College Football Week 11: Buzzer-Beating Field Goals, Coaching Woes, and More

college football week 11 Michigan running back Hassan Haskins
Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (right) dodges Penn State cornerback Daequan Hardy (left)Barry Reeger/AP / Shutterstock

College football Week 11 featured one legacy program working hard to change a narrative about itself, another likely eliminating itself from national title contention, and another taking quite possibly the worst loss by any team this season. How’s that for drama?

As the sport barrels into the final two weeks of the regular season, here’s a (non-comprehensive) rundown of who came out of this weekend looking good and who didn’t.

 

 

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College Football Week 11 Recap

Winner: Michigan

The Wolverines beat Penn State in Happy Valley, 21–17, on Saturday. With that win, they kept themselves alive in the race for the Big Ten title and, by extension, the College Football Playoff. They’ll have to beat Ohio State in two weeks to make either of those dreams a reality, and Michigan fans can be forgiven for their skepticism: Their team has beaten the Buckeyes just once in the last 17 years. But this particular win was a big step for Jim Harbaugh’s program, which has struggled to win road games against tough opponents. Saturday’s game looked like it would get away from U of M, which allowed Penn State to tie the score late with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. A Michigan fumble deep in Wolverine territory then put PSU in position to win, but Michigan’s defense forced a field goal and the offense came through with a 47-yard touchdown.

Loser: The Big 12’s SEC-bound legacy programs

You could make a case that either Oklahoma or Texas, the two blue bloods set to leave the Big 12 for the SEC by 2024, had college football’s worst day. The Sooners lost at Baylor, 27–14, when what had been a world-beating offense sputtered to a halt against Dave Aranda’s Bears defense. It was an understandable defeat in a vacuum (Baylor is a quality team), but the costs will be significant: OU’s first loss of the year will probably knock it all the way out of Playoff contention, given that the selection committee was already skeptical of the Sooners and had them ranked eighth with less than a month to go. The loss will also only increase the whispers about Lincoln Riley taking the open head coach position at LSU.

Yet what OU did on Saturday was less embarrassing than what its Red River rival pulled off. Texas lost in overtime at home to Kansas, 57–56, after trailing by three touchdowns at halftime and mounting a comeback that turned out to be for naught. The loss to the saddest program in the Power 5 conferences was Texas’ fifth in a row—their worst losing streak since 1956. Steve Sarkisian’s first season is now a full-on crisis.

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Winner: Florida State

The Seminoles are 4–6 and have not had the sort of comeback season coach Mike Norvell would’ve preferred. But they’ve improved a lot since starting 0–4, and a dramatic 31–28 win over rival Miami was just the kind of boost Norvell needed at the end of a mediocre season. As an added bonus, it might throw Miami and head coach Manny Diaz (whose job status has felt tenuous all year) into some uncertainty a month before National Signing Day.

Loser: Iowa State

The Cyclones lost to Texas Tech—a team currently led by an interim head coach—on a 62-yard buzzer-beating field goal. ISU generated a lot of preseason buzz as a Big 12 title contender, but this is the program’s fourth loss of the year, and each of them has come in painful fashion. The ‘Clones lost to Iowa by 10 (in a game they would’ve won if not for a series of bad turnovers), to Baylor by two (after blowing a lead and missing a late two-point try), to West Virginia by seven (after fumbling a touchdown away at the goal line), and now Tech (on a prayer field goal as time expired). No team has had a more painful season of squandered potential than this one.

Winner: San Diego State

The Aztecs moved to 9–1 and kept themselves in competition in the Mountain West’s West division by winning a tough game against Nevada, 23–21. SDSU’s Matt Araiza, who has put together perhaps the best punting season in football history, is also the team’s placekicker. He knocked through three field goals, including the game-winner from 35 yards with less than a minute and a half to play.

Loser: Dan Mullen

Mullen’s Florida Gators won on Saturday, technically speaking. The final score was 70–52 over Samford, an FCS team that entered with a 4–5 record. That’s not really the point, though. Florida was always going to beat a sub-.500 FCS team. Mullen needs Florida to win and also project confidence that he can right the ship amid a 5–5 season. He’s recently taken flak for not just the Gators’ on-field losses, but also for his perceived disinterest in recruiting and his inability to field the right coaching staff. (He fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham last week, which wasn’t enough to prevent a miserable defensive effort against Samford.) Program-building in college football is a perception game, and Mullen is losing it.

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