So much for the Heisman Trophy race being over.
That was largely the thinking as LSU's Leonard Fournette was lapping the field. All Fournette needed to take the trophy home next month in New York City was to have a good game at Alabama on Saturday night. However, the Crimson Tide held Fournette to a season-low 31 yards as Alabama won 30-16. LSU came in averaging 309 rushing yards and finished with 54. The Tigers were quite simply pushed around by Bama.
Fournette is now the +200 second-favorite for the Heisman at Bovada, with Tide running back Derrick Henry the new +150 favorite. Henry was the star of that LSU game with 210 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 38 carries. Henry has scored touchdowns in 14 consecutive games, the longest current FBS streak. Alabama is now the clear favorite to win the SEC West as it got some help from Arkansas on Saturday with the Razorbacks upsetting Ole Miss thanks in part to an insane lateral play. The Rebels had held the head-to-head tiebreaker with Alabama. LSU now has to win out and have the Tide lose once to win the West. That's not impossible as Alabama is at Mississippi State this week and visits Auburn in the Iron Bowl to close the regular season. Florida awaits the West winner in the SEC title game.
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I expect Alabama to jump up to No. 2 in the new College Football Playoff rankings (where LSU was) to be released Tuesday night. The Tide were No. 4 in last week's first rankings. Clemson will stay at No. 1 after its comeback win over Florida State clinched the ACC Atlantic Division. The Tigers also are No. 1 in the new AP poll; that's a first for Clemson since 1981. Ohio State should stay at No. 3 in the rankings. Which team will be No. 4? Probably either Baylor (No. 4 in AP poll or Oklahoma State (No. 5). The Pokes had the most impressive win of last week in stomping TCU and ending the Frogs' playoff hopes as well as Trevone Boykin's Heisman chances.
Here are a few Week 11 opening lines that caught my eye. Rankings from AP poll.
Bowling Green at Western Michigan (+3, 75.5): Great MACtion game on Wednesday night and a potential preview of the Mid-American Conference title game. Western Michigan is atop the MAC East Division by a game over Toledo, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan. Bowling Green is two up in the MAC East on Buffalo and will clinch the division for a third year in a row with a victory. The Falcons have the likely MAC Player of the Year in quarterback Matt Johnson. He is No. 2 nationally with 3,686 yards passing, No. 2 in completion percentage (70.5), No. 2 in TD passes (33) and No. 3 in rating (179.1). Johnson has only thrown three interceptions. BGSU coach Dino Babers is going to be in the mix for a few Power 5 conference jobs this offseason. Babers' Falcons have had at least 532 yards in all nine games and are fourth in the country averaging 593.7 yards per game. WMU beat Bowling Green 26-14 last season. The pick: Western Michigan.
No. 2 Ohio State at Illinois (+16.5, 51.5): Maryland at No. 14 Michigan State (-16, 58): I'm grouping these Saturday games together because I think they are huge traps for the Buckeyes and Spartans as those two clash in Week 12 in Columbus. OSU looked a bit shaky this past Saturday in a 28-14 home win over Minnesota. Cardale Jones started at quarterback with J.T. Barrett suspended; he had been named the new starter during the Buckeyes' bye week but then had an OVI arrest. Coach Urban Meyer said Monday he will go with Barrett as this week's starter as long as he has a good week of practice. Sparty, meanwhile, was on the wrong end of one of the worst calls I can remember seeing in a college football game in years -- even worse than what happened at the end of the Duke-Miami game a few weeks ago. Sparty lost 39-38 at Nebraska when Huskers receiver Brandon Reilly came back inbounds to make the winning TD catch. The officials ruled that it was a good catch because Reilly had been forced out. Sorry, but the video shows that wasn't the case. Coach Mark Dantonio took the high road and didn't say much about that call, just that his team needed to play better -- MSU was up by 12 with less than two minutes left. The picks: I'm taking the points on both.
No. 25 Memphis at No. 16 Houston (-6, 71): These two American Athletic Conference programs are very similar right now. They each have an offensive-minded rising young star at head coach. That's Justin Fuente for Memphis and Tom Herman for Houston. I'd be shocked if either guy is at his current school next season as both have already been linked to openings at Power 5 conference schools. Memphis was the leading contender for the Group of 5's New Year Six bowl slot as the Tigers were No. 13 in the first CFP rankings. But they are going to drop after Saturday's upset loss to Navy. Memphis, which was held to a season-low 20 points (28 points below its season average) against Navy, is now a game behind Houston and the Midshipmen in the AAC West Division. The unbeaten Cougars will be the highest-ranked non-Power 5 school in the new CFP rankings. The pick: Houston and "over." Surprised total isn't closer to 80.
No. 12 Oklahoma at No. 4 Baylor (-3, TBA): The clear game of the week and finally -- finally! --- Baylor plays someone decent. ESPN College GameDay will be in Waco. Freshman QB Jarrett Stidham made his first career start for the Bears last week against Kansas State and looked terrific, throwing for 419 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for a score in place of the injured Seth Russell, who is out for the season. I think this line would be a few points bigger if Russell was healthy. Baylor might be unbeaten, but it can't afford a loss to make the playoff. Not with that laughable nonconference schedule. The Sooners lost to Texas earlier this season, so they can't afford a defeat, either. They still control their Big 12 destiny as they host TCU next week and finish at Oklahoma State. The Sooners have won four straight games, outscoring their opponents 232-50. They have surpassed 50 points in four consecutive games for the first time since 2008. ESPN's Football Power Index, which evaluates how teams might fare against an average opponent on a neutral site, ranks Oklahoma first and Baylor second nationally. I don't get that OU ranking at all. Baylor has routed OU the past two seasons by a combined score of 89-26. The pick: Baylor. This will also have a monster total.
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