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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Ohio State vs. Indiana, TCU vs. Texas, more we’re watching in Week 11


The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes will try to bounce back from a lackluster victory and remain undefeated as they welcome Indiana to Columbus to kick off Week 11 of college football action on Saturday.

That’s one of four games on FOX, including a huge Pac-12 matchup between No. 6 Oregon and No. 25 Washington. We’ll also have our eyes on a crucial Big 12 game between No. 4 TCU and No. 18 Texas.

Previewing Ohio State vs. Indiana, more

RJ Young is joined by Geoff Schwartz to preview the biggest matchups in Week 11, including Ohio State vs. Indiana.

Here’s what we’re looking forward to watching in some of the biggest matchups this weekend. 


What are you watching in Indiana at No. 2 Ohio State (Noon ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)?

Young: The Ohio State Buckeyes have turned the Shoe into a fortress during conference play.

Since 2015, OSU hasn’t lost at home to a Big Ten opponent. With Michigan looming on the schedule in just two weeks’ time, I’m looking for the Buckeyes to start fast and make light work of one of the weakest teams in their division, if not the conference.

Indiana has a way of sneaking up on teams — as it did against Michigan — taking advantage of foes who don’t expect to find much fight in the Hoosiers. But IU would like nothing more than to deal a significant blow to the Buckeyes’ conference title hopes, if not their College Football Playoff hopes.

It behooves Ohio State to comport itself as a No. 2-ranked team should.

Cohen: The College Football Playoff selection committee didn’t penalize Ohio State for last week’s unsightly 21-7 win over Northwestern that seemed to expose one of the Buckeyes’ only weaknesses. An offense reliant on the downfield passing skills of quarterback C.J. Stroud proved vulnerable to the elements, and a nasty combination of gusty winds and driving rain at Ryan Field posed a legitimate problem for head coach/play caller Ryan Day.

Through nine games, Stroud has completed 68 passes traveling at least 10 yards downfield, but he connected on just three of 16 such attempts for 34 yards against the Wildcats, according to Pro Football Focus. This week’s forecast calls for clear skies in Columbus — a welcome change for Stroud and his collection of explosive wideouts — but what happens if the weather turns ugly later this month when archrival Michigan arrives at Ohio Stadium with its run-heavy approach? Until then, the Buckeyes could use some style points to remind the committee how dangerous they really are.

What are you looking forward to seeing in Maryland at No. 14 Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)?

Cohen: The Terrapins have the misfortune of being a medium-sized fish in the big pond known as the Big Ten East, where traditional powers Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are always going to dominate the standings. A year ago, Maryland reached bowl eligibility for the first time under head coach Mike Locksley with a 6-6 mark that included losses to every ranked team on the schedule — plus Minnesota and Penn State. This year’s team is on a similar path with conference wins over Michigan State, Indiana and Northwestern. At some point, the Terrapins need to beat a quality Big Ten opponent.

For the Nittany Lions, who already dropped games to Michigan and Ohio State, the possibility of a New Year’s Six game should be the overarching motivation for a group on the outside of the Big Ten Championship picture. A scenario in which the Wolverines and Buckeyes both advance to the playoff would send a Penn State team with a 10-2 record to Pasadena, California, for its first Rose Bowl appearance since 2017 (a 52-49 loss to USC) and just its second since 1995. 

Young: For a Maryland squad that played the defending conference champion and undefeated Michigan to a one-score loss, No. 14 Penn State presents a good measuring stick for just what the Terrapins have learned about themselves in what has been a historically lopsided series. In 45 games, the Terps have managed just three wins against the Nittany Lions. 

For PSU, this is an opportunity to keep its New Year’s Six hopes alive.

What interests you most in No. 9 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss (3:30 p.m. ET)?

Young: Lane Kiffin would like nothing more than to join the exclusive list of former Nick Saban assistants to notch a win against his mentor on Saturday. There is also the looming threat of the Tide losing back-to-back regular season games for the first time in 15 years, and three games for the first time since 2010.

