2014 NCAAF Week 12 Weekend Preview

November 14, 2014

You want to know what happens when you gloat and get ahead of yourself?

You go 3-2 in a very difficult weekend to pick football games. You also lose the head-to-head prediction game to your younger brother.

Yes, King Beck beat K. Becks by one game last weekend, thus ending my winning streak against the guests and also robbing me of my ability to hold it over him for awhile. I guess that’s the way things go when your little brother gets to be taller than you.

The overall standings now look like this:

K. Becks: 32-18

Guests: 32-18

On a positive note, there will be no more cockiness from me. This week my friend Billy Conkle joins the blog as the guest prognosticator. This is Billy’s first time picking games on ATC, but I’ve known him long enough to understand that he is wholly capable of creating further separation for the guests if I’m not careful.

November college football is in full swing, with yet another week of important games to be played. No one is safe from the dangers of an upset, and it is starting to become clear just how muddy things at the top of the Playoff Rankings will remain throughout the regular season. No one said things would be perfect, and the issues that are emerging are great for writers.

Here are my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#19 Clemson at #22 Georgia Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Life can be tough beneath the shadow of the Florida State Seminoles. Despite the fact that both of these teams are ranked in the Top 25, have at least seven victories and are in the thick of their respective divisional races, no one is paying much attention to the rest of the ACC. The loser of this game will relinquish essentially all of the mentioned accolades currently bestowed upon it, but the winner will still have a chance to put pressure on the Seminoles.

On Saturday afternoon in Atlanta we will learn which is better: the ACC’s best overall offense in terms of yards per game or its best defense. The Yellow Jackets routinely possess one of the nation’s more potent rushing attacks and this year is no different. The triple option offense is humming, but the statistics may be a bit misleading thanks to the competition Georgia Tech has faced. The two of the seven ACC opponents the Yellow Jackets have played have a run defense thanks ranks in the top half of the conference. However, it has really been simpler than that for Georgia Tech. Any team that can keep pace with the Yellow Jackets offensively have a chance to beat them.

Not only does Clemson have the ACC’s top overall defense and second best in terms of rushing yards allowed per contest, but the Tigers can score as well. Cole Stoudt has been inconsistent at quarterback this season, but he shouldn’t have as much trouble finding his receivers against a defense as porous as Georgia Tech’s. Winning on the road is never easy, but Clemson is as close to a complete team as anyone the Yellow Jackets have played in 2014. Paul Johnson’s squad seems to struggle against complete teams.

My Pick: 38-35 Clemson

Billy’s Take: I’ll take Clemson, because I know nothing of these two teams and Clemson is ranked higher.

#8 Ohio State at #25 Minnesota (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

After an impressive victory on the road over Michigan State, the Buckeyes are flying high and in position to become the Big Ten’s representative in the inaugural playoff. But looking ahead too quickly will cause problems and that starts with this weekend. This isn’t your father’s Golden Gophers football team; Minnesota has found its stride and shares the lead in the Big Ten West Division. It’s unlikely that this is a preview of the Big Ten title game because of the way that Minnesota’s schedule is designed, but this is one worth keeping a close eye on.

I may have incorrectly chosen the Buckeyes to lose to the Spartans last weekend, but one thing that I was correct about was the way that Ohio State was able to win. Under Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes are clearly the Big Ten’s version of Oregon. Michigan State was unable to contain Ohio State’s athletes in space and J.T. Barrett stepped up in a big way last Saturday night. Like the SEC’s most dominate squads over the past decade, it will take more than a good defense and a calculated offense to shut down the Buckeyes. Minnesota isn’t the flashiest team, but the Golden Gophers have shown the ability to score a lot of points this season. Thanks to David Cobb at running back, Minnesota is effective moving the ball on the ground and doesn’t give the opponent free chances via turnovers.

Unfortunately for the Golden Gophers, that sounds fairly similar to the modus operandi of Mark Dantonio’s Spartans. We all saw how that worked out last weekend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a repeat performance occurs this coming Saturday. Minnesota is a good football team, but has been inconsistent (losing to Illinois three weeks ago) and didn’t fare well in its only contest against a dynamic offense resembling Ohio State’s (losing 30-7 to TCU in September). Because Minnesota is ranked, Ohio State could really help itself in the eyes of the Committee with a convincing victory. Don’t think Coach Meyer doesn’t know that.

My Pick: 41-24 Ohio State

Billy’s Take: Ohio State, coming off the most important victory to date of the Urban Meyer era, has to go  play at ranked Minnesota on a day where the forecasted high is 27…do I smell a trap game? Nah, Ohio State wins big.

#1 Mississippi State at #5 Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This is the second game on the 5 to Watch list this weekend that features a conference’s top overall offense against its top defense. But more exciting than that statistical tidbit is the effect that this game’s result will have on the College Football Playoff. Analysts have already begun to discuss the unthinkable – the SEC missing the playoff entirely – and this matchup plays a key role in those scenarios. It would be difficult to see Alabama recovering from a defeat of any kind in this one, but Mississippi State isn’t necessarily out of the picture with a close loss. And you thought that a four team playoff would prevent these kind of conversations…

Ever since the Bulldogs blew out Texas A&M on October 4, Dak Prescott’s play has been trending in the wrong direction. The junior has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns over the past four games and his QB rating hasn’t eclipsed 167.06 during that time. Perhaps Prescott’s foot injury has had more of an effect than the team would like to admit, but it’s also just as likely that teams are starting to get smart. As good as Prescott has been this season, a lot of his throws have been made easier by opposing defenses needing to respect his ability to tuck it and run. Not many teams in the country are better than Alabama at exposing quarterbacks for what they really are, and this is bad news for the Bulldogs. Additionally, Mississippi State’s defense is terrible against the pass, so Dan Mullen won’t be able to count on keeping things close unless Prescott is playing well.

