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Viewing guide: The best games to watch in Week 12

Week 12 in college football is highlighted by Louisville's trip to Houston and Washington State's matchup with Colorado.
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Outside of Florida and LSU (the rescheduled Hurricane Matthew game), the SEC is taking the week off to play bad teams and rest up for rivalry games. So, let’s find all the other good games to watch! Here is your Week 12 viewing guide.

For fiends

No. 23 Florida at No. 16 LSU (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, SEC Network): A relocated makeup game! Two starting quarterbacks (Danny Etling and Austin Appleby) who transferred from… Purdue? The most compelling reason to watch this one, if you can avert your eyes from the abomination that is Florida’s offense, might be Leonard Fournette.

Buffalo at No. 21 Western Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 ET, ESPNU): I’m listing this one primarily because College Gameday is showing up to Kalamazoo, which is motivating local establishments to post signs like this. It’s also an opportunity to watch star wide receiver Corey Davis, a projected first-round pick. SI’s Lindsay Schnell caught up with Davis last week to discuss his team's New Year's Six bowl chances.

Texas at Kansas (Saturday, 3:30 ET, ABC/ESPN2): Just imagine if the Longhorns lost this game. Would Charlie Strong even make it to the airport?

• HAMILTON: Will these disappointing teams rebound in 2017?

No. 24 Stanford at California (Saturday, 5:30 ET, Pac-12 Network): After picking off redshirt freshman Andrew Luck in the waning seconds of the 2009 Big Game to seal “The Axe,” Cal’s performances against Stanford have been ghastly. Outside of three-point loss in 2011, the Cardinal have nuked the Bears regardless of where the two teams have played. Cal hasn’t even led Stanford since 2011, the first year of David Shaw’s tenure. He’s been to three Rose Bowls since then.

This might not be a great Stanford team, but Christian McCaffrey has broken loose three games in a row (503 rushing yards, seven total TDs) and the Cardinal look increasingly comfortable under quarterback Keller Chryst, who had a career-best 258 yards and three touchdowns in last weekend’s 52–27 rout of Oregon. Cal, meanwhile, has lost its last three games by a combined 95 points and is ranked 127th in the nation in total defense. The chasm between the two programs remains comically wide, even when Stanford isn’t competing for the Pac-12 title.

For the Bears to have a prayer, they’ll need to outrun Stanford in a shootout, but the Cardinal haven’t had any trouble slowing down Sonny Dykes’ offense since he arrived in Berkeley in 2012. And remember: they faced top NFL draft pick Jared Goff three times. Starting quarterback Davis Webb is a major talent and he has three strong weapons in Chad Hansen, Demetris Robertson and Melquise Stovall, but the Bears might need 60 to win this one because of how bad (and injured) their defense is.

Pretty good

No. 11 Oklahoma State at TCU (Saturday, Noon ET, FS1): This is one of the most popular upset picks of the week. Gary Patterson typically has his defenses prepared for even the most dangerous of the Big 12 offenses, TCU has been markedly better since its rocky first half of the season, and the Horned Frogs are at home.

But this isn’t one to put on upset watch. Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph remains one of the nation’s most underrated players, upping his season totals to 3384 passing yards, 24 TDs, just four interceptions and a completion percentage of over 65%. He’s going to shred a TCU defense ranked 102nd in the nation. If the Cowboys didn’t lose to Central Michigan (a game they should have been awarded a win), then Rudolph would be firmly in the Heisman conversation.

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Indiana at No. 3 Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 ET, ESPN): Indiana continues to get close to upsetting teams (last week the Hoosiers led late at Penn State), but can’t finish the job. If they can shock Michigan in Ann Arbor this weekend, Kevin Wilson may be given a lifetime extension. The Hoosiers have two nice pieces in quarterback Richard Lagow and running back Devine Redding. The Wolverines, conversely, will be missing starting quarterback Wilton Speight because of a broken collarbone, which reportedly could keep him out for the rest of the regular season.

No. 13 USC at UCLA (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN): USC is playing some of the best football in the nation and UCLA may not even make a bowl game. It’s not a great edition of this rivalry, but be sure to tune in for the best jersey contrast in college football.


Much Better

No. 5 Louisville at Houston (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN): Houston’s glimmer dimmed after losing to Navy and was extinguished after another loss to SMU. The result is one of the preseason’s most anticipated games hardly registering a blip during an otherwise forgettable November weekend. Don’t surrender hope. Louisville remains on the verge of a playoff berth (though it would likely need Clemson to lose once more to get in) and will need another strong performance from Heisman Trophy favorite Lamar Jackson if it wishes to stay in the conversation.

After its embarrassing loss to SMU on October 23rd, Houston has rebounded, though not to its expected 2016 standards. It did, however, limit Jackson last season when the two teams met in September 2015. The sophomore star was a freshman with little game experience then, and Jackson only managed 184 total yards (168 passing, 16 rushing) and turned the ball over twice. He did score two touchdowns in Houston’s 34–31 win, but if the Cougars can limit Jackson to half that production on Thursday, then they have a chance of pulling the upset and eliminating Louisville from CFP contention. A trivia note, Jackson is one touchdown away from tying the ACC record for TDs in a season set by … Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in 2015.

No. 2 Ohio State at Michigan State (Saturday, Noon ET, ESPN): At this point, it’s worth tuning in just to see if Ohio State will score 62 points again. That’s unlikely against Michigan State, a struggling team with a reasonably good defense, but Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett is expertly navigating the offense and giving his best weapons (Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber) opportunities to showcase themselves. It’s hard to see this game being close, but Ohio State’s has been inconsistent this season. Even accounting for the routs of Nebraska and Maryland in back-to-back weeks, the Buckeyes aren’t even a month removed from a loss to Penn State and a tight win over Northwestern.

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No. 22 Washington State at No. 10 Colorado (Saturday, 3:30 ET, FOX): It’s incredible to think that this might be the best game on a mid-November weekend, but here we are. The two teams with the worst conference win percentage over the past decade are playing a game that will be pivotal in deciding the scope of the Pac-12.

Washington State received a significant blow by losing wide receiver River Cracraft (701 receiving yards, five touchdowns) to a torn ACL, but remain one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. The Cougars shredded Cal, 56–21, last weekend to boost their point-per-game total to 46.6 during their eight-game winning streak. Mind you, this is a team that started its season with a loss to FCS Eastern Washington.

They’ll meet a Colorado team that surprisingly boasts one of the nation’s top defenses, tied for ninth in the nation in points allowed per game (17.9). The Buffs have held opponents to single digits on four different occasions and haven’t lost in Boulder this season.

On a weekend where most of the SEC is dieting on mid-major and FCS fluff, this year’s least likely showdown is a great option.

No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 14 West Virginia (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC): This is one of the most difficult games to pick of the season and it’s an unlikely Big 12 highlight in a forgettable season for the conference. The matchup between West Virginia’s defense—which has smothered Texas, Texas Tech and TCU—and Oklahoma’s high-flying offense is the best that the conference has offered this season. Morgantown is an electric environment when the Mountaineers are good (and they sure are this season), and the net result will likely be a couch set aflame, no matter the final score. Just tune in and enjoy.