The Dozen: Showdown Saturday
November 10, 2017
By Tony Mejia
Editor's Note: Antony Dinero is 26-11 (70%, +1410) over his last 24 college football guaranteed plays. Don't miss out on more winners from him this football season on VegasInsider.com. Click to win!
The following has been true over the past few weeks, but this looks like the most appealing college football card of the season, stacked with tremendous matchups that will directly impact the national championship picture. Here's everything you need to know to handicap the week's top games.
1. Notre Dame at Miami (FL), 8 p.m. ET: Hard Rock Stadium hasn't offered the Hurricanes the same type of homefield advantage they enjoyed at the old Orange Bowl, but the environment for last week's win over Virginia Tech was eye-opening. The hope is that they can recreate that for this rare rivalry game that registers as an event in South Florida and should therefore wind up played in front of a packed house.
The Fighting Irish have only lost once, squandering multiple opportunities in a tight home loss to Georgia. They're generally regarded to boast the country's top offensive line and have an elusive, strong-armed QB in Brandon Wimbush that helps balance out an attack averaging nearly 325 rushing yards per game. Notre Dame leads the country with 7.0 yards per carry, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Josh Adams. Miami ranks 40th in the country in allowing 3.9 yards per carry, so the key to this one will be stunting the Irish ground game to get them off the field. The Canes lead the nation in tackles for loss and will need to keep this from becoming a shootout in order to pull off the home upset. Although the Irish haven't beaten Miami in South Florida since 1977, they won last year's game 30-27 despite squandering a 20-0 lead by allowing 27 consecutive points.
2. Georgia at Auburn 3:30 p.m. ET: While the Bulldogs will remain in the championship chase if they lose this game since they'll reach the SEC Championship as the East Division representative, this is an elimination game for the Tigers before the Iron Bowl since they've already lost to Clemson. Auburn's Kerryon Johnson leads the conference in rushing yards and has scored 16 touchdowns over his team's seven games, so this is an opportunity for him to shine on a national stage against a physical, disciplined defense before squaring off against Alabama later in the month.
Georgia has allowed just three third-quarter points all season and has one of the top running back combos in the country in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Look for a heavy dose of the run game from the Dawgs to keep the pressure off freshman QB Jake Fromm. He threw the ball just seven times in last Saturday's 24-10 win over South Carolina, an indication that head coach Kirby Smart wants no part of him testing himself against the top defenses on the UGA schedule. Auburn definitely qualifies as one of those, which bodes well for an 'under' call. Currently, Bookmaker.eu has the SEC landing two teams in the college football playoff at -260, offering +200 if you want to fade the conference. Spokesman Scott Cooley said the little bit of "smart" money they've taken on this game has come in on UGA.
3. TCU at Oklahoma, 8 p.m. ET: Six of the last seven meetings between these schools have been decided by one possession with last season's game resulting in a 52-46 Sooners win in Fort Worth. Baker Mayfield missed the second half of the last game these two played in Norman, holding on 30-29. He accounted for four scores last season, throwing two and running in a pair. Oklahoma leads the nation in total yards after last week's 62-52 win over Oklahoma State and has scored 42 or more points in six of its nine contests. Conversely, the Horned Frogs have allowed seven or fewer points in five games this season after last week's 24-7 win over Texas. The winner of this game takes sole possession of first place in the Big 12 and moves into the driver's seat to reach the conference's championship game.
TCU would come into this undefeated if it hadn't imploded in the red zone in a 14-7 loss at Iowa State to close October, so it will be looking to get off to a strong start offensive. The Sooners will be without free safety Will Johnson for the first half due to a targeting call and have declared his backup Kahlil Haughton out, so the expectation here is that the Horned Frogs will be aggressive early. The Horned Frogs have shut out their last three opponents in the second half and will be the top unit that OU has run into since winning at Ohio State to start the season. TCU contained Oklahoma State's high-octane attack in late September and last beat the Sooners 37-33 in 2014.
4. Michigan State at Ohio State, 12 p.m. ET: The winner of this one takes control of the East Division and will likely meet Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. While the Buckeyes still have to get through Michigan in Ann Arbor, they have to win out to have any chance to make a third college football playoff appearance in four years. The Spartans were supposed to be rebuilding this season but come off an upset of Penn State and are playing with house money as they take the field in Columbus.
Despite identical records and the fact Michigan State is actually a spot ahead in the latest college football playoff rankings, the Buckeyes are an eyebrow-raising 17-point favorite here. They get starting H-Back Parris Campbell back from a head injury and should feed RB J.K. Dobbins more after he curiously took a back seat in the game plan in last week's puzzling blowout loss at Iowa. Ohio State has yet to allow a punt return this season, but lost to Michigan State in Columbus in 2015 despite facing a backup quarterback. Last year's game saw the Buckeyes hang on 17-16 in East Lansing despite closing as a 21-point favorite.
