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Joe Burrow of LSU celebrates with head coach Ed Orgeron after defeating Alabama, 46-41, at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Joe Burrow of LSU celebrates with head coach Ed Orgeron after defeating Alabama, 46-41, at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Welcome to the college football overreaction index, where we examine the most important storylines from the past weekend of games to determine what’s worth paying attention to and what’s getting a little too much attention.

Let’s get to the biggest takeaways from Week 11.

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It’s time to consider Ed Orgeron an elite coach.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.

When Orgeron took over after Les Miles was fired in 2016 and led the Tigers to a 6-2 record down the stretch, many still wondered whether he was the right guy for the job. Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher were rumored to be favorites, and Mike Gundy, Jim Mora and Dana Holgorsen were being considered. At the time, Orgeron, despite his deep roots in Louisiana, wasn’t a popular pick.

Three years after landing the full-time gig, Orgeron has the Tigers on top of the college football world after beating Alabama, 46-41, on Saturday, ending LSU’s eight-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide. For the first time since that 9-6 overtime victory in 2011, LSU looks like Alabama’s equal, something it has strove to be ever since Nick Saban left Baton Rouge in 2004 and ended up building a dynasty in Tuscaloosa.

Before Saturday’s win, the Tigers were 2-10 against the Tide since winning a national title in 2007. LSU had good, perhaps even great, teams during that stretch, going 13-0 in 2011 before losing to Bama in the BCS title game. Last year’s team rose to No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings before it lost to the Tide. This year, the curse was broken.

Orgeron deserves credit not only for recruiting one of the most talented rosters in the country, but being so open-minded about changing the philosophy and the culture inside the program. By hiring 30-year-old Joe Brady from the New Orleans Saints to be the passing game coordinator alongside 61-year-old offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, Orgeron gave Joe Burrow and the offense the creative spark it needed to finally get the most out of its players. Even Saban said, "They have no weaknesses on offense.”

If you had asked college football fans, experts and analysts to rank their top five coaches before Saturday’s game, it’s doubtful many would have included Orgeron on their lists. After that career-altering win, which made Orgeron 34-9 at LSU, it’s time he’s included in that discussion.

Defensive back Jordan Howden (23) of Minnesota celebrates after making an interception on a pass intended for wide receiver KJ Hamler of Penn State in the end zone during the fourth quarter at TCFBank Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Minneapolis.
Defensive back Jordan Howden (23) of Minnesota celebrates after making an interception on a pass intended for wide receiver KJ Hamler of Penn State in the end zone during the fourth quarter at TCFBank Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Minneapolis. (Hannah Foslien / Getty Images)

Minnesota is a Big Ten contender.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.

It’s not just that the Golden Gophers knocked off No. 4 Penn State on Saturday, but how they did it.

Tanner Morgan had more touchdowns (three) than incompletions (two) as he lit up a Nittany Lions defense that came into the game ranked sixth in SP+, a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of efficiency. Rashod Bateman (seven catches for 203 yards) and Tyler Johnson (seven for 104) routinely torched Penn State’s secondary to continue their ascent as top-notch NFL prospects.

The defense, meanwhile, made life miserable for Sean Clifford and Co., corralling three interceptions (including two by ball-hawking safety Antoine Winfield Jr.), forcing two three-and-outs and making a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.

With a new contract extension, P.J. Fleck is here to stay, which means Minnesota might not be going away anytime soon in the Big Ten West. At hand this season is a chance to reach the school’s first Big Ten championship game and perhaps go undefeated and grab a spot in the College Football Playoff. To do that, Minnesota needs to win out against Iowa (6-3), Northwestern (1-8) and Wisconsin (7-2) and beat the Big Ten East champ — likely Ohio State, but possibly Penn State in a rematch. Given how the Gophers played Saturday, it doesn’t seem all that impossible.

Other than Clemson winning the ACC, Ohio State winning the Big Ten seems like the surest bet among the Power 5 conferences. But Minnesota has already proven once it shouldn’t be counted out, and a team playing with such confidence is hard to deny. The Gophers might be rowing the boat all the way to a conference title.

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Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims catches a touchdown pass as TCU cornerback Kee'yon Stewart defends during the third overtime Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims catches a touchdown pass as TCU cornerback Kee'yon Stewart defends during the third overtime Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Ron Jenkins/AP)

Baylor isn’t a real playoff contender.

Verdict: Overreaction.

The Bears’ perfect start was nearly derailed in a strange triple-overtime win over TCU. The teams headed into overtime tied at 9, and it wasn’t until Grayland Arnold intercepted Max Duggan on fourth-and-goal from the 13 could the Bears breathe a sigh of relief.

Somehow, some way, Baylor is 9-0 and heading for a massive showdown with Oklahoma on Saturday night. So are the Bears for real?

They have a good mobile quarterback in Charlie Brewer, a capable set of skill-position players and by far the best defense in the Big 12. But of the five remaining undefeated teams (LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Minnesota are the others), Baylor rates by far the worst in most public metrics, including 21st in ESPN’s Football Power Index, 18th in SP+ and 12th in the Massey Composite.

A loss would all but eliminate Baylor from playoff contention, considering the weakness of the Big 12 when compared with the other Power 5 conferences. But if the Bears can beat Oklahoma, which is still considered a legitimate top-level team despite its loss to Kansas State, and Texas the following weekend and win the conference championship at 13-0, it will be hard to keep Baylor out of the discussion.

Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas (12) hands off to running back Darrynton Evans (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Boone, NC. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas (12) hands off to running back Darrynton Evans (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Boone, NC. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) (Brian Blanco/AP)

Appalachian State is back in the Group of 5 race.

Verdict: Not an overreaction.

When the Mountaineers lost to Georgia Southern at home a few weeks ago, it seemed like all hope was lost for a possible Cotton Bowl berth. But Saturday’s road win over South Carolina, combined with a victory earlier this season over North Carolina, gives App State two road wins over Power 5 teams. No other top Group of 5 contenders can say that.

If the Mountaineers were still undefeated, they might very well have been the top-ranked G5 team in Tuesday night’s next set of College Football Playoff rankings. But the top AAC contenders — Cincinnati, Memphis, Navy and SMU — and Boise State all have stronger claims considering their stronger conferences. However, there’s a lot of games left to be played, which means those AAC teams will have to face each other and Boise — which almost lost Saturday night to Wyoming — will have to avoid another stumble.

If it comes down to a 12-1 Sun Belt champion App State against a one-loss AAC champ, it’s unlikely the Mountaineers get the nod. But if the AAC champ finishes with two losses, App State’s two P5 wins likely put it ahead, and perhaps even ahead of a 12-1 Mountain West champion Boise, which beat Florida State but lost to BYU.

If things fall their way the next few weeks, the Mountaineers could go from being projected to play the Conference USA champ in the New Orleans Bowl to facing one of the nation’s elite programs in Dallas on the same day as the College Football Playoff semifinals. What a moment that would be for a budding program.

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