Week 12 of the 2022 college football schedule marks the beginning of the end. With just two regular-season games remaining it’s time to watch every detail of the postseason – league title matchups, bowl eligibility and the CFP bracket – come into focus.
Win and you’re in! Lose and you’re out… It’s time to make a closing statement.
With only one FBS club taking a scheduled bye, Week 12 serves up 66 games, the most we’ve enjoyed since Week 4. What it doesn’t have is a tangible scenario for a major reshuffle at the top of the charts. In other words, if there is an upset looming this week, it’s not obvious.
Among the top four members of the most recent CFP rankings – also the only undefeated teams still standing – only one, (4) TCU, is favored by fewer than 18 points. The Horned Frogs are only a field-goal favorite over unranked Baylor. Also of note, the two Ranked vs. Ranked matchups this Saturday both have a spread of three points or fewer.
Week 12 is also home to the SEC’s late season “break” with four of its members playing Group of 5 clubs and two clashing with FCS opponents. That leaves just four conference matchups, three of which are between members of the SEC-East.
Here’s this week’s mental checklist:
(1). It’s the final week of a double serving of MACtion with a pair of games on Tuesday and three – with start times in one-hour increments beginning at 6pm ET – on Wednesday.
(2). Thursday night is home to a quality matchup from the AAC which kicks at 7:30pm ET on ESPN.
(3). Friday night offers two Group of 5 contests starting a bit later in the evening: at 9pm ET on ESPN2 and at 9:45pm ET on FS1.
(4). Saturday starts one-hour earlier than usual, with Navy and (20) UCF clashing at 11am ET on ESPN2. After that, the two time slots with the most obvious goodness are early – (4) TCU at Baylor at Noon ET on FOX – and then late, (7) USC visits (16) UCLA at 8pm ET, also on FOX.
(5). Late night is worth staying up for with (10) Utah at (12) Oregon at 10:30pm ET on ESPN.
As a note, the Coastal Carolina at Virginia game, originally scheduled for Saturday at 3:30pm ET, has been canceled after the tragic shooting in Charlottesville.
Tuesday, Nov. 15
7pm ET – ESPNU – Bowling Green at Toledo – Bowling Green won 42-35
7pm ET – ESPN2 – Ohio at Ball State – Ohio won 32-18
Wednesday, Nov. 16
6pm ET – ESPN2 – Eastern Michigan at Kent State
7pm ET – CBSSN – Miami Ohio at Northern Illinois
8pm ET – ESPNU – Western Michigan at Central Michigan
Thursday, Nov. 17
7:30pm ET – ESPN – SMU at (21) Tulane
Despite picking up its second loss vs. (20) UCF last week, Tulane is still home to the No. 13 ranked pass defense in the nation. It’s the same unit that held a Houston offense averaging 303 air yards per game (No. 15 in the FBS) to 208 and a Tulsa group averaging 266 (No. 33) to 146. It makes for an interesting rebound game against SMU, the No. 7 ranked passing attack in the nation. The Mustangs have only squared off with two pass defenses ranked in the top half of the nation this season throwing for a season-low 179 air yards vs. a (25) Cincinnati D giving up, on average, 191 (No. 25 in the FBS) and blasting a Tulsa defense allowing 185 (No. 20) with 310. This is a great matchup.
Friday, Nov. 18
9pm ET – ESPN2 – South Florida at Tulsa
9:45pm ET – FS1 – San Diego State at New Mexico
Saturday, Nov. 19
11am ET – ESPN2 – Navy at (20) UCF
Navy may be struggling to win games this season, but its defense is ranked No. 5 – in the entire nation – against the run. It sets up for an intriguing matchup with a UCF offense that while ranked No. 20 in the FBS in scoring has been more successful on the ground (No. 5 in rushing yards per game) than through the air (No. 48). With only three wins and 17-point underdogs, the Midshipmen may not be the stuff upsets are made of, but don’t be surprised if this one (especially given that the Knights are coming off a big win at No. 21 Tulane last week) isn’t worth watching until the final whistle.
