Expert Predictions for Week 12 in College Football
Week 12 of the 2017 college football season looks like the eye of a hurricane.
Weeks 10 and 11 were wild, packed to the gills with shocking upsets. Next week's rivalry action and the following week's conference championship games are going to have all the drama.
However, aside from No. 24 Michigan at No. 5 Wisconsin, this weekend figures to be supremely boring.
We'll still watch a ton of games, and we're still offering up predictions on the action—or lack thereof—but the overwhelming tone from Bleacher Report's six college football experts (Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Greg Wallace) was "Wake me up next weekend."
- Will Michigan upset Wisconsin?
- Does Oklahoma score 60 or more against Kansas?
- What's the biggest upset of the week?
- And would Florida losing to UAB even be an upset at this point?
Our experts are on the case to let you know.
No. 24 Michigan vs. No. 5 Wisconsin: Who You Got?
Matt Hayes (@MattHayesCFB)
Wisconsin. Over and over. At some point, we have to start embracing the team that's stout on defense and controls the tempo with a downhill run game and a quarterback who manages the team. If those attributes were linked to an unbeaten team from the SEC, they would be the No. 1 team in the nation. Michigan's limited offense will struggle to even score on the Badgers.
David Kenyon (@Kenyon19_BR)
Although it's pretty tempting to pick Michigan for an upset here, we haven't seen Brandon Peters shoulder a heavy load as a passer quite yet. As long as Wisconsin contains a Michigan rushing attack that has shown some signs of life lately, the Badgers should win a very low-scoring game.
Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs)
I've got Wisconsin, although I could see this game being awfully tight, low-scoring and down to the wire. (Given this slate of games, we can only hope it will be.) I do feel like undefeated Wisconsin is still somehow underrated, although I also really like what I've seen out of the Michigan running game in recent weeks. I just feel that while these two teams are very similar in makeup, Wisconsin is just a more experienced, polished version. The Wolverines are capable here, but give me Bucky.
Kerry Miller (@kerrancejames)
I'm pretty sure that because there wasn't a number next to Michigan's name for the past few weeks, people have just been ignoring this game in their desire to debate the resume of a 13-0 Wisconsin. But the Wolverines have an incredible defense and an offense that looks much better since Peters started running the show. In my predictions for every game piece earlier this week, I had Wisconsin winning 28-24, but I've changed my mind. I don't trust Hornibrook, who has thrown at least one interception in seven straight. Give me Michigan 24-21 thanks in part to a pick-six.
Brad Shepard (@Brad_Shepard)
It may look like upset-alert time for the Badgers, but they're healthy and underrated, regardless of the schedule they've played. The real test for coach Paul Chryst's team will come in the Big Ten Championship Game, but this weekend is going to be the kind of slugfest Wisconsin loves. I like this game to be closer than a lot of people may think, but the Badgers will make a play or two more in the fourth quarter and roll into the conference championship game (after beating Minnesota) undefeated. All bets are off after that.
Greg Wallace (@gc_wallace)
While the Badgers have beaten only one team that is currently in the Top 25 (Northwestern), they are still in position to make the College Football Playoff by winning out. The Wolverines are their biggest remaining regular-season hurdle. Michigan has been good but not great under Jim Harbaugh this fall, but it has won four of its last five games and has a top-10 scoring defense, yielding 16.4 points per game. However, Wisconsin is firing on all cylinders after holding Iowa's offense to 66 total yards and no points (although there was a pair of pick-six interception returns) last week. Running back Jonathan Taylor and an excellent defense keep the Badgers unbeaten, 31-13.
Which LA QB Will Be More Impressive: Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold?
This is a bit of an unfair comparison. Sam Darnold has much more talent around him—and a considerably better offensive line—than Josh Rosen has. On pure numbers, Darnold will have the better game and the Trojans will win, but Rosen is the better quarterback. The Bruins proved last week in a win over Arizona State they haven’t given up. We'll see if that translates to this week in a game that can save their season.
USC basically dropped off the national radar following the loss to Notre Dame. Perhaps it's no surprise Darnold has started to play well again since the pressure is safely off. He's going to shred a hapless UCLA defense, and Rosen will be hard-pressed to match USC's pace. Expect an ugly interception or two while he tries to keep the Bruins competitive.
