College Football Picks: Week 12 Predictions for Every Game

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2018

College Football Picks: Week 12 Predictions for Every Game

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    On a weekend historically packed with upsets, every top-10 team won last Saturday. Perhaps Week 12 will bring a more unexpected group of results.

    The options for upsets, though, seem limited.

    As usual, the SEC is loaded with nonconference games against non-Power Five and lower-division opponents. That, for the record, is an excellent idea, but it doesn't provide much entertainment when The Citadel heads to Alabama or Georgia hosts UMass.

    Still, it's a massive weekend all around college football, since 21 schools (excluding Ole Miss, which is under a postseason ban) hold five victories. Bowl eligibility is at stake, and that's a significant achievement for some.

    Organized by kickoff window, we've provided a prediction for every game that involves a Football Bowl Subdivision team.


    Rankings courtesy of the College Football Playoff selection committee. 

Thursday and Friday Games

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    Toledo (5-5) at Kent State (2-8), Thursday, 6 p.m. ET

    Although an offensive resurgence came to a screeching halt in Week 11 in a 38-15 loss to Northern Illinois, Toledo has a great opportunity to get back on track. Kent State has surrendered 6.2 yards per game this season and, unsurprisingly, has been at its worst against top competition.

    Prediction: Toledo 38, Kent State 21


    Tulane (5-5) at Houston (7-3), Thursday, 8 p.m. ET

    In each of the last three games, Tulane has ceded 15-18 points. That defensive effort better travel, considering Houston has tallied 40-plus points in nine of 10 games. The Cougars won't get a bunch of stops, but they'll outscore the visitors.

    Prediction: Houston 37, Tulane 24


    Florida Atlantic (5-5) at North Texas (7-3), Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET

    If falling to Old Dominion wasn't the most frustrating possible loss for North Texas, it had to be close. Yet again, the Mean Green folded in the second half. We're sticking with North Texas because of its No. 12 run defenseand FAU falters when it can't rely on the ground gamebut trusting the Mean Green is tough.

    Prediction: North Texas 34, Florida Atlantic 20


    Memphis (6-4) at SMU (5-5), Friday, 9 p.m. ET

    On the bright side, winning is easy when you score 62 points. However, SMU also gave up 50 points to UConn, and that's a problematic showing before it has to host Memphis. The Tigers have scored 47-plus in all six wins this season. Memphis will win a track meet.

    Prediction: Memphis 41, SMU 34


    No. 25 Boise State (8-2) at New Mexico (3-7), Friday, 9 p.m. ET

    Brett Rypien notched seven multi-touchdown games in Boise State's first eight contests, but the senior quarterback only has two scores over the last two weeks. He'll change the trend in a major way opposite New Mexico, which is ranked No. 121 nationally with 8.8 yards allowed per pass.

    Prediction: Boise State 45, New Mexico 24

Top Saturday Early Games

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    The Citadel (4-5) at No. 1 Alabama (10-0), Noon ET

    Every opponent has scored at least 24 points against The Citadel. By no means is that a decisive factor in this contest; it's a relevant trend. Alabama will run away at home.

    Prediction: Alabama 59, The Citadel 7


    No. 10 Ohio State (9-1) at Maryland (5-5), Noon ET

    Barring a meltdown from Ohio State's front seven, Maryland will struggle to score because it relies so heavily on the running game. But since the Buckeyes occasionally allow explosive gains on the ground, the Terps should hang around longer than usual.

    Prediction: Ohio State 38, Maryland 24


    Idaho (4-6) at No. 13 Florida (7-3), Noon ET

    Not only did Fresno State hang 79 points on Idaho earlier this season, but the Vandals also gave up 38-plus points in four of their five other losses. Florida should have little problem at home.

    Prediction: Florida 52, Idaho 21


    No. 14 Penn State (7-3) at Rutgers (1-9), Noon ET

    Rutgers had Michigan in a 7-7 deadlock through 15 minutes last week. So that was fun! Penn State's rushing attack will shake a mediocre three-game stretch against the nation's 12th-worst run defense to engineer a blowout win.

