The stakes get higher and higher as the college football season draws to a close. There are always unforeseen events and surprise performances that upset the race to the college football playoffs or impact conference races or bowling places.
Week 12 of college football offers opportunities for surprises, especially with important matchups in the Pac-12 and Big 12. Will the urgency of the playoffs and conference chases cause teams to elevate their level of play or tripping near the finish line?
That’s why we’re here to make sense of things. USA TODAY Sports’ college football team – Scooby Axson, Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken – weigh in with some bold predictions for Week 12 of the college football season.
Texas keeps playoff hopes alive at Iowa State
Over the years, Iowa State is known for ruining many Big 12 title and national championship hopes. On Saturday, they will receive a visit from the Texas Longhorns, who will be missing leader Jonathon Brooks, who is out with a torn ACL. Iowa State has the best defense in the league, but has struggled at times putting the ball in the end zone. Texas has scored 30 or more points in 9 of its first 10 games and will need that kind of effort to avoid an upset. The Longhorns keep their title hopes alive with a close victory. -Scooby Axson
Washington finally walks the tightrope
No. 5 Washington has been walking the tightrope for a month now. The Huskies’ win over No. 6 Oregon was impressive — the Ducks remain the top-ranked team with a College Football Playoff selection committee loss — but Washington practically begged for a loss with everything it had. ‘he has done since. After escaping a series of failures, I believe the bill finally comes due this week; No. 10 Oregon State knocks off Washington in Corvallis. -Jace Evans
WHAT TO WATCH: The six biggest games to watch in Week 12
WEEKEND FORECAST: Picks for every Week 12 Top 25 game
Washington finds a way to stay undefeated
Oregon State may be a trendy pick to hand Washington its first loss, but have you seen the Huskies’ offense? Outside of a weird Saturday against Arizona State, this has been one of the most prolific groups in the country and easily one of the most explosive. While the Beavers have the playing style and personnel to slow things down, UW can strike quickly and establish an up-tempo pace that puts OSU on the defensive. While it won’t be a blowout, expect the Huskies to make a big statement by posting a double-digit win against one of the best teams in the Pac-12 and FBS. –Paul Myerberg
Georgia will fight against Tennessee
This may be hard to believe since we’re in Week 12, but the Bulldogs have only played real road games at Auburn and Vanderbilt. This trip to visit the Volunteers will be the third and the previous two have shown that Georgia perhaps shouldn’t be too confident going into this game. The Bulldogs struggled at Auburn and didn’t put Vanderbilt away until midway through the fourth quarter. Add in that Georgia might be overconfident after Tennessee was routed by Missouri last week and the fact that they are the new No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff rankings and you have the the stuff of biting potential. So don’t be surprised if this one goes straight to air and we possibly see a shocking upset. –Erick Smith
Oregon State deals blow to Washington’s playoff hopes
Without digging into the numbers, as a general rule, a college football team can compete for championships if one side of the ball is exceptional, as long as the other side is at least average. Obviously, if both teams are great, you have a real powerhouse, but either a high-octane offense or a lock-down defense will produce wins – most of the time.
All of which brings us to Washington, whose Michael Penix-led offense generates over 500 yards, good for sixth place in the country. Again, an average defense with that kind of production is usually enough, but the Huskies are 102.sd nationally, giving up 410 yards per game, well below average. So far, the Huskies haven’t been marked with an “L”, but that changes this week.
Oregon State ranks well above average on both sides of the ball, 19th in total offense and 33rd in defense. There’s also a little extra motivation at stake for the Beavers, as one of the programs poised to be left behind when the Pac-12 splits. It will take a big score, but Oregon State will get one and the Huskies will be asked to leave undefeated. -Eddie Timanus
Iowa State knocks Texas out of the College Football Playoff
Iowa State kind of sneaked up on us at 6-4. Are they awesome? No. Are they good enough to beat Texas at home? I think so, and here’s why. The Longhorns are currently struggling against teams that are basically on the same level as Iowa State. They barely held on to beat TCU last week. A few weeks ago, they were lucky to win in Houston. In between, they survived an overtime game against Kansas State at home. So that makes three of the last four games that have been way too close to be comfortable against Texas, and winning all three is a bit lucky. But luck eventually runs out, and Ames is traditionally a place where suitors stumble. Another big issue for Texas right now is that Jonathon Brooks is now out for the season with a torn ACL. He has been a truly elite running back this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Not having him is a significant degradation of the Texas running game. This will catch the Longhorns in this spot, and Iowa State will eliminate them from the CFP race. -Dan Wolken