By Bryan Foti
Last Week: (3-2)
Last week was college football chaos. For the first time since 1985, numbers two, three and four all lost. However, the College Football Playoff rankings did not change that much. Alabama, Clemson and Michigan are all still in, and Ohio State is back in this week. Washington is out. With just three weeks left in the college football season, let’s take a look at some key matchups going into Week 12.
#2 Ohio State at Michigan State
Location: Spartan Stadium
Time: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. EST
Line: Ohio State -22.5
The Buckeyes are back in the fold after two blowout victories. Ohio State fans may be a little bit concerned because the Buckeyes do not currently control their destiny with the Big 10 Championship game. If both Ohio State and Penn State win out, the Nittany Lions will represent the conference. That may actually benefit Ohio State, because Ohio State would definitely make the playoffs regardless of making the Big 10 Championship.
J.T. Barrett has played very well the past two weeks. He threw for 253 yards and 2 touchdown passes last week and added 2 rushing touchdowns in the Buckeyes 62-3 route of Maryland. This week Barrett and company face another struggling opponent in Michigan State.
The Spartans had lost seven games in a row before last week, making for the worst season of the Mark Dantonio era. The Spartans beat Rutgers last week 49-0, but that’s not saying much because everyone does.
Michigan State has been competitive during the past four games. To pull the upset, the Spartans will need running back L.J. Scott to carry them. Scott has had over 100 yards rushing in three of the four past games, along with 3 touchdowns.
Michigan State’s disappointing season can be salvaged by beating the Buckeyes. However, that won’t happen. Ohio State has too much at stake to blow this game.
The spread for this game (22.5) is very high. Michigan State should be fired up and keep the game close in the first half, but eventually Barrett and Ohio State will pull away. Still, will they cover the spread? Ohio State can be slow starters. They will win the game easily, but they won’t cover.
Final: Ohio State 40, Michigan State 20
Missouri at #19 Tennessee
Location: Neyland Stadium
Time: Saturday 3:30 p.m. EST
Line: Tennessee -16
It hasn’t been the season that the Volunteers hoped for, but Tennessee can still make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. The Vols would need to win their last two games, and Florida would need to lose to LSU.
Josh Dobbs got back on track after two brutal games against Alabama and South Carolina. Last week he passed for 223 yards and 3 touchdown passes. Dobbs also led the Vols in rushing, with 147 yards and 2 more touchdowns.
Running back Alvin Kamara had a nice game too, adding 128 yards on the ground along with 2 touchdowns.
Missouri might be the worst team in the conference this season at just 3-7. They finally picked up their first conference winlast week against Vanderbilt. Besides the conference opener and last week’s win, the Tigers haven’t been competitive in many SEC games this year.
Missouri is led by quarterback Drew Lock, who has had a good statistical season, tossing 21 touchdowns passes and only eight interceptions. Missouri ranks 24th in total offense and can run the ball well too. Freshman Damarea Crockett has tallied 837 yards and scored 9 rushing touchdowns. He had 152 yards rushing last week in the win against Vanderbilt.
This game will be very back and forth, as both defenses are not very good. Butch Jones will try to keep his guys focused on the task at hand, but you can bet they will be watching the scoreboard.
Tennessee will win this game, but will it be enough to cover? Dobbs should make enough plays in the second half to pull away. This will be Dobbs’ last game at Neyland Stadium, so look for him to perform well.
Lay the points and take Tennessee.
Final: Tennessee 42, Missouri 24
#22 Washington State at #10 Colorado
Location: Folsom Field
Time: Saturday 3:30 p.m. EST
Line: Colorado -4.5
The game of the week in college football features two teams we normally don’t see. Both Washington State and Colorado have had fantastic seasons.
Colorado can make it to the PAC-12 championship game with a win and a USC loss on Saturday. Mike MacIntyre should be up for coach of the year if his team can win the PAC-12. The Buffaloes have not been over .500 since the 2005 season.
Colorado has a talented offense, averaging over 35 points per game. The Buffaloes also run the ball effectively, averaging 204 yards on the ground this year.
Colorado Quarterback Sefo Liufau has had a nice season guiding the offense, despite missing a few games. He has passed for 10 touchdown passes and 1535 yards in the games he’s played.
Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay had a big game against Arizona last week, rushing for 3 touchdowns on 119 yards. The Buffaloes will need him to play well to get the win.
