LSU-Alabama, Penn Speak-Minnesota and faculty soccer’s monster weekend – ESPN
7:00 AM ETBill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer CloseBill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.The most recent regular-season battle between the top two teams in the AP poll took place nearly eight years ago to the day. It pitted No. 1 LSU against No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and it was a classic, the 137th-greatest game…
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      Invoice Connelly is a workers creator for ESPN.com.

The most most contemporary frequent-season battle between the tip two teams in the AP poll took contrivance with regards to eight years in the past to the day. It pitted No. 1 LSU against No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and it was once a traditional, the 137th-most attention-grabbing game of all time, truly. Even supposing the purpose totals is in overall loads totally different, we can most efficient hope for something as stirring on Saturday as AP No. 1 LSU again visits T-City to play No. 2 Bama.

That 2011 game featured an implausible undercard — essentially, a game between No. three Oklahoma Speak and No. 14 Kansas Speak that outlined the Immense 12 creep and saved Oklahoma Speak’s national title hopes thriving. It be the identical memoir this time around. Before LSU-Bama (No. 2 vs. No. three, per the College Football Playoff rankings) kicks off at three:30 p.m. ET on CBS, No. 4 Penn Speak takes on No. 17 Minnesota at noon ET on ABC.

Let’s stroll by contrivance of the keys to every game.

Can Minnesota hang with the substantial boys?

The most attention-grabbing game in the ten-365 days existence of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium will in many ways pit a identified against an unknown.

Minnesota would be the fourth consecutive SP+ top-30 opponent that eight-zero Penn Speak has confronted, following Iowa, Michigan and Michigan Speak. The Nittany Lions are no longer contemporary to substantial games; they’ve ranked in the CFP top 10 sooner or later in four straight seasons.

Minnesota, alternatively, hadn’t been ranked in the AP top 15 in 15 years unless final week, and the Gophers’ benefit-loaded time desk contrivance they haven’t confronted a crew better than Nebraska (fiftieth in SP+) so far. Plus, in a hell of a quirk, they haven’t played a full game against a crew’s first-string quarterback since Week 2. Some QBs had been knocked out of skedaddle throughout the games, and others weren’t enjoying to initiate with.

The Gophers non-public established a exact identification, nevertheless we don’t know the entire lot we deserve to know about their coast defense on myth of they haven’t had a likelihood to point to us.

How mighty of a difference does the “backup QBs” ingredient win?

Clearly loads, a minimum of in the CFP committee’s eyes. With a series of shaky nonconference wins and perchance artificially inflated blowouts of mediocre Immense Ten teams, the Gophers obtained the bottom CFP ranking ever for an unbeaten vitality conference crew.

Minnesota’s success, alternatively, cannot be ascribed merely to enjoying against the nasty QBs. For starters, the Gophers unsuitable eighth in offensive SP+. Plus, their coast defense was once exact final season, too, and the pursuit skill of Minnesota’s linebackers and edge avid gamers is distinctive ample to grade them eleventh in speeding SP+. The defense has quite loads to present, even when the extent of scenario hasn’t been extremely excessive.

The “backup QBs!” debate will stop rapidly ample: PSU’s Sean Clifford is a tall first-string QB, and the Nittany Lions non-public considered one of basically the most efficient 1-2 receiving punches in the nation.

Clifford’s first season as starter has seen some predictable fits and starts, nevertheless against Michigan (1/three in defensive SP+) and Michigan Speak (eleventh) the past two games, he carried out Fifty six% of his passes, with seven TDs and one INT and a 147.eight passer rating. No one has fared better against Michigan’s defense than Clifford.

Mercurial KJ Hamler and tight stop Pat Freiermuth are PSU’s anchors. They’ve sixty two catches, 901 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, including seven scores against UM and MSU. If the Minnesota secondary, led by superstar security Antoine Winfield Jr. and corners Benjamin St-Juste and Coney Durr, can rein these two in and prevent any secondary weapons (namely, sophomores Jahan Dotson or Justin Shorter) from doing too mighty concern, they’re going to non-public earned the overall cred they need.

The Gophers possess what they possess (nevertheless will it work?)

The Minnesota offense is straightforward and wonderful. The Gophers will run internal zone as mighty because it’s most likely you’ll let them, mix in some outside zone or destroy up zone as a alternate of perambulate, and perchance throw infrequently — potentially either trudge routes or slants against nasty-footed defenders.

