College Football Picks: Week 12 Predictions for Every Game

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2020

College Football Picks: Week 12 Predictions for Every Game

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Following a Week 11 slate of college football games that was something of a dud after multiple contests were canceled or postponed, it's fair to wonder how many games will actually be played this weekend.

    There have already been a few cancellations, including No. 5 Texas A&M against Ole Miss, and there will likely be more as the week progresses. But for now, we're on tap for a good week of football.

    Ohio State faces a tough test against upstart Indiana, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State square off in a meaningful Big 12 clash, and Wisconsin will look to halt a streaking Northwestern team that has been steadily climbing the rankings.

    Beyond those three matchups between ranked teams, there is always the potential for an upset or two that would shake up the rankings. Who will throw a wrench into things this week?

    Ahead are B/R's predictions for each Week 12 game with a closer look at each AP Top 25 contest and a handful of the best clashes between unranked teams, followed by a quick rundown of the rest of the slate.

AP Nos. 25-21

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    Auburn running back Tank Bigsby
    Auburn running back Tank BigsbyAssociated Press

    No. 25 Tulsa (4-1) vs. Tulane (5-4), 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday

    With an upset victory over SMU last week, Tulsa is ranked for the first time since 2010, righting the ship after a 9-27 showing the past three seasons. To stick in the rankings, it'll need to beat a Tulane team riding a three-game winning streak in which it has outscored opponents 114-36.

    The Green Wave have a potent rushing attack that is averaging 224.8 yards per game, but the Tulsa defense managed to corral Chuba Hubbard (27 carries, 93 yards) earlier this year. It's going to be close, but the Golden Hurricane should have the edge.

    Prediction: Tulsa 30, Tulane 23

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    No. 24 Louisiana (7-1) vs. Central Arkansas (5-4), 2 p.m. ET

    The Ragin' Cajuns' only loss this season is to undefeated Coastal Carolina, and they have what amounts to a bye week here against FCS opponent Central Arkansas.

    After piling up 506 yards of total offense against South Alabama in a 38-10 victory last week, expect them to run it up against a lesser opponent as they look to make a statement on their standing among Group of Five teams.

    Prediction: Louisiana 45, Central Arkansas 9

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    No. 23 Auburn (4-2) vs. Tennessee (2-4), 7 p.m. ET

    Since a disappointing 2-2 start torpedoed their playoff hopes, Auburn has scored convincing wins over Ole Miss (35-28) and LSU (48-11) to climb back into the AP Top 25.

    Meanwhile, Tennessee is riding a four-game losing streak, allowing 408 total yards per game and 5.8 yards per play on the year. The Tigers need to be careful not to get caught looking ahead to the Iron Bowl, but they should have no trouble running it up against the Vols.

    Prediction: Auburn 35, Tennessee 20

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    No. 22 Texas (5-2) at Kansas (0-7), 3:30 p.m. ET,Β PostponedΒ due to Covid-19

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    No. 21 Liberty (8-0) vs. NC State (5-3), 7:30 p.m. ET

    The Flames survived a tough test against Virginia Tech on Nov. 7 when quarterback Malik Willis threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns while scrambling for another 108 yards and a score, and he will have to bring it again Saturday against NC State.

    The Wolfpack have only lost to ranked teams, and they played Miami tough in a 44-41 loss two weeks ago. That said, Hurricanes quarterback D'Eriq King threw for 430 yards and five touchdowns with another 105 yards on the ground, so Willis should be in for a big day leading the Liberty attack.

    Prediction: Liberty 31, NC State 28

AP Nos. 20-16

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    Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose
    Iowa State linebacker Mike RoseBrandon Wade/Associated Press

    No. 20 USC (2-0) at Utah (0-0), 10:30 p.m. ET

    While the Trojans are off to a 2-0 start after being picked to win the Pac-12 South in the conference's preseason poll, those two victories have come by a combined five points, and they needed a touchdown in the final minute to pull out a win against an Arizona team picked to finish last in the division.

    Utah lost a lot from an 11-3 team that climbed as high as No. 5 in the AP Poll last year, including quarterback Tyler Huntley, running back Zack Moss and defensive end Bradlee Anae. With nine starters to replace on defense, there's a good chance it will still be trying to fit all the pieces together in its opener.

    Prediction: USC 27, Utah 21

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    No. 19 Northwestern (4-0) vs. No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0), 3:30 p.m. ET

    For prediction, see No. 10 Wisconsin.

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    No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2) vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State (5-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

    For prediction, see No. 14 Oklahoma State.

