Baker’s Breakdown: Week 12 College Football Preview

Week 12 of the College Football season marks the second-to-last of the regular season. Many of the top teams face tough opponents that will help determine who makes the College Football Playoff. Check out my current picks for the College Football Playoff here.
Let’s look at four of the best games this weekend.

#3 Oregon Ducks at #23 Utah Utes

A preview of the Pac 12 Championship takes place in Salt Lake City. Both teams need a win in one of their last two games or a loss by the team behind them to clinch a spot in the title game. The Ducks (9-1) still have College Football Playoff hopes but need to win out. Recently, the Ducks run game has been one of the most dominant in the country. They have eclipsed 300 rushing yards the past two games and will look to do the same against the Utes (7-3). Travis Dye has filled in seamlessly for the injured CJ Verdell and quarterback Anthony Brown has been a much better rusher than passer. The jury remains out on Brown, and he will look to prove himself in a tough road environment.

The Utes are one of the best under-the-radar teams in the country. Quarterback Cameron Rising doesn’t throw the ball all over the field, but he is a very efficient passer. He also loves to throw to his tight ends. Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid are the first and third leading receivers for the Utes. Like the Ducks, the Utes also have a great run game. They average 214.5 yards per game on the ground. Tavion Thomas is the lead guy, but look out for Rising to run the ball too. Kayvon Thibodeaux, potential number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, will look to blow up the Utes offensive game plan. He has six sacks and two forced fumbles on the year.

Another big game by Dye propels the Ducks to victory.

Prediction: Ducks 31, Utes 27

Virginia Cavaliers at #18 Pittsburgh Panthers

The Cavaliers (6-4) take on the Panthers (8-2) with first place in the ACC Coastal on the line. The Cavs are looking to be the first repeat champions of the ACC Coastal since 2011, but they will need to knock off the Panthers to do so. Virginia hopes to get quarterback Brennan Armstrong back from injury. He left their loss to BYU with a rib injury and has yet to see the field since. Jay Woolfolk has filled in in his place. Despite missing time with injury, Armstrong is still having one of the best seasons of any quarterback. He is third in the nation with 3,557 passing yards and has 27 touchdown tosses on the year. Don’t expect the Cavs to run the ball much. Wayne Taulapapa, their leading rusher, has only 290 rush yards on the year. Whoever plays quarterback for the Cavs will need to get the ball out quickly. Pittsburgh is second in the FBS with 36 sacks on the year.

The Panthers are led by Kenny Pickett, by a likely first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Pickett is top 5 in the FBS in both passing yards and touchdowns. Pickett’s favorite target is wide receiver Jordan Addison. Addison has nearly double the receptions and yards of the second-leading receiver on the team. Don’t expect Virginia to have much success slowing down Pickett and the offense. They give up the 11th most yards in the country.

If Armstrong plays, the Cavs have a chance to pull off the upset. Otherwise, they don’t stand a chance.

Prediction: Panthers 40, Cavs 24

SMU Mustangs at #5 Cincinnati Bearcats

The Bearcats (10-0) face one of the toughest tests of their season when they take on the Mustangs (8-2). The Bearcats desperately need a big win to impress the College Football Playoff committee. The Mustangs have one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. They average almost 500 yards of offense per game and 41.6 points. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai is second in the FBS with 37 touchdown passes on the year. Mordecai will look to spread the ball around to a plethora of receivers. Reggie Roberson Jr., Danny Gray and Grant Calcaterra are all dangerous. Mordecai needs to be smart with the ball though. The Bearcats ball-hawking defense has 16 interceptions on the season, second-best in the nation.

Bearcats’ quarterback Desmond Ridder will look to build on a strong season against a lackluster Mustangs defense. Ridder broke the Bearcats career touchdown record last week and will look to add a few more to his total this week. He will look to connect with fellow NFL prospect Alec Pierce throughout the game. Pierce leads the team in both catches and yards. Cincy will hope to get starting running back Jerome Ford back this week. He missed the game versus South Florida with a leg injury. If he can’t go, Ryan Montgomery will take his place.

The Bearcats have looked shaky recently, and I think that finally catches up to them. Mordecai throws for four scores and SMU pulls off the upset.

Prediction: Mustangs 38, Bearcats 35

Game of the Week: #4 Michigan State Spartans at #7 Ohio State Buckeyes

Two teams with College Football Playoff aspirations face off in Columbus. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to win the Big 10 East while the loser will fall out of Playoff contention completely. The Spartans (9-1) are led by Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III. Walker III leads the nation with 1,473 rushing yards and has a whopping 18 touchdowns on the year. He will be the focus of a Buckeyes defense that has improved greatly since the beginning of the year. Stopping the run is the strength of their defense, therefore the Spartans might find more success through the air. Payton Thorne is more than capable of slinging the ball around. He threw for four touchdowns in a win over Maryland and will need to have another big game to knock off the Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes (9-1) returned to their dominant form with a blowout win over Purdue. CJ Stroud, another Heisman hopeful, threw for five touchdowns and the trio of Jaxon-Smith Njigba, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson had another great game. Don’t expect the Spartans to have much success stopping the Buckeyes. The Spartans defense has been shredded the past three weeks through the air and there’s nothing to say that won’t continue against one of the best passing attacks in the country.

This game will have a lot of points. If the Spartans can get can Walker III going early, they should be able to keep up with the Buckeyes. Unfortunately for the Spartans, I don’t see many teams being able to keep up with the Buckeyes for a full four quarters.

Prediction: Buckeyes 45, Spartans 38

Liam Baker
Student at the University of Oregon. Author at The Sports Wave.

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