It be predictable, nevertheless it undoubtedly works for the reason that Gophers non-public precisely the pieces they need. The offensive line is hilariously substantial — anchored by mountainous gorgeous address Daniel Faalele, the 2-deep up front averages 6-foot-6, 326 kilos — and the running benefit corps is deep and gifted. Plus, Tanner Morgan throws a rather deep ball, and he has reasonably quite loads of WRs able to running beneath them.

That’s all successfully and factual, nevertheless the Gophers haven’t confronted a defense wherever shut to the caliber of Penn Speak’s. They’ve averaged 41 functions per game since Immense Ten skedaddle began, nevertheless Illinois’ defense (51st in SP+) has been basically the most efficient on the docket so far. Penn Speak’s D ranks sixth.

Necessary extra worrisome: Penn Speak is first in speeding SP+. The tackles engage blockers, and the ends and LBs (Yetur Vulgar-Matos, Shaka Toney, Micah Parsons, Ellis Brooks) swarm.

Minnesota will potentially search data from Morgan and dangerous receivers Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell to preserve extra weight on this game. Up to now, they’ve handed their exams with flying colours, nevertheless here’s a plump take a look at.

SP+ projection: Penn Speak 28, Minnesota 26 (PSU’s make a choice chance: fifty five%)


play

2:20

Joe Burrow sits down with Marty Smith to chat about LSU’s showdown against Alabama and how magnified this matchup is for title implications.

A (mighty extra excessive-scoring) sequel, eight years in the making

Wait on in 2011, Alabama and LSU accomplished the season first and second, respectively, in defensive SP+. The game, as traditional because it was once, featured 15 total functions in four quarters and two beyond frequent time possessions.

It is also a shock if these teams don’t mix for 15 functions per quarter this time around. The defenses are calm decent ample — Alabama is eighth in defensive SP+ and LSU 18th — nevertheless the offenses are otherworldly. Bama is second in offensive SP+ and averaging forty nine functions per game, and LSU’s revamped attack is 1/three and averaging forty seven. Caesars has location the over/below at 63 total functions.

These offenses are so fabulous that we’re potentially most efficient served by focusing this preview essentially on the issues at which they don’t appear like most attention-grabbing.

A in reality crucial point to: I’m writing this fragment below the assumption that this game’s fundamental injured parties — Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa, LSU security Grant Delpit, and heaps others. — all play and are a minimum of sensible approximations of themselves. Obviously, an absence (especially that of Tagovailoa) would alternate the matchups very much, nevertheless in the name of knowns vs. unknowns, let’s want the fundamental avid gamers will play.

Bend, don’t destroy — all day

No topic having played the past game and a half with out Tagovailoa, Bama’s offensive numbers are nearly unassailable: 1/three in overall success rate, fourth in speeding SP+, second in passing SP+, fourth in customary downs SP+ and first in passing downs SP+. While LSU’s offensive overhaul has gotten the headlines, Bama has learned ways to compare or red meat up on final season’s work.

There is, alternatively, a two-step recipe for stopping the Tide or a minimum of preserving them to some functions per possession.

1. Nothing substantial on the ground. The Alabama run game is as efficient as ever (first in speeding success rate), nevertheless the Tide are 97th in speeding marginal explosiveness. Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. non-public mixed for 184 carries nevertheless most efficient four of 20-plus yards. If Tagovailoa is proscribed or out, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian might perchance well lean extra heavily on the run.

Healthy Tua or no, you are no longer going to utterly hem on this passing game. The foursome of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith (who has been combating a shoulder concern), Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Mosey non-public mixed for 2,213 yards and 24 TDs. The Tide are going to win their substantial plays. However when it’s most likely you’ll well perhaps also prevent gashes on the ground and win them work methodically into the red zone, you are in decent form. LSU’s defense ranks a exact Thirteenth in speeding SP+; this appears to be like doable.

2. Self-discipline targets all day. Bama is seventeenth in sensible functions per scoring alternative (first downs internal the opponent’s Forty), nevertheless that contains prolonged touchdowns. The Tide unsuitable thirty first in success rate between the 11 and 20, Thirty eighth internal the ten and thirty fourth on the purpose line. None of here’s bad, nevertheless it undoubtedly’s an jam in which this elite offense is lower than elite.

Self-discipline purpose makes an attempt will seemingly be fundamental victories for either defense on this game, especially on myth of Bama’s is shaky. The Tide unsuitable 93rd in my FG efficiency measure: Sophomore Joseph Bulovas has uncared for two FGs and a PAT, and freshman Will Reichard (three uncared for FGs and a PAT) is combating a hip concern.

