It’s Thanksgiving week here at Clear Your Schedule, and the schedule makers have apparently decided that we won’t get enough turkeys on our tables this Thursday. We’ve found six worthy games to break down with you this week, though, including another first for this column! We’ve also got a particularly challenging trivia question, and a shoutout to some friends of the feature. Curious? You should be! If you want more, you’ll need to click that tantalizing little Play button right below you!
And now, for the rest of our games!
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
Miami (6-4, 3-3 ACC) at NC State (5-5, 2-4 ACC)
12:30pm | ACC Network (split)
- Hitting the lanes: NC State looks to become the tenth ACC club to become bowl-eligible with a win this Saturday against the ‘Canes. Miami secured bowl eligibility by clobbering Virginia, 34-14, last week. The Wolfpack have missed a bowl just once in the last six seasons (2013). Louisville, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Pitt and Georgia Tech are all currently eligible, with Syracuse, Duke and Boston College all still alive at 4-6.
- Looks can be deceiving: NC State possesses a top-20 total defense (344.4 yards per game), but a closer inspection reveals some things about the Wolfpack. NC State’s rush defense carries the day, as the fourth-ranked unit surrenders just 99.3 yards per game. The ‘Pack don’t fare as well through the air, however, as their 245 yards per game ranks 84th among FBS clubs. This number gets considerably worse against league teams, as ACC foes are throwing for just shy of 300 yards per contest. Three of NC State’s four league losses — all consecutive — saw opponents throw for 330 yards or greater.
- What gives?: NC State has not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. The last back to crack the century mark against the ‘Pack came last season, when North Carolina’s Elijah Hood toted the rock 21 times for 220 yards and two scores. Miami’s Mark Walton has five 100-yard games this season, and has totaled 236 yards in his last two contests. NC State has surrendered just 259 combined rushing yards in its last three contests.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The insistence from Raleigh is that Dave Doeren is in no trouble. When you’ve won eight of 30 ACC games, however…
#20 Washington State (8-2, 7-0 Pac-12) at #12 Colorado (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12)
3:30pm | FOX
- Rarefied air: Colorado has not started a season 8-2 since it started 10-2 in its 2001 Fiesta Bowl season. Those Buffaloes fell to Oregon, 38-16, in that Fiesta Bowl after a year that saw two separate five-game winning streaks. The Buffs finished the 2002 season with a 7-1 record in Big 12 play, and this year’s squad has the chance to equal that record for the first time since the year that saw The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers gross over 926 million dollars worldwide to top the box office. Washington State, meanwhile, has started the Pac-12 schedule 8-0…exactly never. The Cougars are trying to win their ninth game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Mike Price and Bill Doba’s squads pulled off three straight ten-win seasons in 2001-2003. A win would give Mike Leach’s charges just their eighth nine-win season in the last 30-plus.
- Falk on an island: Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, as the Cougar sports information department lets us know, is the career leader among active FBS passers in yards per game at 358.4. The junior has posted video game-like numbers this year, throwing for 3610 yards and 33 scores, against just six picks. Falk has also completed nearly 74 percent of his throws. The Buffaloes aren’t having any of that, though, as their 10th-ranked pass defense has other ideas. Opposing passers have completed just 50.9 percent of their throws against CU, throwing for a paltry 176.9 yards per tilt. Four straight games have passed without an opponent throwing for 200 yards against Colorado, and while that seems unlikely to repeat this week, they seem to be up to the challenge.
- Limiting Lindsay: Colorado running back Philip Lindsay has come on strong over the Buffs’ last four contests, breaking the hundred-yard mark in three. The junior is now tied for third on the Buffs’ career all-purpose yardage list with 3,622, and has found the end zone seven times in four games. For all the attention Washington State’s offense receives, however, its 19th-ranked rush defense will look to slow the star’s success. Just one conference opponent (Oregon with 214) has snapped the 200-yard rushing mark against the Cougars, and the Wazzu defense has kept its last two opponents scoreless on the ground.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Everyone had this marked down as possibly the Pac-12 game of the year when the season began, right? Get ready.
#8 Oklahoma (8-2, 7-0 Big 12) at #10 West Virginia (8-1, 5-1 Big 12)
8:00pm | ABC
- On the up and up: West Virginia will look to reverse a trend that, if continues, could result in an ugly finish for the Mountaineers on Saturday. West Virginia has allowed more yardage game-over-game for each of the last four, culminating in last week’s 536-yard total by Texas in a game WVU somehow won, 24-20. Opponents have gained 300, 358, 441 and 536 yards in those most recent four games, and a larger yardage total this week would likely place Dana Holgorsen’s club on the business end of a boat racing by the Sooners.
- All three phases: Special teams are often viewed as an integral component in winning games, and the Mountaineers are somehow the nation’s third-worst team in punt return average. West Virginia averages 1.65 yards per return, and has the lowest positive average per return among FBS teams. Only UNLV (-0.08 yards per return) and Kansas (-1 yard per return) fare worse. Oklahoma, conversely, averages 10.91 yards per punt return.
- Flipping the script: Oklahoma started its season 1-2, falling to Houston and Ohio State, while beating ULM. The Sooners have not lost since, and two players are key reasons behind that seven-game burst. Oklahoma’s sports information department notes that receiver Dede Westbrook (207.7) and running back Joe Mixon (200.0) are second and fourth nationally in all-purpose yards per game. Mixon leads the nation in the category for the season, tallying 193.9 yards per outing. Westbrook is eighth, at 164.3.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The Sooners seem unstoppable lately, but Milan Puskar on a Saturday night gives WVU as good a crack at it as anyone.
May you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving holiday, though another edition of Clear Your Schedule awaits as…a holiday present, let’s say. For those hitting the roads and skies, safe travels!