2. QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (2,469 yards, 21 TDs, 3 INTs passing; 801 yards, 13 TDs rushing). The Sooners quarterback had produced stellar numbers as a graduate transfer. If the Sooners can get on a roll this month, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be at least a Heisman finalist so long as he remains healthy. (LW: 2)
3. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (1,659 yards, 24 TDs, 1 INT passing; 319 yards, 9 TDs rushing). The Buckeyes face Maryland and Rutgers the next two weeks, which could be good or bad for Fields’s hopes. He gets a shot at the Big Ten’s two worst total defenses, but it’s reasonable to wonder just how long he’ll be in to pad his numbers against either struggling team. (LW: 3)
4. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (2,166 yards, 27 TDs, 2 INTs passing; 30 yards, 2 TDs rushing). So much hinges not on how well Tagovailoa plays, but whether he plays at all against LSU nearly three weeks after undergoing ankle surgery. (LW: 4)
5. DE Chase Young, Ohio State (29 tackles, 15.5 tackles for losses, 13.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles). Young will sit out Saturday’s game against Maryland because a possible NCAA issue. An multiweek absence would seriously damage his chances of even becoming a Heisman finalist. (LW: 5)
6. RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (1,604 yards, 18 TDs rushing; 9 receptions for 40 yards). The Canadian had 20 carries for 223 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s defeat of TCU. That’s four 200-yard games this season for Hubbard, who moves up a spot for his stellar showing. (LW: 7)
7. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (2,329 yards, 24 TDs, 2 INTs passing). Helped the Ducks drop 56 points on Southern Cal last week. Herbert and Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) are idle this weekend before continuing their playoff push against Arizona on Nov. 16. (LW: 6)
It’s that time again
Late October and early November annually bring two reminders.
One is to set clocks back an hour back to standard time as daylight saving time ends.
ESPN spent a lot of money for the rights to the playoff and everything surrounding it, so it’s understandable why it would make a weekly commercial for its coverage and plop the committee’s ranking in the middle of the show as its centerpiece.
But that doesn’t mean everyone should fret about it. To review: An undefeated power-conference team is not missing the playoff (and if it somehow does, it will be a big nudge toward an expanded field). A one-loss power-conference team will have a chance. A two-loss power-conference team will need a chaotic season (and probably a league title, too) to have a chance.
With another four regular season Saturdays plus the week of conference championship games, it’s still much to early to place too much stock in the committee’s opinion of an in-progress season.
Five with the most at stake in Week 11
1. Minnesota. It’s showtime for the 8-0 Golden Gophers, whose loaded November schedule begins with a visit from fellow unbeaten Penn State. There is a strong case to be made Minnesota’s most impressive victory to date came against Illinois, which might be more surprising than the fact that P.J. Fleck’s team is undefeated.
The Gophers are still a plausible playoff team, but they’ll be tested in the coming weeks. Penn State is probably the biggest challenge this month, and we’ll know a lot more about Minnesota’s rugged team by midafternoon Saturday.
2. Penn State. The Nittany Lions (8-0) are a bit more tested than Minnesota, thanks to victories over Iowa, Michigan and Pittsburgh. All were one-possession games, but Penn State remains on track for what could be a clash of 10-0 teams Nov. 23 at Ohio State.
Of course, the Nittany Lions need to get through their trip to Minneapolis (and a date with Indiana next week) for the meeting with the Buckeyes to remain one of the month’s most hyped games. That isn’t going to be easy.
3a. Alabama and 3b. LSU. Both SEC West powers have looked the part throughout this season. Alabama has won all eight of its games by at least 19 points. LSU has had a few tougher tests (beating Texas by seven, Florida by 14 and Auburn by three) but also dealt with a tougher schedule.
Both the winner and the loser will have an obvious playoff path. A 13-0 SEC champion is a good bet to be the top seed. But an 11-1 Alabama or LSU, particularly one with a close loss to the other, is going to have a case with the committee.
4a. Iowa and 4b. Wisconsin. It’s basically a Big Ten West eliminator. Both teams are 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten, two games back of Minnesota. And both still have to play the Golden Gophers later this month. Wisconsin, which is coming off back-to-back losses and then an open date, has the home-field advantage in this one.
5. Oklahoma. The Sooners don’t often lose to Iowa State; it’s happened six times in 83 meetings, including just twice since 1961. But one of those came in Norman two years ago, and the Cyclones (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) could derail Oklahoma’s playoff hopes. The Sooners (7-1, 4-1), who lost to Kansas State on Oct. 26 and were off last weekend, need to win out to stay in contention for a semifinal slot.