Week 12 might have ended up being one of the more entertaining, if not the most entertaining week in the world of College Football this season. With six games featuring ranked opponents only having one-score differences, the major match between the main programs in each conference put on a show that would leave any college football fan happy with the product on the field.
Indiana-Ohio State was the main matchup for last week, and what we got may very well be the huge opening act for the Indiana football program going forward. While pretty much everyone knew Ohio State was going to be the team to walk away with the victory, few outside the Indiana family were expecting the fight that it turned into. I’m sure most wrote off Indiana after the 28-7 score at halftime, but to come back and drop 28 of their own in the second half showed this is not a program that will back down. Both teams come out with a positive in this week: Ohio State gets a much needed Top-10 win, while Indiana showed they are legit.
Other major happenings include Northwestern upsetting Wisconsin to knock them out of the Top-10. Wisconsin was still fighting for that B1G championship berth, and losing to Northwestern may have very well sealed the deal and knocked them out of contention. Oklahoma destroyed Oklahoma State to keep their race to the BXII ‘ship alive. With a ranked win as well, Oklahoma managed to pass Iowa State in the rankings; A controversial decision around the Big XII. Liberty loses their rank and their perfect season after dropping to NC State by only a single point. While their hopes of finishing with a rank may be in jeopardy, they have all but clinched a bowl berth if bowl season is still on.
Week 13 may very well be another excellent week in College Football with 12 conference-significant games. With only three weeks left in the season before bowl season begins, pretty much every conference is still up for grabs among at least three combatants except the Big Ten West, which sees Northwestern with a comfortable lead. This week will mark the beginning of the weed out process for the front runners who will go on to Conference Championships.
Game of the Week:
#22 Auburn (5-2)
#1 Alabama (7-0)
No other game this week can match the pure hype that surrounds the Iron Bowl. This game will mark the 7th time in the last decade both teams have come into the Iron Bowl as ranked combatants. There is not much in terms of conference significance for this game, as Alabama enjoys a 2-game lead as the leader of the West; However, Auburn does have the potential to ruin Bama’s chance at getting into the CFP should they emerge victorious. Even if a loss would still keep Bama in the Top-4, a 1-loss Bama could open the door for those on the outside looking in, and see Texas A&M or Florida try to move in on the spot. That doesn’t even take into account the likes of Cincy, BYU, and Oregon, who would then argue their undefeated record should hold more leverage. All in all, Auburn could complicate the playoff picture for the SEC, as the ACC is working on getting Notre Dame and Clemson into the playoffs together.
Auburn has nothing to lose in this game aside from pride. Sitting two games below Alabama as a 2-loss team, Auburn would need Bama to lose against them and Arkansas, as well as Texas A&M to take a loss in order for them to move up to first place and compete for the SEC ‘ship: Extremely unlikely to happen. Regardless though, Auburn boasts some power on the offensive side of the ball. With RB Tank Bigsby and the WR core of Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz, Auburn is not a team to sleep on. Boasting 400+ yards of total offense including 170 rushing yards per game, Auburn has a balanced attack that can wear any defense down if given the opportunity to dictate the game. They are not without fault, and their defense leave a lot to be desired. For one, their run defense is absolutely appalling, as they allow teams to average just as many rushing yards as they eat up on the offensive side of the ball. While their pass rush and coverage skills are not bad, going against an Alabama offense that is just as proficient and even better at moving the ball, Auburn will need to fix that defense if they hope to come out of this game with a W.
Alabama is playing for another ranked win to put on their resume for the college playoffs. They already have two dominant wins against two ranked opponents in Texas A&M and Georgia, and is just looking to add onto that with another dominant win against Auburn. Bama’s offense is an absolute problem, as they boast 500+ yards per game and close to 50 points per game as well. Aside from Mac Jones having a TD:INT ratio of 6:1, Najee Harris and Bryan Robinson Jr make up a backfield that accounts for over 1,200 rushing yards on the season. A WR corps of Smith, Waddle, and Metchie III account for just under 2,000 yards of the 2,563 receiving yardage on the season. And to top the entire thing off, Alabama boasts a defense that allows less than 20 points allowed a game, and one of the best secondaries in the nation. This game will completely depend on whether Auburn’s defense will be able to stall the Bama offense enough for their offense to put up a fight.
Game to Watch:
#2 Notre Dame (8-0) @ #25 North Carolina (6-2)
An interesting match on paper, the ACC’s headliner for this week may very well be a lopsided slaughter. QB Sam Howell has emerged this season as the underclassman to watch, and has definitely started to be noticed by fans and scouts alike. UNC is playing for survival in regards to the ACC Championship. They are currently sitting in 4th place in the conference, and are two games behind Notre Dame for the top spot. That being said, They are only a single game behind Clemson and Miami, and could potentially jump both of them by the season’s end. In order for that to happen, UNC will need a victory here. Because no tiebreaker will exist between UNC and Clemson, they must beat Clemson outright in the standings, and they finish the season off at Miami on the 12th of December which could secure the tiebreaker. Basically UNC needs to win out and hope Clemson loses again before the end of the regular season if they wish to somehow slip into the ACC ‘ship.
