In the first weekend of action after the College Football playoff rankings were announced on Tuesday, Nov. 5 fans were treated to a pair of match ups between undefeated top-25 teams. Both games, No. 2 LSU versus No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Penn State versus No. 17 Minnesota, had massive postseason implications and both games lived up to the hype with neither being decided until the final drive.
In a game that featured the two leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy in quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrows, running back Najee Harris, six first or second round pick wide-receivers and a slew of defensive players sure to find a home on Sundays the level of NFL caliber talent taking the field in Tuscaloosa on Saturday was almost unfathomable.
The teams combined for 1,100 yards of total offense and 87 points, both the highest totals in the history of the series, as the Tigers held off the Crimson Tide by a final score of 46-41.
Tagovailoa, only 20 days removed from surgery for a high ankle sprain, continued to demonstrate that he is the best long-ball passer in the NCAA averaging 10.5 yards per completion to the tune of 418 yards and four touchdowns, but a pair of first-half turnovers proved costly for his team.
Burrows proved unstoppable through the air and on the ground, completing 79.5 percent of his passes for 393 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 64 yards on 14 carries to include a critical late-game third down conversion that gave the Tigers an opportunity to extend their lead in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the biggest game of the year was decided by the smallest man on the field. LSU’s 5’8” running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had the game of his career scoring three rushing touchdowns along with his first career receiving touchdown. In addition to his 77 yards receiving, Edwards-Helaire crossed 100 yards rushing for the fourth time this season, gaining the final 12 yards of the game while, literally, carrying the entire Alabama defense on his back to drag his team into first place in the SEC West and, most likely, the CFP polls.
In Minneapolis, the Nittany Lions entered the game with the Golden Gophers sporting the second-ranked defense by points allowed in the FBS looking to prove that their position at number four in the first CFP polls was not a fluke. Unfortunately, the Gophers had other plans.
Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan, playing in front of the first sell-out crowd in four years, masterfully dissected the vaunted Penn State defense, completing 90 percent of his passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Gophers to a 31-26 victory to extend Minnesota’s record to 9-0 for the first time in over 50 years.
Despite producing 518 yards the Penn State offense had difficulty pressing their advantage as quarterback Sean Clifford threw three red-zone interceptions, to include his final pass of the day. The self-inflicted wounds proved too much to overcome and the Lions dropped to 8 – 1 on the season and will fall out of playoff contention for now.
Penn State can still get back on track for a final four bid with a victory over Ohio State in their much-anticipated match-up in two weeks. The winner will most likely go on to face the Golden Gophers for the Big 10 title at season’s end as Minnesota has suddenly gone from upstart to contender with their dominant victory.
Week 11 Scoreboard:
(Bye Week – No. 7 Oregon, No. 8 Utah, No. 11 Auburn, No. 14 Michigan, No. 21 Memphis, No. 23 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Navy).