Week 11 was objectively a poor week for College Football in regards to matchup, but regardless notable stories came out of the week. For one, Tulsa overcomes a 24-7 halftime score to not only put up 21 points on offense, but completely shut SMU out of the endzone. Miami U and Virginia Tech was one of the most entertaining games for the year, and Michigan continues to free fall to mediocrity.
Week 12 has a strong lineup of six noteworthy games, including three ranked matchups. The major focal point of this week will be over in the Big Ten, where a ranked matchup between two very solid teams will ultimately decide the fate of the conference as we are just 4 weeks away from conference championship week.
Game of the Week:
#9 Indiana (4-0) @ #3 Ohio State (3-0)
Indiana Football is not a name you think of when it comes to strong programs. The past decade has seen them tread water in the shallow end of NCAA competition, only being in four bowl games in the past twenty years, and all four being losses. Despite this unexpected rise to fame by the Hoosiers off the back of their victories over then-#8 Penn State and then-#23 Michigan, this matchup against Ohio State will be the benchmark to decide whether or not Indiana is legitimately a Top-10 team in the nation. Ohio State is not without it’s problems. Leading the Buckeyes is the current Heisman favorite: Justin Fields. Ohio State boasts NFL talent all over the field including but not limited to: Cornerback Shaun Wade, Halfback Trey Sermon, and Offensive Linemen Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers. Indiana currently leads the Big Ten’s Eastern Division, but a loss here could kill any chance they have of making to the Big Ten Championship.
Game to Watch:
#21 Liberty (8-0) @ NC State (5-3)
Liberty is in the middle of a historic run for its football program. This year marks the first time in program history they have ever been ranked in the AP Top-25, and are in the middle of an undefeated run. This historic season is going to be put to the test however against their toughest foe they have played this season, NC State. The Wolfpack sits at 5th in the ACC standings, and is fighting to keep their conference championship dream alive; Though they will need both Miami and Clemson to lose their games in order to have a chance to move up in the coming weeks. Liberty is in a do or die situation. If they lose this game, they will lose their undefeated streak and their rank.
Virginia Tech (4-4) @ Pitt (4-4)
American Conference Preview
Game to Watch:
#7 Cincinnati (7-0) @ UCF (5-2)
Cincinnati has a 2-game lead over second place in the American Conference, so their sights are set on the next big prize: College Football Playoffs. Unfortunately, the committee is not all in on them, with BYU taking a lot of the “outsider” hype that would be for Cincy. With only two strong opponents left on their schedule, Cincy is going to need to win in convincing fashion against UCF in order to even hope to crack Top-5. UCF is technically only a single game behind Tulsa in the AAC standings, and a victory here could potentially move them up to second if Tulsa and SMU both lose this week. UCF only has two games left, so they must go win out in order to possibly make the conference championship., though fate is not in their own hands.
Tulane (5-4) @ Tulsa (4-1)
Houston (3-2) @ SMU (7-2)
Big XII Preview
Game To Watch:
#14 Oklahoma State (5-1) @ #18 Oklahoma (5-2)
After stumbling into a 1-2 start, Oklahoma has spent the past four weeks attempting to claw their way back into the Big XII Championship picture. They are two games behind front runner Iowa State, but a victory here alongside a Kansas State loss could propel the Sooners back into the championship seeding at #2. Oklahoma State is the team who currently sits at that second place spot, and this game could make things messy in the Big XII. If Oklahoma State loses, they will have won the tiebreaker against Iowa State, while losing to Oklahoma. Meanwhile Oklahoma would have won the tiebreaker against OK State, but lost to Iowa State. Couple this with the fact 7 of 10 teams are still in the race for the conference championship, and you can see how important this game is for the Big XII, as well as the Sooners and Cowboys.
Kansas State (4-3) @ Iowa State (5-2)
Big Ten Preview
Game to Watch:
#10 Wisconsin (2-0) @ #19 Northwestern (4-0)
A game between two largely overlooked programs in the Top-25 and/or the playoff race, Wisconsin and Northwestern are both looking to pad their resume with this ranked matchup. Having the Nebraska and Purdue games both canceled has put Wisconsin in a tough spot, as they may not make the conference championship even if they win out because of lack of games. This is a must-win game for Wisconsin, as any loss would virtually kill all hopes of making it to the postseason.
Northwestern sits cozy with a 2-game lead in the Western Division, so other than losing their ranking, they are not in immediate danger of losing their place in the Big Ten Championship. With their last games against Michigan State, Minnesota, and Illinois, Northwestern has nothing really to lose, while Wisconsin is in a must-win situation.
Game to Watch:
Charlotte (2-3) @ #15 Marshall (7-0)
Marshall has little to lose this week against Charlotte. They are two games ahead of Florida Atlantic in the Eastern Division, and are far enough into the rankings to maintain Top-25 status even if they were to lose. The quest right now is to see just how far Marshall can push into the rankings before the season is over. Can they crack the Top-10? We will all see.
