Week 12 college football predictions for the 10 biggest games. The Big 12 race gets some clarity when Oklahoma travels to Morgantown to square off with West Virginia.
If Week 11 taught fans anything, it’s to never underestimate the potential ramifications of a slate of games, especially when the calendar indicates it’s November. So, while Week 12 appears light on epic clashes between wannabe national title contenders, conference races and playoff chases will be at stake from Thursday night right through the final plays of Saturday night.
Below are the breakdowns and predictions for the 10 most consequential and entertaining games of Week 12.
10. Arizona State (5-5) at Washington (9-1)
Now that the Huskies have been punched in the jaw, will they be slow to get off the mat?
Washington was outplayed—and outmuscled—by USC last week, ending its perfect season. Now what? Everything is still out there, from a Pac-12 title to getting back into the playoff discussion. But it all begins with a short memory and a quick rebound this week against Arizona State. The Sun Devils have disappointed for a second straight year under Todd Graham, and could really use a statement upset that locks down bowl-eligibility.
Chris Petersen is too good of a coach to not have his kids ready and testy after last week. The Sun Devils have been a defensive mess all season, particularly when the ball is in the air. Jake Browning will stare down ASU’s front seven pressure, connecting with John Ross and Dante Pettis to torch an overmatched secondary for four touchdowns and a comfortable bounce back win.
Prediction: Washington 49, Arizona State 23
Line: Washington -27
9. Indiana (5-5) at Michigan (9-1)
With one sweep of Keith Duncan’s right leg, the entire outlook for Michigan changed last Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.
The Wolverines lost a game they weren’t supposed to, 14-13, to Iowa on a walk-off field goal. They have also reportedly lost their starting quarterback, Wilton Speight, who was beginning to peak prior to Week 11. So, with one week left before Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh could be leaning on Houston transfer John O’Korn to run his offense. Michigan knows it can’t look past Indiana, which has already played Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State very tough in losses.
This is a week for the Wolverines to ask even more of their elite defense, and to give a few extra direct snaps to Jabrill Peppers out of wildcat packages. Michigan won’t have a ton of success on offense, but neither will error-prone Hoosier quarterback Richard Lagow, who has a long day ahead against Don Brown’s D.
Prediction: Michigan 34, Indiana 16
Line: Michigan -23
8. Clemson (9-1) at Wake Forest (6-4)
For the first time all year, Clemson slipped below Louisville in the ACC Atlantic standings after last week’s unimagined loss to Pitt. The Tigers will remain there if they fail to recover in Week 12.
After playing with fire earlier in the year, Clemson was finally singed when Panther Chris Blewitt booted the game-winner with six seconds left. Still, little has been lost for a team that controls its own destiny for just about everything, likely including the playoffs. But Wake Forest is not the pushover it used to be. Just ask the Cards, who trailed the Deacons at the start of the fourth quarter last Saturday at Papa John’s.
Coordinator Mike Elko is once again doing a terrific job with the Deacon D, last week serving as another example. But Wake lacks the offense to close the deal, particularly against a talented Clemson defense that will operate with a ton to prove this Saturday night.
Prediction: Clemson 30, Wake Forest 13
Line: Clemson -22.5
7. Oklahoma State (8-2) at TCU (5-4)
Oklahoma State is two wins away from an outright Big 12 championship. But those two wins will have to come outside of Stillwater.
It’s crunch time for the Cowboys, which needed a missed extra point to put away Texas Tech last week. This Saturday, they travel to Fort Worth, and then it’s off to Norman for Bedlam on Dec. 3. Oklahoma State has won six in a row behind Mason Rudolph and the passing attack, but the Horned Frogs will be a tricky assignment. Not only has TCU had two weeks to prepare for this matchup, but the team is also coming off its best game of the year, a 62-22 demo job of Baylor.
The Frogs have been itching for that moment that they play like the team that was supposed to contend for the league crown. And that moment will be this Saturday. TCU has the better personnel, including head coach Gary Patterson, and a hot running back in Kyle Hicks, who’ll help keep the ball out of Rudolph’s hands.
Prediction: TCU 37, Oklahoma State 35
Line: TCU -4.5
6. USC (7-3) at UCLA (4-6)
The Trojans and the Bruins meet for their annual crosstown showdown, with the two programs traveling in decidedly different directions.
USC is among the hottest teams in the country, stringing together six straight wins for the first time since 2008. And the latest victory, 26-13 over unbeaten Washington in Seattle, sent shockwaves through the Pac-12 and the upper echelon of the rankings. Troy can still capture the South Division, but will need Colorado to lose another game. UCLA, on the other hand, is mired in an awful season, snapping a four-game losing streak with last week’s defeat of Oregon State. But records never matter in rivalries of this magnitude and intensity.
This is UCLA’s bowl game, literally, if it can’t find a way to stop USC’s run. And the Bruins have the defense, particularly on the front and back ends, to hang with the Trojans. But UCLA’s offensive issues, sans injured quarterback Josh Rosen, will be highlighted against a USC D that’s peaking for coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
Prediction: USC 30, UCLA 21
Line: USC -10.5
5. Ohio State (9-1) at Michigan State (3-7)
Just because the Spartans failed to hold up their end of the bargain doesn’t mean Saturday in East Lansing won’t matter.
