Welcome back to The Professor, a weekly guide to what we learned in college football. For more from Week 11 in college football, catch up on scores here and check out our five takeaways from Saturday night.

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Auburn has spent most of the past three seasons chasing moments like Saturday.

The Tigers achieved one of the most memorable late-season runs in college football history in Gus Malzahn's first season as head coach in 2013, including the Prayer at Jordan-Hare win over Georgia and the Kick Six win over Alabama. Those Tigers lost to Florida State in the national championship game, but despite the close-game luck, Malzahn -- who coached Cam Newton and the Tigers to a national title as offensive coordinator in 2010 -- immediately raised the bar at Auburn, increasing confidence that the Tigers could at least be competitive with Nick Saban and Alabama in the SEC West.

Malzahn raised expectations so quickly that what followed couldn't help but create even more angst and impatience than usual. Auburn has continued to be one of the most inconsistent teams in college football, either losing at least five games (seven times) or playing for the national championship (twice) in each of the past nine seasons, with nothing in between. But even if this season doesn't end in a miracle run to the playoff, at least the Tigers can say they finally found the type of happy medium that can foster more patience with a coaching tenure.

Auburn is what Auburn was expected to be, and that's been a rarity in the past decade.

On Saturday, Auburn beat Georgia for the first time since that Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis fourth-down miracle four years ago. It wasn't just a rivalry win after three straight rough losses in the series. It was a 40-17 rout of an undefeated Bulldogs team that entered the game ranked No. 1. It was a masterful all-around performance in which Auburn reached the potential it was thought to have in the preseason: a shut-down defense, a great running game and rejuvenated quarterback play behind the arm of Jarrett Stidham. Everything came together perfectly for Auburn to earn a signature win, quiet hot-seat talk about Malzahn and thrust itself into the SEC championship race, as the West title will now be on the line when Alabama visits Auburn for the Iron Bowl on Nov. 25.

The Tigers' defense held Georgia's vaunted running game to 46 yards and generated relentless pressure on Jake Fromm. The defense now ranks fifth nationally in yards per play allowed. Stidham, the Baylor transfer, completed 16 of 23 passes for 214 yards and four total touchdowns. After two years of subpar Tigers quarterback play seemingly put Malzahn on the hot seat, Stidham ranks 11th in passer rating and eighth in yards per attempt. And Kerryon Johnson, who has stepped into the lead tailback role with Kamryn Pettway banged up, had 167 rushing yards and 66 receiving yards against one of the nation's stingiest defenses. He cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark and has 17 total TDs in a breakout campaign.

Auburn continues to recruit at a high level, but the offense has lacked an identity the past couple years, offsetting improvement on defense and making the Tigers into an erratic team -- a characteristic made even worse by the unbelievable consistency that continues to be achieved up the road in Tuscaloosa. After losing that BCS title, Auburn started No. 6 in 2014 but finished 22nd with an 8-5 record. In 2015, it started No. 6 again but finished 7-6. Last year, it went to the Sugar Bowl but still lost five games and finished 24th.

Preseason expectations have frequently been off-kilter for Auburn, but this year finally looks like a season in which Auburn is doing what it's supposed to do: It started No. 12 with sleeper playoff hopes, and, despite an ugly loss to Clemson and a frustrating blown lead loss at LSU, it is 8-2 and likely to be ranked sixth or seventh in the playoff top 25 on Tuesday. Even if Auburn does lose to Alabama -- which is never exactly acceptable but is easier to stomach after a blowout win over rival No. 2, Georgia -- 10 wins would be possible with the bowl game, and a top-15 final ranking would be likely.

Malzahn has been part of so many memorable moments at Auburn in such a short period of time that hot-seat talk has always felt premature and even more impatient than usual, even if there's been plenty of legitimate criticism. For 2017, at least, Saturday's game put all that speculation to rest, making this look like exactly the type of season Auburn needed: one that is restoring stability and confidence to Tigers football.

