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2023 College Football Week 12 Sleeper Picks

By Hank Blaine

How unusual is it for two head coaches to be fired after the same game? That’s what happened this past week after Texas A&M routed Mississippi State last Saturday as A&M still fired Coach Jimbo Fisher on Sunday and then MSU canned Zach Arnett on Monday. There will be many more openings. Here are three sleeper picks around college football in Week 12 on Saturday.

Top 2023 College Football Week 12 Sleeper Picks

Michigan Wolverines vs. Maryland Terrapins

Big Ten game. Let’s be clear I am not predicting Maryland to win this game but I do think it might be relatively close because it’s a true trap for Michigan off a huge win at Penn State last Saturday and then the season finale against bitter rival Ohio State for the East Division title. UM quarterback J.J. McCarthy was named as one of 20 semifinalists for the 2023 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. McCarthy directs a top-10 scoring offense (39.0 points per game) and ranks second nationally in pass efficiency rating (187.2) and completion percentage (76.2) while ranking third in yards per attempt (10.25). He has 18 passing touchdowns and another two rushing despite nine fourth-quarter pass attempts all season long. Star running back Blake Corum is the national leader in rushing touchdowns (18) and scoring (108 points), three scores clear of the next-closest back. He is two scores shy of matching U-M’s single-season record. Corum is coming off a 26-carry, 145-yard, two-touchdown performance against the No. 1-ranked rushing defense at Penn State last weekend. Michigan will look to claim its NCAA-leading 1,000th victory at Maryland (999-353-36 all-time record). U-M has won 26 consecutive regular season games, tied for the third-longest stretch in Big Ten history. The Maize and Blue have been victorious in 10 straight road games, the longest streak for U-M since 1945-48.

Maryland is simply playing to improve its bowl positioning. With a win last week at Nebraska, Maryland is bowl eligible for the third season in a row for the first time since 2006-08. The Terps have won each of their previous two bowl games, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in 2021 and the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in 2022. Maryland will look to win a bowl game in three straight seasons for the first time in program history this year. Taulia Tagovailoa has been one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, leading the conference and standing top-20 in the country in passing yards (2,769), passing touchdowns (22), completions (245), points responsible for (158). He leads the Big Ten and stands top-25 in the nation in total offense (283.3). Tagovailoa’s current career completion percentage (.668) is the fourth-best of any Big Ten quarterback all-time. He stands sixth all-time on the career Big Ten passing yards list with 10,649. Michigan is 10-1 all-time in the series.

2023 College Football Week 12 Pick: Maryland

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Wisconsin Badgers

Big Ten game with both technically still alive in the West Division and both trying to get bowl eligible. Nebraska is coming off a heart-breaking 13-10 loss to Maryland last Saturday as the Terrapins kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Husker defense was strong once again, holding the high-powered Maryland offense scoreless in the first quarter and limiting the Terrapins to just one touchdown. Offensively, Nebraska played three quarterbacks in the game and produced 183 rushing yards, but could not overcome five turnovers. Nebraska has held the opposition without a rushing touchdown for five straight games, its longest stretch of not allowing a rushing touchdown since 1996. NU has limited five consecutive opponents to 20 or fewer points in Big Ten play. The last time Nebraska held five straight opponents to 20 points or less was the final eight games of the 2009 season. The Husker defense ranks sixth in the Big Ten and 17th nationally in total defense, allowing 306.9 yards per game. The total defense average is a 107.5-yard improvement when compared to 2022, when Nebraska allowed 414.4 yards per game.

This is a 7:30 PM ET kickoff and the Badgers have never lost a night game at Camp Randall against an unranked opponent. UW is 15-0 in those matchups. In night games in Madison overall, Wisconsin is 20-6 all-time. With a win, Wisconsin could become bowl eligible and extend its active bowl streak to 22 seasons, the 3rd longest streak in the nation. Wisconsin has won 9 straight meetings with Nebraska, including all 8 since the Freedom Trophy was introduced in 2014. The Badgers have not lost a home game in the series since 1966 and are 10-1 against Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011. Wisconsin has outscored opponents 134-80 in the second half of games this season, good for a 54-point margin. UW has not allowed a second-half TD in either of the last 2 games. WR Will Pauling leads the Big Ten with 21 catches for 17 first downs on 3rd down this season. HIs 17 first down conversions on 3rd down are the most for any Power 5 WR in the country.

2023 College Football Week 12 Pick: Nebraska

Boise State Broncos vs. Utah State Aggies

Mountain West game. Boise State made the surprising decision to fire coach and alum Andy Avalos on Sunday, with the school at 5-5 and in danger of the program’s first losing season since 1997. This season, Boise State is 4-2 in the Mountain West and winless in nonconference FBS games, getting blown out by Washington and falling to both UCF and Memphis. Avalos’ firing comes in the wake of Boise State blowing out New Mexico on Saturday night. Defensive coordinator and longtime Boise State assistant Spencer Danielson is the interim coach. Interesting timing after the 42-14 win over the Lobos last week. It was the 8th consecutive game Boise State has scored 30+ points. That is the longest such streak since the 2011 season when the Broncos scored 30 or more in all 13 games. Danielson indicated Monday that starting QB Maddux Madsen will be out for the foreseeable future as he suffered a leg injury that forced an early exit against New Mexico. The redshirt freshman quarterback will likely miss the last couple of games in the season. He has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 1,197 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Taylen Green will return to the starting role.

It’s Senior Night at Utah State. With a win against Boise State, Utah State will be bowl eligible for the 11th time in the last 13 years after playing in just six bowl games in its first 119 years. USU played in five-straight bowl games from 2011-15 and won three-straight from 2012-14, both of which are school records. Utah State is 8-2 in the month of November under head coach Blake Anderson. USU runs a play on average every 21.3 seconds, which is tied for the fourth-fastest tempo in the nation. Jacksonville State leads the nation with a play every 20.3 seconds, followed by South Florida (20.7), TCU (21.0), USU and Tennessee (21.3). Utah State’s 30 touchdown passes are tied with USC for the third-most in the nation, trailing only Oregon (32) and LSU (31), while its 46 total touchdowns are tied for the 18th most. The Aggies are second in the Mountain West and 20th in the nation in scoring offense at 35.5 points per game. USU is also first in the MW and 22nd in the nation in total offense (448.3 ypg), and third in the MW and 32nd in the nation in passing offense (271.0 ypg). Utah State trails in the all-time series against Boise State, 22-5, which includes a 3-10 home record. USU has lost seven straight and 19 of the last 20 games in the series as its only win during that stretch was a 52-26 home win in 2015.

2023 College Football Week 12 Pick: Utah State

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READ MORE: 2023 College Football Week 12 Odds, Overview & Picks