I am going to do my best to try and hide my Auburn homerism in this article but like…40-17 baby.
Already failed just one sentence in. Ok, that’s done. Moving on.
Last week was exciting, huh?! It produced a monumental shift in the 2017 college football playoff picture, and I’d say the slate of games absolutely lived up to the hype. We learned that Notre Dame maybe isn’t as flawless as we thought, injuries are really starting to catch up to Alabama, Baker Mayfield should win the Heisman and…oh yeah…The U? It’s back.
Although there will be a myriad of important rivalry games, all eyes are going to be on The Plains in a week and a half as the Iron Bowl carries the same weight as it did in 2013. Remember that one? I do….
LOTS of clips right off that bat. You love it. I love it. It was a crazy weekend, and now we flip the page to Week 12! Here’s a representation of Week 12 in photo format.
Nuthin’. Sorry, folks, but they can’t all be winners. Next week is gonna be lit, but in the meantime, we get some snoozers. This is the week known as “that week before rivalry week” where basically every major program licks their wounds before the big showdown. The SEC always uses this week to crush some poor FCS or low-level FBS opponent as evidenced by the Alabama-Mercer, Auburn-Louisiana Monroe, and LSU-Tennessee games. HA. BUT…that doesn’t mean this week is void of story lines and intrigue! That’s what I’m here to help guide you through, so let’s (finally) get right to it!
Tulsa (2-8, 1-5 AAC) @ South Florida (8-1, 5-1 AAC)-7:30 pm on ESPN
The Bulls continue to be left off the CFP rankings, which I think is an indictment of their close wins and loss to mediocre Houston. Regardless, they remain the last guaranteed challenger to UCF’s New Years 6 bowl bid as the War on I4 commences next week. USF technically still has a shot at the bid themselves, but they will most certainly have to win out convincingly including the conference title game. That also includes tonight’s game against a hard-luck Tulsa team that has gone from 10 wins a year ago to a paltry 2 this season. It’s been a series of close losses in Oklahoma, but an upset over the Bulls would certainly heal a lot of wounds. USF has a statistical advantage pretty much everywhere, and star QB Quinton Flowers (1,955 yards, 15 TDs, 4 INT) should make it a long night for the Golden Hurricane.
Prediction: USF 45 Tulsa 14
Middle Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 CUSA) @ Western Kentucky (5-5, 3-3 CUSA)-8 pm on CBS SN
I almost just recycled that picture of tumbleweeds and wrote nothing in the Friday slate. There are only two FBS games this night, and this one is just barely worth watching if you truly have nothing else to do on Friday night. I won’t judge either way. The only real storyline here is that one team will gain bowl eligibility while the other will have to try again next week. These two are very close in average total offense per game, but the way they get there is drastically different. WKU throws it more than almost anyone in the conference while the Blue Raiders prefer a slightly more balanced attack. The Hilltoppers are in the midst of a 3 game losing streak after a tough stretch (Marshall, Vanderbilt, FAU…trust me that’s tougher than the rest of their schedule), and they desperately need a win to get back on track. Watch for WKU QB Mike White (2,986 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INT) who has the 12th most passing yards in the FBS.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 28 MTSU 21
#24 Michigan (8-2, 5-2 Big 10) @ #5 Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0 Big 10)-Noon on FOX
Spoiler: this is the only game in the “Must Watch” category this week. I tried to justify putting something else here, but I just couldn’t. It’s that kind of a slate this week. Regardless, this is a pretty good showdown in the Big 10. College Gameday will be on hand (because duh) as the Badgers attempt to lock down the Big 10 West, and Michigan tries to wiggle their way back into the convo before their huge game next week with the Buckeyes. This game features two of the best defenses in the FBS as Wisconsin is 1st in average total defense compared to Michigan’s #3 spot. Also, we get the best pass defense in the country (Michigan) against the best rush defense (Wisconsin). A huge factor will be how true freshman QB Brandon Peters fairs in the spotlight against the stellar Badger defense. He’s started a few games prior, but not with Michigan’s faint Big 10 dreams hanging in the balance. Keep an eye out for super Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor who is 3rd in the FBS with 1,525 rushing yards. A victory here is crucial for the Badgers as they are desperate for a Top 25 win to impress the playoff committee.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31 Michigan 21
Virginia (6-4, 3-3 ACC) @ #3 Miami (9-0, 6-0 ACC)-Noon on ABC
Just a few short weeks ago, I mentioned that Virginia still controlled its own destiny in the ACC race. Then they fell of a cliff. Regardless, Bronco Mendenhall has the Cavs on the right track as they’ve totally flipped from their 2-10 season a year ago. They’ll be trying to improve their bowl situation here as they attempt to knock off the red hot Canes who are coming off back-to-back top 25 wins (Virginia Tech, Notre Dame). Miami has a large advantage in yards per game, but my focus (and it should be yours too) will be on how often we see the Turnover Chain in this one.
