Picks for Week 12’s biggest college football games
Wes Huber selects winners for Ohio State-Michigan State, Oklahoma-TCU, and the rest of Week 12's biggest games.
Picks for Week 12’s biggest college football games
Here are picks and score predictions for the biggest games of Week 12 of the college football season:
No. 9 Michigan State at No. 3 Ohio State
Line: Ohio State -13.0
Contenders from both the Big Ten and Big 12 have found criticism based on the lack of statement wins, and both conferences are in the process of quelling those doubts. The Spartans received a significant scare when QB Connor Cook injured his shoulder last week against Maryland. He is apparently back to 100 percent health, but will need LT Jack Conklin to avoid the poor play he displayed against Maryland (one sack, one hit, and two hurries allowed) to maintain that upright status facing PFF’s top-graded pass rush.
While Ohio State can be found within the top-20 in most meaningful team defensive statistical categories, the Michigan State defense can also be found within the top-40 of those measures. A disturbing trend from the Spartans has emerged while facing Big Ten opponents, allowing an average of 26.7 points and 353.6 total yards per game prior to the Maryland game. Whereas Ohio State has only allowed greater than 20 points or 350 yards twice — all season.
There is little doubt that the Michigan State defense can perform well above those numbers, especially considering that the pass rush is currently the 10th-best within PFF standards, and their run defense is only allowing 121.0 yards per game. Far and away the most exploitable factor of the Spartans defense is a secondary grading as the 18th-worst in the country, allowing 243.0 yards per game and 12.72 yards per completion. Playing at home and offering statistical superiority throughout, the Buckeyes will prevail, but don’t be surprised if the game concludes within the expected spread.
Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan State 23
No. 12 Memphis at Temple
Line: Memphis -1.5
Three weeks ago, this matchup offered up potential playoff implications. That is, until both schools suffered a pair of defeats — one close, and the other of the embarrassing variety. Temple displayed every bit of the defensive form expected in a heart-breaking defeat to Notre Dame, but allowed a surging South Florida program to rack up 556 yards of offense en route to a 44-23 shellacking. Last week, Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. was injured early in the Tigers’ much-anticipated AAC meeting, but Memphis allowed the Cougars to score 21 unanswered points to close out the game, and culminating in replacement QB Kyle Postma’s seven-yard TD run to seal the comeback.
The Owls’ success will hinge on the health of RB Jahad Thomas, who injured his ribs against the Fighting Irish, and has fought through the pain with decent results. The Temple offense is entirely dependent on the success of the running game and they will need that area to excel in order to keep up with Memphis’ national sixth-ranked scoring offense. The Tigers are also hoping that one of their top playmakers is available and healthy, as WR Anthony Miller left the Houston game with a hamstring injury.
The Vegas intellect hit the nail on the head in predicting this exciting matchup and it wouldn’t surprise me if the spread were to approach even prior to kickoff. Consider that Temple can be found as PFF’s 39th-highest-graded overall team and Memphis at 41st. There should be zero doubts that the impressive Temple defense will be present, but the Owls will be simply unable to properly exploit Memphis’ highly vulnerable secondary, and that will be the deciding factor.
Prediction: Memphis 27, Temple 23.
Indiana at Maryland
Line: Maryland -2.5
Make no mistake: Maryland is not your typical 2-8 opponent. Following an impressive Week 6 showing against Ohio State, the Terrapins have provided formidable challenges to Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin, and in last week’s 24-7 loss to Michigan State they actually led the Spartans in offensive yardage (289 versus 262). It is true that Maryland has lost each of those games during a seven-game losing streak, but the catalyst for the competitive play has been QB Perry Hills. His ability to carry the team with his legs has been paramount to an offense greatly lacking in difference-making personnel.
The other factor in the Terrapins’ improved play has been the outstanding pass rush created by OLB Yannick Ngakoue (12 sacks and 27 hurries) and the defensive line’s ability to control the line of scrimmage. They will be in for more than they can handle in Week 12, as Indiana RB Jordan Howard has returned from an ankle injury to average 163.7 rushing yards, two TDs, and 86.3 yards after contact per game against the stifling run defenses of Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan. Indiana is most vulnerable to the pass, an area in which the Maryland offense has greatly struggled to produce, meaning the Hoosiers have a good opportunity to end their own six-game skid.
Prediction: Indiana 35, Maryland 31
No. 12 Michigan at Penn State
Line: Michigan -3.5
It may come as a shock, but, despite a 7-3 record, Penn State has yet to secure a victory at home, and have won every road game this season. Penn State fields five components at the heart of its success: RB Saquon Barkley, WR Chris Godwin, and D-linemen Austin Johnson, Carl Nassib, and Anthony Zettel. It should come as little surprise, considering the lack of offensive linemen and defensive backs within that list, that the Penn State issues this season have entirely centered upon subpar blocking and a porous secondary.
