2013 NCAAF Week 12 Weekend Preview

November 13, 2013

I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a better weekend in the prediction game than I did this past weekend.

5-0 overall. Compared with Zac’s 1-4 posting (sorry, buddy. Although as a side note, he did manage to easily beat me in our race on Sunday.), it only could have gone slightly better. Since we disagreed on four games, this was the best case scenario for me considering the constraints.

I now sit eight games ahead of the guests, and the outlook is bleak for future competitors. With only a handful of weeks left in the regular season, it will be hard for me to relinquish this lead completely. Here are the overall standings:

K. Becks: 39-16

Guests: 31-24

This week, my buddy Mike Scholze will be the guest prognosticator. Mike is living proof that the term “MACtion” isn’t just a clever fusion of acronym and word by ESPN’s fifth most talented broadcast team. He actually enjoys watching the Tuesday and Wednesday night showdowns, and I’m not making fun of him for it. So do I.

Mike being the guest is the reason why this post was published so early in the week. As you’ll notice, this week’s “MACtion” won’t go unnoticed by Around The Corn.

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this week, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Week

Ball State at #20 Northern Illinois (Wednesday, 8 PM ET)

This Wednesday night MACtion is primed to be one of the best games of the week that the casual college football fan will unfortunately miss out on. This isn’t just one of the few nationally televised games that potential BCS buster (currently No. 15 in the most recent rankings) Northern Illinois gets to play. It’s also more than likely the de facto MAC West Division title game. Ball State leads the division at 6-0 in-conference; Northern Illinois is at 5-0. For fans sniffing for a sneak preview at a future bowl game related article by me, I really like both of the quarterbacks in this game, too.  

In the last two years, Ball State has done a magnificent job at turning things around and becoming a force in the Mid-American Conference. This is in large part thanks to the offense, which is led by quarterback Keith Wenning. The senior is responsible for a large chunk of the Cardinal’s offensive production, and is even No. 9 in the country in average passing yards per game with 316.4 per contest. Luckily for Ball State, the task of taking down Northern Illinois is made easier by the fact that the Huskies’ main weakness is defending the pass. In fact, Rod Carey’s squad has the worst pass defense in the generally pass happy MAC.

If Ball State wants to win this game, it must find a way to keep the Northern Illinois offense off the field. When Jordan Lynch has the ball, opposing defenses really don’t know what is coming. He has the ability to milk the clock or air it out and lead the team down the field for a quick score. The Cardinals are much better off forcing this game into a shootout, hoping that Wenning bests Lynch in the showdown. Otherwise, the Huskies can simply control the clock with a superior running game.

My Pick: 35-28 Northern Illinois

Mike’s Take: #MACtion. Ball State travels to DeKalb for what should be a shootout. Classic #MACtion. Ball State is 9-1 (6-0) with its one loss (a fluke, really) to a North Texas squad whose losses came to Ohio, Georgia and Tulane. The Cardinals’ passing game is nearly unstoppable, as Keith Wenning has thrown 27 touchdowns this year, 12 of which went to star receiver Willie Snead, who defenses can’t seem to stop this year. NIU has a quarterback of its own, and it’s Jordan Lynch. Lynch has 1871 passing yards, and 1150 rushing yards.  Three weeks ago, against Central Michigan, the senior put up 316 rushing yards alone, an NCAA QB record, and averaged a first down a carry. Oh, yeah, he had 155 passing yards as well. I honestly believe that Jordan Lynch should be a legitimate Heisman candidate. Ball State keeps it close, but NIU pulls it out and keeps their BCS hopes alive.

48-42 NIU

#24 Miami at Duke (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

These two teams look as if they are headed in completely opposite directions. After losing a shot at the national championship two weekends ago, Miami responded with a similarly disappointing follow-up, losing to Virginia Tech at home 42-24. Duke, on the other hand, has some people already anointing Blue Devils head man David Cutcliffe as national Coach of the Year. It is the first time since 1995 that the school has won at least seven games in a season, and the Blue Devils are still in the mix for an ACC title game berth. Can Duke keep its five game win streak alive, or will Miami snap a streak of its own?

