All About Football: Week 11
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Oh boy, welcome to Week 11 of All About Football. Wasn’t that a fun weekend of football or what. And, with the first two official Playoff polls out, we now know who the true top four teams are at this point. With just four weeks of the regular season left, this is truly make-it-or-break-it time for every team in college football. Whether it be teams wanting a shot at the national title, to teams wanting to get into a good bowl game, or teams that want to get into a bowl game period. And, for LSU and Michigan State, losing just one game at this point might have been all it took to knock yourselves out of the title picture.
Also, let me take a second to tell you thanks once again for reading along with me. Week 11 is a bit of an accomplishment and I just feel like it has been a blast. And, now with the start of the College Basketball Express, my weekly college basketball blog, you will get twice of me for a couple more months. Aren’t you lucky. Let’s dive into last week.
About Last Week
Week 8 Record: 11-3
Overall Blaine Train Record: 103-38
Only three losses, not bad at all. But, those were three big ones. Memphis had so much momentum going into last Saturday’s game against Navy. But, they never figured out how to stop the running game and the Midshipmen owned the Tigers in the Liberty Bowl. Oklahoma State showed that they may be for real and TCU showed some weakness on defense. Horned Frogs are in trouble. The last loss caught me off guard, as the Spartans have played most of the season on the knife’s edge, however it finally fell apart against the Cornhuskers. Michigan State will need to defeat Ohio State and win the Big Ten Championship if they want any chance of making it into the playoffs. I think it is too late.
The Big Four (In My Opinion)
3. Ohio State
4. Notre Dame
Basically, Pac 12 and Big 12 are on the outside, looking in. Iowa, who has made an amazing run under so many radars this season, sit in the all-important fifth spot. Baylor, not Oklahoma State, sit in sixth. Stanford, the Pac 12 best chance to get into the playoffs this season, will need some help at the seventh spot.
Alabama must have smiles as, while they have one loss on the year, they are still above the other five undefeated teams in Division 1 football. Add to it a weaker Iron Bowl against Auburn and an SEC Championship game against a weaker Florida, they should have an easy road to the playoffs. Ohio State and Notre Dame still have a tough road to get into the top 4.
Around the Tri State (Games not too far away; in Central Time)
Virginia @ Louisville ….. Sat, Nov. 14 ….. 11:30 AM, ESPN 3
My Pick: Louisville
Despite the bad start in the season, the Cardinals are just one win away from becoming bowl-eligible, thus saving a season that has seen multiple quarterbacks, a couple of bad losses, and a bit of a learning curve for quarterback Lamar Jackson. Last week, Jackson had to sit out due to an ankle injury, turning the job back over to Kyle Bolin. The sophomore didn’t disappoint, as he threw for 362 yards and three touchdowns in a huge 41-17 win over Syracuse. Bolin will get the start once again at home this Saturday against the Cavaliers. Virginia is just trying to finish the season on a high note, but struggling to get teams off the field this season. The Virginia defense has allowed 413 yards per game. Bolin should have plenty of opportunity to air it out and the Cardinals should be able to pick up that key sixth win this week.
#14 Michigan @ Indiana …. Sat, Nov. 14 ….. 2:30 PM, ABC
My Pick: Michigan
Don’t let the 4-5 record fool you, the Hoosiers have played better this season. Last week, they had a chance to defeat undefeated Iowa. But, the Hawkeyes held on for the 35-27 win. Now, in the last home game of the season, the Hoosiers have one last chance to beat a big name at home. This will be senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld last game at home, his last chance to get a huge win. This season, Sudfeld has passed for 2229 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. Plus, junior running back Jordan Howard is looking to improve on the 174 yards rushing game against Iowa last week. Expect him to lead the ground attack. While up in Ann Arbor, Michigan needs to be careful if they are looking ahead to Ohio State in three weeks. But, the nation’s top defense should be in top form in this game. Wolverines have only allowed 240 yards/game, a very low amount. This will probably be another close one, but Indiana may struggle against this defense. They will then need to win out to make a bowl. Anything less for Indiana, and coach Wilson may be on the hot seat going into the offseason.
