throw for at least 350 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions against a Nick Saban-coached team. Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson were the others, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for three touchdowns and caught another score.
Up next: at Ole Miss (7 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN)
2. Ohio State (9-0)
The Buckeyes blasted Maryland 73-14 and didn’t miss star defensive end Chase Young, who didn’t play while the athletic department investigates whether he violated NCAA rules by accepting a loan from a family friend in 2018. The Terrapins had only 1 yard of offense in the first quarter and 139 in the game — 77 passing and 62 rushing. The Buckeyes forced two turnovers and had seven sacks, including two each for Tyreke Smith and Davon Hamilton. The Buckeyes hope to learn in the coming week how much time Young will miss. They probably won’t need him at Rutgers next weekend either.
Up next: at Rutgers (Saturday, TBD)
3. Clemson (10-0)
The Tigers’ time outside the top four of the CFP standings will probably last a week, after they blasted NC State 55-10 and two teams ranked ahead of them (Alabama and Penn State) lost Saturday. With their 25th consecutive victory, the Tigers clinched the ACC Atlantic Division and will play for their fifth consecutive league title in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 7. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was criticized for throwing interceptions early in the season, now has three straight games with three passing touchdowns and no interceptions — the longest active such streak in the FBS. Tailback Travis Etienne ran 14 times for 112 yards with two scores. He became only the third player in ACC history with 50 career rushing touchdowns, joining Pittsburgh’s James Conner (52) and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (50).
Up next: vs. Wake Forest (3: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, TBD)
4. Alabama (8-1)
The Crimson Tide looked uncharacteristically tight and made myriad mistakes in their five-point loss to LSU, which ended their 31-game home winning streak, the longest in SEC history. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, only 20 days removed from ankle surgery, lost a fumble and threw an interception in the first half. He recovered to throw for 418 yards with four touchdowns. Star receiver Jerry Jeudy dropped two potential touchdowns after dropping only three passes in the previous eight games. But Alabama’s biggest problem was its defense, which surrendered 29 first downs and 559 yards of offense. It was the most points a Saban-coach team has given up, and the most Alabama has surrendered since giving up 53 against Tennessee in 2003. The Crimson Tide will need the Tigers to lose twice in their final three games for Alabama to reach the SEC championship game. If Bama doesn’t make it to Atlanta, it might be left out of the CFP for the first time since its inception in 2015.
Up next: at Mississippi State (noon ET, Saturday, ESPN)
5. Georgia (8-1)
Georgia’s defense posted its third shutout of the season and still hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown after a big goal-line stand in the fourth quarter of a 27-0 victory over Missouri. It’s the first time since 1981 that the Bulldogs have had three shutouts in the same season. Georgia is also the first FBS team in at least the past 20 seasons to not give up a rushing touchdown in its first nine games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The offense sputtered at times against the Tigers, especially after losing star receiver Lawrence Cager (shoulder) and starting center Trey Hill (ankle). UGA coach Kirby Smart said Cager could have returned if needed. Offensive linemen Cade Mays and Isaiah Wilson also left with injuries in the second half. A bright spot for the UGA offense was freshman receiver George Pickens, who had five catches for 67 yards with two scores. With two touchdowns, quarterback Jake Fromm moved into a tie with Eric Zeier for third place in Bulldogs history with 67 in his career. Only Aaron Murray (121) and David Greene (72) had more.
Up next: at Auburn (3: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, CBS)
6. Oregon (8-1)
The Ducks are sitting in good position as the second-highest-ranked one-loss team in the initial CFP rankings. Oregon has won eight games in a row since its season-opening loss to Auburn, and it should be a heavy favorite in its final three games, against Arizona (home), Arizona State (road) and Oregon State (home). ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives Oregon at least an 84% chance of winning each of those games. First, the Ducks will try to avenge their worst defeat of the 2018 season, a 44-15 loss at Arizona. Oregon turned the ball over three times, gave up a blocked punt and surrendered 465 yards of offense in its third loss to the Wildcats in the past five meetings.
Up next: vs. Arizona (10: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN)
7. Utah (8-1)
The Utes were eighth in the initial CFP rankings, the highest in program history. While Utah will need some help in getting into the top four — the Allstate Playoff Predictor gives it a 5.4% chance to reach the playoff and 19.1% if it wins its final three regular-season games and the Pac-12 championship game — it can control whether it plays in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual. According to FPI, the Utes have at least an 80% chance to win their final three regular-season games, against UCLA (home), Arizona (road) and Colorado (home). The Utes have a one-game lead in the loss column of the Pac-12 South standings, but USC owns the head-to-head tiebreaker because of its 30-23 victory in Los Angeles on Sept. 20. Utah can’t afford to lose another tiebreaker to surging UCLA this weekend if it wants to reach the Pac-12 title game.
