The final week of the regular season is college football’s (traditional) rivalry week. This week we have playoff hopes on the line for Oklahoma, Michigan, and Washington State. The best in the Mountain West will be decided, and undefeated Alabama will look to continue their record setting season by defeating rival Auburn. Our panelists are here to break down all the action.
#6 Oklahoma at #13 West Virginia (Friday at 8:00 in Morgantown, WV)
Line: Oklahoma by 2
Steen: The winner of this game goes to the BIG 12 title, after a loss last week, West Virginia is out of the CFB playoff race, but Oklahoma is still in it and must win out to earn one of the 4 spots. This is still one of the biggest games in Morgantown’s history as WVU, an underdog since joining the BIG 12, could show they are part of the conference elite with a win. Oklahoma has an incredible offense and an equally pedestrian defense, resulting in shootouts in almost every game they have played. WVU doesn’t have a great defense either, but look for Heisman candidate Will Grier to carve up the Sooners and crush their championship dreams. West Virginia 52, Oklahoma 49
John: Last week, both Oklahoma and West Virginia gave up over 40 points. Yet the Sooners were the only team to come away with a win. What it indicates is that Friday’s showdown in Morgantown figures to see a plethora of points. There’s plenty at stake, with the winner booking a spot in the Big 12 title game. That said, it’s possible we could see a rematch next week if the loser gets some help.
Two Heisman candidate quarterbacks will take the field in Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and West Virginia’s Will Grier. Both rank top 10 nationally in passing yards, touchdown tosses, and pass efficiency rating. What’s concerning from the standpoint of the Sooners is giving up 40 points to Kansas. The Mountaineers boast a much more potent offense and will have a raucous Milan Puskar Stadium crowd on their side. West Virginia 48, Oklahoma 44
Yesh: Oklahoma’s defense is a sieve, and Will Grier will take advantage. It’s very hard to stop Kyler Murray and this Sooners offense, but West Virginia has one of the best defenses in the Big 12. Expect this to be a huge wake-up call for Oklahoma. West Virginia 41, Oklahoma 35
Mike: The Mountaineers have shown up for every big game this season, and this will be the biggest. They also don’t give a damn about the Big 12’s chances of getting into the playoffs. Stay away from the Kyler Murray-Will Grier competition, that’s for the Heisman voters. Oklahoma might have Murray, but West Virginia has a defense. West Virginia 52, Oklahoma 45
Lukas: This will be a quarterback battle. Will Grier and West Virginia. Kyler Murray and Oklahoma. Expect lots of points and absolute firepower on offence. I am rolling with the Sooners as they lay the foundation to once again be Big 12 Champions. Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 42
#16 Washington at #8 Washington State (Friday at 8:30 in Pullman, WA)
Line: Washington State by 2.5
Steen: Washington State is underappreciated, with just a road loss to USC by a field goal keeping them from perfection this season. Washington has three losses by less than a touchdown, but overall this has been a disappointing season for the Huskies that they can salvage with a huge win in their in-state rivalry game. The winner of this game also goes to the PAC-12 title game. Playing at home I expect Minshew and the WSU offense to click, sending Mike Leach back into the national title conversation for the first time since leaving Texas Tech. Washington State 42, Washington 31
John: This is the 111th edition of the Apple Cup. Throughout most of its history, the Huskies have dominated, sporting a 72-32-6 all-time record. But this time around, the Cougars come in as favorites and have plenty of incentive to win given they’re the only Pac-12 team still alive for the CFP. Much is on the line for both teams with the winner playing Utah in the conference championship game next week.
Much of the talk on offense centers around Wazzu quarterback Gardner Minshew II. He currently leads the nation in both yardage and completion percentage. But he’ll face a challenge against a Huskie defense that ranks second in the Pac-12 in pass defense. Still, with U-Dub having won eight of the last nine in this series, the Cougs should be motivated to put this one away in Pullman and come within a win of their first conference crown since 2002. Washington State 45, Washington 38
Yesh: Washington State is a really good team that is still improving, but the Cougars are prone to offensive lulls at time. Washington, on the other hand, is one of the most talented and best-coached teams in the country. The Huskies have just never been able to play their best football this season. They’ll bring it for this rivalry game. Washington 31, Washington State 28
Mike: I’ve been on the Washington State train for three years, and they’ve let me down every time. But last week in Pullman was a showcase of what this team can do. Chris Petersen is still one of the best coaches in football and the Huskies have talent, but this big cat fight goes to the Cougars this year. Washington State 41, Washington 34
Lukas: Washington State has had an incredible season. If crazy things happen the next two weeks, they may just end up in the CFP. But first thing’s first, they will roll over Washington to advance to the PAC 12 Championship. Washington State 35, Washington 24
#4 Michigan at #10 Ohio State (Saturday at 12:00 in Columbus, OH)
Line: Michigan by 4
Steen: Another rivalry result will decide a participant in the Conference Title game as the OSU vs. Michigan rivalry in Columbus will settle one of the two Big 10 championship slots. A bad loss to Purdue and two narrow wins have made Ohio State a team on the outside looking in of the national title conversation. Michigan recovered from an opening loss to Notre Dame and has put together a perfect season in the BIG 10. Michigan has an offense this year, and it’s been good enough to ensure victory as one of the top defenses in America has kept the opposition bottled up. Ohio State will be able to put up points though and I’ll back Urban Meyer to foil Harbaugh again and pull off an upset at home, the Wolverines have struggled in Columbus for a reason. Ohio State 31, Michigan 24
John: One of the biggest rivalries not just in college football but in all of American sports is made all the more momentous when both teams are in national title contention. That’s the situation this year with both Michigan and Ohio State entertaining aspirations of championship glory. This time around, in stark contrast to recent years, it’s the Wolverines who are better positioned. And they have a chance to erase years of frustration with a win in Columbus.