Purple zone concerns had been a big hindrance in Alabama’s blowout loss to Clemson in final season’s national title game. The Tide had six drives that ended internal the Clemson 30 nevertheless managed most efficient sixteen functions from them. The recipe hasn’t changed since then.

Push LSU backward … when it’s most likely you’ll well perhaps also

No topic dealing with a more durable location of defenses — namely, Florida’s and Auburn’s — LSU’s season-prolonged offensive success rate (Fifty eight.zero%, filtering out rubbish time) has truly been reasonably better than Alabama’s (Fifty seven.6%). The Tigers non-public experienced some purpose-to-trudge concerns of their very agree with (fiftieth in internal-the-10 success rate, eightieth on first-and-purpose) and haven’t been very impressive in temporary-yardage cases.

The most attention-grabbing alternative for the Tide defense, alternatively, might perchance well also come far earlier on a given pressure. The Tigers are no longer running the ball with regards to as mighty as they outdated to, nevertheless 17% of their carries are gaining zero or fewer yards (Thirty eighth overall). In the intervening time, Joe Burrow has been so nonetheless and chuffed in the pocket on early downs that he has was too chuffed once in some time, taking sacks on 6% of customary-downs coast makes an attempt (81st).

This was once namely problematic against Auburn. LSU went three-and-out on its first pressure after a first-down sack, then saw its second pressure stall out after another one. Two quick-yardage run-stuffs killed a second-quarter pressure, and a series of zero- and 1-yard runs steer clear off the Tigers from killing extra of the fourth-quarter clock during a leisurely Auburn comeback strive. LSU won 23-20, nevertheless the Tigers had been in the benefit of time desk quite loads.

Alabama’s defense might perchance well want a bigger shot of pushing the Tigers backward than the LSU D can possess to the Crimson Tide. However this hasn’t precisely been an Alabama energy.

Even supposing the Tide non-public survived concern and low youth in the front seven — freshman linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris are among their top four tacklers, and a host of freshman linemen were pressed into skedaddle — there was once a imprint in the case of disruption. Bama has fallen from Thirty 1/three to Ninety fifth in stuff rate and from 14th to 76th in customary-downs sack rate.

The Tide are reactive on early downs ahead of teeing off as customary on passing downs. They’d deserve to be extra aggressive on this game if they’re looking out for to ever search for passing downs.

Tua vs. Joe

Right here’s a temporary memoir-of-the-tape gape at two of your Heisman front-runners. It be straightforward to whine that these two passing games are both awesome and trudge away it at that, nevertheless let’s gape at what differentiates one from the other.

The fundamentals: Tagovailoa ranks first in the FBS with a Ninety five.eight Full QBR, and Burrow is fourth at ninety one.2. Burrow has a 78.eight% completion rate at thirteen.7 yards per completion, and Tagovailoa has a Seventy four.eight% completion rate at 14.6. Tagovailoa has taken sacks on three.eight% of dropbacks, versus Burrow’s 5.5%.

Rushing: Burrow has carried 37 times (4.6 per game) for 223 yards and a 60% success rate. Tagovailoa has carried 11 times (1.6 per game) for Seventy four yards and a seventy three% success rate.

Point guard vs. gunslinger: As lower sack and interception charges would imply, Tagovailoa gets the ball out of his fingers extra quick and takes fewer dangers. He has thrown 29% of his passes this season in the benefit of the line of scrimmage, nevertheless these passes are extremely wonderful: eight.5 yards per strive with a 191.7 passer rating. Burrow has thrown most efficient thirteen% of his passes in the benefit of the line and is averaging 5.6 per coast with a 141.9 rating.

There’s heaps of reward with Burrow’s risk, even though. Burrow has thrown 11% of his passes 20 or extra yards downfield, and he has carried out 63% of them for 37.eight yards per completion. Tagovailoa is averaging a the same 35 yards per completion on his deeper shots nevertheless is polishing off most efficient 38% of them.

SP+ projection: Alabama 34, LSU 27 (Bama’s make a choice chance: sixty six%)


Week 11 playlist

Right here are 10 games — a minimum of one from every weekend time slot — that it’s most likely you’ll well perhaps calm hear to when you like to deserve to win absolutely basically the most out of the weekend, from an data and entertainment point of view. (I’m omitting the 2 games above below the assumption that you just do no longer desire me to whine the leisure further about why it’s most likely you’ll well perhaps calm discover them.)