Up next: vs. UCLA (8 p.m. ET, Saturday, Fox)
8. Minnesota (9-0)
Yes, the Golden Gophers are for real. Minnesota stunned Penn State 31-26 at home, ending a 13-game losing streak to ranked opponents. It was the Gophers’ first victory over a top-5 opponent in 20 years; they beat No. 2 Penn State 24-23 in Happy Valley in 1999. Consider these milestones: Minnesota is 9-0 for the first time since 1904, it has won 11 consecutive games for the first time since 1939-40, and it is 6-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1961. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 339 yards with three touchdowns, and Rashod Bateman caught seven passes for 203 yards with one score. It was the sixth time Minnesota has won a game as an underdog under coach P.J. Fleck, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He is only the ninth FBS coach in the past 40 seasons to have six victories as an underdog at one school. Only former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (2012-18) and TCU’s Gary Patterson (2004-05) have more, with seven. The Gophers have a two-game lead in the loss column of the Big Ten West with three games to play and seem to be on their way to their first Big Ten championship game.
Up next: at Iowa (Saturday, TBD)
9. Penn State (8-1)
The Nittany Lions’ Big Ten title hopes and CFP chances suffered a devastating blow with a five-point loss at Minnesota. Penn State actually outgained the Gophers 518-460 in total yardage, but it couldn’t overcome turnovers and other mistakes. PSU quarterback Sean Clifford threw three interceptions — the third in the Minnesota end zone with 1 minute, 1 second left. Clifford’s first two interceptions to Antoine Winfield Jr. occurred inside the Gophers’ 10-yard line. The Nittany Lions’ playoff hopes aren’t completely finished: After hosting Indiana next weekend, they’ll play the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe on Nov. 23 before closing the regular season at home against Rutgers. If Penn State can win its final three games, it would win the Big Ten East.
Up next: vs. Indiana (Saturday, TBD)
10. Baylor (9-0)
The past two games haven’t been pretty, but Baylor has learned to survive and advance under coach Matt Rhule. For the seventh time in the past two seasons — and the fourth time in a Big 12 game this season — the Bears came from behind to win. Baylor trailed TCU 9-0 at halftime and needed John Mayers‘ 51-yard field goal (he had never attempted a field goal longer than 40 yards before Saturday) with 36 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. The Bears won 29-23 in the third OT when Denzel Mims caught a 4-yard touchdown, and their defense intercepted a TCU pass in the end zone on fourth down. The Bears have won 11 games in a row and remained the lone unbeaten Big 12 team heading into next weekend’s showdown against four-time defending champion Oklahoma at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. The Bears are 3-24 all time against the Sooners, but each of those three victories have come since 2011. The Bears gave up 607 yards in a 66-33 loss at OU in 2018.
Up next: vs. Oklahoma (7: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, ABC)
11. Oklahoma (8-1)
The Sooners got some help Saturday, but they’ll need a lot more to climb back into the CFP mix. They’ll also have to get a lot better on defense. OU squandered a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter,before holding on for a 42-41 victory over Iowa State at home. The Sooners led 42-21 going into the fourth quarter, but Iowa State’s Brock Purdy threw three touchdowns, the last to Charlie Kolar with 24 seconds to play. OU intercepted Purdy’s pass on a 2-point conversion pass to preserve the victory. Jalen Hurts passed for 273 yards with three touchdowns and ran for two more scores.
Up next: at Baylor (7: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, ABC)
12. Florida (8-2)
The Gators bounced back from a deflating loss to Georgia last weekend by trouncing Vanderbilt 56-0 at the Swamp. Florida got off to a slow start, failing to convert a fourth down, missing a field goal attempt and throwing two interceptions in the first half. The Gators rolled after halftime with 28 points in the third quarter. Quarterback Kyle Trask threw for a career-high 363 yards with three touchdowns. Florida’s defense shut down the Commodores, who had only 128 yards of offense and turned the ball over three times. Vanderbilt was 3-for-15 on third down. The Gators will have to beat Missouri on the road next weekend and hope Georgia loses its final two SEC games, against Auburn and Texas A&M, if they’re going to reach the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Up next: at Missouri (noon ET, Saturday, CBS)
13. Auburn (7-2)
The Tigers are going to need help to climb back into the CFP race, but they can spoil two of their rivals’ hopes by knocking off Georgia and/or Alabama at home down the stretch. That’s exactly what Auburn tried to do in 2017, when it crushed then-No. 1 Georgia 40-17 at Jordan-Hare Stadium (then the Bulldogs beat the Tigers 28-7 in the SEC championship game to reach the CFP). Last season, Auburn gave up 303 rushing yards in a 27-10 defeat at UGA. The Tigers should have back leading rusher JaTarvious Whitlow, who had only three carries in the previous three games because of a knee injury. Safety Jeremiah Dinson (virus) and defensive end Marlon Davidson (back) should also return after a bye week.
