Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will pick those five games against the spread and highlight some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Week 11 of the college football season was a little lacking, both because there were no marquee games and because so many were canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 issues. The number of Week 12 games getting wiped from the slate is growing, but the quality of the games remaining on the schedule is a significant upgrade.
There are three ranked vs. ranked games to get excited about on Saturday afternoon, including two games being billed as de fact Big Ten semifinals. There are also a host of other intriguing matchups sprinkled throughout the day and into the night.
Conference title races are heating up and Week 12 is the last week before the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season are unveiled. Let’s go.
(Note: All times ET, point spreads/totals from BetMGM)
No. 9 Indiana at No. 3 Ohio State
Time: Noon | TV: FOX | Line: Ohio State -20.5 | Total: 65.5
First place is on the line in the Big Ten East on Saturday in Columbus. The Buckeyes battling it out for the top of the division is nothing new. But this is new territory for Indiana. The Hoosiers are off to a 4-0 start, spurred on by a dramatic overtime win over Penn State to open the season. It was IU’s first win over a top 10 team since 1987. PSU still hasn’t won a game, but it was a moment that gave a program that had so many close losses in recent years a much-needed jolt of confidence. IU will need much more than that to beat mighty Ohio State.
Ohio State is on a quest to get back to the College Football Playoff in 2020, and Indiana could prove to be the best opponent on its regular season schedule. OSU has wins over Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers on the year, and had its most recent game at Maryland canceled because of Maryland’s COVID-19 cases. On the horizon are trips to Illinois and Michigan State before hosting rival Michigan. Those teams are a combined 3-9, so there’s some added importance with this game. Indiana shouldn’t be considered a pushover, but don’t be surprised if OSU goes for some style points late in this one.
Sam Cooper: Ohio State -20.5, Nick Bromberg: Indiana +20.5
Appalachian State at No. 15 Coastal Carolina
Time: Noon | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Coastal Carolina -5.5 | Total: 47.5
Since the Sun Belt moved to a divisional format in 2018, only Appalachian State has won the Sun Belt East. To make it three years straight, the Mountaineers need to upset Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The undefeated Chanticleers have been one of the stories of the 2020 season and are currently in the mix for the Group of Five spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game. But to get there, CCU needs to win the Sun Belt. So far, the Chanticleers have been dominating conference opponents with only one game decided by fewer than 14 points.
App State, meanwhile, is also undefeated in conference play but did lose a non-conference game to undefeated Marshall back in September. Since then, the Mountaineers have won five straight. Last week’s 17-13 win over Georgia State was the tightest margin. In that game, the Mountaineers lost star QB Zac Thomas to an injury in the fourth quarter. His status for Saturday’s game is up in the air. He’s not the only starter dealing with an injury, as coach Shawn Clark declared RB Daetrich Harrington out and safety Ryan Huff questionable. Cooper Hodges, the team’s starting right tackle, is expected to play, Clark said.
Sam: Coastal Carolina -5.5, Nick: App State +5.5
Other noon games to watch: No. 4 Clemson at Florida State, No. 6 Florida at Vanderbilt, LSU at Arkansas
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 19 Northwestern
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Wisconsin -7.5 | Total: 44.5
Wisconsin returned from a two-week virus-related absence by destroying Michigan 49-11 in Ann Arbor. The Badgers dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak in the program, but played at a very high level in their return. Wisconsin rushed for a whopping 341 yards while limiting Michigan’s entire offense to just 219 yards. It was complete domination despite several key contributors being sidelined.
Having two games canceled put Wisconsin behind in the Big Ten West standings, so Northwestern sits atop the division at 4-0. The 2019 season was the worst in Pat Fitzgerald’s 15-year tenure, and his team surpassed last year’s win total when it beat Purdue 27-20 on the road. The Wildcats brought in Peyton Ramsey, a transfer QB from Indiana, and new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. But the team’s defense has been the story. Purdue managed only two rushing yards last week vs. the Wildcats. Defending Wisconsin’s rushing attack will be a much tougher task.
Sam: Wisconsin -7.5, Nick: Northwestern +7.5
No. 7 Cincinnati at UCF
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN | Line: Cincinnati -5.5 | Total: 63.5
While Cincinnati is in the pole position to represent the G5 conferences in a major bowl game, UC’s sights are aimed higher. At No. 7 in the AP poll, the Bearcats should find themselves in the top 10 of the first College Football Playoff rankings next week should they get past a high-flying UCF team on the road. Under Luke Fickell, Cincinnati has the reputation of a defense-first team. The defense is really good, but the 2020 Bearcats have been scoring a ton of points — 41.6 per game, to be exact. That’s 13th-most in the country.
