Week 11 CFB Preview: Playoffs? Who Holds the Pac-12 Key?

by Craig
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Nothin’ lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it’s hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain
Guns N’ Roses 

The candle still burns on the Pac-12’s hopes of securing one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff (CFP). In most years, the Pac-12 is an afterthought when it comes to the selection committee. The ACC has taken up that banner this year.

Oregon, USC, and UCLA all have an opportunity over the next four weeks to make a move and find their way into the playoff. Each team is ranked in the top 12 and has an opportunity to win the Pac-12 Championship.

The Pac-12 has the second-most teams, five, in the CFP rankings this week outside of the SEC, which had six. We’ll take a closer look at the three teams and see who has the best shot at making the playoff. We’ll look at their College Football Playoff ranking, remaining schedule, and any potential roadblocks.

The best thing each of the three teams has going for it is that the Pac-12 has done away with North and South divisions. Instead, it will have the top two teams in the league play for the championship at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Dec. 2. Going with the top teams in the conference provides each team a chance for a signature win and a meaningful 13th data point for the committee during the final selection process.

Oregon

The Ducks sit at 8–1 and are the highest-ranked Pac-12 team in the committee’s rankings. Dan Lanning and the Ducks have picked themselves up off the carpet after getting trounced by Georgia in Atlanta in Week 1. Oregon is led by Heisman Trophy hopeful and Auburn transfer Bo Nix.

Nix has used his arm and legs to lead a high-flying offense. Nix was a three-year starter at Auburn. He would show flashes of brilliance only to let a play or two turn the tide. Nix has thrived in Kenny Dillingham’s offense, throwing for almost 2,500 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only five interceptions.

Remaining Schedule:

Oregon schedulle

The Ducks have a tough stretch of games to finish the season. They benefit from having to face both Washington (this week) and Utah (next week) at home. The Ducks will then travel to Corvallis to play a much-improved Oregon State team under Jonathan Smith.

The Ducks will then have to face either USC or UCLA in the championship game. Oregon defeated UCLA earlier this season 45–30 at Autzen Stadium.

Roadblock:

The Week 1 loss to Georgia is the biggest obstacle that could keep Oregon and the Pac-12 on the outside looking in — even if it wins the rest of its games.

One has to look back to 2018 Ohio State for an example. The Buckeyes were routed 49–20 at Purdue. The loss kept both Ohio State and the Big Ten out of the playoff.

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USC

USC sits at 8–1 and No. 8 in the committee’s rankings. Head coach Lincoln Riley turned over a large portion of his roster by bringing 33 transfers to Los Angeles. The offense has scored 40 or more points in six of its eight games this year.

The offense is led by Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams. The sophomore has thrown for more than 2,700 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only one interception on the season. Williams continues to thrive despite missing two of his top targets, Jordan Addison and Mario Williams.

Remaining Schedule:

USC

The Trojans should have little trouble with Colorado on Friday this week. The last two games will prove challenging. Notre Dame has had a strange season under first-year head coach Marcus Freeman. The Fighting Irish have two head-scratching losses to Marshall and Stanford.

The Irish also own wins against three of the top teams in the ACC: North Carolina, Syracuse, and last week’s drubbing of Clemson. A motivated Irish team could spell trouble for Riley and the Trojans.

The final game against UCLA will also prove challenging. UCLA has already defeated top Pac-12 contenders Utah and Washington at home this season. The Bruins’ strong running game will be difficult to stop and keep the Trojans’ offense on the sidelines.

Roadblock:

The USC defense has been about as bad as Riley’s Easter brisket. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch went so far as to say, “you want to vomit (with) some of the issues we have 10 weeks into the season.”

We will assume he was talking about the defense. That’s not a great sign for a team that has to play UCLA and/or Oregon to win the Pac-12 Championship.

Brikset

UCLA

UCLA is 8–1 and sits at No. 12 in the committee’s rankings. The Bruins finally seem to be playing and living up to the hype that came when head coach Chip Kelly was hired in 2017.

Last season marked a big turn. Kelly was able to lead the Bruins to an 8–4 record after three largely forgettable seasons.

The Bruins are led by a prolific rushing game and Dorian Thompson-Robinson. UCLA is No. 1 in the Pac-12 in yards per carry and rank in the top 10 in the country, rushing for 242.6 yards per game. In his fifth year, “DTR” is having his best season as the starting quarterback for the Bruins. He is looking to have career-highs in completion percentage, total yards, and touchdowns.

Remaining Schedule:

UCLA Schedule

UCLA has the most favorable remaining schedule of the three teams. UCLA should be able to take care of business against Arizona and California. As mentioned earlier, the top-rated rushing attack and home-field advantage will give the Bruins an edge against their cross-town rivals.

Roadblock:

Michigan canceled a home-and-home series with UCLA in 2019. There was no official reason given by the Wolverines or head coach Jim Harbaugh for the cancellation.