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Lessons Learned in Week 11

Miami's Turnover Chain is working

If the idea of a "Turnover Chain" existed elsewhere, perhaps on a worse defense that was not actually forcing turnovers, it might be mocked. For Miami in 2017, however, everything about the idea continues to work brilliantly.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz introduced the idea of awarding the chain to Canes players who come up with takeaways at the beginning of the season, and the act has fit in perfectly with this Miami team. Luck often plays a huge role in turnovers, and Miami surely won't be able to sustain its current takeaway pace, but this is nevertheless a fast, aggressive and energetic Miami defense that makes a living disrupting opponents. It may not be loaded with as many NFL players as some of the great Miami defenses of the past, but it is well-coached and filled with enough talent to develop into one of the nation's best units.

In Saturday's 41-8 rout of Notre Dame, the Turnover Chain made four appearances: a Jaquan Johnson interception that led to a touchdown two plays later, a Malek Young interception that led to a field goal, a Trajan Bandy pick-six and a Jonathan Garvin strip sack that led to a touchdown drive. Miami held Notre Dame to just 109 rushing yards (it averages 303) and 4.1 yards per play (it averages 6.5).

The Hurricanes have given up big plays, but not as many as they have created. Diaz's formula has worked. The Canes rank second nationally in tackles for loss per game, and they rank second in turnover margin, with 24 takeaways in nine games. In fact, the Turnover Chain has made four appearances in each of the past four games.

The Turnover Chain fits in perfectly at The U, and it fits perfectly into Miami football's 2017 revival, becoming part of a mindset that is feared rather than mocked.

Baker Mayfield is going to win the Heisman Trophy

Three weeks is still plenty of time for somebody to catch up, but if Mayfield took a commanding Heisman race lead last week with 598 passing yards to win Bedlam, he may have taken an insurmountable lead this week. TCU has the best defense in the Big 12 and had allowed a total of 27 points in four games before its trip to Norman. In the first half alone on Saturday night, Mayfield threw for nearly 300 yards and Oklahoma racked up 38 points. The Sooners didn't need anything else, as they coasted to a 38-20 win to take sole possession of first place in the Big 12.

Last week, I wrote about Mayfield as the obvious frontrunner. The same story can be written now. Mayfield has had big performances in Oklahoma's three biggest wins against TCU, Oklahoma State and Ohio State. His passer rating of 202 is on pace to break the FBS single-season record he set last year, and he averages 11.9 yards per attempt with 31 TDs, five INTs and a 71.2 percent completion percentage. Mayfield has been one of the most efficient passers in college football history throughout his Oklahoma career, and he's showing no signs of letting up as the Sooners take aim at a playoff bid. It's hard to imagine anybody but the two-time top-four finisher winning the Heisman next month.

Bryce Love could be Stanford's latest Heisman runner-up

Jim Plunkett is Stanford's only Heisman winner. Since he took home the trophy in 1970, the Cardinal have had five second-place finishers: John Elway (1982), Toby Gerhart (2009), Andrew Luck (2010), Luck again (2011) and Christian McCaffrey (2015). After his performance on Friday night against Washington, Love very well could be heading toward Stanford's fifth second-place finish in nine seasons.

With Saquon Barkley's production slowing down, Love is likely the top challenger to Mayfield. He just happens to be on a three-loss team, which is part of what makes the gap feel so insurmountable. But after missing the Oregon State game and being mostly contained by Washington State, Love rushed for 166 yards and three TDs on 30 carries in a 30-22 win over Washington, despite dealing with an ankle that is not 100 percent. Love has rushed for at least 147 yards in eight of nine games he's participated in. He averages nine yards per rush and, at 1,622 yards, is within striking distance of 2,000 despite sitting out a game.

Alabama is not immortal … but it's still undefeated

Florida State stuck with Alabama for a half, Texas A&M lost by only eight and LSU contained the Crimson Tide's running game, but in a season mostly filled with run-of-the-mill Bama blowout wins, Saturday night in Starkville felt like the first time Alabama actually could have lost.

