With everything that has taken place in 2016, it’s hard to believe it’s almost over. Some might say it’s finally almost over, but it’s almost over. We’re two weeks from carving into turkey here in the States, and we’ll then be on the hill downward toward championship games, Christmas and bowl games.
We have a fun group of games this week, including what — to me, at least — might be one of the three most fun non-P5 games we see this year. I’m going to try a slightly different strategy with this week’s picks. If you want to voice your opinion on who wins this week, the comments section is all yours!
We’ve got six games and a trivia question to cover, and not much time to do so, so let’s get rolling! We’ll break down three games on our podcast and three in the written format. To hear the breakdown of the first three games, along with the trivia question (and answer), just press the Play button directly below!
Once you’ve sampled those three, check out the remaining three!
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#25 Baylor (6-2, 3-2 Big 12) at #9 Oklahoma (7-2, 6-0 Big 12)
Noon | ABC/ESPN2
- Shock and naw: Star Baylor running back Shock Linwood will not play against the Sooners, for what were deemed as “attitude issues”. Linwood allegedly pushed an assistant coach on the sidelines during the Bears’ blowout loss to TCU last Saturday. The loss will not be debilitating — sophomore rusher Terence Williams leads the club with 691 rushing yards and eight scores — but Linwood provides a solid change of pace. Freshman JaMycal Hasty would be slated to be the backup, and while he averages 5.61 yards per carry on the year, he notched just 42 yards on 12 carries in the TCU loss.
- Strange series: Baylor has three wins in 25 tries against the Sooners, and they have all come from 2011 on. Oklahoma won the first 20 games of the series between the early ’70s and 2010, but the Bears have taken three of the last five. Baylor also clobbered Oklahoma the last time they faced off in Norman, beating the Sooners 48-14 on November 8, 2014. This game will mark the first time Baylor has played a ranked opponent all year.
- Running back to you: Oklahoma has been forced to become accustomed to life without its top two running backs. That should not be the case this week. Samaje Perine, who set the single-game FBS record for rushing yards in a game with 427 two seasons ago, should play after missing three games. Fellow star runner Joe Mixon is also slated to play. Perine and Mixon have combined to rush for 1288 yards and 13 scores, despite missing four combined games. Despite overall defensive improvement, Baylor’s rush defense has struggled to a 101st-best rushing defense, allowing nearly 206 yards per game.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: A third straight loss would only add to a suddenly spiraling Baylor season. K-State, Texas Tech and West Virginia await the Bears.
Minnesota (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) at #21 Nebraska (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten)
7:30pm | BTN
- Quieting the skeptics: Minnesota is tied for first on its side of the Big Ten, but there is still some skepticism about the Gophers. Minnesota has not played a ranked team in nearly a calendar year, and its four straight league wins came against teams with five combined Big Ten victories (Maryland, Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue). However, Minnesota’s sports information department points out that this Gopher senior class is its winningest in a decade, tallying 29 wins (and counting). They would need two additional wins to eclipse that 2006 group.
- Reading the rankings: This will be the fourth time in six meetings as Big Ten opponents in which Nebraska is ranked in the AP Top 25. The Huskers have won two of the prior three, beating the Gophers 41-14 in 2011 and 38-14 in 2012, before falling 28-24 in 2014. Coincidentally, the Huskers were also ranked 21st going into that 2014 loss. Minnesota has won 31 of the schools’ prior 56 meetings, with Nebraska winning 10 of the 19 in Lincoln.
- Investigating the numbers: Minnesota possesses the nation’s 23rd-ranked total defense. Its consistency has been somewhat surprising, as the Gophers are allowing just five yards more per game to conference foes than non-league opponents. The unit’s two highest yards totals allowed this season have come in the last three games, however, with Rutgers logging 372 yards and Purdue 414. The Gophers have also held back-to-back opponents under 100 rushing yards, after a string of six games in which the opposition rushed for 109 yards or greater. That trend — or its reversal — could tell the tale in Lincoln.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Minnesota controls its own destiny, with this game, hosting Northwestern and closing the season at Wisconsin. Can it capitalize?
USC (6-3, 5-2 Pac-12) at #4 Washington (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12)
7:30pm | FOX
- Because we haven’t heard enough about polls this week: It’s been 15 seasons since USC last faced a ranked Washington team. The most recent contest USC has played against a top-four Husky squad came in 1992. Then-top ranked Washington won a hard-fought 17-10 victory over the Trojans in Seattle. That Washington team would go on to win what was then the Pac-10 — interestingly enough, they lost the Apple Cup that year — before losing to Michigan in the Rose Bowl. USC finished that campaign 6-5-1 (5-3).
- Top dog: UW’s Jake Browning has enjoyed quite the season as the Huskies’ signal-caller. Browning joins just five other FBS quarterbacks with 30 touchdown throws on the year, sharing the lead (34) with Toledo’s Logan Woodside. Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield have 31 apiece, while Cal’s Davis Webb and Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Higgins are tied with 30. Browning has been picked just three times on the season, with only one coming in his last five games (October 29 at Utah). The Husky sophomore has thrown for 22 scores against just two picks in Pac-12 play, completing 65.8 percent of his tosses.
- Healthy competition: Browning has been stellar in league play, but USC’s Sam Darnold — on some fronts, at least — may even be arguably more impressive. Sure, his touchdown numbers are slightly smaller — only 18 scores against Pac-12 competition — but he has completed 68.5 percent of his attempts (137-for-200) within the conference. Darnold has just six starts, but the Trojans are 5-1 in that stretch. The redshirt freshman has thrown for multiple scores in each of those five wins. Darnold’s defensive counterparts have also helped. The Trojan defense, which had allowed 400-plus yards in three of its first four games, has done so just once in its five-game winning streak, a 475-yard output by Cal on October 27.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: USC is clearly a different team on both sides of the ball with Darnold under center. This will be a huge test of their resurgence.