Week 12 College Football Picks From WhatIfSports.com image

Week 12 College Football Picks

NCAA football predictions for every FBS game
By Eric Schmoldt and Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
November 16th, 2009

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Each Monday morning, we will preview every college football DI FBS game of the upcoming week. All of our college football content, including our most recent power rankings and links to the pre-season preview are located here.

The inputs to the 10,000 simulations of these games are based on a rigorous analysis of each team that considers strength-of-schedule-adjusted team and player ratings and then makes modifications for injuries and depth at each position. To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date performance, click here.

Game of the Week: #18 LSU 17 @ #24 Mississippi 23
The Southeastern Conference championship game is set, but there is still some meaningful football to be played in the conference. The rest of the SEC race is anybody's guess.

The West Division picture should get a little clearer this weekend as two top 25 teams in our most recent power rankings - Ole Miss and LSU - meet in a battle of teams that were considered contenders to fight for spots in that title game at the start of the year.

The Tigers rebounded from a loss to Alabama on Saturday, but certainly didn't look dominating against Louisiana Tech. They've lost two of their last five games, both of those losses coming against unbeaten teams (Florida and Alabama), but have suffered at different times during the season from unexpectedly close victories.

LSU relies on a balanced offense and has scored 14 touchdowns through the air and 14 on the ground. The Tigers' rushing attack hasn't opened any eyes as they average less than four yards per carry. They'll again be without starter Charles Scott, who broke his collarbone, but Keiland Williams filled in well against Louisiana Tech and is averaging more than five yards per carry this season. The Tigers' passing offense has been even more mediocre. They rank outside the top 100 in passing yards per game and average less than seven yards per attempt. LSU hasn't said yet whether quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who also missed Saturday’s game but did practice some last week, will return.

The Tigers have made it to 8-2 on the strength of their defense. On the ground, they give up just 3.39 yards per carry. Through the air, they allow just 5.78 yards per attempt and have picked off more passes (12) than they've allowed to find the end zone (10). LSU ranks 13th in the country, allowing less than 4.5 yards per play.

After making an abundance of noise to start the season, Mississippi fell off the national picture with a loss to South Carolina and a drubbing by Alabama. They haven't put together three consecutive victories yet this season, though will get another chance to do that against LSU.

Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead was once considered a potential Heisman candidate, but those hopes have fallen by the wayside as fast as the Rebels fell out of SEC contention. They average 7.27 yards per pass attempt, but Snead has thrown 14 interceptions on the year and completes just over 52 percent of his passes. But it's the Rebels offense that has exploded onto the scene. Dexter McCluster ran roughshod over Tennessee on Saturday, running for 283 yards - more than 11 per carry - and four touchdowns in a blowout victory over the Vols. On the season, Ole Miss is averaging almost five yards per rush as attention shifts from Snead and the pass attack to McCluster and the ground game.

The Rebels aren't far behind the Tigers in terms of rushing defense, allowing less than 3.8 yards per carry. Both teams have been especially stout against the run at the goal line. LSU has allowed an amazingly low three rushing touchdowns while opponents have found the end zone on the ground against Ole Miss just eight times. The Rebels are equally good against the pass, allowing just seven passing touchdowns and just 5.76 yards per passing attempt.

LSU and Mississippi could get together for one of the best defensive slugfests of the season. Either way, the game should stay close with two teams that are giving up less than 16 points per game, each ranking in the top 12 in the nation in scoring defense.

Our computers expect at least one team to eclipse 20 points and it's the home team pulling off a minor upset. In 10,0000 computer simulations, McCluster and the Rebels finally put together an official winning streak with a 23-17 victory over the Tigers. Ole Miss ties LSU in the SEC West by winning 63.7% of the time.

Other Notable Games in Week 12
With the season winding down, many of the top conference races are all but over at the top (see Ohio State, the SEC title game and Texas just waiting to pounce on whoever comes out of the Big 12 North). The Pac-10 belonged in that category about this time every year as well ... until now. USC's back-to-back blowouts have the conference race fairly wide open heading into the final few weeks. Now, Oregon remains in the Pac-10 driver's seat, and stays there 65.2% of the time this week, edging Arizona 27-23. Just about every other game this week has implications as well. Stanford continues its hot run 70.6% of the time against Cal, winning 38-28. And Oregon State remains in the hunt 95% of the time at Washington State.

The Big East remains exciting as well, though not so much this week. Both 10-0 Cincinnati and 9-1 Pittsburgh have this week off and then will play one more game before meeting up in what could be a monumental season finale.

While the Bearcats officially have 0% of losing their first game of the season this week, the five other unbeatens chances of losing are (unofficially) nearly as low. Every one of them has a 95% (or better) chance of remaining undefeated this weekend as Florida takes on Florida International, Alabama gets Chattanooga, Texas hosts Kansas and TCU and Boise each go on the road, facing Wyoming and Boise State, respectively. While last week there was about a 50% chance that one of the teams would get upset, this week there is only about a 20% chance that that will happen.

