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2023 College Football Week 11 Sleeper Picks

By Hank Blaine

If the NCAA had any heart, it would grant James Madison a waiver this season to play postseason football as the Dukes are unbeaten and atop the Sun Belt Conference at 9-0. This week, school officials made another plea to the NCAA Division I board of directors to reduce its football program’s FCS to FBS transition from two years to one, so the Dukes can be eligible to compete in a postseason bowl game. The NCAA isn’t likely to grant it, however. Here are three sleeper picks around the nation on Week 11 on Saturday.

Top 2023 College Football Week 11 Sleeper Picks

Maryland Terrapins vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Big Ten game. Terps QB Taulia Tagovailoa has been one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten through nine games, currently leading the conference and standing top-20 in the country in passing yards (2,486), passing touchdowns (21), completions (218), points responsible for (152). He leads the Big Ten and stands top-35 in the nation in total offense (280.1). Since the beginning of the 2021 season, Tagovailoa has thrown at least one touchdown in 32 games, the third most among FBS quarterbacks in that time. The redshirt senior is one of only six FBS quarterbacks with at least 21 passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns this season, along with Kaidon Salter (Liberty), Jayden Daniels (LSU), Caleb Williams (USC), Haynes King (Georgia Tech) and Bo Nix (Oregon). Tagovailoa’s current career completion percentage (.668) is the fourth-best of any Big Ten quarterback all-time, only trailing Dan Persa, Northwestern (.727), Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State (.700) and Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin (.681). Maryland is one of six Power 5 teams this season (Arizona, Kansas State, North Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA) with three players with at least 200 rushing yards and six players with at least 150 receiving yards.

The Huskers are coming off a 20-17 setback at Michigan State last Saturday, which kept Nebraska in search of a sixth victory to gain bowl eligibility in the 2023 season. Eight of Nebraska’s nine opponents have been held to less than 100 rushing yards. Nebraska last held eight foes under 100 rushing yards in 2009, and has not held nine opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground in this century. The Husker defense ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in total defense, allowing 298.3 yards per game. The total defense average is a 116.1-yard improvement when compared to 2022, when Nebraska allowed 414.4 yards per game. Nebraska ranks 11th nationally in allowing only 4.58 yards per play. NU allows 2.57 yards per opponent rushing attempt, which ranks fourth in the country. Saturday’s meeting will be just the third all-time between the schools and the first since 2019. The Huskers lead 2-0.

2023 College Football Week 11 Pick: Nebraska

NC State Wolfpack vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

ACC matchup. In a big surprise, NC State starting QB MJ Morris has opted to redshirt. Morris’ decision comes after playing in four games (all starts), which is the maximum allowed to preserve a player’s redshirt season. The news of Morris’ decision comes after back-to-back wins for the Wolfpack over Clemson and Miami. In his four starts this season, Morris completed 63-of-113 passes (56 percent) for 719 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Early season starter Brennan Armstrong will return to the role. Armstrong is the Pack’s leading rusher with 337 yards and three scores and has completed 58.8% of his passes with five touchdowns and six interceptions. True freshman receiver KC Concepcion, one of the top rookies in the country, is a semifinalist for the Shaun Alexander Award. Concepcion is the first true freshman in school history to post two 100+ yard games in a season and have six touchdown receptions in a season. NC State is 14-for-14 inside the 10-yard-line this season (12 TDs, 2 FG).

Wake Forest comes off a tough-luck 24-21 loss to Duke despite allowing just 267 yards of offense. Duke’s Todd Pelino won the game as time expired with a 26-yard field goal. Wake Forest’s touchdowns came on a pair of rushing scores by redshirt sophomore quarterback Mitch Griffis as he became the first quarterback at Wake to post multiple rushing TDs in a game since Sam Hartman did so on Nov. 6, 2021 at North Carolina. The Deacs’ other lone score on Thursday night came on a three-yard plunge by redshirt freshman Tate Carney. Overall for the game, Griffis was 16-for-19 for 241 yards through the air and he tallied 55 rushing yards with the two aforementioned rushing touchdowns. NC State has faced Wake Forest more times than any other opponent in its 132 years of football. Saturday’s game will mark the 117th meeting between the two squads, with NC State holding a 68-42-6 advantage. The teams have met every season since 1910. This is the home finale for Wake.

2023 College Football Week 11 Pick: Wake Forest

Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Marshall Thundering Herd

Sun Belt game. Georgia Southern is eighth in the FBS in defensive touchdowns with three, coming on pick sixes from Tyrell Davis, Khadry Jackson and Marques Watson-Trent. Linebacker Marques Watson-Trent needs seven tackles to record his second-straight 100-tackle season. The last Eagle player to do that was Joe Scott in 2001 (112) and 2002 (116). Watson-Trent had 114 stops last season and has 93 this year. The Eagles have won all six games when forcing three or more turnovers and have lost the three games when they have not. 1 Defensive lineman Isaac Walker is ­first in the FBS with five forced fumbles. The school record is six set by Roderick Tinsley in 2010. Dating back to the start of the 2018 season, Georgia Southern has won 28 of its past 37 games when having a 100-yard rusher. The Eagles have won 70 straight games when holding a lead of 17 or more points. Since 1983, Georgia Southern is 200-16 when allowing 17 points or less. The Eagles entered the 2023 season as a veteran squad with almost 25 players aged 22 or older.

Georgia Southern comes into the game with one of the league’s best offenses, averaging 32.7 ppg with 441 yards of total offense – 306 of which is done through the air for Clay Helton’s team. However, the Eagles’ defense has not been great at defending the opposition either, allowing nearly 400 yards (394.1 ypg) to the opposing team while allowing nearly 27 ppg. Marshall’s offense is looking to get back track after a three-game stretch in which the team has not hit double-digits. Six of seven contests between the teams have been decided by more than two scores as well. Saturday’s meeting at Joan C. Edwards Stadium represents the eighth all-time meeting between the two schools. Marshall holds a 5-2 series advantage and has won the last five meetings.

2023 College Football Week 11 Pick: Marshall

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