Phil’s Picks of the Week
We’re deep into the season now at Week 12, and the frontrunners for the playoff look fairly well established. Mind you, a lot comes down to the Auburn Tigers’ date in Tuscaloosa, as well as Michigan’s visit to the Horseshoe, on November 26th. But these days are prime time for upsets, as teams looking ahead to other contests get blindsided by conference rivals picked to lose by 30-plus points (certainly not an allusion to ‘Bama’s contest versus the Bulldogs of Miss State this weekend).
Baylor at 11 Oklahoma
The Baylor Bears and their inconsistent offense head to Norman to face the streaking Sooners, who haven’t lost since facing the Ohio State Buckeyes in Week 3. After a middling performance against woeful Iowa State, the Sooners will have something to prove against a Bears offense that’s shown signs of slowing down in recent matchups. After a strong 6-0 start, top 10 ranking and rumblings of a conference championship amongst controversy, the Bears are now on a two-game slide and the play of quarterback Seth Russell has been partly to blame. After a strong start to the season with 1148 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and a completion rate of 60% in his first four games, Russell hasn’t been as strong lately. In the 62-22 loss to TCU last week he failed to gain any positive yardage on the ground, after picking up 138 yards rushing in the loss to Texas the week before. If he can’t get it going against a Sooner defense averaging 230 yards allowed in their last two matchups, the Bears’ slide will continue.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, will have both Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon available for the first time since Week 7 against Kansas State, and it’s a good time to have them back. Baylor is 101st in rushing defense, averaging 205.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with average yards per rush of 4.25. As bad as they are against the run, they are nearly as equally effective against the pass: ranked 18th in the nation, they average 181.6 passing yards per game and have only allowed six touchdowns through the air all year. The Bears, meanwhile, will see their rushing attack suffer as Shock Linwood will miss the game due to disciplinary reasons. Baylor has ‘backs enough to fill in, but OU’s favorite battering ram and shifty back combo will be the difference makers in this one.
Oklahoma 42 Baylor 31
16 West Virginia at Texas
Upset of the Week
The Mountaineers got a wake-up call a couple of weeks ago in Stillwater, and this will be a chance as any to show that that game was a fluke. At 5-4, Texas isn’t exactly in line for a Big 12 title this year, but the ‘Horns are the last team you’d expect to just lay down and roll over. Texas is averaging 507 yards of offense per game, which should help them get past a Mountaineers defense that gives up almost 400 yards a game and gave up three (Three!) touchdowns to Kansas last week at home (tied for the second most points Kansas has scored against an FCS opponent this season). Texas’ defense hasn’t been much better, averaging 465 yards and four touchdowns allowed per game. They’ve been especially bad against the pass this year, which isn’t a great sign when facing a team ranked in the top 25 in passing offense. The home field advantage of Darrell K. Royal Stadium will certainly help, and I think that will give the Longhorns the edge in what should be another Big 12 shootout this weekend.
If the Mountaineers go down, it nearly ensures that the Big XII Championship will be up for grabs in Norman on December 3rd when the Cowboys come to town.
Texas 45 West Virginia 41
20 USC at 4 Washington
Phil’s No Frills Lock of the Week
For my “No Frills Lock of the Week,” the game guaranteed to have the most chills, spills and thrills of any college football matchup this weekend, look no further than the matchup of the upsurging Trojans and the high-flying Huskies. This game could be a preview of the Pac 12 Championship game, as the Trojans just need the Colorado Buffaloes to drop one more game after their upset win in Los Angeles in Week 6 in order to slip into first in the Pac 12 South. But they’ll need to somehow get past the Huskies too, and that’s a task no team as yet has been able to complete. Thanks in part to stellar play by surprisingly athletic redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold, the Trojans have gone on a five-game tear, scoring 40-plus points in four out those five games. This will be the Huskies toughest test since a 31-24 win in Utah in Week 9, and they’ll need quarterback Jake Browning to continue playing on the extremely high level he’s been playing on. Browning has an astounding touchdown to completion rate of about one in four, which if it continues will set an NCAA record. He faces a defense that averages an interception per game, no surprise considering it features talented corners Iman Marshall and Adoree Jackson, who have snagged two each. The difference for the Huskies will be their ground game combo of bruiser Myles Gaskin and speedster Lavon Coleman: Gaskin has eight touchdowns on the season, while Coleman is averaging an astonishing 9.1 yards per carry. The Trojans’ defense can’t stifle these two and shut down Browning, and so the Huskies should continue to roll.
Washington 30 USC 21
All rankings are according to official College Football Playoff Selection Committee Week 12 Rankings