In honor of the passing of the genius that lived within Stan Lee this week, we bring you the Super Hero edition of the College Football preview. You will notice that while there are some Hulks in the SEC, we are ignoring them. In fact, this week’s edition of the preview is ignoring the entire SEC. We don’t want to hear about the tough schedule and yada, yada, yada. When you have a fourth non-conference game and you use it in week 13 to play The Citadel, Idaho, UMass, Liberty, or Rice, there are no points for heroism. For others, they are going to need to their super powers to keep fighting for conference titles or playoff spots.
College Football Preview-Week 12; Superhero Edition
Syracuse (8-2) vs. Notre Dame (10-0); Saturday, 2:30pm Est. NBC
First of all, Dr. Strange makes an appearance and uses his mystical powers to turn Yankee Stadium into a football stadium again. It always looks awkward, but we keep doing it every year as part of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series.
Notre Dame does look sort of Hulk-like when they don the green jerseys like they did last week in the win over Florida State. They are moving ahead like a strong, angry force right now. Win out against Syracuse and USC and they should be in the playoffs, even without a conference title game on their resume. They are first in the country in scoring defense and have not given up 30 points to anyone all season long. Will quarterback Ian Book play this week? He sat out last weekend with a rib injury. All indications are he is healthy enough to play. Book has completed 74.5% of his passes for 1,824 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has 218 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Brandon Wimbush played well in his place, but it is a different offense with Book at the helm.
Syracuse’s offense has been on a roll for the last six weeks, since the loss to Clemson. The Orange have scored at least 37 points every game since then and are 4-1 during that period. Eric Dungey is throwing for a modest 236 yards per game during that stretch with five touchdown throws. But he also has six rushing touchdowns over the last five games and had 119 yards on the ground versus Wake Forest.
The Syracuse defense plays better against the pass, so whether it is Book or Wimbush taking the snaps for Notre Dame, expect running back Dexter Williams to get a lot of work. He has four games in the last six with more than 100 yards rushing.
West Virginia (8-1) @ Oklahoma State (5-5); Saturday 3:30pm Est ABC
On the surface this might seem like a mismatch, but get ready for Spider-Man. Not necessarily that either team resembles the crime fighting super hero, but the points in this game are going to come spraying out with the ease of the webs from his mechanical web shooters. In five of the last six Oklahoma State games, one of the two teams has scored at least 31 points. West Virginia has scored 35 points in all but one game this season. The one time they didn’t score at least 35, they lost. Maybe Spider-Man will be needed to scale the scoreboard to put more lightbulbs in.
It may not sound like it, but Oklahoma State does play some defense. The Cowboys are tied for 3rd in the country with 36 quarterback sacks. Last week in a tight loss against Oklahoma, they got to Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray three times. This is the second straight week of a Top 10 opponent match-up for Oklahoma State. Can they bounce back after the 48-47 loss in Beldam last week? Do they have anything left in the tank? Quarterback Taylor Cornelius is holding up his end of the bargain. He was 34 of 53 for 501 yards and three touchdowns last week in Norman. He is throwing at a 60% completion clip for the season and is well over 3,000 yards for the season.
The thing is, West Virginia has the nineteenth best overall defense in the country. Sure, they gave up 244 yards rushing to Iowa State in their only loss of the season. But that was clearly the anomaly. They are averaging only 121 yards per game on the ground against them this season.
That leaves it to quarterback Will Grier to hold up his end of the shootout. He is completing 69% of his passes with 31 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His best game was all the way back in week against Tennessee, but still the performances have been there every week. The points will be spraying like webs.
Cincinnati (9-1) @ UCF (9-0); Saturday 8pm Est ABC
UCF is wondering what kind of super power it needs for the playoff committee to give it a serious look. The Knights have done their best Iron Man impersonation for as long as they could. They have put on the powered armor that gives superhuman strength and durability, flight, and an array of weapons. Twenty-two straight wins say so.
The Knights have the most balanced offense you could ask for. They average 271 yards per game passing and 271 yards per game rushing. Seriously, you couldn’t make that kind of stat up. They are 13th in the country in total offense. Quarterback McKenzie Milton has put together another excellent year with 21 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. They are not going to be carried by their defense, ever, but even that unit has jumped 30 spots in yards per play given up compared to last year. Only two teams have scored 30 points against UCF.
But the reality is this is a game of super power strength against super power strength. UCF’s balanced, multi-weapon offense versus a Silver Surfer defense from Cincinnati that absorbs everything an opposing offense has to give and turn it into positive energy for itself. The Bearcats defense is seventh in the country in yards per play, giving up only 4.36. Every quarterback they have faced has come away from the game throwing under 48%. There is enough offense to keep up with UCF. The Bearcats have now out-gained eight of their 10 opponents this season and out-rushed nine of 10 foes.
Strength on strength. Just like a superhero match-up should be.