All times Jap.

Friday

UCF at Tulsa (7 p.m., ESPN2): Uncomfortable Tulsa. The Golden Typhoon were aggressive in nearly every game nevertheless non-public a 2-7 document to point to for it, thanks to the AAC West’s absurd depth. UCF is again fully weaponized, having averaged forty nine functions per game since a Week 7 bye.

SP+ projection: UCF 38, Tulsa sixteen

Washington at Oregon Speak (10:30 p.m., FS1): You might perchance well perhaps forgive Oregon Speak fans for getting a small hopeful here. The Beavers non-public a legitimately thrilling offense and wish two wins in their remaining four games to reach a bowl. UW’s calm awfully factual, nevertheless the boldness meter might perchance well no longer be all that excessive after three losses in four games.

SP+ projection: UW Forty, OSU 26

Early Saturday

No. 12 Baylor at TCU (noon, FS1): TCU is considered one of many teams dealing with a circulation of QB concern concerns, nevertheless the Frogs calm non-public the defense and run game to threaten Baylor’s unbeaten document. You’ll seemingly be focusing essentially on PSU-Minnesota today, nevertheless here’s a exact check-in during commercials.

SP+ projection: Baylor 30, TCU 24

Saturday afternoon

The evening doesn’t non-public a ton going for it, nevertheless this can even very successfully be basically the most loaded afternoon slate of the season.

ESPN CFB150 Showcase Sport: Princeton vs. Dartmouth (three:30 p.m., ESPNU): Per SP+, Dartmouth has the second-most efficient defense in FCS, and Princeton has the 1/three-most efficient offense. The Inexperienced had been basically the most efficient crew that even reasonably slowed Princeton down final season, nevertheless the Tigers calm won the Ivy with a 14-9 victory. Revenge time at Yankee Stadium? Or did Dartmouth use all of its magic with final week’s unbelievable Hail Mary make a choice?

SP+ projection: Dartmouth 28, Princeton 25

No. 18 Iowa at No. thirteen Wisconsin (4 p.m., Fox): If Minnesota loses to PSU as projected, the Immense Ten West creep veritably boils down to two games: Iowa vs. Wisconsin and the Iowa-Wisconsin winner vs. Minnesota. Stylistically, you know what to predict from this one, nevertheless the Hawkeyes and Badgers are rather factual at these styles this season.

SP+ projection: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 17

No. sixteen Kansas Speak at Texas (three:30 p.m., ESPN): Texas’ defense has allowed Forty functions per game in its past three contests, and KSU’s offense has averaged 43 in its past two. At 5-three overall and having lost two of three games (with correct a two-point make a choice over Kansas combating a losing toddle), the Horns the truth is, the truth is need this one.

SP+ projection: Horns 33, Cats 31

USC at Arizona Speak (three:30 p.m., ABC): Staring at USC is an spell binding expertise this season: You’re concurrently looking at a fun nevertheless unsuitable, young crew making an attempt to win and fetch its contrivance … and a crew making an attempt (and perchance failing) to attach its coach’s job. The Trojans might perchance well make a choice out, or Clay Helton might perchance well win Kiffin’d after a loss in Tempe. Each are on the desk.

SP+ projection: USC 29, ASU 27

Saturday evening

Iowa Speak at No. 9 Oklahoma (eight p.m., Fox): At 18th in SP+ nevertheless with correct a 5-three document to point to for it, ISU is considered some of the most snakebitten teams in FBS. Does that topic in Norman? Cease the Sooners rediscover a fifth gear after a bye week spent stewing over the Good ample-Speak loss?

SP+ projection: OU 37, ISU 24

No. 15 Notre Dame at Duke (7:30 p.m., ACCN): Defend in mind this a Plan B. Appalachian Speak-South Carolina was once shaping up as basically the most impactful game of the evening when it had Unique Year’s Six bowl implications, nevertheless App Speak’s loss to Georgia Southern ended that. There are worse consolation prizes than this, even though.

SP+ projection: Irish 30, Blue Devils 20

Leisurely Saturday

Wyoming at No. 22 Boise Speak (10:15 p.m., ESPN): We’re one upset away from a spectacular mess in the MWC Mountain. Boise Speak is your division accepted at 4-zero, nevertheless Air Power, Wyoming and USU all non-public correct one conference loss, and the BSU defense has been springing leaks in most contemporary weeks.

SP+ projection: BSU 33, Wyoming 22