5. Alabama at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET: The Crimson Tide are roughly a two-touchdown favorite here, the lowest number they've laid since closing as a 7.5-point chalk against Florida State in the season opener. This will only be their third true road game. 'Bama's only competitive SEC game came on the road in College Station in a 27-19 win over Texas A&M nearly one month ago, but only two of their nine opponents have managed to score more than 10 points against their tremendous defense. Corner Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) and DE Da'Shawn Hand (knee) both have injury concerns but are expected to play. Linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Mack Wilson were each lost to season-ending leg injuries at LSU, so the Alabama defense isn't likely to be as formidable as it has been.
Mississippi State has its own injury concerns, as WR Donald Gray is dealing with a groin injury while Gave Myles has also been banged up. The unit lost speedy playmaker Malik Dear last month, but will have Keith Mixon in the mix after an ankle injury. Middle linebacker Dez Harris has also been playing nicked up, so both teams come in hobbled here. The Bulldogs have already surpassed last season's win total and are led by QB Nick Fitzgerald, whose 13 10-yard rushing game are most all-time in the SEC by a quarterback. Johnny Manziel, who gave the tide so much trouble during his stint at A&M, is second with nine. Fitzgerald couldn't prevent last season's 51-3 rout in Tuscaloosa, the ninth straight Tide win in this series.
6. Florida State at Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ET: Say, didn't you used to be FSU? Wasn't this game supposed to be at the top of this list, not that other one involving that other Florida-based ACC team? It's been a nightmare of a season for the Seminoles, who have to win out if they lose this game just to become bowl eligible. While games against Delaware State, Florida and Louisiana-Monroe all appear winnable, this one doesn't. Oddsmakers have made the Tigers a 16-point home favorite as they look for their third straight win in this series. Although a tough assignment awaits in the ACC Championship game, getting through this game means the Tigers only have dates against overmatched in-state foes the Citadel and South Carolina as remaining obstacles between them and the college football playoff.
Kelly Bryant is healthy again after an ankle injury, but went 0-for-10 on downfield passes of 15 or more yards in the 38-31 win against NC State. The Seminoles are hoping to make him a passer as they look to salvage their season after hitting rock bottom in a 35-3 loss at Boston College to end October. FSU survived Syracuse last week but again failed to cover the number and is 0-7-1 against the spread this season. Freshman QB James Blackman has been inconsistent since taking over for standout Deondre Francois and may not have top target Auden Tate for a second straight week due to a foot injury. RB Jacques Patrick, who suffered a knee injury in an Oct. 21 home loss to Louisville and was ruled out the rest of the season, has recovered and will get work alongside exciting freshman Cam Akers as the 'Noles look to move the ball on Clemson.
7. Washington at Stanford, Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET: The Huskies are hoping to win on the Farm for the first time since 2007 and appear to be the Pac-12's only hope to reach the national semifinals. Home wins against UCLA and Oregon on the heels of its upset loss at Arizona State aren't as impressive as they were expected to be when the season began since both have fallen off, but if it wins here, Washington can close with home wins over Utah and Washington State and would likely get USC in the conference title game. Chris Petersen's team likely controls their own destiny to return to the national semis.
Stanford isn't going to be involved in the playoff picture, but can still win the conference and will also attempt to play spoiler since Notre Dame will come through town on Nov. 25. Bryce Love managed just 69 yards on 16 carries in last week's loss at Washington State, so we'll see if he looks closer to his explosive normal self against the national leader in total defense. QB K.J. Costello will start despite throwing for just 105 yards in last week's loss. His ability to tuck and run provides a wrinkle that junior Keller Chryst doesn't bring to the table and will be invaluable here. The Huskies lost another starter for the season with WR Quinten Pounds suffering a non-contact knee injury, so QB Jake Browning will have to develop chemistry with other weapons to compensate for the absence of a receiver who averaged over 20 yards per catch.
8. Iowa at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. ET: The Hawkeyes benefited from Ohio State's hangover after their emotional comeback win against Penn State, but now must face the same danger as they take the field in Madison following a 55-24 romp over the Buckeyes. Iowa isn't going to win the West even if it pulls this upset and is more likely to be up for the home finale against Purdue next week and its rivalry game at Nebraska after Thanksgiving. The Badgers opened as nearly a two-touchdown favorite in a game that's expected to be played in freezing weather and might feature the dreaded wintry mix. For the uninitiated, that's snow and wind and a generally nasty conditions. Is Iowa really going to want to be out there?
The unbeaten Badgers welcome in Michigan next week and close at Minnesota prior to the Big Ten championship, so even though the subject of their inclusion in a national playoff is currently being debated due to the fact they're unbeaten, remaining perfect is going to be a chore. Wisconsin lost its top receiver, Quintez Cephus, for the season against Indiana. He underwent surgery on Thursday and was leading the team in receiving yards and TD catches. Tight end Troy Fumagalli, sophomore A.J. Taylor and freshmen Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor will try and help QB Alex Hornibrook make up the difference, but there's no question losing Cephus is a major blow. Linebacker Chris Orr is out, while safety D'Cota Dixon and a number of backup defensive linemen are questionable. Wisconsin is 65-9 in Madison since 2007.
