It’s slim picking in Week 12 of the college football season as the top contenders for the College Football Playoff ready themselves for Rivalry Week.
This week, only one game takes place between top-25 teams in No. 19 Michigan and No. 5 Wisconsin in a game that could determine whether the Big Ten is represented in the four-team playoff.
MORE: Week 12 picks against the spread
Elsewhere, Georgia and Notre Dame look to get back on track after embarrassing losses while USC and UCLA face off in a battle for Los Angeles. Don’t overlook Big 12 conference games between Oklahoma State-Kansas State and TCU-Texas Tech, either.
Sporting News is 62-26 in its picks this season after going 6-2 in Week 11. Here’s what we’ve got for Week 12 (point spreads provided courtesy of Vegasinsider.com as of Nov. 13; lines reflect consensus picks unless noted):
No. 6 TCU (-7.5) at Texas Tech
It doesn’t get any easier for the Horned Frogs after getting shellacked on the road at Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs now face the nation’s No. 13 scoring offense in Texas Tech (38.2 points per game). Even so, TCU still boasts the nation’s No. 8 scoring defense (16.3 ppg), and we expect Gary Patterson to have his team ready and motivated for the Red Raiders.
Pick: TCU 38, Texas Tech 30
Minnesota at Northwestern (-7)
Minnesota just whipped Nebraska by a score of 54-21, but points likely won’t be as easy to come by against the Wildcats, who are coming off a 23-13 win over Purdue. Northwestern won 27-0 the last time these teams played in Evanston. If the Wildcats want a similar outcome on Saturday, they’ll need to stop Gophers quarterback Demry Croft, who ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns against the Cornhuskers.
Pick: Northwestern 28, Minnesota 24
MORE: Week 12 college football playoff picture
Kentucky at No. 7 Georgia (-21.5)
Are the Bulldogs still a championship-caliber team? That depends entirely on how Kirby Smart gets his players ready to face a Kentucky team that would love to add insult to Auburn’s injury. Both Georgia’s offensive and defensive lines were manhandled against the Tigers, so look for that to be a point of emphasis as the Bulldogs will try to limit 1,000-yard rusher Benny Snell Jr. while establishing their own run game with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Don’t be surprised if Georgia pulls away and tries to give Jake Fromm more opportunities to throw.
Pick: Georgia 42, Kentucky 24
Navy at No. 9 Notre Dame (-18)
Notre Dame is the other top-three team still smarting from an embarrassing loss. The Fighting Irish looked nearly helpless against a keyed-in Miami team, and coach Brian Kelly admitted later he didn’t have his team mentally prepared for the game. The challenge this week, then, is to see whether he can get his players motivated for a game that likely doesn’t mean anything other than a “W.” He’d better hope he can: Navy boasts the nation’s No. 1 offense with that potent triple-option attack.
Pick: Notre Dame 34, Navy 20
MORE: Week 12 bowl projections
No. 21 LSU (-15.5) at Tennessee
It seems the bottom has fallen out at Tennessee. Butch Jones is gone, and the Volunteers are in free fall. Meanwhile, LSU has played exceptional football since its loss to Troy and is coming off a 33-10 beatdown of Arkansas. Derrius Guice ran 21 times for 147 yards in that game, and it’s probably going to be worse for Tennessee. Things are going to get worse in Knoxville before they get better.
Pick: LSU 42, Tennessee 10
Kansas State at No. 10 Oklahoma State (-21)
Oklahoma State still has an outside shot at getting a rematch against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, but they’ll need a little help from Texas Tech this week. Regardless, Mike Gundy will make sure his team is running on all cylinders against the Wildcats, who always play tough under Bill Snyder. Remember, for all the Cowboys’ high-flying offensive capability, they have only won the last two meetings by a combined eight points.
Pick: Oklahoma State 42, Kansas State 34
MORE: Heisman Watch: It’s Baker Mayfield and everyone else
UCLA at No. 12 USC (-16)
The battle for Los Angeles is on. The Trojans have already clinched the Pac-12 South title, so this game will really only affect what kind of bowl USC gets into. Still, it should be exciting seeing two talented quarterbacks in Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen battling it out. Still, this one could get ugly — not between players, but with penalties. Both USC and UCLA rank in the top 10 most penalized teams in the country, with 84 and 79, respectively.
Pick: USC 31, UCLA 14
No. 19 Michigan at No. 5 Wisconsin (-7.5)
The Badgers are an early favorite in this one, but they face the proposition of taking on a resurgent Michigan without some of their offensive playmakers in center Tyler Biadasz, along with receivers Jazz Peavy and George Rushing. That could make things a little more difficult for Big Ten leading rusher Jonathan Taylor, who will go against a Michigan defense that prides itself on stopping the run (110 yards allowed per game) and features fearsome defenders in Maurice Hurst and Devin Bush. This is going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight — one the Badgers win by the skin of their teeth.
Pick: Wisconsin 21, Michigan 20