A few spots ahead of UC in scoring offense is UCF. The Knights average 44 points per game and rank first nationally in total offense, averaging 619 yards per game. UCF shook off losses to Tulsa and Memphis and enter this game on a three-game winning streak. Dillon Gabriel is putting up ridiculous passing numbers once again. The sophomore has thrown for 2,774 yards and 23 TDs with only two interceptions. His top target, Marlon Williams, is closing in on 1,000 receiving yards. Cincinnati has the nation’s tenth-best defense, so this will be UCF’s biggest challenge of the year.
Sam: Cincinnati -5.5, Nick: Cincinnati -5.5
Other afternoon games to watch: San Diego State at Nevada (CBS), Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama (SECN), UCLA at No. 11 Oregon (ESPN2), Kansas State at No. 17 Iowa State (FOX)
No. 14 Oklahoma State at No. 18 Oklahoma
Time: 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Oklahoma -7 | Total: 59.5
Bedlam! This year’s Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma game could ultimately play a big role in the Big 12 title race. The conference standings are crowded, with Iowa State and Oklahoma State the only teams with just one Big 12 loss. Next in line are Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas all at 4-2. Oklahoma’s 1-2 start to the season was a shock, but OU has rallied with four straight wins and are in striking distance of a sixth straight Big 12 title. To get there, the Sooners need a sixth straight win over the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State started the year 4-0 before falling to Texas in overtime (in a game that OSU outgained UT by a huge margin) and barely squeaking past Kansas State on Nov. 7. From there, OSU used a much-needed bye week to get healthy and should have star receiver Tylan Wallace back on the field against OU. Chuba Hubbard has been banged up, too, and should look much more spry. OSU has really struggled in this series under Mike Gundy, going a miserable 2-13 dating back to Gundy’s debut season in 2005. OSU hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2011. To break the drought, the Cowboys need to beat their hated in-state rival.
Sam: Oklahoma -7, Nick: Oklahoma -7
Other night games to watch: Tennessee at No. 23 Auburn (ESPN), No. 21 Liberty at NC State (ESPN3), Arizona at Washington (FOX), No. 20 USC at Utah (ESPN)
Head-to-head ATS: Sam: 26-23, Nick: 20-29
Week 12’s best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 1-2, Overall: 17-11-1)
No. 4 Clemson at Florida State: I think it has to be go time for Clemson after losing to Notre Dame. Trevor Lawrence is back at QB and every big win will help as the Tigers jockey for the College Football Playoff. FSU is dealing with a lot of injuries and opt outs and is just 2-6 against the spread this year. Pick: Clemson -35
LSU at Arkansas: This game is a massive swing from 2019. The Tigers were favored by six touchdowns last season and won by 36. This year, LSU is only favored by three. I’m not sure just how much better LSU is than Arkansas so I’m going to go with the home team that’s getting points. Pick: Arkansas +3
Tennessee at No. 23 Auburn: Auburn is 3-3 vs. the spread this year while Tennessee hasn’t covered since the Vols beat Missouri by 23 way back on Oct. 3. Auburn is coming off a three-week layoff so I’m a little wary of how the Tigers will play. I’m also wary of Tennessee’s QB situation. So I think I have an obvious choice. Pick: Under 50.5
Sam Cooper (Last week: 3-0, Overall: 20-13)
Florida International at Western Kentucky: Three of WKU’s last four games have finished with a total of 23 points or fewer. The other was the loss to BYU, which also resulted in an under. Other than WKU, FIU has the second-worst offense in Conference USA. I’ll take the under again. Pick: Under 43.5
San Diego State at Nevada: I know San Diego State’s defense is good, but I trust Nevada’s offense to put some points on the board. The combination of QB Carson Strong and WR Romeo Doubs has been torching Mountain West defenses. The Wolf Pack had a slow start last week vs. New Mexico, so I think they will be locked in for this one. Pick: Over 45.5
UCLA at No. 11 Oregon: UCLA had a nice win over Cal last week, but Oregon is going to be far too physical for the Bruins to handle over a 60-minute span. The Ducks will stop UCLA’s running game and the offense should be able to score at will. Pick: Oregon -13
For other Week 12 picks from Sam Cooper, click here.
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