What a bizarre year it has been for both. There have been ups, but such promising possibilities have been undone by injuries and awful turnovers. Both should put forth tremendous games—neither defense should get in the way of solid showings. And while I think USC will ultimately win the game, give me Rosen to post better overall numbers. The Bruins will likely be behind, which means he will have to throw a lot. I'll say that in one of his final collegiate games, Rosen throws for 397 yards and three touchdowns in a loss.
If we're talking NFL potential, I'd lean toward Rosen. In this one game against UCLA's atrocious defense, though, I'll take Darnold, please and thank you. Rosen might finish with larger numbers because UCLA will likely throw the ball 50 times while USC figures to run a lot against the Bruins. But I expect Darnold to deliver an efficient line in the vicinity of 23-of-28 for 305 yards with three tuddies and no picks.
USC is going to win the game, probably easily. But this has been a nice bounce-back season for Rosen. At times this year, he's been a one-man show for a mediocre Bruins team, and when he was hurt, everything fell apart. The best way for UCLA to win this game is to go out, fling it around and hope for the best. This has all the makings of one of those games where Rosen throws for 450 yards and four touchdowns, but he may toss a pair of picks trying to do too much. Rosen will put up better numbers, but Darnold gets the win.
The Pac-12 is all but out of the College Football Playoff chase, but it does feature two quarterbacks who could find themselves near the top of the first round of the NFL draft next spring. Darnold has thrown for 3,198 yards with 24 touchdowns against 11 interceptions while Rosen's numbers are 3,094, 21 and nine, respectively. Darnold has thrown for 300 yards in his last two games, while Rosen returned from a concussion to throw for 381 against Arizona State. This should be an even matchup of passers, but the Bruins' pass defense is slightly better than USC's. Rosen throws for 350 yards, but the Trojans take a 38-24 win.
The Most Entertaining Game of the Weekend Will Be...?
Virginia at Miami. What? No, really. The Hurricanes have put together back-to-back impressive wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, but are they really that far away from the team that beat North Carolina and Georgia Tech in the last month by a combined six points? Virginia has talent and is playing with confidence—and can throw with efficiency with quarterback Kurt Benkert and a vastly underrated receiving corps. If the Cavaliers can pass protect (that has been everyone’s problem against the Miami front four), they can get the game to the fourth quarter with a chance to win.
This is, shall we say, not the greatest slate of games in 2017. Michigan's trip to Wisconsin is the only matchup between ranked teams, and I'm not expecting 40 points there. In terms of entertainment value, both SMU vs. Memphis and Syracuse vs. Louisville should heavily dent the scoreboard.
Do we have to answer it? Fine, that's the last time I will throw shade at this week's grotesque slate of games. In terms of pure everything-is-on-fire enjoyment, I feel Ole Miss-Texas A&M has a chance to be perfectly good fun. Not all that impactful for bowl games or conferences or even coaching positions, but high-scoring and jam-packed with big plays throughout. During a week such as this, that is all you can hope for. (Sorry, that is officially the last insult.)
Arizona vs. Oregon is going to be wildly entertaining, but considering it's on a channel (Pac-12 Network) that maybe seven people in the country are able to watch, I'll take Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss. The game has no legitimate implications aside from bragging rights, but the Rebels have somehow gotten even more unstoppable on offense since losing Shea Patterson to a knee injury. As a result, it's a QB named (Jordan) Ta'amu against T A&M U. That alone is pretty entertaining, but the 44-36 Ole Miss win in a shootout will be the main event.
Everybody (aside from Wisconsin fans) wants Michigan-Wisconsin to be close, but I don't exactly think "entertaining" when I think of that game. Believe it or not (by default), I'm looking forward to that Wake Forest-North Carolina State matchup. That has the potential to be a good game. You have to love the way Wake's senior quarterback John Wolford is playing, resurrecting the Demon Deacons. And NC State plays a strong brand of defense that has gotten better as the year has progressed. This will be strength versus strength, and that's entertaining to me.
The AAC has become a feeder league for Power Five programs seeking talented coaches, and that could be the case again this fall. While Central Florida's Scott Frost is a strong candidate, SMU's Chad Morris and Memphis' Mike Norvell have both popped up as candidates for the coaching carousel. Both teams are going to bowl games, but Saturday's meeting between the Mustangs and Tigers in Memphis is intriguing.