As for Michigan (outside of spotting opposing teams 55.9 penalty yards per game), only Alabama and Ohio State offer defensive units with the same ability to completely dominate their opponents. No fewer than nine players within the Wolverines’ defense present immediate NFL-ready talent, but their offense has failed, overall, to materialize. You might be guessing that QB Jake Rudock would be at the heart of those issues, and it’s true that he grades out as PFF’s 102nd overall QB to date — but his play has greatly improved over the last few weeks, posting the highest grade in the country over the last two weeks.
Despite Michigan’s poor blocking and the fact the team has struggled on the road, the defense alone is worth more than 3.5 points, and Michigan will bring a 9-2 record into a Week 13 matchup against Ohio State.
Prediction: Michigan 27, Penn State 21
No. 15 LSU at No. 22 Ole Miss
Line: Ole Miss -4.5
Recent reports state that LSU head coach Les Miles will be coaching for his job against Ole Miss. Despite starting the year with seven consecutive victories, significant defeats at the hands of Alabama and Arkansas have left the team searching for answers. The most obvious culprit being the Tigers’ lack of quality opponents faced prior to its two-game losing streak. An argument could be made that their victory over Florida was a statement win, but the Gators have backed into their SEC East crown following the suspension of QB Will Grier. LSU is simply unable to stop the run, and that fact was exploited by both Alabama and Arkansas (274.5 rushing yards per game).
Ole Miss has spiraled downward following their embarrassing defeat to Florida (with Grier on the field), losing to Memphis and Arkansas and narrowly edging Auburn. The Rebels have allowed opponents to accumulate 425-plus total yards of offense in three of their last four games and will face a highly motivated LSU squad looking to ensure Miles keeps his job. Even with a bye week for Ole Miss to prepare, look for LSU to top the spread, and hand the Rebels their second consecutive defeat in Oxford.
Prediction: LSU 31, Ole Miss 30
Navy at Tulsa
Line: Navy -12.0
The head-scratching line of the week finds Navy as a mere 12-point favorite. Among their eight victories, Navy has defeated opponents by an average of 23.6 points per game, and only two of those wins came by less than 17 points. The underrated defenses of South Florida and Connecticut were the only schools able to keep the Midshipmen under 30 points and within 12 points of defeat. Consider that all but one of Tulsa’s defeats were by at least 13 points and that the Golden Hurricane defense ranks 115th in defending the run. The lock of the day, Navy secures a decisive victory over a defensively challenged Tulsa team, and we are left wondering how the AAC failed to schedule a Houston/Navy matchup within the West division.
Prediction: Navy 52, Tulsa 34.
No. 10 Baylor at No. 6 Oklahoma State
What can we really draw from Baylor’s loss to Oklahoma? Were the Sooners able to overcome a previously tough defense? No. Did the Bears face an opponent that was able to lock down their offense? Actually, yes and no. At the end of the third quarter, Oklahoma led 34-27, but the Sooners offense had only generated 38 more yards, and each team had run 64 plays with nearly identical time of possessions. The difference in the game can be attributed to the play in the fourth quarter. Baylor lost the time of possession battle 5-to-1 and true freshman QB Jarrett Stidham completed 2-of-4 passes for 44 yards and an interception.
Stidham will enter Stillwater healing from a sore back and facing an Oklahoma State defense that played a nearly identical fourth quarter to that of the Sooners while facing another young-and-promising QB in Iowa State’s Joel Lanning. The Cowboys actually entered the fourth quarter down 31-21, but absolutely dominated the game from that point forward. Oklahoma State won the time of possession battle 2-to-1, held Lanning to 3-of-6 passing for 22 yards and an INT, and QB Mason Rudolph completed 8-of-10 passes for 110 yards that led to two scores.
Don’t be confused with the idea that the Cyclones are not a formidable opponent based upon their 3-7 record. Lanning took over at QB for Iowa State when facing Baylor in Week 8 and the momentum in that game immediately shifted. The Cyclones followed that with a shutout of Texas before falling to the dominance of the Sooners. Considering the growing pains displayed by Stidham, especially within the fourth quarter, as well as that the Bears will play on the road, our pick is the Cowboys here. They will emerge with another victory that will pit them against Oklahoma in Week 13 with everything on the line.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 47, Baylor 39.
Tulane at SMU
Line: SMU -3.0
This is definitely not the most exciting contest, but it’s another AAC matchup that provides value, nonetheless. We are presented with the defense allowing the 104th-most points per game (Tulane) against the team allowing the most in the nation (SMU). When Tulane faced UCF — which allows the FBS’ 112th-most points – in Week 5, the Green Wave offense generated 45 points. SMU may not play much defense, but their offense has exceeded 30 points in half of their games, and average 28.4 points and nearly 400 yards of offense per game. The spread is, most likely, leaning slightly in the wrong direction, but the over/under is completely out-of-place. This game will exceed 58.5 points by the end of the third quarter.
Prediction: Tulane 45, SMU 42
Follow Wes on Twitter: @PFF_Wes
Wes Huber | Analyst
Wes is an analyst and fantasy correspondent at Pro Football Focus. He's been with the company since 2014, and his work has been featured on DraftKings Playbook and FantasyPros.