    Prediction: Penn State 48, Rutgers 14


    Middle Tennessee (7-3) at No. 17 Kentucky (7-3), Noon ET

    The flaws of Kentucky's offense have proved costly over the last two weekends, and Middle Tennessee's production has risen enough lately to make us think twice. Still, the Wildcats will have enough of a talent advantage to dispatch MTSU.

    Prediction: Kentucky 27, Middle Tennessee 17


    Arkansas (2-8) at No. 21 Mississippi State (6-4), Noon ET

    Mississippi State ran into the buzz saw that is Alabama's improved defense, but the Bulldogs still played a decent game in a 24-0 loss. They allowed only 304 yards. Arkansas, the SEC's third-worst offense, is at a severe disadvantage on the road.

    Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Arkansas 17


    Colgate (9-0) at Army (8-2), Noon ET

    Last week, Colgate allowed its first touchdown since September 1. That is not a misprint. So, yes, Army should take this game quite seriously. The Black Knights will eventually pull one out, but Colgate will take the Cadets to the wire.

    Prediction: Army 24, Colgate 20


    North Carolina State (6-3) at Louisville (2-8), 12:20 p.m. ET

    The Bobby Petrino era is over. And sometimes, a program enjoys a next-game jolt under an inspired interim head coach. But four of their last five opponents have reached 54 points, so the Cardinals would need miraculous improvement to compete with NC State.

    Prediction: NC State 45, Louisville 21


    No. 19 Utah (7-3) at Colorado (5-5), 1:30 p.m. ET

    Speaking of coaching changes: Mike MacIntyre's future at Colorado is disappearing. The Buffaloes' biggest problem is a sharp decline in offensive production, and Utah's scoring attack still picked apart Oregon even though it was missing quarterback Tyler Huntley (broken collarbone) and running back Zack Moss (knee). The Utes own a clear edge.

    Prediction: Utah 31, Colorado 23


    No. 12 Syracuse (8-2) at No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0), 2:30 p.m. ET

    Considering the state of USC, this is probably Notre Dame's most important remaining game. And the Fighting Irish won't survive it. Syracuse doesn't have a great defense, but a disruptive front will contain Notre Dame's scoring attack while the Orange's seventh-ranked scoring offense wins the afternoon.

    Prediction: Syracuse 37, Notre Dame 30

Other Saturday Early Games

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    Pitt (6-4) at Wake Forest (5-5), Noon ET

    The Panthers are 60 minutes from clinching the ACC Coastal Division crown. Considering the pair of 30-plus-point losses in September, it's been a wild season for Pitt. Wake Forest provided a surprise when it shocked NC State on the road its last time out, but the Demon Deacons have struggled to stop the run all year. It'll be back to normal Saturday.

    Prediction: Pitt 38, Wake Forest 28


    Michigan State (6-4) at Nebraska (3-7), Noon ET

    Not only did Michigan State's offense fail to show up against Ohio State last week, but the unit also dealt with horrendous field position for the entire second half. That combination ensured a competent defensive effort didn't matter, and Nebraska's rising offense presents a dilemma. We're still picking against a terrible NU defense, but this should be a close game through the fourth quarter.

    Prediction: Michigan State 27, Nebraska 23


    South Florida (7-3) at Temple (6-4), Noon ET

    That 7-0 start sure is a distant memory. South Florida has dropped three straight games, flailing on offense while the defense forgot how to stop the run. Temple's surging offense will thrive on the ground and send USF to its fourth consecutive loss.

    Prediction: Temple 45, South Florida 28


    No. 22 Northwestern (6-4) at Minnesota (5-5), Noon ET

    What a bizarre second half of the season for Minnesota, which handed Nebraska its first victory of the year, and then toppled Indiana but lost to Illinois yet smoked Purdue. None of that makes sense. But the two wins happened at home. The Gophers have surrendered 560.3 yards per game on the road but only 301.2 in Minneapolis. If that continues, Big Ten West Division champ Northwestern won't keep up.

