The college football schedule absorbed its biggest blow yet from COVID-19 issues this week, meaning there was very little movement in ESPN’s Week 11 Power Rankings.
The SEC alone had four games postponed, and five of the top six teams in last week’s Power Rankings either had open dates or had games canceled/postponed due to coronavirus-related reasons. All told, 12 teams in last week’s Power Rankings didn’t play this week.
Florida jumped up to No. 6 after cranking out 593 yards of total offense and racing past Arkansas for a 63-35 blowout victory on Saturday. The Gators have scored 148 points in their past three games since losing to Texas A&M on Oct. 10.
The postponement of the LSU game because of COVID-19 issues within the LSU program makes it two straight weeks that the Crimson Tide have been off. Their offense certainly hasn’t been off, though, as they rank third nationally in scoring (47.2 points per game) with redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones making a strong push for the Heisman Trophy. Jones has passed for 2,196 yards in six games, with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions, and is completing 78.5% of his throws.
Up next: vs. Kentucky (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
After trailing 10-3 in the first quarter on Saturday, Notre Dame put to rest any chance it might be suffering from a Clemson hangover — following a victory over the top-ranked Tigers a week ago — by pulling away from Boston College for a 45-31 road victory. It’s the second time in the past three years that Notre Dame has started a season 8-0. The Irish started out 12-0 in 2018 before losing 30-3 to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. The Irish have now won 14 straight games, the nation’s longest active winning streak among FBS teams.
Up next: at North Carolina (Nov. 27, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Ian Book builds on his big performance against Clemson as he throws for three touchdowns and runs for another in Notre Dame’s win over Boston College.
The Buckeyes’ game at Maryland on Saturday was canceled after the Terrapins paused all football activities last week due to an elevated number of COVID-19 cases. While Ohio State gets an extra week to prepare for Indiana’s visit, the Buckeyes also need games, both to be eligible for the Big Ten championship game and to make a strong case for the College Football Playoff. Through three games, Ohio State has been one of the most impressive teams in the country.
Up next: vs. Indiana (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
The Tigers were off this week after losing at Notre Dame in four overtimes a week earlier, ending their 36-game regular-season winning streak. The good news for Clemson moving forward is that star quarterback Trevor Lawrence should be back. And assuming the Tigers get another shot at Notre Dame in the ACC championship game, he should be in the lineup for that showdown. In the meantime, Clemson’s main priority will be tightening up on defense.
Up next: at Florida State (Saturday, noon ET, ABC)
Just when the Aggies were starting to play their best football, they’re derailed by COVID-19 issues, specifically contact tracing protocols. Their game on Saturday at Tennessee was postponed. That’s after Texas A&M had won four straight and scored more than 40 points in three of those contests. The Aggies need to be impressive down the stretch and play as many games as possible if they’re going to sneak into the College Football Playoff without playing in the SEC championship game.
Up next: vs. Ole Miss (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
If anybody in the SEC is going to beat Alabama this season, Florida might be the only team with the offensive firepower to do it. The Gators and Kyle Trask just keep mowing through teams, as they carved apart Arkansas 63-35 on Saturday night. Trask threw six more touchdown passes, and he has at least four scoring tosses in all six of Florida’s contests this season. The Gators will be huge favorites in all four of their remaining regular-season games.
Up next: at Vanderbilt (noon ET, ESPN/SEC Network)
What a ride it’s been for the Cougars, who seem to gain momentum each week. With an open date this week, they have two more games to finish the season 10-0 and put themselves in prime position for a New Year’s Six bowl game. BYU has been one of the most entertaining teams in college football and scored more than 40 points in seven of its eight games. Quarterback Zach Wilson has accounted for 30 touchdowns and is a name to watch in the Heisman Trophy race.
