Sporterberg on CFB: Three storylines form Week 11

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) is hoisted to the shoulders of his teammates as the Tigers celebrate a win over Alabama in an SEC game Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. LSU won 46-41. Associated Press

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

It was one of the wilder weeks in recent memory. No. 12 Baylor went to triple overtime against 4-4 TCU. LSU beat Alabama for the first time since 2011. Lowly Minnesota showed it can play with the big shots. And the rest of the Big 12 seems turned upside down ahead of the biggest conference matchup of the season.

Big 12 grasping for straws

It was a defensive slug-fest in Fort Worth Saturday, as Baylor and TCU ended regulation tied at 9-9. The final score, 29-23, misleads outsiders to just how dreadful the offenses looked in this matchup. The defenses looked incredible, don’t get me wrong, but no 9-0 team should be able to look like that on offense.

The average pass attempt gained just 4.6 yards. The average rush under 3.5. There were 21 penalties for 192 yards, including four by the Bears on their final two drives. Neither team was able to score a touchdown until the first overtime. This looked more like an early 20th-century battle, not a Big 12 rivalry.

Credit the defense. Phil Snow and Gary Patterson run quality groups. Terrel Bernard starred in the middle of the Bear squad, racking up 19 tackles and an interception. Grayland Arnold also had a big game on that side of the ball, intercepting two passes from TCU freshman quarterback Max Duggan.

Meanwhile, just up I-35, the No. 9 Sooners just couldn’t seem to put Brock Purdy and the Cyclones away. It was 35-14 at the half, and hope seemed lost for ISU’s upset. ISU then rattled off four of the next five touchdowns, bringing the score to 41-42.

Matt Campbell’s squad decided to go for two with 0:24 left in the game, choosing to win it in regulation rather than send it to OT. It didn’t work. Just take the OT. JUST TAKE THE OT.

Fortunately for the Big 12 and ESPN, both teams won, setting up the College Gameday-clad matchup Saturday. Both Oklahoma and Baylor dropped a spot in the AP after the close wins, but national media is still setting it up as a big game.

And it should be! The winner will clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship game, while the loser will have to contend with Texas for the final spot. If the Bears lose, next week’s game against UT will decide the second seed, while if Baylor wins, OU will have to win out to claim that spot.

Speaking of the Longhorns, they knocked off No. 16 Kansas State Saturday, 27-24. KSU had hoped of pushing OU out of its championship hopes, but they couldn’t get out of Austin with a win.

UT’s defense showed up against the Wildcats, holding them to 304 yards and forcing one fumble. After falling out of the Big 12 and national discussions, Texas launches itself back into at least the regional one with the win, setting up a potential major matchup with Baylor on Nov. 23.

The Prince rises to power

It finally happened. After a long slumber, the Tigers woke up and lashed out against their Gulf Coast rivals, defeating Alabama 46-41. Joe Burrow solidified his Heisman candidacy, just as Johnny Manziel did years ago against the Crimson Tide.

LSU led 33-13 at the half, scoring two touchdowns in the last 30 seconds of the second quarter. That lead diminished to one score three separate times in the second half, but LSU always answered to hold Alabama at bay.

The Tigers are for real. Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries. Burrow completed 31 out of 39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns. The LSU defense also shined, causing two turnovers and gaining seven tackles for loss against the “unstoppable” Alabama offense.

The win will likely launch the Tigers into the No. 1 position in the CFP rankings Tuesday, and Alabama may fall as far as No. 6 but will probably sit at No. 4 for now. It’s up to Baylor or the Pac-12 schools to win out in order to keep the Crimson Tide out of the playoff for the first time.

I won’t be mad if Alabama makes the playoff again. It is very good at football. I imagine it is one of the best four schools in the country, whether they have the resume to back it up or not. LSU would just have to beat the Tide again in that case.

Row the boat

P.J. Fleck is a good coach. Florida State, or any program, would be lucky to have him at the helm. That head coach just led Minnesota, whose best history in the sport came 70 years ago, to a win over undefeated No. 4 Penn State.

The Golden Gophers now stand as one of the final five undefeated schools in the country. Tanner Morgan threw for 18/20, 339 yards and three touchdowns with zero turnovers. He had the game of his life to take down the Nittany Lions. Rashad Bateman caught seven of those balls for 203 yards and a touchdown, throwing the opposing secondary into disarray.

The AP poll thrust Minnesota into the No. 7 spot, obviously saying Minnesota earned their statement win for them to be taken seriously. I would’ve loved for them to be ranked above No. 3 Clemson. We’ll se what the comittee says on Tuesday when the Playoff rankings drop.