It is the penultimate week of school soccer’s common season and the Pac-12 takes heart stage.
The Battle for L.A. between USC and UCLA has been anticipated all season. If the convention needs to have any College Soccer Playoff hope, the Trojans should beat the Bruins on Saturday, then defeat Notre Dame and win the convention title recreation. Regardless of a UCLA loss to Arizona final week, the Bruins would love nothing greater than preserving their crosstown rival out of the playoff.
Oregon and Utah will even meet with Pac-12 championship recreation hopes on the road. After the Geese and Utes performed in final season’s convention title recreation, a loss for both workforce will eradicate them from this yr’s championship.
Elsewhere, three of the highest 4 groups within the CFP rankings have checks that might shake up the playoff image forward of the final week of the common season. Georgia heads to Kentucky trying to defend its No. 1 rating whereas TCU travels to Baylor in one of many Massive 12’s fiercest rivalries. And Michigan hosts upstart Illinois, which regardless of a loss final week is experiencing one among its finest seasons in latest reminiscence.
These are the highest storylines head into Week 12.
No. 7 USC (9-1) at No. 16 UCLA (8-2) (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox)
What might have been the primary top-10 matchup between USC and UCLA since Troy Aikman and Rodney Peete have been beneath heart in 1988 will now need to accept one thing rather less flashy: a battle between the No. 7 Trojans and No. 16 Bruins after Arizona upset UCLA final week.
With two of the highest offenses within the nation attending to tee off towards two defenses which were inconsistent, at finest, there shall be loads of factors and many nonetheless on the road for each groups. A win will get USC into the Pac-12 championship and retains the Trojans’ College Soccer Playoff hopes alive; a win for UCLA means it nonetheless has a shot on the Pac-12 title.
“When each groups are good and there are quite a lot of alternatives forward for each groups, it makes it manner, manner higher,” USC coach Lincoln Riley, who will make his first look within the rivalry, mentioned this week.
On Tuesday, he added: “We’re not doing something actually too particular with this rivalry and that is to not low cost it in any manner. I feel we have acknowledged that this recreation in some methods goes to really feel completely different.”
If the Trojans, with over 40 transfers who have not had a style of the crosstown matchup, are taking a extra easy method to Saturday’s recreation, then UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson — who Riley remembers going through at Oklahoma when Kyler Murray was his quarterback — is doing the other and never mincing any phrases on the subject of USC.
“Clearly we hate these guys throughout city,” he mentioned on Monday.
This shall be DTR’s fifth rivalry recreation towards USC since arriving in Westwood, the fourth one he has starred in.
Although the Bruins’ practice has slowed a bit prior to now few weeks, Thompson-Robinson’s rampant goodbye tour by way of the Pac-12 hasn’t misplaced steam. He has been vocal about what groups he needed to beat in his final season with the Bruins and has mentioned he remembers when USC final beat UCLA on the Rose Bowl and gamers “cursed” at them and “flipped them off.” It is a part of why, as he put it, he needs to attain 60 once more like he did final season in a blinding, six-touchdown efficiency.
Most USC gamers mentioned Tuesday they hadn’t seen Thompson-Robinson’s feedback, or given them any thought. However when knowledgeable of the quarterback’s objective to attain 60 factors once more on the Trojans, defensive again Calen Bullock chuckled and mentioned. “I do know that is not gonna occur.”
Whether or not it is a fifth-year senior who grew up watching the L.A. rivalry and is now enjoying it for the final time, or a brand-new coach or switch who’s making an attempt to deal with the matchup like simply one other recreation, come Saturday, the motivation to win would be the similar. — Paolo Uggetti
No. 10 Utah (8-2) at No. 12 Oregon (8-2) (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app)
Every week after squandering its playoff hopes following a heartbreaking loss to rival Washington at residence, Oregon will attempt to get well with an arguably harder matchup. The No. 12 Geese welcome the No. 10 Utes, who’ve two losses (by a mixed 13 factors) however are enjoying a few of their finest soccer the previous few weeks.
