College Football Week 11 preview: All eyes on Texas; Nick Saban and Alabama look to avoid shocking mark

 

Not all college football Saturdays are created equal.

Then again, the Saturdays that appear to be prime for high-quality games often disappoint, which is why we play the games.

Week 11 of the college football season does not have the eye-popping top-5 matchup or the storied in-state rivalry game. Still, games on the Week 11 schedule will go a long way in deciding the final four teams selected for the College Football Playoff at the end of the regular season.

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Let’s look at a few games to be aware of Saturday as the college football season kicks off Week 11.

Arkansas vs. No. 7 LSU – Noon ET, ESPN

LSU is coming off its biggest win of the Brian Kelly era after defeating Alabama on a last-second two-point conversation in Week 10.

The SEC Championship Game is in the Tigers’ sights, but there are two more SEC teams to get through before a championship game berth can be a reality.

The first comes Saturday when LSU heads to Fayetteville to take on an Arkansas team having a disappointing season.

LSU head coach Brian Kelly during a game against the Alabama Crimson Tide Nov. 5, 2022, at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
(John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A win over the Razorbacks and an Ole Miss loss will lock up the SEC West for LSU, but a loss at Razorback Stadium ends the lofty goals that are within reach for the Tigers.

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Arkansas is coming off a loss to Liberty in which the rushing attack was stymied, gaining just 144 yards.

On the season, Arkansas owns the second-best rushing attack in the SEC and 10th in the country at 233.3 yards per game.

Running back Raheim Sanders leads the SEC in rushing yards (1,101), and quarterback KJ Jefferson is a dual-threat QB, rushing for 425 yards and six touchdowns on the season.

Raheim Sanders (5) of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs the ball during a game against the Liberty Flames at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium Nov. 5, 2022 in Fayetteville, Ark.
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The LSU defense is middle of the pack in the SEC when it comes to stopping the run, allowing 141.4 yards per game on the ground.

“Obviously playing a team that has a very prolific offense,” Kelly said of Arkansas Monday, according to 247 Sports. “And, in terms of players, it starts with their quarterback. I think it’s the fifth time now we’ve seen a big physical quarterback. KJ Jefferson, 6-3, 240. He has 17 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns. He is going to be a handful. Another guy that we’ve got to be able to control what he does and get him on the ground.”

KJ Jefferson (1) of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs the ball during a game against the Liberty Flames at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium Nov. 5, 2022, in Fayetteville, Ark.
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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The LSU rushing attack has gotten going in its three-game winning streak, rushing for an average of 204.0 yards per game since a loss to Tennessee Oct. 8.

The Tigers have a chance to shake up the College Football Playoff picture if they’re able to run the table and find a way to beat Georgia, the likely representative from the SEC East, in the SEC Championship Game.

But first, there’s Arkansas, an opponent that does present a “trap game” for Kelly and the Tigers.

“I guess. I mean, I guess that’s what they call it,” Kelly said when asked if Saturday’s game was a trap game for LSU. “I’ve never bought into that because I think if it’s a trap game, you have not done a very good job with your football team.”

No. 11 Ole Miss vs. No. 9 Alabama – 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

It’s about as unfamiliar a position for Alabama as you’ll ever see.

The Crimson Tide are essentially out of the running for a berth in the SEC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff after losing to LSU in Week 10.

Alabama is hoping to avoid losing back-to-back regular season games for the first time since 2007 – Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa – and their third regular season loss for the first time 2010.

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide leaves the field after a game against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium Nov 5, 2022, in Baton Rouge, La.
(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

“I think it’s a challenge for all of us to have pride,” Saban said Monday, according to CBS Sports. “We’re gonna play a good team this week, and I’m sure they’re gonna wanna put up on their mantle, ‘We beat Alabama, too.’ So it’s just a matter of whether we’re gonna allow that to happen or we’re gonna go do everything we can to avoid it.”

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Saban will look to avoid disaster against old friend Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin has his Ole Miss Rebels ranked 11th in the CFP rankings and primed to beat Alabama for the first time since 2015.

Kiffin, who coached under Saban from 2014-2016, reminded reporters Monday that Alabama easily could be undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country.

Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin looks on from the sideline during a game against the Texas A and M Aggies at Kyle Field Oct. 29, 2022, in College Station, Texas.
(Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“They’ve lost two games by two plays. Both games could have went either way,” Kiffin said, according to AL.com. “Alabama makes the field goal at Tennessee and the [LSU] two-point [conversion] gets stopped, and they’re the No. 1, No. 2 team in the country coming in here. So we’re talking about two plays, two teams on the road in two of the hardest environments – over 100,000 people at both games – to play in.

“This is a great team and the best coach to ever do it.”

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The game will likely be decided at the line of scrimmage with Ole Miss third in the country in rushing yards per game (267.4) and Alabama’s run defense ranked 11th in the FBS (104.0 rushing yards allowed per game).

