Home Season Preview Rankings/Polls Picks/Scores Feature Picks Odds Standings Teams Bowls History Links News Message Board More...

College Football Season

Week 12 Preview

A Lot Left To Be Decided

by Dave Congrove
November 14, 2011

Just two weeks remain before Championship weekend and only one of the twelve conference championship game slots has been filled. We know Clemson is off to the ACC title game as that conference's Atlantic division winner, but that's it.

That leaves the other half of the ACC to be decided, along with both sides of Conference USA, the Big Ten, the MAC, the PAC-12 and the SEC.

Meanwhile, this week's slate is short on marquee battles with only 3 games pairing Top 25 teams from the BCS Standings - No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 22 Baylor; No. 16 Nebraska at No. 18 Michigan; and No. 13 Kansas State at No. 23 Texas.

The week's other top games include North Carolina at Virginia Tech on Thursday, and a host of Saturday matchups that feature Penn State at Ohio State, Boston College at Notre Dame, Cal at Stanford, Virginia at FSU, Miami (Fla.) at USF, Penn State at Ohio State and USC at Oregon.

Games to watch outside the "Big 6" conferences feature Ball State-Northern Illinois in a Tuesday night battle of MAC West contenders; Eastern Michigan at Kent State on Saturday in a game between two teams that are down-but-not-yet-out of their respective MAC division races; Boise State at San Diego State in an important bounce-back effort for the Broncos; SMU at Houston because the Cougars get to play somebody half-decent (and I don't use the word "half" lightly); Tulsa at UTEP because the Golden Hurricane must win to set up a showdown at home against Houston next week for the CUSA West title; and Louisiana Tech at Nevada in a battle between the only remaining serious candidates for the WAC title.

In all, 60 games take this place this week with only 4 teams drawing a bye, three of which are Big East members Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia.

In games involving teams at the top of the BCS Standings -

No. 1 LSU is a 31.74-point road favorite by the Congrove Computer Rankings to hand Ole Miss its 13th straight conference loss. LSU clinches the SEC West with a win if Mississippi State pulls off the upset of Arkansas at Little Rock.

No. 2 Oklahoma State is a 26.13-point road choice on Friday night at Iowa State. The Cowboys appear to be destined for a season-ending Bedlam clash with Oklahoma to determine the Big 12 title.

No. 3 Alabama is a 60.65-point computer favorite over FCS member Georgia Southern in game that could hurt the Tide's strength of schedule factor in the six BCS computer elements.

No. 4 Oregon hosts a USC team that is ranked 18th in the AP and 20th in the CCR Top 120, and would be in the Top 25 of the BCS if it weren't ineligible due to probation. The computer favors the Ducks by 14.71 points in Autzen Stadium to clinch the PAC-12 North and set themselves up to host the first-ever PAC-12 Championship playoff game.

No. 5 Oklahoma is a 21.21-point favorite at No. 22 Baylor. The Sooners are 20-0 all-time against the Bears.

No. 6 Arkansas is favored in Little Rock by 11.45 points over Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 5-5, but should become bowl eligible with a season-ending home win Ole Miss in their annual Egg Bowl rivalry.

No. 7 Clemson is a 4.60-point favorite at N.C. State. I wouldn't be too surprised of an upset as Clemson has already punched its ticket to Charlotte and the Wolfpack need to win one of their last two to become bowl eligible. They could have achieved that status last week, but were upset 14-10 at Boston College.

No. 8 Virginia Tech is a 13.84-point computer home favorite on Thursday night against North Carolina. A win over the Tar Heels, followed by a Virginia loss at Florida State on Saturday, and the ACC Coastal would be clinched by the Hokies. The Cavaliers are a 19.43-point underdog in Tallahassee.

No. 9 Stanford hosts Cal in the annual Big Game rivalry as a 19.32-point favorite as the Cardinal look to rebound from last Saturday's 53-20 home loss to Oregon. Stanford can still win the PAC-12 North by beating the Golden Bears, but only if Oregon loses each of its last two games (at home) to USC and Oregon State.

No. 10 Boise State is an 18.57-point projected winner at San Diego State. Of course, the Broncos were 15.24-point computer favorites at home last Saturday over TCU.