A lot was mentioned about Dan Lanning’s resolution to go for a fourth down late within the recreation with Bo Nix on the sideline (even Lanning mentioned this week he needs he would have known as a timeout), however the actual Achilles’ heel for the Geese’ final recreation was their struggling protection, which has given up a median of 34 factors to ranked opponents this season. In opposition to the Utes — whose offense may not be as explosive as Washington’s however has been loads efficient — that can as soon as once more be the problem.
The X issue of that Utes offense will probably be tight finish Dalton Kincaid, who torched the inconsistent USC protection however missed the sport towards Arizona two weeks in the past after struggling a shoulder damage towards Washington State. Kincaid (who’s averaging 13 yards per catch) performed a restricted quantity of snaps towards Stanford final week and his standing for this week’s matchup remains to be in flux.
“He is nonetheless not 100%, there’s some soreness,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham mentioned. “However he is quite a bit additional forward at this time than he was final Monday.”
Whittingham additionally heaped reward on Nix, who, regardless of the loss final Saturday, nonetheless had three touchdowns and accomplished 70% of his move makes an attempt. Nix nonetheless has a shot at maybe leaping again into the Heisman dialog with one other large recreation, particularly if Oregon wins out. And the Geese have to.
Very similar to each L.A. colleges enjoying on an enormous Saturday for the Pac-12, each Oregon and Utah are nonetheless in competition for the Pac-12 championship and subsequently, the Rose Bowl. The workforce on the shedding finish should wave goodbye to each. — Uggetti
No. 1 Georgia (10-0) at Kentucky (6-4) (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
It wasn’t too way back that this recreation regarded prefer it could possibly be one among Georgia’s most daunting challenges in getting by way of the common season unbeaten.
That was earlier than Kentucky quarterback Will Levis was injured, earlier than it grew to become obvious that Kentucky merely could not defend Levis and earlier than Levis noticed his struggles go from dangerous to worse.
Georgia, 10-0 and ranked No. 1 within the College Soccer Playoff rankings, is second nationally in scoring protection, permitting 11.6 factors per recreation. The Dawgs have allowed simply 9 touchdowns on protection, and three of these got here within the fourth quarter when the end result was all however determined. Kentucky, in the meantime, has scored greater than 21 factors on offense towards an SEC opponent solely as soon as — a 27-17 win over Mississippi State. Within the Wildcats’ previous three video games, they’ve managed a complete of 5 touchdowns.
In different phrases, this one seems to be like a mismatch, a minimum of on paper, particularly with Kentucky limping into the sport having misplaced to Vanderbilt 24-21 final week at residence. The Commodores had misplaced 26 straight SEC video games earlier than knocking off the Wildcats.
“Not sufficient hype. Not sufficient juice. We talked about it amongst us all week, and we didn’t purchase into it,” Levis mentioned following the Vanderbilt loss.
Kentucky was ranked No. 20 within the AP preseason ballot, and expectations have been hovering after the Wildcats received 10 video games a yr in the past. And whereas the protection has performed nicely sufficient in most video games to offer them an opportunity to win, the offense has been significantly sloppy within the pink zone (ranked 99th nationally) and stopped itself repeatedly with sacks, penalties and turnovers.
“We’re transferring the ball and doing good issues, however we’re not entering into the top zone,” Kentucky offensive coordinator Wealthy Scangarello mentioned. “One of many downsides is that we have had explosive [plays], however they are not scoring on a regular basis. Chunk performs are nice, however when chunk performs get tackled on the 25 as an alternative of scoring, it is exhausting.”
The Wildcats’ pink zone woes determine to get harder towards a Georgia protection that has given up an FBS-best six touchdowns within the pink zone all season.