Noon ET – FOX – (4) TCU at Baylor
The common thread in Baylor’s four losses this season is a struggle to establish the running game. Where the Bears averaged 243 rushing yards per game in their six wins, they dropped to a 134-yard mark in the defeats. They are 5-1 when eclipsing the 200-yard rushing plateau. That puts the pressure on a TCU defense that’s done well against the run this year not allowing a single opponent to rush for more than 200 yards. It’s the same group that is fresh from holding a Longhorn attack that averages 176 yards per game to 28.
Also worth noting is TCU’s pass offense, which after averaging 301 yards through its first eight games seems to have stalled, picking up 195 in the win vs. Texas Tech and 124 last week at Texas. Though Baylor’s defense has been all over the place, it’s a unit that completely zapped a Red Raider passing attack averaging 311 yards per game (No. 13 in the FBS), allowing just 159. How did the Bears do it? Well, for one thing they kept Tech’s offense off the field – by establishing the running game and never looking back – possessing the ball for 40:17 vs. the Red Raiders’ 19:43. Could that be the formula to beating TCU?
Noon ET – ABC – Illinois at (3) Michigan
On paper this looks like the big test we’ve all been waiting for Michigan to take. Where the Wolverines’ offense – ranked No. 5 in the FBS scoring – is driven by a rushing attack ranked No. 4 as opposed to a pass game ranked No. 95 – Illinois is ranked No. 6 nationally vs. the run. But Michigan has vanquished great defenses before hanging up 172 rushing yards on an Iowa D giving up 89 (No. 8 in the FBS) and blasting (11) Penn State – a defense allowing 121 (No. 26) – for a season-high 418 ground yards. For the Illini to have a shot in this one they will need a big day from a unit that hasn’t had a big day yet…their pass offense. The only two opponents to come within 13 points of beating Michigan this season are also the only two offenses to pass for more than 240 yards – Maryland (269) and Iowa (246). Illinois’ offense is averaging 219 passing yards per game, No. 86 in the FBS/No. 9 in the Big Ten.
Noon ET – ESPN – Wisconsin at Nebraska
Noon ET – SEC Network – Florida at Vanderbilt
Noon ET – ACC Network – Duke at Pitt
2pm ET – ESPN+ – (15) Kansas State at West Virginia
2pm ET – Pac-12 Network – Washington State at Arizona
2pm ET – ESPN+ – Houston at East Carolina
Week 12’s official Yardage Alert! Tune in to this one to see two of the top passing attacks in the nation take on two of the worst passing defenses. In one corner it’s Houston’s air offense, ranked No. 15 in the FBS, taking on an East Carolina D ranked No. 110 vs. the pass while in the other it’s the Pirates’ No. 16 ranked air attack taking on a Cougar D ranked an appalling No. 129 against the pass. Everything’s coming up touchdowns!
2pm ET – ESPN+ – Georgia State at James Madison
Despite being the selection that nobody is talking about, this game features what may be the best strength vs. strength matchup in Week 12. On one side of the ball, it’s Georgia State’s rushing attack – ranked No. 7 in the entire nation – while on the other it’s James Madison’s rushing D, ranked No. 2 in the entire world. Where the Panthers have rushed for 200-plus yards in eight of their ten appearances, the Dukes have only allowed 100-plus on three occasions. Bonus: Georgia State needs a win in this game and then at Marshall next week to become bowl eligible. JMU, despite being 6-3, won’t go bowling regardless of the outcome, that due to the restrictions imposed in the “two-year transition period” in moving from the FCS to the FBS.