Up next: vs. North Alabama (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
The Bearcats just keep on winning and keep on making it look easy. They built a 35-10 halftime lead Friday night then cruised to a 55-17 blowout victory over East Carolina. Cincinnati has won all seven games this season by at least two touchdowns, and the closest anyone has come to the Bearcats in their past five games is 21 points. Junior quarterback Desmond Ridder recorded his fourth straight game with both a passing and rushing touchdown, tied for the longest streak by an FBS player this season.
Up next: at UCF (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)
The Hoosiers were playing their first game as an AP top-10 team since 1969 on Saturday and looked right at home in a 24-0 shutout of Michigan State. Indiana has won five of its past six Big Ten road contests dating back to last season, and once again, the Michael Penix Jr.-to-Ty Fryfogle connection was lights out. Penix passed for 320 yards, and Fryfogle caught 11 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. The Hoosiers’ game at Ohio State on Saturday will be their biggest in decades.
Up next: at Ohio State (Saturday, noon ET, Fox)
The Hurricanes won’t go quietly in the ACC race, battling back from an 11-point deficit in the third quarter on Saturday to win 25-24 at Virginia Tech. Quarterback D’Eriq King ran for a touchdown and passed for another, and Miami has won four straight since a 42-17 loss to Clemson on Oct. 10. The Hurricanes will need Clemson or Notre Dame to be upset to have a shot at the ACC championship, but they are finding ways to win games and have prevailed in their past three by a total of nine points.
Up next: vs. Georgia Tech (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network)
D’Eriq King connected with Mark Pope late in the game for a crucial passing touchdown in Miami’s 25-24 win over Virginia Tech.
The Badgers finally got back onto the field, and in their first game since Oct. 23, they shredded Michigan in a 49-11 road romp Saturday night. Wisconsin, which jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead, extended the Wolverines’ misery (Jim Harbaugh’s club is now 1-3) and only reinforced that the Badgers will be a major factor in the Big Ten race if they can avoid any further COVID-19 issues. Wisconsin mauled Michigan at the line of scrimmage and rushed for 341 yards, as compared to the Wolverines’ 47 yards on the ground.
Up next: at Northwestern (Saturday, TBA)
The Bulldogs’ game on Saturday at Missouri was postponed due to a combination of positive COVID-19 tests, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within Missouri’s program. Having lost two of its past three games, Georgia can’t get back onto the field soon enough, and the big question looming in Athens is whether Southern California transfer JT Daniels will get a shot at quarterback.
Up next: vs. Mississippi State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
The Chanticleers’ game at Troy on Saturday was postponed due to a combination of positive COVID-19 tests and injuries within the Troy program. The Chants were hoping to become the first Sun Belt Conference team in history to start a season 8-0. Their game this Saturday at home against Appalachian State will likely decide the East Division championship in the Sun Belt.
Up next: vs. Appalachian State (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN2/ESPNU)
After falling behind 19-7 late in the second quarter, Oregon caught fire in the second half, with quarterback Tyler Shough throwing three of his four touchdown passes after the break to lead the Ducks to a 43-29 victory at Washington State on Saturday. Junior running back CJ Verdell also rushed for more than 100 yards for the second straight game. Oregon has scored 78 points in its first two tilts.
Up next: vs. UCLA (Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The Cowboys were off this week, and they are gearing up for the Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday. The blueprint has been a little different for Mike Gundy’s club this season. Only once in six games has Oklahoma State’s defense allowed more than 21 points, and that one time was a 41-34 loss in overtime to Texas two weeks ago. Three of the Cowboys’ final four games are on the road.
Up next: at Oklahoma (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The Cyclones were off this week, and that season-opening 31-14 home loss to Louisiana looks a little more puzzling each week. Their only other loss was a 24-21 setback to Oklahoma State on Oct. 24, and they now sit atop the Big 12 standings with a half-game lead. In a lot of ways, the trip to Texas in two weeks could be a play-in game for a spot in the Big 12 championship game, although Kansas State could have something to say about that this Saturday.