Kentucky @ Vanderbilt ….. Sat, Nov. 14 ….. 3 PM, SEC Network
My Pick: Vanderbilt
Another coach that is shaking his head has to be Wildcats coach Mark Stoops. At one time this season, Kentucky was 4-1, with a close loss to Florida. But, that close win to Eastern Kentucky should have been a sign about this team and the fact they weren’t very good. After the win over the Colonels, they have lost four straight games. Last week, against Georgia, they were never in the game. UK only gained 180 total yards and turnover the ball three times. This included quarterback Patrick Towles going 8 of 21 for 96 yards and two interceptions. Sure, Georgia has a decent defense, but those are BAD numbers. And, siting at four wins with three games to go, one has to wonder if they will make it to the six win mark. They won’t get it done this week in Nashville, where I expect Johnny McCrary to have a BETTER game than he did last week against Florida. Hey, they almost beat the Gators, the Commodores can’t be all bad. This is setting up where Kentucky will need to beat Louisville in the last game of the season to make it into a bowl. Imagine how happy it would make Cardinals fans to shut down Kentucky.
The Top Ten Games of Week 9
10. #1 Clemson @ Syracuse ….. Sat, Nov 14 ….. 2:30 PM, ESPN 2
My Pick: Clemson
Only reason it is on the list is because Clemson is coming off its biggest win of the season against Florida State last week and maybe in line for a let-down game on the road this week. Granted, I doubt Syracuse would be the team to pull it off, since they lost big last week against Louisville. A shame that Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will not be considered for the Heisman this year. Not his fault, as there are too many great players ahead of him. This year, Watson has passed for 2233 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has played the “game manager” role to a T this season. Doubt Clemson’s defense should have any problem against the Orange this week as they rank 4th in the country in allowing only 287 yards/game. I think there is a part of the population out there that is waiting for Clemson to “Clemson” it and lose a game they have no reason to lose. But, coach Dabo Swinney has made this program legit and I doubt they will be out of the top spot at the end of the day.
9. Minnesota @ #5 Iowa ….. Sat, Nov, 4 ….. 7 PM, Big Ten Network
My Pick: Iowa
So, while the Hawkeyes should be happy to be sitting at 9-0 this season, they need to know there is very little wiggle room the rest of the way. One loss, and it is over for the Hawkeyes, so they need to treat every game forward as a playoff game. Last week, they looked a little shaky beating Indiana. But, thanks to defensive back Desmond King catching his NCAA-leading 8th interception of the season, the Hawkeyes prevailed. But, now they host a Minnesota that doesn’t have much going for them since coach Jerry Kill had to resign due to health reasons. But, that doesn’t mean the Golden Gophers aren’t dangerous. Minnesota defense has only allowed 177 yards through the air this season. That may provide Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard some issues getting the ball down the field. Basically, if they win out, they will be in the Playoffs. There will be a team from the Big Ten in it. Outside of this game, the only one that could be a challenge could be Nebraska in three weeks. But, with too much to lose in this, expect Iowa to play a much better game than last week.
8. NC State @ #16 Florida State ….. Sat, Nov 14 ….. 11:30 AM, ACC Syndicated
My Pick: Florida State
With two losses, you can turn out the lights….the party’s over for the Seminoles. It wasn’t from a lack of trying back Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. The sophomore rushed for 194 yards and one touchdown. But, just not enough to defeat Clemson and suffer the evil “Second Loss Of Season”, a death-blow to any playoff chances this year. They are just one Clemson win away from not having a chance to make it into the ACC Championship Game. One has to wonder if they went with quarterback Sean Maguire any sooner if they wouldn’t be in this boat. But, only thing they can do now for Jimbo Fisher is just win out the rest of the season, which still includes the big rivalry game against Florida. Should be able to get past the Wolfpack this week, who have struggled in ACC play this season. N.C. State only has won two games in conference play this year. Don’t think Cook will have too much of a trouble to run past the Wolfpack this week.
7. Washington State @ #19 UCLA ….. Sat, Nov 14 ….. 9:30 PM, ESPN
My Pick: UCLA
Despite having two losses, the Bruins control their own fate in winning the Pac-12 this season. If they win out, which includes beating Utah and winning the Pac-12 South division, then beating Stanford (or Oregon) in the Pac 12 Championship game, they will get to stay at home in the Rose Bowl this season. And, there is a small, slim chance that UCLA could back into the playoffs. It would take other teams losing but, you are saying there is a chance. Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen has passed for 300 or more yards the last three out of four games. This includes the 333 and two touchdowns in the 41-0 win over Oregon State last week. Give the Bruins defense credit, while UCLA amassed 674 total yards, they held the Beavers to 246 yards and forced four turnovers. So, the work is cut out for the Cougars, who have the BETTER quarterback in this matchup with sophomore Luke Falk. Yeah, I think Falk, who has passed for 3736 yards and 33 touchdowns is the better quarterback in the game and the second best quarterback in the conference, just behind Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. This will be a high scoring affair, and while Washington State will try to air the ball out, Bruins will play it tough and get ready for Utah next week.