A lot has been manufactured from the Georgia protection, and with good cause. However misplaced in what the Dawgs have carried out in successful 25 consecutive regular-season video games vs. Kentucky going again to the top of the 2000 season is how environment friendly they have been on offense. They’re tied for sixth nationally in scoring offense (40.6 factors per recreation) and are third nationally in complete offense (509.6 yards per recreation). — Chris Low
Kirby Sensible explains how the No. 1 Bulldogs stay hungry after working their option to the highest and breaks down Kentucky QB Will Levis’ unaffected play model.
Illinois (7-3) at No. 3 Michigan (10-0) (Saturday, midday ET, ABC/ESPN app)
Illinois bought off to a sizzling begin, going 7-1 earlier than dropping its previous two video games towards Michigan State and Purdue. A giant a part of the workforce’s success has come from working again Chase Brown, who leads all FBS working backs with 1,442 yards.
He’s averaging 5.15 yards per carry and has seven dashing touchdowns on the season. Sadly for Illinois, Brown went down with an damage within the final recreation towards Purdue. He hasn’t been dominated out towards Michigan, however his standing remains to be unsure.
“Josh McCray, Chase Brown … each these guys are trending in the best route,” coach Bret Bielema mentioned. “Very constructive and excited, however do not know the place we’ll be by Friday for the journey and Saturday for the sport.”
Michigan’s protection already ranks No. 1 in rush yards allowed per recreation, giving up solely 72.7 yards. The workforce is No. 3 in yards allowed per rush and No. 3 in dashing touchdowns allowed, giving up solely three touchdowns on the bottom.
That can make the problem of enjoying 10-0 Michigan, ranked No. 3 within the College Soccer Playoff rankings, much more tough if Brown is not capable of play.
“Our run wall has been superb, it may be examined this week most likely like none different up so far,” Jim Harbaugh mentioned. “So, Illinois may be very sturdy on the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. Excellent, excellent run scheme, excellent working again. So, it’s going to be an actual problem and a activity for our workforce this yr.”
This is a vital recreation for the Wolverines to stay undefeated and provides the workforce an opportunity to tackle Ohio State to complete out the season for one more berth within the Massive Ten championship recreation and the playoff.
Michigan is not with out accidents, both, as defensive finish Mike Morris was injured in the latest recreation towards Nebraska. Morris went on the Inside Michigan Soccer radio present and mentioned he is feeling nice and that he tweaked his leg within the recreation.
“I really feel like I will be all proper,” Morris mentioned. “Our trainers are working very exhausting. I used to be in there getting remedy for like 4 hours this morning, so I will be superb. I am in nice palms, it is all in God’s plan.” — Tom VanHaaren
No. 4 TCU (10-0) at Baylor (6-4) (Saturday, midday ET, Fox)
TCU had established itself as a second-half protection, reworking from leaky to lockdown in a number of Massive 12 wins. But it surely wasn’t sufficient.
Two weeks in the past, defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie instructed the group that in the event that they needed to realize their largest targets, they wanted to ship “a full 60.”
“I knew we had the potential,” Gillespie instructed ESPN. “I simply did not know the place it was going to occur, or if it was going to occur. That was as full a four-quarter defensive [performance] that we have performed up till this level. And it is good timing.
“Now the deal is, you have to preserve doing it. You’ve got bought an enormous goal in your chest, and that is an excellent factor.”
Gillespie referred to TCU’s defensive masterpiece in final week’s win at Texas, which did not rating an offensive landing and completed with solely 28 web rush yards, whereas averaging 3.3 yards per offensive play. TCU’s defensive stars shined: cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, linebacker Johnny Hodges, security Mark Perry and others.
The Frogs silenced Texas and any remaining doubters about their College Soccer Playoff candidacy. However their quest continues, once more on the street, this time towards the defending Massive 12 champions in Baylor.
Gillespie has seen important development from TCU’s line of defense, which entered the season as his largest concern. The entrance three shall be careworn by a Baylor offense that, till final week towards Kansas State, had run the ball nicely with freshman Richard Reese and others.
