The final two weeks of the FBS football regular season fall on the opposite side of the proverbial scheduling spectrum: cupcake games in the Southeastern Conference, and rivalry week among all the FBS schools. No matter what, weeks 12 and 13 hold a lot to look forward for. KCOU Sports’ Garrett Jones makes four predictions for teams and games that could have a major impact on the college football Playoff rankings.
Syracuse wins out
Syracuse, Kentucky, Boston College. Those are the “cinderella stories” of the 2018 season. Ranked No. 12 in the latest rankings with an 8-2 record, Syracuse has emerged as the leader among those three.
Led by battle-tested senior quarterback Eric Dungey, a potent receiving core and rising star head coach Dino Babers, the Orange have emerged as a contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic division. They have two tough games remaining on the schedule- starting with a neutral-site matchup against No. 3 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium Saturday.
It doesn’t get any easier- the following week, they take on fellow surprise team and No. 20 Boston College in Chestnut Hill. That’s a brutal schedule to finish the season, but Syracuse is up for the task.
The Orange rank No. 7 nationally with 44.2 points per game- which makes up for its shaky defense at times. They are fully capable of outscoring both the Fighting Irish and Eagles, which means, at least…
Notre Dame splits its last two games
No. 3 Notre Dame has navigated it schedule unblemished to this point- but its most difficult matchups fell at the very beginning and very end of it. The Fighting Irish topped No. 4 Michigan 24-17 in what turned out to be a significant matchup Sep. 1, but still have to play No. 12 Syracuse Saturday and USC away from home Nov. 24.
Notre Dame has a staunch defense that ranks No. 15 nationally, allowing just 18.7 points per game. Still, Syracuse poses a threat to outscore it. Sophomore quarterback Ian Book is set to return from injury which will help, but between the tough game against the Orange, and cross-contential travel- quite literally New York to Los Angeles- for its final two games, Fighting Irish’s will fight an uphill battle to win out.
UCF splits its last two games
No. 11 Central Florida has had a fantastic past two seasons. They’ve won 22 straight games, and host a big one this weekend in No. 24 Cincinnati- with ESPN’s College Gameday in town.
Nonetheless, the Knights have shown significant flaws in recent narrow wins over inferior teams- a 12-point win against Temple Nov. 1, and an 11-point win over lowly Navy Saturday.
A disappointing loss seems to be waiting in the wings. After hosting the Bearcats, the Knights travel to rival South Florida Nov. 24.
That matchup was a memorable one last year- UCF won a shootout, 49-42 at home. With less than a week to prepare and travel, the Knights are already at a disadvantage.
USF has disappointed in recent weeks, but will more than likely get up for this game- a shot to prove itself and possibly prevent its in-state rival from a New Year’s Six bowl bid.
LSU loses at Texas A&M
Texas A&M has never beaten LSU since joining the SEC in 2012. One common theme in those losses? The Aggies were coached by former head coach and current Arizona head man Kevin Sumlin.
The Tigers were Sumlin’s kryptonite, but you might have heard- the Aggies have a new leader at the helm.
Current Aggies head coach and former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher will be ready to take on his former school Nov. 24 for the first time as a head coach.
No. 7 LSU hasn’t looked the same since they lost to No. 1 Alabama Nov. 3. They’ll have to use Saturday’s as a tune-up game to slow down Texas A&M’s rushing attack, led by junior running back Trayveon Williams, who rushed for 226 yards in Saturday’s win over Ole Miss.
Armed with a staunch defense led by defensive coordinator Mike Elko, Fisher and co. will look to flip the narrative and finally take a game in this series.