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    No. 17 Iowa State (5-2) vs. Kansas State (4-3), 4 p.m. ET

    The Big 12 has spent much of the year cannibalizing itself, leaving Iowa State atop the standings with a 5-1 record in conference play. For all the hype surrounding quarterback Brock Purdy entering the year, it's running back Breece Hall who has led the way offensively with an FBS-leading 1,034 yards and 13 touchdowns.

    Kansas State has lost consecutive games since briefly climbing into the AP Poll, and the Wildcats are allowing 161 rushing yards per game. Expect a big game from Hall and a comfortable victory for the Cyclones.

    Prediction: Iowa State 30, Kansas State 21

AP Nos. 15-11

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    Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough
    Oregon quarterback Tyler ShoughYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    No. 15(tie)Β Coastal Carolina (7-0) vs. Appalachian State (6-1), Noon ET

    Coastal Carolina already has wins over ranked Louisiana and a good Georgia Southern squad, but tough tests remain against Appalachian State this weekend and No. 21 Liberty on Dec. 5 on its road to an undefeated season.

    This week's matchup features a pair of offenses averaging more than 40 carries and 200 rushing yards per game, so whoever does a better job controlling the other team's rushing attack will likely come out on top. The Chanticleers have allowed under 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games, so we'll give them the edge.

    Prediction:Β Coastal Carolina

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    No. 15(tie)Β Marshall (7-0) IDLE

    Next Game: vs. Rice (Dec. 5)

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    No. 14 Oklahoma State (5-1) at No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2), 7:30 p.m. ET

    The Big 12 may already be eliminated from playoff contention, but this game has significant New Year's Six bowl implications.

    Oklahoma has won five in a row and 15 of the last 17 in the Bedlam Series, and it comes into this game with no shortage of momentum following blowout wins over Texas Tech (62-28) and Kansas (62-9). The Cowboys present a much tougher test, but they have been flirting with disaster all year, and the Sooners will seize the opportunity to salvage a disappointing season.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 35, Oklahoma State 21

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    No. 13 Georgia (4-2) vs. Mississippi State (2-4), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Since opening the season with a 44-34 upset victory over then-No. 6 LSU, Mississippi State has gone 1-4 and been outscored 131-54 along the way.

    Georgia is not the team many expected it to be, and questions remain at the quarterback position entering its seventh game of the season. But this one is not going to be close. Mississippi State just isn't very good, and Georgia has enough talent on the defensive side of the ball to control the game even if the offense sputters.

    Prediction: Georgia 31, Mississippi State 13

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    No. 12 Miami (7-1) IDLE

    Next Game: at Wake Forest (Dec. 5)

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    No. 11 Oregon (2-0) vs. UCLA (1-1), TBD

    The Ducks have not looked like the clear Pac-12 front-runner many painted them as heading into the season, trailing Washington State 19-14 at halftime this past weekend and allowing 421 yards of total offense in a 43-29 victory.

    If the UCLA defense can stymie the running game the way it did last week against Cal when it allowed 54 yards on 28 carries, the Ducks could be in some trouble. That will be easier said than done, though, considering the Ducks have rushed for 538 yards in two games.

    Prediction: Oregon 38, UCLA 24

AP Nos. 10-6

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    Florida quaterback Kyle Trask
    Florida quaterback Kyle TraskPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0) at No. 19 Northwestern (4-0), 3:30 p.m. ET

    Wisconsin faces its first real test of the season Saturday after steamrolling an inferior Illinois team and then trouncing a struggling Michigan squad last Saturday following a two-week COVID-19-induced layoff.

    Northwestern has likewise been largely untested during a 4-0 start, squeaking out three straight narrow victories against unranked opponents. The Wildcats defense is going to keep things close, and this should be a good ol' fashioned grind-it-out Big Ten game, but the Badgers have looked like the superior team to this point.

    Prediction: Wisconsin 28, Northwestern 20

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    No. 9 Indiana (4-0) at No. 3 Ohio State (3-0), Noon ET

    For prediction, see No. 3 Ohio State.

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    No. 8 BYU (8-0) at North Alabama (0-3), 3 p.m. ET

    This one is going to be ugly.

    BYU has been held below 40 points just once all season, and FCS opponent North Alabama is going to have zero answers for such a high-powered offense. This one will be out of reach by halftime, and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson will likely be watching from the sidelines long before the final whistle.

    Prediction: BYU 59, North Alabama 10

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    No. 7 Cincinnati (7-0) at UCF (5-2), 3:30 p.m. ET

    It has been a disappointing season for a UCF squad that began the year one spot behind Cincinnati at No. 21 in the AP Poll and climbed as high as No. 11 before suffering back-to-back losses to Tulsa and Memphis.

