What a Thanksgiving feast of football we have awaiting us this weekend!
There are big games from here to Ann Arbor in the NCAA and the NFL, and off the field there is also big news that came out of College Station on Nov. 12.
Before we look at this week’s loaded schedule, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss Texas A&M’s firing of head coach Jimbo Fisher. The school’s Board of Regents met in Executive Session on Nov. 9 and decided to part ways after six years with Fisher. The Regents made their decision based on Athletic Director Ross Bjork’s recommendation that the school part ways with Fisher, who won a national title at Florida State in 2013.
Fisher was brought to College Station to compete with Alabama for the SEC West title, but that never materialized in his six years at Aggieland. In his second year at A&M, he led the Aggies to a 9-1 finish and a No. 4-ranking in the polls, but he was not able to build on that season. He beat Nick Saban one time in six tries and the powers that be decided it was time to move on, albeit an expensive one. A&M still owes Fisher $76 million, which is a nice parting prize.
So, who do the Aggies go after next? There is talent in College Station, but ‘Bama isn’t going anywhere and LSU is only getting better. Fisher’s inability to beat the Mississippi schools (Ole Miss and Mississippi State) could have also been a factor in his firing.
Defensive line coach Elijah Robinson will serve as interim head coach and will lead the Aggies against LSU on Saturday night in Baton Rogue and in their bowl game.
While the Aggies close out their season on Saturday night, their long-time rival Texas will look to land a spot in the Big 12 title game with a win on Friday night at home against Texas Tech. Steve Sarkisian’s team will have to do it without starting running back Jonathon Brooks (1,139 yards, 10 TDs) who suffered a seasonending ACL injury in the ‘Horns’ 29-26 win two weeks ago at TCU. True freshman C.J. Baxter will try and replace Brooks and Baxter has the talent and speed to do just that.
The biggest game on the college schedule occurs in Ann Arbor when No. 2-ranked Michigan hosts No. 3-ranked Ohio State with the winner landing a spot in the Big 10 title game and probably one of the four College Football Playoff (CFP) berths. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will not be allowed to be on the sidelines or in the stadium as he serves the last of the three-game suspension the Big 10 Commissioner levied against him for the signal stealing incident Michigan is allegedly to have been involved in. Two weeks ago, the Wolverines picked up a big road win in Harbaugh’s absence when they won at Penn State, 24-15.
Other key games slated for the last full weekend of the regular season have No. 12 Oregon State playing at No. 6-ranked Oregon, and No. 8-ranked Alabama playing arch rival Auburn.
In the NFL, Houston’s hometown team has one of its biggest games in years when the Texans host the Jacksonville Jaguars in a key AFC South contest. Two weeks ago, the Texans and rookie QB C.J. Stroud upset the Bengals in Cincinnati to move within one game of the Jags, who suffered a 34-3 thumping at home to the 49ers.
With this being Thanksgiving weekend, there are three games on tap for Turkey Day. It all starts in Detroit where the Lions host Green Bay, followed by Washington at Dallas and the nightcap features an NFC West battle when the 49ers visit the Seahawks. There’s even an NFL game on Friday on Amazon as the Dolphins visit the Jets.
Other key NFL games in Week 12 features an AFC North battle between the Steelers and the Bengals. Buffalo plays at Philadelphia and the Sunday Night game features Baltimore at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Before we take a look at this week’s loaded schedule, let’s review last week’s record. An 8-4 week brought the season record to 80-42 (66%).
I want to wish all of you a happy and safe Thanksgiving and thanks for reading this weekly column. This will be my first Thanksgiving without my Sharon and I’m not really looking forward to it. I miss her so, so much and the holidays will never be the same for me. I am thankful for the 27 wonderful years we had together.
Now, onto this weekend’s game.