Look at that thing! The U has racked up an astonishing 8 turnovers the last two weeks, which is a huge reason they’ve vaulted up to #3 in the most recent CFP rankings. This is a monster unit who should make life hell for the Wahoo offense. However, being top dog is new to this era of Miami football. They’ve been relatively underrated until this week, so it will be interesting to see how they handle life on top of the mountain. They’ve already clinched a date with Clemson in two weeks, but I don’t expect Mark Richt to allow them to take their foot off the gas in this one.
Prediction: Miami 35 Virginia 17
#12 TCU (8-2, 5-2) @ Texas Tech (5-5, 2-5 Big 12)-Noon on FS1
TCU is coming off a pretty decisive 38-20 loss to Oklahoma, but they still find themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title game in two weeks. Much like last week (and like every week in the Big 12 honestly), we will once again see the stellar TCU defense going up against a high-powered passing attack. The Horned Frogs are coming off one of their worst defensive performances all season last week, but let’s face it, Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek isn’t Baker Mayfield. Disrespects aside, you can’t deny the fact the Red Raiders have the 7th best passing yards per game average in the FBS. Advantage Kliff’s Krew, right? Not so fast as Lee Corso says. TCU has already played and beaten the #1 (Mason Rudolph) and #3 (Will Grier) passers in the nation, so this is nothing new for them. Though they stumbled last weekend, I just don’t think the Red Raiders are deep or talented enough to stop a hungry TCU team with everything to play for.
Prediction: TCU 45 Texas Tech 21
Texas (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) @ West Virginia (7-3, 5-2 Big 12)-Noon on ESPN
Interestingly enough, neither of these teams are technically out of the Big 12 race. Texas needs lots of help and tons of chaos, but as long as West Virginia keeps winning, the pressure will be on TCU and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers are coming off three straight physical, close games (Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State), and I expect this one to be no different. West Virginia’s offense is led by standout transfer QB (sorry, Gators) Will Grier who is 3rd in the FBS in passing yards with 3,440 yards. He has led the Mountaineers to the 5th best passing attack in the country, and they average about 100 yards more per game offensively than their opponent. Oh, and Texas has one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. #Disaster. If there is one positive for the Longhorns, it’s that the WVU defense struggles to stop the run. I feel like I know what Tom Herman is going to emphasize this week, but I don’t think it will be enough.
Prediction: West Virginia 50 Texas 35
Kentucky (7-3, 4-3 SEC) @ #7 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC)-3:30 pm on CBS
The mighty Bulldogs finally stumbled last weekend at rival Auburn, and let’s see if Coach Kirby Smart can avoid losing to Auburn twice. By that, I mean can the Dawgs shake off the tough loss and romp over the surprising Wildcats? Coach Mark Stoops has done wonders at Kentucky this season, but this will obviously be the toughest task yet against a team with everything to play for. The SEC East champion Bulldogs feature the 5th best rush defense as well as the 10th best rushing attack in the FBS. Though Auburn was able to neutralize the two-headed monster of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, I doubt the Wildcat defense and their 404 total defensive yards per game average can repeat the Tiger’s performance. Though the Wildcats are much improved, Georgia has an advantage in pretty much every statistical category you can think of, and I expect them to roll here.
