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College Football Week 12 Preview: Colorado and the Big 12 look to move on up

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The second-to-last week of the season contains several appealing matchups.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

After a week that five of the top 10 were upset, several teams were given hope they could crack the top four. With Louisville going down already this week, Colorado and the Big 12 conference have a chance to put themselves in a good position if a few more upsets happen.

*All rankings reflect the College Football Playoff.

#11 Oklahoma State at TCU. Noon on Fox Sports 1.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

After an early season, controversial loss to Central Michigan and then a defeat to Baylor, Oklahoma State’s season was stuck at 2-2. A six game win streak now has the Cowboys in position to win the Big 12 Conference. The Pokes’ signature win on the year was handing West Virginia their first loss on the campaign. This week they head to TCU looking for a win before “Bedlam” at Oklahoma. The Cowboys’ standout performer this year has been QB Mason Rudolph. With only four interceptions on the season, Rudolph has been very efficient. His number one target, WR James Washington, has been a major key to his success. With over 1,100 yards receiving, Washington is averaging just over 20 yards per catch. His 82 yard touchdown late in the third quarter ended up being the winner in a 45-44 win over Texas Tech last week.

TCU has already spoiled one Big 12 team’s season this year. The 5-4 Horned Frogs went to Baylor and won 62-22 two weeks ago. After a bye week, Gary Patterson will be hoping it’s more of the same from RB Kyle Hicks. Hicks ran for 196 yards and five touchdowns against the Bears. Transfer QB Kenny Hill also ran for 85 yards to go along with a passing touchdown in what was only his second turnover free game of the year. In three of TCU’s four losses, the Frogs have lost by less than a touchdown. Playing spoiler one more time would give their somewhat disappointing season a nice boost.

#23 Florida at #16 LSU. 1pm on SEC Network.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Arkansas Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Will the SEC East race finally be over? The Gators have a chance to punch their ticket to Atlanta in the battle of transfer QBs from Purdue at Death Valley. Road games have been trouble for Florida. In what was originally a home game, Florida has to hit the road for the fourth time this year with both of their losses on the road. Their vaunted defense gave up 38 at Tennessee and 31 at Arkansas in their only losses of the season. Their other road game was a 13-6 win at Vanderbilt. For the Gators to get the win in Baton Rouge, they need Austin Appleby and Jordan Scarlett to play like they did against South Carolina. If not, their defense will have to keep LSU in the teens to give them a chance.

LSU moved to 6-3 after hammering Arkansas 38-10 last week. The Tigers let the combo of Fournette and Guice run wild on Arkansas. Guice ran for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns to go along with 98 yards and three touchdowns against Fournette. If they have games anything close to that then a victory is likely. A win by LSU would put Tennessee in position to win the SEC East.

#22 Washington State at #10 Colorado. 3:30pm on FOX.

NCAA Football: California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

If the season ended today, this would be the Pac-12 Championship game. Both teams are 8-2, but Colorado is likely the only one to have a shot at the playoff. Besides already being in the top ten, the Buffs do not have a loss to an FCS opponent on their record like Washington State. This could still be the Pac-12 title game but it would require a Colorado win this week. Washington State would still control their path to the championship game with a loss. Both teams are led by stellar QB play. Senior QB Sefo Liufau has re-written the history books at Colorado. The only thing that has held him back in Boulder is injuries. During his time out this year, Colorado relied heavily on RB Phillip Lindsay, who needs 63 yards to break one thousand on the year.

Washington State’s Luke Falk is arguably the best QB in the country. Currently second in yards with the nation’s best completion percentage (73.9), Falk has led the Cougars on an eight game win streak. After losing their first two games on the year on field goals to Eastern Washington (FCS) and Boise State, the Cougars likely won’t be in the playoff. They do have three big games that can shoot them up the rankings with Colorado, Washington and potentially the Pac-12 title game. Would that be enough to overlook a loss to an FCS team? They also are still behind Boise State in the rankings with the Broncos holding the head to head win. The Cougars did suffer a blow this week too, losing their number two WR River Cracraft for the year. No matter what, head coach Mike Leach has the Cougars playing their best football since the late ‘90s.

#9 Oklahoma at #14 West Virginia. 8pm on ABC.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Since suffering their second loss to Ohio State back in September, Oklahoma has won seven straight games in conference play. The Sooners are first in the Big 12 title race but play both the teams in second and third to end the year. First up is a trip to West Virginia. Oklahoma has not had trouble scoring points this season. Led by QB Baker Mayfield and the combo of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine in the backfield, the Sooners are averaging 44.2 points per game. The problems for the Sooners lie on the defensive side of the ball, as they have given up forty points four times this season. Away from Norman, their defense has struggled in conference play. They gave up 46 at TCU, 40 vs Texas (Dallas), and 59 at Texas Tech. Oklahoma continues to find a way to outscore their opponent, but they will be going against the Big 12’s best scoring defense this week.

West Virginia stayed in the hunt last week, holding on to a 24-20 win at Texas. For them to beat the Sooners this week, they need better QB play from Skyler Howard. Howard has thrown more interceptions the last three weeks than he had the previous six. With two in their loss at Oklahoma State and three last week against Texas, head coach Dana Holgorsen will likely continue to rely on the Mountaineers’ ground game. The Mountaineers have three RBs all over 450 yards rushing on the season. A win for West Virginia would put them in good position to win the conference. They would still need Oklahoma State to drop another game to be crowned champions.

Others to watch:

Indiana at #3 Michigan. 3:30 on ESPN

Missouri at #19 Tennessee. 3:30 on CBS.

#4 Clemson at Wake Forest. 7pm on ESPN.

#13 USC at UCLA. 10:30pm on ESPN.