College Football: What We Learned Week 11

There’s just two weeks left in he regular season, and the playoff race is heating up. Only three teams in the AP Top 25 lost, but here’s what you should have learned last weekend in college football:

Notre Dame Needs Ian Book

You may not think that by looking at the final score. Notre Dame blew out 4-6 Florida State at home 42-13. Brandon Wimbush filled in for the injured Book, and he threw for 130 yards and three touchdowns. But he threw two interceptions, and the two interceptions remind us that the Fighting Irish are simply better with Book at the helm.

This season, Book has 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions through eight games. According to head coach Brian Kelly, he should be back for the matchup against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. The Fighting Irish have top-15 Syracuse and USC left on the schedule, both on the road or a neutral site. Having Book back would give the offense it needs to cement their playoff hopes.

Northwestern & The Weak West

Northwestern started off the season with a road win at Purdue, and then lost its next two non-conference games at home, including a puzzling 39-34 loss to Akron. Since then, the Wildcats’ other two losses have come to Michigan and Notre Dame. Northwestern has emerged as the winner of the Big Ten West, which is the weaker division of the conference. Wisconsin was thought to be the consensus favorite to win the division with Iowa in second, but Pat Fitzgerald’s squad has clinched a spot in the conference title game with two weeks left in the regular season. The Wildcats travel to Minnesota and close out against Illinois, which should be wins. Northwestern deservingly won the division, but the West was weaker than we thought.

An Unlikely Heisman Finalist

If you haven’t learned his name yet, you probably should soon because he’s likely going to be sitting in New York at the Heisman ceremony. Gardner Minshew has led Washington State to a 9-1 record and a top-10 slot in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Wazzu signal caller has thrown for at least 300 yards in every game this season and he has crossed the 400-yard mark five times with two games remaining.

Head coach Mike Leach deserves credit, but there’s no doubt Minshew has had an amazing senior season. He has 29 touchdown passes and leads the country with 3,852 yards passing, thus far. In fact, Minshew has almost 500 yards on second place, Jordan Ta’amu from Ole Miss. The Heisman race may be a done deal with Tua Tagovailoa, but Minshew still has a chance to impress voters, especially in a rivalry game against Washington that will decide the Pac-12 North. That’s assuming Heisman voters stay up to watch these West Coast games.

Auburn Has A Million-Dollar Problem

Auburn struggling at Sanford Stadium isn’t a surprise. The Tigers have not beaten Georgia on the road since 2005. The last five times Auburn has gone to Athens, the Tigers have failed to score an offensive touchdown after the first quarter, and Saturday night wasn’t an exception.

Things looked optimistic for the Tigers when the defense twice stopped Georgia inside the red zone and forced two field goals. JaTarvious Whitlow threw a touchdown pass to freshman tight end John Shenker to give the Tigers a 7-3 lead after one quarter. But the offense had no answer to the Bulldogs’ 17 points in the second period except for a lone field goal.

In the second half, the Plainsmen were shut out entirely. This is reflective of a theme we’ve seen all year. Auburn’s defense holds on for a while, but it eventually falls due to an impotent offense that can’t get them off the field. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has done an amazing job with this defense, and at times the unit seems like it’s in the upper echelon of Power 5 defenses. But it all goes back to the offense, which is run by offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey and head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers looked like they found some life against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, but it appears they’ve gone a step back once again. A date with Alabama on the road in two weeks will likely not help these woes either. Jobs are on the line at Auburn.

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