A shorthanded Alabama defense struggled to get off the field in the first half, as Mississippi State shortened the game with long drives and found some success running the ball. The score was tied at halftime, and the Bulldogs led by seven early in the fourth quarter. But even a shorthanded Bama can't help but still have a deeper, more talented roster than a quality opponent like Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were risk-averse on offense and overly aggressive on defense down the stretch, and both strategies backfired.

On fourth-and-three at the Alabama 42-yard line with the score tied and under seven minutes left, Mississippi State punted into the end zone rather than aggressively go for it and try to get the go-ahead points. Alabama responded with a 57-yard drive … but its field goal missed. It didn't matter: The Bulldogs quickly stalled and punted again, and on a third-and-15, Jalen Hurts beat an all-out blitz with a quick throw to Calvin Ridley, who took it for 31 yards. That set up Hurts'26-yard game-winner to DeVonta Smith with 25 seconds left.

Even when Alabama doesn't play well, on the road against a top-25 team that beat LSU by 30 in September, it finds ways to win. Alabama is not a perfect team, but it still takes a perfect full 60 minutes for anybody else to actually take down the Crimson Tide.

Ohio State took out its frustrations on Michigan State with a dominant ground attack

There's a good chance that what happened in Week 10 at Kinnick Stadium will go down as the strangest result of the 2017 season: Iowa 55, Ohio State 24. It's a tough place to play, and Ohio State is imperfect -- especially the week after an exhausting comeback win over Penn State -- but it was nevertheless stunning to see the Buckeyes run off the field to drop to two losses and put their playoff hopes in peril.

Seven days later, Ohio State did everything it could to try to make up for what happened against the Hawkeyes. In a battle for first place in the Big Ten East, the Buckeyes blew out Michigan State 48-3. Run defense had been a strength for the Spartans all season, as they shut down Saquon Barkley in Week 10 and had allowed over 100 yards only three times in nine games. However, they were powerless to stop Ohio State: The Buckeyes ran 42 times for 335 yards and four touchdowns, including 162 yards from Mike Weber and 124 yards from J.K. Dobbins.

It was exactly the type of bounce-back performance Ohio State needed, unleashing the high upside of its running game, which, in turn lessens the pressure on quarterback J.T. Barrett to carry the offense. The Buckeyes averaged eight yards per rush, their best mark against a Power Five opponent since Oct. 3, 2015. There have been times this season where it's felt like they haven't leaned on their talented tailbacks enough, and Saturday illustrated why that can sometimes be so perplexing.

Wisconsin's defense is demanding more respect

That 55-24 Iowa win over Ohio State was made to look stranger by how Ohio State responded against Michigan State, and it was made to look even stranger, again, by how Iowa played on Saturday. For all the questions about its weak resume, Wisconsin is undefeated for a reason. It deserves that record and deserves to be a playoff contender, with Jonathan Taylor trouncing opponents as a runner and the defense shutting down just about everybody.

The Badgers took their defensive play to new heights against that Iowa team that just scored 55 on Ohio State. All 14 of Iowa's points in a 38-14 loss at Camp Randall Stadium came because of pick-sixes by cornerback Josh Jackson. The offense managed only 41 passing yards, as Nate Stanley completed 8 of 24 passes, and the running game managed just 25 yards. In total, it adds up to 50 plays for 66 yards by Iowa, an average of 1.3 yards per play that stands as the third-lowest mark by any FBS team this season. That's somehow 102 fewer yards and 1.1 fewer yards per play than Iowa had in its infamous 6-4 win against Penn State in 2004.

Entering its regular-season game of the year against Michigan, Wisconsin ranks third nationally in yards per play allowed, first in rushing yards per game allowed and first in defensive passer rating.

Justice Hill is college football's most underrated player

Mason Rudolph, James Washington, Marcell Ateman and the explosive Oklahoma State passing game deserve all the attention they get. They're fun to watch, and they put up big numbers every week. That included Rudolph completing 25 of 31 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-42 win at Iowa State on Saturday. But all the deserved praise for the Oklahoma State offense has overshadowed just how special of a running back the Cowboys have, too.

