Week 11’s most significant impact sapped the luster from Week 12, with Washington and Arizona beating Oregon and UCLA, respectively, before they played in big games this weekend. USC at UCLA is the main event, while Utah at Oregon is the follow-up undercard. Action is quiet in the SEC and Big Ten this week as those conferences gear up for Rivalry Week next week.
Our staff is here to get you ready for Week 12.
What Game Are You Watching?
#8 USC at #12 UCLA
Jason Wood - Admittedly, UCLA's loss last week takes a bit of luster off this week's matchup against USC, but it's still the game I'm most interested in. The Pac-12's only chance of making the college football playoff now sits with Lincoln Riley and the Trojans. Oregon, Utah, and UCLA all have two losses now and stand no shot, even if they win the conference. But if USC beats the Bruins on the road and finishes the season with one loss, they're probably in. What's interesting is that UCLA actually has a better offensive ranking (4th in AP+ versus the Trojans at 7th), whereas USC's defense (47th) is modestly better than UCLA's (66th), but neither is championship caliber.
Kevin Coleman - The game of the week lost its luster a bit after UCLA lost to Arizona last week, but the game with the most significant ramifications this weekend is #8 USC at #12 UCLA. USC has the best chance of any Pac-12 team to get into the CFP but will need to go undefeated the rest of the season. USC has been dominant in this series, winning seventeen of the last twenty-three meetings, and this will be the first time Lincoln Riley and Chip Kelly face off in this storied rivalry. Riley has led the Trojans to a 9-1 record this season, and it’s USC’s best start since 2008, which went on to win the Rose Bowl against Penn State. Riley has done an incredible job this season. If USC can beat UCLA, the Trojans will be on their way to one of the best seasons since the late 2000s.
#10 Utah at #12 Oregon
Christian Williams - The matchup between #10 Utah and #12 Oregon had more luster before Oregon dropped one against Washington last week, but it's still the game with the most intrigue. Utah has consistently played good football this season despite the two losses, and their #21-ranked defense will likely give Oregon problems. On the other side, Oregon probably wins against Washington if Bo Nix doesn't get hurt for a possession, and while their season will not end with a College Football Playoff berth, they are aiming for a chance at the Pac-12 title and inclusion in the New Year's Six bowl slate. The winner of this game has the best path forward for those honors and would have a chance at spoiling USC's dominant season. That's enough to keep viewers glued.
Iowa at Minnesota
Dan Hindery - There are some who do not like the current version of college football because the games are too high scoring and the defensive play is subpar. The Iowa-Minnesota game should be right up their alley with a 32.5-point game total. These two teams play a regionally specific, often ugly brand of football, but they are both tough and generally well-coached (at least defensively). As someone who was in college during the early Jim Tressel years, watching this type of game played in freezing temperatures where field position actually matters is sometimes a fun alternative to the wild shootouts everywhere else. The matchup will also likely decide the Big 10 West champion. Iowa controls its own destiny. A win this week, followed up by a win over Nebraska, would land them the title. A Minnesota win would vault Purdue to heavy favorite.
What Player Are You Watching?
CB Malachi Moore, South Carolina
Jason Wood- South Carolina is having another down season, but cornerback Malachi Moore is an elite prospect and likely to be a first-round draft pick. I'm interested in watching Moore against Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt, who puts up jaw-dropping numbers weekly. The Volunteers should be able to scheme Hyatt open, but I'll be watching their one-on-one matchups closely.
QB Caleb Williams, USC
Kevin Coleman - Staying in the USC game, the player to watch is quarterback Caleb Williams. Williams has accounted for 37 total touchdowns in 10 games at USC. He now has 3,293 total offensive yards, which ranks 12th on USC's single-season total yards list. He is No. 3 in the nation in passing touchdowns (No. 1 in the conference) with 31, and No. 3 in the nation in points responsible for per game with 22.2. If Williams can win this game and put up a huge performance, he can win the Heisman trophy this season. Heisman voters love points and exciting plays, which Williams can do every time he touches the football.
RB Eric Gray, Oklahoma
Christian Williams - Running back Eric Gray from Oklahoma is amid a fantastic senior season, and this week allows him to solidify himself in the day-two discussion in the 2023 NFL Draft. His Week 11 saw him gain 211 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt and scoring two touchdowns. That was his fourth straight performance over 100 yards on the ground, and his matchup against Oklahoma State gives reason to believe that will continue. Oklahoma State allows 163 yards per game on the ground, and the Sooners have a rush attack that should take advantage of that. Draft analysts are discussing Gray as a round-three or four prospect, but he can eliminate the "or four."
RB Kaleb Johnson, Iowa
Dan Hindery - Kaleb Johnson of Iowa. He is a true freshman running back with great measurables who looks the part of a potential future NFL draft pick. His explosiveness and long speed is obvious and brings an element Iowa has not had at the position in quite a while. I have not seen too much of Johnson this year and hope to get an extended look to try to figure out where he will fit into my devy rankings next offseason.
Be bold and call your shot; give me one upset lingering over the season's last two weeks.
Kansas over Texas or Kansas St.
Jason Wood - Kansas started the year on fire, winning their first five games. But injuries, including to their starting quarterback, brought them back to reality, and they've lost four of their last five contests. But backup quarterback Jason Bean is playing better, and I won't be at all surprised if coach Lance Leipold gets his team a victory either against Texas or Kansas State (or both!) in the next two weeks. Very little separates from best from the worst in the Big 12 this year, and assuming Kansas State is going to win out is a risky bet.
Boston College over Notre Dame
Kevin Coleman - The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have won their last four games and look to be rolling straight into the bowl season. This week they are taking on the Boston College Eagles, who have not had the season they thought they would. They currently sit at 3-7 and have not looked good in the ACC. However, they had a great comeback win against North Carolina State last weekend and have shown they are willing to fight. They bring in a fairly good passing attack, and if they can get up early on the Irish, they could pull off the upset. While Notre Dame has looked better, they still have no resemblance of a passing attack. They strictly rely on positive game scripts and their rushing attack. They could be upset if they are forced to pass in this game.
Notre Dame over USC
Christian Williams - While it was easy to be out on Notre Dame earlier this year, the Fighting Irish are playing great football down the stretch. While USC should take care of business against a UCLA team coming off a loss to Arizona, their season finale screams upset alert. Drew Pyne has blossomed in the offense, but the Irish are at their best when running the football. USC, while improved, still struggles to stop the run. Notre Dame has a warmup against Boston College before heading to the Rose Bowl, and it wouldn't be surprising if they left with their winning streak intact.
Baylor over TCU
Dan Hindery - TCU may be the biggest wild card in the playoff chase. They are in if they win out, but something tells me they are going to get upset late as the pressure begins to mount. I like Baylor to pull off the upset as a slight home dog this weekend.