Oregon State at Oregon: They call this game the Civil War and it should be a competitive contest. Oregon State already has eight wins on the year thanks to the play of QB DJ Uiagalalei (2,254 yards, 20 TDs) and running back Damien Martinez (1,024 yards, 7 TDs). The Beavers have a solid defense, but that unit will face its toughest test against an explosive Oregon offense led by QB Bo Nix (3,135 yards, 29 passing TDs/5 rushing TDs), running back Bucky Irving (939 yards, 10 TDs) and explosive wideout Troy Franklin (60 receptions, 1,039 yards, 11 TDs). Look for the Ducks offense to be too much for the Beaver defense on Friday. My pick, Oregon 34, Oregon State 20
Texas Tech at Texas: No. 7- ranked Texas will take on a Tech team that has struggled this year, but did upset No. 19 Kansas in Lawrence two weeks ago, 16-13. This week, the Red Raiders face a tougher road test against a UT team that has a lot to play for, namely a spot in the Big 12 title game and maybe a CFP berth. As stated, UT’s best running back is out, but Baxter (390 yards, 3 TDs) is a capable replacement. UT QB Quinn Ewers (2,232 yards, 14 TDs) and wide receiver Xavier Worthy (59 receptions, 767 yards, 4 TDs) will look to attack a suspect Tech secondary. Tech will rely on QB Behran Morton (1,170 yards, 10 TDs) and talented running back Tahj Brooks (1,170 yards, 8 TDs). Look for the UT defense to shut down Brooks early, and then turn their sights on Morton. My pick, Texas 34, Texas Tech 18
Texas A&M at LSU: The Aggies would like nothing more than to go into Tiger Stadium and leave with an upset win. It would do a lot for the Ags confidence and build much-needed momentum heading into a new era with a new head coach. But that might be a tall order against a LSU team that is loaded on offense led by dualthreat QB Jayden Daniels (3,164 passing yards, 30 TDs/918 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and big-play wide receiver Malik Nbors (72 receptions, 1,284 yards, 10 TDs). A&M QB Max Johnson (1,452 yards, 9 TDs) returns to Tiger Stadium where he spent his first two years before transferring to A&M. He will need to make some big plays to speedy wideout Ainias Smith (43 receptions, 716 yards, 2 TDs) if the Aggies hope to pull off the upset. I don’t see that happening on Saturday. My pick, LSU 33, Texas A&M 20
Alabama at Auburn: Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide take on their arch rivals Auburn with a lot to play for. ‘Bama has already earned a spot in the SEC title game, but Saban knows his team can’t afford another loss if it hopes to land a CFP spot. Look for Tide QB Jalen Milroe (2,070 passing yards, 16 TDs/333 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and running back Jase McClellan (675 yards, 5 TDs) to set the tone early as the Tide continues its late-season roll. My pick, Alabama 32, Auburn 15
Ohio State at Michigan: The Game of the Year in the Big 100 pits these two long-time rivals. Michigan owns a two-game winning streak over the Buckeyes and will look to make it three straight come Saturday. The Ohio State offense will face perhaps the best defense in the country on Saturday. The Wolverine defense has allowed just 75 points in its first 10 games (7.5 points per game). This will be that units biggest test as the Buckeyes offense is very potent, led by QB Kyle McCord (2,687 yards, 20 TDs), running back TreVeyon Henderson Jr. (648 yards, 8 TDs) and big-play wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (59 receptions, 1,063 yards, 12 TDs). If Henderson can find success running the ball early, that could be a big boost, but the Michigan defense will look to harass McCord, who will be playing in his first Ohio State- Michigan game. It will be imperative for McCord to play within himself and not try to do too much, because if he does, the Michigan defense will smell blood and go in for the kill. On offense, the Wolverines are led by QB J.J. McCarthy (2,194 yards, 18 TDs), running back Blake Corum (794 yards, 18 TDs) and wide receiver Roman Wilson (36 receptions, 589 yards, 10 TDs). Look for the Michigan defense to once again step up its game as Michigan earns its third straight spot in the Big 10 title game.My pick, Michigan 30, Ohio State 16
Green Bay at Detroit: The Thanksgiving Day triple header begins with the Lions, leaders of the NFC North, hosting the struggling Packers. Two weeks ago, Detroit picked up a wild 41-38 win in LA over the Chargers, while the Packers fell to 3-6 with a loss at Pittsburgh. Look for Lions QB Jared Goff (2,507 yards, 14 TDs), running back David Montgomery (501 yards, 7 TDs) and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (65 receptions, 821 yards, 4 TDs) to light it up against a beat up GB defense. My pick, Detroit 33, Green Bay 14
Washington at Dallas: The Cowboys host the Commanders in Dallas’ annual Thanksgiving Day game with Dallas looking to get on a late-season roll. Two weeks ago, QB Dak Prescott passed for 404 yards, threw 4 TD passes and had a rushing touchdown in Dallas’ 49- 17 route of the Giants (in two games this year, Dallas outscored New York 89-17), while the Commanders lost at Seattle. The Dallas defense will need to stop QB Sam Howell (2,783 yards) early and turn things over to Prescott (2,415 yards, 17 TDs), running back Tony Pollard (529 yards, 2 TDs), wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (68 receptions, 975 yards, 4 TDs) and tight end Jake Ferguson (36 receptions, 354 yards, 4 TDs). Look for the Dallas defense to make it a long day for Howell. My pick, Dallas 36, Washington 18
