Amid a 2022 season stacked with surprising surges and atypical falls, the college football landscape is calm.
For a moment, all is quiet on the College Football Playoff front. The most recent rankings included zero changes to the Top Five of Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, TCU and Tennessee.
But will that remain true after Week 12?
If anything does, it'll be a massive story. The penultimate weekend of the regular season features only two matchups of ranked teams, and both showdowns are in the Pac-12. The rest of the nation is basically trying to avoid a season-altering upset.
Will there be surprises? Bleacher Report's expert panel—Max Escarpio, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—convened to address that question, along with several more key topics in Week 12.
Who's the Biggest Potential Late-Season Spoiler?
It's Notre Dame, and in more ways than one.
The obvious way is that the Fighting Irish could spoil USC's path to the CFP. (If the Trojans even survive this weekend's game at UCLA.) That nonconference game wouldn't do anything to impact USC's ability to play in the Pac-12 championship or Rose Bowl. However, Notre Dame—already responsible for handing Clemson and North Carolina their only losses of the season—could just about officially eliminate the Pac-12 from the CFP conversation.
And if the Fighting Irish beat USC, they might also shake up the other end of the New Year's Six mix by storming into the running for the "wild-card" spot in the Cotton Bowl.
Right now, the Fighting Irish are ranked 18th, but they'd make a big leap toward the Top 10 with a win over the Trojans.
Would it be enough to finish ahead of, say, an 11-2 North Carolina, a 10-2 Penn State and a 10-3 Oregon/Utah? To be determined! But the Irish could be a big-time spoiler.
Same here. Although the 0-2 start with a home loss to Marshall was pretty concerning at the start of the season, ND has rebounded well. The Irish are currently on a four-game winning streak, including the home upset of Clemson 35-14 earlier in November.
That's why I think Notre Dame's home game against USC on Nov. 26 is the perfect opportunity to play spoiler for the Trojans' playoff hopes. USC's only loss of the season came on the road against Utah, and Notre Dame has three wins at home over the last four weeks.
The Trojans' offense can obviously put up points, but I think Notre Dame's defense will play well against USC even on the road. Notre Dame ranks 26th nationally in total defense and 22nd in opponent third-down conversion, allowing teams to convert just 33 percent of the time.
How fitting would it be for Marcus Freeman's first season to end with an upset that ruins USC's year?