2018 NCAAF Week 12 Weekend Preview

November 16, 2018
By K. Becks

As of early Sunday morning, I officially owed a Mountain Dew to Brad.

His faith in Mike Leach was stronger than mine and ultimately resulted in the guests knotting things up again in the head-to-head prediction game. The overall standings now look like this:

K. Becks – 37-18

Guests – 37-18

As we head into the final few weeks of the regular season, the intensity at the top of the College Football Rankings has amped up quite significantly. Further yet, the endless scenarios regarding the four teams that could end up playing for college football’s national title have fans across the country striking up heated conversations with each other.

In all reality, it’s beautiful.

To help convey some of the conversations I’ve personally had in the last week or so, I’ll defer to my “Three Thoughts” from the previous weekend.

  1. Notre Dame going undefeated puts significant strain on the current Playoff format, to the point that three Power 5 conferences could be left out. That won’t fly, so if it happens, changes could be on the horizon.
  2. Washington State’s thumping of Colorado was more than just a surprise for me – it’s a testament to what kind of team Mike Leach has in Pullman. The Cougars are not mentally weak and deserve a shot at a national title if they manage to make it through the rest of the season without any letdowns.
  3. Northwestern punching its ticket to the Big Ten title game not only shows how weak the Big Ten West division is, but strengthens the argument that the conference title game will do next to nothing for the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game. And for those still wondering, yes, that is alluding to a bigger point regarding the Buckeyes.

Now, here are the top games to watch for this week.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#12 Syracuse vs. #3 Notre Dame [game in Bronx, NY] (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET)

The game of the week will take place in the Bronx, where it will be a balmy 45 degrees and sunny by scheduled kickoff. This is good news for the de facto home team, which has been a revelation to the college football world this season thanks to head coach Dino Babers and quarterback Eric Dungey. The Orange boast an offensive attack that is fully capable of challenging a stout Notre Dame defense that has picked off more passes this season (9) than it has allowed passing touchdowns (6). But it will take more than a feel-good story and the backing of nearly any college football fan that doesn’t normally root for the Fighting Irish to prevent Notre Dame from capturing this Shamrock Series victory.

For Syracuse, less is more. More specifically, a less than 100 percent Ian Book could be key to the Orange’s chances. Book is the fuel that Notre Dame’s offense has operated on for most of the year and gives the Fighting Irish a true balanced attack that Brandon Wimbush just simply could not provide. If Book’s rib injury lingers, Syracuse may get a major break stopping the Notre Dame offense. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, they’ll need every bit of their offensive capability to contend with Dungey, a future pro in his own right that will finally solve the riddle known commonly as “Notre Dame’s defense.” Don’t expect Brian Kelly’s team to ever again wear the garish pinstripe jerseys they’ll don this Saturday, because they’ll be seen as bad luck.

My Pick: 38-35 Syracuse

Jared’s Take: Absolute homer pick coming, 100%.  Syracuse is having one of its best seasons in years and as a personal fan of the Orange men, I couldn’t be happier.  With a high scoring offense, Cuse has been able to roll over teams and even be able to give Clemson a good scare.  Their defense however, could pose a challenge for them to grind out the “W” here.  The undefeated Irish have to come into Syracuse’s territory, Yankee Stadium, and show them that they can win games even without the good Book – Ian Book, that is.  With Book out, can this offense put up enough points on a weak defense to win? Can their defense hold a prolific offense in check?  I say “sort of” and “no.”  Pick a conference ND, no one likes you!  Syracuse wins: 30-24

#9 West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Mountaineers are arguably the ‘Forgotten One’ in college football’s current game of ‘Playoff Musical Chairs’, receiving little attention from the national media, but Dana Holgorsen’s squad is anything but out of the picture we know has the ability to change dramatically on a weekly basis. The Cowboys had a chance to knock out another Playoff contender, as well as its hated in-state rival, last weekend and came tantalizingly close to doing so. But despite the Bedlam disappointment, it’s clear from that game that Oklahoma State has the chops to go punch-for-punch with West Virginia’s potent offense in this one.

Could the Mountaineers be looking ahead to next week’s monster matchup with Oklahoma next Friday? Very possibly. The 5-5 Cowboys don’t look like much of a threat on paper, but this team can move the football at will and Mike Gundy is clearly not afraid to risk it all, as he did late in the game against Oklahoma last weekend. Will Grier has been nothing short of awesome this season, but at times it feels like he’s almost responsible for too much of West Virginia’s success. That is a dangerous thing for a team that has routinely engaged in offensive shootouts and may yet again this week. At this point, fans in Stillwater would love to rush the field in celebration of ending a team’s Playoff hopes. If the Cowboys can put up 42 points on Iowa State’s defense, it can do similar things against West Virginia.

My Pick: 41-37 Oklahoma State

Jared’s Take: The Mountain Man vs. The Mullet.  You couldn’t ask for a better matchup as it sounds like a redneck Game of Thrones episode.  Both of these teams know how to score at a very high volume but I think the difference in this game will be the defense.  When it comes to that side of the ball only WVU can make stops.  With that said, this will probably be pretty high scoring but when it’s over Mike Gundy isn’t going to be happy, again (insert fart noise).  WVU wins: 45-20

#16 Iowa State at #15 Texas (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Both of these teams need a little bit of help from teams ahead of them in the Big 12 to feel good about their conference title chances, but that doesn’t mean this game isn’t important. Both Iowa State and Texas sit just a game out of first place in the Big 12 and the Cyclones have risen to (near) the top of the heap on a current five game winning streak. Coming away from DKR Memorial with a victory won’t be easy, but Iowa State appears to have the defensive clout to give it a hell of a shot.

