Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York By Joe NuzzoIn what could have been, and still could be, the final game played by the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the team defeated the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Saturday night.The victory forces a game seven Monday night in Washington to determine which team will move on to the Eastern Conference finals. If the Islanders fail to move on to the next round of the playoffs, at least they would have finished up their final home game with a victory before they move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season.“Basically, it was the season on the line for us” Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak said. “They came out hard and played well. We need the same Monday night. It’s going to be hard, but we all know why we’re here.”So did the Islander fans in attendance often chanting “Can You Hear Us” at deafening levels. The chant, clearly in response to a comment made to the press by Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who said last week that fans in the Verizon Center were louder than those at the coliseum.Islanders defenseman Brian Strait commented on the support the Islanders received from their fans at the coliseum this afternoon stating “The fans were rocking the place.”John Tavares opened up the scoring at the 6:57 mark of the first period on a pass by Ryan Strome. Tavares put a wrist shot by Washington goaltender Branden Holtby. Then, Washington’s John Carlson tied the game with just 4.3 seconds left in the first period.It wasn’t until the 10:33 mark of the third that the Islanders took back the lead. Nikolay Kulemin took a feed from Nick Leddy and slipped the puck past Washington’s Braden Holtby.The Islanders secured the victory with an empty net goal by Cal Clutterbuck with 53 seconds left in the third period.Should the Islanders defeat the Capitals Monday night, the coliseum will be open for business a bit longer.The Islanders would then face the Rangers in the conference finals. The first two games would take place at Madison Square Garden. The Islanders would then host games three, four and if needed six, at “The Old Barn.”
After a couple of down weeks, Week 11 is filled with potential playoff-elimination games, as the committee now looks to narrow down the playoff field.#14 Ohio State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) at #8 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten)The Buckeyes and the Spartans have both bounced back from tough early losses, setting up a likely playoff elimination game at the site of College GameDay, as the winner has a clear path to the Big Ten Championship and a possible playoff spot. After a tough loss early in the year to Virginia Tech, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (2352 total yards, 29 total TDs, 7 INTs) has done an excellent job of replacing the injured Braxton Miller, leading the Buckeyes to the 4th-best offense in the nation (45.6 points per game).Meanwhile, the Spartans, who are right behind the Buckeyes on offense with 45.5 points per game, is led by quarterback Connor Cook (1868 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs) and running back Jeremy Langford (841 yards, 10 TDs). Michigan State has played extremely well, outside of their second half early this season against Oregon, while the Buckeyes encountered a road bump last week against Penn State. Considering the playmakers on the Spartans’ sideline, last week’s performance, and the fact the game is in East Lansing on a national stage, I’ll go with Michigan State for the second year in a row.Prediction: Michigan State 31, Ohio State 28#4 Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) at #17 Utah (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12)After snagging the final spot in the Top 4, the Ducks will look to maintain and improve their playoff seeding against a Utes squad coming off a heartbreaking 19-16 overtime loss to ASU. The Ducks’ offense, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota (2977 total yards, 34 total TDs, 2 INTs) and running back Royce Freeman (943 total yards, 13 total TDs), has been picking up steam, as evidenced by putting up 45 points against a Stanford team that hadn’t given up more than 30 in their previous 31 games. The Utes have similar strengths as Stanford, such as a strong defensive line, but have the advantage at running back with Devontae Booker (1091 total yards, 9 TDs), along with special teams with kicker Andy Phillips and returned Kaelin Clay.Regardless, I expect more of the same of the Ducks, as they’ll put up plenty of points to clinch the Pac-12 North and try and earn a playoff berth.Prediction: Oregon 42, Utah 31#10 Notre Dame (7-1) at #9 Arizona State (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12)The Fighting Irish will take on the Sun Devils in what is expected to be another high-stakes game, as the loser is most likely eliminated from earning a spot in the