B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 12

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystNovember 15, 2019

B/R Experts Answer Biggest CFB Questions for Week 12

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    Georgia QB Jake Fromm
    Georgia QB Jake FrommJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    The finish line of the 2019 college football season is within sight, but title contenders and Group of Five/New Year's Six hopefuls need to clear some serious Week 12 hurdles.

    Per usual, there's another colossal showdown in the SEC. This week, it's CFP No. 12 Auburn hosting No. 4 Georgia in what is effectively a playoff elimination game. If the Bulldogs lose, even an SEC championship victory over LSU might not be enough to make up for the two losses. But if the Tigers win this one and the Iron Bowl in two weeks, perhaps the SEC West runner-up sneaks into the Top Four after all—just not the one we've been arguing about all week.

    Elsewhere, both the Big Ten and Big 12 have huge games that feature an undefeated team facing arguably its toughest task of the season. Baylor (9-0) has to try to slow Oklahoma's runaway freight train of an offense, and Minnesota (9-0) has to avoid a letdown from last week's marquee win over Penn State when it travels to Iowa.

    Navy is the fourth-highest-ranked Group of Five team, trailing Cincinnati, Memphis and Boise State. But if the Midshipmen go on the road and upset No. 16 Notre Dame, they might vault to the head of the class. They would need Memphis to lose at least one of its final three games to truly take the driver's seat for the coveted spot in the Cotton Bowl, but much stranger things have happened this season.

    To help you figure out what to expect in Week 12, though, David Kenyon, Kerry Miller, Joel Reuter and Brad Shepard joined forces to offer predictions on the hottest questions, such as:

    • Will Georgia or Auburn move one big step closer to the College Football Playoff?
    • Can Baylor and/or Minnesota improve to 10-0?
    • Are we destined to see a Top 10 team lose to an unranked foe?
    • And how mercilessly will Joe Burrow destroy the Ole Miss secondary?

    Our experts are on the case.

No. 4 Georgia at No. 12 Auburn: Who You Got?

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    Auburn QB Bo Nix
    Auburn QB Bo NixButch Dill/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I'll keep leaning on this Georgia defense until the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs have surrendered just 5.6 yards per pass attempt this season, and Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has understandably struggled opposite top competition. He completed only 41.9 percent of his passes with 4.9 yards per attempt against Florida and LSU combined. Maybe home-field advantage will swing his performance, but I'll take UGA.

                      

    Kerry Miller

    Georgia might have the best defense in the country. It's mid-November, and the Bulldogs still have not allowed a rushing touchdown. And with all due respect to Nix, he's not about to carve up this secondary. I doubt Georgia pitches a shutout for what would be the third time in its last four games, but I can't see Auburn scoring enough to win this one. Georgia will officially lock up the SEC East crown with a 21-10 victory.

              

    Joel Reuter

    The story of this one will be how Auburn's true freshman quarterback, Nix, handles a Georgia defense that has two shutouts in its past three games. He was picked off three times by Florida in a loss earlier this year, and that can't happen again if the Tigers are to have a chance at pulling off the upset. A few takeaways from the Bulldogs will be the difference. Georgia 24, Auburn 14.

            

    Brad Shepard

    Everybody is over-ranking Georgia, and the Bulldogs' lackluster offense will be exposed this weekend against Auburn. It isn't like the Tigers will win any offensive beauty pageants, but this will be a battle of whose defense makes the most plays, and I'll go with Tigers coordinator Kevin Steele's in this one. Look for Auburn to run the ball just enough and get a big home win in a low-scoring slugfest to set up an interesting Iron Bowl.

Will Baylor Still Be Undefeated After Hosting Oklahoma This Week?

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    Denzel Mims and Matt Rhule
    Denzel Mims and Matt RhuleMichael Wyke/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    I'm not one for reckless speculation, but Charlie Brewer looked...different last week. Against TCU, the Baylor quarterback floated a handful of the type of passes that he'd previously thrown with good velocity, including an interception that seemed to hang in the air forever. Was that simply one bad outing? I don't know, but I can't shake the feeling that it wasn't. While Oklahoma would've been my pick anyway, a blowout is coming.

                 

    Kerry Miller

    At some point, Baylor's luck has to run out, right? The Bears have won five of their last seven games by a one-possession margin, and even in the 45-27 win over Oklahoma State, they trailed with 10 minutes remaining. Twice there have been game-winning field goals in the fourth quarter, and twice John Mayers made a game-tying, overtime-forcing field goal with less than a minute remaining.

    It has somehow been enough to survive against the bottom 70 percent of the Big 12, but Jalen Hurts and Co. will break that horseshoe or rabbit's foot or whatever lucky talisman Matt Rhule has been rubbing. Oklahoma cruises 52-27.

              

    Joel Reuter

    The improbable run ends here. The Bears are undefeated by the grace of two overtime wins and have an alarmingly close victory over an 0-9 Rice. They have not seen anything like the Oklahoma offense this season. The Sooners are an 11-point favorite, per Caesars, and that sounds about right. Oklahoma 42, Baylor 31.

