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Yeah, we've both had our share of hope and disappointment in this game. Let's just hope for a good b...
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College Football 2021: Week 11 Recap and Week 12 Preview
Monday, 2021 November 15 - 3:39 pm
Michigan beats Penn State; NCSU falls to Wake Forest.

Michigan 21, Penn State 17
The game largely played out as I expected, with both teams clamping down on defense and a few big plays determining the outcome. The stat lines were pretty even; it was a hard-fought, close game. Sustaining drives often came down to converting third-and-long or fourth-and-short.

After a first quarter where Michigan only ran six plays for five yards, Penn State still only led 3-0 thanks to a big sack on PSU's first drive and a botched fake field goal attempt on the second that Lions fans will be criticizing for years to come. Michigan got on the board in the second quarter with a 90-yard touchdown drive, and I think at this point everyone knew it was going to be a battle to the end.

The score was 14-6 going into the fourth quarter, but Penn State put together a 15-play 53-yard drive on the backs of RB Keyvone Lee and WR Jahan Dotson. Franklin said in an interview at the half that establishing the running game was going to be key, and he was right; Lee's effectiveness was important to sustaining that drive. Even though Penn State only managed 109 yards rushing on the day, it was a better-than-expected performance on the ground against a tough Michigan defense. After a two-point conversion, the game was tied.

Penn State took a 17-14 lead on a field goal, but the ensuing Michigan drive featured a 17-yard Hassan Haskins run to start the drive and a 47-yard touchdown pass to TE Erick All to complete it. It was All's first TD reception, and it's nice to see him finally living up to the potential he's shown in practice.

In the end, I think the key to the game was that Michigan kept QB Cade McNamara upright, and he was able to pinpoint passes into tight windows; whereas, Penn State QB Sean Clifford was crunched for seven sacks and was clearly feeling the worse for wear by the end of the game. Normally a very accurate passer with a 63% completion rate, Clifford only got to 53% against Michigan.

I feel like my preseason predictions for Michigan and Penn State have been flipped. I thought Penn State had the higher ceiling thanks to what I thought would be a better defense and more consistent running game. Instead, we had an injury to PJ Mustipher in the Iowa game and a season-long underperformance by the Penn State OL. Meanwhile, Michigan developed David Ojabo into a second pass rushing nightmare to complement Aidan Hutchinson, and depth at OL and RB have allowed Jim Harbaugh to install the kind of running game he loves.

Michigan is now 9-1. If they win out, they'll need a loss from MSU to win the Big Ten East. I would have thought that impossible at the start of the season. Meanwhile, Penn State is sitting at 6-4 with games against Rutgers and Michigan State remaining. Both those games are winnable, but morale is going to be an issue at this point. It'll be important for the PSU coaches to avoid distractions (like rumors of Franklin departing) and stress that an 8-4 finish still probably means a New Year's Day bowl game somewhere warm.

Michigan at Maryland, 3:30 PM BTN
Statistics say there's really no such thing as a "trap" game, but it sure feels like this would be one, after an emotional win against one rival and a week before the ultimate test against another. Maryland is a dangerous opponent; they're only 5-5, but the offense is legit, with QB Taulia Tagovailoa completing a ridiculous 69% of his passes for 3105 yards on the season. But here's the problem with Maryland: they're only averaging 112 yards rushing, which places them 113th in the country, behind the likes of Akron and Rice. In a pass-heavy scheme, it only takes a couple of bad plays to get to third-and-long, where the Michigan pass rush will get a chance to feast. Tagovailoa is nimble but he's not a huge run threat, so this is a matchup that certainly favors the Wolverines.

Meanwhile, the Maryland defense is giving up 31 points and 416 yards per game. I think Michigan would very much like to grind the defense into dust on the ground. The key here will be whether Michigan will beat itself by running into eight- and nine-man fronts, or whether the offensive brain trust can make the necessary audibles when needed. Cade McNamara has proven to be an excellent playmaker, so I hope the coaches trust him to do his thing.

Prediction: Michigan 44, Maryland 16.

Penn State vs. Rutgers, 12:00 PM BTN
Okay, yes, Rutgers is coming off an impressive 38-3 win over Indiana. But they also got ham-blasted 52-3 by Wisconsin two weeks ago. The Rutgers defense is physical enough in the front seven, but I think there's no way they can handle the Penn State passing attack, assuming everyone is healthy on the Lions side. And it's really hard to see how Rutgers will be able to cobble together enough points from its offense to keep pace. If I were the Penn State coaches, I would hammer the word "redemption" and "pride" into the players, and emphasize that nothing heals wounds better than winning.

Prediction: Penn State 31, Rutgers 9.

N.C. State 42, Wake Forest 45
It was a shootout like we expected, but the outcome went the wrong way, mostly due to missed opportunities, penalties, and critical turnovers at the wrong time. Devin Leary threw for 408 yards and NCSU outgained Wake Forest on the day, but 14 penalties for 119 yards and three turnovers are game-killers. Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman threw three interceptions himself, but State got zero points off those turnovers.