Up next: vs. Georgia (3: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, CBS)
14. Michigan (7-2)
The Wolverines have won five of their past six games, and their offense showed life by scoring 38 points or more in three of the past four. After this weekend’s open date, Michigan faces a difficult three-game stretch against rival Michigan State (home) and Indiana (road), followed by the biggest game of all, against Ohio State at the Big House on Nov. 30. Jim Harbaugh’s teams are 2-2 against the Spartans and, well, you know their record against the Buckeyes. There was a lot of tension before Michigan’s 21-7 win over the Spartans last season, and Harbaugh and MSU coach Mark Dantonio exchanged words in the aftermath. Michigan’s defense limited the Spartans to only 94 yards of offense and 0-for-12 on third down.
Up next: vs. Michigan State (noon ET, Saturday, Fox)
15. Wisconsin (7-2)
After suffering back-to-back road losses at Illinois and Ohio State, Wisconsin returned home — and to its roots in beating Iowa 24-22 for its fourth consecutive victory in the series. Tailback Jonathan Taylor ran for a season-high 250 yards in 31 carries, including 135 yards in the fourth quarter. It was Taylor’s third career game with 250 rushing yards or more; only Ron Dayne and Melvin Gordon had more in Wisconsin history, with four each. It was also Taylor’s 29th career game with 100 yards or more, which is second only to Dayne’s 33. The Badgers trail Minnesota by two games in the Big Ten West standings. They’ll play at Nebraska and host Purdue before closing the regular season at Minnesota on Nov. 30.
Up next: at Nebraska (noon ET, Saturday, Big Ten Network)
16. Notre Dame (7-2)
After a one-point win over Virginia Tech last weekend, the Fighting Irish didn’t mess around in a 38-7 rout at Duke. Quarterback Ian Book completed 18 of 32 passes for 181 yards with four touchdowns, and he ran 12 times for 139 yards. He became the first player in Notre Dame history to throw for four touchdowns and run for 100 yards in the same game. His 139 rushing yards was the fifth-highest total by an Irish quarterback. Receiver Chase Claypool had five catches for 97 yards with one score. Notre Dame’s defense shut down the Blue Devils, limiting them to only 197 yards of offense and forcing two turnovers. If the Irish win their remaining three regular-season games — home against Navy and Boston College and at Stanford — they’ll remain in the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Up next: vs. Navy (2: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, NBC)
17. Cincinnati (8-1)
After a couple of slow starts against Tulsa and East Carolina in their previous two games, the Bearcats didn’t waste time in dismantling lowly UConn in a 48-3 rout Saturday. The Bearcats led 38-0 at the half and called off the dogs against the Huskies, who have dropped 17 consecutive American Athletic Conference games. Cincinnati remained undefeated in AAC play and in the hunt for the Group of 5 automatic berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Quarterback Desmond Ridder threw for 136 yards with two touchdowns, and Gerrid Doaks ran for 123 yards with one score. The Bearcats play at South Florida next weekend before a difficult two-game stretch to close the regular season against Temple at home on Nov. 23 and at Memphis on Nov. 29.
Up next: at South Florida (Saturday, TBD)
18. Memphis (8-1)
Memphis had an extra week to enjoy its coming-out party after a 54-48 victory over SMU. The Tigers played in front of a national TV audience and only hours after College GameDay set up shop on Beale Street. The Tigers have emerged as the top contender from the Group of 5 conferences for an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl game. They’ll have to refocus before Saturday’s trip to Houston, which will be followed by a road game at South Florida on Nov. 23 and a showdown against Cincinnati at home on Nov. 29. Another potential distraction: Memphis coach Mike Norvell has emerged as a candidate at Florida State. It won’t be the last time you hear his name for a Power 5 coaching vacancy.
Up next: at Houston (Saturday, TBD)
19. Boise State (8-1)
Boise State remains undefeated in Mountain West play (5-0), but its 20-17 overtime victory against Wyoming wasn’t the kind of performance that helped strengthen its case to be considered the best Group of 5 team in the country. Playing without starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier, the Broncos couldn’t get anything going offensively — they managed just 285 yards of offense — and needed to erase a fourth-quarter deficit to escape at home in a game in which they were favored by 12.5 points.
