Week 11 was full of upsets, and week 12 in College Football shows much promise as well. Arkansas State at Troy, and San Diego State at Wyoming are key non-power 5 matchups with conference title implications, Florida-LSU are playing their SEC makeup game, Oklahoma at West Virginia could decide the Big 12, Washington State and Colorado are looking to remain in the PAC-12 hunt, and Louisville, hanging on by a thread in CFB playoff discussions, will look to make a big statement against Houston, who hopes to play spoiler. Steen Kirby, Yesh Ginsburg, John Bava, and Mike Loveall are on hand to offer their previews and predictions for the matchups.
#5 Louisville at Houston (Thursday 8:00 P.M.)
Line: Louisville by 13.5
Steen: Houston missed out on Big 12 expansion and has limped through their last few games, picking up a couple of losses after a hot start. The Cougars could still make a New Year’s Six Bowl if they win this game, but Louisville runs a similar spread attack on offense, and has more talent on both sides of the ball. The Cardinals have struggled at times in ACC play, but have found a way to win in the end, and they should do so again. Louisville 38, Houston 24
Yesh: This was once a very tempting matchup, but right now it’s just not. The Houston defense has problems, which is bad news against Lamar Jackson. If Houston can utilize a spy and get pressure like Wake Forest did last week, the Cougars might have a tiny chance. But I can’t see that happening, especially on a short week. Maybe a turnover or two can keep this close, but Houston isn’t getting the stops it needs to be competitive. Louisville 56, Houston 28
John: There was a time when Thursday’s late-season out of conference contest between Louisville and Houston looked to be a CFP elimination game for the loser. Then the Cougars fell to Navy and SMU to fall out of contention altogether. But for the visiting Cardinals, they still are well and truly in the mix at fifth in the most recent CFP rankings.
Lamar Jackson and company will look to get off to a quicker start than they did last week against Wake Forest. Louisville actually trailed 12-10 heading into the fourth quarter before racking up 34 unanswered en route to a 44-12 win. Jackson accounted for just one touchdown in the game.
The Heisman hopeful will be going up against a Houston defense that’s ninth nationally in total yards allowed. And on the other side of the field is a another dynamic dual-threat quarterback in Greg Ward. But ultimately, Jackson and the Cards prove too tough to beat. Louisville 45, Houston 28
Mike: This game doesn’t have the appeal that it did after week 1 of the regular season. The Houston hype train has subsided after the Cougars suffered two losses. The Cardinals, however find themselves in a great position to make the playoffs and Lamar Jackson is the odds-on favorite for the Heisman. Expect Louisville to continue their forward progress. Louisville 42, Houston 30
Arkansas State at Troy (Thursday 9:30 P.M.)
Line: Troy by 8
Steen: Only a narrow loss to ACC leaders Clemson has kept the Troy Trojans from being undefeated. This Alabama squad looks solid and is the best of the Sun Belt this year. Arkansas State started 0-4, then reeled off a 5-0 streak to keep their Sun Belt title hopes alive. The Red Wolves are a bowl worthy team, but Troy should advance. Troy 42, Arkansas State 31
Yesh: This should be one of the best games in the Sun Belt. Arkansas State started out with a horrendous performance out of conference but has not lost a conference game since 2014. Troy is the first ranked team in Sun Belt conference history. This should be a good battle to switch to on Thursday night after Louisville/Houston is a blowout. Arkansas State 31, Troy 30
John: The second Thursday game on this week’s slate is straight out of what is affectionately known as the “Fun Belt.” It’s a matchup that pits two teams in Arkansas State and Troy who currently sit at 5-0 in conference play. The winner puts themselves in a favorable position in terms of being able to win the league title.
It’s a feat that the Red Wolves are looking to do for the second straight year and sixth time overall. Meanwhile, their opponents hope to rekindle the glory days of the program. Troy won five Sun Belt titles in a row from 2006-10 but haven’t won one since.
