If you think the proliferation of bowl games has taken some of the shine off them, don’t tell that to Florida Gators edge rusher Princely Umanmielen.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve never not been bowl-eligible,” Umanmielen said. “It’s a big deal.”
And it’s at stake this weekend for three state teams: the Gators, USF and UCF.
Florida needs to upset No. 5 Florida State to avoid a season-ending five-game losing streak and, just as crucially, qualify for a bowl game that will provide more developmental time for a young roster.
The Bulls can clinch their first postseason appearance since the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl by knocking off Charlotte, a 3-8 AAC newcomer. The momentum and exposure at stake for USF is significant for first-year coach Alex Golesh as he tries to rebuild the program.
One potential USF bowl opponent is War on I-4 rival UCF. But that can’t happen unless the Knights get past Houston at FBC Mortgage Stadium. That, too, is a big deal for UCF coach Gus Malzahn, who has never failed to reach bowl eligibility in his 12 seasons as a head coach.
Lamest time window: Friday’s early games are skippable, so that’s the time to do your Black Friday shopping.
Noon: Miami needs to beat Boston College (ABC) to avoid its worst two-year stretch since 1976-77.
3:30: Texas San Antonio at No. 18 Tulane (ABC) is one of the best Group of Five matchups of the season and gives the winner a spot in next week’s AAC title game.
7:30: No. 7 Texas can keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive by topping rival Texas Tech (ABC).
8: No. 6 Oregon and No. 15 Oregon State (Fox) meet as ranked opponents for only the sixth time in 127 meetings.
Noon: No. 2 Ohio State at No. 3 Michigan (Fox) is this year’s game of the century, with the added hoopla surrounding the sign-sealing scandal and Jim Harbaugh’s suspension. Jayden Daniels’ final chance to impress Heisman Trophy voters makes Texas A&M at No. 14 LSU (ESPN) a nice second option.
3:30: There’s no reason to think Auburn can upset No. 8 Alabama (CBS) after the Tigers’ 21-point home loss to New Mexico State, but who says the Iron Bowl has to make sense?
4: Washington State can earn one of the biggest rivalry wins ever by dashing the playoff hopes for No. 4 Washington (Fox) before the Huskies bolt for the Big Ten.
7:30: Will USF and its fans respond the way coach Alex Golesh wants against Charlotte (ESPNU)?
10:30: Former Bucs assistant Jeff Tedford can finish Fresno State’s first streak of three consecutive 10-win seasons with a victory over San Diego State (FS1) and in a bowl game.
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This week in Coach Prime …
Deion Sanders’ first season at Colorado fell off the rails, so he’ll enter Utah on a five-game losing streak. A victory would still be major progress; Utah is a tough road environment — just ask the Gators — and earning five victories in Sanders’ Year 1 would equal Colorado’s total over the previous two seasons.
Big 12 chaos
Division-less conferences sound great until you see what’s happening in the Big 12. There’s a scenario where Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech all finish tied for second (behind Texas) with three conference losses. Keep this in mind, SEC, as you figure out your future scheduling models.
On the road again
Though Houston’s 4-7 record is disappointing, UCF fans shouldn’t assume a home victory. That’s because the Cougars have won 11 road games since the start of 2021 (only three programs have more). Houston won its last road trip (in overtime at Baylor) and would have had another triumph, too, but fell in double OT at Rice in Week 2.
Local of the week
Michigan edge rusher Jaylen Harrell (Berkeley Prep)
The two-year starter had one of the best games of his career (five tackles and a sack) in the Wolverines’ other big game, a 24-15 victory over Penn State. Can he pressure Buckeyes quarterback Kyle McCord into a season-changing mistake?
Michigan-Ohio State features the nation’s top two scoring defenses. The Wolverines have forced 12 second-half turnovers while allowing only five second-half touchdowns. Ohio State hasn’t given up more than 17 points in any game all season and has surrendered only three rushing touchdowns. This feels like it will come down to one big, rare offensive play — perhaps by Buckeyes running back TreVeyon Henderson (touchdowns in seven consecutive games) or Wolverines receiver Roman Wilson (a team-high 13 catches of 20-plus yards).
Florida vs. Florida State
FSU’s Tate Rodemaker has a larger sample size than new Gators starter Max Brown, but we still don’t know how either will handle this stage. The Seminoles’ passing defense seems like an X-factor. FSU has held six consecutive opponents to a completion percentage of 50% or worse, while the Gators are tied for second-to-last nationally with three interceptions.
Eye on the NFL draft
Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton (Clearwater Central Catholic) announced Saturday’s Northwestern game will be the last of his college career. He’s one of the nation’s top defensive players — his 39 pressures are tied for the most nationally among interior linemen, according to Pro Football Focus — and a potential top-10 pick worth watching.
Ricky Pearsall, Sean Atkins watch
Two state receivers have a realistic shot at reaching milestones Saturday. Florida’s Ricky Pearsall needs only 52 yards against FSU to become first Gators’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002. USF’s Sean Atkins can become the first Bull ever to hit that mark with 100 against Charlotte.
By the numbers: Week 13
2012 — The last time Louisville won 11 games (which it can accomplish by beating Kentucky). The Cardinals’ coach then: former Gators assistant and USF coach Charlie Strong.
99 — Wins for USF at Raymond James Stadium, which means the Bulls can reach 100 Saturday.
12 — Previous times Ohio State and Michigan have met as top-five teams. The Buckeyes are 7-4-1 in those meetings.
6 — Touchdown rushes over the last two games by Oregon State’s Damien Martinez. The last Beavers player to do that: former Bucs running back Jacquizz Rodgers (2010).
19 — Career pass breakups by Iowa State’s T.J. Tampa (Lakewood High)
28 — Consecutive wins by Georgia, tied with Alabama (1978-80 and 1991-93) for the most in SEC history
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