The college football season enters the final weekend with uncertainty as the games are bigger and the pressure is ramped up. The urgency of the College Football Playoff and conference races can cause teams to raise their level of play or stumble close to the finish line. This leads to unexpected results – often in places where it is least anticipated.
That's why we're here to make sense of things. The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Scooby Axson, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with bold predictions for Week 12 of the college football season:
USC is only the playoff team that has struggle
For those who are waiting for chaos and hoping to see Ohio State and Alabama jump into the final four conversation will be sadly disappointing. This weekend, as far as the four teams at the top of the latest of College Football Playoff rankings, won't have much drama, except USC and their defense will struggle to put away Utah, but Caleb Williams and the Trojan offense will do enough to squeak by and earn an unlikely playoff spot and Williams the Heisman Trophy. -- Scooby Axson
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Unbeaten TCU suffers first loss but makes playoff
Kansas State beats TCU by enough (17 points, let’s say) to cause the Horned Frogs to have to sweat out the rest of Saturday as pundits reassess Ohio State as a playoff contender. In the end, TCU will still fend off OSU and make the playoff but be dropped one spot to No. 4 in the final rankings, setting up a semifinal matchup with Georgia instead of what might be a slightly friendlier pairing with Michigan. -- Paul Myerberg
Central Florida repeats Tulane defeat
Conventional wisdom says it's hard to be a team twice. It's even harder when the game are only three weeks apart and the losing team gets the return match at home. However, Central Florida - even with some concerns about quarterback John Ryhs Plumlee's health - has the makeup to go back to Tulane and take a second victory against the Green Wave - this time with the American Athletic championship on the line. Sadly, the spoils the finish for a monumental season by Tulane. but we all should still applaud Willie Fritz for the job he has done.
TCU, Kansas State stage classic Big 12 title game
The Big 12 championship will be the best game of the day on Saturday. That won’t be much of a shocker, given the high number of close games the league staged during the entirety of the regular season. Kansas State has been itching for this rematch since its first meeting with the Horned Frogs. TCU’s reputation as comeback kids is well earned, but don’t forget the rally on that particular day was aided by a spate of K-State injuries. The Wildcats are now playing their best ball of the season, having won their last three games by an average of just over 21 points. The Horned Frogs will be ready as well, of course, rolling into this contest off a decisive win against Iowa State – a team the Wildcats beat by a single point early in the campaign. Did we mention there’ve been a lot of close games in the conference this year?
Does it matter if the Horned Frogs lose, or whether they’ll be matched with Georgia or Michigan in the playoff? That’s a discussion for another day – like Sunday. For now, let’s just enjoy this one. -- Eddie Timanus
Coastal Carolina ends Troy's win streak
There isn't likely to be much chaos this weekend, but there is one flimsy favorite in the championship games. That team is Troy, which has had a tremendous season under first-year coach Jon Sumrall. Troy comes into the Sun Belt championship tilt on a nine-game winning streak and earned home-field advantage, but the Trojans' schedule did not feature either Coastal Carolina or James Madison, who were the two best teams in the opposite division. Coastal was an absolute flop in its final regular season game, losing 47-7 to James Madison. Coastal hasn't been the same team since quarterback Grayson McCall's foot injury in early November, but it's hard to know what to make of that effort -- whether it was just a fluke or perhaps a bit of a reaction to coach Jamey Chadwell being rumored in the coaching carousel. Whatever the case, there's still a chance McCall returns for this game and the bet here is that Coastal's championship pedigree comes through with a conference title on the line. -- Dan Wolken
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football Week 14 bold predictions: USC, TCU on upset alert