Up next: vs. New Mexico (10: 15 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPN2)
20. SMU (9-1)
The Mustangs continued to play with fire in a 59-51 decision over East Carolina. A week after falling at Memphis in their first defeat of the season, they gave up 644 yards of offense, including 498 passing in a high-scoring affair with the surging Pirates. SMU had more than enough firepower to match ECU, as the teams combined for 1,280 yards of offense and 110 points. Quarterback Shane Buechele threw for 414 yards with five touchdowns and one interception on 33-for-46 passing. Tailback Xavier Jones ran 20 times for 157 yards with three scores, and James Proche had 14 catches for 167 yards with two touchdowns. Proche broke Emmanuel Sanders‘ career record with 36 touchdown catches, and Jones broke Eric Dickerson’s single-season record for rushing touchdowns with 20.
Up next: at Navy (3: 30 p.m. ET, Nov. 23, CBS Sports Network)
21. Kansas State (6-3)
The Wildcats’ three-game winning streak came to an end when Texas’ Cameron Dicker made a 26-yard field goal as time expired in a 27-24 loss. The defeat probably ends Kansas State’s hopes of reaching the Big 12 championship game. It has still been a successful first season for coach Chris Klieman, whose team has already qualified for a bowl game. The Wildcats squandered a 14-0 lead and didn’t score an offensive touchdown after the first quarter. Quarterback Skylar Thompson threw for a career-high 253 yards with two touchdowns, and Joshua Youngblood returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score. The Wildcats didn’t convert a third down in the second half. Kansas State should have an opportunity to boost its position in the Big 12’s bowl pecking order down the stretch. The Wildcats host West Virginia, play at Texas Tech and host Iowa State.
Up next: vs. West Virginia (3: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, TBD)
22. Indiana (7-2)
After winning four consecutive Big Ten games for the first time since 1993, the Hoosiers were dealt a bad blow when they lost starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to a season-ending injury. Penix, the first Indiana freshman to start at quarterback in an opener since Antwaan Randle El in 1998, underwent surgery Monday to repair a clavicle injury. The good news is that junior Peyton Ramsey has a played a lot this season while Penix was recovering from other injuries. Ramsey has completed 72% of his attempts for 1,302 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. He is expected to start against Penn State next weekend. The Hoosiers are 1-21 against the Nittany Lions, with their only win coming in 2013.
Up next: at Penn State (Saturday, TBD)
23. Wake Forest (7-2)
The Demon Deacons were on the wrong end of “Bud Foster Day” at Virginia Tech, as the Hokies honored their longtime defensive coordinator with a stout performance in a 36-17 upset. Virginia Tech held Wake Forest’s high-powered offense to only 301 yards (209 below its season average) and 63 rushing yards (124 below average). Demon Deacons quarterback Jamie Newman completed only 16 of 36 passes for 238 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Obviously, it’s not the kind of result Wake Forest wanted heading into next weekend’s road trip to defending national champion Clemson. As the only ACC team beside the Tigers with fewer than three losses, Wake Forest remains in the hunt for the league’s automatic berth in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
Up next: at Clemson (3: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, TBD)
24. Navy (7-1)
The Midshipmen have enjoyed quite a turnaround after limping to a 3-10 finish in 2018. Navy lost nine of its final 10 games in its first losing season since going 5-7 in 2011. They’re 7-1 this season, winning their past five games, going into Saturday’s trip to Notre Dame. That game is expected to be the first meeting since 1978 in which both the Fighting Irish and Midshipmen are ranked. The Midshipmen have won four of their past 12 games against the Irish after losing 43 in a row. A big part of Navy’s success has been quarterback Malcolm Perry, who has rushed for 1,042 yards with 16 touchdowns and passed for 722 with five scores. Navy leads the FBS in rushing with 357.9 yards per game.
Up next: at Notre Dame (2: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, NBC)
25. Appalachian State (8-1)
The Mountaineers bounced back from their surprising loss to Georgia Southern last weekend by beating South Carolina 20-15 on the road. Appalachian State became the first Sun Belt Conference team to defeat two opponents from Power 5 leagues in the same season. The Mountaineers also knocked off North Carolina 34-31 on Sept. 21. The Mountaineers were previously 1-15 against the SEC’s current roster of teams, with the only other victory coming against South Carolina in 1975. The Gamecocks were held to only 21 rushing yards in 27 carries. The Mountaineers won despite having only 202 yards of offense and going 2-for-13 on third down. Nicholas Ross‘ 20-yard interception return for a score put the Mountaineers ahead 13-6 at halftime.
Up next: at Georgia State (7: 30 p.m. ET, Saturday, ESPNU)