It would be a great story if Prescott were to turn things around against Alabama on the road and lead the Bulldogs to victory. It would also essentially book him a flight to New York City at the end of the season for the Heisman Trophy presentation. But I’ve become a realist when it comes to college football, and the statistics with regards to his TD-to-INT rate don’t lie. Alabama is smart enough defensively to lure Prescott into making costly mistakes, and against a team like the Crimson Tide, turnovers are a death sentence. Things at the top of the rankings will get very interesting after this one.

My Pick: 35-28 Alabama

Billy’s Take: A Mississippi St. victory gives the team its first 10-win season of this millennium. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait until next Saturday, because Alabama is winning this one. Miss St. fans shouldn’t worry though, as their “quality loss” will probably only bump them down to No. 4.

#16 Nebraska at #20 Wisconsin (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

I’m not a betting man (at least not with money), but if I had to place one on which team would win the Big Ten West Division, it would be one of these two teams. Forget the made up rivalry and nearly meaningless trophy that is presented to the winner, this game is about two teams that have quietly worked themselves back to being relevant this season. The winner gets a leg up on earning the chance to play in Indianapolis.

It would be an absolute shame if Ameer Abdullah were not 100 percent healthy for this game; that much everyone can agree on. Abdullah has been the workhorse for the Nebraska offense and is without a doubt the reason why the Cornhuskers have had somewhat of a resurgence in 2014 after struggling throughout the first three seasons as a Big Ten member. It isn’t often that you get an individual matchup as good as Abdullah vs. Gordon, especially between two running backs that never actually go head-to-head on the field. Even if Abdullah isn’t in peak physical condition, this game will be dominated by each team’s respective rush offense. Neither Tommy Armstrong Jr. nor Joel Stave are consistent enough at quarterback for their coaches to want to open things up in such a meaningful contest. Since both teams have weapons that can move the football while also milking the clock, turnovers will be very costly in this one.

I will say this frankly so that there is no confusion: if Abdullah is truly healthy entering this game, Nebraska will win. If he’s not, then the Badgers will come away with the victory. Since I have no way of knowing Abdullah’s condition without being a part of the team, I have to go off of what I have seen on the field. Abdullah did not return after being injured against Purdue and nothing has been reported to suggest that he is completely healthy. In the spirit of competition, entertainment and the well-being of student athletes, I hope that I’m wrong.

My Pick: 28-24 Wisconsin

Billy’s Take: Wisconsin squeaks by at a rowdy Camp Randle.

#9 Auburn at #15 Georgia (Saturday, 7:15 PM ET)

If this were any other conference, a matchup between the No. 9 and No. 15 teams in the country would be a heavyweight showdown. But in the SEC, this is just another game on the slate. Neither Auburn nor Georgia have much of a shot at working their way back into the playoff picture, and barring some sort of miracle at least one of these teams will miss out on the SEC title game. Despite all this negativity, this game is still worth watching because of the impact it has on the playoff rankings as Auburn is sort of playing gatekeeper at this point.

To the average college football fan, this game can be summed up in one concise sentence: Todd Gurley is back for Georgia. But to the hardcore fan, having Gurley back isn’t as game-changing as the casual fan might think. While Gurley was away, freshman back Nick Chubb did a terrific job holding down the fort for the Bulldogs, rushing for over 140 yards in all four games. But in a blowout loss to Florida on November 1, it became apparent that Georgia’s defense is keeping the Bulldogs from being one of the nation’s elite teams. Florida amassed an incredible 418 yards on the ground, and a week later Kentucky managed to grind out 214 rushing yards despite losing by several touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the run game is Auburn’s bread and butter offensively. Expect the Tigers to hit Georgia with a heavy dose of the ground game and for positive results.

We saw how angry Georgia played against Kentucky after the upset loss at the hands of Florida, so imagine how Auburn feels. The Tigers were in prime position to head into the Iron Bowl with a chance to lock up an SEC West title and a spot in the playoff before unraveling at home against Texas A&M thanks to two late fumbles. Now Auburn needs more help than it will probably get to work its way back into the playoff conversation. Georgia will surely welcome the return of Gurley, but I don’t see it mattering much when the defense is likely to allow more than 300 yards rushing.

My Pick: 38-30 Auburn

Billy’s Take: Todd Gurley comes back from suspension with a vengeance, leads Georgia to victory.

5 Games to Flip To

Rice at Marshall (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET)

If it continues to amaze you that Marshall actually hired a PR firm to get the Thundering Herd into the playoff, you’re not alone.

Washington at #14 Arizona (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

It’s hard to imagine the Huskies scoring enough points to hang with the Wildcats, but stranger things have happened.

Missouri at #24 Texas A&M (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Surprisingly, the Aggies didn’t ride the Auburn victory into the Top 15. But this is still a matchup with SEC title game implications, at least for Missouri.

#3 Florida State at Miami (FL) (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

It seems that every team gives the shaky Seminoles a scare these days. Expect the same from the rival Hurricanes.

#6 Arizona State at Oregon State (Saturday, 10:45 PM ET)

It’s possible that the “other” Oregon school could ruin any shot the Sun Devils have at making the playoffs a few weeks before the Ducks would potentially get a chance to do so.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Billy 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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