    Prediction: Minnesota 34, Northwestern 24


    TCU (4-6) at Baylor (5-5), Noon ET

    Baylor is perfect at home in Big 12 action. Sure, it helps to have played both Kansas schools in Waco, but TCU isn't much better! Though the Horned Frogs at least have a chance opposite a mediocre pass coverage, Baylor's steady offense will sneak past TCU.

    Prediction: Baylor 27, TCU 22


    No. 23 Utah State (9-1) at Colorado State (3-7), 2 p.m. ET

    Over the last two weeks, Colorado State has mustered just 4.2 yards per snap while allowing 7.5. Utah State is riding a three-game streak of 600-plus yards on offense. Pray for snow, CSU.

    Prediction: Utah State 48, Colorado State 14


    VMI (1-9) at Old Dominion (3-7), 2 p.m. ET

    VMI's only victory of the season happened over Division II Tusculum College. Otherwise, eight of VMI's nine opponents have scored at least 34 points. Old Dominion, flawed as it is, recently upset North Texas and should overwhelm the VMI defense.

    Prediction: Old Dominion 42, VMI 13


    Florida International (7-3) at Charlotte (4-6), 2 p.m. ET

    Charlotte is 0-5 and averages just 13.4 points on the road, so it's a good thing the 49ers are hosting this Conference USA tilt. However, they'll still struggle to keep up with FIU, which can rely on quarterback James Morgan to shred Charlotte's defense.

    Prediction: FIU 36, Charlotte 24


    UTSA (3-7) at Marshall (6-3), 2:30 p.m. ET

    During the last four games, UTSA has mustered only 30 total points. Each opponent in that span has scored 27 or more. As long as turnovers don't plague Marshallfive games of three or more in 2018the Herd will mosey on by the Roadrunners.

    Prediction: Marshall 41, UTSA 14


    Georgia State (2-8) at Appalachian State (7-2), 2:30 p.m. ET

    Since a rough day at Georgia Southern on Oct. 25, Appalachian State has regained its form. The Mountaineers limited Coastal Carolina and Texas State to 396 total yards and 14 points. Georgia State gave up 965 yards and 77 points to those schools. The transitive property isn't a perfect predictive model, but you get the point.

    Prediction: Appalachian State 45, Georgia State 14


    Western Carolina (3-7) at North Carolina (1-8), 3 p.m. ET

    The Carolina schools enter this matchup on a combined 13-game losing streak and with similar narratives: They score enough to compete but can't overcome bad defense. So, this should probably be a point-filled affair that UNC snatches late.

    Prediction: North Carolina 42, Western Carolina 31

Top Saturday Afternoon Games

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    No. 9 West Virginia (8-1) at Oklahoma State (5-5), 3:30 p.m. ET

    West Virginia is a different team on the road. That's not a good thing. Despite a 2-1 record, the Mountaineers have ceded 30 points per game. Otherwise, opponents have managed only 13.8. Oklahoma State isn't reliable defensively, but OSU QB Taylor Cornelius can take advantage of WVU's letdowns on the road.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 41, West Virginia 38


    No. 20 Boston College (7-3) at Florida State (4-6), 3:30 p.m. ET

    The 36-year bowl streak could officially end in Week 12. Florida State is way down the list of potential 5-7 qualifiers, so the 'Noles cannot afford another loss. They're an absolute mess, though. Boston College will silence a reeling FSU offense.

    Prediction: Boston College 31, Florida State 17


    Indiana (5-5) at No. 4 Michigan (9-1), 4 p.m. ET

    This contest fits the typical mold of a trap game. Each of the last three series matchups had a winning margin of 10 points or fewer, and Michigan knows Ohio State is looming. But the recent clashes also didn't include a competent UM offense. Saturday does.

    Prediction: Michigan 45, Indiana 14


    UMass (4-7) at No. 5 Georgia (9-1), 4 p.m. ET

    Four teams have rushed for 300 yards against UMass this year. Nine reached 200. Three scored five rushing touchdowns. Six tallied at least three. This is the long version of saying Georgia cruises.