Prediction: Georgia 38 Kentucky 14
Navy (6-3, 4-3 AAC) @ #8 Notre Dame (8-2)-3:30 pm on NBC
This is secretly one of the best games of the weekend in my opinion as it features the #1 (Navy) and #6 (Notre Dame) rushing attacks in the country. Notre Dame has all but lost their playoff hopes this season, but two more wins will pretty much guarantee a New Year’s 6 bowl for the Irish. Notre Dame got tossed around in a 41-8 rout at the hands of Miami last weekend, and this is not the easiest team to bounce back against. The matchup to watch for will be Navy QB/RB/whatever he is Zach Abey going up against Notre Dame’s RB Josh Adams. Abey is questionable, but if he plays, he’s going to be a factor. Injuries aside, both players have led their teams to mind-boggling rushing stats this season, and it will come down to whose defense can stop the opponent first. Notre Dame is favored by two touchdowns, but I think it’s much closer than that. In fact, I think the Midshipmen come into South Bend, run all over the Irish, and pull off the upset.
Prediction: Navy 31 Notre Dame 28
#20 LSU (7-3, 4-2 SEC) @ Tennessee (4-6, 0-6 SEC)-7 pm on ESPN
I honestly just want to see the dumpster fire that is Tennessee. The Vols finally pulled the trigger this past week and fired Butch Jones, which means that big ol’ Brady Hoke will be at the helm this week against Ed Orgeron’s Bengal Tigers. Amidst a sea of Grumors, it will be interesting to see if the Vols even show up mentally to this one. It’s been a disaster in Knoxville in every way imaginable, and did you know they are #126 in the FBS against the rush this season? And this week, they face LSU RB Derrius Guice who has digested poor SEC defenses this season. Also, the Vols offense ranks #125 in the nation, which is not very good at all FYI. This is going to get ugly in a hurry. LSU should have no problems in this one. #AreYouSureYouWantGruden?
Prediction: LSU 56 Tennessee 14
UCLA (5-5, 3-4 Pac 12) @ #11 USC (9-2, 7-1 Pac 12)-8 pm on ABC
USC has clinched a spot in the Pac 12 title game, but before they face one of Stanford, Washington or Wazzu, they must take down arch rival UCLA in a matchup of potent passing offenses. Neither teams play especially good defense, and the real challenge will be UCLA’s worst-in-the-FBS rush defense against USC standout RB Ronald Jones II (184 car, 1,224 yards, 14 TD). I am most excited to see the future NFL QB matchup of UCLA’s Josh Rosen (3,094 yards, 21 TD, 9 INT) and USC’s Sam Darnold (3,198 yards, 24 TD, 11 INT). Although neither has had the season they imagined they would, they are still very much on NFL scouts’ radars and are both top 10 in passing yards in the FBS. There should be tons of offense in this one. USC has won three straight conference games coming into this one, and I don’t think they will struggle to make it 4.
Prediction: USC 38 UCLA 21
SMU (6-4, 3-3 AAC) @ #21 Memphis (8-1, 5-1 AAC)-Noon on ESPNN
Do not forget about the Tigers in the New Years 6 race! Memphis can clinch a spot in the AAC conference title game with a win or a Houston loss this weekend, and that means they would either face USF or UCF in two weeks. The Tigers better hope UCF comes in undefeated because an upset win over the 12-0 Knights there would most likely vault Memphis into a NY6 bid. This one should be a good ol’ fashioned shootout as Memphis has the #8 average total offense in the country while SMU features the #12 attack. Both average at least 300 yards passing per game, and they also feature notably bad pass defenses. The scoring should come early and often, but I think the Tigers will outlast the Ponies in this one.
