And here I thought the “bad” games were a bad idea. Thanks to a wacky week of college football, the standings in the College Football Playoff, the AP Top 25, and, least importantly, the Sixer are completely turned upside down. This is Rivalry Week across the nation, and it’s much the same here with The Sixer. It’s the last week of a full (such as it is) slate of games, and before we take a look at those games, let’s look at the standings.
We’ll come back next week to predict some of the conference title games. I’ll also caution you that some really good games got left off this week, and I’ll apologize in advance. Please go gently on the comments section.
(Author’s note: Please note that there are Friday games in this week’s edition. Plan your predictions accordingly.)
The Sixer Trivia, Week 13 (answer at the end of the article): Navy is currently ranked 16th in the AP Top 25, their highest ranking since October 11, 1978. Who coached that 1978 Midshipmen team?
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#16 Navy (9-2, 7-0 AAC) at #21 Houston (10-1, 6-1 AAC)
Noon (Friday) | ABC
- Fabulous fifties: A win by Navy would represent an accomplishment that has not been recorded in 58 years. Navy last knocked off multiple ranked teams in 1957, where they beat Notre Dame, Army and Rice. Clipping the Cougars would allow Navy to not only beat ranked Houston and Memphis in the same year, it would send them to play for a league title on their home field in Annapolis.
- Similar styles: These teams seem almost perfectly matched for each other. Houston leads the league in scoring (over 41 points per game), while Navy leads the league in defense (just shy of 19 per game). Navy leads the league in rushing, going for greater than 348 yards per game. Houston leads the league in rushing defense, surrendering almost 115 yards per game. Just one team (Memphis) has cracked the 200-yard mark against Houston this year, while five foes have failed to rush for 100 yards against the Cougars.
- November agrees with Navy: The month of November has been quite kind to the Midshipmen of late. The Mids have won eight of their last ten games in the year’s eleventh month, with both losses coming to Notre Dame over the last two years. Five consecutive November games have ended in the left column for Navy.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This one will be fun to watch. Will the baton be passed to Tom Herman’s spread style, or can Navy’s option win the day?
Before we proceed, you’ll note that the next two games are the de facto Conference USA semifinals. Marshall and Western Kentucky will battle for the East title, while Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech will play for the West. According to the conference, ties are broken to determine the host of the championship game in the following fashion:
1. Highest regular season winning percentage based on overall Conference USA play.
2. If tied, head to head between tied teams.
3. If still tied, team with the highest College Football Playoff (CFP) ranking going into final weekend of regular season and wins.
4. If still tied, highest average computer ranking.
And now, on to the C-USA “semis”…
Marshall (9-2, 6-1 C-USA) at Western Kentucky (9-2, 7-0 C-USA)
Noon (Friday) | FS1
- Hard act to follow: These two teams played a game last year that may never be topped. Western Kentucky defeated Marshall in overtime in a contest that set the league record for points in a game (133). Western’s 67-66 victory dealt Marshall their only loss on the season. The teams combined for a ridiculous 1444 yards of offense in the contest. 933 of those yards came through the air.
- Talented throwers: Two of the nation’s top 40 quarterbacks take the field in Bowling Green Friday afternoon. WKU’s Brandon Doughty is the nation’s fourth-best passer, averaging 346.7 yards per game and throwing 37 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Doughty leads the nation in completion percentage, making good on 72.8 percent of his passes. Meanwhile, Marshall freshman Chase Litton has thrown for 2157 yards and 20 touchdowns in nine games. Only five of Litton’s passes have been picked. Just five first-year quarterbacks (Middle Tennessee’s Brent Stockstill, Boise State’s Brett Rypien, BYU’s Tanner Mangum and Washington’s Jake Browning) have had better seasons than Litton.
- Conference success: Both clubs have been extraordinarily successful against C-USA opponents, particularly in the last ten conference games. Western Kentucky has won their last 10 conference games. No team in the FBS has more consecutive league victories. Marshall, meanwhile, has won eight of their last ten in the league, falling only to Western Kentucky last year (as mentioned) and Middle Tennessee this season.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This game should be an absolute classic. Though Marshall has a great defense, this is a battle of two high-powered offenses.
Southern Miss (8-3, 6-1 C-USA) at Louisiana Tech (8-3, 6-1 C-USA)
Noon | FSN
- On the right track: It is certainly hard to argue with the early success Todd Monken has experienced as the Golden Eagles’ head coach. Monken followed Ellis Johnson’s 0-12 season with a 1-11 campaign. After going 3-9 last year, Monken has his Southern Miss club at 8-3 on the season and playing for a conference title. Monken actually coached at Louisiana Tech in 2000 and 2001, guiding the running backs and recruiting in ’00 and the receivers in ’01.
- Ball-er status: Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon could break Montee Ball’s all-time FBS touchdowns record with three trips to the end zone this weekend. Ball’s record of 83 is threatened by both Dixon and Navy’s Keenan Reynolds (82). Dixon did not score in the Bulldogs’ last game, a 17-15 win over UTEP. He does, however, have two games with three or more touchdowns; a three-score performance against Middle Tennessee came a month ago, while a six-score, 195-yard effort punctuated Tech’s battering of North Texas two weeks ago.