    Prediction: Georgia 48, UMass 13


    Oregon State (2-8) at No. 18 Washington (7-3), 4:30 p.m. ET

    Even a disappointing Stanford offense piled up 596 yards on Oregon State, which has ceded 500-plus yards in seven straight games. Washington will lean on a crowded backfield for an easy win, largely because the defense won't allow many points.

    Prediction: Washington 38, Oregon State 14

Other Saturday Afternoon Games

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    Wisconsin (6-4) at Purdue (5-5), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Will the Badgers have quarterback Alex Hornibrook? That's the big question after he's missed two games with a head injury. Without him, the Badgers will struggle to match Purdue's scoring pace. Otherwise, it'll be a tight finish.

    Prediction: Purdue 27, Wisconsin 20


    Iowa (6-4) at Illinois (4-6), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Since opening the year 6-1, Iowa has dropped three straight games by a combined 12 points. That's a brutal way to vanish from the conference title discussion, but a hapless Illinois defense will allow the Hawkeyes to snap that losing streak.

    Prediction: Iowa 34, Illinois 21


    Virginia (7-3) at Georgia Tech (6-4), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Georgia Tech has nabbed three takeaways in five of the last six games. That kind of opportunistic play is hard for anyone to overcome, but Virginia has committed only three turnovers during the last three outings. The Wahoos can steal a close one as long as they continue protecting the football.

    Prediction: Virginia 27, Georgia Tech 23


    Miami (5-5) at Virginia Tech (4-5), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Three fumblesincluding two on special teamscrushed Miami in a winnable game at Georgia Tech. The likelihood of that happening again is low, however. The 'Canes have a rough offensive line, but Virginia Tech's defensive front is somehow even worse and won't prevent Miami's rushing attack from having a huge day.

    Prediction: Miami 31, Virginia Tech 24


    Texas Tech (5-5) at Kansas State (4-6), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Kansas State is rarely competitive on the road, yet Manhattan remains a relatively friendly place. Texas Tech still has too much offense for the Wildcats to handle, but the visitors probably won't pull away on the scoreboard until halftime.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 34, Kansas State 21


    Missouri (6-4) at Tennessee (5-5), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Tennessee had 200 rushing yards for the first time since September last week, and Missouri allowed more than five per attempt for the first time all season. So, of course, that happened right before this game. We'll chalk those up as outliers, but if the opposite happens, you could say the evidence was right there.

    Prediction: Missouri 31, Tennessee 16


    USC (5-5) at UCLA (2-8), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Both programs are eager to move on from 2018, but a clash at the Rose Bowl should provide a bit of late motivation. USC's defense has recovered from two ugly showings, so the Trojans have the upper hand in what will likely be a close yet unexciting game.

    Prediction: USC 24, UCLA 17


    Liberty (4-5) at Auburn (6-4), 4 p.m. ET

    Offensively, Liberty has shown 40-point upside this season. Defensively, however, 40 points are practically the low mark for the Flames. Six of their nine opponents have crested it, and another hit 38. Auburn will have a rare explosive day running the ball.

    Prediction: Auburn 45, Liberty 21

More Saturday Afternoon Games

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Tulsa (2-8) at Navy (2-8), 3:30 p.m. ET

    From 2003-2017, Navy recorded 13 eight-win seasons. This eight-loss campaign is a remarkable declineand guaranteed to be the program's worst year since 2002. At least a suspect Tulsa defense should give the Mids a third win in 2018.

    Prediction: Navy 38, Tulsa 24


    Texas State (3-7) at Troy (8-2), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Troy hasn't held an FBS team below 16 points all season, yet the Trojans are 6-0 in Sun Belt action thanks to a steady, balanced attack. Texas State's inefficient defense will help that streak continue.

    Prediction: Troy 35, Texas State 17


    Louisiana Tech (7-3) at Southern Miss (4-5), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Seven takeaways over the last two weeks have allowed Southern Miss to overcome anemic offensive efforts and split a pair of games it otherwise would've lost. Louisiana Tech is the more talented team, but the Bulldogs' five multi-turnover games suggest USM will hang around for 60 minutes.