Each team has a strong passing offense, and they have combined to average 81.9 points and 600-plus passing yards per game. Neither has an exceptional defense, meaning the scoreboard could spin quickly.
Which Team Pulls off the Biggest Upset of the Week?
UAB, which didn't even field a program from 2015-16, will go into Gainesville and beat the dumpster fire that is Florida. The Gators are a mess on offense. The quarterback play has been horrific, the offensive line is full of injuries (and has underachieved), and there's no skill play that scares any defense. Then there's the Gators' defense, which is on its way to being the worst at Florida since the 1940s. UAB has won five of its last six, is bowl-eligible and is playing with confidence behind the bruising running of Spencer Brown.
Illinois travels to Ohio State, and the Illini are going to beat...the spread. Not losing by 41 points would be a considerable victory for the only Big Ten program without a conference win, right? I think the Buckeyes will ease up early in preparation for a crucial game at Michigan.
I'll say Florida loses to a team that didn't have a football program last year. Yes, UAB, back from the dead, is capable of beating the Gators, which says a great deal about both. The fact this wouldn't be a monumental upset clearly says much more about Florida, although it would still be significant. And for extra credit, give me Baylor over Iowa State, too. It's been an amazing but stressful year for the Cyclones, and I could see a sleepy performance on the horizon. Also, Baylor isn't nearly as bad as its one-win record indicates, as hard of a case as that might be to make.
While I do have Michigan upsetting Wisconsin as a 7.5-point underdog, the bigger one will be 1-9 Baylor knocking off 6-4 Iowa State as a nine-point dog. The Cyclones have remained competitive with smoke and mirrors and fourth-string quarterbacks, but over the past two weeks, Baylor's margin over opponents in total yards is plus-352, while Iowa State's is minus-205. ISU's two worst defensive performances of the season have come in November, and the team has another rough go of it against a Baylor offense that has looked much better than a 1-9 record would suggest. Baylor 34, Iowa State 31.
This is one of those weekends where you just look at the schedule and throw up your arms in disgust. It's "Slacker Saturday" the week before all the big rivalry games to close the season. I think Florida is just done, though. The Gators already are looking toward the future, and UAB has been one of the nation's nice surprises this year after rekindling its program. So, since I think Wisconsin survives Michigan and the ranked teams survive, I'll go with the Blazers over the Gators. UF is ready for the next era.
The border battle between Mississippi State and Arkansas features teams going in different directions. The Bulldogs pushed Alabama to the brink before falling 31-24 in the final seconds, while Arkansas is 4-6 following a 33-10 loss to LSU and needs wins in its final two contests just to make a bowl game.
MSU is a 12.5-point favorite, but the Razorbacks have a history of performing well with their backs against the wall. Two years ago, they won six of their last seven games to finish 8-5, so it isn't unheard of for a Bret Bielema team to make something out of nothing. Here's guessing they find a hurting MSU team regretting last week's loss and looking ahead to the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. I've got a 24-17 upset.
Does Notre Dame Bounce Back with a Statement Win over Navy?
The Irish bounce back and win, but that means little in the grand scheme now. ND had zeroed in on a possible College Football Playoff spot, and now the Irish are playing out the string against Navy and Stanford. This is the problem with not playing in a conference: Once you're out of the national title race, what's left?
Navy is ranked 95th in yards allowed per carry and doesn't have anywhere near the speed Miami showed last Saturday. The concern of lost energy lingers after that blowout loss, but it's more likely the rushing attack regains its effectiveness and dispatches the Mids.
I'm not sure it will be a statement victory, but I think we'll see a much better version of Notre Dame this weekend. For starters, it cannot get much worse than it did last weekend. But I also think we have a tendency to overreact following games where everything just turned sideways. The Irish are still pretty talented, and I think the O-line should thrive here. My only concern is Notre Dame doesn't show up after its playoff hopes were essentially dashed. I'll say the Irish get up for this one, though.
Notre Dame has struggled against the run in its last two games against Wake Forest and Miami. Meanwhile, Navy has given up at least 30 points in five straight. (Translation: bet the over). But I do expect the Fighting Irish to blow this one open a bit because they are the much more capable passing team. Also, as a whole, the Irish have been better on defense against a much tougher schedule. Notre Dame wins by three TDs.