- 50-50: The last six games involving these two teams have been evenly divided. Of course, due to conference affiliations, that six-game span covers a span of 24 years. Louisiana Tech has won the last two games, played in 2013 and 2014.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Southern Miss has been an excellent story, but Jeff Driskel’s experience and Kenneth Dixon’s skill are tough to overcome.
#8 Ohio State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) at #12 Michigan (9-2. 6-1 Big Ten)
Noon | ABC
- Not all is lost: We mentioned last week that chaos could ensue in the Big Ten, depending on the outcome of several games. Said chaos did indeed ensue, and just as Michigan State’s game-winning field goal attempt sailed through the uprights, the scenarios for the conference championship game became that much more muddied. Michigan State appears to be the favorite, but the Spartans are the only team with the “win-and-in” scenario still in play. The winner of this contest moves on to play Iowa only if Michigan State also loses.
- Winning “The Game”: Looking at the overall numbers of this series, they do not accurately reflect recent history between the two teams. Michigan has won 58 of the 111 games played between the schools (six ties), but the tide has sharply turned after a 38-26 Wolverine victory in 2000. Ohio State has won 12 of the last 14 contests, including 10 of the last 11. Michigan’s only win in that stretch came via a 40-34 decision in 2011.
- Chasing Heismans: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott finds himself 171 yards shy of Eddie George’s second spot on the Buckeyes’ all-time list of rushing leaders. Elliott has carried for 3598 yards in three seasons, compared to George’s 3768. Elliott would need 1992 cumulative yards to pass all-time leader Archie Griffin, though he has strongly hinted that he will not return to Columbus for his senior year.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: All of the numbers point to Ohio State in this one. Michigan playing in the Big House and battling for a title shot may dictate otherwise.
#4 Notre Dame (10-1) at #13 Stanford (9-2, 8-1 Pac-12)
7:30pm | FOX
- A common threshold: Notre Dame’s sports information department notes that Stanford will be the sixth team the Irish have faced in their last eight games to have recorded seven victories. Notre Dame has won four of the previous five such games. Those opponents include Clemson, Navy, USC, Temple and Pittsburgh.
- Heading West: Notre Dame has won 19 of 29 games against the Cardinal, but there is a bit of a different story when the teams play in Palo Alto. The Irish have won just six times in 13 tries in the Bay Area, and have lost three in a row in Stanford Stadium. Jimmy Clausen’s Irish defeated Tavita Pritchard’s Cardinal in the last Notre Dame win out west, a 21-14 victory on November 24, 2007. That victory finished Notre Dame’s season at 3-9, and the Irish have not recorded a losing season since.
- McCaffrey’s the man: Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey has enjoyed quite the season, by any measure. By the measure of comparing him to past Heisman winners — which Stanford’s sports information department has done, just one has put together a better year than McCaffrey. Oklahoma State and Detroit Lion star Barry Sanders recorded 3250 yards through 11 games in 1988, compared to McCaffrey’s 2807 through the same stretch. McCaffrey has averaged greater than 10 yards per play on three separate occasions this year, along with breaking 300 cumulative yards four times.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Notre Dame can make a statement after falling to sixth in the CFP standings. They just need to defeat recent history and the tough Cardinal.
#5 Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) at #9 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) – Bedlam
8:00pm | ABC
- 3K: Four Big 12 quarterbacks have eclipsed the 3000-yard mark this season. Two of those — Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (3591 yards) and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (3209) — will be on display in Stillwater this weekend. The two have combined to throw for fewer than 200 yards in a game just twice this year. Both of those games belong to Mayfield, who threw for 187 against Tennessee earlier this season and 127 in a 9-for-20 effort against TCU last week.
- Trying for 20: The Bedlam series has been played over 100 times — a different number, depending on whom you believe. Oklahoma State contents that the Cowboys have won 19 of 109 games, while Oklahoma lists the series as having 18 of 110 games going to OSU. One thing’s for sure, though; Oklahoma State has just four wins in the last 15 games against the Sooners. One of those victories came last season, a 38-35 overtime decision in which Ben Grogan banged home a 21-yard field goal to win it.
- Consequences: Oklahoma can lock down the Big 12 championship with a victory. No further help is required. Oklahoma State, however, can win the league title with a win and a loss by Baylor at TCU.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: The Cowboys need constant pressure on Baker Mayfield and Sterling Shepard to keep the Sooners at bay. This looks to be another shootout.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Navy is currently ranked 16th in the AP Top 25, their highest ranking since October 11, 1978. Who coached that 1978 Midshipmen team?
George Welsh led the 1978 Midshipmen to a 9-3 record and a 23-16 victory over BYU in the Holiday Bowl. Navy finished that season ranked sixteenth. Welsh finished 55-46-1 in nine seasons at Navy, going on to coach 19 seasons at Virginia, where he went 134-86-3 (85-51-3 in ACC play).