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Wayne Staats | NCAA.com | November 18, 2020

The college football fan's guide to Week 12 games

5 FBS games to watch in Week 12

There's still quite a long way to go, but Week 12 is the last set of games before the season's first College Football Playoff rankings are out. So while this week isn't a closing argument like it will be in December, teams with big dreams would love to put on a show before Tuesday night gives us the first CFP Top 25 of 2020.

Two key Big Ten games highlight the schedule, but the Big 12 is offering Bedlam.

Week 12 preview: Top games to watch

No. 9 Indiana (4-0) at No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) | 12 p.m. Saturday | FOX

It wasn't Penn State. It doesn't look like it will be Michigan, either. No, Ohio State's biggest test in the regular season could very well be Indiana — a team OSU hasn't lost to since 1988. The winner of this will be in great shape to secure the Big Ten East division and make the trip to the conference title game. Indiana will need significant help if it can't come up with the gigantic upset, but even if this is a blowout, IU has turned heads.

Appalachian State (6-1) at No. 15 Coastal Carolina (7-0) | 12 p.m. Saturday | ESPN2

Coastal Carolina is 7-0, but the Chanticleers are back in action after last week's scheduled trip to Troy was postponed to Dec. 12. With QB Grayson McCall and his 16 touchdown passes, Coastal Carolina should feel good about its chances. However, Appalachian State has won all six meetings.

No. 7 Cincinnati (7-0) at UCF (5-2) | 3:30 p.m. Saturday | ESPN

The Bearcats are the class of the AAC this year, but a win against UCF would cement a passing of power after UCF (2017 and 2018) and Memphis (2019) took the last three conference crowns. Cincinnati would still have an AAC Championship Game to win to claim full bragging rights, but a victory at UCF would mark a season sweep of UCF and Memphis. Cincinnati's defense continues to look great, yet the growth of Desmond Ridder is more notable. Though the passing isn't consistent from game to game, he's topped 300 total yards in three of the last four games.

No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0) at No. 19 Northwestern (4-0) | 3:30 p.m. Saturday | ABC

Through four games, Northwestern has already surpassed the 2019 win total (3). The defense remains powerful, but the Wildcats have not faced a team like Wisconsin yet. Wisconsin is Wisconsin, so the Badgers would love to run for a ton of yards — like, say the 341 yards against Michigan last week — and come away with a huge win with Big Ten West implications.

No. 14 Oklahoma State (5-1) at No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2) | 7:30 p.m. Saturday | ABC

Remember when it looked like the sky was falling in Norman when OU lost to Kansas State and Iowa State to drop to 1-2? Well, since then the Sooners beat Texas in 4OT and won against TCU, Texas Tech and Kansas. Sure, that's not an overly daunting schedule, but OU is 4-2 in the Big 12. Oklahoma State is just behind leader Iowa State in the conference standings at 4-1 — half a game behind the Cyclones' 5-1. The way things could break, fans may well get two episodes of Bedlam this season. That would require OU to beat the Cowboys — something the Sooners have done five seasons in a row.

RANKINGS: All major college football polls

No. 21 Liberty (8-0) at NC State (5-3) | 7:30 p.m. Saturday | ESPN3

If Liberty's remarkable 8-0 start and climb into the Top 25 for the first time ever continues, the Flames will have earned it. Liberty has already defeated two ACC teams (Syracuse and Virginia Tech) and now it gets another. And next month, Liberty travels to face Coastal Carolina. NC State is 5-3 and while it got clobbered by rival UNC, it did push Miami in a close 44-41 loss. Liberty QB Malik Willis has 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions the last four games. His counterpart at NC State, Bailey Hockman, roughed up Florida State a week ago with 265 passing yards and four total touchdowns.

No. 20 USC (2-0) at Utah (0-0) | 10:30 p.m. Saturday | ESPN

After two cancelations, Utah at long last begins its season. USC is 2-0 and holds a national ranking, but the Trojans have been far from comfortable. They've needed late touchdowns in both of their games, otherwise they could easily have been 0-2. Good thing USC can rely on QB Kedon Slovis, who has 706 passing yards in just two games.

FBS NEWS: Schedules, updates related to COVID-19

Big Week 12 questions

Can Indiana really, really push Ohio State?

By rankings, it's a top-10 game. But it's easily to be skeptical.

Even going by history alone, you're asking for Indiana to beat OSU for the first time since 1988. Heck, the Buckeyes have won twice as many games in a row against IU than the Hoosiers have wins against OSU ever — 24 in a row for Ohio State to 12 for Indiana in a series going back to 1901.

Throw in Ohio State's immense talent, from Heisman contender QB Justin Fields to Peter Werner, Master Teague III, Garrett Wilson and many more, and the Buckeyes are loaded for what looks like another College Football Playoff appearance.

To Indiana's credit, it's gotten better each week. That season-opening win against Penn State doesn't look as impressive as it did at the time, especially as PSU outgained Indiana by almost 300 yards. But the Hoosiers look strong, just crushed Michigan State 24-0 and held the Spartans to 191 yards and forced four turnovers.

But as always in the Big Ten, it's one thing to look good when you're not facing Ohio State. The Buckeyes rule the conference and won't be overlooking Indiana. The Hoosiers will battle, but Ohio State should have more than enough to pull away and win by a few scores. Then again, this is 2020.

What are some big early College Football Playoff rankings questions?

On Tuesday, Nov. 24 — two days before Thanksgiving — the committee will reveal its first Top 25 of the season. Normally, these would be intensely followed and people would draw quick conclusions. If anything, that's even more the case this year.

For one, we just don't know how much quantity matters. Wisconsin, Oregon and USC are all in the AP poll but would be only 3-0 after this week. Where would they rank in the committee's Top 25 compared with one-loss teams that have played more games, teams such as Miami, Oklahoma State (if it beats Oklahoma), or even Florida and Texas A&M? If Wisconsin routs Northwestern this week, that would make the Badgers 3-0 with three convincing wins. But that's still only three games.

Throw in an undefeated team like Cincinnati, which would be 8-0 — that's five more games than someone like Wisconsin or Oregon — and you'll be hearing a lot of debate. But unlike the AP Poll, the CFP doesn't have preseason rankings. So they may not be as inclined to think about preseason expectations. But we're in the great unknown until Tuesday.

College football rankings: Top 25 for Week 12

RANK ASSOCIATED PRESS COACHES POLL
1.
Alabama (60)

Alabama (57)
2.


Notre Dame (1)


Notre Dame (3)
3.
Ohio State (1)

Ohio State (2)
4.


Clemson


Clemson
5.
Texas A&M

Florida
6.


Florida


Texas A&M
7.
Cincinnati

Cincinnati
8.
BYU

BYU
9.
Indiana

Miami
10.
Wisconsin

Indiana
11.
Oregon

Georgia
12.
Miami

Wisconsin
13.
Georgia

Oregon
14.
Oklahoma State


Oklahoma State

15.
Coastal Carolina and Marshall

Marshall
16. --
Iowa State
17.
Iowa State

Oklahoma
18.
Oklahoma

Coastal Carolina
19.
Northwestern

USC
20.
USC

Northwestern
21.
Liberty

Auburn
22.


Texas


Liberty
23.
Auburn

Texas
24.


Louisiana


North Carolina
25.
Tulsa

Louisiana

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