2016 Week 12 NCAAF Weekend Preview

November 17, 2016

If you think that the college football season got crazy last weekend, just wait.

There’s a term that diehard fans have for when the No. 2, 3, 4, 8 and 9 teams lose on the same day: November Football.

It’s not accurate to call it the norm, but rather something far more convoluted and confusing. Unexpectedly expected.

We don’t always know when it’s going to happen or who it will happen to, but November football brings out the best in the great teams and surprising performances from teams playing the not-so-great ones. It creates an incredible product that wouldn’t be diminished one bit by the addition of several teams to the end of the year party. Shots fired, haters.

But I digress. Coleman and I tied this week, leaving the cap between the guests and myself at three. The overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 35-20

Guests: 32-23

This week, a new voice joins the blog. My buddy Michael, who is really the first person I would consider an actual friend met organically in the city I now live, will take a stab at closing the gap late in the season. Michael is a TV personality, so don’t be surprised if one day he’s the one leading something like this as opposed to the other way around.

Michael has an interesting slate of games to predict. As we saw last weekend, no pick is a sure thing in the month of November. Here’s a list of five games that you should watch, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#5 Louisville at Houston (Thursday, 8 PM ET)

At one time, people were pegging this game to be a so-called de facto “playoff to get into the playoff” when both Louisville and Houston were both in the Top 10. While the Cougars have faded from the picture, the Cardinals are still well within striking distance, albeit on the outside looking in this week. Houston may be out, but they’re not down. Louisville has a tough game ahead of it on Thursday night.

The running joke throughout the 2016 season is that Louisville is comprised of Lamar Jackson and everyone else. But those that believe that sentiment forget that the Cardinals are far and away the best defense in the ACC, and that side of the ball has been solid in all but one game this year. The defense, more than Jackson perhaps, is why Louisville has the edge in this game. Greg Ward Jr. can destroy undisciplined defenses and would be a terrific pick to lead an upset over a highly ranked team, if only he was able to fully utilize his dual threat abilities. Louisville will stay at home against Ward and prevent him from chewing up yards on the ground, thus allowing the secondary to stick to Houston’s receivers all game long.

Jackson is the frontunner for the Hesiman Trophy, but the defense has played a large role in Louisville’s overall success. Houston’s defense will give up a lot of yardage to Jackson, making it look like he was the biggest factor, but keep in mind that the Cougars give up a lot of yards to everyone. They aren’t stopped on offense much, however, and that is something Louisville’s defense can do.

My Pick: 34-20 Louisville

Michael’s Take: #5 Louisville

It’s a Lamar Jackson world and we’re all living in it. Seriously, just hand the man the Heisman and the number one pick in 2018. Put me down for 5 Lamar tuddies (4 passing, 1 rushing). Before you remind me that the Cougars are the No. 9 defense, can you tell me the team of Texas State, Lamar (no it’s not the Jacksons, good guess), UCF, Tulsa and Tulane? No? That’s half Houston’s schedule. Many moons ago, we would circle this game as the ‘who is crashing the College Football Playoff’ game, but the fighting Tom Hermans didn’t hold their end of the bargain. Remember how he was the most sought after coach when LSU fired Les Miles? Me either.

#23 Florida at #16 LSU (Saturday, 1 PM ET)

This game was originally supposed to have been played during the week that Hurricane Matthew made a landing on the East Coast, and had the game been played at the end of September a much different story would have been written heading into it. The Gators are the ones that lead an SEC division but the Tigers are the ones playing the best football.

LSU has become one of the scariest teams in the entire country since Ed Orgeron took over as interim head coach at the beginning of October. With the exception of the Alabama game, the Tigers have scored at least 38 points in every game under Orgeron. Much of the success has been due to the running game, which has received a spark with the return of Leonard Fournette over the last three weeks. This week will be the real test of the resurgence, however, as Florida has the No. 2 run defense in the SEC, while Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi (all LSU opponents with Orgeron as coach) have the three worst run defenses in the conference.

