College football games to watch: Teams jostling for conference control in Week 12 matchups
How do you follow up a weekend of play featuring five top 10 upsets – with No. 2, 3 and 4 all losing – and plenty of big performances?
Well, it’s a tough order, but Week 12 continues with a string of crucial in-conference games with tons of intrigue. Here are the top college football games to tune into this weekend:
No. 16 LSU vs. No. 23 Florida | GameCenter
Saturday at 1 p.m.
We had to wait over a month for this SEC matchup to come to form, following an Oct. 8 postponement due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew, but both teams will finally square off this Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge.
LSU is playing better and the return of star running back Leonard Fournette has certainly helped. He was shut down by No. 1 Alabama two weeks ago – as was the whole Tigers offense in a 10-0 loss but in LSU’s two wins since his return three weeks ago, he accounted for six touchdowns.
And he’s not the only one performing out of the Tigers’ talented backfield. Derrius Guice rushed for 252 yards last week and two touchdowns in a 38-10 rout over Arkansas.
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So it’ll be an interesting matchup against a Gators team ranked 13th in the nation in holding opponents to just 111.7 rushing yards per game.
It’s been a struggle on offense for Florida of late, whose starting quarterback Luke Del Rio is banged up, but its defense has consistently performed all year long and has the Gators one game up in a crowded SEC East race.
With a matchup against Florida State on the horizon in their season finale, the Gators cannot afford to drop their game this week. The key will be stopping LSU’s two-headed ground game.
No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 23 Washington State | GameCenter
Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
With its loss, No. 6 Washington isn’t the only program from the Evergreen State that controls its own destiny within the Pac-12.
The other would be Washington State, who hasn’t lost a game since losing to FCS power Eastern Washington and Boise State to open up the year.
Saturday’s bout with No. 10 Colorado, who also has its mind set on a Pac-12 title, will provide a good look at two of the most underrated passers in the nation. Cougars quarterback Luke Falk is second behind Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes in passing yards this season while the Buffs’ Sefo Liufau missed two games due to injury but has completed more than 67 percent of his passers.
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Look for Falk to find top receiver Gabe Marks early and often, as the senior has hauled in at least five receptions in all but one game this year. On the other side, Phillip Lindsay is an excellent complementary piece with his conference-leading 937 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Neither team was probably considered a true Pac-12 contender at the start of the year. But here they are with legitimate title hopes with two weeks left in the regular season.
Wyoming vs. San Diego State | GameCenter
Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
This is the only non-ranked matchup to make the list, but bear with us.
San Diego State is fighting for a second-straight Mountain West Conference title and is right in the running for a coveted New Year’s Six bowl as a Group of Five representative. Not to mention, the Aztecs also have one of the little talked about, must-watch players across the country in running back Donnel Pumphrey.
Pumphrey leads the nation by more than 100 yards with 1,779 so far this season and became the fifth player in NCAA history to reach 6,000 career yards with his 198 on the ground last week.
He’s now just 346 yards away from breaking the all-time NCAA record and can easily break it by the Aztecs’ regular season finale against Colorado State.
So with San Diego State playing a rare late afternoon ET game, it’s the perfect opportunity for east coast folks to marvel at Pumphrey’s athletic ability.
But Pumphrey isn’t the only source of intrigue. Wyoming has been a much-improved team this year and controls its own destiny in the Mountain division of the MWC. The Cowboys have rebounded from last year’s two-win campaign with seven already this year, including an upset over then-unbeaten Boise State on a late safety on Oct. 29.
This battle could very well be the MWC title game in three weeks. So while there don’t seem to be any CFP implications on the line in this one, it's still sure to be an entertaining experience.
No. 9 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 West Virginia | GameCenter
Saturday at 8 p.m.
A lot of credit has to be given to the Sooners for putting themselves into prime position to win the Big 12 after a 1-2 start.
Oklahoma can claim a share of the conference crown – and keep its slim Playoff chances alive – when it heads into Morgantown to face the Mountaineers, who trail the Sooners by 1.5 games in the standings.
It’s hard to find a better quarterback-to-receiver connection right now then Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook. Both have heated up at the perfect time as Mayfield has found his favorite target at least once in the end zone in each of the last seven games.
It won’t be all that easy for the Sooners against WVU’s defense, however, as the Mountaineers have shown the ability to shut down gunslingers like the nation’s leading passer in Mahomes in their Oct. 15 meeting (just one touchdown allowed).
While the Big 12 will need some help down the stretch in having a representative in the four-team Playoff field, Saturday night’s showdown will provide a clearer picture of who that top conference contender is.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. Michigan State | GameCenter
Michigan State finally picked up its first conference win last week over Rutgers to put an end to a seven-game skid. Ohio State moved back up to No. 2 after back-to-back dominating 62-3 wins. This could very well end in a blowout, but with the game in East Lansing, look for the Spartans to fight hard like it did in a 32-23 loss to Michigan three weeks ago.
No. 13 USC vs. UCLA | GameCenter
There’s always worry of a lack of intensity after a big road win like USC picked up over then-No. 4 Washington last week. But it won’t take much to get pumped up for a bitter rivalry matchup against the Bruins. Josh Rosen has been ruled out for the remainder of the season, which means former walk-on Mike Fafaul will have to go up against a Trojans defense that picked off Jake Browning twice last week. Meanwhile, freshman quarterback Sam Darnold has been a revelation for USC.