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College Football

The Top 25, Week 12: College football games and players to watch, plus a look at the conference title races

Welcome to The Top 25, a weekly rundown of the best of college football.

Each week, The Baltimore Sun will break down the top games, players and teams to watch, from the Power Five to the Group of Five. Here’s what to know for Week 12:

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5 games to watch

No. 4 TCU at Baylor (Saturday, noon, Fox): While the Bears are coming off a deflating 31-3 loss to Kansas State, they’ve been solid on both sides of the ball and have one of the nation’s best defensive minds in coach Dave Aranda. Will the Horned Frogs be able to continue their high-wire act in close games, or will they finally succumb to the College Football Playoff pressure?

No. 1 Georgia at Kentucky (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS): Nobody is giving the Wildcats much of a chance, which might be how coach Mark Stoops likes it. For as disappointing as Kentucky’s season has been, it still boasts a defense that ranks top 10 in efficiency and a star quarterback in Will Levis who is capable of taking over a game. This is a tricky road game for the Bulldogs, who have already clinched a spot in the SEC title game.

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No. 5 Tennessee at South Carolina (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN): The Volunteers won’t be playing for an SEC title, but they’re still sitting in a pretty good position to sneak into the four-team playoff if things break their way. They first need to win out, which means taking care of a Gamecocks team that will be motivated to spoil the Vols’ dream season.

No. 7 Southern California at No. 16 UCLA (Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox): The Battle of Los Angles — and future Big Ten members — lost a little luster when UCLA was upset by Arizona last week. This game still carries plenty of importance not only for the Pac-12 title race, but the playoff, with the Trojans hoping to win out and crack the four-team field. It’s a star-studded quarterback battle between USC’s Caleb Williams and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and the color-vs.-color uniform matchup — this time in the Rose Bowl — is always a treat.

No. 10 Utah at No. 12 Oregon (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN): This game also lost a little bit of juice when Oregon fell to Washington last week. (Sensing a theme here in the Pac-12?) Both teams are still in play for the conference title game, and there’s the added motivation on the Ducks’ side to avenge last year’s pair of blowout losses to the Utes. The health of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix remains a question mark after he left Saturday’s game with an apparent knee injury.

With 178 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Northwestern last week, Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim extended his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to 18, the longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 2000.

5 players to watch

Boston College QB Emmett Morehead (at No. 18 Notre Dame): In two starts as the injury replacement for Phil Jurkovec, Morehead has completed 60.2% of his passes for 660 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. The redshirt freshman could prove he’s the long-term answer with a strong showing against the Irish.

Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim (vs. Iowa): With 178 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Northwestern last week, Ibrahim extended his streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to 18, the longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision since 2000. The Baltimore native faces a stiff test against the Hawkeyes, who allow just 88.6 rushing yards per game, the eighth-best mark in the country.

Illinois WR Isaiah Williams (at No. 3 Michigan): If the Fighting Illini have any hope of taking down the Wolverines, they’ll need to hit some big plays. Williams ranks second among all Power Five wide receivers with 518 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.

Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson (vs. Texas Tech): The Cyclones’ career receptions leader has been on a tear of late, making exactly 10 catches in each of the last four games. He ranks third in the country with 1,059 receiving yards.

Miami S Kamren Kinchens (at No. 9 Clemson): With three interceptions in last week’s win over Georgia Tech, including a 99-yard pick-six, Kinchens has a nation-leading six interceptions this season. The Hurricanes could use another turnover — or three — to upset Clemson and salvage what has been a disappointing first season for coach Mario Cristobal.

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Kansas State and running back Deuce Vaughn could face No. 4 TCU in the Big 12 title game.

5 conference races to watch

Big Ten: While Michigan vs. Ohio State will determine the East champion, the West is still up for grabs. Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota are all 4-3 in conference play, and Wisconsin is right behind at 3-4 with a favorable schedule. The various tiebreakers will be fun to sort out when the dust settles in two weeks.

Big 12: Undefeated TCU has booked a spot in the conference title game, but who will join the Horned Frogs is anyone’s guess. No. 15 Kansas State has the clearest path with winnable games left against West Virginia and Kansas, but No. 22 Oklahoma State, Baylor and even Texas could have a say.

Pac 12: It’s perhaps the most thrilling conference race left, with six ranked teams all within shouting distance of the top two spots. This weekend’s games — USC vs. UCLA and Oregon vs. Utah — will go a long way toward determining the champion.

American: No. 20 UCF has the inside track to win the conference and claim the Group of Five’s bid for a New Year’s Six bowl game, but they’ll likely have to win a rematch against either No. 25 Cincinnati or No. 21 Tulane to do it.

Mountain West: Boise State vs. Wyoming is one of the biggest games of the weekend, considering the winner will lead the Mountain Division with just one week to go. In the West Division, it’s still a close race between Fresno State, San Diego State and San José State.

Michigan and running back Blake Corum (2) have a path to returning to the College Football Playoff if they can get past Ohio State.

5 teams that will shape the College Football Playoff race

No. 3 Michigan: Assuming the Wolverines and Buckeyes get through this weekend unscathed, next week’s rivalry game will determine the Big Ten East champion. Michigan will likely be the underdog since it’s playing on the road, but it should feel confident after last year’s big win.

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No. 6 LSU: The Tigers have already booked a spot in the SEC title game thanks to their upset win over Alabama, which means they’ll likely have a chance to upset top-ranked Georgia and force the committee to take a two-loss conference champion into consideration.

No. 13 North Carolina: There’s a chance the Tar Heels finish the regular season 11-1 and beat Clemson to win the ACC title. Their resume wouldn’t stack up well with some of the other top contenders, but they could put themselves in the playoff conversation.

No. 10 Utah: If the Utes get past the Ducks this weekend, they could face USC in a rematch for the Pac-12 title. That would give the Trojans an opportunity to avenge a 43-42 loss earlier this season and stake their claim as a worthy playoff entrant.

No. 18 Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have rebounded nicely from a rocky start under first-year coach Marcus Freeman. They could eliminate the Trojans from playoff contention in the regular-season finale.

5 teams who could still sneak into a bowl

Auburn (4-6): vs. Western Kentucky, at No. 8 Alabama

Missouri (4-6): vs. New Mexico State, vs. Arkansas

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Arizona (4-6): vs. Washington State, vs. Arizona State

UNLV (4-6): at Hawaii, vs. Nevada

Georgia State (4-6): at James Madison, at Marshall


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