Both Michigan and UCLA could have benefited from the non-conference matchup this season. UCLA’s weak non-conference schedule gave it little margin for error with the committee.

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The Pac-12 needs one of these three to step up. Look for the Ducks to step up. They’ve never seemed to mind the rain…

So never mind the darkness, we still can find a way
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever, even cold November rain

Stat of the Week: Targeting Your Rivals

The University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University are separated by 25 miles. This week, CFBcampustour stopped at the Glass Bowl to take in some MACtion and provided us with this nugget: The Rockets’ sculpture and trajectory are aimed at the 50-yard line of their rival.

It is impressive the number of games @CFBcamputstour takes in during a given week.

Week 11

The SEC put on a helluva show last week in Athens and Baton Rouge. More than 13 million people tuned in to watch Georgia shut down Tennessee. In the nightcap, Baton Rouge shook literally and figuratively shook the college football world as LSU knocked off Alabama.

Enjoy the games!

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🎟 LSU (-3.5) 🆚 Arkansas
📍 Razorback Stadium
⏰ 12 p.m. ET
📺 ESPN
💰 #GeauxTigers
LSU has a clear path to Atlanta. Head coach Brian Kelly is a darn good coach. Winning helps any cultural fit. Arkansas needs to figure out its defense in the offseason.

🎟 Oklahoma (-8) 🆚 West Virginia
📍 Milan Puskar Stadium
⏰ 12 p.m. ET
📺 FOX Sports 1
💰 #BoomerSooner
Oklahoma sits at a disappointing 5–4, but West Virginia head coach Neal Brown’s tenure has been disappointing. If he is let go this year, the Mountaineers face anywhere from a $16.7 to $20 million buyout. They may have to go through at least one more season.

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🎟 Louisville 🆚 Clemson (-7)
📍 Memorial Stadium
⏰ 3:30 p.m. ET
📺 ESPN
💰#GoCards
Clemson and the ACC’s hope for a playoff berth likely faded into the wind in South Bend on Saturday night. Scott Satterfield has the Cardinals playing motivated and hungry. The Tigers are on upset alert in Death Valley.

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🎟 Alabama (-11.5) 🆚 Ole Miss
📍 Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
⏰ 3:30 p.m. ET
📺 CBS
💰#ComeToTheSip
Doom and gloom have spread across Tuscaloosa and bandwagons across the country. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide were all but eliminated from the SEC West and playoff discussion in Baton Rouge last week. Ole Miss may not play much defense but should have some fun in Oxford. Get your popcorn ready — for real this time.

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🎟 UCF 🆚 Tulane (-2)
📍 Yulman Stadium
⏰ 3:30 p.m. ET
📺 ESPN2
💰 #RollWave | #NOLABuilt
For the first time since 1949, Tulane will host a ranked vs. ranked matchup in New Orleans (@FearTheWave). The Green Wave outlast the Knights to keep their eyes on a New Year’s Six bid.

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🎟 Georgia (-16.5) 🆚 Mississippi State
📍 Davis Wade Stadium
⏰ 7 p.m. ET
📺 ESPN
💰#GoDawgs
The Dawgs have found that next gear and capitalize on their Bulldog counterparts.

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🎟 Washington 🆚 Oregon (-12.5)
📍 Autzen Stadium
⏰ 7 p.m. ET
📺 FOX
💰#GoDucks
Two transfer quarterbacks face off in Eugene. Unlike Lanning, Michael Pennix Jr. and Nix have found the grass to be greener elsewhere. Pennix has thrown for more than 3,200 yards, and 23 touchdown this season — and not just against Michigan State. Nix has thrown for almost 2,500 yards and 22 scores.

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🎟 Texas A&M 🆚 Auburn (-1.5)
📍 Jordan-Hare Stadium
⏰ 7:30 p.m. ET
📺 ABC
💰 #WDE
Auburn interim head coach Cadillac Williams probably isn’t going to get the job, but man, does he love his university. He coaches with emotion and his players have responded. Williams and the Tigers give Jordan-Hare something to go crazy about and end the Aggies’ bowl hopes.

🎟 TCU 🆚 Texas (-7)
📍 D.K. Royal Memorial Stadium
⏰ 7:30 p.m. ET
📺 ABC
💰#GoFrogs
Texas likes to race out to big leads and watch them slip away in the second half. TCU likes to let the other team race out to a lead and come back in the second half. Prepare to have your mind blown.

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🎟 Arizona 🆚 UCLA (-19.5)
📍 Rose Bowl
⏰ 10:30 p.m. ET
📺 FOX
💰#GoBruins
What you do in the dark, shines in the light. Kelly doesn’t like that the Bruins keep having to play “in the dark.” He just needs to make sure they run their way back to a second chance with the Ducks.

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Last week ATS: 4–6
Overall: 38–58–2
Grab your 🍿 and enjoy the games

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