4-Down Territory: 1K Wins, Historic Ivy Rivalry & Big Game Main Course with SEC Cupcakes for Dessert
With so many season-ending rivalries being played next weekend, a number of schools (we see you SEC) have chosen to play/serve cupcakes like it was their birthday in elementary school. But for other conferences there are some dangerous match-ups this weekend that could upset the conference championship race, and the college football playoff race.
1st Down: Cupcakes and Pre-Game Warm-ups: North Alabama (3-7) at #4 Florida State (10-0) 6:30 The CW: Before their season-ending rivalry with Florida, the Seminoles have a date with a 3-7 FCS team. But to be fair, the North Alabama Lions do own a 41-27 win over Chattanooga which brings us to…..Chattanooga (7-3) at #8 Alabama (9-1) 12:00 SEC Network: UTC is a long-time member of the Southern Conference which was founded in 1921 and once included members like Alabama, Tennessee and UNC. That was then……. Appalachian State (6-4) at #18 (AP) JMU (10-0) 2:00 ESPN+: Speaking of the Southern Conference, App State was a member until 2014 before they jumped to FCS and joined the Sun Belt. Two years ago JMU jumped to the Sun Belt and they’ve soared. JMU DE Jalen Green had a nation’s-best 16.5 sacks through 9 games before getting injured for the rest of the season. The Dukes’ lead the nation with 43 sacks because D-linemen Jamree Kromah and Mikail Kamara have 9 and 6.5 sacks too. ESPN College Game Day will be at Harrisonburg to see if the Dukes can keep it rolling against a dangerous App State that took UNC to OT this year……Louisiana Monroe (2-8) at #13 Ole Miss (8-2) SEC Network: Ole Miss needs this game to reset after getting QB Jaxson Dart hurt. They started fast against Georgia, but ran into a Bulldog Buzzsaw…. Georgia State (6-4) at #15 LSU (7-3) 8:00 ESPN2: LSU QB Jayden Daniels continues to put up massive statistical numbers. The Tigers’ hope that ends this Saturday because they’d love to see him have a big lead and be seated as early as possible before their season-ending game next week against Texas A&M. Incidentally Texas A&M plays Abilene Christian as a tune-up.
2nd Down: Bowl Positioning: For teams that are either out of their conference race or have a long, complex path to get back into it, November becomes a race to position for better bowl games………#22 Utah (7-3) at #17 Arizona (7-3) 2:30 Pac 12 Network: Arizona is one game behind Oregon for the 2nd spot in the Pac 12 Title game but they do own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Oregon State should the Ducks falter twice. Expect Utah’s defense to be a tough test and watch for the Ute’s DE Jonah Eliss—he has 12 sacks on the year and is a pass rush force. Arizona QB Noah Fifita has been sacked ten times the last three games…….Rutgers (6-4) at #12 Penn State (8-2) FS1: The last-ever Big Ten East third-place bowl chase begins in earnest again for Penn State. Rutgers may have to emulate the Michigan game plan. Avoid turnovers, run the ball, shorten the game, and frustrate the PSU offense. Speaking of that offense, PSU parted ways with their offensive coordinator so what happens will be a bit of a wildcard. While everyone knows about the PSU defense, the Rutgers defensive eleven rank in the top 20 nationally in scoring (19th), Total defense (13th), yards per play (10th), passing (8th), yards per completion (4th) and Red Zone defense (7th). Rutgers is bowl eligible and a win here would boost their bowl destination….Wake Forest (4-6) at #19 Notre Dame (7-3) 3:30 NBC: Wake needs two wins to get bowl eligible while Notre Dame is looking to close the season at 9-3 and see what happens. This is a bit of a reunion for Notre Dame QB Sam Hartmann who was a 5-year veteran at Wake Forest before coming to South Bend…..#20 UNC (8-2) at Clemson (6-4) 3:30 ESPN: Clemson served notice at home against Notre Dame with a defensive performance worthy of that unit’s lofty rankings. Ignore the 4 losses, Clemson is dangerous here. Clemson is not only looking to build their bowl resume, but also to drive program momentum into the bowl season and into next year…..Florida (5-5) at #9 Missouri (8-2) 7:30 ESPN: Missouri’s defense was downright impressive last week in a thumping of Tennessee. Expect them to have a similarly big day against a Florida offense that has been inconsistent this year. Missouri can play themselves into a well-deserved New Year’s Six bowl game by winning out. Florida has to upset either Missouri or #4 FSU next week to get bowl eligible…..#21 Kansas State (7-3) at #25 Kansas (7-3) 7:00 FS1: The Jayhawks lost QB Jason Bean and the game against Texas Tech. That loss essentially knocked them from the Big 12 race. The status of Bean will be critical for the Jayhawks. Even with Bean playing for KU, K-State QB Will Howard has the edge on experience. Both of these teams do have really good RBs to lean on. Kansas State is one of 4 Big 12 teams with 2 losses tied for a spot in the Big 12 Title game. They all need help, but the Lord helps those who help themselves and that starts with winning your own games.
