The BYU fan’s guide to the bye week

You joined the throngs in royal blue at Allegiant Stadium.

You stormed the field with rapturous glee after a rivalry win over Utah.

You screamed the Cougar Fight Song until your throat ran raw after 10 BYU scores against Virginia.

You’ve spent the last nine Saturdays and a Friday watching Tyler Allgeier tear through would-be tacklers on his way to 17 touchdowns.

Now what do you do?

After 10 weeks of grueling, albeit successful football, No. 14 BYU (8-2) has its bye week on Saturday.  While the team takes time to rest up ahead of trips to Georgia Southern and USC, how are you going to fill your day?

With BYU at No. 14 in this week’s College Football Playoff Rankings, the Cougars have a chance at a New Year’s Six Bowl berth. It might be a small chance, but being ranked this high, this late, means a trip to the Fiesta or Peach Bowl remains a possibility.

To get to Glendale or Atlanta, BYU not only needs to win its remaining two games but needs some help from the teams ranked around them as well.

Thus, with BYU’s New Year’s Six Bowl hopes in mind, here’s a guide to the biggest matchups of week 11.

*All times MST on Saturday, Nov. 13

No. 6 Michigan (8-1, 5-1) at Penn State (6-3, 3-3)     

10 a.m. ABC | Favorite: Michigan (-1.5)

  • Last week: Michigan rolled to a 29-7 win over Indiana while Penn State snapped a three-game losing streak with a 31-14 win over Maryland.
  • Key matchup: Michigan pass defense vs. Penn State passing attack – The Nittany Lions offense is at its best when quarterback Sean Clifford can peel apart defenses by finding one of the nation’s best receivers in Jahan Dotson. Dotson is among the nation’s leaders in touchdown receptions with nine on the season. The Wolverines on the other hand, boast one of the nation’s top pass defenses, allowing only 173 yards per game.
  • Player to watch: Michigan linebacker David Ojabo – Ojabo ranks top-10 nationally in sacks at eight for the season.
  • Root for: Penn State – Due to their humbling loss at the hands of Illinois a few weeks back, Penn State likely doesn’t jump BYU in the rankings with a win over Michigan. A second loss for the Wolverines may cause them to tumble below BYU.
Baylor head coach Dave Aranda, center, talks to an official standing nearby in the first half of an NCAA college football game against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

No. 8 Oklahoma (9-0, 6-0) at No. 13 Baylor (7-2, 4-2)

10 a.m.  FOX | Favorite: Oklahoma (-5.5)

  • Last week: Oklahoma took a bye while Baylor was stunned 30-28 by a struggling TCU team.
  • Key matchup: Oklahoma front seven vs. Baylor ground game – Baylor posts one of the nation’s top rushing attacks, led by running back Abram Smith. Meanwhile, the Sooner defense ranks in the top-25 nationally for yards allowed per carry at just 3.4.
  • Player to watch: Baylor running back Abram Smith – BYU fans remember Smith all too well. The Bears’ star ball carrier ranks No. 4 in the nation in yards per carry at 7.3.
  • Root for: Oklahoma? – The outcome of this game potentially benefits BYU either way. While BYU’s resume only gets stronger with more Baylor success, a third loss for Baylor could also drop them beneath BYU.

Mississippi State (5-4, 3-3) at No. 17 Auburn (6-3, 3-2)

10 a.m. ESPN2 | Favorite: Auburn (-5.5)

  • Last week: Mississippi State came up short 31-28 at Arkansas while Auburn was barred from the end zone in College Station with a 20-3 loss at Texas A&M.
  • Key matchup: Mississippi State rush defense vs. Auburn’s backfield – The Tigers have three capable ball carriers with quarterback Bo Nix and running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter. Together they combined for over 180 yards on the ground per game. The Bulldog defense, however, has quietly become one of the best in the land at stopping the run; allowing just 102 yards per game.
  • Player to watch: Auburn running back Jarquez Hunter – While his workload has been relatively light this season, Hunter provides a pop of 7.5 yards per attempt when handed the rock.
  • Root for: Mississippi State – A Bulldog victory most likely knocks a four-loss Auburn team out of the rankings and clears some space around BYU.

Northwestern (3-6, 1-5) at No. 18 Wisconsin (6-3, 4-2)  

10 a.m. ESPN2 | Favorite: Wisconsin (-24.5)

  • Last week: Northwestern fell short in a 17-12 loss to Iowa while Wisconsin walloped Rutgers 52-3.
  • Key matchup: lockdown Wisconsin defense vs. anemic Northwestern offense – Yes, Wisconsin, not Georgia, leads the nation in total defense, surrendering just 214 yards per game, including an average of just 55 yards on the ground. The Wildcats offense could be in for a long day as they’ve managed to put up only 18 points per game this season.
  • Player to watch: Wisconsin running back Braelon Allen – the Badger offense suffered a cruel blow this week when it was announced that leading rusher Chaz Mellusi will miss the remainder of the season with an injury. Allen is the next man up in Madison.
  • Root for: Northwestern – this is probably the least likely upset to happen in week 11, but stranger things have happened this season. The Badgers have one of the best resumes in college football with losses coming at the hands of Michigan, Penn State and Notre Dame. A loss would keep them off BYU’s tail.