6. Arkansas @ #9 LSU ….. Sat, Nov 14 ….. 6 PM, ESPN
My Pick: LSU
Oh, Leonard Fournette. Biggest game of the season and it just didn’t seem like it was going to be your night. In a game that would have cemented his Heisman run this year, Fournette could not get the job done against Alabama. The running back only rushed for 31 yards and one touchdown. Lights out, the Crimson Tide just controlled that game to a 30-16 win over the Tigers. Now, amidst an NCAA investigation into Fournette’s family, which will hopefully not affect his eligibility the rest of the season, host Alabama’s new friend, Arkansas. Last week, in a very wacky game that saw the Razorbacks down to the last play of the game, Arkansas upset Ole Miss in overtime, 53-52. With the three losses, there is no chance the Rebels can win the SEC West. Quarterback Brandon Allen had a HUGE game, throwing for 442 yards and six touchdowns. Now, they have a chance to add another big upset win against a weaker-looking Tigers team. I would love to go with the upset here, but I think Fournette knows it is do-or-die time and will rush for at least 100 yards. Let’s go with LSU in this one.
5. #3 Ohio State @ Illinois ….. Sat, Nov 14 …… 11 AM, ABC
My Pick: Ohio State
After sitting out a week due to problems off the field, J.T. Barrett will take the reigns at quarterback for Ohio State this weekend on the road. Want to talk about a tough road. After, what could be a trap game against the Illini, they have Michigan State, the Big One against Michigan, and then the Big 10 Championship game against Iowa. Win all four, and you will probably be the two or three seed in the playoffs. Lose one, and you still have a chance to get the four seed at the end. Lose two or more, and the chance to defend the national championship is out the window. Keep eyes on OSU DE Joey Bosa, who is starting to top the lists of the NFL prospects for next season. Hats off to Illinois this season. After so much turmoil before the season even began, with the firing of head coach a week before the season, they have made it to a record of 5-4. The Illini average 384 yards of total offense each week, which is better than I thought it would be. This will be the last chance for Illinois to have a huge upset at home this season. Expect Barrett to put everything behind him and have a good week for the Buckeyes.
4. Oregon @ #7 Stanford ….. Sat, Nov 14 …… 6:30 PM, Fox
My Pick: Stanford
For the best team in the Pac-12, the winners of the last seven games in the row, it is kind of shocking to see where Stanford is ranked in this playoff format. But, Cardinal fans should not be angry quite yet. We know Big Ten will only send one team. Clemson suffers just one loss and they are out. Baylor still has to get through Oklahoma State and TCU. In two weeks, if Stanford beats the Ducks and rival Cal, they should be either fifth or sixth with a playoff elimination game against Notre Dame ahead. It is such a tough road for the Cardinal, because every opponent from this point forward will have a winning record. This includes either Utah or UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship game. But, one game at a time and this week is against the Ducks. Oregon has played better since their third loss on the year against Washington State. This is thanks to running back Royce Freeman, who has been the star of the team in my opinion. Freeman will give the Cardinal fits this weekend, but too much riding on the line for Stanford to blow it.
3. #21 Memphis @ #24 Houston ….. Sat, Nov 14 ….. 6 PM, ESPN 2
My Pick: Memphis
This was going to be such a HUGE game. Probably would have been the number one game of the week if Memphis would have defeated Navy last week. Two undefeated teams this late in the season doing battle, why wouldn’t it draw top billing. But, the Midshipmen reminded folks why they only have one loss on the year and Memphis comes into this game a little tainted. I still think this is going to be an awesome game. Kids, if you love your offense, get ready for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch vs. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Both players have help lead their teams to average over 44 points/game. Probably one difference between the two teams, and that might be the “x factor” in this game will be the Cougars defense. They have only allowed 18 points/game. They wreck havoc on passing attacks, and that will test Memphis. There should be plenty of points and, even with the tough defense, Houston may find it hard to stop a motivated Lynch from getting his loss back. I think Memphis will knock off a undefeated team this week.
