Saturday in college football isn’t the most well-planned day when it comes to TV scheduling–the four best games of the day are all in the 3:30 PM ET time slot. But at least those four are all of significant magnitude, with implications ranging from the national title hunt to conference championships. TheSportsNotebook’s preview of college football Week 12 will open with this quartet…
Georgia-Auburn (CBS): The Bulldogs are loaded with all the offensive talent. They have Aaron Murray at quarterback, running back Todd Gurley and Arthur Lynch at tight end, all projected as high-round NFL draft picks. Up front, Chris Burnette and Kenarious Gates are also expected to move on to the next level. Auburn’s players can’t match the NFL futures of their Georgia counterparts, but the Tiger kids have played better football on Saturdays this season.
Consequently, Auburn has just one loss, they still play Alabama and they control their destiny for the SEC title. If the Tigers do complete a trifecta of beating Georgia, Alabama and winning the conference championship game (Missouri or South Carolina), I don’t care what happens with the other unbeatens–Auburn would deserve a spot in the national title game over Ohio State or Baylor.
The Tigers do it by running the football with Tre Mason, and given the problems the Georgia defense has had all year, there’s no reason to think Mason can’t have another big game. Auburn is a three-point favorite at home and I look for them to keep their dream season going.
Oklahoma State-Texas (Fox) Earlier this week, TheSportsNotebook broke down the Big 12 race. There are four contenders for either the conference crown, a BCS at-large bid or both, and these two are among them in a season-ending push that features a lot of head-to-head matchups.
Oklahoma State has been playing well of late and getting their ground game going. I don’t see them as a three-point road favorite in Austin though. Not when Texas is undefeated in Big 12 play and has a win over Oklahoma, while Okie State has to play the other good teams in the league (Baylor & OU).
The Longhorns may have lost running back Jonathan Gray for the year, but they have plenty of depth and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is a stud. I’m picking Texas to hold serve at home.
Michigan State-Nebraska (ABC/ESPN2): Cornhusker head coach Bo Pellini has gone from a nightmare season to a miracle one in a matter of weeks. A year that started with him being caught on tape complaining about the Nebraska fans, coupled with a bad non-conference home loss to UCLA, had Pellini’s firing looking like a certainty. It still might be, but Nebraska improbably is hosting the game of the year in the Big Ten Legends Division.
With its desperation-pass win over Northwestern two weeks ago, and then the road upset of Michigan last week without Taylor Martinez, the Huskers trail the Spartans by one game in the division and can take control of the race on a tiebreaker.
Pellini’s team will have to beat a vastly superior outfit. Michigan State has been installed as a (-6) favorite, a number indicating oddsmakers see Sparty as perhaps double-digits better on a neutral site. And anyone who was watched this Michigan State defense in action can understand why. Max Bullough is nothing short of a beast at linebacker and this is the easily the most dominant defense in the Big Ten.
Martinez is again listed as doubtful, and I would be surprised if Nebraska can beat an opponent of this quality without him even at home. But I’m no longer going to be shocked, not the way this team has kept surviving and advancing throughout the conference schedule.
Miami-Duke (ESPNU) The Blue Devils are pushing for an ACC championship, as implausible as that sounds to say outside the basketball arena. Miami is the more talented team, but is licking its wounds after two consecutive beatdowns. One was expected, when they went to Florida State a couple weeks ago. Last Saturday’s 42-24 loss to Virginia Tech was more disappointing and the Hurricanes went from solid favorite in their division, to needing a lot of help to survive a now-chaotic ACC Coastal Division race.
Ever since Duke got quarterback Anthony Boone back from injury they’ve played as well as any ACC team not based in Tallahassee. They’re getting (+3.5) at home and I’ll take the Dookies to get the outright win.
Here’s how the rest of the college football Week 12 TV schedule looks…
Ohio State-Illinois (Noon, ESPN)
Iowa State-Oklahoma (Noon, FoxSports1)
Indiana-Wisconsin (Noon, ESPN2)
Comment: It’s all about style points in the early TV window. Ohio State has to keep ahead of Baylor for the right to be first in line if either Alabama or Florida State falter in the race for the BCS National Championship Game, and the Buckeyes are a (-33) favorite.
Oklahoma and Wisconsin are both (-24) favorites at home, and both are in the mix for an at-large bid to a BCS game as two-loss teams. Wisconsin has the significantly tougher opponent–Indiana is 4-5 and an offense that’s averaging 42 ppg in Big Ten games alone, while Iowa State is absolutely awful and quarterback Sam Richardson is doubtful with a thumb injury. The flip side to that is the Badgers’ offense is clicking while the Sooner attack has foundered all year, thus accounting for the equivalent pointspreads.
Unless you’re a fan of any of these teams, the early window on Saturday is a good time to get ahead on other weekend activity and get ready for the big four games discussed above.
The four games discussed at the top
Syracuse-Florida State (ABC/ESPN2)
Utah-Oregon (4 PM ET, FoxSports1)
Comment: Florida State and Oregon are the two big favorites in this time spot, at (-38.5) and (-26) respectively and neither have to worry about style points. Florida State just needs to keep winning to punch their ticket to Pasadena. Oregon’s loss to Stanford last week makes the national title a longshot, but the Ducks still control their fate for an at-large bid to the BCS and could win the Pac-12 if Stanford drops a game.
Texas Tech-Baylor (7, Fox)
Florida-South Carolina (7, ESPN2)
Houston-Louisville (7, ESPNU)
Alabama-Mississippi State (7:45 PM ET, ESPN)
Stanford-USC (8 PM ET, ABC)
Comment: This could be a trap spot for Baylor. They’re coming off last week’s big thumping of Oklahoma and they have games with both Oklahoma State and Texas ahead. Plus, running back Lache Seastrunk and wide receiver Tevin Reese are banged up and questionable. Baylor is a (-27) favorite and I like the dog with the points, and maybe even for a bit at the 16-1 odds the Red Raiders are to win this game outright.
TheSportsNotebook’s SEC bowl projections documented Florida’s collapse this season, and the Gators need to win either at South Carolina or against Florida State just to stumble into a bowl game. Alabama is favored by more than three touchdowns at Mississippi State, and Stanford needs to keep winning for both their Pac-12 & national hopes.
Wyoming-Boise State (10:15 PM ET, ESPN2)
Comment: I’m done with Wyoming after their 48-10 blowout loss at the hands of Fresno State last week. Boise State being favored by (-23) seems a bit much, but I can’t trust this Cowboy team anymore. Boise needs to win out to take their division and get a second chance against Fresno in the Mountain West conference championship game.