               

    Brad Shepard

    Baylor has done some nice things defensively recently, and a triple-overtime win over TCU last weekend proved the Bears believe in themselves. But they'll need to score a ton of points to keep up with the Sooners, and OU will pull off a win in Waco, 43-33.

Will Minnesota Improve to 10-0 with a Road Win over Iowa?

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    Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck
    Minnesota head coach P.J. FleckStacy Bengs/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    This is the perfect opportunity for that Kinnick Stadium magic—which has upended Michigan, Ohio State and nearly Penn State in recent years—to kick in. But the Gophers gained a whole lot of believers last weekend when they out-schemed a very good Penn State defense. It will happen again, and an average Iowa offense won't be able to keep up. Minnesota gets the win.

               

    Kerry Miller

    I picked Minnesota to upset Penn State, so you better believe I'm rowing the boat again this week. After six consecutive games with at least 443 total yards, P.J. Fleck's offense ranks second in the Big Ten at 6.39 yards per play. Penn State couldn't stifle the Golden Gophers, and I don't believe Kinnick Stadium will be enough for Iowa to do it either. Minnesota has put up at least 28 points in every game this season, and that'll be enough to defeat an Iowa team that hasn't scored 27 in a game since September. Minnesota 31-23.

              

    Joel Reuter

    Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor (31 carries, 250 yards) ran the Iowa defense into the ground last week, and the Hawkeyes still only lost by two points. Minnesota runs the ball well, but not as well as the Badgers. Asking quarterback Tanner Morgan to replicate last week's performance against Penn State (18-of-20, 339 yards, 3 TD) is a little too much. Iowa 21, Minnesota 17.

                    

    Brad Shepard

    How are you going to pick against the Golden Gophers after last week? I certainly won't. I disrespected them (as did pretty much everybody else) before the Penn State game, but P.J. Fleck has something special brewing. It's possible this weekend will be tougher away from home against a rugged defense, but the Hawkeyes don't have enough weapons to run with Minnesota. The Gophers will keep it rolling, 23-17.

A Ranked Notre Dame Hosts a Ranked Navy for the 1st Time Since 1978. Who Wins?

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    Navy QB Malcolm Perry
    Navy QB Malcolm PerryJulio Cortez/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Though I'm going with the Irish at home, Notre Dame just lost Julian Okwara to a season-ending leg injury. The Irish should have enough depth to cover for him, but Navy will stress that defensive line, for sure. The Midshipmen have racked up 385-plus rushing yards in four straight games, but Notre Dame will hang on late.

                      

    Kerry Miller

    That Navy triple-option offense always causes problems for Notre Dame. Even during the Irish's undefeated regular season last year, the Midshipmen had 292 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground—the sixth consecutive season in which the Fighting Irish allowed more rushing yards against Navy than any other opponent on their schedule. And Navy's offense is more potent this year than it has been in at least a decade, averaging just north of 40 points per game. Navy's dream of a New Year's Six Bowl will stay alive for at least one more week. Midshipmen 38-31.

                   

    Joel Reuter

    Let the upsets continue. The Fighting Irish allowed 303 rushing yards against Michigan earlier this season. How many will they give up to Navy's well-oiled triple-option offense? The Midshipmen are averaging 357.9 rushing yards per game, and the Fighting Irish rank a middling 62nd in the nation in rush defense. Sounds like trouble. Navy 27, Notre Dame 21

            

    Brad Shepard

    This is always such a dicey game to pick because it's a major curveball when the Irish must prepare for an offense virtually nobody else runs. But it's difficult to believe Navy can shock the Irish this year in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (for all his flaws) tends to put away the teams he's supposed to. While the Midshipmen will score some points, Notre Dame will barely survive.

Will Any Top-10 Team Lose to an Unranked Opponent?

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    Utah QB Tyler Huntley
    Utah QB Tyler HuntleyStephen Brashear/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Penn State should bounce back at home against Indiana, and no other matchup seems problematic. For anyone with dreams of a Clemson loss, Wake Forest will be without star wideout Sage Surratt. He broke the 1,000-yard barrier last week, but an undisclosed injury has ended his season. Demon Deacons receiver Scotty Washington (ankle) will also be unavailable Saturday, so that ain't happening.

               

    Kerry Miller

    Unless you count Minnesota's win over Penn State, we have gone two consecutive weeks without a colossal upset. But that just means we are overdue for some carnage. Moreover, we are L-O-N-G overdue for a shake-up in the Pac-12.

    No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah have just been tiptoeing up the rankings for more than a month, leading everyone to speculate about the Ducks maybe getting into the playoff as the victors of an 11-1 vs. 11-1 showdown. They should both win this week at home against sub-.500 opponents, but I'll take UCLA to stun the Utes, because college football.

                  

    Joel Reuter

    If the Crimson Tide come out flat after last week's loss to LSU, Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill is the SEC's leading rusher and could torch them early. I'm still picking Alabama to win, but don't be surprised if the Bulldogs comfortably cover the 18-point spread Cesars set, in a close game. The other Top 10 teams will take care of business.