2. #12 Oklahoma @ #6 Baylor ….. Sat, Nov. 14 ….. 7 PM, ABC
My Pick: Baylor
What has gotten loss in the TCU-Baylor-Oklahoma State talk has been the Sooners. Had they had a terrible loss to Texas in the Red River Shootout, they would have been undefeated and probably in the 5 spot in the playoffs poll, the same spot that Baylor currently holds. But, the next three weeks will be HUGE in the Big 12 as these four teams will be playing each other and finally narrowing it down to just one Big 12 Champion, a team that the conference will get behind so they can have someone in the playoffs and not more than one team. Sad that there will still be no Seth Russell at quarterback for Baylor but, Jarrett Stidham had a great game last week and will be looking to improve. It really helps to have Shock Linwood and Corey Coleman playing alongside you. Still, so many weapons on offense for the Bears that the Sooners will need to play out-of-their-heads in order to keep this a low-scoring affair, a type of game that I think they could win. It will be a slugfest and, I bet Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has a good game. But, the Bears will win in the end.
1. #2 Alabama @ #17 Mississippi St ….. Sat, Nov. 14 ….. 2:30 PM, CBS
My Pick: Alabama
Best quarterback in the SEC this season? Easy answer. It’s not Coker, or Harris, or Allen, or Kelly, or anybody from the SEC East. His name is Dak. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott continues to shine in a very tough division. The senior has thrown for 2351 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Last three weeks, he has thrown for over 300 yards each game and 10 touchdowns. He has stepped his game up as we are nearing the end of his historic run in Starkville, where he will probably hold many of the school passing records for a while. But, his best accomplishment is yet to come as they host the Crimson Tide this weekend. Want to talk about a trap game for Alabama? They defeated LSU in the rain last weekend, have two easy matchups to finish the regular season, will end up playing a weaker-looking Florida squad in the SEC Championship game, and this will set them up for a top seed in the playoffs. But, they haven’t faced a quarterback like Prescott this season. The closest was Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, and we all know that led to an Alabama loss. Outside of the lights-out defense, the best weapon for Alabama this season has been running back Derrick Henry. The Heisman contender has ran for 1254 yards and 17 touchdowns. Too bad Prescott won’t be considered for the trophy but, those are the breaks. It is VERY TEMPTING to go with Mississippi State in this game but, that Bama Defense is really tough and they may neutralize Dak in this game. Going with the Crimson Tide.
NFL Week 10 Express
Last Week: 5-8
Blaine Train Season Record: 78-55
Wish I was just as good in predicting NFL games as I have been in the college games. Guess it helps to prove that anything can happen week-to-week in this league. Who knew that Colts to find a way to beat the undefeated Broncos. Manning just can’t win in Indy. Of course, the Colts had to find a way to Colts it after the win and with Andrew Luck out for 2-6 weeks with a kidney injury, they may regress a little bit. Best team in the NFL? Patriots. Second best team in the NFL? Bengals. Third best? Panthers. Green Bay has fallen a bit in the last two weeks.
Thursday, Nov. 12
Bills @ Jets ….. 7:30 PM
My Pick: Jets
Bills head coach Rex Ryan has returned to New York, looking to strike revenge against the team that let him go after all he thinks he has done for them. Again, he should have no sense of entitlement when it comes to the Jets due to the fact he never got them over the hump known as beating New England. But, a revenge game nonetheless. Expect Jets RB Chris Ivory to have a good game on the ground this week.
Sunday, November 15
Titans @ Panthers ….. Noon
My Pick: Panthers
With Marcus Mariota’s return to Tennessee, they had a gutsy, OT win on the road in New Orleans. The first for new head coach Mike Mularkey. Now, they return home to take on probably the best team in the NFC. Does Carolina QB Cam Newton fling the ball all over the place? Nope. But, I think he is one of the better game managers in the league. If he needs to scramble, he will scramble. Reminds me of one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time, Steve McNair. Tennessee will come back to Earth this week.
Lions @ Packers ….. Noon
My Pick: Packers
Trying to remember the last time Green Bay has lost two straight games. It has been a while. Last week, I predicted that Aaron Rodgers would have a big revenge game against Carolina. I was wrong, like about so much else. This week, it will be against a weaker Lions defense, I think Green Bay should be able to get back on the winning track.
