Top 10 college football matchups in Week 12: Hot seats, conference races, and potential CFP changes

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Don’t take it for granted – there are only two full college football weekends left before we get to the conference title games. This Saturday has its share of noteworthy matchups, some of which could have a major impact on league title races and College Football Playoff rankings, and some of which should simply be entertaining matchups or add fuel to the coaching circuit.

So let’s rank the top 10 games of Week 12, starting with some honorable mentions and counting down.

Honorary: Appalachian State at James Madison, NC State at Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State at Houston, Florida at Missouri, Nebraska at Wisconsin

(All point spreads come from BetMGM; click here For live odds. All kickoff times are Eastern and Saturday unless otherwise noted. All rankings via College Football Playoff.)

10. UCLA (6-4) at USC (7-4), 3:30 p.m., ABC

This is USC’s final regular season game, and considering they have already had four losses and are out of the Pac-12 title race, it will likely be the last game for quarterback Caleb Williams, who will likely opt out of the bowl game. Win or lose, it marks a bitter end for the current Heisman winner, who will not repeat, will not win a division title or reach the playoff, and will not even return to the New Year’s Six bowl. As disappointing as things have been for USC, Bruins coach Chip Kelly is on the hot seat, with some rumblings that he might be out after the USC game, win or lose.

Font: USC -6.5

9. No. 20 North Carolina (8-2) at Clemson (6-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Tar Heels coach Mack Brown may not be on the hot seat, but like Williams and USC, UNC is staring at the possibility of losing one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Drake Maye with little to show for it. The Heels must win to even stay in the ACC Championship race, though they will still need some help. The loss may force Brown to make some changes to his staff. Clemson is a relegation favorite and is an impressive 2-0 since head coach Dabo Swinney’s radio rant, but it will also remain under the microscope after its reaction when asked about Texas A&M’s opening was less than an emphatic denial.

Line: Clemson -7

8. UNLV (8-2) at Air Force (8-2), 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports

A week after Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark was named the next CEO of the College Football Playoff, the Falcons will host a red-hot UNLV with the No. 1 Mountain West spot on the line. The athlete You still expect the AAC to end up with a sixth-place finish in the New Year’s Group of Five, but whoever wins that spot will at least stay in that conversation. For UNLV, it’s a chance to surpass eight wins for only the third time in program history and the first since 1984.

Font: Air Force-3

7. SMU (8-2) at Memphis (8-2), noon, ESPN2

SMU has a top-10 offense in the country and is currently tied with Tulane and UTSA for first place in the AAC. The Mustangs avoid these two opponents in the regular season, while the other two meet in the final week. This means SMU could face one or the other with undefeated conference records in the AAC title game, which would almost certainly give that winner a spot in the NY6. Memphis, which lost to the Green Wave last month, is 5-1 in the conference race and could really disrupt the AAC standings with an upset as a home underdog.

Font: SMU -7.5

6. No. 7 Texas (9-1) at Iowa (6-4), 8 p.m., Fox

Folks, we’re having some debate about the tiebreaker. Oklahoma State’s upset loss to UCF last weekend left it in a four-way tie for second place with Oklahoma, Kansas State and Iowa State. The tiebreaker scenarios are a mess – Iowa State beats Oklahoma State but loses to Oklahoma and plays Kansas State next weekend. Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma State and Kansas. K-State and the Sooners don’t play each other. But Sellout Crowd’s Perry Trammell reported this week Confusion about current separator wording He led the Big 12 to provide a clear copy to the league’s athletic directors on Wednesday. What could make things even more interesting is Iowa State’s upset in Ames on Saturday, where the Longhorns have lost in three of their last four trips. Texas remains in the driver’s seat for a Big 12 Championship Game appearance (and possibly a CFP berth) but may still have to win to secure its spot in Arlington.

Font: Texas -7.5

5. No. 22 Utah (7-3) at No. 17 Arizona (7-3), 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network

It’s unfortunate that this game has been banished to the Pac-12 Network. Arizona is one of the darlings this season, with three top-25 wins and looming in the Pac-12 standings just two seasons away from going 1-11 in 2021. Credit to Jedd Fisch and the turnaround he orchestrated in Tucson. This game is also an example of something I wrote about this week: neither of these teams is likely to win or even play for the Pac-12 title. They will not participate in a four-team playoff. But they have had commendable seasons, particularly in Arizona based on recent history, and that deserves recognition. And in a 12-team playoff format, the Wildcats would have an outside chance of sneaking in. I think there is value in that. I also wish I could watch this match.

Line: Arizona -1

4. No. 10 Louisville (9-1) at Miami (6-4), noon, ABC

The Cardinals are in the ACC Championship with a win on Saturday, though the Hurricanes have proven to be a tough sell, as evidenced by their point spread and last week’s performance against ACC-leading Florida State. A berth in the conference title game would be a hard-earned reward for a Louisville team that arrived well ahead of schedule in year one under coach Jeff Brohm. The Seminoles will be the clear favorite, and the Cards’ upset will likely keep the ACC team out of the playoff hunt — and ESPN prediction gives Louisville Huge 2 percent chance. But if Tyler Van Dyke, who returns as the starting cornerback, can lead Miami to a win, it could make for a tough final weekend for the ACC team.

Line: Miami -1

3. No. 21 Kansas State (7-3) at No. 25 Kansas (7-3), 7 p.m., FS1

Hopefully one of the most underrated rivalries in the sport will get the attention it deserves with both teams ranked among the top 25 in this year’s edition of the Sunflower Showdown, one of only four future rivalries protected by the Big 12’s new scheduling matrix. The Jayhawks lost to Texas Tech last week while he was downgraded to a new third-string quarterback, but coach Lance Leipold is optimistic that second-string reserve Jason Beane will be healthy enough to face the Wildcats. A win for K-State will keep it in contention for the Big 12 title with a home game against Iowa State next weekend.

Line: Kansas State -8.5

2. No. 1 Georgia (10-0) at No. 18 Tennessee (7-3), 3:30 p.m., CBS

This is too good a matchup to rank that high, but I’ve lost confidence that any of these teams can keep up with the Bulldogs, who reclaimed the No. 1 spot in this week’s CFP rankings. Maybe the Vols will be able to stay home, but it looks as though we may be fast forwarding to the SEC Championship against Alabama. At the very least, I appreciated that these teams gave us a legitimate SEC game to watch during a week when Bama, Ole Miss, and LSU all bought games into the schedule. Now let’s see if Tennessee can keep this closer than two touchdowns.

Font: Georgia -10.5

1. No. 5 Washington (10-0) at No. 11 Oregon State (8-2), 7:30 p.m., ABC

Washington deserved to be ranked No. 4 in this week’s CFP rankings. It has what the committee considers the best win in the country over No. 6 Oregon and two straight wins against USC and Utah. Florida State, not exactly challenged, is still clinging to fourth place, though I have to think a Huskies win over the Beavers would be enough to finally jump ahead of the Seminoles facing North Alabama. And if Oregon State (already a home favorite) pulls out the win, it would wreak a bit of havoc on next week’s playoff standings — and even give the Beavs a chance to crack the Pac-12 title game if they can make a comeback. -Back against Oregon the following week. Either way, the outcome of this matchup could add excitement to the playoff race.

Font: Oregon -2.5

(Photo by Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

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