While North Carolina boasts a strong offense, they have a very bad defense. They are a team that consists of a 550+ yard offense and 40+ points per game that is paired with a defense that gives up 400+ yards and over 30 points a game. The true killer in this week’s matchup is the fact UNC has one of the absolute worst run defenses; a liability that could prove deadly against a team that averages over 200 yards on the ground per game. The only saving grace for UNC is their pass rush, which is respectable, though questions arise over how effective that can be against such a balanced offense.
Notre Dame is the heavy favorite in this game. Leading the ACC, Notre Dame is run by an offense that averages 450+ yards and over 35 points a game. Their defense is a complete package: fielding a demoralizing run defense that allows less than 100 yards on the ground, a respectable pass rush, and a suffocating secondary.
Pitt (5-4) @ #4 Clemson (7-1)
Game to Watch:
#25 Tulsa (5-1) @ Houston (3-3)
It may not seem like a huge matchup between Tulsa and Houston if you just look at their record, but this game does have standing potential based on who will end up winning. Tulsa is currently sitting in second place in the conference with SMU breathing down their neck. While Houston is only 3-3, they are actually only two games behind Tulsa for the second spot and the AAC championship spot. Houston has Tulsa and SMU back-to-back, meaning they could take the tiebreaker against both teams and boost their conference record to 5-2 for the season. With only a maximum of three games left, Houston will need to win out to keep the AAC berth alive.
Tulsa is a tough cookie; A battle-tested group that defeated UCF, SMU, Tulane, and took Oklahoma State to the final minutes before losing by a single score. Their defense is among the best in the nation with good run defense, reliable tackling, a good pass rush, and a deceptively quick secondary. While their offense is good on paper, Tulsa does suffer from less than stellar QB play by Zach Smith. Their RB rotation is efficient with Deneric Prince and T.K. Wilkerson taking the majority of the snaps, but it does not pop as much as other groups around the country. All in all, Tulsa lacks legitimate star power on the offensive side of the ball.
Houston is an interesting beast to study for many reasons. As a team that saw their first three games postponed because of COVID concerns, Houston has been playing catch-up to the rest of the conference since Day 1. While their record leaves much to be desired, Their offense’s ability to get into the endzone is not without merit. As a team that can boast being a 30+ point per game offense, Houston has shown they can get things going if given the opportunity. The issue is their defense gives up almost exactly the same as their offense produces. Houston is a 30 point a game team and also a 30 points allowed team. They are a 400+ yard offense, and a 400+ yard allowed defense. Houston is also inconsistent against competition, as they managed to defeat Tulane convincingly, but were utterly humiliated against UCF and Cincy. You never know what Houston team you are going to get.
Memphis (5-2) @ Navy (3-4)
Big XII Preview
Game to Watch:
#15 Iowa State (6-2) @ #20 Texas (5-2)
With a 1-game lead over Oklahoma in addition to holding the tiebreaker, Iowa State is not in a position to lose their top spot this week. A win would see Iowa State virtually clinching a berth to the Big XII championship after beating both Oklahoma and Texas. Texas is in a tough position; They are one game behind Oklahoma but lost the tiebreaker. Oklahoma State and, West Virginia, and Kansas State are sitting at four conference wins on the season like Texas, meaning this game could very well end the Texas Longhorns’ race to the Big XII ‘ship.
Both teams boast 30+ point offenses with 400+ yards per game. The difference between the two revolves around defense. Iowa State has one of the better defenses in the country: holding high powered Big XII offenses to below 25 points a game. In addition to this, Iowa State is very good at stopping the run, and even squeezing receivers on passes. Texas, by contrast, is one of the worst tackling teams in the country. While their offense is capable of a lot under Sam Ehlinger’s arm, the defense simple cannot consistently win one-on-one situations on the defensive side of the ball. This game comes down to Brock Purdy v. Sam Ehlinger: Who will get more help from their team?
#14 Oklahoma (6-2) @ West Virginia (5-3)
Big Ten Preview
Game to Watch:
Maryland (2-1) @ #12 Indiana (4-1)
There is not much to honestly talk about when it comes to this game. Maryland is two games behind Indiana who is one game behind Ohio State. There is realistically no chance for Maryland to get to the Big Ten Championship, though they can end the race definitively for Indiana right here with a win. Indiana must win out and hope Ohio State loses at least once for them to jump to first in the East.
Maryland is a glass cannon: a 400+ yard offense paired with a 450+ yard allowed defense. They average almost 30 points a game on offense while allowing about 35 points on defense. There is no way for Maryland to contain the Indiana offense, so their only hope is to pray they can keep pace with them on the offensive side of the ball. This game will either be a shootout or a blowout: There is no in between.
