Noah Gardner gives his Week 12 picks in college football. Follow him on Twitter at @PointGuardner.
UCLA at #11 Oregon – 2:30 p.m. ESPN2
UCLA has gotten its first win of the season much earlier than the previous two years under Chip Kelly with the Bruins’ 34-10 victory over Cal last week. While both of these teams have no issues scoring, the difference between the two squads is on the defensive side of the ball. In a game that is going to be dominated by spread offenses, trust Oregon’s defensive backs to be better at tackling in space and containing UCLA’s athletes than UCLA’s ability to do the same against Oregon.
#9 Indiana at #3 Ohio State – 11 a.m. FOX
Pick: Ohio State
Four teams are undefeated in the Big 10, and after Saturday, only two will be left standing with Indiana-Ohio State and Wisconsin-Northwestern headlining a competitive slate in the conference. Indiana is a fun story, but it is understandable to question the Hoosiers’ firepower in comparison to Ohio State’s. Indiana is only averaging 363 yards per game on offense, while Ohio State is cutting through defenses at a 511-yard-per-game clip. The Buckeyes are averaging 13 points per game more than Indiana and more than 100 rushing yards. Even with a loss, Indiana is still the second-best team in the East, which is crazy to think about.
LSU at Arkansas – 11 a.m. SEC Network
LSU is one of the most fickle teams in the SEC. One week, the Tigers look dominant against South Carolina, and the next, they are being dominated by Auburn. The consistent theme with LSU is inconsistency, while with Arkansas, it is a tough, whole-hearted effort. The Razorbacks are not the most talented, but they play hard for head coach Sam Pittman. Arkansas leads the league in takeaways with 16. With LSU’s offense in a perpetual state of chaos, Arkansas’ opportunistic defense will be the difference in this annual rivalry game.
#10 Wisconsin at #19 Northwestern – 2:30 p.m. ABC
Neither team has played a good Big Ten team yet, but Wisconsin has left no doubt about their dominance over the inferior competition. Wisconsin’s average margin of victory is 38, while Northwestern’s is 14. The Badger offense is averaging nearly 100 more yards of offense. Northwestern is about to run into a buzzsaw.
Kansas State at #17 Iowa State – 3 p.m. FOX
Pick: Iowa State
Who would have thought Kansas State versus Iowa State would have major Big 12 championship implications? Or maybe, this is par for the course in the mediocre league. With a Kansas State win, the Big 12 waters become even more murky. With an Iowa State win, the race narrows to Iowa State and Oklahoma State barreling toward a rematch in the title game. Iowa State’s Breece Hall is averaging 6.3 yards per carry with 1,034 rushing yards on the season. Kansas State struggles against the run, giving up 161 rush yards per game. Iowa State’s identity gives them the advantage in this game.
Tennessee at #23 Auburn – 6 p.m. ESPN
Since losing to South Carolina on Oct. 17, Auburn has improved in all of the necessary areas: offensive line, quarterback play, defense, etc. Tennessee, on the other hand, is on a four-game losing streak and continues to regress. Auburn has the edge in quarterback play. Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is having a hard time leading the Volunteer offense with Tennessee only averaging 20.7 points per game and 174.7 passing yards per game. Bo Nix and the Auburn offense is resembling a more-balanced product. As long as the Tigers aren’t looking ahead to the Iron Bowl, this shouldn’t be a difficult contest to win for Auburn.
#14 Oklahoma State at #18 Oklahoma – 6:30 p.m. ABC
If you wrote off Oklahoma at 1-2, you were wrong to do so. The Sooners rattled off four-straight wins, and the offense is averaging over 500 yards per game. Shockingly, the Oklahoma defense is good against the run, allowing just 98.6 rushing yards per game. That matches up well against the Oklahoma State offense that is centered around Chuba Hubbard and the rushing attack. This game may turn into a points contest, and I trust Oklahoma’s group that has scored 124 points over the last two games to win it.
Missouri at South Carolina – 6:30 p.m. SEC Network Alternate
The Will Muschamp tenure looked like it was on the uptick when the Gamecocks beat Auburn. Then, it proceeded to crash into a three-game losing streak and the firing of the head coach. Star cornerback Jaycee Horn opted out of the season this week. Columbia feels like its on fire, while Missouri is playing to get back to .500. Morale is the reason why Missouri wins this game.
#20 USC at Utah – 9:30 p.m. ESPN
“Pac-12 After Dark” is back and so is Utah football. The Utes have had both of its season openers cancelled to start the year, so it’s hard to evaluate Utah going into this matchup. USC narrowly edged the competition in its first two games by a combined five points. The Trojans just as easily could be 0-2. USC quarterback Kedon Slovis is 70-for-98 with 706 yards and three touchdowns. Utah only returns two starters on the defensive side of the ball. Slovis and the Trojans edge out another team narrowly.