College Football Preview Week 12; Think Pizza

For many years my daughter and I have had a Friday ritual….a tradition, if you will. As she finishes up her tennis practice with her coach, we would head over to our neighborhood pizza place and grab some slices to bring home. This is one of those great local places started by a nice immigrant Italian family 40 years ago and passed down from father to son, Michael, over time. Ironically enough it’s even called Tony’s Pizza, (after the original owner). Now as my daughter is a junior in high school, she attempts, against my futile decrees, to try to have a social life so I miss out on my pizza some Fridays. She tells me that she is actually available to break bread with good ol’ dad tonight, so already I am thinking about my great weekend… family, the menu at Tony’s Pizza and the college football that awaits me. Here is the week 12 national preview:

College Football Preview Week 12

Purdue @ Iowa; Sat 12noon EST ESPN 2; This is the cheese pizza on the menu. It’s the basics…nothing too crazy. Even though Iowa is 10-0, many have failed to notice the Hawkeyes. Yet with a win Saturday they can clinch the Big 10 West and earn a spot in the conference title game. It would also be the first time Iowa has gone undefeated at home in 11 years. The matchups are, well, they are simple. Purdue is going to rely heavily on quarterback David Blough. He baked Nebraska’s defense with four touchdown passes two weeks ago in one of only two Boilermaker wins this season. He is going to be going up against one of the better defensive secondaries in the conference, led by cornerback Desmond King. King has eight interceptions on the season and is one of only two defensive players on the semifinalist list for the Walter Camp Award.

North Carolina @ Virginia Tech; Sat 12noon EST ESPN; We’re going to go with the Margherita Pizza at Tony’s for this game…it’s stepped up with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil, but it’s still happening with very little fanfare. North Carolina is quietly in first place in the ACC Coastal Division and appears to be headed to the conference title game if they can keep their toppings in order. Quarterback Marquise Williams needs to be in more Heisman Trophy conversations. He is completing 66% of his passes for 2,222 yards and 16 touchdowns while also rushing for another 650 yards and nine touchdowns. Virginia Tech is riding out a disappointing season, but don’t miss the storyline there. Frank Beamer is coaching his last home game for the Hokies after a 29 year run. With the coaching profession being what it is, we will likely never see one coach be the face of the program like this again.

Wake Forest @ Clemson; Sat 3:30pm EST ESPN 2; This goes with the Tony’s Special; some salami and Italian Sausage and peperoni and bell peppers. You’ve got to load up to keep up with Clemson. The Tigers are the top team in the country and on a 13 game winning streak, their longest in 31 years. Quarterback Deshaun Watson leads the ACC in total offense and touchdown passes. Wake Forest is having a very forgettable season and on paper the game is a blowout. But Clemson’s defense has given up running plays of at least 45 yards in four of its last five games. A few big plays by the Demon Deacons could be enough to put the Tiger’s title hopes in a hot oven.

USC @ Oregon; Sat 3:30pm EST ESPN; Welcome to the vegetarian pizza. Why? Because it’s confusing. Nothing but veggies on a pizza is confusing. Everything in the Pac 12 is confusing. Oregon was written off weeks ago, but then the Ducks beat Stanford in Palo Alto last weekend; and all of a sudden they are back in the race for the Pac 12 North. They need a little help from some other teams, but in this conference anything is possible on any Saturday. Southern Cal was on the brink of disaster just a few weeks back, but now if the Trojans win their last two games, they are Pac 12 South champs. The key matchup here is USC’s passing offense which is fourth in the conference against Oregon’s passing defense which is last in the conference.

UCLA @ Utah; Sat 3:30pm EST Fox; More Pac 12 craziness. Both Utah and UCLA lost last week. Both Utah and UCLA can also still win the division; UCLA if it wins out and Utah if it wins out and gets a little help from UCLA next week. This is the Giardino Pizza; red, yellow and green peppers, and some artichoke hearts and olives and onions….a lot of stuff thrown together. There are many story lines here. Utah’s outstanding running back Devontae Booker will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. UCLA’s Jim Mora has spent much of the week discussing officiating and having a player reprimanded by the Pac 12 for doing the same. The Bruins are one of the most penalized teams in the country, and have somehow managed to have seven straight games where the opponents have not been called for a single holding penalty. UCLA has the third best running game in the conference, but Utah has the best run defense in the conference. So many ingredients.

Boston College vs. Notre Dame; Sat 7:30pm EST NBCSN; I attach the Italian Flag Pizza to this one, (three cheeses, tomatoes and pesto). Why? Because in the midst of all the “Irishness’ in this game that is being played at Fenway Park, I felt the need to represent. Notre Dame is in the playoff mix right now at #4 but getting some argument because it is ahead of some undefeated teams. BC will be starting a freshman walk-on at quarterback. John Fadule was 23 of 27 for 257 against North Carolina State but also had a fumble and three interceptions. He is Boston College’s fourth different starting quarterback this season. Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise will be back after sitting out last week with a concussion. He needs only 25 yards to be the first Irish running back to have a 1,000 yard season in five years. Boston College ended Notre Dame championship runs with victories in 1993 and 2002.

Baylor @ Oklahoma State; Sat 7:30pm EST Fox; We bring you the Dante Special, named after the proprietor’s first son. We’ve got some tomatoes, sausage, red onions and jalapenos to bring some heat. It’s going to surprise you, much like this game. When the season started, no one in their right mind had Oklahoma State in playoff contention. But here the Cowboys are, undefeated and two wins away from the perfect Big XII season. They had a scare against Iowa State last week and have needed last minute wins against Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia. Oklahoma State has the best defense statistically in the Big XII. But it’s the Big XII, so offense will still be king. Baylor, even with backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, leads the nation in points per game and yards per game. Expect a fiery shootout.

TCU @ Oklahoma; Sat 8pm EST ABC; The Nico, a pizza named after Michael’s second son; some mozzarella, caramelized onions and mushrooms. You need the smooth taste to settle down at the end of the day and this game gives you that. With one loss and no conference title game, both teams are likely out of the playoff picture, but both are sting hanging around the fringes of the conversation. TCU’s loss looks a little worse because it was a November loss, albeit to undefeated Oklahoma State. Oklahoma had a horrible loss to a bad Texas team last month, but has recovered nicely to climb back into contention. The Sooners need the win over TCU and then a win over a “hopefully” unbeaten Oklahoma State next weekend.
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