Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman has had two weeks to get past his two-interception performance in a loss at Clemson and the greater part of a year to prepare to face the team he spent four years leading.
Hartman and the Fighting Irish will play host Saturday to Wake Forest — for which the quarterback set school and ACC records before transferring to Notre Dame in January — as part of a Week 12 lineup featuring familiar opponents, in-state rivals and a little bad blood.
Oregon State would like nothing more than to upset unbeaten Washington, which the Beavers already defeated in court this week. And Oregon State has the running back to do it, quietly starring in a conference known this season for its Heisman Trophy contenders at quarterback.
Our writers preview those games and more, while also focusing on other running backs you might not have heard of (but should have by now), notable quotes from the week and conference championship game scenarios in Week 12.
Week 12: Frenemies, rivals and somewhere in between
(3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
This one was circled immediately after Sam Hartman, perhaps the most decorated quarterback in Wake Forest history, made the decision in January to leave Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and play his sixth and final season in South Bend, Indiana. Hartman, second all time in the ACC in passing yards (12,967) after starting four years for the Demon Deacons, gets to face his former teammates while also needing to get back on track. After going through Notre Dame’s first six games without an interception, he has thrown seven picks in the past four games — two of them ending in losses, to Louisville and Clemson. A bye week after tossing two picks during the 31-23 defeat in Death Valley might be the best medicine for putting his worst passing day of the campaign (43.3% completion rate) in the rearview mirror. Hartman (2,272 passing yards and 18 TDs in 2023) began the season with four multiple-touchdown passing games. And with the ACC’s 10th-ranked pass defense (224.9 yards per game) coming to town, Saturday might be as good a time as any for Wake Forest’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns to reestablish the rhythm that made Hartman a captivating early-season storyline. — Blake Baumgartner
(3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Considering these teams played in the ACC championship game last season, there could have been way more on the line in this matchup. But now, it feels as if they are playing for pride, not prize, as the old saying goes. The Tigers are on a two-game winning streak after a disappointing start to their season (and a famous radio call from one Tyler from Spartanburg); North Carolina is 8-2 after fourth-quarter collapses against Virginia and Georgia Tech. While the Tigers are completely eliminated from ACC championship game contention, North Carolina still has some measure of hope, believe it or not. But that hope will begin in Miami earlier Saturday. If Louisville loses to the Hurricanes, the door opens a crack for North Carolina to potentially get into the ACC title game. The Tar Heels need to win out against Clemson and NC State, hope Virginia Tech loses one more game and get more help from teams it has beaten on its schedule. It is a convoluted tiebreak without divisions that could potentially get to tiebreaker No. 3 if North Carolina and Louisville end up with the same conference record. Because the Tar Heels lost two games to teams they should have beaten, they now find themselves in a situation where they need massive help. A defense that was a problem last season suddenly cannot hold onto fourth-quarter leads, and that could be a problem once again on Saturday against a Clemson team playing with far more confidence on offense after consecutive victories. — Andrea Adelson
(7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
On Tuesday, lawyers representing Oregon State University and the University of Washington squared off in court, making final arguments to settle who should be in control of the Pac-12: Oregon State and Washington State or the 10 schools that are leaving the conference. The Beavers’ legal team prevailed over the Huskies’ representatives, setting up the potential for another showdown in Washington Supreme Court. But before that, the Beavers and Huskies will play each other on the gridiron for what will likely be the last time for a long time. It will be the 108th meeting all time and few, if any, have had these stakes, with both teams ranked in the top 10. For UW, an undefeated record and potential College Football Playoff trip is on the line. For Oregon State, there still is a path to the Pac-12 title. Nothing would be sweeter for the Beavers than to beat Washington and Oregon in back-to-back games to ruin both opponents’ playoff chances and secure a place in the conference championship game. — Kyle Bonagura
(7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports1)
