by Justyn Spanski
Phil Steele Publications Associate/PhilSteele.com Contributor
Last weekend’s games with College Football Playoff implications at stake proved to be thrilling and exciting games. LSU, Georgia, Minnesota, and Oklahoma all secured crucial victories to keep their playoff hopes alive while Alabama and Penn State suffered losses that may put their playoff hopes in jeopardy. Week 12 features three excellent matchups with College Football Playoff implications on the line. Baylor, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Minnesota know what is at stake and how important a win in these marquee games would be in the eyes of the playoff committee. Here are Week 12 games with College Football Playoff implications on the line.
**NOTE**: All times of games listed below are Eastern Standard Time (ET). Rankings of Top 25 teams mentioned in this article and matchup previews reflect those of this week’s College Football Playoff rankings. PS #’s of players mentioned can be found in Phil Steele’s 2019 College Football Preview. All statistics, pass efficiency defense ratings, and power ratings can be found on PhilSteele.com as a subscriber to Phil Steele Plus. Subscribe to Phil Steele Plus right now for just $44.00 through the Super Bowl on the PhilSteele.com Store.
WHO: No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 12 Auburn
WHEN: Saturday, November 16 3:30 PM
WHERE: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL
PREVIEW: This matchup on Saturday is one SEC fans have been looking forward to all season. Kirby Smart leads his No. 4 Bulldogs into Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on a highly talented Auburn team looking to make a statement. Georgia has played some of its best football of the season these past two games. Jake Fromm and company are coming off a dominant 27-0 victory over Missouri where the junior quarterback had a disappointing day, finishing 13-29 for 179 yards and two scores through the air. RB D’Andre Swift picked up the load as he rushed for 83 yards and the defense once again had another excellent game, limiting Missouri to only 198 yards of total offense. Fromm will look to rebound from his struggles this week against Auburn, but the junior and his offensive line led by tackle Andrew Thomas will have to face the always dangerous and talented Auburn front seven.
Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers have been a pleasant surprise this season, entering this matchup at 7-2 and ranked No. 12 in this week’s College Football Playoff poll. PS #2 true freshman QB Bo Nix has been asked to do a lot this season as a first year starter, but he has lived up to the high expectations Tiger fans set for him upon his arrival despite a few rookie mistakes here and there, of course. Nix has thrown for 1,798 yards on the year thus far with a 12-6 TD-INT ratio. While his 56.5% completion percentage could certainly be better, the Alabama native must be accounted for in the running game as he has done an excellent job this season using his legs to make plays, rushing for 214 yards and five more scores. Wideout Seth Williams has been a reliable target for the young quarterback, as Williams enters this matchup with 35 catches for 569 yards and eight touchdowns. Up front, Prince Tega Wanogho has done a great job protecting his quarterback’s blind-side all year, and he projects to be one of the top tackles taken in this Spring’s NFL Draft. The defense is led by seniors DE Marlon Davidson and DT Derrick Brown, who is a 2019 Phil Steele Preseason First Team SEC. The two have formed a dominant duo, combing for 9.5 sacks on the year. PS #2 true freshman linebacker Owen Pappoe has also contributed, tallying 32 tackles and four quarterback hurries.
WHAT’S AT STAKE/CFP IMPLICATIONS: Auburn has suffered two defeats this season, but they come to No. 1 LSU and a very good two loss No. 11 Florida Gators squad. This game will certainly be another challenge for the Tigers and QB Bo Nix, but they do have a big homefield advantage and their defense is one of the best in the SEC and the entire country. Auburn’s defense is holding opponents to 109 yards below their season average on offense, and they will certainly look to continue that trend this Saturday. If Bo Nix can get good pass protection from his offensive line and good support from his playmakers, the Tigers most certainly have a chance to take down Georgia assuming the defense plays the way they have all year.
Georgia has played with a big chip on their shoulder since suffering the shocking 20-17 2OT loss to South Carolina on October 12 at home. They secured a 24-17 victory over rival Florida in Jacksonville two games ago and it has been a huge boost for their confidence. As mentioned previously, QB Jake Fromm has struggled over the past few games. His defense has done a nice job covering for him and keeping opponents off the board, but that can only last for so long. Fromm knows he must get out of his funk especially with a possible spot in the SEC Championship game looming. This game would be a perfect one to right the ship and silence critics. Kirby Smart has kept his team focused on the mission: winning. The Bulldogs sit at No. 4 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings and will likely retain that spot until the SEC title game unless they suffer a defeat these final weeks. Auburn is Georgia’s biggest threat to their title hopes the rest of the season and the Bulldogs will be sure to bring their best game in what is poised to be a hard fought and intriguing SEC matchup.