San Francisco at Seattle: The Turkey Day triple header concludes with a good NFC West meeting between the 49ers and Seahawks. Two weeks ago, SF ended a three-game losing streak with a convincing 34-3 road win at Jacksonville, while Seattle took care of business at home against Washington. These two teams despise one another, so look for a hard hitting affair on Thursday night. The 49res will need a big game from QB Brock Purdy (2,329 yards, 15 TDs), running back Christian McCaffrey (747 rushing yards, 9 TDs/38 receptions, 339 yards, 4 TDs), wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (38 receptions, 675 yards, 3 TDs) and tight end Georg Kittle (35 receptions, 559 yards, 4 TDs). Seattle is led by QB Geno Smith (2,171 yards, 11 TDs), running back Kenneth Walker III (595 yards, 8 total TDs) and wide receiver DK Metcalf (35 receptions, 552 yards, 2 TDs) and Tyler Lockett (46 receptions, 494 yards, 4 TDs). Look for the SF defense to be the difference maker come Thursday night. My pick, San Francisco 24, Seattle 20
Jacksonville at Houston: The Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud (2,626 yards, 15 TDs) just keeps doing amazing things. Three weeks ago, he led his team on a 7-play, 75-yard drive in 40 seconds to defeat Tampa Bay, and two weeks ago, he led his team on a game-winning drive at Cincinnati to upset the heavily favored Bengals. This week, the Texans host the Jaguars in an important AFC South game for both teams. Houston should enter the game with a 6-4 record (they hosted 2- win Arizona last Sunday) and a win over the Jags would give Houston a two-game sweep and the tiebreaker in the division race. The Jags and QB Trevor Lawrence (2,120 yards, 9 TDs), running back Travis Etienne (618 yards, 7 total TDs) and Christian Kirk (49 receptions, 624 yards, 3 TDs) scored just three points at home two weeks ago in a 34-3 loss to the 49ers. Look for another big day from Stroud, and wide receivers Nico Collins (36 receptions, 631 yards, 4 TDs) and Tank Dell (34 receptions, 510 yards, 5 TDs) to have another big day as the good times continue to roll at NRG Stadium. My pick, Houston 26, Jacksonville 23
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: A big one in the AFC North has the Steelers visiting the Bengals. Cinci played at Baltimore last week and could be looking at a two-game losing streak heading into this one. Look for Cinci QB Joe Burrow (2,208 yards, 14 TDs) and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase (69 receptions, 821 yards, 5 TDs) and Tyler Boyd (44 receptions, 417 yards, 2 TDs) to get back on track against a solid Steeler defense. It’s the Pittsburgh offense that is the issue. My pick, Cincinnati 26, Pittsburgh 18
Buffalo at Philadelphia: The Bills have a tough road test this Sunday when they take on the Eagles in Philly. Two weeks ago, Buffalo fell to 5-5 on the season with a home loss on Monday night to the Broncos. Bills fans are getting restless and it won’t get any easier when they face the defending NFC champs on the road on Sunday. The Eagles will be coming off an emotional Monday night Super Bowl rematch against the Chiefs. Buffalo needs a big game from QB Josh Allen (2,600 passing yards, 19 TDs/246 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and wide receiver Stefon Diggs (73 receptions, 868 yards, 8 TDs) when they face Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (2,347 passing yards, 15 passing TDs/316 rushing yards, 7 TDs), running back D’Andre Swift (614 yards, 3 TDs) and big-play wide receivers A.J. Brown (67 receptions, 1,005 yards, 6 TDs) and DeVonta Smith (42 receptions, 533 yards, 4 TDs). The Bills will struggle against the Eagles on Sunday. My pick, Philadelphia 34, Buffalo 23
Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers: The Ravens head cross country to take on a Chargers team that just can’t seem to close out games. Two weeks ago, they went back and forth against the Lions, before losing on a lastsecond field goal. QB Justin Herbert (2,349 yards, 17 TDs) is making plays to running back Austin Ekeler (332 rushing yards, 4 TDs/22 receptions, 248 yards, 1 TD) and wide receiver Keenan Allen (73 receptions, 895 yards, 6 TDS), but can’t seem to make them in key situations. The Ravens also have some question marks at QB. Lamar Jackson (2,177 passing yards, 10 TDs/481 rushing yards, 5 TDs) threw a pick six in the fourth quarter as the Ravens blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead at home and lost to the Browns on a last-second field goal. Look for running back Gus Edwards (502 yards, 8 TDs), wide receiver Zay Flowers (50 receptions, 545 yards, 1 TD) and tight end Mark Andrews (43 receptions, 521 yards, 6 TDs) to help out Jackson on the road on Sunday Night Football and LA head coach Brandon Staley’s days in LA might be numbered. My pick, Baltimore 26, Los Angeles Chargers 23