Florida will likely stuff the box and force Danny Etling to beat them through the air, which is really the only way the Gators can slow down the LSU attack. Etling doesn’t need to be great, but as long as he doesn’t give the ball away multiple times, Florida’s offense won’t put pressure on him to have a breakout game. LSU may not score 38 points this week, but the Tigers will have enough to win.

My Pick: 24-13 LSU

Michael’s Take: #16 LSU

In the news business we call that a segway, kids. LSU with another key win in the Ed Orgeron regime. ALWAYS AN INTERIM NEVER A HEAD COACH. I know everyone in Baton Rouge wants Jimbo Fisher, but Fast Eddie should get the job. The man took a rag-tag team stuck in 1997 with the Mad Hatter (who should not have been fired midseason) and took Alabama to the brink. To be fair, that was his only test. If they beat Florida and Texas A&M the job is his. My favorite hidden stat about LSU? Ranked No. 16, but are the third toughest team according to bookies in Vegas.

#22 Washington State at #10 Colorado (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Anyone that predicted this game would have a major impact on the Pac-12 title game, much less the Playoff, is either lying or should go to Vegas immediately. Mike MacIntyre is the front runner for national Coach of the Year for what he has been able to do in Boulder, while Mike Leach continues to remind us why you can always count on The Pirate to keep things interesting. Believe it or not, this is the Pac-12 matchup this weekend you cannot afford to miss.

It takes actual research to write intelligent things about Colorado, which is a testament to how stealthy the Buffaloes have been at flying under the radar this season. The Buffaloes are within half a yard of Washington for claiming the top spot in the Pac-12 in terms of defensive yards allowed per game, but more importantly to this matchup is the fact that Colorado allows just over 176 yards per game through the air. Washington State is one of two teams in the country that has not yet surpassed the 300 mark for rushing attempts on the season, which isn’t surprising. Mike Leach doesn’t call many runs, and why would he? Junior Luke Falk leads the Pac-12 in passing yards per game and is an X-ACTO knife when it comes to cutting up defenses. Colorado has struggled against the top passing offenses this season, losing to Southern Cal and nearly dropping another to Oregon earlier in the season. Falk is the kind of guy you want going up against a conference’s best, too.

As much as I would like to, I can’t say I have bought into the Buffaloes just yet. Washington State is undefeated after losing its first two games of the season, an impressive turnaround for this group of young men. Mike Leach teams are also fun to root for because of the way they play, and it is finally paying off in Pullman. It will be a close one, but the Cougars will upset Colorado’s dream of an improbable Playoff bid.

My Pick: 35-33 Washington State

Michael’s Take: #10 Colorado

WHERE DID THE BUFFALOES COME FROM? LONG LIVE KORDELL STEWART!!!! But for real, Mike MacIntyre needs to be a household name. He was part of the rebuild at Duke, took San Jose St. from WAC obscurity to a Top 25 ranking and then he takes the challenge of Colorado. He went 10-27 in his first three seasons and now WITH HIS FIRST RECRUITING CLASS WITH HIS FINGER PRINTS THROUGH THE PROGRAM (major key h/t DJ Khalid) he is ready to push the Buffaloes further into the Top 10. Time to be inspired in Boulder.

Indiana at #3 Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Wolverines lost their first game last weekend, but in the Committee’s mind it wasn’t enough to move Michigan out of the No. 3 spot in the Playoff rankings. Iowa was the only team with a winning record that Michigan had played on the road this season, which isn’t a good impression to make. But this weekend, Indiana won’t be able to sneak up on the Wolverines thanks to the Hawkeyes.