2:15pm ET – ESPN2 – (23) Oregon State at Arizona State
2:30pm ET – NBC/Peacock – Boston College at (18) Notre Dame
3:30pm ET – CBS – (1) Georgia at Kentucky
While Kentucky’s 24-21 loss to 4-6 Vanderbilt last week was shocking, it’s the same Wildcat team that barely survived (21-17) at 4-6 Missouri the week before and that fell 24-14 vs. 6-4 South Carolina in Week 6. So, while yes, they were 4-0 and ranked No. 8 in the AP earlier this season, the fall from grace began earlier than last weekend. It all adds up to UK seeming like the least likely candidate to upset a Georgia squad that looks like a lock to finish the regular season unscathed. BUT – and you knew that was coming – did you know that at No. 17 in the nation in total defense, that Kentucky is far and away the stiffest D that the Bulldogs have faced this season? In fact, UGA has only squared off with two defenses ranked in the top half of the FBS in total D: Missouri (No. 34) and Mississippi State (No. 58). I’m not calling for an upset, I’m just saying that this one might be more interesting than advertised.
3:30pm ET – ABC – (2) Ohio State at Maryland
3:30pm ET – ESPN – Miami Fla. at (9) Clemson
3:30pm ET – Big Ten Network – (11) Penn State at Rutgers
3:30pm ET – FS1 – Texas at Kansas
After holding its first six opponents to, on average, 120 rushing yards per game, Kansas has opened the flood gates in its last four outings, coughing up an average of 237, three of which resulted in a loss. Cue up Texas, home to the No. 11 back in the FBS in junior RB Bijan Robinson (#5), and this one could turn into a track meet.
3:30pm ET – RSN/ESPN3 – (24) NC State at Louisville
3:30pm ET – NFL Network – South Alabama at Southern Miss
4pm ET – FOX – Iowa at Minnesota
This old-school Big Ten matchup features Minnesota’s No. 14 ranked rushing attack – headlined by senior RB Mohamed Ibrahim (#24), No. 1 in the nation in rushing TDs and No. 4 in yards per game – taking on an Iowa defense ranked No. 8 in the FBS vs. the run. Where the Golden Gophers are fresh from hanging up 302 ground yards and four scores on Northwestern, Iowa just neutralized Wisconsin’s ground game allowing a paltry 51 total rushing yards in its 24-10-win last Saturday.
4pm ET – SEC Network – Western Kentucky at Auburn
Auburn is only favored by 5.5-points over Western Kentucky, home to the No. 4 ranked passing attack in the FBS. Though an upset seems like a frolic through Fantasyland, the 7-4 Hilltoppers almost knocked off Indiana in Week 3, pushing the Hoosiers to a 33-30 decision. PS Auburn needs a win over WKU and a win at (8) Alabama next week to get to .500 and be declared bowl eligible.
5:30pm ET – ESPN2 – Georgia Tech at (13) North Carolina
5:30pm ET – Pac-12 Network – Stanford at Cal
6pm ET – ESPN+ – Marshall at Georgia Southern
Tune in to this one to see the No. 8 back in the FBS – Marshall senior RB Khalan Laborn (#8) – take on a Georgia Southern defense ranked No. 129 in the nation vs. the run. Where Laborn has rushed for 100-plus in eight of his ten outings this season, the Eagles have allowed 200-plus in six appearances including giving up 300-plus twice.
7pm ET – ESPN – (5) Tennessee at South Carolina
Tennessee’s high-octane passing attack – ranked No. 2 in the FBS – has only faced two defenses currently ranked in the top 20 percent of the nation vs. the pass: Kentucky (the No. 17 unit) which held the Vols to 245 air yards and Georgia (the No. 21 unit) which gave up a season-low 195. It’s no coincidence that UTs’ only loss came against UGA. What makes South Carolina at least mildly interesting is its No. 29 rank nationally/No. 4 rank in the SEC vs. the pass, making it the third-best defense Tennessee has faced.
7pm ET – FS1 – Texas Tech at Iowa State
After averaging 364 passing yards in its first seven games, Texas Tech has plummeted to a 187-yard mark in its last three appearances. Though the injury to promising freshman QB Behren Morton (#2) certainly hasn’t helped, the Red Raiders seem to have completely lost their offensive mojo. Enter stage left Iowa State, which may be an unthreatening 4-6 but are also ranked No. 12 in the nation/No. 1 in the Big 12 vs. the pass, and this one may be another disappointing offensive performance for a fanbase that wants yards and more of them. PS The Cyclones are one of only four FBS opponents that Tech has played this year that weren’t ranked at game time. PSS If Tech wins, it goes bowling. If Iowa State wins, it will also need a win at (4) TCU next week to be bowl eligible.
