Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

Saturday's Essentials - Week 11

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Here’s a look at what must be considered before wagering on Saturday's slate in select FBS vs. FBS matchups:

Early Starts

Florida State at Boston College (-2.5/63), 12 p.m. ET, ACCN: With Willie Taggart bought out after losing at home to Miami last weekend, the ‘Noles might have a new vibe to them as they hit the road to try to get back to .500. Guys who are still invested and want to hang around will bust it for interim fill-in Odell Haggins, a ‘Noles lifer who has coached the defensive line for over two decades. Those who are done with the season will quit. It’s time to find out how much heart the Seminoles have and how much Taggart’s shortcomings preparing his group were to blame. A second straight 5-7 season seems inevitable if they can’t pull off a win here.

The Eagles need one more win to become bowl eligible and and will visit Notre Dame and Pitt to close out the month, so this is probably their best chance to take care of business. The ‘Noles won last year’s game on a late 87-yard touchdown pass in Tallahassee but lost their last visit here 35-3, so the dominance that has produced a 12-5 record in the series has dissipated. BC’s A.J. Dillon ranks second in the country in rushing yards and FSU’s Cam Akers is one of the nation’s most dynamic backs but comes off a disappointing outing against the ‘Canes (22 carries, 66 yards), so expect this game to wind up decided by whichever offensive line best allows the RBs to shine. Temperatures will barely get into the 40s, which should favor the Eagles at home in the now annual “Red Bandana” game honoring alum Welles Crowther.

Maryland at Ohio State (-43.5/66), 12 p.m. ET, FOX: The Chase Young news was the talk of the college football world on Friday. The nation’s best defensive player reportedly borrowed money to get his family to the Rose Bowl, drawing the ire of the NCAA. The line barely budged and actually climbed slightly, so the betting public isn’t fazed by his absence in this matchup. The Terps have seen their offensive line play reach new lows week after week and would-be backup QB Tyrrell Pigrome is more of a runner than a passer, so Young’s absence shouldn’t make a huge difference against the Terps, who still may start Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson, calling it a game-time decision. Notified by reporters that spread was more than six TDs, Jackson replied, “that’s a lot. I don’t pay too much attention to the spread,” per the Baltimore Sun.

Make sure you put to rest any idea that Maryland isn’t aware what a heavy underdog it is in this visit to Columbus, where mild winds and temperatures in the high 30’s await. The Terps have been outscored 149-17 by nationally-ranked competition under first-year coach Mike Locksley. The Buckeyes are the nation’s top team according to the first CFB rankings. RB J.K. Dobbins is on pace to break the school’s single-season rushing record and QB Justin Fields is also in the Heisman race, so padding stats will be a necessity for both.

Penn State (-6.5/47.5) at Minnesota, 12 p.m ET, ABC: Although it won’t get the national attention that the ‘Bama-LSU will receive, this battle of undefeated teams is a worthy appetizer. It’s going to be cloudy and cold with a chance that the fourth quarter might be played in freezing rain, so it might not be pretty, but should be exciting. The Gophers have scored 34 points in seven straight games for the first time in 114 years, but will be looking to score on a Penn State defense surrendering 9.6 points and just 68.4 rushing yards per game, both of which ranks second in the nation. This will be a huge test for Tanner Morgan, who won at Wisconsin last season and has engineered some fourth-quarter heroics but must step up his level if his team is going to pull off an upset here. Minnesota wants to monopolize time of possession and keep Morgan from situations where he’s asked to do too much. Success on third down will likely determine the Gophers’ fate.

Nittany Lions’ QB Sean Clifford has excelled at Iowa and Michigan State already and did what he had to turn back the most talented defense he’s seen in Michigan, hooking up with star wideout KJ Hamler in adequately replacing Trace McSorley, currently on pace to surpass his production from last season. Minnesota lost the last meeting between these schools 29-26 in OT in ’16 and won 24-10 the last time Penn State came through town, its lone win in the last six matchups.

Baylor (-2.5/48) at TCU, 12 p.m. ET, FS1: The Horned Frogs are stuck in a spoiler role again with another .500 team but Gary Patterson’s team figures to be dangerous here since their bowl streak of five straight years is on the line. Although TCU will host West Virginia to close the season, it has to visit Texas Tech and Oklahoma over the next two weeks and can really take some pressure off with an upset here. Baylor is unbeaten with road wins at K-State and Oklahoma State as its most impressive victories to date but will really be tested here and in home games against Oklahoma and Texas over the next two weeks. It hasn’t beaten TCU since 2014, dropping four straight in the series.

