2023 NCAAF: Week 12 Preview

November 17, 2023

This is going to be the best weekend. Really.

And hey, plenty of college football will be played, too.

For the second time this season, Around The Corn welcomes a guest prognosticator to the fold. This wrinkle proved to be a good luck charm for K. Becks, who went a perfect 5 out of 5 straight up in the previous head-to-head matchup.

My buddy Colin will look to turn the tide in favor of the guests this week – for reference, here are the current records:

K. Becks – 5-0

Guests – 3-2

Before we get to predictions, let’s rewind to Week 11 and recap what we now know.

3 Things We Learned in Week 11

Michigan is not broken internally

Regardless of what you think about the entire situation surrounding Michigan, it’s hard to deny that Jim Harbaugh has built a strong culture within the program. From players and coaches alike vehemently defending their suspended head coach throughout the week, to the gameplan the Wolverines executed nearly flawlessly to beat Penn State on the road, things are hardly broken (make no mistake confusing this with morality or legality).

The Wolverines may not end up in the CFP this season, but it’ll take a monstrous effort to break their spirit.

Georgia is getting stronger

It is appearing as though the Bulldogs are getting better as the season goes on, which is a warning sign for all future opponents.

Georgia thrashed previously No. 9 Mississippi last weekend, and although the Rebels were forced to utilize their backup quarterback, it wasn’t until late in the third quarter when the game was already trending toward “blowout” status. The back end of the Bulldogs’ schedule was long projected to be the most difficult portion, and Kirby Smart’s team has so far handled it with relative ease. It’s as if Smart and his staff had been preparing the entire time to peak at this stage.

Mike Gundy secured the bag after the Oklahoma victory

There is no other explanation for the Cowboys going out and beating Oklahoma two weeks ago and then following that performance with a 45-3 loss to a .500 Central Florida team.

Gundy must have some sort of stipulation within his contract that handsomely rewards a victory in the Battle of Bedlam. Perhaps this year’s version had a special bump, due to it being the last currently scheduled edition of the rivalry. Either way, excellent job of masking how much the rest of the season means to you, Mike.

5 Games You Need to Watch This Weekend

#22 Utah at #17 Arizona (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET – Pac-12 Network)

The Utes, despite dropping a tough one to Washington last weekend, have proven once again that they are one of the grittiness programs in the country under Kyle Whittingham. Utah’s gauntlet of tough matchups continues this weekend when it travels to Tuscon to take on Arizona, which has been a pleasant surprise to an already stacked Pac-12.

The Wildcats have been incredibly balanced on both sides of the ball, a credit to the system that Jedd Fisch is employing. Noah Fifita has been a revelation at quarterback as a freshman. However, Utah’s defense gave even Heisman frontrunner Michael Penix Jr. problems, and the Utes have figured things out offensively in the second half of the season. This will be a chess match, with the visitors prevailing.

My Pick: 24-21 Utah (covers +1 spread)

Colin’s Take:

I always love when two schools play each other, where the names of the schools are just the state names. And fun fact, you can’t spell Arizona or Utah without an “a”. The Utes are coming off a close game against one of the top teams in the country. They also always seem to have a superb Caucasian or Polynesian defensive player, and they have one this year in Levani Damuni. As for the other side, Arizona had a cakewalk against an under-the-radar Colorado team. They have a kicker named Tyler Loop. I hope he likes rollercoasters. I will be picking Utah because I hate the Wildcat offense, and Arizona has a Wildcat offense. Utah 37-21.

#1 Georgia at #18 Tennessee (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – CBS)

The Volunteers were embarrassed in Columbia last weekend, bringing into question whether Tennessee deserves a Top 25 ranking at all. Was it just a case of Josh Heupel’s team looking ahead to this game? Possibly, but the general lack of focus that coincides with that reasoning is still reason for great concern against the newest No. 1 team in the country.

Tennessee’s rush offense, which was tops in the SEC, was held to just 83 yards against Missouri last weekend. Georgia’s run defense has progressively given up more yards on the ground the previous three weeks, albeit against successively better competition. In other words, there is hope for Tennessee to rebound, but it’s faint. The fans in Knoxville better show up and be loud, because homefield advantage will need to play a part if the Volunteers are to orchestrate the biggest upset of the season two years in a row.

My Pick: 34-23 Georgia (covers -10 spread)

Colin’s Take:

Wow. Another battle of just state names. What a week! The Vols have been decent in recent years about spoiling some seasons. I don’t really like either of these coaches. Georgia’s smart coach probably doesn’t even know how to solve an equation using logarithms. Like his Super Smash Bros character namesake, he sucks. And Tennessee’s coach looks like a big ole tub-a-goo who has been banned from 17 La-Z-Boy furniture galleries. Georgia is still carrying a huge unbeaten streak, but I’m feeling saucy. Sometimes you gotta grab the bull by the horns. Or rather, the bulldog by the salivated skin folds. I’m going with the Vols. Let’s put another goal post in the river. Tennessee 34-31.

UNLV at Air Force (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – CBS Sports Network)

Barry Odom has done a magnificent job at UNLV this season. Troy Calhoun has done an equally magnificent job at Air Force this season. The Runnin’ Rebels and Falcons sit atop the Mountain West standings with just two games each left in the regular season. UNLV likely needs to win this game to avoid falling behind Fresno State, a team it lost to last month, and risk relinquishing its driver’s seat position with regards to the Mountain West title game. Air Force need a win to end a two game losing streak and clinch its own spot in the conference title game. If you thought this game was included in ‘Top Games to Watch’ list as a mistake, think again.