7:30pm ET – SEC Network – (14) Ole Miss at Arkansas
7:30pm ET – ABC – (22) Oklahoma State at Oklahoma
8pm ET – FOX – (7) USC at (16) UCLA
After holding its first seven FBS opponents to, on average, 237 passing yards per game, UCLA’s defense has coughed up 330 in its last two outings. While that stretch did include last week’s loss to Arizona – the No. 6 ranked passing attack in the FBS – it also included giving up a season-high 349 air yards to an Arizona State offense averaging 253. This week it’s a USC attack ranked No. 10 in the nation in passing yards per game and trending up. How far up? Well, the Trojans have scored 18 passing TDs and averaged 375 yards in their last four appearances.
8pm ET – ACC Network – Syracuse at Wake Forest
After a 6-0 start Syracuse rose as high as No. 14 in the AP only to drop four-straight. As for Wake, it was 6-1 and No. 10 at the end of October only to drop three-straight. It downgrades this matchup from a ranked vs. ranked affair to a battle for a now-coveted seventh win. It also features a quality strength vs. strength pairing between the Demon Deacons’ passing attack – ranked No. 14 in the FBS/No. 2 in the ACC – taking on a Syracuse defense ranked No. 9 – in the entire nation – vs. the pass. The Orange have only allowed one opponent to pass for more than 200 yards this season – coughing up a whopping 424 to Purdue in a narrow Week 3 win.
9pm ET – ESPN2 – UAB at (6) LSU
9pm ET – Pac-12 Network – Colorado at (17) Washington
In one of the biggest mismatches in Week 12 this one features the No. 1 passing attack in college football taking on one of the worst defenses in the country. Where Washington spent last Saturday hanging up 408 air yards on (12) Oregon, Colorado coughed up 346 passing yards and four TDs to (7) USC. And where the Huskies’ offense is ranked No. 13 in the nation in scoring, averaging 38.4 points per game, the Buffs are No. 131 nationally – or dead last – in scoring D allowing 41.7.
9:45pm ET – FS1 – San Jose State at Utah State
10:30pm ET – ESPN – (10) Utah at (12) Oregon
These two clubs share the same basic statistical DNA – success running the ball paired with success in stopping opponents from running the ball. Where Utah is ranked No. 19 in the nation in rushing offense, Oregon is No. 9 and where the Utes are No. 28 vs. the run, the Ducks are No. 17. What sets the two apart is the ability to successfully defend the pass. Indeed, where Utah is No. 39 in the FBS/No. 1 in the Pac-12 vs. the pass, Oregon is No. 127/No. 12. Regardless of which team wins, look for Utah junior QB Cameron Rising (#7) – No. 22 in the FBS in passer rating – to have a big day.
OFF THIS WEEK (1)
- C-USA: North Texas
FIRST-EVER MEETINGS (3)
- Louisiana at (19) Florida State
- New Mexico State at Missouri
- UMass at Texas A&M
REUNITED…And it feels so good
- Marshall at Georgia Southern (last played in 1996)
7: (18) Notre Dame has won 7-straight over Boston College (last loss in 2008)
7: Iowa has won 7-straight over Minnesota (last loss in 2014)
7: SMU has won 7-straight over (21) Tulane (last loss in 2012)
7: Middle Tennessee has won 7-straight home games over FAU (last loss there in 2004)
7: Buffalo has won 7-straight home games over Akron (last loss there in 2005)
8: Wisconsin has won 8-straight over Nebraska (last loss in 2012)
8: San Diego State has won 8-straight over New Mexico (last loss in 2008)
8: Air Force has won 8-straight home games over Colorado State (last loss there in 2002)
9: Utah State has won 9-straight over San Jose State (last loss in 2008)
12: (1) Georgia has won 12-straight over Kentucky (last loss in 2009)
15: (11) Penn State has won 15-straight over Rutgers (last loss in 1988)
15: Florida has won 15-straight games AT Vanderbilt (last loss there in 1988)
- Maryland has NEVER beaten (2) Ohio State (0-7)
- New Mexico State has NEVER beaten a current SEC member (0-26)
- Rutgers has NEVER beaten (11) Penn State at home (0-7) or in Big Ten play (0-8)
- UMass has NEVER beaten a current SEC member (0-9)
HARDWARE UP FOR GRABS
THE BATTLE OF I-75 TROPHY – Bowling Green at Toledo – Tuesday, 7pm ET, ESPNU – series started in 1919 – Toledo leads 42-40-4 and has won 11 of the last 12.