The Trojans boast two talented playmakers on offense. Quarterback Brandon Silvers leads the conference with 19 touchdown passes while running back Jordan Chunn is averaging 114.22 rushing yards per game, good enough for 17th best in FBS. Expect them to help please the home fans with a win. Troy 31, Arkansas State 17
Mike: Troy — the team bringing the Sun Belt Conference’s first Top 25 ranking into this weekend’s action — is the biggest surprise team of the season. Head coach Neal Brown has established a very impressively balanced offense with the Trojans, and the defense has played well all season, too. Troy’s only loss was a six point loss at Clemson. Arkansas State is the reigning conference champion, and is still lurking. While Appalachian State gets most of the Sub Belt attention, Arkansas State has been the best team in the conference over the past several years. In the end, this is Troy’s year. Troy 32, Arkansas State 23.
#23 Florida at #16 LSU (Saturday 1:00 P.M.)
Line: LSU by 13.5
Steen: LSU under Ed Orgeron is 4-1 and looks set to pickup a fifth win at home against Florida. The Gators lack an offense, despite a solid defense, and LSU should be able to move the ball just enough to get a win. Their defense is a solid wall as well. LSU 17, Florida 3
Yesh: Two touchdowns is a big spread with an offense like LSU’s and against a defense like Florida’s. I personally think the Gators are one of the most overrated teams in the country, but they definitely have a solid defense. LSU wins this. I’m just not sure about the cover. Then again, I’m not sure Florida will score much either. LSU 21, Florida 7
John: Florida certainly faces a daunting finish to their regular season schedule. First up is this weekend’s road tussle with LSU followed by their annual rivalry game with Florida State in Tallahassee. A win in Baton Rouge wraps up the SEC East for the second straight year.
But Jim McElwain’s squad is in for a test at Tiger Stadium. LSU comes into this game as one of the league’s hottest teams. They gave Alabama all they could handle two weeks ago and have won their four other games since Ed Orgeron was installed as interim coach by an average margin of 28.75 points.
The Gators defend the run well. But facing the two-pronged attack of Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette is a completely different animal altogether. Both should be able to get the job done at home. LSU 34, Florida 16
Mike: The game that must be played. LSU’s three losses were to top-ranked Alabama, a top ten Wisconsin team, and a replay reversal against Auburn. Two of those were way back in the Les Miles era. Meanwhile, Florida is one of the lowest ranked two-loss teams in the nation. Can Florida silence the critics? Can they get their offense on track? That’s a tough task against LSU’s very capable defense. The only question mark here is the time…a noon game in Baton Rouge? LSU 27, Florida 13
#22 Washington State at #10 Colorado (Saturday 3:30 P.M.)
Line: Colorado by 4
Steen: Since they got their starting QB back, Colorado is 4-0 and leading the PAC-12 south. Washington State got a lifeline in the PAC-12 North when Washington lost to USC, and now Mike Leach’s high octane squad has a cushion in the race for the PAC-12 title (They play Washington at the end of the year). Wazzou has won eight straight and is putting up a lot of points. Colorado is a shockingly good football team, but I think the Cougars have too much firepower. Washington State 49, Colorado 38
Yesh: This is one of the games I’m looking forward to most this week. The Pac 12 is slowly picking up ranked teams, and this is a big battle for conference dominance. I don’t think that Colorado quite has the defense to stick with Washington State, but this should be a fun game. Washington State 41, Colorado 35
John: Who knew that this game would have Pac-12 title implications at the beginning of the year? Both teams currently lead their respective divisions in the conference and could conceivably meet again in the title game. But first up is Saturday afternoon’s battle in Boulder.
Fourth-year head coach Mike Macintyre has the Buffaloes off to their best start since 2001. The program had yet to register a winning season since joining the Pac-12. But that has all changed this year with Colorado controlling its own destiny in the race for the South Division title.