For the Rebels, there’s hope yet for them to win the SEC West title if LSU should flounder in the remaining weeks of regular season play. With a win against Alabama, they can at least keep the pressure on LSU to finish with just one loss in conference play this season.

Cohen: The last time Saban lost consecutive regular-season games was his first year with the Crimson Tide in 2007. That iteration of Alabama finished 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the SEC with a four-game losing streak to LSU, Mississippi State, Louisiana-Monroe — yes, Louisiana-Monroe — and Auburn for a winless November. Since then, Saban has lost more than two games in a season just once, in 2010, while building one of the strongest dynasties in college football history.

The question now is whether this year’s Alabama squad chooses fight or flight after its hopes of recovering from an early loss at Tennessee to still reach the CFP were dashed with last week’s overtime loss to LSU. Saban’s teams have earned a reputation for viciousness in games immediately following a defeat, but how much motivation will the players have knowing their ultimate goal is off the table? It’s strange for Alabama to be facing an opponent in one-loss Ole Miss that has more to play for than the Crimson Tide. 

Reacting to the CFP rankings

RJ Young shares his thoughts on the CFP Rankings and looks at the future matchups that will shift this top-six leaderboard.

What’s worth watching in No. 22 UCF at No. 17 Tulane (3:30 p.m. ET)?

Cohen: If we could fast-forward to 2026 — and hopefully sooner — a game like this between two ranked schools from non-Power 5 conferences would have serious playoff implications. The current format for the impending 12-team playoff guarantees automatic bids to the six highest-ranked conference champions and doles out six at-large bids to the remaining highest-ranked teams. Using this week’s rankings as an example, No. 17 Tulane would earn an automatic bid as the sixth conference champion behind winners from the SEC (Georgia), Big Ten (Ohio State), Big 12 (TCU), Pac-12 (Oregon) and ACC (Clemson). The Green Wave’s first-round matchup would be against Michigan in Ann Arbor with the winner advancing to play Oregon in Eugene.

Right behind Tulane in the American Athletic Conference standings is UCF, which could leapfrog the Green Wave with a win that would give the Knights a head-to-head tiebreaker and push them into the 2026 playoff picture. Creating those types of meaningful regular-season games between schools outside the traditional football powers will be great for the sport. 

Young: With the CFP committee showing a complete lack of respect for Liberty’s one-loss start to the season, this game could be the one that gives us the winner of an at-large bid to the New Year’s Six slate.

Tulane has become a college football darling with its best start since 1998, including a surprising win  against defending conference champ Cincinnati. With only Navy and South Florida left, the Knights have a chance to put a stamp on their résumé with two top-25 wins on their resume.

Previewing Oregon vs. Washington

RJ Young and Geoff Schwartz break down the biggest matchups of Week 11, including Oregon vs. Washington.

What are you curious to see in No. 25 Washington at No. 6 Oregon (7 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)?

Young: Nearly every week this season, the Pac-12 has delivered a delicious pitcher’s duel between transfer quarterbacks with outsized reputations.

This week it’s Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.,  the conference’s most prolific passer, and, Bo Nix, perhaps the leading candidate for Pac-12 (Offensive) Player of the Year with his ability to pass, run and catch touchdowns on display in his first year as the Oregon starter.

This game also is yet another chance for the Ducks to make the CFP committee believe their 46-point loss to Georgia was an aberration. The Ducks could do with an outstanding performance against another top-25 team to help their chances of sliding into the CFP top four if teams in front of them trip into a loss before Selection Sunday.

Cohen: When NFL scouts rolled through Eugene last spring for their first look at quarterback Nix in an Oregon uniform, they graded the Auburn transfer as nothing more than a potentially undrafted player who could sign as a priority free agent. The tepid assessment reflected wild fluctuations in Nix’s performance during his time with the Tigers, for whom he scored 57 touchdowns in three seasons while also throwing 16 interceptions and fumbling 20 times. Moments of greatness were offset by acts of self-immolation.