No. 19 Purdue (6-3, 4-2) at No. 4 Ohio State (8-1, 6-0)

1:30 p.m.  ABC | Favorite: Ohio State (-21)

  • Last week: Purdue stunned college football for the second time this season with a 40-29 upset of Michigan State. The Buckeyes escaped Nebraska with a 26-17 win over the Huskers.
  • Key matchup: Purdue passing attack vs. Ohio State front seven – Purdue and quarterback Aidan O’Connell lit up Michigan State a week ago to the tune of 536 yards passing. The Buckeyes boast one of the best pass-rushes in the country, with 33 sacks forced this season.
  • Player to watch: Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave vs. Purdue wide receiver David Bell – these are two of the best pass-catchers in the country. Olave has 10 receiving touchdowns on the season, while Bell is top-10 nationally in receiving yards with over 1,000.
  • Root for: Ohio State – while the Purdue Cinderella story is compelling, a win over the Buckeyes in Columbus would certainly vault the Boilermakers past BYU in the rankings.

Maryland (5-4, 2-4) at No. 7 Michigan State (8-1, 5-1)

2 p.m. FOX | Favorite: Michigan State (-13)

  • Last week: Michigan State suffered its first loss of the season in a 40-29 blasting at the hands of Purdue. Maryland never got off the ground in a 31-14 loss to Penn State
  • Key matchup: Maryland passing game vs. Michigan State defensive backfield – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa can sling it. The younger brother of the Miami Dolphins’ Tua, Tagovailoa ranks among the best in the country in passing yards and completion percentage. The Spartan pass defense is dead last in the country, allowing 327 yards per game.
  • Root for: Maryland – this may be one of the most likely ranked versus unranked upsets of the week. That is, if the Spartan defense plays like it did against Purdue a week ago. A second straight loss for Michigan State, against an unranked Maryland, could very well drop them below BYU.
Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (7) is pursued by Mississippi defenders during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

No. 11 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2) at No. 15 Ole Miss (7-2, 3-2)

5 p.m. ESPN | Favorite: Texas A&M (-2.5)

  • Last week: Texas A&M shut down Auburn 20-3. Ole Miss did the same to Liberty in a 27-14 win.
  • Key matchup: Ole Miss front seven vs. Texas A&M backfield – Ole Miss is the best at the country at getting to the quarterback, with 34 sacks on the season. Texas A&M’s young quarterback Zach Calzada has matured greatly in recent weeks, but handing the ball to two solid running backs in Devon Achane and Isaiah Spiller may help keep him upright this week.
  • Player to watch: Texas A&M running back Devon Achane – Achane averages 7.4 yards per carry on 96 attempts this season.
  • Root for: Texas A&M – with Ole Miss currently a spot behind BYU, a loss to the Aggies would certainly drop them further from BYU’s territory in the rankings.

No. 9 Notre Dame (8-1) at Virginia (6-3)

5:30 ABC | Favorite: Notre Dame (-5.5)

  • Last week: Virginia took a much-needed bye after giving up 66 points to BYU. Notre Dame took care of business with a 34-6 win over a struggling Navy team.
  • Key matchup: Virginia passing attack vs. Notre Dame defensive backfield – This game rests on the health status of Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong. If Armstrong is given the green light to play on Saturday, the Cavaliers chances of an upset sky rocket. The next man up for Virginia is freshman Jay Woolfolk. Woolfolk has attempted just five career passes. That would cause the Notre Dame defense to salivate. The Fighting Irish have forced 12 interceptions through nine games.
  • Player to watch: Virginia wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks – Wicks is tied for fourth nationally in yards per catch at 23 and provides an enormous boost to whichever signal-caller the Wahoos find themselves with on Saturday.
  • Root for: Virginia – without Armstrong, this one’s a long shot. However, a Virginia win would do wonders for BYU; knocking Notre Dame below the Cougars and boosting BYU’s resume.
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong (5) looks to pass the ball during the second half, of an NCAA college football game against BYU Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/George Frey)

No. 16 NC State (7-2, 4-1) at No. 12 Wake Forest (8-1, 5-0)  

5:30 p.m.  ACC Network | Favorite: Wake Forest (-2)

  • Last week: NC State beat Florida State 28-14 for its fourth win in five games. Wake Forest fell 58-55 in a shootout at North Carolina.
  • Key matchup: NC State pass defense vs. Wake Forest air raid – The Wolfpack are allowing 220 yards per game through the air and Wake Forest is licking its chops at that. The Demon Deacons are led by quarterback Sam Hartman who ranks top-10 nationally in passing yards (2,873) and touchdowns (27).
  • Player to watch: Wake Forest wide receiver A.T. Perry – Perry is frequently found on the other end of a pass from Hartman, with 10 receiving touchdowns and 20 yards per grab this season.
  • Root for: Wake Forest – This one’s tough to know, but an NC State win over Wake Forest would likely give the Wolfpack the resume sufficient to leap BYU in the rankings.

Washington State (5-4, 4-2) at No. 3 Oregon (8-1, 5-1)

8:30 p.m. ESPN | Favorite: Oregon (-14)

  • Last week: Washington State followed a big win over Arizona State with a bye. Oregon slogged out a 26-16 win in the rain at Washington.
  • Key matchup: A battle of two turnover-minded defenses – There’s bound to be some turnovers in this one. Oregon is one of the nation’s best in forcing interceptions with 12 this season. Washington State leads the nation in forced fumbles with 17 through nine games. The team that gives the ball away the least wins this one.
  • Player to watch: Oregon safety Verone McKinley III – McKinley III spearheads the Duck defense’s takeaways with four interceptions of his own this season.
  • Root for: Washington State – The Ducks are heavily favored at home, but Washington State has shown resilience since the firing of head coach Nick Rolovich and loss to BYU. A win for the Cougars in red over Oregon would be a massive boost to the resume of the Cougars in blue.
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