Slowly but surely, Sam Ehlinger is developing into the type of quarterback that Tom Herman can use to complete his turnaround of the Longhorns. The sophomore has had two of his best games of the season in the previous two weeks, combined throwing for seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Ehlinger’s arm strength and increasingly effective decision making are resulting in defenses needing to tailor their game plan, as Texas has been a run first team the past few seasons. The Cyclones are strong in the secondary, but so is West Virginia and TCU, two teams that Ehlinger has already torched. Expect the Longhorns to take care of business at home this weekend.

My Pick: 28-24 Texas

Jared’s Take: This is a bit of a conflict of interest for the Fighting Tom Hermans.  As the Texas head coach, he is clearly rooting for Texas to win.  However, I have it on good authority (shout out Zach Smith) that Herman prefers the women at Iowa State.  But if his wife doesn’t mind then why should I?  While this game may stay pretty close, get ready to see the best named WR ever, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, running all over the field.  So who will win this one?  To quote a wise man, “Ok. Cool. Hook em!”  Texas wins: 31-28

#24 Cincinnati at #11 Central Florida (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The primetime game this weekend and featured matchup for ESPN’s College GameDay is a battle between AAC powers, giving the majority of the country a first real look at the undefeated Knights. UCF’s offense has been anything but overlooked this year, averaging over 540 yards per game thanks to quarterback McKenzie Milton’s strong right arm, but will be tested by the AAC’s best defensive team Saturday night. Luke Fickell has done a tremendous job turning around this Cincinnati program in just his second year as head coach and will have a shot at gaining national notoriety if he can orchestrate an upset victory in Orlando.

Depsite the work that Fickell has done to shore up a defense that allowed over 100 yards more per game more in 2017 than it does this season, the Bearcats are still a work-in-progress on the offensive end. In 2018, a strong offense is going to take care of a strong defense, especially when that offense has McKenzie Milton on its side. The Knights will continue to lobby for a Playoff spot it won’t get after Saturday night’s performance.

My Pick: 34-31 Central Florida

Jared’s Take: The reigning National Champs are unstoppable!  Seriously, when is the last time UCF took an L?  I don’t think they ever have.  Even without Scott Frost (good luck with Nebraska) the Knights just keep winning.  Whether the Committee will recognize them or not, they prove week after week that they deserve better.  Cinci deserves no attention because UCF is just that good.  UCF wins: 34-24

San Diego State at Fresno State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

The battle for the Mountain West’s West division is squarely on the line in this one, with the Bulldogs currently holding a one game lead over San Diego State. The Aztecs need more than just a win, however, as a victory actually puts these two teams into a three-way tie with Nevada, whom Fresno State has beaten but San Diego State has not. Mathematicians are on-call for this one should Rocky Long’s team get a road win, but for Fresno State the mission is simple: just win, baby.

The Aztecs didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to 3-7 UNLV last weekend, for two reasons. One is obvious, which is that San Diego State squandered a great opportunity to remain tied for the West division lead. The second is that UNLV’s game plan is exactly what Fresno State needs to do, and will do, to win this game. The Rebels held the Aztecs to just 89 yards on the ground despite allowing an average of nearly 200 per game. The Bulldogs should be able to do that and more, stifling San Diego State in the passing game as well. Expect a defensive rout by Fresno State in this one.

My Pick: 27-13 Fresno State

Jared’s Take: I don’t know enough about either of these teams to give any kind of insight to this game or to even provide any sassy commentary in this paragraph.  An ancient civilization way ahead of their time up against an animal that pees itself at the sight of a vacuum cleaner.  All I know is that you don’t fuck with the Aztecs!  Unless you’re a dog, that is.  But I’m going with the numbers as Fresno scores more points and allows less points, the only two stats I need to know for this game.  Fresno wins: 30-16

5 Games to Flip To

#10 Ohio State at Maryland (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Based on Ohio State’s inconsistency on both sides of the ball this season, Maryland’s potent offense should result in a high scoring game. It feels like we are all still waiting for the game that everyone doubts Urban Meyer and his team comes away with a blowout victory, though.

Pittsburgh at Wake Forest (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Panthers lead the ACC Coastal division by a slim margin and the Demon Deacons need to win their final two regular season games to become bowl eligible. Expect a tight battle in Winston Salem.

Duke at #2 Clemson (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Clemson defensive front is terrorizing for opposing QBs, but Duke has one that will likely see those Tigers in the League as early as next year. Daniel Jones may not be a household name, but could do some serious damage this Saturday evening.

UAB at Texas A&M (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Two seasons ago, the Blazers were not playing college football. Now Bill Clark has the team at 9-1 and itching to upset an SEC team on the road.

Arizona at #8 Washington State (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

The best mustache in college football continues to roll and has the Cougars in real position to create a sticky situation for the Playoff committee if they can win this game.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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