Ohio State-Michigan State emerged in recent years as a perennial game of national significance, a la Oregon-Stanford out in the Pac-12. But the Spartans haven’t been the Spartans we’ve come to know under Mark Dantonio, needing a visit from Rutgers last week to snap a seven-game losing streak. Still, they’ve been a thorn in the Buckeyes’ side in recent years and would love nothing more than to end their rival’s national title hopes.
While Michigan State will play with emotion this Saturday, Ohio State is the team that’ll execute. The Buckeyes have won back-to-back games by identical 62-3 scores to get beyond a sluggish point in the season. And their speedy D, from front to back, against the inconsistent Spartan offense will be a mismatch that favors the visitors.
Prediction: Ohio State 37, Michigan State 19
Line: Ohio State -22
4. Louisville (9-1) at Houston (8-2)
Whatever appeal was lost after Houston fell twice in the span of three weeks has been replaced by Louisville’s proximity to the top of the national rankings.
The Cougars are no longer a contender for the AAC West Division, let alone a New Year’s Six bowl berth. Those goals evaporated following losses to Navy and SMU. However, Houston remains a talented team with a playmaking quarterback, Greg Ward Jr., and a terrific coach, Tom Herman. Ward and Herman will need to outperform the Cards’ QB-coach combo of Lamar Jackson and Bobby Petrino, which has been as good as any in the country this season. Thanks to last week’s top 10 implosion, Louisville has a very real shot of nabbing a playoff berth, even if Clemson goes on to win the ACC Atlantic.
Louisville has been vulnerable against lesser opponents, like Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest. And Houston has been itching to get back on the national radar. The Cougars can absolutely compete here. However, Ward’s throwing shoulder isn’t 100% and Jackson will once again deliver when his Cards need to be bailed out in the second half.
Prediction: Louisville 34, Houston 27
Line: Louisville -14
3. Florida (7-2) at LSU (6-3)
The game that almost never happened happens this weekend in Baton Rouge.
The Gators and Tigers were originally scheduled for Oct. 8 before being washed out by Hurricane Matthew. And after some contentious and downright hostile negotiating, the two sides eventually decided on this Saturday for a makeup date. LSU is playing for bowl destination, but Florida is trying to protect its slim lead in the SEC East. A loss this weekend could open the door for Tennessee, which has the softer remaining schedule and defeated the Gators back in Week 4.
LSU showed a lot last week by easily bouncing Arkansas in Fayetteville the week after the emotional Alabama game. And while both defenses are crammed with next-level stars, the Tigers have the better options on offense. The ex-Purdue quarterbacks, Gator Austin Appleby and Tiger Danny Etling, will play to a draw, but backs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice will provide LSU with the spark it needs to earn win No. 7.
Prediction: LSU 24, Florida 10
Line: LSU -13.5
2. Washington State (8-2) at Colorado (8-2)
Wazzu and Colorado in a battle of Pac-12 division leaders. Take a bow if you saw this development coming back in the summer.
The Cougars and the Buffs are atop the North and the South, respectively, trying to hold off the contenders behind them and earn an improbable spot in the conference championship game. Colorado has only lost to USC and Michigan, while Washington State has valiantly rallied from an 0-2 start to win eight in a row. In a game flush with outstanding matchups, none will be more riveting than the one between Buff defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and Cougar head coach Mike Leach. Wazzu is ringing up 44 points per game, while Colorado allows less than 18.
Defense still wins championship. And while Washington State has been vastly underrated on D, it’s still a step behind Colorado, which keeps getting stops from linebackers Jimmie Gilbert and Kenneth Olugbode, and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Sure, the offenses will shine, but Leavitt’s kids will come through late when the outcome hangs in the balance.
Prediction: Colorado 35, Washington State 30
Line: Colorado -4
1. Oklahoma (8-2) at West Virginia (8-1)
Three Big 12 teams are eyeing a title as the regular season winds down. Two of those contenders meet in Morgantown on Saturday night for what should be a wild scene.
The Sooners are the league’s hottest team, and the only one that’s yet to lose a conference game. Behind Baker Mayfield, Dede Westbrook and the rest of the high-powered offense, Oklahoma has gotten beyond its 1-2 start to climb all the way into the top 10. But much of what this team has gained will be squandered if it can’t close strong versus West Virginia and Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers have even more to prove. Yeah, they’re 8-1 but that lone loss came to the Cowboys, the only ranked opponent on the schedule so far.
Despite winning last week in Austin, West Virginia got exposed in a number of areas by Texas. And that’s a worry with Oklahoma on campus. The Sooners will soften the Mountaineer defense with the balance of Mayfield and his backs, while the defense will do just enough to keep the team perfect in Big 12 play.
Prediction: Oklahoma 34, West Virginia 28
Line: Oklahoma -3