college football playoff. The Irish have struggled recently on defense, giving up a combined 113 points in their last three games against North Carolina, Florida State, and Navy, but have gotten enough production out of quarterback Everett Golson (2583 total yards, 29 total TDs, 7 INTs) to come 2-1 in that stretch.Meanwhile, the Sun Devils appear to be in command of the Pac-12 South after a 19-16 OT win over Utah, and a win against the Irish would likely push them just outside the playoff picture. Arizona State has become a team of destiny, with a Hail Mary win against USC and winning a battle of the kickers last weekend against Andy Phillips, one of the best kickers in college football. Head coach Todd Graham’s squad has bounced back nicely from a 62-27 loss earlier this season against UCLA and, behind the playmaking ability of running back D.J Foster (1153 total yards, 8 total TDs) and wide receiver Jaelen Strong (821 yards, 8 TDs), should be able to squeak out a win against a Notre Dame team trending in the wrong direction.Prediction: Arizona State 38, Notre Dame 34#5 Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) at #16 LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC)Nick Saban makes another return to Death Valley, as the Crimson Tide and the Tigers will look to keep themselves alive in the crowded SEC West. The Tigers are coming off a 10-7 upset of Ole Miss last week, but the Tide will present a whole other challenge for Les Miles. The Tigers have relied on Leonard Fournette (657 yards, 7 TDs) and their running game for most of the year, anda will be tested against an Alabama defense that is second in scoring with 10.5 points per game, and has yet to give up a 100-yard rusher this season. Meanwhile, the Tide will counter with their two-headed attack of T.J. Yeldon (618 yards, 5 TDs) and Darick Henry (530 yards, 4 TDs).The game will likely come out to the quarterback position, where there is a big gap between Alabama’s Blake Sims (2284 total yards, 20 TDs, 3 INTs) and LSU’s Anthony Jennings (1190 yards, 8 TDs, 5 INTs). Sims can cause more problems both with his arm and his legs, and also has the best receiver in the country in Amari Cooper (1132 yards, 9 TDs), and is less mistake-prone than Ole Miss’s Bo Wallace. Unless Jennings proves he can beat the Tide with his arm, this one should be going to Alabama.Prediction: Alabama 24, LSU 17#7 Kansas State (7-1, 5-0 Big 12) at #6 TCU (7-1, 4-1 Big 12)The Horned Frogs will host the Wildcats in what is expected to be their biggest test in getting a spot in the inaugural playoffs. TCU, led by quarterback Trevone Boykin (2895 total yards, 26 total TDs, 4 INTs), has the 2nd-best offense in the country with 48 points per game, and has emerged as a favorite to be the Big 12’s representative in the College Football Playoff.Unfortunately, the Wildcats, led by coach Bill Snyder, quarterback Jake Waters (2282 total yards, 18 TDs, 3 INTs), and running back Charles Jones (431 yards, 11 TDs), are another tough opponent, and one that plays hard every down and makes very few mistakes. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs have had their mental hiccups their past few weeks, and while they’ve gotten away with it in previous games, they won’t be able to bounce back from them against a well-coached Kansas State squad, and it could cost them in this game.Prediction: Kansas State 31, TCU 28#12 Baylor (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) at #15 Oklahoma (6-2, 3-2 Big 12)The Bears will look to take their top-ranked offense (50.4 points per game) to Norman to take on the Sooners, who are essentially now playing the role of spoiler. The combination of running back Samaje Perine (767 yards, 11 TDs) and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (957 yards, 5 TDs) has provided the bulk of the offense for the Sooners, while Baylor, led by quarterback Bryce Petty (2145 total yards, 23 total TDs, 3 INTs), as a lot of talent at skill positions, headlined by running back Shock Linwood (777 yards, 10 TDs).The Sooners have yet to beat a ranked team this year and, despite all of the talent on their roster, don’t have the firepower to keep up with Baylor. The defense should be able to keep this one close, but the Bears have an advantage at quarterback with Petty, and their explosive offense should be able to put up enough points to keep themselves as a dark horse contender for the playoffs.Prediction: Baylor 38, Oklahoma 31Playoff Prediction:#1 Mississippi State vs. #4 Oregon#2 Florida State vs. #3 AuburnI don’t expect any major changes in the playoff picture this week, as most of the matches impact teams looking into the bracket. Mississippi State and Florida State should be able to coast to another win against UT Martin and Virginia, respectively, while Auburn faces Texas A&M at home, which has lost three of their last four, with their only win coming against a lowly-UL Monroe team last week by five points. Oregon should put up enough points to escape Utah with a win.