• TCU faces its toughest test yet: No. 4 TCU is a 7-point underdog to No. 18 Texas, with the Horned Frogs needing a win to cement themselves as a legitimate playoff contender.
• Oregon begins its difficult stretch: The No. 6 Ducks face No. 25 Washington in the first game of a brutal three-game stretch for Oregon.
Estimated Reading Time: 9 mins
We’re coming down to the wire in the 2022 college football season.
Every team is at least three-quarters of the way through the campaign, and the playoff picture is still very cloudy. Things should clear up this week, though, with a few games that have major implications. Here are the storylines to know, matchups to watch and predictions for the five biggest games in Week 11.
No. 7 LSU Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks
How to watch: 12 p.m. ET on ESPN
Storyline to know: Can LSU avoid slipping up?
No. 7 LSU controls its own destiny in the SEC West after a 32-31 overtime victory over then-No. 6 Alabama. If the Tigers beat Arkansas and the now-ninth-ranked Crimson Tide take care of No. 11 Ole Miss on Saturday, LSU will clinch the division title and a trip to the SEC Championship game.
Even further, if the Tigers win out and beat top-ranked Georgia in the title game, LSU could ultimately be chosen for the College Football Playoff as an 11-2 SEC champion. A two-loss team has never been invited in the playoff’s eight-year history, but the SEC winner has never been denied, either.
Before the Tigers can even think about crashing the playoff, they’ll have to take care of business on Saturday against the Razorbacks. Arkansas sports only a 5-4 record, but this won’t be a cakewalk for LSU. The Razorbacks are currently the 14th-best team in PFF’s power rankings and have the benefit of playing at home. If the Tigers aren’t careful, this could be a potential upset.
Matchup to watch: Arkansas’ run game vs. LSU’s run defense
The run game is the bread and butter of the Razorbacks’ offense. Arkansas has run the ball on 61.7% of its plays this season, the third-highest rate in the Power Five. And their 82.2 run-blocking grade is the fourth-best mark in the nation. Because of that dominant offensive line, Raheim Sanders has 565 rushing yards before contact, the third-most in the country.
Fortunately for LSU, its run defense is one of the best in the nation. The Tigers own the Power Five’s fifth-best run-defense grade (91.5), powered by Mekhi Wingo. The Missouri transfer has an 88.4 run-defense grade this season, fourth among Power Five interior defensive linemen.
Prediction: LSU 31, Arkansas 30
This game will come down to the wire, but the Tigers keep their playoff hopes alive with their eighth win in nine games.
No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels
How to watch: 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Storyline to know: If LSU falters, who will step up?
No. 7 LSU could very well lose this weekend, meaning either No. 9 Alabama or No. 11 Ole Miss could still make a push for the SEC West title.
For the Rebels, they need to win their final three games against Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State while LSU loses to either Arkansas or Texas A&M. If that happens, Ole Miss would then head to the SEC Championship game to likely face No. 1 Georgia. If the Rebels win that, they’ll certainly lock up a spot in the playoff as a one-loss SEC champion.
The path for the Crimson Tide isn’t as easy. Alabama needs to beat Ole Miss and Auburn and hope that LSU loses to both Arkansas and Texas A&M. That would send the Crimson Tide to Atlanta to likely take on top-ranked Georgia. An 11-2 SEC champion could still very well make the final four.
If LSU loses this weekend, the winner of this game would put an immense amount of pressure on the Tigers.
Matchup to watch: Ole Miss’ run game vs. Alabama’s run defense
Few teams run the ball more than Ole Miss. The Rebels have handed the ball off on 64.9% of their plays, the highest rate in the Power Five. That’s because they have one of college football’s best true freshmen in Quinshon Judkins leading their backfield. His 61 forced missed tackles trails only Bijan Robinson and Chase Brown among Power Five players.
The Crimson Tide’s 93.1 run-defense grade is the second-best mark in the nation, but Alabama was just gashed by LSU this past weekend. The Tigers averaged 7.1 yards per carry against the Crimson Tide, the highest average Alabama’s allowed in a regular season game since 2018.
Most Yards/Carry Allowed by Alabama Since 2018
The Crimson Tide’s defense will need to return to its elite ways, or Judkins could run wild on the way to a Rebel victory.
Prediction: Alabama 37, Ole Miss 27
Ole Miss struggles to stop Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, and the Crimson Tide’s defense contains Quinshon Judkins enough to pull out the win.
No. 22 UCF Knights at No. 17 Tulane Green Wave
How to watch: 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Storyline to know: Who will be in the driver’s seat for a New Year’s Six bowl game?
