Bold predictions for Week 11 of the college football season

Surprise performances and unexpected outcomes are anticipated each weekend in the wild world of college football. Even if everyone knows they are coming, guessing when and where they will happen is difficult.  

The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Brent Schrotenboer, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus, and Dan Wolken — weigh in with some bold predictions for Week 11 of the season:

Jace Evans

The heat on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will get even hotter as the Wolverines lose to a Wisconsin team that hasn’t played in three weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak. There’s still plenty of unknowns with the Badgers at this point, especially as it pertains to the status of quarterback Graham Mertz, but what we do know is this: Wisconsin looked fantastic in its season opener. Michigan, meanwhile, hasn’t won since its first game and has looked worse and worse every week. These Wolverines don’t do anything especially well, and that doesn’t bode well going against one of the most consistent programs in the country.

Michigan wide receiver Giles Jackson (0) is tackled by Indiana defensive back Reese Taylor during the first quarter of their game at Memorial Stadium. (Photo: Marc Lebryk, USA TODAY Sports)

Paul Myerberg

Michigan State stops Indiana’s running game and wins the turnover battle to pull off an upset of the No. 10 Hoosiers. Slowing down the running game might not be a stretch, since IU is averaging only 2.6 yards per attempt. (At 2.2, the Spartans are even worse.) Forcing mistakes on defense is a little tougher: Indiana has just two turnovers through three games. And the biggest stretch might be Michigan State not turning the ball over itself, since the Spartans have seven giveaways in losing to Rutgers and another three in last weekend’s 49-7 loss to Iowa. But as they showed against Michigan, the Spartans are capable of outplaying pregame expectations.

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Brent Schrotenboer

It’s almost too easy and obvious to see this as a trap game: No. 2 Notre Dame plays at unranked Boston College one week after knocking off No. 1 Clemson at home in two overtimes. But the fact of the matter is that this is a trap game for Notre Dame. It also is a chance for Boston College transfer quarterback Phil Jurkovec to show his old team what he’s got after previously serving as a backup to current Notre Dame starter Ian Book. Boston College breaks Notre Dame’s seven-game win streak in the Holy War to reshuffle the playoff picture.

Erick Smith

The first weekend of the Pac-12 season was a success for both Oregon and Southern California, the respective favorites in the North and South divisions. Both posted home wins with the Trojans needing a late comeback to beat Arizona State.

Now they hit the road for a couple tricky matchups. Oregon faces Washington State, which knocked off Oregon State in its opener in Nick Rolovich's first game after replacing Mike Leach. Southern Cal heads to Arizona with the Wildcats opening their season after missing last week's game against Utah due to COVID-19 issues impacting the Utes. 

Expect both favorites to struggle and an upset isn't out of the question given the unpredictable nature of college football this season.

Eddie Timanus

Indiana is a basketball state, right? "Hoosiers" is still widely regarded as one of the best sports movies of all time. Well right now, the gridiron is king in the Hoosier State.

Sure, Notre Dame has been synonymous with football for many decades. But there’s no denying that Saturday night’s triumph over Clemson was the biggest win the Fighting Irish have experienced in quite some time. Then there’s Indiana, the actual Hoosiers themselves, off to a 3-0 start in the Big Ten and enjoying unprecedented heights in the polls. Which brings us to Purdue. The Boilermakers are quietly 2-0 themselves, though their opportunity to beat Wisconsin had to be canceled due to the Badgers’ COVID-19 issues.

So now Purdue gets a crack at another ranked team. OK, so a win against Northwestern wouldn’t resonate quite as much as beating, say, Clemson or Penn State or Michigan. But the Wildcats are 3-0 and sit at No. 23 in the Amway Coaches Poll. It would definitely qualify as Purdue’s best result to date – if the Boilermakers can pull it off.

So will it happen? Sure, why not? The whole state is on a roll, even if it’s not on the hardwood.

Dan Wolken

Tulane has had a pretty tough-luck campaign, losing a couple games early in which it had big leads and faltered at the end. But it seems like the Green Wave is turning the corner the last few weeks, which sets them up for an upset against Army this weekend. Army is probably a little bit overrated at 6-1 right now when you consider that the best team they've beaten is Texas-San Antonio. Tulane is absolutely a step up from that quality of opponent, and it's worth remembering that the Green Wave won 42-33 in West Point last season. This will be the day Tulane creeps above .500.

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