Three games to watch: Week 12

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Three games to watch: Week 12

Max Schneider, Associate Sports Editor

With Week 12 of the college football season came shocking upsets, as No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Washington all fell, drastically shifting the outlook of the playoff. The College Football Playoff committee has spoken, and spots in the playoff and in bowl games are still up for grabs.  It’s bound to be another hectic week in college football, so here are three games to watch this week.   

Virginia Tech at Notre Dame

Virginia Tech might not be a huge name in the college football world, but the Hokies are 7-3 and tied for first atop the ACC Coastal division. A win against Notre Dame gives them a chance to take on Clemson down the road for a shot to win the ACC. Virginia Tech is led by quarterback Jerod Evans, who has accounted for 3,133 total yards and 28 touchdowns, leading the team both in passing and rushing. The key for coach Justin Fuente’s team will be containing DeShone Kizer, a contender for the No. 1 overall draft pick, but his defense should be up for the challenge, as they rarely allow more than 25 points per game.

For Notre Dame, it’s been a disappointing season. A Top 10 team to start the season, the Fighting Irish now face an uphill battle to even reach a bowl game. That will likely take two wins, including a tough matchup against USC next week, but Notre Dame has to take care of business this week for a shot at a bowl. That will hinge on the shoulders of Kizer and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. His name might be a mouthful, but opposing corners have had their hands full with St. Brown this year, as he leads the Irish in receiving yards and touchdowns. Virginia Tech, in its first year without a Fuller at cornerback since 2010, is going to have to minimize the passing attack to secure the victory.

No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 14 West Virginia

After a tough start to the year, Oklahoma remains undefeated in conference play behind arguably the most dynamic offense in all of college football. The offense is run by the trio of Baker Mayfield, Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook. Mayfield has already eclipsed 3,000 yards passing, completing 72 percent of his passes for 33 touchdowns. Mixon looks poised to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his young career with 10 touchdowns. The most impressive, however, is Westbrook. No, Russell is not the only Westbrook making noise in Oklahoma. Dede has caught 68 passes for 1,254 yards and 14 touchdowns, two scores away from breaking Oklahoma’s single-season record.

West Virginia quietly has only one loss, but the committee has been reluctant to give them recognition as a title contender. The Mountaineers might be able to change that with a signature win against a Top 10 team in Oklahoma. This figures to be a shootout and a quarterback battle between Mayfield and Skylar Howard, who has improved in his second season as the starter and has been extremely reliable through nine games. The winner will have an outside shot at the playoff if teams crumble ahead of it, but both these coaches believe that they’re good enough right now. If you had told WVU coach Dana Holgorsen that his team would be 8-1 and outside the Top 10, he’d probably be even more angry than he was this past weekend

No. 23 Florida at No. 16 LSU

While the Oklahoma vs. West Virginia matchup could exceed 90 points, this matchup might not exceed 30. Florida has the fifth-ranked defense in the country but has struggled offensively since quarterback Luke Del Rio’s injury back in September. The offense will need to show up Saturday in Death Valley, as Florida has an opportunity to clinch the SEC East with a win. The Gators were favorites to win this game when it was scheduled back in October but now come into this matchup as double-digit underdogs after it was rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew.

LSU has gained momentum since then, and it’s been on a roll despite a 10-point loss to Alabama. If Leonard Fournette can get things going early, the Tigers will be able to cruise to a victory, but if Florida stacks the box like Alabama did, Danny Etling hasn’t shown the ability to win games with his arm. If Etling can manage the game, LSU can ride its typical SEC ground-and-pound philosophy, featuring the ninth-ranked defense and a heavy dose of Fournette, to its seventh win.

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