It is an off weekend for college football. Oh, sure, there are still plenty of games, but some teams are taking the weekend off by playing games. Yes, it’s that time in November when certain teams from certain conferences have Louisiana Lafayette, Chattanooga, Texas San Antonio, Alabama A&M and other such powerhouses on the schedule. That means we dig a little deeper to find the teams that are playing the meaningful games that belong in the third week of November. They are putting on their hard hats, or, you know, helmets, and trying to get busy on their playoff or conference aspirations. Let’s give them their credit for Week 12 of the College football season.
Week 12 College Football Preview
Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) at Michigan State (3-7, 1-6) 12noon EST, ESPN
We know it looks weird to have a 3-7 in one of our highlight games, but it is impossible not to think about the “coulda, shoulda, woulda,” if Michigan State had not taken so many weekends “off” this season. Mark Dantonio-coached teams are not supposed to struggle like this, and in fact this is the worst record for the Spartans in his 10 year coaching career. There are some potential bright spots for Sparty, like running back L.J. Scott rushing for at least 120 yards in three of the last four games and a defense that, even on a losing team, is still #31 in the nation.
All of that, of course, gets put to the test Saturday when they host an Ohio State team that seemingly imploded two weeks ago only to have nearly everyone ahead of them in the rankings implode last week. The game plan against the Buckeyes had been to stack the box and force them to throw downfield, as they had been ineffective doing that all season. Back-to-back 59-point wins have changed that idea as quarterback J.T. Barrett is starting to find some explosion in the offense. He also now holds the Big 10 record for most career touchdown passes at 98. The Buckeyes need the impressive playoff level win heading into next week’s game against Michigan.
Florida (7-2, 5-2) at LSU (6-3, 4-2) 1pm EST, SECN
This is an unusual working scenario whereas LSU is ranked higher (#18 in the current LWOS Top 25 poll), and a 13.5 point favorite, but Florida (#20 in the LWOS TOP 25), has more to gain in this game. If the Gators win, they are SEC East champs, something that seemed very unlikely after the loss to Tennessee earlier in the season. This is the game that was postponed by Hurricane Matthew in October and moved to Baton Rouge after an absurd level of negotiations.
Florida comes into the game pretty banged up at several positions, none the least of which is quarterback. Austin Appleby will start in place of the injured Luke Del Rio for the second straight week. He hit his first 11 of 12 passes for 201 yards against South Carolina last week. The Tigers are not fighting for the division title, but that has as much to do with being on the same side of the ledger as Alabama, as much as anything else. They are 4-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, with that one blemish being against the Tide. The Tigers have yet to get big games from both Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice in the same game. It has been one or the other. Get them both on track in one game and it could be a short work day.
Washington State (8-2, 7-0) at Colorado (8-2, 6-1) 3:30pm EST, Fox
Washington State working in prime time is a rarity, and we encourage the country to check this out. The Cougars dropped their first two to Eastern Washington, (yes, you read that correctly), and Boise State but have run off eight in a row since. They lead the Pac 12 North and Mike Leach’s offense is never boring. Quarterback Luke Falk is averaging 49 passing attempts per game and has gone as high as 71. He had such an average game last week that he was a mere 36 of 50 for 373 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Cal. His primary target, River Cracraft is out with a torn ACL, but there are plenty of weapons to showcase and you know Leach is not going to be shy about unleashing them for all to see.
Colorado’s two losses were a bit more mundane. They merely led in Ann Arbor in week two before giving up some easy points in the fourth quarter in a 45-28 loss. They have won four in a row since a four point loss to USC last month. This is a team that was picked to finish last in the Pac 12 South by the Pac 12 media, (hiding my credentials). Quarterback Sefo Liufau is smooth moving the ball downfield and had 213 yards passing and another 56 rushing last week in the win over Arizona. Colorado is not going to win a shootout, but if their offense can control the field enough to keep Falk and his arm off the field, this could be a great game that will require little work or effort to watch.
Indiana (5-5, 3-4) at Michigan (9-1, 6-1) 3:30pm EST, ESPN
You know this has been some work, putting Indiana in the preview for three straight weeks. When you watch them, there is something compelling about their effort. Yeah, they turn the ball over way too much, and quarterback Richard Lagow has to eliminate the fumbles, but it is also Lagow and running back Devine Redding that make it hard to turn away when the Hoosiers are on TV. After so many years of being at or near the bottom of the Big 10, they are on the cusp of being bowl eligible for the second consecutive year. Now of course they would have to get past Michigan to achieve that this weekend. The Wolverines lost not only the game to Iowa last week, but quarterback Wilton Speight for the season as well. The transfer from Houston, John O’Korn will get the start having gone 13 of 18 for 114 yards and two touchdowns in sporadic duty over seven games this season. Michigan still has it eyes on next week’s Ohio State game and eventually a playoff spot.
Oklahoma (8-2, 7-0) at West Virginia (8-1, 5-1) 8pm EST, ABC
For the Sooners, it is simple. Win here and the Beldam game next week against Oklahoma State is for the outright Big 12 title. West Virginia also still has a shot, albeit a little more complex, at the conference championship. For the Mountaineers, it is going to depend on getting to Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield who has at least 300 yards passing in five of his last six games to go with 33 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions. The Sooners are tops in the country in passing efficiency and third in total offense. That puts the workload on the West Virginia defense and this is the biggest test of the year by far. They have only faced one team that was ranked at the time and they lost to Oklahoma State. If quarterback Skyler Howard can keep to his season average of 33 passing attempts and 284 yards per game, it will go a long way to making the workday viable for West Virginia.