Cowboys @ Buccaneers ….. Noon
My Pick: Buccaneers
YES! I am going with the upset of Tampa Bay over Dallas. The reason is simple, Dallas does not have a quarterback. Matt Cassel hasn’t gotten the job done in Big D yet. Surprised that Jerry Jones hasn’t gone out and gotten another quarterback yet. With still no Romo, they will be taking on an IMPROVING Tampa Bay team. It sets up real well for the Bucs.
Bears @ Rams …… Noon
My Pick: Bears
I think what frustrates Chicago fans the most are the games that Jay Cutler plays great at, like last week in San Diego. He went 27-40 for 345 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing only one interception. They will have a tough time to stop Rams RB Todd Gurley, who has to be the rookie of the year so far. But, if Cutler is still throwing as good as he has, this should be another Chicago win.
Saints @ Washington ….. Noon
My Pick: Saints
Drew Brees had a good game against Tennessee. He was able to pass it with ease. But, the problem that hopefully New Orleans worked on this week was the offensive line. The last two possessions that Brees had saw the line collapse. At one point, they just let Brian Orakpo sack Brees EASILY. The pass rush of Washington will not be as strong this week. Brees should be able to own this game and get the win on the road.
Dolphins @ Eagles ….. Noon
My Pick: Eagles
While Sports Radio continues to trash Sam Bradford at quarterback for Philadelphia, the Eagles are at .500, which may be more than enough to win the division this year. Think it is safe to say that after all the talk about Dan Carpenter taking over Miami being a good thing and the Dolphins getting wins, the honeymoon should finally be over.
Browns @ Steelers ….. Noon
My Pick: Steelers
Yes, there will be no Big Ben this week. Yes, there is still no Le’veon Bell. But, I still have Pittsburgh winning this game for three reasons. One, Landry Jones may be an effective backup in this league. Two, they are playing Cleveland, who defense is so hot-and-cold, who knows what they will do this week. Three, Antonio Brown, Antonio Brown, Antonio Brown….Antonio Brown.
Jaguars @ Ravens ….. Noon
My Pick: Jaguars
Yikes, a 2-6 Jacksonville team versus a 2-6 Baltimore team. This game once again falls to my COIN FLIP OF DEATH to decide who wins this game and Jacksonville was tails. Wonder how many more losses would the seat start to get hot for Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Sure there will be a college program that would love to have him.
Vikings @ Raiders ….. 3 PM
My Pick: Vikings
Will be interesting to see how Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater will play after being knocked out of a game last week with a possible concussion. He is still slated to start this week against a tough Oakland defense. Little love for the start that Oakland OB Derek Carr has provided for the Raiders nationwide but, he has over 2000 yards and 19 touchdowns. Minnesota will probably lean on RB Adrian Peterson in this game.
Patriots @ Giants ….. 3 PM
My Pick: Patriots
Name the one team that seems to own New England in the Super Bowl? New York Giants. The G-Men have defeated the Pats in 2007 and in 2011. Don’t think that success will continue to this regular season game, as Brady has been lights out so far this season. MVP? Right now, I can’t think of anybody else, and don’t say Andy Dalton, that could compete with Brady for the title.
Chiefs @ Broncos ….. 3 PM
My Pick: Broncos
Sports Radio still has a field day with how bad Peyton Manning has played this season. I think it is a step down, but I don’t think it is horrible. Last week, he didn’t play great but, give Indy credit for stepping up against a talented Broncos D. It will be the same Broncos D that will take down Kansas City this week.
Cardinals @ Seahawks ….. 7:30 PM
My Pick: Cardinals
On a cold, rainy night in Seattle, this will probably be a good game to see where Arizona really stands in the this division. Right now, Seattle is battling St. Louis for second place, which is just hilarious. As long as Carson Palmer remains healthy and Chris Johnson keeps getting better and better running, I think Arizona will take one away at Seattle and will be just three wins away from clinching a playoff spot and winning the division.
Monday, November 9
Texans @ Bengals …… 7:30 PM
My Pick: Bengals
So many weapons on offense for Cincinnati. They have a real good chance to go undefeated in the AFC North, even over Pittsburgh. That should give them a trophy alone. But, until they make a run of any sort in the playoffs, this team will probably not be looked at as dangerous as New England. There is very little to write about Houston’s offense. Just leaving it at that.
So, there you have it. Week 11 is up and running. Hope everyone has a great weekend and let’s do this all again next week. Until then, have a good one.
Blaine Train OUT!!!!!!