WHO: No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 20 Iowa
WHEN: Saturday, November 16 4:00 PM
WHERE: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
PREVIEW: Well folks, it seems as if Minnesota is legit. After an incredible 31-26 over previous No. 4 Penn State at home last week, the Gophers now have the country and playoff committee’s attention. QB Tanner Morgan was exceptional, finishing 18-20 for 339 yards and three touchdowns which was good enough for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman proved why he is one of the best receivers in the Big Ten, as he hauled in seven passes for an incredible 203 yards and a touchdown. Antoine Winfield was the difference for the defense, as he led the Minnesota defense with 11 tackles and also secured two critical interceptions. PJ Fleck’s squad is confident and feeling good about themselves, but he knows his team must stayed focus this week as they head to Iowa to take on the No. 20 Hawkeyes.
If there is a team in the Big Ten that is notorious for upsets, it is Kirk Ferentz Iowa Hawkeyes. In 2016 his team upset No. 2 Michigan 14-13 on a last second field goal and his team accomplished that same feat in 2017, defeating No. 3 Ohio State 55-24. Three year starter
Nate Stanley will be under center for Iowa, where he has been a trustworthy and consistent quarterback. The senior enters this game with 2,158 passing yards on the year and a 12-5 ratio. The offense is not known for being explosive, but it always seems that Stanley locates his playmakers in big games like this one. The defense will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance last week against No. 14 Wisconsin where they gave up 473 total yards. Defensive end AJ Epenesa is without a question the leader of the defense coming in with 22 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and eight quarterback hurries. The Hawkeyes enter at No. 23 in our Pass Efficiency Defense rankings and will look to slow down Tanner Morgan after his excellent showing last week.
WHAT’S AT STAKE/CFP IMPLICATIONS: Iowa should not be underestimated and is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to upsets as mentioned previously. While the offense has struggled the past four games, Nate Stanley and the Hawkeyes offense could use this game as big motivation to get out of their slump. The defense is superb and should keep Iowa in this game even if the offense doesn’t explode for big time yards and points.
The Golden Gophers are riding high after an emotional win last week, but that is not always a good thing. Teams off emotional victories are vulnerable to upsets, but PJ Fleck’s team may not be. If Tanner Morgan performs like he did last week against Penn State and the defense continues to play at an elite level Minnesota should remain undefeated and continue their push to the College Football Playoff.
WHO: No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Baylor
WHEN: Saturday, November 16 7:30 PM
WHERE: McLane Stadium, Waco, TX
PREVIEW: Last week Oklahoma edged out unranked Iowa State 42-41, but it was another disappointing performance from the Sooners defense. Points were expected in this Big 12 shootout, but the Sooners defense had multiple rough moments in the fourth quarter and nearly blew the once 21 point lead. Oklahoma won however, and Jalen Hurts and his team’s College
Football Playoff aspirations are still alive. Hurts had another superb game against the Cyclones like he has had all year long. The graduate transfer finished the game going 18-26 passing with 273 yards and three touchdowns while adding 68 yards on the ground. Wideout CeeDee Lamb continued to impress as he hauled in eight catches for an incredible 167 yards. The defense needs to return to their early season form in order to gain the attention of the playoff committee over other one loss teams, and what better game to do it then against Baylor.
A lot of people have asked me when I will include Baylor in this weekly article since the Bears are undefeated and one of the best stories in college football this year. Well, now is that time! The reason I did not include Baylor in this article the previous two weeks is because…well…I actually thought the Bears would have zero trouble with their opponents and roll! However, they narrowly edged TCU last week 29-23 in 2OT and escaped West Virginia with a 17-14 victory. Since coming over from Temple in 2017, Matt Rhule has totally changed the culture in Waco. The program had been struggling and was marked by scandal and negativity following the Art Briles scandal, but Rhule has put all of that to rest. Quarterback Charlie Brewer has gone above and beyond for his coach this year as he enters this game with 2,338 yards through the air and a 16-4 ratio as well as seven scores on the ground! Brewer likes to spread the ball around his offense, but wideout Denzel Mims has emerged as his clear favorite target hauling in 44 catches for 675 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense Baylor has held their own against some of the best offenses in the Big 12, holding opponents to 60 yards below their season average on offense. James Lynch is far and away the Bears best rusher as he leads the team with 8.5 sacks. Linebacker Terel Bernard is the team leader in tackles with 68.
WHAT’S AT STAKE/CFP IMPLICATIONS: Oklahoma’s 48-41 loss to Kansas State a few weeks back certainly put a damper on the Sooners College Football Playoff hopes, but Lincoln Riley will have his team focused on the only that matters this week: defeating the undefeated Baylor Bears. Oklahoma enters this game as the road favorite, and it is easy to see why with how great their offense has been all year. The defense will need to step up though and stop a very talented Baylor offense. If the Sooners can accomplish this, they should get past the Bears.
Not so fast though (I feel like a young Lee Corso saying those words)! Baylor was counted out before the season even began and they are still riding high off emotion. Matt Rhule’s team will be prepared for their toughest test of this season, and McLane Stadium will be electric Saturday night. If Charlie Brewer can continue to stay consistent and take advantage of the Oklahoma defense and the defense can slow down Jalen Hurts, the Baylor Bears have a chance to remain undefeated and earn a huge victory!