Prediction: Memphis 49 SMU 31
SOMEBODY EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THE FAU OWLS ARE NOT ON TV WITH A SHOT TO CLINCH THE C-USA EAST CROWN THIS WEEK?! UGH.
WE DESERVE JOEY FRESHWATER.
PAC 12 AFTER DARK
Utah (5-5, 2-5 Pac 12) @ #18 Washington (8-2, 5-2 Pac 12)-10:30 pm on ESPN
This one actually has a few storylines as the Huskies are in a 3-way battle for the Pac 12 North crown. With a win and a Stanford loss, the Apple Cup next week would become a de facto North title game. If everyone keeps winning, the Huskies would find themselves on the outside looking in as Stanford would head for a rematch with USC. Regardless, this is a must-win for the Huskies. Utah has lost 5 out of their last 6 after starting 4-0, and they will have their hands full slowing down Washington RB Myles Gaskin (1,038 yards, 13 TDs). I’ll pick the Huskies to keep their hopes alive.
Prediction: Washington 28 Utah 14
#16 Mississippi State (7-3, 3-3 SEC) @ Arkansas (4-6, 1-5 SEC)-Noon on CBS: The Bulldogs have only lost 3 games this season to Georgia, Alabama, and Auburn which…wow. That’s a tough schedule. The writing is on the wall for Bret Bielema as heads have already started to roll in Fayetteville. The Bulldogs haven’t struggled with teams they are supposed to beat this season. Also, hot take alert: Dan Mullen stays in Starkville.
Kansas State (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) @ #13 Oklahoma State (8-2, 5-2 Big 12)-3:30 pm on ESPN 2: The Cowboys are still very much in the Big 12 race, and so West Virginia will be pulling for a KSU upset here. Mason Rudolph is statistically the best QB in the country, so the story will be can Bill Snyder’s team slow him down and qualify for a bowl this week? The Wildcats aren’t the same away from home, so I’m saying it’s all Pokes in this one.
Nebraska (4-6, 3-4 Big 10) @ #10 Penn State (8-2, 5-2 Big 10)-4 pm on FS1: Mike Riley will be allowed to finish the season as the Huskers head man, but there will most certainly be a new chief in Lincoln in 2018. Many think UCF’s (and former Nebraska legend) Scott Frost is the logical choice, and barring a Florida all-out blitz, I agree. Penn State needs a win and chaos to stay alive in the Big 10. I think they won’t get the chaos, but they’ll easily handle the Huskers.
UAB (7-3) @ Florida (3-6)-4 pm on SECN: Can we just give Coach of the Year to UAB’s Bill Clark already? The Blazers didn’t play football last year, but now they have a very real shot at beating a reeling Florida team in disarray. McElwain is already gone, and so are the players’ desires for 2017. Lost season in Gainesville.
#19 NC State (7-3, 5-1 ACC) @ Wake Forest (6-4, 3-3 ACC)-7:30 pm on ESPNU: NC State had an incredible year that will be overshadowed by Clemson and Miami in the ACC. Dave Clawson has the Deacons bowling this season, and this one should be a pretty close showdown. I’ll take the Wolfpack by a field goal.
Cal (5-5, 2-5 Pac 12) @ #22 Stanford (7-3, 6-2 Pac 12)-8 pm on FOX: A win here and a Washington loss would put Stanford in the driver’s seat for the Pac 12 North title with 1 game left. Cal would love nothing more than to stun their rivals at home. Justin Wilcox has done a great job righting the ship in Berkeley, but they aren’t there yet. Stanford wins this one and is my pick for the Pac 12 North.
It’s not the most exciting slate this week, but it’s what we’ve got! Still some pretty meaningful games under the surface. We were spoiled the last few weeks with multiple top 25 matchups, so no complaints here. Down the stretch we come! Thanks for checking me out, and come back next week for rivalry week!!!
As always, follow me on Twitter @jakebridges03 as well as the rest of the Three Up Three Down team!