While several factors have contributed to the Falcons’ current skid, two are critically important – turnovers and stopping third down conversions. Unfortunately for Air Force, UNLV has forced more turnovers (21) than any other team in the Mountain West and boasts the conference’s best third down conversion rate (53 percent). Air Force is back at the friendly confines, but UNLV certainly smells blood and has the personnel to capitalize on that.

My Pick: 28-24 UNLV (covers +3 spread)

Colin’s Take:

The Air Force is my second favorite military branch behind Army. But I do have a bone to pick with them. They are literally called the Air Force, but running the ball makes up the majority of their offense. It doesn’t make any sense, and quite frankly, annoys me. If there’s a school that should have an Air Raid offense, it’s the Air Force… They’re coming off of two tough losses, so let’s see if they can pilot out of that. In their crosshairs is fellow 8-2 UNLV. I can’t imagine college kids playing in Vegas. How they just don’t get into constant trouble in Sin City baffles me. Playing blackjack at the Luxor, pissin’ in the Bellagio fountains, dining and dashing at a Vegas buffet – the opportunities are endless. I don’t know much about their football program, but I do know that they should try to play their home games at The Sphere. Their offense would light it up. But they aren’t playing there, so off we go into the wild blue yonder…nobody can stop the U.S Air Force. Air Force 41-27.

#21 Kansas State at #25 Kansas (Saturday, 7 PM ET – FS1)

The history of this rivalry speaks for itself – over 100 years of consecutive seasons played, only one prior matchup in which both teams have been ranked, and a 1987 matchup with the unaffectionate moniker “The Toilet Bowl” due to both teams’ futility that year. The Sunflower Showdown has not always been pretty, but it’s hard to ignore just the second time that the in-state rivalry has featured two teams ranked in the Top 25.

The Jayhawks may have finally hit a wall offensively, and much of it can be attributed to injuries to Jalon Daniels. Kansas benched quarterback Jason Bean in favor of freshman Cole Ballard during last week’s 16-13 loss to Texas Tech, but as the score would suggest it didn’t make much positive impact. Were Daniels healthy, it may be a very different story, but the Wildcats likely have too much offense and a good enough defense to stifle the Jayhawks’ attempt to end the current 14-game losing streak in this rivalry.

My Pick: 31-23 Kansas State (does not cover -9.5 spread)

Colin’s Take:

I had to look up that name for this rivalry game, which usually means it’s not very good or I had a giant brain fart. Well, no flatulence here, the name is the thing that stinks. This game is called the Sunflower Showdown. Oof. What a boring, sissy name. I thought of two better names in 30 seconds. They are “The Dorothy: There’s No Place Like Home Red Slipper Bowl” or the “Carry On My Wayward Son Showdown.” Both of those kick tits. Give me a call, Kansas schools. As for the game, Kansas State has won 14 straight. Is this the year Kansas finally does it? They do have the big win over Oklahoma, so I can see them being a sexy pick this year. The game is in Lawrence, where they have already drowned one pair of goalposts this year. I’ve already made one pick that will murder some goalposts, why not make it two? Kansas 24-17.

#5 Washington at #11 Oregon State (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET – ABC)

The Huskies continue to win games, but nothing is easy from here on out for Kalen DeBoer’s squad. Oregon State has quietly put together a strong showing in 2023 and will get two opportunities (this week and again next week against Oregon) to play spoiler in the Pac-12. The game being in Corvallis certainly helps the cause this weekend – the Beavers have yet to lose at home this season and Washington has looked like a different team on the road.

Like many of the teams that Washington has struggled to beat this season, Oregon State likes to possess the football and can sustain long drives thanks to Damien Martinez and the excellent offensive line that he runs behind. The objective is clear – keep the ball away from Washington’s offense and hang on for dear life when the Huskies do have the ball. The Beavers are well-coached and can make this one very interesting.

My Pick: 30-27 Washington (covers -1 spread)

Colin’s Take:

I placed a Heisman bet on DJ Ukulele at the beginning of the year that would have been a big time payout, and I was feeling pretty optimistic after the first couple weeks. That bet inspired me to adopt Oregon State as my random team this year. But a couple losses by a field goal each ruined my dream season from the Beavs. But regardless of those two losses, the Beavs are a dam good team. They will be facing one of the five undefeated programs left in Washington, a team that some say is still being disrespected given its resume. They scraped the Earth’s mantle that is Indiana University and believe to have found their diamond that is Michael Penix Jr. Do the Huskies have enough stamina to plow through this Iditarod of a season? While many believe so, I’m believing in the Beavs! Let’s take out two undefeated teams this week. Oregon State 49-38.

5 Games to Keep an Eye On This Weekend

#10 Louisville at Miami (FL) (Saturday, 12 PM ET – ABC)

The Hurricanes may have been let down by some questionable calls last weekend, but showed a level of motivation that should carry over into this weekend against another Top 10 opponent. Don’t be surprised if Miami puts a damper on Louisville’s dream season.

Appalachian State at James Madison (Saturday, 2 PM ET – ESPN+)

The Dukes are making a concerted effort to bring some relevance and excitement back to the non-New Year’s Six bowl schedule, and the NCAA is playing the role of Fun Police. James Madison by 100.

#20 North Carolina at Clemson (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – ABC)

The Tigers have an opportunity to quelch any remaining hope the Tar Heels have of sneaking into the ACC title game. Hope you bought the dip of Clemson stock a couple of weeks ago.

UCLA at Southern Cal (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET – ABC)

The Big Ten should strongly consider what the Pac-12 never had the stones to do – moving the placement of this rivalry game to earlier in the season. What is now largely an afterthought would have been a marquee matchup several weeks ago.

Florida at #9 Missouri (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Things are good in the Show Me State. The Tigers can break the .500 deadlock in this series with a victory, and also mark the third time since 2017 that the program will have beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same season.

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