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NCAA Football News and Notes: Unbeatens Do Battle This Weekend

After the College Football Playoff committee released its first set of playoff rankings this week, the buzz is in the air for which four teams will ultimately make the cut. As it currently stands, Ohio State is ranked first, followed by LSU, Alabama, and Penn State.

With that in mind, every game is significant as we come down the stretch, and week 11 of the college football season offers some amazing matchups. Here is a look at some of the key matchups and other news from around the league:

No. 4 Penn State (8-0) at No. 17 Minnesota (8-0)

In a Big Ten battle of unbeaten teams and division leaders (Penn State in East and Minnesota in West), this one has huge implications for not only the conference but the national playoff rankings. Right now, Penn State sits fourth, which would earn them a spot to the national championship semifinals; however, a loss to Minnesota would surely end that dream.

Sean Clifford has led the Nittany Lions from the quarterback position with 1,931 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His leading receiver has been KJ Hamler, who has 37 catches for 620 yards and eight touchdowns.

Tanner Morgan has led the way for Minnesota, throwing for 1,761 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, Rodney Smith paces the Golden Gophers with 889 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.

No. 18 Iowa (6-2) at No. 13 Wisconsin (6-2)

This one features a matchup of Big Ten conference foes in the West division, as the Iowa Hawkeyes take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley will lead the team from under center, having thrown for 1,950 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. On the ground, the Hawkeyes are led by Mekhi Sargent (443 yards, four touchdowns) and Toren Young (357 yards, one touchdown).

Wisconsin’s Jack Coan has thrown for 1,491 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His leading receiver has been Quintez Cephus (27 catches, 410 yards, three touchdowns). The real leader of the team, though, has been running back Jonathan Taylor. Thus far, Taylor has rushed for 1,009 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns. This one will have big ramifications for both conference and national rankings.

No. 2 LSU (8-0) at No. 3 Alabama (8-0)

This may be the best regular-season matchup that we have had in a long time. Prior to the College Football Playoff rankings coming out, this was originally thought to be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. Still, this is a dynamite matchup, and the winner will likely earn themselves a ticket to the SEC championship game.

LSU is led by Heisman hopeful Joe Burrow, who has thrown for 2,805 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His two leading receivers have been Justin Jefferson (55 catches, 819 yards, nine touchdowns) and Ja’Marr Chase (43 catches, 749 yards, nine touchdowns).

Alabama has a Heisman hopeful of its own in Tua Tagovailoa, who, despite missing time with an injury, has thrown for 2,166 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. It is expected that he will be able to play in this one for the Crimson Tide.

The leading receivers for Alabama have been Jerry Jeudy (52 catches, 682 yards, eight touchdowns) and Devonta Smith (43 catches, 721 yards, nine touchdowns). This game is supposed to be so big that President Donald Trump is planning to make a stop by to watch it.

LSU Linebacker Out Against Alabama

While the LSU and Alabama game should be a great one, the Tigers will be without linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. The senior announced that he is leaving the team for personal reasons. Divinity leads the team in sacks with three and has made 23 tackles to date.

Coach Ed Orgeron said it is possible that Divinity returns this season, but nothing is for sure at this point. To date, Divinity has already missed a few games due to both an injury and not playing due to a “coach’s decision.” Regardless, this is a loss for LSU’s defense, but with the Alabama game right around the corner, it will be next man up.

Fleck Gets Extension At Minnesota

Ahead of the Golden Gophers’ big matchup with Penn State, Minnesota’s head coach P.J. Fleck got some good news. He agreed to an extension which reportedly includes a sizeable raise and will keep him under contract through 2026. This season Fleck is making $3.6 million.

The Golden Gophers are 8-0 for the first time since 1941 and sit in a really good position for postseason play, especially if they are able to upset No. 4 Penn State this weekend. Regardless, as Fleck’s name has been out there as a possible name to watch with other major college programs, Minnesota thought it best to tie him up while it could.

Overall, Minnesota is 20-13 under Fleck but has had marked improvements in the three seasons since he was hired from Western Michigan.

Taggart Out At FSU

Florida State is searching for a new head coach. The Seminoles have decided to move on from second-year coach Willie Taggart following a 27-10 loss to Miami that puts them at 4-5 this season.

This was a rather expensive move for Florida State as Taggart’s buyout is for more than $17 million, but it was probably the right call given Taggart’s lack of success. Now, in what used to be one of college football’s most prestigious jobs, they are back to square one in terms of trying to find a successful coach that can bring the program back to relevance.

New Mexico DE Flowers Dies

In some sad and humbling news, New Mexico defensive end Nahje Flowers passed away. The redshirt junior was 21 years old, and, while the cause of death was not revealed, it will certainly leave a hole in New Mexico’s program. Flowers was a “wonderful person and great teammate,” according to New Mexico coach Bob Davie. New Mexico was scheduled to play Air Force this weekend, but that game has been postponed for the time being.

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