This is a rivalry game, so it would absolutely make the Horned Frogs’ season to derail the Bears’ undefeated run. TCU handed Baylor its last loss, winning 16-9 in Waco last season. Freshman QB Max Duggan has been a revelation but comes in with a banged up middle finger on his throwing hand, so keeping him away from further damage is crucial. Backup Mike Collins is out and Alex Delton and Justin Rogers left the program, which means walk-on Matthew Downing would play if Duggan can’t go. The Frogs’ defense will look to turn over Charlie Brewer the way they managed to with Longhorns’ QB Sam Ehlinger in an upset last month. Denzel Mims and Tyquan Thornton will test TCU’s corners, with Senior Bowl-bound Jeff Gladney looking to make a difference.

Afternoon Delights

Louisville at Miami, FL (-6.5/48.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ACC: After defeating Florida State, Manny Diaz’s Hurricanes have now posted back-to-back wins and are looking for the program’s first three-game winning streak since winning five straight in October of last season. A season that opened with promise can now end with a bit of a flourish provided Miami can head into its bye week with one more victory. Louisville has won three of four after holding on to upset Virginia last week, continuing a surprisingly successful first season under new head coach Scott Satterfield. The Cardinals have survived injuries at key positions and can clinch a bowl berth after missing out last during last year’s 2-10 thud following Lamar Jackson’s departure.

The ‘Canes have seen freshman Jarren Williams reclaim the starting role he originally won to start the season after leading the offense on a game-winning drive against Pitt and in last week’s win over FSU, so they’re hoping he can improve to finish the season and set the one for next season with a strong final month. The Cards are coming off their second bye week and have won the last three meetings between these schools. Louisville won its ACC opener back in 2014 at home and will look to pressure Williams into mistakes. Gregory Rousseau ranks second nationally behind Ohio State’s Young in sacks.

LSU at Alabama (-6/63.5), 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS: The biggest game in the country will be played in perfect weather, so neither team will be able to use Mother Nature as an excuse. QB Tua Tagovailoa comes off ankle surgery and has been practicing, so he’ll be able to start and give the Tide offense a spark just 20 days after going under the knife 20 days ago. High-ankle sprains are never easy to come back from, but all footage of him in practices have shown him moving around fluidly and planting well. We’ll see if there are any continuity issues. His ability to elude pressure and keep drives alive will be a major factor in what’s expected to be a high-scoring game. RB Najee Harris has also been deemed ‘probable’ despite an ankle issue of his own. He’s thrown for 23 touchdowns and hasn’t been intercepted.

The Tigers have ruled out LB Michael Divinity but should have enough depth to survive his absence and are leaning on Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Burrow, the favorite according to Caesars. He’s averaging 351 yards per game and has made the difference in LSU’s turnaround by breathing life into the new pass-based offense with his accuracy downfield. These teams have two of the most talented WR corps in the country. Tigers safety Grant Delpit (ankle) has been cleared to play and will lead the LSU defense. Alabama has won every meeting since losing 9-6 in 2011 and shut out the Tigers 29-0 last season. ‘Bama hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in a single game in this series since losing 24-21 back in 10. Most team total numbers for LSU are hovering in the 28.5 range.

Primetime Matchups

Iowa State at Oklahoma (-14.5/68), 8 p.m. ET, FOX: Coming off a bye week after their upset loss at Kansas State, the Sooners are looking to climb back up the rankings this month with challenging games against Iowa State, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. They may still be on the outside looking in as far as the national playoffs are concerned after opening ninth in the initial CFP rankings so we’ll see how impressive OU is going forward since Lincoln Riley is aware his team we’ll likely require style points given the perception of the Big 12 being the weakest Power-5.

Big things were expected from the Cyclones this season and they’re still in the mix for a conference title game appearance if they can pull off an upset here. Brock Purdy threw three interceptions over the final eight minutes of ISU’s 34-27 loss to Oklahoma State prior to its bye week, so he’ll be looking to rebound against an Oklahoma defense that failed to stop the run against K-State, setting up play action. The Sooners have only six takeaways. Tight end Grant Calcaterra is a game-time decision, so QB Jalen Hurts could have another of the offense’s biggest playmakers in place. His Heisman Trophy candidacy took a hit in part due to his defense’s inability to get stops, something that didn’t really happen at Alabama. Hurts has presided over an attack averaging over 49 points per game and is averaging 13.7 yards per attempt, a national-best. He leads the country in passing efficiency and is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing. The Sooners have won 18 consecutive games in this series.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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