College football games, Week 12: Auburn looks to play SEC playoff spoilers, first vs. Georgia
Georgia beating Auburn is no guarantee Saturday, as the Tigers likely plan to remind the Bulldogs
Auburn can do some damage this week. Significant damage ... to Georgia and the SEC. You're way ahead of me if you've figured the Tigers are the potential poison pill preventing the SEC from getting two in the College Football Playoff.
All it takes is for the No. 12 Tigers to win out. A win over No. 4 Georgia on Saturday all but eliminates the Bulldogs from CFP consideration. An Auburn win over No. 5 Alabama two weeks from now does the same to the Crimson Tide.
In that scenario, if No. 1 LSU -- the SEC West leader -- beats Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, that's the end of the two-team discussion.
Sorry to be Denny Downer Deep South, but none of those possibilities qualifies as outlandish heading into the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry. Auburn has settled into an identity with its second-best defense (statistically) in the last 11 years. It has not allowed more than 24 points this season. The Dawgs, with the SEC's No. 1 defense, have not allowed more than 20 points this season. Recipe for the under (40.5)?
Auburn is comfortable playing that way, defensively, relying on a game manager quarterback (Bo Nix). Sounds a lot like Georgia with Jake Fromm. Another reason to like the Tigers: Auburn is 7-2 against the spread this season, 4-1 at home. Georgia is favored by 2.5. The Tigers have won 21 of their last 23 home games. Gus Malzahn is 4-9 against Georgia and Alabama combined, but he was swept both before.
"It's part of being at Auburn," Malzahn said this week. "The way the schedule sets up, we are going to play them and our other rival here at the end. … These are the games that people remember and our players understand that."
2. Big 12 playoff elimination game: The winner of Oklahoma-Baylor still needs help to get into the playoff. Baylor remains the conference's best story. We know this because the Bears have cobbled together a 9-0 mark that threatens to upset the playoff blue bloods. That's another way of saying No. 13 Baylor absolutely can take the next step Saturday against No. 10 Oklahoma. Try to figure out this turnaround:
- Baylor has scored two touchdowns in the last eight quarters of regulation. From 2013-15, the Bears led the nation in scoring three straight seasons.
- Baylor is second in Big 12 total defense and first in yards per play. In 2015, Art Briles' last season, the Bears were 51st nationally in total defense.
- Only four other teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than Baylor's seven. In 2017, Matt Rhule's first season, only 15 teams allowed more than Baylor's 25 passing touchdowns.
- Baylor has played a combined five overtime periods this season (2-0). That's one fewer overtime period the Bears have played total from 2011-18 (2-1).
3. Floyd of Rosedale: If you ask, you don't know enough about the Minnesota-Iowa rivalry. It's a trophy game, a weird trophy game. The winner gets "Floyd," a 15 ½-inch tall bronze pig. The rivalry basically started in 1935 when the governors of both states bet a prize hog on the outcome. You know, because that's what the governors of Iowa and Minnesota do. Nothing that tasty is at stake. Saturday marks the 130th anniversary of Iowa football. More to the point, Saturday also marks 20 years since the No. 8 Gophers have won at Iowa City.
No. 20 Iowa has all but been eliminated in the Big Ten West. By winning, Minnesota can actually clinch the division if Wisconsin loses at Nebraska. If the question is, how do the Gophers rebound from one of their biggest wins in history, here's part of the answer: Maybe they don't. This is one of the best defenses of all-time at Iowa. The Hawkeyes are giving up 11.7 points per game, fewest to this point since 1959.
4. Not Lion, Penn State still in it: All of Penn State's goals are still in front of it. I mean, all of them. Yes, that was a gut-wrenching loss at Minnesota. But the Nittany Lions -- No. 9 in the CFP -- can still win out and claim a playoff spot. Penn State has to get better, quick. It was pushed around by Minnesota. Sean Clifford threw three interceptions, doubling his season total in that game. Indiana, a two-touchdown 'dog, is in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1994. Penn State needs to stay in the hunt with games left against Ohio State and Rutgers.
5. Big Brother vs. Little Brother: I don't want this to be the end for Mark Dantonio. He is one of the most upstanding people -- forget coaching -- I've ever met. But this Michigan State-Michigan feels like a crossroads. The Spartans are 4-5 and have looked dreary getting there. The leader of Dantonio's typically rock-solid defense, linebacker Joe Bache, is suspended after testing positive for a banned substance. The athletic director who hired Dantonio, Mark Hollis, has been gone for nearly two years, caught up in the scandal surrounding Larry Nassar. After the season, Dantonio has to sit for what could be a painful deposition in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
"I had the freshmen together this week. … One of them said, 'Coach how do you handle the criticism?' When you're the head of the program, you're head of something big. … I can continue to rise above it or I can take another direction. I'm not worried about things I cannot control." Typical, Coach D. When asked about entering the belly of the beast in the Big House, he said, "Run, don't walk."
6. ACC Game of the Year! Clemson-Wake Forest qualifies even though the No. 3 Tigers have already clinched a spot in the ACC Championship Game. Yup, that's how down the ACC is in 2019. Wake has the second-best record in the ACC (7-2) and may actually provide some push back to Clemson, which has won its last three by 51, 45 and 52. Jermaine Newman leads the ACC's best pass offense, and it isn't even close. That gives the Demon Deacons a fighting chance in Death Valley. Wake will be without 1,000-yard receiver Sage Surratt, out with a shoulder injury.
7. Quick hits: Sign of the times: Navy. AD Jack Swarbrick is not concerned, but ADs all over the country continue to be. Shrinking attendance continues to be an issue. Last year's average attendance nationwide was the lowest in 22 years ... These four teams from four different conferences are the only programs nationally to be 4-0 on the road against the spread: Louisiana Tech, Pittsburgh, Oregon State and LSU ... Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is one win shy of fifth-place all-time in Big Ten wins. His 95th would tie him with Joe Paterno ... Northwestern (hosting UMass) has scored three touchdowns combined in the last four games. The Wildcats (1-8, 0-7 Big Ten) have clinched last place in the Big Ten West with two conference games to go ... No surprise Tua Tagovailoa is the best RPO passer in the SEC (per SECStatCat); ut Auburn's Nix is second in that category (272 yards in 51 passes) ... Alabama (at Mississippi State) is 30th nationally in total defense. The last time it was that low was 2007, Nick Saban's first year (33rd).against
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