Who exactly are the Duke Blue Devils on offense? No one knows, really. The Blue Devils have used two quarterbacks for most of the year, yet have somehow managed to score a lot of points, putting up at least 35 in six games this season. But perhaps more important to the surprising success of Duke football has been the defense, which has incorporated a bend-but-don’t-break mentality and only seems to be getting better. Since giving up 58 points in a loss to Pittsburgh back in September, the Blue Devils haven’t allowed more than 22 points in a single game. This is not good news for Miami, which looked lost without the help of running back Duke Johnson, who went down with an ankle injury in the game against Florida State and is out for the year.

In a weird twist of fate, the Hurricanes may be doomed against Duke without Duke. Stephen Morris will have to have a great game against Duke’s improving secondary in order for Miami to beat a surging Blue Devils squad. I’m not sure that can be done, as it is appearing more and more like the loss to Florida State has destroyed Miami’s morale. Even a solid performance by Morris may be outdone by Duke’s unpredictable offense. With such uncertainty, I’ll take the hot team at home in a close one.

My Pick: 33-30 Duke

Mike’s Take: It’s mid-November and Blue Devils fans are still talking about football. (Okay, they aren’t. I’m sure they’ve moved on to basketball).  Al Golden and Miami look to stay undefeated in the ACC against the Duke Blue Devils.  Duke has some quality wins this year, the best being at the 14th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, and is poised to pull another upset, as Miami is without starting running back Duke Johnson.  I’m taking Duke to pull the upset.

27-13 Duke

#25 Georgia at #7 Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

People are already beginning to hype up what could be yet another high stakes Iron Bowl matchup in a few weeks. But before Auburn fans and the rest of the nation get too giddy, it might be worthwhile to focus on the task at hand. Georgia may be down, but it most certainly is not out. When the Bulldogs travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium for Saturday afternoon’s matchup, they’ll be playing the underdog role. Bruised and battered as they may be, it’s hard to imagine a team that has beaten South Carolina, LSU and Florida already this season backing down from this challenge.

It’s very unfortunate that Georgia has experienced the kind of injury-plagued season that even an NFL team would consider brutal. With so many key offensive players out, fans are seeing a shell of what the Bulldogs could be (and were earlier in the year). However, the offense won’t matter nearly as much as the defensive effort in this one. So far, no one has been able to stop Auburn’s rushing attack this season. Even in its lone loss to LSU, Auburn was able to grind out over 200 yards on the ground. If Georgia wants to create waves near the top of the rankings, it is going to have to find a way to stop the run game. Auburn employs the help of at least four different rushers in a typical game, which is one of the reasons why it can stand to run, run and run some more.

The Bulldogs have the best run defense that the Tigers have seen from an SEC team this season. In addition, Aaron Murray is making pretty decent lemonade with a bunch of grade B lemons. Auburn is going to need to play a complete game because Georgia is getting healthier on the offensive end with each passing week. It’s probably a matter of time before the Bulldogs break out with a performance that reminds all of us why they still had national title hopes after losing to Clemson in the season opener. This could definitely be the week.

My Pick: 38-35 Georgia

Mike’s Take: During Week One, the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” had quite the makings for a great game. No one expected, however, for Georgia to lose three games at this point in the year, including a tough four point loss to Vanderbilt. Just because it isn’t two single digit rankings doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a good one. Auburn will be too much to handle for Georgia. 

45-20 Auburn

#14 Michigan State at Nebraska (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

If you’ve watched either of Nebraska’s last two games, then you know just how lucky the Cornhuskers are to still be in the Big Ten Legends Division title race. This week Bo Pelini’s team gets the chance to take the lead in the division when it welcomes current leader Michigan State to Lincoln. But don’t expect the luck to continue for Nebraska; they’ll have to earn the division lead the hard way in this one.

