PAC 12: #5 Utah (11-1) vs. #13 Oregon (10-2) on Friday night from Levi’s Stadium
Oregon is led by veteran QB Justin Herbert 3140 passing yards, 31 TD’s and a strong, experienced offensive line. Oregon’s lead rusher is CJ Verdell with 162 carries for 963 yards and 5 TD’s. Lead receiver Johnny Johnson III has 49 catches for 731 yards and 6 TD’s. The Oregon D has 17 Interceptions and has allowed 10 or fewer points in 7 games. The Ducks also have a strong special teams unit which could be key as it is expected to be rainy Friday night in Santa Clara. As other analysts have said in the Athletic “When the Ducks put it all together they can hang with anyone.”
Utah is a “complete” team with an elite defense (#4 in nation) and multiple weapons on offense QB Tyler Huntley, RB Zach Moss plus 7 players with 12 or more catches. Huntley 188 of 249 for 2773 yards, 16 TD to 2 INT’s has a 75.5% completion rate and averages 14.8 yards per completion, he is #3 in nation in yards per attempt. The Utes with Zach Moss (200 carries, 1246 yards and 15 TD’s) leads the Pac 12 in rushing at 215 yards per game. Lead receiver Brant Kuithe has 29 catches, 550 yards and 6 TD’s from his TE position. Utah controls the ball 35 minutes per game which helps rest the D. They had 5 all Pac 12 juniors from last year return this season. They are in the nation’s top 10 in both yards per play on offense and yards per play allowed on D. The Defense leads the nation against the run (56.3 yards per game allowed) led by stud D Lineman Bradlee Anae (12.5 sacks) and Leki Fotu. They also have a lockdown corner in Jaylon Johnson.
On paper Utah looks to be the better team. Note: Moss was out with an injury for most of the USC game (the Utes only loss). The line is Utah by 6. Utah has a 51% win chance per ESPN. SI has Utah winning 17-13 but Bri likes Oregon, (playing with no pressure while Utah is trying to get into the college football playoff for the first time), in an upset 24-17.
BIG 12: #7 Baylor (11-1) vs. #6 Oklahoma (11-1) at noon on Saturday from “Jerry World”
Baylor has the Big 12’s best pass rush (40 sacks, 88 Tackles for loss). Their offense must ride their RB’s (Lovett, Hasty and Ebner) to stay on the field longer. QB Charlie Brewer has thrown for 224 of 342 for 2935 yards, 20 TD’s and 6 INT’s. Lead rusher John Lovett has 97 carries for 618 yards and 5 TD’s. Leading receiver Denzel Mims has 61 catches for 945 yards and 11 TD’s. Baylor has played in a number of close games this year (5 wins by less than 10 points including 2 overtime wins) so they may have an advantage if this one is close at the end.
Oklahoma ranks #9 in total offense nationally but #42 in defense. Having said that the OU D gives up the fewest yards allowed in the wide open Big 12 at 336 (196 passing.) The last matchup between these two rivals saw OU come back and win after trailing 28-3 at half. Note: Stud OU receiver Cee Dee Lamb did not play in that game. QB Jaylen Hurts has thrown for 205 of 285 for 3347 yards, 31TD’s and 6 INT’s. He is also the lead runner for the Sooners with 196 carries for 1217 yards and 18 TD’s. Lamb has 50 catches for 1035 yards and 14 TD’s.
The line is OU by 8. OU has a 69% win chance per ESPN. SI has Baylor winning 30-28. Bri likes OU 38-31-too much Hurts/Lamb and based upon his Oregon pick above and his LSU pick below Bri has OU getting the last playoff spot this year.
SEC: #4 Georgia (11-1) vs. #2 LSU (12-0) at 4PM on Saturday from Atlanta
Georgia’s Defense is elite-giving up only 10 points per game with 26 sacks and 66 tackles for loss. Georgia’s offense (#40 in nation) has not scored more than 24 points against any ranked opponents. Their passing game will be hurt as leading receiver Lawrence Cager is out with injury and lead WR George Pickens (33 catches for 498 yards and 6TD’s) will miss the first half due to a fight in the game against Georgia Tech last weekend. This makes the two UGA tight ends Charlie Woerner and Eli Wolf crucial, especially since stud RB DeAndre Swift (193 carries, 1203 yards, 7 TD’s) is suffering from an injured shoulder-he should play. Georgia lost five of its top pass catchers from last years team. QB Jake Fromm has completed 194 of 313 for 2385 yards, 21 TD’s to 3 INT’s (all against South Carolina), his yards per attempt is down to 7.6 from 9.0 and his completion rate is 62% down from 67%.
LSU’s offense is elite-averaging 560 yards per game and 49 points behind QB Joe Burrow (314 of 401 for 4366 yards, 44TD’s to only 6 INT’s) , RB Edwards Helaire (182 carries for 1233 yards and 16 TD’s) and a trio of stud receivers led by Jamarr Chase (70 catches for 1457 yards and 17 TD’s). LSU’s defense allowed 402 rushing yards to Ole Miss two weeks ago but looked better last week against Texas A&M. Burrow has only been sacked more than 3 times in 3 games this year so the battle in the trenches (LSU’s O lIne vs. Georgia’s D line) will be interesting to watch.
The line is LSU by 7.5. LSU has a 56% win chance per ESPN. SI has LSU winning 31-21 and Bri has LSU winning 31-20 with the Georgia defense tiring in the fourth quarter.
BIG 10: #1 Ohio State (12-0) vs. #8 Wisconsin (10-2) at 8PM Saturday from Indy
Wisconsin QB Jack Coan has completed 73% of his passes (196 of 271 for 2309 yards) (#3 nationally), 17 TD’s and 4 INT’s). He needs to get the ball out quickly to leading WR Quinton Cephus (45 catches for 720 yards and 6TD’s) and ride stud RB Jonathan Taylor (279 carries for 1761 yards and 20 TD’s) to help control some clock. Some analysts expect the Badgers to expand their playbook with jet sweeps, end arounds and Wildcats.
Ohio State is a machine. They have the nations #1 scoring offense and #4 scoring defense. QB Justin Fields (189 of 277 for 2654 yards, 37 TD’s to 1 Interception). Stud RB JK Dobbins has run for 1657 yards (#4 in country) on 250 carries and 19 TD’s. Lead receiver Chris Olave has 41 catches for 705 yards and 11 TD’s. Ohio State has outscored its opponents by 38 points per game. Chase Young (16.5 sacks) had 4 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles in the Badgers vs. Buckeyes regular season matchup which the Buckeyes won 38-7 (scored 28 unanswered in the second half).
The line is Ohio State by 16.5. Ohio State has an 82% win chance per ESPN. Wisconsin has lost 10 of its last 11 to the Buckeyes. SI expects Ohio State to win 41-15. Bri says 35-7 Ohio State.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS
Based upon Bri’s predictions above, #1 Ohio State would face #4 Oklahoma (Bri expects the Buckeyes to roll) and #2 LSU would face #3 Clemson (should be a great game with Clemson winning narrowly).