Up next: vs. Kansas State (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Fox)
The Sooners were off Saturday, having an extra week to prepare for Oklahoma State in the annual Bedlam showdown. It’s been a roller-coaster ride so far in the Big 12 race, and Oklahoma might be getting well at just the right time. The Sooners, after back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Iowa State, have won four in a row and scored 210 points in those victories.
Up next: vs. Oklahoma State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
Through two games, Southern California sure is making it interesting. The Trojans won in thrilling fashion for the second straight week on Saturday by driving for the deciding touchdown in the final minute and a half to beat Arizona 34-30 on the road. That’s after scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes a week ago to rally past Arizona State for a 28-27 victory. It hasn’t been pretty, but as USC coach Clay Helton said, the Trojans are 2-0 and a lot of teams would like to be in that position.
Up next: at Utah (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Kedon Slovis engineers two clutch touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter as the Trojans improve to 2-0 with a 34-30 win over Arizona.
Liberty rewarded Hugh Freeze with a lucrative contract extension last week, and Freeze is rewarding the Flames with their best season in school history. They moved to 8-0 on Saturday with a 58-14 demolition of Western Carolina as quarterback Malik Willis accounted for five touchdowns. Liberty will try to make it 3-0 against ACC opponents this Saturday against NC State. The Flames have already beaten Virginia Tech and Syracuse this season.
Up next: at NC State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ACC RSN)
For a change, Louisiana decided to put away a team early. After coming from behind in its six previous wins, Louisiana led the whole way on Saturday in 38-10 decision over South Alabama at home. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ only blemish this season was a narrow 30-27 loss to unbeaten Coastal Carolina on Oct. 14. Now, four wins later, they’re in great shape to get another shot at Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.
Up next: vs. Central Arkansas (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The Thundering Herd remained among the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday with a 42-14 rout of Middle Tennessee. Marshall’s defense has been stifling this season. The Herd have yet to allow an opponent to rush for 100 yards, and they haven’t given up more than 17 points in any of their seven wins. On offense, redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells is playing his best football. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes in his past four games.
Up next: vs. Charlotte (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Networks)
The last time the Wildcats were 4-0 in the Big Ten was back in 1996, when current coach Pat Fitzgerald was still playing for the Wildcats. Well, 24 years later, here they are again after holding off Purdue 27-20 on the road on Saturday with signal-caller Peyton Ramsey tossing three touchdown passes to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman. The Northwestern defense also did its part with a couple of late stops to set up what will be one of the Wildcats’ biggest home games in years this Saturday against Wisconsin.
Up next: vs. Wisconsin (Saturday, TBA)
Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman catches an 18-yard touchdown to tie the game and a second one from 5-yards out vs. Purdue.
The last time the Tigers played was on Oct. 31, when they pummeled LSU 48-11. Their road game on Saturday against Mississippi State was postponed due to positive COVD-19 tests and subsequent quarantines within the Mississippi State program. Auburn gets Tennessee at home this Saturday, but then comes a daunting two-game stretch against Alabama on the road and Texas A&M at home.
Up next: vs. Tennessee (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
At least five teams are still alive in the Big 12 race, including Texas. The Longhorns were off this week after winning three in a row. Their two defeats were heartbreakers — a 53-45 loss in four overtimes to Oklahoma and a 33-31 loss to TCU — although they’ve been better on defense of late. Two of their final three games are on the road, but the pivotal matchup will be at home against Iowa State the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Up next: at Kansas (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Tulsa has had to repeatedly shuffle its schedule this season due to COVID-19 problems, but the Golden Hurricane have persevered as much as any team in college football. They now find themselves in prime position to play for the American Athletic Conference championship after rallying from a 24-7 halftime deficit on Saturday to defeat SMU 28-24. Only once this season has Tulsa played in back-to-back weeks, but the Golden Hurricane have won four straight games, and they could wind up facing Cincinnati twice — in the regular-season finale and then again in the AAC championship game.
Up next: vs. Tulane (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)