Colorado’s defense has played well this year too, though they will need to step up against Washington State’s high-powered offense. The Buffaloes are ranked ninth in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score 17.9 points per game.
After dropping their first two games, Mike Leach’s team has won eight in a row including seven straight to start conference play.
Cougar quarterback Luke Falk is the team leader and has had an excellent season. He’s thrown for 3610 yards and 33 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions. Falk has plenty of weapons available, including Gabe Marks, who has 12 receiving touchdowns and leads team in receiving.
The Cougars can put points up in bunches, scoring 69 against Arizona and 56 last week against Cal. For the season Washington State averages 44 points per game.
This game is tough to predict. Washington State has not played a tough schedule this season. Their one key win came on the road at Stanford. Facing the Buffaloes defense should be a good test for the Washington State offense.
If Washington State and Falk can get into a rhythm, they will put up points. They are hot right now, and Falk will carry them to close victory. Take the points and Washington State.
Final: Washington State 37, Colorado 33
#9 Oklahoma at #14 West Virginia
Location: Milan Puskar Stadium
Time: Saturday 8:00 p.m. EST
Line: Oklahoma -3
In another exciting matchup that could have playoff implications, Oklahoma travels to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. Oklahoma is unbeaten in the conference this season, but they need a lot to happen to get back to the playoffs.
The Sooners used a balanced offensive attack last week to easily take care of Baylor. Baker Mayfield threw for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns last week; running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine both rushed for over 100 yards. Oklahoma will look to duplicate that performance this week.
West Virginia comes into this game 8-1 on the season with its only loss to Oklahoma State. Since that loss, the Mountaineers have rallied with two straight wins.
Both teams can put up points, and both teams lack top-level defenses. Oklahoma has one of the worst pass defenses in the country, so look for West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard to have a big day. Oklahoma QB Mayfield should have a field day passing too. This game has the makings of a shootout.
But the game will also be close. And it will come down to which defense can force a key second-half turnover to give its team an extra possession. West Virginia has forced more turnovers than the Sooners.
After a lot of back and forth, Oklahoma will pull it out in the end. It won’t be easy, but Oklahoma will win and make a statement by winning in a tough environment Saturday night.
Final: Oklahoma 39, West Virginia 35
#13 USC at UCLA
Location: Rose Bowl
Time: Saturday 10:30 p.m. EST
Line: USC -12.5
The Battle of Los Angeles, USC, fresh off its upset win over Washington, travels to Pasadena to take on UCLA.
It’s been a lost season for Jim Mora Jr.’s Bruins, who never quite got going. They lost their opener to Texas A&M and then dropped their conference opener to Stanford. But perhaps the worst thing to happen to the Bruins this year was losing Josh Rosen to injury. Rosen suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Arizona State game.
Quarterback Mike Fafaul has run the offense since the injury and has been asked to throw the ball a lot. In his four games, Fafaul has thrown the ball 40 times or more on three occasions. He threw it 70 times in the loss to Utah.
Fafaul has not played well for a senior, passing for 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. UCLA is 1-3 in the games he has started this year.
On the other side, USC comes in as one of the country’s hottest teams. They’ve won six games in a row, including 26-13 last week over Washington.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Sam Darnold has played excellent since taking over for Max Browne. He passed for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns along with 2 interceptions in last week’s win. While certainly not his best performance, it was good enough to guide the Trojans to the win.
USC is loaded with talent and will look to run the ball as well. Ronald Jones II rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown last week. Across the line, UCLA has done a pretty good job at stopping the run this season. Ultimately, though, it will be up Darnold to lead the Trojans to the win.
USC needs a win to have a shot at the PAC-12 title. They hold the tiebreaker over Colorado, so Clay Heaton will have his guys fired up and ready to go. USC will know its fate when it takes the field, but they can’t be eliminated from title contention before they play because the Buffaloes have another conference game next week.
The spread in this game (12.5) is pretty big, so will USC be able to cover? The Trojans have been hot, but their offense hasn’t scored a ton of points when matched up against good defenses. UCLA has a good defense, and has played close games in their conference games.
USC will win, but Mora’s defense will do enough to keep UCLA close. And you never know what will happen in a rivalry game. Take points and take the Burins in this one.
Final: USC, 27 UCLA 20