Mississippi Rebels running back Quinshon Judkins (4) gets to the edge as Texas A and M Aggies defensive back Jaylon Jones (17) closes in during a game at Kyle Field Oct. 29, 2022, in College Station, Texas.
(Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ole Miss freshman running back Quinshon Judkins is second in the SEC with 1,036 yards and first in rushing touchdowns with 13.

“They do a really good job with formation multiples, motions, trying to get the defense to adjust,” Saban said of the rushing attack at Ole Miss, according to ESPN. “They’ve got really good running plays, but they’re running those same plays out of all those different multiples, which is trying to put different players in different positions. So, you make a mistake, you have a gap open, and they hit a play on you.”

No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 25 Washington – 7 p.m. ET, FOX

After one week of the regular season, no one would have thought that Dan Lanning would have his Oregon Ducks in prime position for the CFP with just three conference games to go.

But Oregon has rolled since its 49-3 beat down at the hands of Georgia on opening weekend, winning eight straight.

The Ducks welcome Washington to Eugene, where Oregon has won 23 straight games at Autzen Stadium, good for the third-longest home winning streak in the nation.

Quarterback Bo Nix of the Oregon Ducks carries the ball for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field Nov. 5, 2022, in Boulder, Colo.
(Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

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Led by quarterback Bo Nix, Oregon’s offense has been as explosive as any unit in the country. It’s second in the country in yards per game (520.6) and third in points per game (43.1).

Since failing to throw a touchdown pass and being intercepted twice by Georgia, Nix has thrown for 2,322 yards, 22 touchdowns and just three interceptions since. He’s added 457 yards on the ground with 13 touchdowns.

It’s been a balanced attack for Oregon, second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (231.2) and fourth in the conference in passing yards (289.3).

“Obviously coming on from Game 1 wasn’t the result we wanted,” Lanning said of how the schedule has shaken out, according to ESPN. “But, since then, our players have done a really good job of having great resolve and attacking what we can get better at each week, and that really hasn’t changed.”

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Washington comes into the matchup leading the country in passing yards per game (370.2) with quarterback Michael Penix Jr. throwing for 3,232 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Michael Penix Jr. of the Washington Huskies passes during the second quarter of a game against the Oregon State Beavers at Husky Stadium Nov. 4, 2022 in Seattle.
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Huskies have won three straight since back-to-back losses to UCLA and Arizona State in the middle of the season.

“I don’t know if there’s a speaking engagement I’ve went to where they haven’t emphasized how important it is to beat the Ducks,” Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer said when asked what the game against Oregon means, according to The Seattle Times.

“It’s certainly important. It’s going to be fun because we’ve put ourselves in a spot where it means something. They’ve got themselves in a spot where it means something. You’ve got the rivalry on top of it, and it looks like it’s going to be a great week weather-wise come Saturday. So it’ll be a fun weekend.”

No. 18 Texas vs. No. 4 TCU – 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

A win for TCU secures a berth in the Big 12 title game, while a win for Texas will be one more step in Steve Sarkisian’s rebuild in Austin.

“We haven’t beaten a top-five team here at [Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium] since 1999, so it’s a great opportunity for us to hopefully prepare well and play well for our fans,” Sarkisian said, according to ESPN. “I’m looking forward to an electric and a great intimidating environment.”

A TCU Horned Frogs flag runner flies the TCU flag after a touchdown during a game against the Texas Longhorns Oct. 2, 2021, at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.
(Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s a matchup between the Big 12’s top two running backs, with Texas’ Bijan Robinson and TCU’s Kendre Miller going head-to-head.

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The Horned Frogs have the fourth-best offense in the country, averaging 508.7 yards per game and 43.1 points per game. Quarterback Max Duggan has been brilliant, throwing for 24 touchdowns to just two interceptions and rushing for four more on the ground.

“You know this guy is playing at a high level, he’s making the throws to make, and he’s taking advantage of a lot of skill on the perimeter but yet he’s using his legs,” Sarkisian said of Duggan, according to 247 Sports. “His legs are factors, especially in the red area, they rely on him with Miller – it’s kind of a two-headed monster in the run game.

“And he can hurt you that way on designed runs as well as, you know, quarterback scrambles, so our discipline, our rush lanes are going to be really important in this game.”

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Texas is in a three-way tie with Kansas State and Baylor for second place in the Big 12. The Longhorns beat Kansas State last week and will play Baylor in the last regular season game of the year.

The Texas Longhorns flag flies after a touchdown during a game between Texas and the Oklahoma Sooners Oct. 8, 2022, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
(Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Quinn Ewers, who missed three games earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, has thrown for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in the past four games.

“I do think that there’s always extra motivation when you play against a big-brand team, whether it’s Oklahoma, whether it’s Texas, whether it’s whomever,” TCU head coach Sonny Dykes said when meeting with the media, according to 247 Sports. “They’ve got a lot of Twitter followers and TikTok followers and all that, and our guys are aware of that. That’s just the way it is.”

Other games of note:

No. 17 Tulane vs. No. 22 UCF – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

No. 3 Michigan vs. Nebraska – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

No. 12 UCLA vs. Arizona – 10:30 p.m. ET, FOX