3rd Down: Still Have Something to Play For—Conference Contenders: #10 Louisville (9-1) at Miami (6-4) 12:00 ABC: Louisville has a path to the ACC Title game, win and they are in to face FSU. Miami is a dangerous team because they have been up and down. If you catch the Hurricanes on a good day, they could derail the Cardinals’ hope. Turnovers will be vital. The QBs in this game have combined to toss 21 INTS on the year. These are two of the top three defenses in the ACC and both are among the top 20 nationally. Louisville QB Jack Plummer has an edge with a more balanced supporting cast at the skill positions…..#24 Tulane (9-1) at FAU (4-6) 12:00 ESPN+: Of all the SEC’s non-conference wins, who is the highest-ranked non-conference win for any SEC team in the current AP Poll? That would be Ole Miss over #17 (AP) Tulane. Tulane was a surprise last year in winning the AAC and beating USC in a NY6 Bowl game. This year they are at the head of the pack to win the AAC again and return to an NY6 Bowl game. But the Green Wave has dodged near-misses winning 4-straight one score games. If you’re not careful, sooner or later those close calls can catch up with you….#14 Oklahoma (8-2) at BYU (5-5) 12:00 ESPN: Oklahoma pounded WVU who routed BYU the week before. This should be easy right? Not in November and not in Provo where strange things have happened. OU LB Danny Stutsman returned to bolster the Sooners’ defense and that should continue this week. OU slot WR Drake Stoops should be another big factor as well…..Illinois (5-5) at #16 Iowa (8-2) 3:30 FS1: The Hawkeyes are poised to win the last Big Ten West Division title. Win and they’re headed to Indy. That seems to impress the playoff committee who have the Hawkeyes ranked 7 spots higher than the coaches' poll. They have as good a defense as anyone in the country right now and are exceedingly stingy in the red zone. Illinois will need to get serious production from the QB position to move the ball. Expect a lot of defense and punting in this one. The Illinois d-line is very good and could be a factor. The first one to 17 may get the win…..#23 Oklahoma State (7-3) at Houston (4-6) 4:00 ESPN 2: Despite an unexpected lopsided loss to UCF, Oklahoma State largely controls their own path to the title game. A Texas win over Iowa State and the Cowboys’ closing out with two wins gets them a spot in the title game. It won’t be easy. Houston has beaten WVU and lost by one score to Texas. Look for OSU RB Ollie Gordon to get back on track against a Cougars’ defense that has allowed 21 rushing TDs this year.