“You are speaking about three palms within the grass, and that is it,” mentioned Gillespie, who makes use of the more and more well-liked 3-3-5 alignment. “We’re asking them to tackle roles and do some issues that are not so fairly typically. It is simpler to fall in love with it whenever you see manufacturing, however simply the best way they’ve embraced the method, it is a very selfless angle.
“And people guys make quite a lot of dadgum performs.”
Baylor comes off of its worst offensive efficiency since 2020, recording season lows in factors (3) and dashing yards (103). Coach Dave Aranda stays absolutely assured in quarterback Blake Shapen, who had two interceptions towards Kansas State, whereas “urgent” and struggling along with his footwork.
“He generally is a twin risk, there’s quite a lot of scramble stuff,” Gillespie mentioned of Shapen. “They have three working backs, they are going to preserve recent legs, they are going to hit you on the perimeter, and then you definately’ve bought a complete offensive line that has been enjoying collectively for a minute. It is a unit that works very nicely collectively, they perceive one another.”
Gillespie entered the season probably not realizing what TCU’s protection might turn out to be. The Frogs have been implementing a brand new scheme and feeling out how offenses would assault them. After stringing collectively quarters, halves and eventually a full recreation, TCU is primed to proceed its quest for an inconceivable CFP spot.
“You’ve got seen nearly each blocking scheme, we have had nearly each adjustment,” Gillespie mentioned. “So that they’ve gotten mature. There was some persistence in realizing, ‘If we might put each [halves] collectively, we could possibly be a fairly good squad.’ Happily, it began taking place the opposite night time. Actually that is bought to be one thing we construct off of.” — Adam Rittenberg
Clinching eventualities for Week 12
• Clemson and North Carolina have each clinched spots within the ACC championship recreation.
• TCU has clinched a spot within the Massive 12 championship recreation. The Horned Frogs are making their second look within the Massive 12 title recreation. They misplaced in 2017 to Oklahoma.
• Kansas State clinches a spot within the Massive 12 championship recreation with a win at West Virginia and a Texas loss at Kansas. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 17% probability the Wildcats clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• USC clinches a spot within the Pac-12 championship recreation with a win at UCLA. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 61% probability the Trojans clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• Utah clinches a spot within the Pac-12 championship recreation with a win and UCLA loss. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 32% probability the Utes clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• Oregon clinches a spot within the Pac-12 championship recreation with a win vs. Utah and a Washington loss to Colorado. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 2% probability the Geese clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• Georgia and LSU have each clinched spots within the SEC championship recreation. They’re assembly within the SEC championship recreation for a fifth time, the second most by any pair of groups in any convention championship in FBS historical past. Alabama and Florida have met 10 instances within the SEC title recreation.
Georgia has an 84% probability to win the SEC championship recreation in line with ESPN Analytics.
Group of 5
• UCF clinches a spot within the American championship recreation with a win vs. Navy and loss by Houston at East Carolina. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 61% probability the Knights clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• The second spot within the championship recreation cannot be clinched till Week 13.
• UTSA clinches with a win at Rice or Florida Atlantic loss at Center Tennessee. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 90% probability the Roadrunners clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• The second spot within the championship recreation cannot be clinched till Week 13.
• Toledo has clinched the West, its seventh look within the MAC championship recreation. That’s the second-most by any workforce, trailing solely Northern Illinois (9).
• Ohio clinches the East with a win at Ball State and Bowling Inexperienced loss at Toledo. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 52% probability the Bobcats clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• Fresno State clinches the West Division with a win at Nevada or losses by San Jose State (at Utah State) and San Diego State (at New Mexico). In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there’s an 84% probability the Bulldogs clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• Boise State clinches the Mountain Division with a win at Wyoming. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 79% probability the Broncos clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.
• Coastal Carolina has clinched the East. That is Coastal Carolina’s first look within the Solar Belt championship recreation.
• Troy clinches the West with a win vs. UL Monroe and South Alabama loss at Southern Miss. In accordance with ESPN Analytics, there is a 32% probability the Trojans clinch a spot within the championship recreation this week.