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College Football 2019: Week 12 Preview
Monday, 2019 November 11 - 6:32 pm
Michigan is on a bye and will face MSU next. Penn State loses a heartbreaker to Minnesota and will have to pick up the pieces against Indiana. N.C. State gets predictably demolished by Clemson and faces Louisville next.

Michigan: Bye

Next week: Michigan vs. Michigan State, 12:00 PM Fox

We'll talk about MSU's ridiculous loss last Saturday in a bit, but let's just say that this is a Spartan squad that is reeling. At 4-5, MSU needs two wins just to get to a bowl game. It could happen with Rutgers and Maryland still left to play, but it will be a struggle.

MSU has been beaten up with injuries, they don't have a consistent quarterback, and star linebacker Joe Bachie has been suspended for PED use. The shuffling of the deck chairs among the coaching staff last year has been a failure of an experiment. MSU's offense is among the worst in the NCAA. But this being the UM-MSU game, I fully expect MSU to play uncharacteristically good football for the only time all season, and to benefit from any number of poor officiating calls and weird bounces.

A lot comes down to how well Michigan has practiced, and whether we'll see the full playbook unleashed by the offense like we did against Notre Dame. If so... I reluctantly and wood-knockingly predict a comfortable win. Good weather might also benefit Michigan; a wet or blustery day will level the playing field by limiting Michigan's offensive output. Current forecast is for a dry and cold day; that should be fine as long as the wind doesn't whip up.

Prediction: Michigan 38, MSU 15.

Penn State 26, Minnesota 31

Tell me if this script sounds familiar. The road team goes down big in the first half, but claws their way back into the game in the second half. There's a questionable pass interference penalty that occurs at a critical moment. A possible game winning touchdown play near the end of the game fails. The road team loses despite outgaining, and at times meaningfully outplaying, the other team.

Yes, this game was eerily similar to the Michigan-PSU game, but PSU was on the wrong side of the result this time. Sean Clifford wasted a 340-yard passing day by also tossing three interceptions; none were more critical than the one at the end of the game, which just happened to come two plays after an arguably phantom pass interference call against Daniel George. The rushing game was so-so; without Noah Cain, PSU got 124 yards from Journey Brown, but 84 of those yards came on two chunk plays (that led to 10 points). Without that, Brown's 12 other carries resulted in just 40 yards.

The big issue, though, was that Penn State simply had no answer for Tanner Morgan and the Minnesota RPO attack. The Penn State secondary was exposed; Minnesota receivers were frequently and inexplicably wide open. That's a bit of an ominous sign with Ohio State still looming on the schedule, and even Indiana with its pass-heavy offense might cause some issues.

Now, let's talk about two James Franklin coaching moments.

The decision to spike the ball with 19 seconds left in the first half and a timeout remaining was probably the wrong one. Either they should have had a play ready to run, or they should have called timeout. As it was, they ran out of downs and settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown that would have brought them within one score of Minnesota.

But the other controversial call was defensible. Down 24-19 late in the third quarter, Franklin elected to go for two to cut the lead to 24-21, but PSU failed to make the conversion. Some have argued that that point would have made the difference later, if Penn State happened to be down 11, in which case a field goal would have made it a one point game. But that's ridiculous; in that scenario, PSU would still have to make a two-point conversion, so it's better to try it earlier and know what you have to do, then to leave that critical play until the end of the game when you have no time left to make up for a miss. So yeah, I think Franklin made the right call there.

In the big picture, this is a disappointing loss for PSU, but not a season-ender. A win over Indiana and Ohio State puts PSU in the title game with a chance for a Minnesota rematch, and a CFP berth is still a possibility. PSU will need to fix its leaky secondary, though.

Next week: Penn State vs. Indiana, 12:00 PM ABC

As Michigan has learned, Indiana can be a good tune-up game leading up to Ohio State, since they often run similar styles of offense. Indiana is surprisingly sitting at 7-2, but they've lost to the only two ranked teams on their schedule so far, and one of those is the no-longer-ranked Michigan State. They might cause some chaos, because that's what they do. But I expect PSU to right the ship playing at home.

Prediction: Penn State 44, Indiana 17.

N.C. State 10, Clemson 55


Next week: N.C. State vs. Louisville, 7:30 PM ACCNX

Prediction: N.C. State 20, Louisville 45.

Last Week's Big Surprises

Is it okay to be gleeful about Michigan State's self-immolation here? MSU was up 28-3 at one point, and was up 31-10 going into the fourth quarter; Illinois then outscored MSU 27-3 in the fourth. There were comical mistakes by both teams. At the end, former Michigan QB Brandon Peters had the last laugh over the fans that were taunting him as a "Michigan reject" for the entire game; Peters threw a dart for the game-winning TD with five seconds left. In your face, Sparty.

And yeah, LSU knocked off Alabama, and that might keep Alabama out of the playoffs. So that's good too.

Games to Watch on TV

#14 Michigan plays MSU at noon on Fox, while #9 Penn State plays Indiana on ABC. Both are worth watching. #15 Wisconsin plays at Nebraska on CBS at the same time as well, and that might be one to keep an eye on.

At 2:30 PM, a surprising #21 Navy team plays #15 Notre Dame. Navy is 7-1 and is dangerous; Notre Dame could be susceptible against an option team.

At 3:30 PM, #3 Clemson plays Wake Forest on ABC. Wake Forest just lost unexpectedly to Virginia Tech, but the Deacons are the ACC's last and best home to hang a win on Clemson. Meanwhile there's another big matchup as #5 Georgia plays #13 Auburn, with playoff standings on the line.

At 4:00 PM, #7 Minnesota plays #23 Iowa on Fox; an Iowa win will make the upcoming Minnesota-Wisconsin game a play-in game for the Big Ten championship.

At 7:30 PM, #10 Oklahoma plays #12 Baylor in an important Big 12 matchup. At 8:00 PM, a rapidly-improving UCLA team might have a chance to upset #8 Utah, on Fox. USC plays Cal in a nightcap game at 11:00 PM on FS1.

Starting next week I'll start talk about conference and playoff races.

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