Hill, a sophomore, ran 25 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns and caught six passes for 35 yards against the Cyclones' stellar defense. The shifty, speedy Hill revived the Cowboys' running game with 1,142 yards as a freshman, and he already has 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games as a sophomore. Before the big game against Iowa State, he had 228 rushing yards in last week's loss to Oklahoma. Rudolph leads the Big 12 in passing yards, Washington leads the Big 12 in receiving yards and Hill is the conference's only back to crack the 1,000-yard mark so far.

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All-America Team of the Week

QB: John Wolford, Wake Forest. Wolford didn't have 300 yards of total offense in any game last season. Now? He's had 390-plus in three straight games, including 499 against Syracuse on Saturday. He completed 25 of 38 for 363 yards and three TDs and rushed 19 times for 136 yards and three TDs.

RB: Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma. Anderson has become a breakout star in the backfield alongside Baker Mayfield in the second half of the season. He has four straight 100-yard rushing games, and that wasn't all he did in the win over TCU: He had 23 carries for 151 yards and two TDs, and he also caught five passes for 139 yards and two TDs, giving him 290 yards from scrimmage against the Big 12's best defense.

RB: Kerryon Johnson, Auburn. Georgia's run defense has been suffocating most of this season, but Johnson played his best game, rushing 32 times for 167 yards and catching two passes for 66 yards and a TD, adding up to 233 yards from scrimmage.

WR: Calvin Ridley, Alabama. Ridley has been Alabama's go-to target all season, but the team's limited passing game has meant that he didn't hit 100 yards in any of the first nine games. That changed on Saturday: He caught five passes for 171 yards, including a 31y-yarder on third-and-15 to set up DeVonta Smith's winning touchdown.

WR: A.J. Brown, Ole Miss. With QB Shea Patterson injured, Jordan Ta'amu threw for 418 yards in Ole Miss' 50-22 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Brown hauled in 14 of his 28 completions for 185 yards and two TDs.

WR: Ka'Raun White, West Virginia. White had touchdown catches of 75 and 30 yards and finished with eight catches for 168 yards in the Mountaineers' 28-23 win at Kansas State.

OL: Oklahoma. TCU entered Saturday fifth nationally in yards per play allowed on defense, but it managed only three tackles for loss and one sack as Baker Mayfield threw for nearly 300 yards in the first half. The line paved the way for a career night for Rodney Anderson, and Oklahoma averaged 7.8 yards per play -- breaking a streak of four straight TCU opponents held under four yards per play.

DL: Hercules Mata'afa, Washington State. Mata'afa ranks tied for second nationally in tackles for loss (21 ½) after he had five, with three sacks and a forced fumble, in the Cougars' 33-25 win over Utah.

DL: Bradley Chubb, N.C. State. Boston College's recent offensive surge was disrupted by the Wolfpack. Chubb had eight tackles, four tackles for loss, 2 ½ sacks and a forced fumble in N.C. State's 17-14 win. He also knows how to celebrate:

DL: Jeff Holland, Auburn. Holland had merely one sack but spent all afternoon -- along with the rest of the Auburn defensive front -- creating havoc and generating pressure against the Georgia offensive line.

LB: James Hearns, Louisville. The Cardinals' defense stepped up in a win over Virginia, and Hearns had three tackles for loss and three forced fumbles, one of which was recovered by Louisville.

LB: Bobby Okereke, Stanford. Okereke led the charge in Stanford's impressive defensive performance to beat Washington. He had four tackles for loss, 10 total tackles and a forced fumble that led to a field goal.

LB: Quentin Poling, Ohio. The Bobcats crushed Toledo to improve to 8-2. Against an explosive Rockets offense, Poling racked up 12 tackles and three sacks.

LB: Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin. The Badgers' entire linebacking corps and, really, entire defense should be honored for their performance against Iowa. Connelly had a team-high nine tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble as Wisconsin held the Hawkeyes to 66 total yards.