The Buff defense will be hard pressed to slow down a Wazzu passing attack that averages 385.5 yards per game, good enough for second best nationally. But they may be up to the task as they boast the tenth best pass defense in FBS. If they can effectively neutralize Luke Falk and the Cougs’ “Air Raid” offense, they may be in line for a win at Folsom Field Saturday. Colorado 30, Washington State 24
Mike: The Buffs are enjoying their best season in a generation with a surprisingly effective offense. Everyone knows about Mike Leach and his air raid offense. This game will be decided by which defense comes to play. Both teams have momentum, but the Cougars have the Pirate at the helm. Washington State 38, Colorado 27
San Diego State at Wyoming (Saturday 3:30 P.M.)
Line: San Diego State by 9
Steen: Laramie, Wyoming is a beautiful place for a football game and this is one of the biggest ones in Wyoming’s FBS history. The Cowboys suffered a heart break loss in OT last week that hurt their Mountain West title chances, but they are still in the hunt with a great rushing attack. San Diego State has one of the best running games in college football and continues to dominate the Mountain West conference. Home field advantage will help the Cowboys but the clear advantage is with SDSU here. San Diego State 42, Wyoming 28
Yesh: San Diego State is quite possibly the most dominant team in the country in conference play. Wyoming has already upset a Mountain West powerhouse (Boise State) in Laramie, but I can’t see the Wyoming defense, solid as it is, slowing down Donnel Pumphrey (who should be a Heisman finalist when all is said and done). San Diego State 35, Wyoming 13
John: Two of the Mountain West’s top running backs will be on display in Laramie this weekend. San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey currently leads the conference with 177.9 yards per game. But right behind him in second is Wyoming’s Brian Hill at 141.7. The two have also combined for 30 rushing touchdowns.
Pumphrey’s overall resume has many clamoring for him to get an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The senior speedster has rushed for over 200 yards four times this season. His 6,051 career rushing yards has him fourth all-time and he needs just 347 to break Ron Dayne’s NCAA record.
Expect the ground and pound game early and often from both teams with the Aztecs eventually getting the upper hand. San Diego State 38, Wyoming 20
Mike: This game is all about the rushing San Diego State rushing attack. Donnel Pumphrey is making a Heisman run while the Aztecs are positioning themselves for the G5 New Years Six Bowl in the case of a Western Michigan stumble. Don’t look past the Cowboys, though, who upset Boise State earlier this year. San Diego State 42, Wyoming 27
#9 Oklahoma at #14 West Virginia (Saturday 8:00 P.M.)
Line: Oklahoma by 3
Steen: Oklahoma has reeled off seven straight wins and looks to be back on track while West Virginia continues to ride a strong defense to victory. The Mountaineers aren’t getting a lot of respect from the CFB playoff committee, and a win here would certainly help their case in the bid for a top bowl game. OU should have a small advantage though and I’m going with the Sooners to score enough to win. Oklahoma 31, West Virginia 21
Yesh: West Virginia has a very underrated defense, but it hasn’t faced an offensive line as powerful as Oklahoma’s. I think the Sooners should be able to control this game, but West Virginia is good enough to keep it close. Oklahoma 31, West Virginia 21
John: Morgantown should be rocking for this huge Big 12 showdown involving top 15 teams. The Sooners come into this game unbeaten in conference play and maintain fledgling CFP hopes should teams ahead of them in the rankings slip up. But getting a win on the road against a Mountaineer team with conference title aspirations of their own will not be easy.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield comes into this game sporting a 195.17 rating which is best in the nation. He’s thrown 33 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. But on the other side of the field Saturday will be senior cornerback Rasul Douglas who has six picks on the year which is tied for second best nationally.
This game has shootout written all over it. Oklahoma’s talented playmakers come through in a close one. Oklahoma 52, West Virginia 48
Mike: Oklahoma has quietly put two early losses behind them. The Sooners haven’t had many issues on offense — it’s their defense that has let them down. West Virginia continues to surprise people and is only a handful of one loss teams left in the nation. The Mountaineers don’t have the athletes that Oklahoma does, however. The Sooners continue to march towards another Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma 42, West Virginia 30