Minnesota (2-3) @ #18 Wisconsin (2-1)
Game to Watch:
north Texas (3-3) @ UTSA (6-4)
In the red corner: a 550+ yard, 35 point-a-game offense with a 500+ yard allowed, 40 points allowed a game defense. In the blue corner: A 26 point, 350+ yard offense with a 26 point allowed, 350+ yard allowed defense. Can you guess which is which? This week in C-USA, the extremely high risk/high reward North Texas Mean Green takes on the “offense is just as good and/or bad as their defense” UTSA Roadrunners. It is difficult to even talk about this game because they both are so opposite of each other. This is the best matchup the conference has, a UTSA team who has a 2-game lead in their division versus a North Texas team who sits in 4th place. Riveting stuff.
Western Kentucky (4-6) @ Charlotte (2-3)
Game to Watch:
Kent State (3-0) @ Buffalo (3-0)
The MAC gets no love in the world of college football. With the Sun Belt coming into its own as an exciting conference filled with interesting programs and fun matchups, the MAC has seen itself fall into the role of the laughingstock of the football world. This week may give an opportunity to show what the MAC can do. two undefeated teams who are in the same division; Only one of them can come out on top as the best in the conference. It’s a simple game: Winner takes first.
Kent State is statistically the best offense in the nation. Averaging over 600 yards in total offense including about 300 yards on the run alone, Kent State are literally Golden Flashes when they are on the field. They have won the last two games by a margin of over 35 points, and look to continue that level of domination.
Buffalo is not as flashy, but also possess an offense that can put up over 40 points; In fact, they have in every one of their games this season. A big advantage Buffalo has is on the defensive side of the ball. Buffalo is a defense that allows less than 20 points a game: The mark of a good defense. The question now becomes what can Buffalo do against such a destructive offense?
Ball State (2-1) @ Toledo (2-1)
Mountain West Preview
Game to Watch:
San José State (4-0) @ Boise State (4-1)
San Jose State currently rests in second place in the MWC behind undefeated Nevada. With one game behind them and a season closer against them, San Jose State must make sure to win out in order to get a shot as the top dog in the conference. Easier said than done, with this week’s matchup against Boise State, the team who is right behind the Spartans. Both SJSU and BSU are undefeated in conference play, meaning whoever wins this game takes second place as they would own the tiebreaker and the other will fall two games behind. Both teams are very competitive and a loss this late in the season could definitely derail the path to the MWC Championship.
While QB Nick Starkel is not performing poorly, the player to keep an eye on for San Jose State is definitely Linebacker Kyle Harmon. Harmon has recorded 10+ tackles in every single game this season thus far, and already has racked up 52 on the season in only four games. For reference, that would make him on pace during a normal season to have 156 total tackles: The standard benchmark for great is 100. LBs don’t usually get as much hype as Quarterbacks, but he is a name worth paying attention to.
Boise State’s main weapon comes from Wide Receiver Khalil Shakir. As of right now, Shakir has posted 529 receiving yards alongside 114 rushing. He also is responsible for 13 total touchdowns as of right now. As a Junior, Shakir is eligible for the NFL draft, as could very well be a name you hear come April.
Nevada (5-0) @ Hawai’i (2-3)
Game to Watch:
Colorado (2-0) @ #18 USC (3-0)
The Pac-12 race is extremely tight with only a 6-game season. Oregon currently sits atop the North, but USC and Colorado will jockey for the leader of the South. Both teams are undefeated, and the winner of this game will win the tiebreaker because each other, and so leap to the top of the division. The loser will probably not have enough time to get back into the race unless another team loses. It is late-playoff drama in a shortened season.
Both teams possess offenses capable of moving the ball, but Colorado seems to be the better team at getting the ball into the endzone. As a 40-point offense, Colorado has shown it has the pieces needed to mount an assault against the USC defense, though question arise as to how much damage Colorado can actually do.
Flipping the script, USC has the advantage here with an offense that can also march down the field against a Colorado defense that struggles to mount a pass rush and a lackluster coverage outside the box. USC QB Kedon Slovis has taken on a high volume of work this season, averaging about 45 throws a game. a high volume QB against a poor secondary could prove advantageous to the Trojans, and likewise fatal to the Buffaloes of Colorado.
#15 Oregon (3-0) @ Oregon State (1-2)
Utah (0-1) @ Washington (2-0)
LSU (3-3) @ #5 Texas A&M (5-1)
Sun Belt Preview
Game to Watch:
Georgia Southern (6-3) @ Georgia State (4-4)
Last week’s game that ended with Coastal Carolina defeating Appalachian State proved to be a fatal blow for everyone in the East. Coastal Carolina clinched their spot in the Sun Belt Championship, leaving both Georgia Southern and Georgia State with nothing but to fight over pride and a potential bowl bid. The Sun Belt race is over, now we just wait for the dust to settle.