Most compelling matchups in college football Week 12

© Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Compared to last weekend’s game in Tuscaloosa, college football Week 12 isn’t nearly as potent when it comes to compelling matchups.

But there are still some huge games this weekend, as rivalry games take center stage, that will be a ton of fun to watch. Starting with a Big Ten rivalry game in Ann Arbor, these are the games we’re particularly interested in watching in college football Week 12.

Michigan State vs. Michigan

Sparty has lost four in a row and just blew a 28-3 lead to Illinois last Saturday. So this matchup isn’t quite as compelling as we figured it would be earlier in the season. Still, any time Michigan State and Michigan square off, it’s going to be an interesting watch. The past four meetings between these rivals have resulted in two wins apiece. Michigan won last year, 21-7, but Michigan State won in 2017, 14-10 — in Ann Arbor, no less.

If Brian Lewerke can somehow avoid turning the ball over, and if his defense plays up to its potential, then the Spartans can make things interesting Saturday. Michigan’s coming off a rather uninspiring offensive performance against Maryland and has been inconsistent all year.

Navy vs. Notre Dame

Navy and Notre Dame have a long history on the gridiron, but the Fighting Irish have dominated — winning 76 times out of 90 meetings between these programs. This year’s matchup could turn out much differently, however. The Midshipmen bring a very good squad to South Bend, and this will be the first ranked-versus-ranked matchup between these schools since 1978.

Navy runs the ball extremely well, and often, averaging nearly 358 yards on the ground per game. That could be a problem for the Fighting Irish, who aren’t great at defending the run (156 yards allowed per game). If Ian Book isn’t sharp, and if the Midshipmen can control the clock with that run game, then Navy absolutely can upset the Fighting Irish on Saturday.

Georgia vs. Auburn

It’s hard to know which version of either team will show up Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Both Georgia and Auburn have shown the ability to play up or down to the level of competition, so there’s a good chance we’ll witness a very competitive game.

For the Bulldogs, this tough road test is a must-win game. They still have a chance to make it into the College Football Playoff if they win out. But another loss would likely mean the end of that dream.

Jake Fromm, who was so good in the Florida game, has to play one of his better games if Georgia is going to win this one. He’s been maddening to watch this year, because one week he looks like a future first-rounder, and the next he’s struggling to hit open receivers. If the latter version shows up Saturday, the Tigers will feast.

Minnesota vs. Iowa

Every weekend is a playoff game for Minnesota the rest of the way. After the Golden Gophers stunned Penn State last Saturday, they have a legitimate shot to keep stunning the college football world. It will take winning out, and then somehow figuring out a way to stop juggernaut Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

But all that means exactly zilch if the Golden Gophers lose Sunday to Iowa. The College Football Playoff selection committee has already proved it doesn’t see this team as a true contender just yet (No. 17 in the first ranking, and No. 8 heading into college football Week 12). So Minnesota has to keep impressing with big wins.

The Hawkeyes nearly pulled off an upset over Wisconsin last Saturday and are tough as nails. It’s going to take nothing but Minnesota’s best to stay undefeated and keep the Playoff dream alive.

Oklahoma vs. Baylor

Though not quite on the level of LSU vs. Alabama, this Big 12 game of the week is almost as important. Baylor has escaped numerous defeats this season with stunning wins, including last Saturday’s exciting triple-overtime thriller over TCU. Three of its last four games have come down to the wire, but the Bears keep finding ways to win.

Now comes Oklahoma, which features one of the most potent offenses in the nation. Jalen Hurts would be a Heisman favorite in any other season and has piled up 3,611 yards and 39 touchdowns from scrimmage. Slowing him down and/or keeping him off the field as much as possible is the most certain way to victory for the Bears.

Both teams need a win in the worst way to stay alive in the Playoff. This one should be a ton of fun to watch.

Arizona vs. Oregon

The Oregon Ducks have the best chance of any team in the Pac-12 of making it into the College Football Playoff. They haven’t lost since Week 1, when Auburn freshman Bo Nix stunned them at the last moment. Playing outstanding defense and featuring a balanced offense led by Justin Herbert, the Ducks are for real.

This Saturday night, they’ll be looking for some revenge against Arizona, which took the Ducks behind the proverbial woodshed last year in Tucson, winning 44-15. The Wildcats started out the year going 4-1, but they’ve since fallen flat on their faces with four straight losses. On paper, this game shouldn’t be close. However, strange things happen on a weekly basis during Pac 12 after dark, and the Ducks will need to stay sharp to avoid a huge upset to their rival.