Favored on the road in this rivalry for the first time since 2004, Michigan is looking for its first win at Ohio Stadium in 17 years. As an example of how dominant OSU has been, that was one of just three victories the Maize and Blue have had over their archrivals since the turn of the century. On offense, the two players to watch are Buckeye quarterback Dwayne Haskins and Wolverine running back Karan Higdon. With Ohio State’s defense extremely suspect, this could be the year Michigan finally breaks through. Michigan 31, Ohio State 24
Yesh: This is such a tough game to call. The Buckeyes have a ton of talent, and have the ability to put it all together at any time. The linebackers have been the huge weakness, though, so expect the Michigan running game to get big gains. This will come down to Michigan’s ability to finish possessions. Michigan 38, Ohio State 28
Mike: Is this the year? Yes. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it just seems like everyone involved with the mess in Columbus is ready to move on from the Urban Meyer era. Look for Michigan’s defense to hassle Dwayne Haskins all day and the Michigan offense to get creative against a struggling, Bosa-less defense. Buckeye fans should be happy for Bosa, I suppose. Michigan 37, Ohio State 24.
Lukas: This is The Game. Michigan hasn’t won against Ohio State since 2011, in Columbus Ohio since 2000. This changes Saturday. Ohio State is trending downward. Michigan is trending upward. I like the Wolverines to win this to advance to the Big Ten Championship. Michigan 28, Ohio State 14
Auburn at #1 Alabama (Saturday at 3:30 in Tuscaloosa, AL)
Line: Alabama by 24
Steen: A poor season all things considered could become a memorable one for Auburn if they defeat hated rivals Alabama and spoil a perfect season for the Crimson Tide. Alabama has looked invincible at times this season as none of their games have been particularly competitive into the final quarter. Auburn’s offense has struggled against good teams and Alabama’s defense is one of the nation’s best. Unless Auburn changes strategy and maintains control of the ball, keeping it out of Tua’s hands, the Crimson Tide will win again. This line is too high for a rivalry though. Alabama 27, Auburn 14
John: On paper, this year’s edition of the Iron Bowl is in stark contrast to last year. Both Auburn and Alabama were top-10 teams and the sixth-ranked Tigers pulled off a 26-14 upset win over the top-ranked Tide. But they blew a chance to make the CFP when they lost to Georgia in the SEC title game, leaving the door open for Bama to win its fifth national title under Nick Saban.
Bama comes into the 83rd meeting between these two sides as a massive favorite. They boast arguably the Heisman favorite in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Of the seven FBS quarterbacks with at least 30 touchdowns, his two interceptions thrown is the best. Bama is 24-1 against Auburn when they’re the only ranked team. And it’s hard to believe they’re going to stumble here even if The Citadel gave them a game for a half last week. Alabama 34, Auburn 7
Yesh: I wish I could pick against Alabama in this Iron Bowl, but Auburn has been bad this year. The Tigers had potential but never put it together. If this team plays a perfect game it could actually be close, but Auburn hasn’t shown any perfection, at all, in any game this season. Alabama 51, Auburn 14
Mike: A huge line for the Iron Bowl. As much as Alabama has impressed this season, rivalries have a way of bringing out the best in the underdog. All the pressure is on the Tide. Any chances Malzahn runs the triple option, at least for the first half? Alabama 42, Auburn 24
Lukas: This game will be closer than what people think. Because it’s the Iron Bowl. Auburn has had a rough season. But yearly bragging rights over their rival Alabama is worth playing for. Tua and this Crimson Tide team are too good. They roll on to the SEC Championship Game. Alabama 31, Auburn 14
#21 Utah State at #23 Boise State (Saturday at 10:15 in Boise, ID)
Line: Boise State by 2.5
Steen: Boise State is the legacy G6 program, remaining competitive year after year without making the move to a bigger conference. Utah State is the underdog upstart, and if they head into Boise and come away with a win they’ll be considered the second best G6 team in America (behind undefeated UCF). Boise can throw the ball effectively but the Utah State offense is in a league of it’s own, the Aggies will score enough to notch an upset. Utah State 42, Boise State 35
John: Utah State looked hugely competitive in a season-opening loss to Michigan State. It was a harbinger of what to come because they’ve reeled off 10 wins in a row since. It puts them in position to make the Mountain West championship game for the first time since 2013. But standing in their way is a Boise State team who’s been a proverbial gatekeeper throughout their time in the conference.
They already own a fairly prominent win on the blue turf when they knocked off Fresno State two weeks ago. Back then, the Broncos were home underdogs for the first time in 19 years. That’s probably why Vegas is installing them as a narrow favorite for this game. Aggies running back Darwin Thompson, who’s tied for eighth in FBS with 14 rushing touchdowns, will pose a challenge for Boise’s defense. But they’re fairly reliable against the run and, with Brett Rypien behind center, should emerge victorious. Boise State 34, Utah State 27
Yesh: I have been disappointed by the Broncos this year, but beating Boise State on the blue turf is a nearly impossible task. It’s fitting that Utah State will do it, convincingly, to unseat Boise State on top of the Mountain West Mountain Division. Utah State 45, Boise State 31
Mike: Proof that Vegas knows how to mess with people’s minds. Boise is finally hitting their stride, they’ve been here before, and they’re at home. But I’m in on the Aggie defense. They’ve been a little complacent the last few weeks, but expect them to play their best game this weekend, when it matters most. Utah State 27, Boise State 24.
Lukas: This should be a fun contest. It will go right down to the wire. Which team likes closer games? You guessed it, Boise State. I like the Broncos to win a thriller, capping off their regular season with a bang. Boise State 24, Utah State 21