4th Down: The Contenders: By week twelve we have a pretty defined list of actual playoff contenders. Six of the top 8 have conference games that all pose varying levels of risk…… Minnesota (5-5) at #2 Ohio State (10-0) 4:00 BTN: The Buckeyes are surging offensively at the right time. The Buckeye o-line and QB Kyle McCord have been seen as OSU's weak link all year. Look for Coach Ryan Day to build more confidence and consistency before they head to Ann Arbor next week. The Buckeye secondary has had some injuries this year so keep an eye on how they line up this week….#6 Oregon (9-1) at Arizona State (3-7) 4:00 FOX: This game is a road game for Oregon QB Bo Nix and the worst we can say is that his road pass completion percentage is 76.8%. Last week RB Bucky Irving was dinged up but came back. He is must-see TV with 939 yards rushing and 40 pass receptions. Defensively the Ducks get pass rush from a lot of different guys, and they knock away a lot of passes with some tall active secondary players. This is one of the most complete teams in the country. But they cannot take this one for granted. The Sun Devils just upset UCLA last week…… #7 Texas (9-1) at Iowa State (6-4) 8:00 FOX: This is one of those games that has tripped up the Longhorns in the recent past. Iowa State is still in the Big 12 hunt and has a win over Oklahoma State. The key for Iowa State has been their active secondary. Jeremiah Cooper has 5 INTs this season but has missed time lately. Will he be able to go? For Texas, the health of RB Jonathan Brooks will be something to watch. Back-up CJ Baxter has had two solid games the past two weeks, but Brooks has a gear that changes the game for opposing defenses. As for Texas playing a full 60 minutes and putting teams away has been a problem of late. Against TCU, Kansas State and Houston, they led big but narrowly escaped. If you play with fire too many times…….#1 Georgia (10-0) at #18 Tennessee (7-3) 3:30 CBS: UGA TE Brock Bowers returned and the Bulldog band was all back together in a big rout of #9 Ole Miss. The story last week was the UGA defense that shutdown the previously explosive Ole Miss attack. Tennessee ran into a brick wall getting thumped by Missouri’s defense who forced three turnovers. For Tennessee to have a shot, turnovers will need to be non-existent and QB Joe Milton will have to move the chains with both his arm and his feet. UGA QB Carson Beck has been able to find a wide array of people in the pass game. The key has been the pass protection. He’s been sacked just nine times. Tennessee is 7th in the country with 33 sacks. The most intriguing number though is that 90% of those sacks have come from their d-line and d-ends. They will need to get to the UGA QB with a four-man rush to truly disrupt his timing and force INTs…….#5 Washington (10-0) at #11 Oregon State (8-2) 7:30 ABC: This is a big, big game for the Pac 12. Oregon State is two plays from being undefeated. They have a physical run game led by RB Damien Martinez with over 1000 yards at 6.61 yards per carry –12th best nationally. DJ Uiagalelei is a top 20 QB in pass efficiency. But it is not all offense for the Beavers. They are a top 20 run defense, top 5 in sacks and top-35 defense overall. Michael Penix and the Huskies’ attack will be their most critical test. The key will be generating that pass rush, forcing underneath throws and rallying to limit the yards after catches. As for the Huskies, they’ll need to improve getting third down stops to get the ball back for their explosive offense.
Overtime: All-Time Winners: Michigan looks to become the first team to win 1000 college football games while the team that previously led the nation in wins for many years looks to win a massive rivalry game to get a share of a conference title…..#3 Michigan (10-0) at Maryland (6-4) 12:00 FOX: Normally the historical significance of UM going for win 1,000 in a National and Big Ten-title contending season would be a big enough story. But unless you’ve been living under a college football rock you know about the Jim Harbaugh suspension/coaching drama at Michigan. Michigan has too much offense, defense, and special teams for Maryland, unless the Wolverines get careless with the football. Expect them to pound the ball again as they did in a Harbaughless win at #10 Penn State last week. Maryland’s pass game can be dangerous, but two weeks ago Penn State exposed serious pass protection schemes flaws……….Harvard (8-1) at Yale (6-3) 12:00 ESPNU: This will be the 139th meeting in a Rivalry that dates back to 1875 and is lead by Yale 69-61-8. For those that don’t know this is known simply as “The Game.” And also for those that don’t know Michigan Stadium’s design was based on the design of The Yale Bowl where this game will be played. Yale ranks 7th all-time with 935 wins while Harvard ranks 10th with 901 wins. For Harvard a win gives them the outright Ivy League title. A loss means a tie with at least Yale and perhaps Dartmouth should they beat Brown. These are the top 2 scoring offenses and rushing offenses in the Ivy League. While both teams want to grind it out, watch for Yale’s Mason Tipton as a downfield threat who averages almost 15 yards per catch and has 10 receiving TDs.