Just when it looked like the Spartans had made a statement with a convincing victory over Michigan two weekends ago, the Wolverines go and mess things up. Despite the 29-6 drubbing Michigan State put on its in-state rival in East Lansing, I still don’t know if Mark Dantonio’s defense is for real. Sure, statistically it is the best in the Big Ten. But since Michigan’s offense really isn’t that good, have the Spartans truly managed to go nine games without seeing an offense capable of testing them? Perhaps. And thanks to Nebraska’s inconsistency on offense, this Saturday might make it ten. Unless Taylor Martinez has one of his better games of the year, Michigan State will do to him what its done to every other read option quarterback in the Big Ten.

This game will be close, albeit because Michigan State’s offense assures that every game featuring the Spartans is close. However, consistency is key, and it appears that Coach Dantonio’s team at least has that going for it. I expect the defense to put steady pressure on Martinez all game, and Nebraska won’t be able to score the 20 points necessary to take down Michigan State. Expect a low scoring affair in this one.

My Pick: 17-10 Michigan State

Mike’s Take: The right to get blown out by Ohio State, I mean, win the Legends Division of the Big Ten is on the line for Michigan State at Nebraska. Michigan State has the 3rd best defense in the nation but Nebraska looks to pull the upset and win the division. After a blowout win against Michigan, I see the Spartans rolling and eventually wining the Legends Division.

30-13 Michigan State

#12 Oklahoma State at #23 Texas (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

In mid-September, fans were calling for Mack Brown’s job. On the night of October 3rd, people knew Brown was a blown call away from that scenario likely becoming a reality. But since that Thursday night, Texas hasn’t experienced defeat. The No. 23 Longhorns, who are making their first appearance in the Top 25 since falling out after a humbling loss to Ole Miss, now sit atop the Big 12 standings. It’s a position many thought the Oklahoma Cowboys would be occupying at this point in the season. Instead, the Cowboys will be fighting for the chance to get back into the conference title discussion with a victory over Texas. Can you feel a storm brewing?

Texas almost fell off the tracks again last weekend, needing overtime to dispatch a scrappy West Virginia team on the road. But the victory signaled something about Mack Brown’s squad; the team has learned how to weather adversity. Earlier in the year, it’s difficult to say whether Case McCoy would have responded in the second half after being down and not throwing any touchdowns in the first half. But he did, and the Longhorns were able to pull out a victory. However, it came against a team using its backup quarterback for the majority of the game. So maybe “overcoming adversity” would have been a better term had West Virginia won.

At any rate, there is no “backup” quarterback for Oklahoma State, so the Longhorns will have to force an experienced play caller to make bad decisions rather than someone who is cold off the bench. They’ll also have to make sure that quarterback Clint Chelf doesn’t take off running, potentially gashing a defense that hasn’t been spectacular against the run. I think that the Cowboys may be a bit too talented for the Longhorns on offense, but the game is in Austin so I’ll give Texas a chance.

My Pick: 35-27 Oklahoma State

Mike’s Take: Texas is 6-0 in the Big 12 but Mack Brown is fighting for his job. High standards down in Austin. Anyway, I feel if the Longhorns come out on top, then Brown keeps his job. For that reason, and that reason alone, I believe Texas pulls the upset, and Mack Brown survives another week. 

30-24 Texas

5 Games to Flip To

Georgia Tech at #8 Clemson (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET)

Georgia Tech has the ACC Coastal Division lead, but three teams are breathing down its neck. A huge win over Clemson would put the pressure back on the teams chasing the Yellow Jackets.

Houston at #19 Louisville (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

The Cougars have made the transition to the AAC from C-USA look like an easy one. They definitely have a shot to hand the Cardinals their second loss of the season.

#1 Alabama at Mississippi State (Saturday, 7:45 PM ET)

Mississippi State is in desperate need of a win to become bowl eligible, so don’t be surprised if head coach Dan Mullen pulls out some trickery against the Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs would need it regardless to beat Alabama, so it’s worth the shot.

#5 Stanford at Southern California (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

After last week’s impressive victory over Oregon, the Cardinal need to avoid losing focus against the high powered Trojan offense.

Oregon State at #21 Arizona State (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET)

The Beavers are hanging onto the dream of winning the Pac-12 North by a thread. An upset over the Sun Devils is necessary to keep that thread from breaking.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Mike did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

– K. Becks

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