It's hard to believe Week 12 is already here. After several high profile matchups last week and a lot of movement in the polls, this week's schedule has only one game between ranked opponents. We'll look at TCU's trip to Texas Tech with a depleted lineup, a terrific Wake Forest offense hosting NC State and the Battle for Los Angeles between UCLA and USC.
No. 12 TCU at Texas Tech, Noon (FS1); TCU -7.0
Prediction: TCU wins a close one
After a second straight road loss to Oklahoma, TCU still controls it's destiny in getting to the Big 12 title game and a potential rematch with the Sooners. They visit Lubbock and a Texas Tech team that ended their four-game skid with a win at Baylor last weekend 38-24. Last season's matchup saw a tightly contested battle when the Red Raiders won in double overtime 27-24 in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs have not forgotten that and are playing for much more, but they'll be without leading rusher Darius Anderson for the rest of the season after he injured his leg against the Sooners.
The TCU Horned Frogs have a big road test on their hands and a slew of injuries to deal with. Starting quarterback Kenny Hill was listed as questionable as of yesterday but Coach Gary Patterson has stated that freshman Shawn Robinson is ready to go if needed. Robinson has appeared in five games this year completing 7-of-10 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Kyle Hicks is back and will need to step up in Anderson's absence. The big question mark is on the defense with leading tackler Travin Howard listed as questionable. Knowing the Tech offense is going to come out firing, having Howard on the field will be a big plus if he's able to go.
Texas Tech got back on track in Waco last week and quarterback Nic Shimonek played a big part in ending the skid. Shimonek finished 24-of-29 for 246 yards and two touchdowns. The Red Raiders running attack took a big hit last week when backup Tre King sat out the last quarter with a leg injury. There's no guarantee Justin Stockton will be back for this one so finding a way to take some pressure of the passing game will be paramount in this one.
Coach Patterson knows what's at stake in this one and after last week's performance against Oklahoma. I expect the Horned Frogs to be ready to go for this matchup. Don't ever rule out Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense though. With a capable quarterback for his air-raid offense, anything is possible as witnessed last year in Fort Worth. This one should be close; TCU pulls out a 38-35 win.
No. 19 NC State at Wake Forest, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU); Wake -1.5
Question: Can NC State stop Wake's offense?
Two ACC teams with big aspirations to finish this season strong meet in Winston-Salem Saturday night. NC State stopped their two-game skid by beating Boston College last week, and with two wins to close out the season could share the Atlantic Division crown with Clemson. Wake Forest is coming off an offensive explosion in their 64-43 win at Syracuse. They produced 734 yards of total offense and clinched a second straight bowl opportunity with their sixth win.
NC State is trying to win six conference games for the first time since 1994 and their aggressive defense will be a key part if that happens in this one. Defensive end Bradley Chubb continues to rocket up draft boards and he'll look to lead his defense in disrupting a Demon Deacon's offense that has scored 106 points in its last two ACC games. Quarterback Ryan Finley and running back Nyheim Hines will need to put up points and show the consistency they had over the first seven games. Hines scored the game winning touchdown against the Eagles last weekend with a 50-yard fourth quarter touchdown run.
Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford has had an efficient season thus far and the offensive results speak for themselves. Against the Orange, Wolford threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 136 rushing yards and another three rushing touchdowns. Coach Dave Clawson's team has been nearly perfect in the red zone this season, converting on 40 of their 43 trips inside the 20. They'll probably have a tougher time replicating that against the Wolfpack defense but the momentum is very apparent in the offensive's last few performances.
NC State Dave Doreen understands the significance of the next two games, and with a quarterback like Ryan Finley to the lead the way a trip to Winston-Salem is a little less daunting. Wake's offense has been remarkable the past two weeks but I think the Wolfpack defense will give Wolford some fits and a closely contested game is in the cards. I expect the Wolfpack to walk out of this one with a 31-28 win over the Demon Deacons.
UCLA at No. 11 USC, 8 p.m. (ABC); USC -16.0
Prediction: USC gets to 10 wins
The Battle for the Victory Bell pits the crosstown rivals of Los Angeles in a game with a lot of meaning for both programs. UCLA kept their bowl hopes alive with last weeks win over Arizona State, 44-37, and are looking for their sixth win in this weeks rivalry game. USC clinched the Pac-12 South and a spot in the title game and still have an outside shot of getting into the College Football Playoff so a good performance against the Bruins is very important for the Trojans.
Quarterback Sam Darnold is going to be the key piece in the Trojans’ playoff hopes. Darnold hasn't had the smoothest of seasons with 11 interceptions, but last week’s 329 yard and two touchdown performance was a step in the right direction. The Trojans offense has gotten a big boost from running back Ronald Jones II whose racked up 552 rushing yards and six touchdowns in their past three games. Jones could have another field day against a Bruins rush defense that ranks last in the country allowing 302.3 yards per game on the ground.
UCLA’s offense is going to need to play a nearly perfect game to pull the upset, and quarterback Josh Rosen is going to be in charge of leading that effort. Rosen, a potential first round draft choice like his counterpart, will need to find some of his earlier season form to keep this one competitive. Rosen passed for 16 touchdowns in his first four games but has only thrown five touchdowns in his last five contests. Having wide receiver Jordan Lasley return from suspension last week against the Sun Devils was huge boost. Lesley had 162 yards on 7 receptions with a touchdown. The offense will need to produce if they have a shot in this one.
USC can make a statement for their chances at the College Football Playoff. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen will be a fun battle to watch but the Trojans have a lot to lose, and Coach Clay Helton will have them ready for the crosstown war. The Trojans will win their 10th game of the year and keep their outside shot at the playoff alive. USC 35, UCLA 17.
Enjoy Week 12 everyone!
Other Saturday games of note:
No. 16 Mississippi State at Arkansas, Noon (CBS); MSU -12.0
Minnesota at No. 23 Northwestern, Noon; NW -7.0
Kentucky at No. 7 Georgia, 3:30 p.m. (CBS); UGA -21.5