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 24, Southern Miss 20


    Bowling Green (2-8) at Akron (4-5), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Akron defeated Big Ten West Division champion Northwestern earlier in 2018 and mustered 90 total yards in a loss to Eastern Michigan last week. What a bizarre season. Akron's propensity for turnovers will be its downfall in an ugly MAC clash.

    Prediction: Bowling Green 27, Akron 17


    Air Force (4-6) at Wyoming (4-6), 4 p.m. ET

    Sean Chambers has injected life into a once-horrendous Wyoming offense. The freshman QB has scampered for 100 yards in three straight games, and his production has buoyed the team. Air Force is coming off its best rushing performance of the season, but a strong Wyoming defense will contain the Falcons.

    Prediction: Wyoming 27, Air Force 22


    Georgia Southern (7-3) at Coastal Carolina (5-5), 5 p.m. ET

    Georgia Southern desperately needs its option offense to start thriving again. During the last two weekendsboth lossesthe Eagles mustered only 239 rushing yards. Good thing Coastal Carolina allows 6.3 per carry, right?

    Prediction: Georgia Southern 38, Coastal Carolina 24


    South Alabama (2-8) at Louisiana (5-5), 5 p.m. ET

    Louisiana has averaged no fewer than 7.6 yards per snap at home, where the team is 4-1 this season. South Alabama has surrendered 7.3 yards per play on the road and is 0-5 outside of Mobile. We won't argue with the numbers.

    Prediction: Louisiana 42, South Alabama 21


    Nevada (6-4) at San Jose State (1-9), 5 p.m. ET

    After a 3-4 start, Nevada has rattled off three straight wins behind a surging offense. San Jose State is at home, but a subpar defense has offered no evidence it'll handle the Wolf Pack.

    Prediction: Nevada 34, San Jose State 17

Top Saturday Evening Games

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    Duke (7-3) at No. 2 Clemson (10-0), 7 p.m. ET

    Injuries have plagued Duke all year, and the latest is a season-ending injury to safety Dylan Singleton (ankle fracture). His absence will further deplete a unit that has allowed 10 touchdowns and nearly 1,100 yards on the ground over the last three games. Clemson running back Travis Etienne should have an enormous day.

    Prediction: Clemson 52, Duke 17


    UAB (9-1) at Texas A&M (6-4), 7 p.m. ET

    Had the Blazers not lost earlier this year, a 10-0 team entering a clash with Texas A&M would've sparked fascinating narratives. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing game. Both teams lean heavily on the rushing attack but also have elite run defenses. We'll side with Texas A&M at home, but there's a real chance for an upset.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 23, UAB 17


    Kansas (3-7) at No. 6 Oklahoma (9-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Oklahoma hasn't lost when the opponent failed to hit 400 yards of total offense since 2015. Kansas has topped the mark only once this season. No trouble for the Sooners.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 49, Kansas 21


    Rice (1-10) at No. 7 LSU (8-2), 7:30 p.m. ET

    During this 10-game losing streak, Rice has crested 28 points onceand allowed 28-plus nine times. LSU doesn't have explosive running backs this year, but the Tigers can steadily pound the ball and overwhelm a sluggish Rice defense. 

    Prediction: LSU 35, Rice 7

Other Saturday Evening Games

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    UConn (1-9) at East Carolina (2-7), 7 p.m. ET

    Huskies! This is your moment! East Carolina has scored more than 23 points only three times in 2018. If there's ever a time for an FBS win, UConn, it's here. Nevertheless, an exceptionally aggressive ECU defense can contain UConn's running game and force an unreliable aerial attack to propel the offense. It won't.

    Prediction: East Carolina 42, UConn 24


    Stanford (6-4) at Cal (6-4), 7:30 p.m. ET

    The offense is a different story, but head coach Justin Wilcox has rapidly turned Cal's once-dreadful defense into a thing of nightmares. Since dropping three straight games, the Bears have ceded only 50 points while posting a 3-1 record. Stanford's shaky offensive line won't meet the challenge of Cal's tremendous front seven.