Charlotte sits at third place in the Eastern Division behind Marshall and Florida Atlantic. Given they have already lost to FAU, and therefore lost the tiebreaker, Charlotte must win this game in order to stay in the race for the conference championship. They have little in the way of immediate earnings, as they are two games behind FAU, so even if they win they will not move up.
Both boast strong offenses, but the spotlight will be on the Marshall defense, who only allows 260 yards per game and 10 points on average. Can Charlotte muster an offensive attack to knock Marshall back?
Rice (1-1) @ North Texas (2-3)
Game to Watch:
Western Michigan (2-0) @ Central Michigan (2-0)
With only a 6-game season, this game to break the tie over who is first place in the Western Division is crucial, as neither team will really have a chance to rebound if they lose right here. Losing the tiebreaker could very well put a team too far back to recover, as they would need a minimum two wins to jump. Western Michigan and Central Michigan have won their two games in convincing fashion, averaging 50 (WM) and 35+ (CM) points on the offensive side of the ball. The main point of emphasis this week will be on the Central Michigan defense, who must find a way to slow down an offense than averages 400+ yards and 50 points a game. Whether they are up for it remains to be seen.
Ohio (1-1) @ Miami O (1-1)
Mountain West Preview
Game to Watch:
San Diego State (3-1) @ Nevada (4-0)
Two very important games are occurring this week for the MWC: San Diego State against Nevada, and San Jose State against Fresno State. Both games feature four of the top five in the conference, and both can shape how the MWC will look going forward into the end of the season. The reason this one is more important comes down to matchup. San Diego State has already lost to San Jose State and thus lost the tiebraker between them, so this game holds great significance in the fact that San Diego State cannot hope to challenge for the conference championship if they lose the tiebreaker to two of the three teams in front of them. This is a make-or-break game for San Diego State.
Nevada is not without their problems as well. Aside from being undefeated, they are tied for first with San Jose State who are both 4-0. Behind them is Boise State who is 3-1, but undefeated at 3-0 in conference play. this means if Nevada loses and both San Jose and Boise State win, they will be knocked out of a championship berth, and even drop to 5th because they lose the tiebreaker to San Diego State. That amount of movement can be crippling for a team that only has less than half of their games left.
San jose State (4-0) @ Fresno State (3-1)
Boise State (3-1) @ Hawai’i (2-2)
Game to Watch:
#20 USC (2-0) @ Utah (0-0)
Pac-12’s lineup for games this week are on the soft side, with nothing really worth noting in terms of conference standing or interesting matchups. By default then, the honor of being the game to watch falls on the USC-Utah match that features a Utah team that has yet to suit up for a game. USC has been performing fine, though close wins over Arizona State and Arizona does little to boost the confidence of the program. The big question mark falls on Utah; Just how good (or bad) are they?
UCLA (1-1) @ #11 Oregon (2-0)
Game to Watch: Tennessee (2-4) @ #23 Auburn (4-2)
In a week that sees SEC powerhouses like Alabama, Georgia, and Florida face off against the likes of Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Mississippi State, the fascinating matchup goes to Tennessee-Auburn. Auburn sits two games behind division leader Alabama, and is the forgotten ranked team of the conference. With ‘Bama and Texas A&M still on the schedule for Auburn, they have a glimmer of hope to finesse their way to the top of the conference; Though another loss will definitely kill their longshot.
Tennessee is technically not eliminated from the SEC championship, but three games behind Florida with four left would need to see the Volunteers win out while Florida drops the rest of their games. Sorry, but not happening. Tennessee is instead playing for the chance to get the invite to a possible bowl game, if there even will be a bowl season this year. Losing their last four has Tennessee on the back foot, as they only have a single loss left before they hit .500 on the season. If they drop two games and fall below .500, you can kiss a bowl berth goodbye.
Kentucky (3-4) @ #1 Alabama (6-0)
Mississippi State (2-4) @ #13 Georgia (4-2)
Sun Belt Conference
Game to Watch:
Appalachian State (6-1) @ #15 Coastal Carolina (7-0)
This is it: The Game for the Sun Belt. Whatever happens this week will see the pieces on the SBC season fall where they may. Both teams are nearly identical on the stat sheet: Both boast a 30+ point-per-game offense. Both average nearly 450 yards on offense, including 200+ average rushing yards per game. Both have above average-to-good defenses that hold opponents to under 18 a game and less than 350 yards allowed. Both are staring at first place in the East, with Coastal Carolina holding that spot, and Appalachian State breathing down their necks.
Regardless of what happens elsewhere in the conference, whoever wins this game takes first place in the Eastern Division. Appalachian State’s win would see them tie with Coastal Carolina, but own the tiebreaker, thus propelling them to first. A Coastal Carolina victory would see them have a 2-game lead on Appalachian State (who would still be second in the East with an L) with the tiebreaker, essentially clinching their spot to the Sun Belt Championship as the East representative barring any late season collapse.