DB: Josh Jackson, Iowa. Jackson provided all of Iowa's scoring in a loss to Wisconsin: A week after coming down with three interceptions against Ohio State, Jackson had pick-sixes of 43 and 52 yards against the Badgers.

DB: Dameon Baber, Nevada. The Wolf Pack routed San Jose State with the help of Baber, who had three interceptions, including a 100-yard pick-six and a 39-yard pick-six. He returned a blocked punt for a TD, too.

DB: Jaquan Johnson, Miami. A complete defensive effort led Miami's rout of Notre Dame. Let's give the individual honor to Johnson, who had a team-high eight tackles, a pass breakup and the first of four Hurricanes takeaways with a first-quarter interception.

DB: A.J. Green, Oklahoma State. Green came up with the game-clinching contested interception of an Iowa State pass in the end zone with 32 seconds left and a seven-point lead.

AP: Rodney Smith, Minnesota. Smith ran for 134 yards and returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the Golden Gophers' 54-21 win over Nebraska.

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Report Card: Grading The Week In College Football

A+: Army. The Black Knights are 8-2 after beating an ACC team, Duke, 21-16. They've won three games with zero pass completions, and Saturday was the second time they had exactly one completion in a win: Ahmad Bradshaw went 1-for-1 with a 42-yard strike to Kell Walker that set up a touchdown to put Army ahead 21-3 in the second quarter. Army has won eight games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1984-85. With three games left, including a bowl trip, double-digit wins for the first time since 1996 is possible.

A: Louisville. A strong effort by Lamar Jackson wasn't wasted: Louisville beat Virginia 38-21, and Jackson threw for 195 yards and three TDs and rushed 15 times for 147 yards and a TD. Mostly, I'd like to acknowledge another season feat by the reigning Heisman winner:

Jackson averages a national-best 417 yards of total offense per game with 3,003 passing yards and 1,176 rushing yards.

A-: Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons allowed 42 points to Syracuse and still won by three touchdowns. Their 64 points were their most against an ACC opponent since 1975, and they amassed a school-record 734 total yards. Wake Forest hasn't averaged more than 17.5 points in ACC play since 2011, but it's averaging 32.8 points per game in conference play so far this season and is bowl-eligible for the second year in a row.

B+ USC. The Trojans will make their second trip to the Pac-12 title game in its seven years after clinching the South with a 38-24 win over Colorado, last year's champion. Sam Darnold threw for 329 yards, Ronald Jones II rushed for 142 yards and the Trojans' defense contained standout Colorado tailback Phillip Lindsay. At 9-2, USC is still lingering as a long-shot playoff contender as the top team in the Pac-12.

B: Clemson. It seemed bizarre how under-the-radar Clemson-Florida State was on Saturday. It has often been one of the biggest games of the season in recent years and was supposed to be that again, but Florida State's struggles made their 2017 showdown almost an afterthought on a busy day of games. For a few minutes, FSU made things interesting: Clemson led 17-0, but the Seminoles trimmed the lead to three with a trick-play touchdown pass with 8:53 left. After a fumble recovery, they had a chance to play for the lead … but James Blackman was immediately intercepted by Van Smith. Clemson scored twice in the final 3:05 to turn a brief scare into a 31-14 win that sent the Noles to 3-6 and kept the Tigers in the playoff chase.

B-: Penn State. The Nittany Lions had a brief hangover in the first quarter against Rutgers after back-to-back heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Michigan Sate. They fell behind 6-0, but they scored 35 points in a row to win easily. Rutgers passed for only 43 yards, and Penn State got an efficient performance from QB Trace McSorley. The biggest problem, again, was creating room for Saquon Barkley, who continued to get hit before getting any room to run. Barkley had a few plays to add to his highlight reel but was held to a season-low 55 yards from scrimmage.

C+: Washington State. The Cougars achieved a rather strange victory over Utah: They won 33-25, even though Luke Falk averaged just 4.5 yards per pass attempt (40 of 69 for 311 yards and three TDs) and was intercepted twice, and even though they rushed for 27 yards. They averaged just 3.9 yards per play, their worst mark since 2014. And yet they won, because the defense forced seven turnovers and had 11 tackles for loss.