The last time Kansas and Kansas State both won at least seven games in the same season was 1995. Glen Mason was leading the Jayhawks to their first top-10 finish since 1968, Bill Snyder was engineering his first of nine seasons with double-digit wins for the Wildcats and Kansas State stomped Kansas 41-7 in Manhattan. Twenty-eight years later, both teams are 7-3, and both are ranked in this week’s CFP top 25. These are the highest stakes this game has had for quite a while, but if history is any indication, K-State has the edge once again: The Wildcats have won 14 in a row in the series and 26 of the past 30. This would be a good time for the Jayhawks to turn the tables, though. With an upset, Kansas would end Kansas State’s hopes of defending its Big 12 title. Kansas might need a quarterback for that. Jalon Daniels is still out, and super-backup Jason Bean suffered a head injury against Texas Tech. Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold expressed optimism that Bean will be able to play this weekend, and that’s probably vital for keeping up with an increasingly devastating K-State offense that has averaged 42 points per game since the Wildcats were upset by Oklahoma State. — Bill Connelly
(3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
What’s at stake for Georgia? What’s not at stake? The Bulldogs have won 27 consecutive games and can tie the SEC record of 28 set by Alabama (1978 to 1980 and 1991 to 1993) with a win over the Volunteers in Knoxville. But the conference win streak is way down the list for Georgia, which already has clinched a spot in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs are trying to become the first team since Minnesota from 1934 to 1936 to win three straight national championships. A loss to Tennessee, even should Georgia beat Alabama in the SEC championship game, would leave the Bulldogs on the outside looking in when it comes to making the College Football Playoff, especially with four other Power 5 teams unbeaten at this point. Georgia played its most complete game of the season last week in a 52-17 pummeling of No. 9 Ole Miss. Star tight end Brock Bowers returned to the lineup after having ankle surgery, and the Bulldogs have scored 30 or more points in their past five games. Defense has long been a staple for Georgia under Kirby Smart, but the Bulldogs are ranked sixth nationally in scoring offense (40.6 points per game) and fifth in total offense (504.8 YPG). Tennessee (7-3, 3-3 in the SEC) is coming off its worst beating of Josh Heupel’s tenure, a 36-7 loss at Missouri. The Vols have won 14 in a row at Neyland Stadium; their last home loss was to Georgia in 2021. Tennessee has given up a total of 99 points in its three losses this season. The Vols won two of the “Big Three” last season versus Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and they are trying to avoid going 0-for-3 this time around. They’ve lost six straight to Georgia and 11 of the past 13 in the series. — Chris Low
RBs you might have missed
Oklahoma State scores first on 20-yard rushing TD
Ollie Gordon II rushes it in from 20 yards out to open the scoring against Oklahoma.
Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State: Gordon might merit some Heisman consideration, even after the Cowboys slipped up badly against Central Florida in Orlando last week. Prior to that, the nation’s leading rusher (1,250 yards) had eclipsed the 100-yard mark in six straight games — highlighted by 282 yards at West Virginia and 271 yards against Cincinnati in the two weeks preceding the dramatic victory over Oklahoma in the Bedlam finale. A trip to Houston to face the Big 12’s 10th-best rushing defense (164.7 YPG) on Saturday provides a golden opportunity for Gordon to move past his 25-yard effort in the 45-3 loss to the Golden Knights. — Baumgartner
Omarion Hampton, North Carolina: It is easy for people to ignore what Hampton has done with Drake Maye as the UNC quarterback. But those who have watched the Tar Heels and the ACC know how dominant Hampton has been. North Carolina entered the season wanting to run the ball better than it did in 2022, and Hampton has delivered. He ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game (123.6) and is the only running back in the country who has rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. His 206 rushing attempts without a fumble is tops this season. — Adelson
Cody Schrader, Missouri: Mizzou began the season 5-0 thanks primarily to the Brady Cook-to-Luther Burden III connection. The Tigers are 8-2 and on the brink of their first New Year’s Six bowl bid of the CFP era thanks to a different approach. The defense has taken a leap forward since the 49-39 loss to LSU, and the boulder named Cody Schrader has become more and more of a punishing weapon. In his past three games — including at Georgia — the former Division II All-American has rushed 83 times for 476 yards; that gives him 1,124 yards for the season, seventh nationally and first in the SEC. He had 205 rushing yards and five catches for 116 yards in the Tigers’ 36-7 blowout of Tennessee, and if they reach the NY6 promised land, he’ll likely be a primary reason for it. — Connelly
Damien Martinez, Oregon State: At the end of last season and the beginning of this one, Martinez had nine straight 100-yard games. He is coming off a 146-yard, four-touchdown outing last week against Stanford. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season despite reaching the 20-carry mark in a game just once. Of the 17 FBS running backs with 1,000-plus rushing yards, none has fewer carries than Martinez, who is averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Martinez leads the Pac-12 in rushing this season but ranks fourth in yards per carry. — Bonagura
Quotes of the week
“It may be the one-year anniversary for some people, but it’s just like yesterday for a lot of us.” — Virginia athletic director Carla Williams, a year after the deaths of Cavaliers football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry, who were shot and killed on a bus after returning to campus from a field trip.