    This is still a good Knights team that leads the nation with 619.1 total yards per game, and quarterback Dillon Gabriel is having a terrific season with 2,774 yards and 23 touchdowns against just two interceptions. However, the Bearcats have been dominant all year, winning each of their seven games by multiple touchdowns, and they have the top-to-bottom talent to withstand an offensive onslaught.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 38, UCF 31

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    No. 6 Florida (5-1) at Vanderbilt (0-6), Noon ET

    The last time Vanderbilt won a game against an FBS opponent was Oct. 19, 2019. It has lost 10 in a row since then with a win over FCS team East Tennessee State sandwiched in late last season.

    The Gators are eyeing a College Football Playoff spot, and Heisman Trophy candidate Kyle Trask is playing at an elite level right now, coming off a 356-yard, six-touchdown performance against Arkansas without Kyle Pitts in the lineup. This one will be over before anyone breaks a sweat.

    Prediction: Florida 49, Vanderbilt 13

AP Nos. 5-1

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    Alabama running back Najee Harris
    Alabama running back Najee HarrisL.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    No. 5 Texas A&M (5-1) IDLE

    Next Game: vs. LSU (Nov. 28)

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    No. 4 Clemson (7-1) at Florida State (2-6), Noon ET

    Since upsetting then-No. 5 North Carolina on Oct. 17, Florida State has lost three straight by a combined 72 points.

    Now it gets to face a Clemson team that has had two weeks to stew on a 47-40 loss to Notre Dame and will presumably have Trevor Lawrence back under center. This is going to be a statement game for the Tigers, and the Seminoles will, unfortunately, be on the receiving end.

    Prediction: Clemson 48, Florida State 14

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    No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) vs. No. 9 Indiana (4-0), Noon ET

    Penn State and Michigan looked like the biggest hurdles on the Ohio State schedule when the season began, but the Wolverines' early struggles have turned this game against Indiana into the contest that could decide the Buckeyes' playoff fate.

    The Buckeyes piled up 51 points and 520 total yards in a blowout victory a year ago. This is undoubtedly an improved Hoosiers team, but it's fair to wonder if it's really closed the gap enough to give an extremely talented Ohio State team a serious run.

    Prediction: Ohio State 35, Indiana 20

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    No. 2 Notre Dame IDLE

    Next Game: at North Carolina (Nov. 27)

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    No. 1 Alabama (6-0) vs. Kentucky (3-4), 4 p.m. ET

    After it put together an 8-5 season that included a four-game winning streak to close out the year, many had high hopes for Kentucky going into the 2020 campaign. Instead, the Wildcats are off to a 3-4 start and have struggled to find consistency on offense with three games of 13 points or less.

    Meanwhile, Alabama has steadily rounded into dominant form after showing some holes on the defensive side of the ball early in the season. It threw a 41-0 shutout against Mississippi State last week, and an equally dominant performance seems likely at home against the Wildcats.

    Prediction: Alabama 42, Kentucky 13

Best Unranked Clashes

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    Nevada quarterback Carson Strong
    Nevada quarterback Carson StrongJohn Locher/Associated Press

    Georgia Southern (6-2) at Army (6-2), Noon ET

    Just three years removed from a 2-10 season, Georgia Southern has risen the ranks in the Sun Belt to emerge as a legitimate contender, with their only losses coming to Louisiana-Lafayette and Coastal Carolina. Army's triple-option attack will square off against an Eagles defense allowing just 92.6 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry in a less-than-ideal matchup for the Black Knights.

    Prediction: Georgia Southern 24, Army 20

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    San Diego State (3-1) at Nevada (4-0), 3:30 p.m. ET

    A lot is going to be sorted out in the Mountain West this weekend with undefeated Nevada among the teams looking to make a statement. Wolf Pack quarterback Carson Strong has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,517 yards and 12 touchdowns against one interception, but the defense faces a tall order slowing down a San Diego State rushing attack averaging 280.3 yards per game.

    Prediction: San Diego State 27, Nevada 24

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    San Jose State (4-0) at Fresno State (3-1), 7 p.m. ET

    Will San Jose State close out Week 12 as the final undefeated in the Mountain West? Quarterback Nick Starkel already has a 467-yard, five-touchdown game under his belt this year, and the former Texas A&M and Arkansas signal-caller is poised to carve up a young Fresno State secondary in what will likely be a shootout.