With this loss, NCSU is out of contention for the ACC championship. There's still plenty to play for, with a rivalry game, a nine-win season, and a major bowl game on the line. It's a better season than I expected for the Wolfpack, so there's nothing to hang their heads about, but NCSU is perennially a team that can't quite get over the hump. Beating Clemson was big, but they'll need to do more to bring in big-time recruits and get the program in a place to contend for championships.

N.C. State vs Syracuse, 4:00 PM ACCN
State gets a chance to redeem itself against a not-great Syracuse team that's coming off a 41-3 loss to Louisville. However, Syracuse did play FSU, Wake Forest, and Clemson close; they're easily a team that could be 8-2 instead of 5-5, so there's some danger there.

Syracuse is a run-heavy team, and that's a promising matchup for a Wolfpack defense that's strongest in its front seven. Meanwhile, I'd expect NCSU to continue throwing the ball as much as possible. If State can limit its mistakes, this should be an easy win.

Prediction: NCSU 38, Syracuse 9.

Notable Results
First off all, can we talk more about Michigan State's loss to Purdue in week 10? I think it's important because MSU finally got what it deserved, after winning so many coin-flip games where they were outgained by their opponents. Here, Purdue racked up 594 yards on offense and won the turnover battle... there were no miracle flukes to save State this time.

Anyway, back to week 11. #5 Cincinnati kept is CFP hopes alive, beating USF 45-28. Was it impressive enough for the committee to move them up? Probably not. #3 Oregon got by Washington State 38-24. #4 Ohio State whomped #19 Purdue 51-3.9 Purdue got 481 yards of offense, but Ohio State got a ridiculous 624. #7 Michigan State beat Maryland 40-21.

#13 Baylor upset #8 Oklahoma 27-14, severely damaging Oklahoma's CFP hopes. #9 Notre Dame, meanwhile, is still sneaking around in the CFP conversation; they beat Virginia 28-3. #15 Ole Miss upset #11 Texas A&M 29-19. Mississippi State upset #17 Auburn 43-34. #20 Iowa had to work to beat a pesky Minnesota team, 27-22. San Diego State's fighting' Brady Hokes are up to 9-1 with a 23-21 win over Nevada.

Power 5 Conference Championship Scenarios
In the Big Ten, both divisions are up for grabs. In the East, Ohio State and Michigan State are in charge of their own destinies, but they play each other this week, and Michigan will be waiting for Ohio State in what might be a play-in game for the Big Ten Championship. In the West, it's a four-way battle between 5-2 teams Wisconsin and Iowa and 4-3 teams Minnesota and Purdue. Wisconsin is in the best shape at 5-2 with wins in hand over Purdue and Iowa already. If they beat Nebraska, there might be a deciding game at Minnesota to end the season. Iowa needs a Wisconsin loss to have any hope. There are a bunch of scenarios that could require tiebreakers: for example, let's suppose Wisconsin beats Nebraska and loses to Minnesota; Iowa beats Illinois and loses to Nebraska; Minnesota beats Indiana and Wisconsin; Purdue beats Northwestern and Indiana. In that event, all four teams will be 6-3 and each will have at least one win against the other three. It'll be a mess!

In the ACC, Wake Forest has already clinched the Atlantic division. In the Coastal, Virginia (4-2) could still catch Pitt (5-1) by beating them this week, so that's a big game. I think Miami is technically eliminated at 3-3 with a loss to Virginia.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are tied at 6-1 and will likely face each other for the #1 spot at the end of the season. But Baylor is sneaking around at 5-2 and holds a win over Oklahoma State; if Oklahoma wins out then I think Baylor moves to the #2 spot for the championship game.

In the Pac 12 North, Oregon is in the driver's seat at 6-1 but could still lose its last two games and allow 4-3 Oregon State to usurp the crown. In the South, Arizona State (5-2) would need Utah (6-1) to lose twice. That's not out of the question, as Utah still plays Oregon, but they'd also have to lose to lowly Colorado.

Finally, in the SEC, Georgia (8-0) has firmly clinched the East. Alabama (5-1) has two remaining games against ranked teams (Arkansas and Auburn); they'd need to lose both those games for Ole Miss (4-2) to claim the division.

Games to Watch on TV
Your Game of the Week comes early as Michigan State visits Ohio State at noon on ABC. This week, and this week only, you are allowed to root for OSU. Wake Forest is at Clemson on ESPN. Rutgers at Penn State is on BTN.

At 3:30 PM, Michigan at Maryland is on BTN. Arkansas at Alabama is on CBS. Nebraska at Wisconsin is on ABC. Virginia at Pitt is on ESPN2. At 4:00 PM, Syracuse at NCSU is on ACCN. UCLA at USC is on Fox.

At 7:30 PM, Oregon at Utah is on ABC. Virginia Tech at Miami is on ACCN. At 8:00, Oklahoma State at Texas Tech is on Fox. At 10:30 PM, Arizona State at Oregon State is on ESPN.
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