One of two FBS rivalry awards named after a freeway (UCF and USF participate in the “War on I-4”), the I-75 Trophy replaced the 31-year old Peace Pipe Trophy in 2011. The two schools are located only 30 minutes apart, a quick trip on Interstate 75 in northwestern Ohio. The Rockets have won the newer prize ten times vs. the Falcons once.
THE BEDLAM BELL – (22) Oklahoma State at Oklahoma – Saturday, 7:30pm ET, ABC – series started in 1904 – Oklahoma leads 90-19-7, the Cowboys’ win last season snapped a six-game losing skid.
The original traveling prize for Bedlam was the clapper from the bell that hung in Old Central on the Oklahoma State campus. The first time the Cowboys (originally the Oklahoma A&M Aggies) ever beat the Sooners, in 1917, the bell was rung all night. The clapper was absconded by OU fans after another OSU victory in 1932 and then changed hands until 1966, when the two schools agreed to use it as a trophy. It has since been replaced by a crystal bell that sits atop a base. In 2014, the Bedlam series began awarding a trophy that features 80 pounds of Oklahoma granite, a prize which many enthusiasts hope to phase out.
THE FLOYD OF ROSEDALE – Iowa at Minnesota – Saturday, 4pm ET, FOX – series started in 1891 – Minnesota leads 62-51-2 but Iowa has won seven-straight.
One of the most unique FBS trophies, the Floyd of Rosedale is a bronze statue of a pig honoring an actual pig. The original animal was the price of a bet on the 1935 game between Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson and Iowa Governor Clyde Herring. The pig, a prize hog, hailed from Rosedale, Iowa. The Golden Gophers won the real pig in a 13-6 decision, ultimately finishing the season 8-0 and capturing the second of three consecutive national titles. Since then, the Hawkeyes have brought home the bacon – the bronze edition of Floyd – 43 times vs. the Gophers’ 41. The 1970 and 1951 contests both ended in ties.
THE FREEDOM TROPHY – Wisconsin at Nebraska – Saturday, Noon ET, ESPN – series started in 1901 – Wisconsin leads 11-4 and has won eight-straight and ten of the last 11.
The Freedom Trophy debuted in 2014, “paying tribute to the brave men and women who have fought in our nation’s wars.” The trophy itself depicts one half each of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium (built on a Civil War training ground) and Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium (dedicated to veterans). An American flag rises out of the conjoined arenas. The Badgers have won all seven games where The Freedom Trophy was on the line.
THE OLD BRASS SPITTOON – Indiana at Michigan State – Saturday, Noon ET, Big Ten Network – series started in 1922 – Michigan State leads 49-17-2 and has won four of the last five.
Awarded since 1950, legend has it that the Spittoon was originally purchased at a Lansing antique store by Michigan State grad Gene McDermott. But why? Well, “in order to avoid a letdown in the game against Indiana just a week after knocking off rival Notre Dame.” Did it work? Absolutely – the Spartans blanked the Hoosiers 35-0 and took possession of the Spittoon first. MSU has won Ye Ole’ Spit Cup 50 times vs. Indiana’s 13, the 1977 game ended in a tie.
THE RAM-FALCON TROPHY – Colorado State at Air Force – Saturday, 9pm ET, FS2 – series started in 1957 – Air Force leads 37-21-1 and has won five-straight.