It’s fair to wonder, then, how much the evaluations of Nix (6-1⅞, 217 pounds) have changed across a few breathtaking months with the Ducks. It’s not just that Nix already exceeded his passing yardage from two out of three seasons in Auburn by throwing for 2,495 yards and 22 touchdowns in his first nine games. But he’s also enjoying the best rushing season of his career (457 yards, 13 TDs) and hasn’t fumbled since arriving at Oregon. There’s no question his draft stock has risen; the question is, how much?

Can TCU’s offense threaten Texas?

Joel Klatt previews No. 4 TCU vs. No. 18 Texas. Klatt thinks Texas has a shot of winning with Longhorns’ stars Bijan Robinson and Kendre Miller leading the Big 12 in rushing yards.

How about No. 4 TCU at No. 18 Texas (7:30 p.m. ET)?

Cohen: Now things get interesting for TCU and head coach Sonny Dykes after checking in at No. 4 in the latest CFP rankings. A week ago, the selection committee cast the Horned Frogs aside by placing them seventh behind the five other undefeated teams, plus one-loss Alabama. It didn’t seem to matter that Dykes’ group beat four consecutive ranked opponents from Oct. 1 through Oct. 22 and then beat West Virginia on the road. The name across the jersey just wasn’t spicy enough for the decision-makers to rank TCU ahead of the Crimson Tide. 

But losses by Alabama, Clemson and Tennessee left the committee no choice but to elevate Dykes’ crew to No. 4 in this week’s rankings, and now the pressure intensifies in Fort Worth. The psychology of fending off challengers is much different from simply being part of the chase. And in a reflection of what oddsmakers think about the Horned Frogs’ chances of remaining unbeaten, they’ll travel to Austin this week as seven-point underdogs to No. 18 Texas. 

Young: While Texas Christian isn’t the first team ranked higher than its opponent to be an underdog in Vegas, the Horned Frogs certainly might take that assessment personally.

If holding a grudge gets TCU to establish an early lead and finish the game strong against what is the most talented team in the conference, that could go a long way toward the perception that TCU might put up a fight in a CFP semifinal.

However, Texas still has much to play for, including a spot in the Big 12 title game. Expect Texas to ride Bijan Robinson in the backfield and take shots against Joe Gillespie’s secondary when Quinn Ewers identifies man coverage.

If Texas can convert those deep shots into points and turn the game into a shootout, that’s a game they’re likely to win.

UCLA shouldn’t be ranked lower than USC

Joel Klatt reacts to the CFP rankings and questions why the Bruins are ranked four spots behind the Trojans.

And finally, what catches your eye in Arizona at No. 12 UCLA (10:30 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)?

Young: UCLA needs a decisive win here. If there’s room to run up the score, Chip Kelly shouldn’t hesitate.

As the No. 12 team in the CFP, with USC, Oregon and even two-loss LSU ranked ahead of them, there’s little hope that the Bruins can move up in the selection committee rankings without an eye-popping box score and a few teams taking losses in front of them.

Cohen: UCLA is among a trio of Pac-12 schools lurking just outside this week’s playoff picture waiting for someone to slip. Though the Bruins held firm at No. 12 in the latest CFP rankings, their conference mates USC and Oregon climbed one spot and two spots, respectively, to No. 8 and No. 6 as the committee’s appreciation for the league continues to grow. Utah also rose one spot to No. 13 by dispatching Arizona, while Washington crept back into the rankings at No. 25 after knocking off a ranked opponent in then-No. 23 Oregon State

Saturday’s matchup between UCLA and the Wildcats is the ultimate trap game for the Bruins a week before hosting USC in what might be the conference’s premier showdown over the final month of the season. The Bruins have won eight of their last 10 games against Arizona, with six of those wins coming by double digits. A betting line that opened at -14.5 points has swelled to -19.5 points in favor of UCLA. 

Read more:

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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