    Prediction: Cal 20, Stanford 16


    Ole Miss (5-5) at Vanderbilt (4-6), 7:30 p.m. ET

    All season long, Ole Miss has followed a simple trend: Lose to decent offenses, beat up on bad teams. Vanderbilt is only the second opponent that lands somewhere in the middle. And as long as Ole Miss doesn't lose the turnover battle, it should steal a high-scoring road win.

    Prediction: Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 34


    Chattanooga (6-4) at South Carolina (5-4), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Even in Chattanooga's four losses, opponents have scored just 16.8 points per game. So, the Mocs at least have the ability to slow down South Carolina early. Eventually, though, the Gamecocks will out-physical the lower-division foe and secure bowl eligibility.

    Prediction: South Carolina 35, Chattanooga 14


    UTEP (1-9) at Western Kentucky (1-9), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Behold, the 125th-ranked scoring offense travels to face the 126th-ranked unit. Gross. On the bright side, UTEP has showed a bit of balance lately. The same cannot be said for Western Kentucky, which has cracked 17 points once since the end of September

    Prediction: UTEP 26, Western Kentucky 14

Saturday Night Games

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    No. 24 Cincinnati (9-1) at No. 11 UCF (9-0), 8 p.m. ET

    UCF is finally getting the prime-time treatment. While the CFP committee has criticized the team for shaky defense, the selection group is also conveniently ignoring a dynamic offense (again). Quarterback McKenzie Milton will guide the Knights past a tremendous Cincinnati defense as long as he avoids turnovers as he's done all season.

    Prediction: UCF 34, Cincinnati 27


    No. 16 Iowa State (6-3) at No. 15 Texas (7-3), 8 p.m. ET

    Does anyone really want to play Iowa State right now? The Cyclones have won five straight and averaged 6.4 yards per snap since Brock Purdy took over at quarterback in October, and Texas has surrendered 500 yards during four of its last five games. The Cyclones will cause a bit of a stir in Longhorns country with a road triumph.

    Prediction: Iowa State 38, Texas 31


    New Mexico State (3-7) at BYU (5-5), 10:30 p.m. ET

    After scoring a combined 22 points in losses to Northern Illinois and Boise State, BYU desperately needed a productive day on offense. The Massachusetts Minutemen provided that chance last week, and the Cougars scored 35 points. They'll be similarly effective because of NMSU's horrid run defense that allows 276.3 yards per game (fourth-worst among FBS teams).

    Prediction: BYU 31, New Mexico State 17


    Arizona (5-5) at No. 8 Washington State (9-1), 10:30 p.m. ET

    Khalil Tate finally looked healthy in Week 10, and then Arizona had a bye. This is an ideal moment for the junior's explosiveness from 2017 to reappear. While we're still picking against the Wildcats' subpar defense, Washington State must be prepared to defend Tate the dual-threat QBnot Tate the dropback passer.

    Prediction: Washington State 41, Arizona 34


    San Diego State (7-3) at Fresno State (8-2), 10:30 p.m. ET

    Defense could only carry San Diego State so far in 2018, and the unit's worst performance happened in Week 11. Fresno State, which is averaging 38.1 points per game, will further stress SDSU's mediocre offense and bounce back from a mistake-filled loss at Boise State.

    Prediction: Fresno State 38, San Diego State 24


    Arizona State (6-4) at Oregon (6-4), 10:30 p.m. ET

    The roller coaster of a season continues for Arizona State, which has three straight wins and owns the top tiebreakers in the Pac-12 South Division. But the Sun Devils' average pass defense will be the decisive issue opposite Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and put the division up for grabs again.

    Prediction: Oregon 34, Arizona State 28


    UNLV (3-7) at Hawaii (6-5), 11 p.m. ET

    Hawaii is already headed to a bowl, but a victory would give the program only its second seven-win campaign since 2010. Although UNLV pulled off an upset at San Diego State last weekend, any competent offense has thrashed the Rebels this season.

    Prediction: Hawaii 42, UNLV 28