Temple, one of the hottest teams in the nation given its eight-game winning streak, moves that to a nine-game stretch 81.1% of the time against Kent State. Seriously, we are talking about Temple. That probably says more about the week than the team, but congrats to Al Golden and the Owls on their winning streak.

And finally, our computer can't predict the percentage chance that Charlie Weis keeps his job at Notre Dame, but it can predict whether he can boost his chances by winning against Connecticut as the Golden Domers get ready for another close game. Notre Dame edges UConn 31-27, winning 54.7% of the time.

To see other picks like our Upset of the Week and Lock of the Week, as well as our season-to-date performance, click here.

College Football Week 12
MatchupWin%Avg Score
North Carolina State Wolfpack 5.513
@ Virginia Tech Hokies94.538
Maryland Terrapins 9.518
@ Florida State Seminoles90.535
Virginia Cavaliers12.48
@ Clemson Tigers87.628
Duke Blue Devils15.418
@ Miami (FL) Hurricanes84.632
North Carolina Tar Heels55.217
@ Boston College Eagles44.817
Louisville Cardinals11.414
@ South Florida Bulls88.630
Rutgers Scarlet Knights91.529
@ Syracuse Orange 8.514
Minnesota Golden Gophers 9.08
@ Iowa Hawkeyes91.024
Purdue Boilermakers59.221
@ Indiana Hoosiers40.818
Penn State Nittany Lions76.127
@ Michigan State Spartans23.920
Ohio State Buckeyes80.627
@ Michigan Wolverines19.416
Wisconsin Badgers80.627
@ Northwestern Wildcats19.417
Kent State Golden Flashes18.912
@ Temple Owls81.126
Eastern Michigan Eagles19.415
@ Toledo Rockets80.631
Akron Zips38.314
@ Bowling Green Falcons61.719
Northern Illinois Huskies80.627
@ Ohio Bobcats19.418
Buffalo Bulls85.127
@ Miami (OH) RedHawks14.914
Central Michigan Chippewas89.631
@ Ball State Cardinals10.414
California Golden Bears29.428
@ Stanford Cardinal70.638
Arizona State Sun Devils47.819
@ UCLA Bruins52.222
Oregon Ducks65.227
@ Arizona Wildcats34.823
Oregon State Beavers95.039
@ Washington State Cougars 5.010
Florida International Golden Panthers 5.05
@ Florida Gators95.057
Chattanooga Mocs 5.04
@ Alabama Crimson Tide95.054
Vanderbilt Commodores13.911
@ Tennessee Volunteers86.130
Kentucky Wildcats17.413
@ Georgia Bulldogs82.627
Mississippi State Bulldogs23.922
@ Arkansas Razorbacks76.134
LSU Tigers36.317
@ Mississippi Rebels63.723
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs20.424
@ Fresno State Bulldogs79.637
Hawaii Warriors91.037
@ San Jose State Spartans 9.019
Nevada Wolf Pack95.048
@ New Mexico State Aggies 5.011
Boise State Broncos95.046
@ Utah State Aggies 5.017
Connecticut Huskies45.327
@ Notre Dame Fighting Irish54.731
Kansas Jayhawks 5.08
@ Texas Longhorns95.043
Colorado Buffaloes 5.012
@ Oklahoma State Cowboys95.037
Iowa State Cyclones14.912
@ Missouri Tigers85.126
Kansas State Wildcats24.413
@ Nebraska Cornhuskers75.624
Baylor Bears35.818
@ Texas A&M Aggies64.224
Oklahoma Sooners76.128
@ Texas Tech Red Raiders23.921
Memphis Tigers 7.523
@ Houston Cougars92.545
Tulsa Golden Hurricane23.422
@ Southern Miss Golden Eagles76.633
Tulane Green Wave27.415
@ UCF Knights72.625
UAB Blazers58.225
@ East Carolina Pirates41.824
Southern Methodist Mustangs66.721
@ Marshall Thundering Herd33.317
UTEP Miners86.131
@ Rice Owls13.915
San Diego State Aztecs 5.011
@ Utah Utes95.035
Air Force Falcons42.324
@ Brigham Young Cougars57.729
Colorado State Rams78.122
@ New Mexico Lobos21.913
TCU Horned Frogs95.042
@ Wyoming Cowboys 5.07
Florida Atlantic Owls21.422
@ Troy Trojans78.635
Army Black Knights29.416
@ North Texas Mean Green70.624
Arkansas State Red Wolves46.317
@ Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders53.721
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks85.126
@ Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns14.914

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Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in NCAA Matchup analysis and college football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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