    Prediction: San Jose State 37, Fresno State 31

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    Arizona (0-1) at Washington (1-0), 8 p.m. ET

    After a 27-21 victory over Oregon State in their opener last week, the Washington Huskies are staked just outside the top 25 in the latest AP Poll. Their secondary allowed just 85 yards on 11-of-24 passing in that game, and the Beavers were outgained 408-252 on the day. Washington has a chance to seize conference supremacy in a wide-open Pac-12 in the weeks to come, but it first needs to get by an Arizona team that threw a scare into USC last Saturday.

    Prediction: Washington 31, Arizona 21

The Rest of the Slate (1/2)

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    SMU quarterback Shane Buechele
    SMU quarterback Shane BuecheleRoger Steinman/Associated Press

    Buffalo (2-0) at Bowling Green (0-2), 7 p.m. ET Tuesday
    Prediction: Buffalo 42, Bowling Green 17

    Akron (0-2) at Kent State (2-0), 8 p.m. ET Tuesday
    Prediction: Kent State 38, Akron 21

    Northern Illinois (0-2) at Ball State (1-1), 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
    Prediction: Ball State 34, Northern Illinois 21

    Toledo (1-1) at Eastern Michigan (0-2), 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
    Prediction: Toledo 27, Eastern Michigan 24

    Western Michigan (2-0) at Central Michigan (2-0), 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
    Prediction: Central Michigan 34, Western Michigan 28

    Utah State (0-4) at Wyoming (1-2), 9 p.m. ET Thursday
    Prediction: Wyoming 27, Utah State 21

    Syracuse (1-7) at Louisville (2-6), 7 p.m. ET Friday
    Prediction: Louisville 42, Syracuse 20

    Purdue (2-1) at Minnesota (1-3), 7:30 p.m. ET Friday
    Prediction: Minnesota 28, Purdue 27

    UMass (0-2) at Florida Atlantic (4-1), 8 p.m. ET Friday
    Prediction: Florida Atlantic 42, UMass 10

    New Mexico (0-3) at Air Force (1-2), 9:30 p.m. ET Friday
    Prediction: Air Force 31, New Mexico 20

    Michigan State (1-3) at Maryland (2-1), Noon ET
    Prediction: Maryland 34, Michigan State 27

    Stephen F. Austin (6-3) at Memphis (4-2), Noon ET
    Prediction: Memphis 56, Stephen F. Austin 10

    Illinois (1-3) at Nebraska (1-2), Noon ET
    Prediction: Nebraska 30, Illinois 23

    Wake Forest (4-3) at Duke (2-6), Noon ET
    Prediction: Wake Forest 35, Duke 24

    Houston (3-3) at SMU (7-2), Noon ET
    Prediction: SMU 42, Houston 32

    East Carolina (1-6) at Temple (1-5), Noon ET
    Prediction: Temple 24, East Carolina 20

    LSU (2-3) at Arkansas (3-4), Noon ET
    Prediction: LSU 31, Arkansas 28

The Rest of the Slate (2/2)

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Florida International (0-4) at Western Kentucky (3-6), 2 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Western Kentucky 24, Florida International 13

    Rice (1-1) at North Texas (2-3), 2 p.m. ET
    Prediction: North Texas 28, Rice 24

    UTSA (5-4) at Southern Mississippi (2-6), 3 p.m. ET
    Prediction: UTSA 31, Southern Mississippi 21

    Arkansas State (3-5) at Texas State (1-9), 3 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Arkansas State 37, Texas State 31

    Middle Tennessee (2-6) at Troy (4-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Troy 35, Middle Tennessee 24

    California (0-1) at Oregon State (0-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: California 30, Oregon State 21

    Iowa (2-2) at Penn State (0-4), 3:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Iowa 23, Penn State 17

    Virginia Tech (4-4) at Pitt (4-4), 4 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Pitt 27

    Abilene Christian (1-4) at Virginia (3-4), 4 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Virginia 38, Abilene Christian 13

    Georgia State (3-4) at South Alabama (3-5), 4 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Georgia State 28, South Alabama 23

    UNLV (0-4) at Colorado State (1-2), 5:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Colorado State 31, UNLV 21

    Missouri (2-3) at South Carolina (2-5), 7:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: South Carolina 33, Missouri 24

    Michigan (1-3) at Rutgers (1-3), 7:30 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Michigan 37, Rutgers 21

    Navy (3-4) at South Florida (1-7), 8 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Navy 27, South Florida 20

    Washington State (1-1) at Stanford (0-2), 11 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Washington State 31, Stanford 27

    Boise State (3-1) at Hawaii (2-2), 11 p.m. ET
    Prediction: Boise State 42, Hawaii 27

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    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.