While next Saturday may be reserved for "rivalry week" on the college football schedule, Week 12 seems to mark a return to cupcake town for most of our national championship contenders.
A mere three matchups between ranked opponents are on the slate for Saturday, only one of which has any national championship implications. Instead, teams like Western Carolina and Georgia Southern will get their crack at taking down a top-ranked foe.
Obviously, those upcoming blowouts will be nothing short of a bummer for college football fans. Looking on the bright side, though, the dearth of great games on the schedule allows us to really focus in on the ones that do count.
With that in mind, here is a look at my predictions for each of Week 12's matchups between Top 25 opponents.
No. 18 USC Trojans at No. 17 UCLA Bruins
This year's battle for Los Angeles carries the biggest pregame hype since 2005, when a one-loss Bruins squad went into the Coliseum and got trounced by the undefeated Trojans 66-19.
The 2012 iteration won't have nearly as much national championship intrigue. Nonetheless, UCLA comes in with its first real opportunity to defeat USC since 2006, and many are even picking the Bruins to make it happen.
It's not hard to see why pundits would pick UCLA. The two teams are separated by razor-thin margins in nearly every counting category. The Trojans are seventh in the Pac-12 in yards allowed per game, the Bruins are eighth. UCLA ranks third in the conference in yards gained per game, USC fourth.
Due to inconsistencies, even the transitive property won't work for judging this game. USC defeated Cal soundly, who beat UCLA, who destroyed Arizona, who upset the Trojans.
When teams are so unbelievably close, there are only a couple things you can rely on when making a pick: recent history and talent. Both of those factors undoubtedly go to USC. While I fully expect a close contest, look for the Matt Barkley and the Trojans offense to score a last-minute touchdown to finish off an exhilarating contest.
Score Prediction: USC 38, UCLA 35
No. 23 Texas Tech Red Raiders at No. 24 Oklahoma State Cowboys
While this contest of Big 12 foes won't have as much national intrigue as the battle for Los Angeles, it will be a dream come true for those who love high-scoring affairs.
Despite Clint Chelf being Oklahoma State's third starting quarterback of the season, the Cowboys have shown no signs of slowing down on offense. The team has scored 43.9 points per game thus far, which ranks first in the Big 12.
Leading that charge is running back Joseph Randle. The junior star has been massively underrated all season, rushing for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns thus far. Considering the Red Raiders' struggles against the run this season, Randle should be in line for a nice game.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech's offense is certainly no slouch. Quarterback Seth Doege is second in the FBS with 3,345 passing yards and leads all signal-callers with 34 touchdown passes this season.
Unfortunately, it won't be as easy as you think for Doege to dominate on Saturday.
All the attention gets hoisted on the offense, but the Cowboys have actually become an underrated pass defense this season. Oklahoma State has given up a mere 12 touchdown passes through nine games, which ties the secondary with Kansas State for second-best in the Big 12.
When you also factor in the Stillwater advantage for the Cowboys, they should be able to come away with a victory on Saturday.
Score Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Texas Tech 38
No. 13 Stanford Cardinal at No. 2 Oregon Ducks
Not expected to make much of a splash this season after losing Andrew Luck, the Stanford Cardinal have shocked the Pac-12 this season. Spurred by a great running game with Stepfan Taylor and sudden emergence of quarterback Kevin Hogan, the team's offense has been far better than expected.
Nonetheless, the Cardinal's true calling card is their defense. Most outstanding has been the front seven, which has held opposing teams to just 588 rushing yards on 2.0 yards per carry in 2012—both of which lead the FBS.
On paper, that makes Stanford a perfect foil for the No. 2 Ducks, who rank third in the nation with 325.1 rushing yards per game.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, games aren't played on the stat sheet. Though a strong bunch, Stanford has nothing even close to the Oregon offense this season. The speed of Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota is far too much for any opposing defense to handle at this point.
Look for Oregon to struggle more than we're used to, but come up with yet another comfortable win in its quest for national championship glory.
Score Prediction: Oregon 31, Stanford 13
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