No. 13 Kansas State visits No. 23 Texas as a 5.74-point underdog. Apparently, I should have told the computer that the Wildcats are actually 6-5 overall against the Longhorns and have won the last three meetings.

No. 18 Michigan gets the computer's nod by 2 points at home over slightly higher-ranked Nebraska (No. 16). Both teams trail Michigan State by a game in the Legends division, but the 'Huskers beat the Spartans while the Wolverines lost to their chief in-state rival. This is only the third meeting between Nebraska and Michigan since 1962 and just the sixth overall as the Wolverines lead the series 3-2-1. It's also the first regular season meeting between these teams since 1962.

No. 15 Michigan State is a 26.62-point home favorite over Indiana. The combination of a Spartan win and a Cornhusker loss this weekend puts Michigan State in the first-ever Big Ten championship game.

No. 21 Penn State controls its destiny in the Big Ten Leaders division, but the Nittany Lions visit Ohio State as a 3.93-point underdog this week, and are currently 16.94-point underdogs at Wisconsin in next week's regular season finale.

Meanwhile, these games also have conference or division title implications -

No. 11 Houston is a 15.33-point home favorite over SMU. The Cougars only to have clear this hurdle to set up a showdown at Tulsa next week for the CUSA West title.

No. 20 Southern Miss should clinch the CUSA East title Thursday night as the Golden Eagles are projected to win by 19.77 at UAB.

No. 19 TCU is a 29.88-point favorite to clinch the Mountain West with a win over Colorado State.

No. 14 Georgia is a surprisingly light 21.36-point favorite between the hedge against Kentucky. A Bulldog win clinches the SEC East, something which no one saw coming after Georgia opened the season 0-2. Their run has been reminiscent of last year's Virginia Tech turnaround.

Cincinnati still has a leg up on the Big East, even after last week's loss to West Virginia and even after the loss of QB Zach Collaros who is out for the rest of the regular season. The Bearcats are a loss ahead of West Virginia, Rutgers and UConn, and essentially two losses ahead of Louisville and Pitt as Cincinnati has already defeated both. This week, the Bearcats are a 2.05-point favorite at the Scarlet Knights.

Ohio and Northern Illinois each control their destiny as front-runners in the MAC divisional races. The Bobcats are favored by 5.53 at Bowling Green on Wednesday night to improve to 5-2 in the MAC East, and the Huskies are projected to beat Ball State by 16.07 points in DeKalb on Tuesday to eliminate the Cardinals from the MAC West chase. However, Ball State also controls its own destiny as it sits just a game behind Northern Illinois and Toledo and faces each of those teams in the final two games.

Two weeks ago, the Pac-12 West was Arizona State's division title to lose - and that's exactly what the Sun Devils have been doing. First, they were upset 29-28 at UCLA. Last week, they were surprised 37-27 at Washington State. ASU is a 12.33-point home favorite over Arizona in the Territorial Cup rivalry game on Saturday. but a loss opens the door even wider for UCLA or Utah.

UCLA is a 5.47-point home favorite over Colorado this week, while Utah is an 8.86-point favorite at Washington State. I wouldn't be shocked if the Buffs and Utes both were upset.

Nevada is 9.93-point favorite at home over Louisiana Tech. Wins this week and next (at Utah State) would wrap up a second straight WAC title for the Wolf Pack, but the same can be said for the Bulldogs. Utah State can claim the title if it beats Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico State in its last three games and Louisiana Tech loses its last two games.

Navy must beat San Jose State and Army in its last two game to become eligible to fulfill its Military Bowl commitment. The Midshipmen are an underwhelming 5.91-point computer favorite at San Jose State this week. Navy last missed the postseason in 2002.

Army was eliminated from postseason consideration with its 27-12 loss to Rutgers last Saturday in Yankee Stadium. The Black Knights ended a 13-year bowl drought with last year's win over SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl.

FBS vs. FCS:
The season's final 4 FBS-FCS games take place this week and all four games involve the SEC. Alabama hosts Georgia Southern, Auburn entertains Samford, Furman heads to Florida, and The Citadel treks up I-26 to visit South Carolina.