            

    Brad Shepard

    Not this week, and it won't even be close. The only team that has an intriguing shot is UCLA against Utah, because of the contrasting styles and because the Bruins seem to have things heading somewhat in the right direction. But Kyle Whittingham's team is too balanced and disciplined to let a major upset happen, so the Utes will be fine.

What Will Overwhelming Heisman Favorite Joe Burrow Do to Ole Miss?

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    LSU QB Joe Burrow
    LSU QB Joe BurrowVasha Hunt/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    Last year, Joe Burrow threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns at Ole Miss. This was during LSU's first nine games, when Burrow rarely cracked 200 yards and tossed only six touchdowns. Now? With this offense? Oh boy. Give me 350 yards and four touchdowns for the Heisman Trophy winner.

             

    Kerry Miller

    Already this season, Ole Miss has allowed both Chase Garbers (357 yards) and Bo Nix (340 yards) to set new career highs. The Rebels also let upperclassmen Tua Tagovailoa (418 yards) and Kelly Bryant (329 yards) rack up the second-highest passing totals in their respective careers. They also allowed at least 300 passing yards to both Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana. So, yeah, I'm going to say 419 yards—poetically, one more than Tua—and five touchdowns for Burrow in a blowout.

               

    Joel Reuter

    Ole Miss will try to slow things down with a running game that ranks 13th in the FBS at 247.4 rushing yards per game. The Rebels will soon have to play catch-up, though. They allow 274.2 passing yards per game, tied for 117th in the nation, so Burrow will have some fun. He won't top his season high of 471 passing yards (vs. Texas) or six touchdowns (vs. Vanderbilt), but this 350-yard, four-touchdown day will further pad his Heisman resume.

                 

    Brad Shepard

    Oh, it will be ugly. The Rebels are much-improved under first-year defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre, but this is still the SEC's worst unit against the pass. Burrow is on another level, and it doesn't look like he can be slowed, much less stopped. The Tigers are a much better football team all the way around than Ole Miss, so Burrow will go for roughly 375 yards and four scores against the Rebs.

How Many Total Points Will the Memphis-Houston Game Feature?

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    Memphis QB Brady White and RB Kenneth Gainwell
    Memphis QB Brady White and RB Kenneth GainwellSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    David Kenyon

    A bazillion, hopefully. Memphis wins 49-34 for a total of 83 points. Memphis hasn't done the whole "defense" thing lately, giving up 41 to Tulsa and 48 to SMU. And I'm not expecting Houston, which is ranked 105th nationally at 32.6 points allowed per game, to somehow stop this Memphis offense.

             

    Kerry Miller

    Even though its defense is allowing 460.6 yards per game, Houston has somehow played in eight consecutive contests with 73 total points or fewer. That even includes games against the high-octane offenses of SMU, UCF and Washington State, each of which ranks in the top 10 nationally in points per game. But Memphis will find a way to score 50, and it also will give up at least 30 for the fifth time in six games. Put me down for 83 combined points.

              

    Joel Reuter

    I predicted a 49-35 win for Memphis earlier this week, and there's no sense in straying from that prediction. The Cougars rank 106th in the FBS in points allowed per game (32.6), and the Tigers have surrendered 89 points in shootouts their past two games. Buckle up, folks.

                   

    Brad Shepard

    It's Dana Holgorsen vs. Mike Norvell! I cannot wait. We're going to roll out 75 points without question. My only concern for the Tigers is: Will they be affected by all the Arkansas rumors swirling about their head coach? The Cougars aren't a great football team by any means, but they've shown they can score points. This will still be a barnburner, and Memphis will win despite the off-the-field flurry.

Will Rutgers Cover the 52-Point Spread Against Ohio State?

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    Ohio State QB Justin Fields
    Ohio State QB Justin FieldsJamie Sabau/Getty Images

    David Kenyon

    No. That's it. That's the answer.

                        

    Kerry Miller

    On the one hand, 52 is a huge number. On the other hand, Ohio State has won the last three games in this series by a combined score of 166-3, and the Buckeyes are even more of an unstoppable force than usual, leading the nation in both points scored and points allowed.

    Their average margin of victory is 42.4, and they have already scored at least 73 points twice in the past six games. It's hard to imagine Rutgers—0-6 in Big Ten play by an average margin of defeat of 36.8 points—keeps this thing within 50 points. Even if Buckeyes QB Justin Fields doesn't take a snap in the second half, Ohio State will win 66-0.

                

    Joel Reuter

    Rutgers has already been shut out three times this season, and I'm fully expecting another goose egg on the scoreboard Saturday. So I guess the question is whether Ohio State will get to 52 points. After being bumped out of the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings in favor of LSU, the Buckeyes will be looking to make a statement, and that means running things up against poor Rutgers. Ohio State 63, Rutgers 0.

            

    Brad Shepard

    I thought Maryland would cover last week's massive number, and it didn't happen in a 73-14 Buckeyes win. So now we're talking about easily one of the three worst Power Five teams in the nation? Nah. This one's going to be brutal from the get-go. The Buckeyes are shooting for 70 again and will cover easily.