Awarded to the winner of the annual game between the two Mountain West members hailing from Colorado, the Ram-Falcon was the brainchild of the Air Force ROTC unit at Colorado State. First awarded in 1980, the trophy is a depiction of, what else, but a Ram and Falcon – a rare combo in the animal kingdom – squaring off atop a wooden base. Air Force has captured the prize 26 times vs. CSU’s 15.
THE STANFORD AXE – Stanford at Cal – Saturday, 5:30pm ET, Pac-12 Network – series started in 1892 – Stanford leads 60-45-10 but the two have split the last four, the visiting team winning on each occasion.
Awarded to the winner of the Big Game, the story of the Axe dates to 1899 when the two schools met for a trio of baseball contests. That’s when the Axe was purchased, “probably from Sears” by Stanford fans and painted red. Cardinal enthusiasts used the Axe to chop up a variety of Cal related items, including beheading a scarecrow wearing school colors. After Stanford blew a late lead in the final game of the series, Cal fans stole the Axe.
After spiriting it back to Berkeley, Golden Bear fans held on to the prize for 30 years. That’s when, in 1930, a group of Stanford students referred to as the “Immortal 21” by their school and the “Immoral 21” by Cal, stole the Axe back. In 1933 the schools decided to award the Axe to the winner of the Big Game. To date, Stanford has won the implement 48 times vs. 35 for Cal. Three games (1988, 1953 and 1950) ended in ties.
THE VICTORY BELL – (7) USC at (16) UCLA – Saturday, 8pm ET, FOX – series started in 1929 – USC leads 49-33-7 but the two have split the last four.
One of nine bells associated with FBS rivalries, USC and UCLA’s Victory Bell dates to 1939 when the UCLA Alumni Association gave the bell, a massive 295-pounder off a locomotive, to its alma mater. The Bruins rang the bell after each football point for two seasons until 1941, when members of a USC fraternity disguised as UCLA fans, stole the bell during the season opener. After a series of shenanigans, the two schools signed an agreement before the 1942 game to award the bell to the winner of the cross-town rivalry. As was originally the case in North Carolina and Duke’s Victory Bell, the recipient earns the privilege of painting the bell’s carriage in its school colors, an honor the Trojan’s have earned 46 times vs. the Bruins’ 33. Four games (1989, 1971, 1958, and 1944) ended in ties.
THE VICTORY CANNON and MICHIGAN MAC TROPHY – Western Michigan at Central Michigan – Wednesday, 8pm ET, ESPNU – series started in 1905 – Western Michigan leads 51-40-2 and has won six of the last eight.
An actual trophy as opposed to an actual weapon, the Victory Cannon honors the cannons that both Central Michigan and Western Michigan traditionally discharge on game days. First awarded in 2008, it’s the traveling prize associated with what’s also known as the “Central-Western” rivalry. WMU has won the Cannon eight times vs. CMU’s six.
It’s also the second leg of the three-pronged Michigan MAC Trophy, awarded since 2005 to the annual victor in the Central Michigan/Eastern Michigan/Western Michigan series. EMU beat WMU 43-23 on Oct. 8. If CMU can vanquish the Broncos this week, it will make the victor in next week’s game between the Chippewas and Eagles the winner of this year’s Michigan MAC. WMU leads the overall competition with seven Michigan MACs followed by CMU (the current title holder) with six and EMU (which hasn’t won since 2012) with four.
This Saturday night’s clash between (7) USC and (16) UCLA marks the first time since 2014 that both clubs are ranked at game time. The ’14 contest had the then No. 24 Trojans visiting the No. 11 Bruins, with UCLA coming out on top 38-20. For the Bruins, it was the third season of the Jim Mora era while for USC it was the first – and only full year – of the Steve Sarkisian experiment.
It’s also the first time in 18 years – or since 2004 – that both clubs are ranked in the Top 20 at kickoff. The No. 1 Trojans blasted the No. 11 Bruins 66-19 that year and went on to fall memorably in the Rose Bowl/BCS National Championship 41-38 to No. 2 Texas.