FBS teams are 87-6 (.935) in such games for the year and 634-55 (.920) since 2003.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/24: North Dakota St. 37, Minnesota 24
9/24: Sam Houston State 48, New Mexico 45 (OT)
9/24: Southern Utah41, UNLV 16
9/17: Indiana State 44, Western Kentucky 16
9/3: Richmond 23, Duke 21
9/3: Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28

93 FBS teams play a total of 97 games against FCS foes this year. Four schools play two such games - Air Force, Eastern Michigan, N.C. State and Wyoming.

Oklahoma State - 11 straight wins overall. The Cowboys visit Iowa State on Friday.

LSU - 11 straight wins overall. The Tigers visit Mississippi on Saturday.

Houston - 10 straight wins overall. The Cougars host SMU on Saturday.

TCU - 22 straight conference wins. The Horned Frogs host Colorado State on Saturday.

Virginia Tech - 12 straight road wins. The Hokies host North Carolina on Thursday.

New Mexico - 20 straight road losses. The Lobos visit Wyoming on Saturday.

FAU - 12 straight losses overall. The Owls visit Troy on Saturday.

Colorado - 21 straight road losses. The Buffaloes visit UCLA on Saturday.

Mississippi - 12 straight conference losses. The Rebels host LSU on Saturday.

Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State on November 9th. Named defensive coordinator Tom Bradley interim head coach (0-1).

Houston Nutt was forced to resign on November 7th from Mississippi, effective at the end of the year. The Rebels have lost 12 straight SEC games.

Tulane's Bob Toledo resigned on October 18th. Named offensive line coach Mark Hutson interim head coach. The Green Wave are 0-4 under Hutson.

Mike Stoops was fired from Arizona on October 10th. Named defensive coordinator Tim Kish as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The Wildcats are 1-3 under Kish.

Mike Locksley was fired from New Mexico on September 25th. Named defensive coordinator George Barlow as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The Lobos are 1-5 under Barlow.

At the start of the season, 24 FBS teams had a new head coach. Last season saw 23 new head coaches, only 8 of whom matched or exceeded the W-L record of their predecessors' final season.

Based on their performances so far this season, only 6 of these teams are guaranteed of equaling or exceeding their predecessor's win total from a year ago. Another 6 teams have no chance of matching or outperforming their predecessor. (2011 Coaching Changes).

Only 1 game this week matches new head coaches against each other as Pete Lembo and Ball State visit Dave Doeren and Northern Illinois on Tuesday.

Here is how each of the new head coaches is faring this season:

Team Coach Game
Arkansas State Hugh Freeze (8-2) at MTSU
Ball State Pete Lembo (6-4) at Northern Illinois (Tuesday)
Colorado Jon Embree (2-9) vs. UCLA
Connecticut Paul Pasqualoni (4-5) vs. Louisville
Florida Will Muschamp (5-5) vs. FCS member Furman
Indiana Kevin Wilson (1-9) at Michigan State
Kent State Darrell Hazell (4-6) vs. Eastern Michigan
Louisiana-Lafayette Mark Hudspeth (8-3) Idle
Maryland Randy Edsall (2-8) at Wake Forest
Miami (Fla.) Al Golden (5-5) at USF
Miami (O.) Don Treadwell (4-6) vs. Western Michigan (Wednesday)
Michigan Brady Hoke (8-2) vs. Nebraska
Minnesota Jerry Kill (2-8) at Northwestern
North Carolina Everett Withers (Interim) (6-4) at Virginia Tech (Thursday)
North Texas Dan McCarney (4-6) vs. Western Kentucky
Northern Illinois Dave Doeren (7-3) vs. Ball State (Tuesday)
Ohio State Luke Fickell (Interim) (6-4) vs. Penn State
Pittsburgh Todd Graham (5-5) Idle
San Diego St. Rocky Long (6-3) vs. Boise State
Stanford David Shaw (9-1) vs. California
Temple Steve Addazio (6-4) vs. Army
Tulsa Bill Blankenship (7-3) at UTEP
Vanderbilt James Franklin (5-5) at Tennessee
West Virginia Dana Holgorsen (7-3) Idle


is a proud
"Partner of USATODAY College Sports"