The Fighting Irish were embarrassed a week ago by Miami in a game that probably knocked them out of the playoff race. Now they play a Navy team that has enjoyed another quality year. But the Midshipmen don't have the firepower to hang with Notre Dame. While they may score some points on ND, the Navy defense just doesn't have enough talent to stop Brandon Wimbush. Notre Dame will win this game by two touchdowns or more to set up a fun game against Stanford.
Notre Dame watched its CFP hopes vanish with a humbling 41-8 loss at Miami, but the Fighting Irish have a great antidote on deck in Navy. The Irish have historically dominated this series, winning 43 consecutive games at one point, and won five in a row before Navy’s 28-27 victory last November. This is an average Midshipmen outfit that has lost three of its last four games and allows 30.3 points per game, No. 90 nationally. Expect Josh Adams to drop anchor on Navy's D as Notre Dame rolls, 45-21.
Who Has the Better Day: Lamar Jackson vs. Syracuse or Khalil Tate vs. Oregon?
I'm going with Lamar Jackson. He has grown significantly as a thrower—a key offseason goal that has been met. Khalil Tate is a lot like Jackson was last season, using natural instincts and ability to make big plays. When he gets more comfortable as a thrower, Arizona will be difficult to beat.
It appears Justin Herbert will be healthy for the weekend, so Oregon's offense might actually stay on the field for a little while. That will cut into Tate's production, while Syracuse and Louisville should have a touchdown battle. Jackson rolls to at least 400 yards of offense and four touchdowns.
The correct answer is "yes." Both are probably going to do glorious, ridiculous things to the box score and are worth your time. But if I have to pick one, I'll take Jackson. Now, I'm not campaigning for Jackson to win the Heisman after the season Louisville has had, but he has quietly been an absolute monster of late. He's run for 147 yards or more in his last four games and scored 15 touchdowns. And against Syracuse—a team he tormented last year—I could see him doing his thing again.
There hasn't been much to like about Oregon since it lost Herbert, but the Ducks do have one of the better rushing defenses in the country. That said, they have almost exclusively faced pocket passers this season and are going to struggle (fail) to stop Tate.
Jackson is going to go wild, though, as he is silently on pace to finish this year with 319 more total yards than last year. All that preseason hot air about him becoming more of a pro-style QB has gone flying out the window to the tune of four straight games rushing for more than 145 yards. And Syracuse's defense—though improved from last year—is rather atrocious. I'm thinking 275 yards passing, 180 yards rushing and five combined touchdowns.
And on a weekend that ought to be rather uneventful, that will be more than enough to get people buzzing about the forgotten reigning Heisman winner.
Listen, I love me some John Wolford. But Wake Forest tossed up 64 points on the Syracuse defense last weekend, including 40 in the second half. If only Dino Babers could coach defense...
This Syracuse team hasn't been the same since it upset Clemson, and if it finds a way to stop Jackson, it would stun me. Jackson is going to run and pass all over the Orange.
Unfortunately, neither Jackson nor Tate is likely to take home the Heisman Trophy, but both athletic quarterbacks are enjoying exceptional seasons. Jackson has thrown for 3,003 yards, rushed for 1,176 and accounted for 36 touchdowns. Tate has thrown for 998 yards and rushed for 1,293, accounting for 19 touchdowns, all while starting just six games.
But Jackson's Week 12 opponent is easily the more tantalizing. Syracuse just allowed 64 points to Wake Forest, and who can forget Jackson whipping the Orange D into a pulp last year en route to 610 yards of total offense in a Heisman-worthy 62-28 win? 'Cuse will be a little better prepared for Lamar, but he'll still burn them for 400 total yards and four scores in a 51-31 win.
How Many Points Will Oklahoma Score Against Kansas?
How many do they need to score to impress the CFP selection committee? Or better yet, how many can Kansas score on Oklahoma before the committee doesn't hold it against the Sooners? Depending on how long quarterback Baker Mayfield plays, the Sooners could hit 70. My guess is it will be in the 50s, and only because Mayfield won't play deep into the second half.