Michigan will be without quarterback Wilton Speight, who left last weekend’s game with a broken collarbone, but the Wolverines are in decent hands at the position. Senior John O’Korn was the starter at Houston for two seasons before transferring to Michigan after Tom Herman was hired by the Cougars. O’Korn has the capability to do just as well, if not better, than Speight given his experience and Indiana’s porous pass defense. Iowa, only a mediocre defense in its own right, did expose the Wolverines offense, however. It is clear that the key to slowing down Michigan is stuffing the run and baiting throws. It worked against Speight, but it remains to be seen if the Wolverines will be a different team offensively with O’Korn.

Indiana has given the cream of the crop in the Big Ten fits this year, but given Michigan’s result last week it may be difficult for the Hoosiers to do it again in this one. The high powered Indiana offense can only do so much against a defense that is very strong. Although it may not be a complete blowout, Michigan should win this game and settle down the Wolverine faithful heading into the The Game.

My Pick: 35-21 Michigan

Michael’s Take: #3 Michigan

Remember how OSU went on the war path after losing to Penn State? Imagine what Jim Harbaugh will do at the Big House. RIP Indiana football after this one.

#9 Oklahoma at #14 West Virginia (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

It’s funny how much perception and a conference can help your chances of getting back into the playoff conversation. While Houston, a two loss team that actually beat Oklahoma in the season opener, is out of the Playoff picture entirely, the Sooners have been resurrected from the dead despite two losses early in the year and are the Big 12’s best shot at breaking back into the party. West Virginia was in that position not long ago, however, and will have a chance to reintroduce itself to the country on Saturday night.

What has changed for Oklahoma since it’s 45-24 loss at the hands of Ohio State on September 17? It’s difficult to tell, frankly. The Sooners gave up an astonishing 854 yards to Texas Tech in a 66-59 thriller and 504 yards in a much more comfortable 45-24 victory over Baylor just last weekend. Based on those scores, and the fact that the Sooners trail just the Red Raiders in the Big 12 in offensive yards per game, it’s quite clear that the offense has been there all season. Which leaves only one answer: the Big 12 isn’t that strong. West Virginia hasn’t lost a game in Morgantown this season, however, and the Sooners haven’t looked nearly as good away from Norman during their current seven game winning streak.

This will be a very exciting game, and it will be close. That being said, West Virginia’s defense will only be able to do so much against an Oklahoma offense that has found its rhythm in the second half of the season. If Skyler Howard can rediscover his own rhythm, West Virginia has the ability to hang with the Sooners. But Howard’s recent play suggests that the moment may be slightly too big for the senior, which is why I’ll go with the Sooners in what should be a shootout.

My Pick: 52-45 Oklahoma

Michael’s Take: #14 West Virginia

Game of the week, right? As a Pitt fan it pains me to say this, but I’m putting my money on the Mountaineers. Let’s get something straight right off the bat – these two and OK State are the only respectable teams in the Big 12. The rest are average to below average. WVU lost to the Cowboys and the Red River Rivalry takes place next week. I’m all aboard the Dana Holgerson train. The man was on the hot seat and responded with a Top 15 season. Skyler Howard throws for 4 TDs on this weak Oklahoma secondary. Out of 128 teams, the Sooners rank No. 121 in pass defense. They average 279 yards allowed through the air.

5 Games to Flip To

Arkansas State at Troy (Thursday, 9:30 PM ET)

This game is for all the marbles in the Sun Belt Conference, so it’s worth keeping an eye on while you watch Louisville versus Houston.

#11 Oklahoma State at TCU (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

If Oklahoma slips up, the Pokes have a chance to sneak into the Big 12 lead thanks to their convincing victory over West Virginia.

San Diego State at Wyoming (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Cowboys need this game to stay ahead of Boise State in the Mountain Division, which consequently has an effect on the New Year’s Six bowls as the College Football Playoff rankings currently stand.

#8 Penn State at Rutgers (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

It’s November, remember? Similarly crazy things have happened.

#13 Southern Cal at UCLA (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

The Crosstown Rivalry doesn’t have quite the national impact that those in Los Angeles would have hoped for, but the Trojans are playing good football right now and still have a chance to win the South Division.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Michael 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.

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