“We have a very distaste in our mouth for them. We definitely want to send them off to the SEC with a loss on our end.” — Iowa State left guard Jarrod Hufford on the Cyclones’ matchup with Texas.
“Here’s the deal. You’re either moving forward or you’re stuck. We were stuck. … You know how you’re driving down the highway, it’s a four-lane road — and I drive fast, OK? I like 75 to 80, and somebody’s in the left lane, and they’re going 55 and they won’t move over. We were that car going 55. Something had to give. They had to get out of the way.” — Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork on why he fired coach Jimbo Fisher.
“It’s 45 minutes away. It’s not close. They don’t say, ‘Orlando, we’ve got a problem.'” — Houston coach Dana Holgorsen on his upcoming opponent UCF, which wore its Space Game uniforms last weekend due to the proximity to Cape Canaveral. “I thought we were Space City,” he added.
“That’s not my dance floor. I’m not an attorney. Always wanted to be. I watched a lot of shows — ‘Judge Judy,’ a lot. Always kind of felt like it would be cool to get up there and thunder away at a jury like Tom Cruise in ‘A Few Good Men’ or be a judge like Judge Judy. Alas, I did not go to law school. This will be the first time I’ve ever really been in this situation.” — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, on whether he’ll speak at a court hearing on Friday in support of a possible injunction against his Big Ten suspension.
“I tell them what I told them when they came: I’m here. I tell them my mother’s here, my sister’s here, my dog is here, my daughter’s here, three of my sons are here, my other daughter comes to darn near every home game. We’re here. I get mail here. I pay taxes here. I don’t hear that. Maybe our recruiting staff hears it, but I don’t hear it. I’m too honest with parents. I’m going to tell them the truth.” — Colorado coach Deion Sanders on speculation that he could be a candidate for other jobs like Texas A&M’s opening.
• Florida State has clinched a spot in the championship game.
• Louisville will secure a place in the title game with a win OR a North Carolina loss OR a Virginia Tech loss and Georgia Tech win (to clinch a tiebreaker vs. UNC).
• The Ohio State-Michigan winner in Week 13 will capture the Big Ten East crown.
• Iowa will clinch the Big Ten West with a victory against Illinois.
• Texas will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win and losses by at least two of Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
• Washington will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win OR an Arizona loss.
• Oregon will secure a spot in the title game with a win AND losses by Arizona and Oregon State.
• Georgia and Alabama have clinched spots in the championship game; the Crimson Tide will be the designated home team as the SEC West champion.
• SMU will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win AND losses by Tulane and UTSA.
• New Mexico State and Liberty have earned spots in the title game; the Flames will host as the regular-season champion.
• Toledo and Miami have captured spots in the championship game.
• Air Force will clinch a spot in the championship game with a win AND losses by Boise State and Fresno State.
• UNLV will secure a place in the title game with a win AND losses by Boise State, Fresno State and San Jose State.
• Troy has clinched the Sun Belt West.
• Coastal Carolina will claim the East with losses by Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.