This should be a light day's work for Oklahoma and the starting unit, so 48. Mayfield throws for 250 yards in the first half, adds another touchdown drive after the break and hits the sideline to catch up on his travel itinerary for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
Outside of padding Mayfield's stats for the Heisman, which he has essentially already won, I don't think Oklahoma will go full throttle here. The only concern (for Kansas) is that the Sooners try to impress the committee after being named the No. 4 team this past week. If that's the case, we might as well start apologizing to Kansas in advance. I'll say OU posts 52 points and does so by lightening up in the second half.
Though there have been 33 instances this season of a team scoring at least 60 points in a game—including Toledo putting up 66 against Bowling Green as I type this—I almost never predict a team to score 60 or more. This is an exception to that rule. Between wanting to pad Mayfield's Heisman resume and wanting to show the CFP committee they ultimately belong at No. 3 instead of No. 4, the Sooners are going to run up the score in this one. My official prediction is 66-10, but I could see them hitting the over in this game (70.5) by themselves.
The correct answer here is "as many as the Sooners want." At some point, though, you don't want Mayfield's arm to get sore, right? This is going to be one of those games where OU works on some things and rests players and gets the team ready for a potential playoff opportunity. I believe Mayfield will play fewer than three quarters and the final score still winds up something like 59-20.
After top-15 wins over Oklahoma State and TCU, Oklahoma is in excellent shape to make the playoff for the second time in three years. Now, the Sooners just have to avoid a letdown against woeful Kansas—a 1-9 team with one Power Five win in coach David Beaty's three seasons. The Jayhawks have allowed at least 30 points in all seven league defeats this season, allow 42.2 points per game and now face the nation's No. 4 scoring offense in OU, which has piled up 44.3 points per game. Mayfield and the Sooners will name their score against KU in a 54-10 whipping.
Will Florida's Terrible Season Get Worse with a 6th Straight Loss?
Yes. Whoever gets the Florida job is going to walk into a locker room that isn't nearly as talented as it should be. If you're the flagship university in a state with the most elite high school football skill players, there's no way you should lose to UAB—on talent alone. Want to see how far recruiting dropped under Jim McElwain? Watch how easily UAB runs the ball and controls the game.
Oh, man. Can you fire an interim coach? I'm kind of intrigued at what would happen if UAB beat Florida, but I'm not bold enough to predict it. If the Blazers can stop the run, though, a close fourth quarter might lead to a few broken televisions.
Well, looks like I spoiled this answer earlier, but let me reiterate that yes, yes it will. In your lifetime, did you imagine we would ever assess this question? When you look back at how bad it's gotten, you start to realize how far Florida has fallen. While the Gators have an obvious talent advantage, we've seen already this year that doesn't really matter. UAB wants this. Florida clearly does not. That doesn't always dictate the results, but it feels like the place to begin.
This game is proof that preseason predictions should be viewed solely as entertainment to get us through the doldrums of the offseason as opposed to what should actually be expected to happen.
Sports on Earth, SB Nation and College Football News each ranked all 130 FBS teams at some point this offseason. All three had UAB at No. 130, and all three had Florida in the Top 20. Regardless of the result, it's amazing we're having this conversation.
Despite Florida's well-documented struggles this season, they are so athletically superior to everyone else UAB has faced thus far that it's not even funny. I expect a close game. UAB only has one loss this season by more than a three-point margin. But I also expect Florida's edge in talent to be enough for a 23-20 win.
For all that talk about how excited the Gators were about playing for Randy Shannon, they went out and got embarrassed by Missouri. Then, last weekend, they hung on for a little while before South Carolina took over. It seems inexplicable, but a Blazers side that didn't even have a team a year ago is now 7-3.
Think about that: They didn't field a team in 2016, and last weekend they went out and beat a strong UTSA side. I believe in Hollywood stories, and beating the Gators would be the cherry moment. It can happen.
Florida did show some fight last week in a 28-20 loss to South Carolina after total no-shows against Georgia and Missouri, which should give interim coach Randy Shannon some confidence. But UAB is 7-3 and one of the best stories in college football after returning from a self-imposed two-year "death penalty."
However, the Blazers have only two wins against teams with winning records (Southern Miss and UT-San Antonio) and won't be the most talented team in the Swamp on Saturday. Here's guessing Shannon rallies the troops and finds some resolve as Florida pulls out an ugly 20-13 win.