9. Oklahoma State at Iowa State, 12 p.m. ET: The winner here stays alive for a berth in the Big 12 Championship game, so even though the national title chase is over for both, it can still be a special season despite last week's disappointment. Mason Rudolph threw five touchdowns against Oklahoma in a wild loss and won a 35-31 result in his only trip to Ames back in 2015. Iowa State fell at West Virginia on Saturday, but has already defeated co-leaders Oklahoma and TCU, putting them in the driver's seat to reach a conference title game if they can pull off an upset here. The Cyclones haven't posted a winning record since 2009 and have already won as many games this season as they have the previous two years. The success has Matt Campbell on the short list of every AD looking to make a coaching change following this season, so this could very well be the final home game he coaches at Iowa State.
The Cowboys are hoping to have WR James Washington available since he's been in a walking boot most of the week. One of the nation's top receivers and a likely NFL first-round pick, Washington will likely be careful with his ankle but underwent testing on Wednesday and wasn't ruled out. He might be a game-time decision. With home games against Kansas State and Kansas remaining, the Cowboys are hoping to get another crack at OU and TCU in the conference title game, but will need help in getting there since they lose tie-breakers to both. OSU head coach Mike Gundy has lost on two of his five visits to Iowa State and has won seven of eight in the series.
10. Washington State at Utah, 5:30 p.m. ET: Although Stanford and Washington square off on Friday, the Cougars will control their ability to win the Pac-12 North if they can get out of Salt Lake City with a win. They'll play U-Dub in the Apple Cup in Seattle following next week's bye and have already taken down the Cardinal, so this game means everything to Mike Leach's program, which can close in on its first 10-win season since 2003. The Utes have had a disappointing season and need one more win to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight year.
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Utah wide receiver Darren Carrington will play despite leaving last week's win over UCLA with a limp and a leg issue, so QB Tyler Huntley will have his full compliment of weapons. Kyle Whittingham beat Leach 49-6 in their first meeting, but Washington State has gotten the better of the Utes in the last two games back in '13 and '14. The Cougs have won four of five in Salt Lake City and are looking for the first three-game winning streak for either team in this series.
11. Virginia at Louisville, 3:30 p.m. ET: This season has obviously not gone as envisioned for reigning Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and his Cardinals, who will attempt to get bowl eligible and clinch at least a .500 record here. Following Bronco Mendenhall's 2-10 debut in Charlottesville, Virginia has already claimed its sixth win with last week's upset of Georgia Tech. The 'Hoos will be underdogs here and against Miami and Virginia Tech but are 2-1 in true home games, defeating Boise State and North Carolina. UVa will visit the Hurricanes next week.
This is a great matchup featuring elite safety Quin Blanding attempting to corral Jackson, while 'Ville CB Jaire Alexander is also set to return after missing time with a nagging knee issue and a broken hand. Virginia seemingly always plays the Cards tough, losing just 32-25 as a 33-point underdog last year and 38-31 the previous season. It defeated a ranked Louisville team in Charlottesville in '14.
12. Boise State at Colorado State, 10:30 p.m. ET: The Rams have never defeated the Broncos and look to pull an upset to avoid a three-game losing streak as their season has gone south down the stretch. With a veteran group led by senior QB Nick Stevens and electric WR Michael Gallup, Colorado State was looking forward to having this home game mean everything, so the fact it doesn't and the best it can do is play spoiler and do Wyoming a favor carries some peril. The Rams lost 16-13 in Laramie last week after a 45-28 setback against Air Force and won't have tailback Izzy Matthews due to a collarbone injury. Daylin Dawkins' workload will intensify. You may not recognize the Rams if you tune in since they'll be wearing blue, red and yellow, to celebrate Colorado state pride, incorporating the flag into their uniform design.
The Broncos rank 15th in the nation in total defense and are looking to continue an unbeaten run in conference play. Boise State has surrendered 14 or fewer points in all seven of their wins and have given up an average of 45.5 in the two losses. It will look to shut down the top passing offense in the conference, which has allowed the Rams to rank fourth nationally in third-down conversions at 50.7 percent. WR Cedrick Wilson, who leads Boise with six TD catches, is questionable after leaving last week's homecoming win over Nevada. BSU is 6-0 in the series.
Others: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, West Virginia at Kansas State, USC at Colorado, SMU at Navy, Florida at South Carolina, Michigan at Maryland, Kentucky at Vanderbilt, Purdue at Northwestern, Wake Forest at Syracuse, Nebraska at Minnesota, NC State at Boston College, Florida Atlantic at Louisiana Tech, Duke at Army, Texas Tech at Baylor.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA
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