C: N.C. State. Ryan Finley completed only 13 of 32 passes for 146 yards and the Wolfpack defense allowed 196 rushing yards to A.J. Dillon, but they escaped a trip to Boston College with a 17-14 win. It didn't look pretty, but after back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Clemson, N.C. State will take any victory it could get against an improved Eagles squad.

C-: Colorado State. Let's call this an "A" for the first half and an "F" for the ending. Colorado State stormed out to a 35-10 first-half lead against Boise State, which is undefeated in Mountain West play. Although the Broncos responded in the third quarter, the Rams went ahead 52-38 with 3:02 left. They still lost. Boise State scored with 1:41 left, recovered an onside kick and scored again five plays later before winning in overtime.

D+: Virginia Tech. Miami beat the Hokies twice. Going to Georgia Tech was always going to be a dangerous trip, but it felt even more difficult the week after a physical 18-point loss at Miami that took the Hokies out of the ACC title race. Georgia Tech won 28-22, and Virginia Tech averaged just 2.9 yards per rush and 5.9 yards per pass attempt. Big plays won the game for Georgia Tech, including TaQuon Marshall's 80-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Jeune in the fourth quarter on one of only two pass completions all game.

D: Florida. South Carolina is 7-3, so it's not as if losing in Columbia constitutes a bad loss. Still, Florida completed only 17 of 39 passes between Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire, and it rushed for only 78 yards. The Gators couldn't capitalize on four takeaways, and interim coach Randy Shannon lost to former Florida coach Will Muschamp, as the Gators fell to 3-6 thanks to their fifth straight loss.

D-: Nebraska. Rodney Smith set the tone for Minnesota by returning the opening kick for a touchdown. Smith ended up rushing for 134 yards, and the Golden Gophers also got 183 rushing yards from QB Demry Croft and 93 from Kobe McCrary to finish with 409 yards on the ground as a team. Minnesota won 54-21, and Nebraska will have to win out against Penn State and Iowa to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in a decade.

F: Tennessee. The Butch Jones era came to an end on Sunday after Tennessee lost at Missouri, 50-17, to drop to 0-6 in the SEC. The Volunteers allowed 433 rushing yards, including 216 by the Tigers' Ish Witter, and were out-gained by 359 total yards. Despite all the negative attention on Tennessee, give credit to Missouri and coach Barry Odom: After a 1-5 start, the Tigers have won four in a row, including blowouts against Florida and Tennessee. A win at either Vanderbilt or Arkansas will send Missouri bowling.

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Week 12 Syllabus

1. Michigan at Wisconsin. The clear game of the day. Michigan will probably climb into the playoff rankings to make this the only top-25 matchup of Week 12. Either way, it's a huge game for both teams: Michigan is trying to build momentum into 2018 with these last couple regular-season games against the Badgers and Ohio State. More importantly, Wisconsin is trying to remain undefeated and build a playoff case.

2. UCLA at USC. The Trojans already locked up the Pac-12 South and have three fewer losses than the Bruins. But although Ronald Jones II could end up stealing the show as a runner, the first Josh Rosen-Sam Darnold matchup (Rosen was hurt late last season) can't help but be exciting.

3. Virginia at Miami. Miami already won the ACC Coastal, but after two prime-time games against ranked opponents, will it avoid a letdown in a noon ET kickoff against a bowl-bound Cavaliers team?

4. Kentucky at Georgia. Georgia already won the SEC East. After getting blown out by Auburn, it needs to take care of business at home against the Wildcats before going back on the road for another rivalry game against Georgia Tech.

5. Navy at Notre Dame. Notre Dame's playoff chances are likely finished, but it will try to rebound against the Midshipmen to stay in the New Year's Six mix, which is still a worthy goal after last year's 4-8 record.

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Contact Matt at matt.brown5082@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @MattBrownCFB and Facebook.