The highest-ranked Group of Five champion is guaranteed a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. Through Week 10, the only ranked Group of Five schools are No. 17 Tulane and No. 22 UCF.
This game will not only determine the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference, but also the favorite to represent the Group of Five in one of college football’s six biggest bowl games.
Matchup to watch: UCF’s passing game vs. Tulane’s pass defense
UCF’s offensive line is one of the best in the nation at protecting the quarterback. The Knights have an 87.0 pass-blocking grade this season, which ranks third-highest in the country. Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee takes advantage of those clean pockets, too. The Ole Miss transfer’s 7.6% big-time throw rate when kept clean is the ninth-highest in the Group of Five.
Tulane will likely struggle to get home, as its 70.2 pass-rush grade is tied for 86th in the nation. However, the Green Wave have the coverage unit to make up for it. Tulane’s 91.7 coverage grade is tied for the seventh-highest in the country. The Green Wave have allowed only 31 passes to go for 15-plus yards, the second-fewest in the Group of Five.
Prediction: Tulane 28, UCF 27
The Green Wave pull out a nail-biter and move one step closer to a New Year's Six bowl game, something they haven’t been to since 1939.
No. 25 Washington Huskies at No. 6 Oregon Ducks
How to watch: 7 p.m. ET on FOX
Storyline to know: Oregon, time to prove it
The Ducks have been one of the best comeback stories in college football. Their season began with a 49-3 drubbing at the hands of now-No. 1 Georgia. Since then, Oregon has rattled off eight straight victories and placed itself firmly back into the College Football Playoff picture.
This upcoming stretch for the Ducks will prove whether they deserve a spot in the final four. Oregon faces No. 25 Washington, No. 13 Utah and Oregon State to close out the season. All three are among the top 40 teams in PFF’s power rankings. If the Ducks win those, they’ll likely face either No. 8 USC or No. 12 UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship game.
Oregon must take the next month one game at a time, as a loss all but eliminates the program from playoff consideration.
Matchup to watch: Battle between a couple of transfer quarterbacks
Transfers under center lead both Oregon and Washington.
Bo Nix has been one of the biggest bounce-back stories in college football, finally showing why he was a five-star quarterback recruit back in 2019. In his first three years at Auburn, he had just a 74.5 grade. This season, the senior sits at an 89.5 mark, seventh among Power Five quarterbacks. That grade is buoyed by a college football-leading 85.1% adjusted completion percentage. Now, he’s tied for fourth in Heisman odds, according to BetMGM sportsbook.
Michael Penix Jr. transferred to Washington from Indiana and leads the nation with 3,232 passing yards. He’s also done a terrific job of taking care of the football, as well. The fifth-year quarterback has committed a turnover-worthy play on just 0.9% of his dropbacks, the fourth-lowest rate in the country.
Whichever quarterback performs better on Saturday will likely lead his team to victory.
Prediction: Oregon 42, Washington 30
In what should be a high-scoring affair, the Ducks emerge victorious and keep their playoff hopes alive.
No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs at No. 18 Texas Longhorns
How to watch: 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Storyline to know: The best chance for a TCU loss all season
TCU is a shocker, though. The Horned Frogs weren’t even one of the 47 teams who received a vote in the initial rankings. If TCU is going to lose, it’ll likely come on Saturday against No. 18 Texas. The Longhorns are the eighth-best team in PFF’s power rankings and are actually favored by a full touchdown at home against the Horned Frogs.
If TCU wins, it would be poised to make the first playoff in school history, where it’ll compete to win its first national championship in 84 years.
Matchup to watch: Can TCU’s offensive line hold up?
A dominant line spearheads Texas' defense. The Longhorns have the fourth-best pass-rush win rate in the Power Five (59.2%) while also possessing the third-lowest average depth of tackle in the run game (3.38 yards). The leaders of that front are interior defensive linemen Moro Ojomo, Byron Murphy II, Keondre Coburn and T’Vondre Sweat. All four are among the 15 highest-graded Power Five interior defensive linemen. No other school has more than one in the top 15.
TCU’s offensive line will need to hold up. Fortunately for the Horned Frogs, they have top-20 Power Five grades in both pass blocking and run blocking. If that unit does its job, one of college football’s most lethal connections in Max Duggan–Quentin Johnston should prosper. Duggan currently has the ninth-best odds (+4000) to win the Heisman, according to BetMGM, while Johnston is currently PFF’s top receiver wide prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Prediction: Texas 34, TCU 28
TCU struggles to stop Texas’ high-powered offense, and the Horned Frogs' playoff aspirations suffer a crushing blow.