Every year, this space has the tradition of comparing the college football schedule for the holiday weekend with the Thanksgiving feast. You know what winds up happening? I make myself hungry. Besides, holiday traditions come in many forms and that is what we have for Week 13 of the college football season.
Week 13 College Football Preview
Washington (10-1, 7-1) at Washington State (8-3, 7-1) Friday 3:30pm EST Fox
This is that tradition of going to one of those all-encompassing big box stores as soon as they open on Black Friday. You know it is going to be high voltage chaos, and you had better be fully prepared. These two teams can light up a scoreboard quickly. The winner of this year’s Apple Cup is the Pac 12 North champion. It is only the sixth time in the last 80 years that both teams go into the game ranked. Just like the crazy people shoving their way through the retail doors when they open up, the ones to watch in this game are easy to find. Washington State’s junior quarterback Luke Falk is just shy of 4,000 yards passing and is averaging 34 completions per game which is tops in the nation. He also leads the country in completion percentage at 71.4%. Do not adjust the new plasma screen you just bought for yourself. You read that correctly. Washington Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning has 37 touchdown passes this season and that actually leads Falk by one. He is also fourth in the entire country in quarterback efficiency with a 180.7 rating. Both coaches kept all their players from doing media interviews this week to try to keep them focused. The points are likely to fly off the shelves like a new Xbox Battlefield that you claim to be buying for your kids.
Michigan (10-1, 7-1) at Ohio State (10-1, 7-1) Saturday 12noon EST ABC
This is old school tradition. This is eating your fourth post-Thanksgiving turkey meal and swearing it is still too early to focus on Christmas. And you’d better not hear any Christmas music until the calendar turns to December because you are Big Ten old school. Michigan takes the East and a berth in the conference title game with a win. Ohio State wins at least a share of the East with a victory, but would need Penn State to lose to Michigan State to play for the Big Ten championship. Michigan has had eight home games this season and has played only twice outside the state of Michigan, so Columbus will be as hostile as it gets for the Wolverines. It was thought quarterback Wilton Speight was out for the season with a shoulder injury, but Jim Harbaugh has been cagey about a possible return this week. For Ohio State, the game plan is the same as it is every week, and one day they will get it. They need to diversify the passing game before it bites them. J.T. Barrett was only 10 of 22 for 86 yards last week in bad weather, which they are likely to get again this week.
Auburn (8-3, 5-2) at Alabama (11-0, 7-0) Saturday 3:30pm EST CBS
The Iron Bowl is every bit the November Southern tradition as Duke’s Mayonnaise being the main ingredient in half the holiday dishes and the pie that that folks down south swear is pronounced “pee-can.” The Crimson Tide has shown themselves to be head and shoulders better than everyone in the country. That doesn’t mean they aren’t vulnerable, as we have seen in years past n this game. Auburn has questions at quarterback. Is it going to be Sean White or Jeremy Johnson? Either way the Tigers have to convert on third down to win. They are 52.7% on third down in their wins and 23.9% in their losses. The goal could not be clearer. You come at the king, you’d better not miss. It will help if running back Kerryon Johnson is close to full strength. He is averaging five yards per carry this season to go with 11 touchdowns. For Alabama the key will be the defense. If they can make Auburn throw all day, they will control the game. Rueben Foster, the linebacker ironically enough from Auburn, leads the team with 75 tackles. If you hear his name called a lot Saturday, you know how the game is going.
Notre Dame (4-7) at USC (8-3, 7-2) Saturday 3:30pm EST ABC
This is the tradition where some years you scratch your head wondering why you still do it. You realize your parents, your grandparents and even your great-grandparents did it, so you keep it up. With a Utah win against Colorado, USC will win the Pac 12 South. The Trojans have come a long way from when they were 1-3 and people wanted head coach Clay Helton out already. They are now 7-1 since the switch to freshman quarterback Sam Darnold. As he proved in the convincing win over UCLA last week, he has an arm, but his biggest weapon is he keeps plays alive with his escapability. USC features an actual pro-style offense with 207 yards rushing per game out of the tandem of Justin Davis and Ronald Jones II. Notre Dame is playing for, well we don’t really know what. Brian Kelly is under even more heat now that the NCAA has vacated two seasons of wins for academic cheating. Still some years, it is a college football classic, so we can always hope.
Utah (8-3, 5-3) at Colorado (9-2, 7-1) Saturday 7:30pm EST Fox
Ok, this is not a tradition at all. This is the millennial who brings a ham and kale salad to your Thanksgiving weekend and doesn’t want to watch football because there is a home renovation marathon on. Even the Pac 12 knows that these two joining the conference in 2011 does not provide a tradition They are calling it the Rumble in the Rockies. Whatever. It’s football. Good enough. If Colorado wins, they take the Pac 12 South and go from worst to first in one year. If Utah wins, USC will play for the Pac 12 title. The Buffs have an exciting offense. Quarterback Sefo Liufau has 1,800 yards throwing this season but can also run as he did for 108 yards in the win over Washington State last week. Running back Phillip Lindsey brings another 1,000 yards rushing to the game. Utah is getting a heavy dose of running back Joe Williams. He “retired” two weeks into the season because his body was taking a beating. He missed four games but as the Utes’ depth chart got depleted he came back and is averaging 200 yards per game since then.
South Carolina (6-5, 3-5) at Clemson (10-1, 7-1) 7:30pm EST ESPN
This one is the Siracusa tradition, because on my wife’s part of the family, there are people on both sides of this battle, so I know if I don’t cover it, I am disowned from my inherited Southern legacy. Clemson is still fighting for a CFP spot having won handily against Wake Forest last week after the huge loss to Pitt two weeks ago. Deshaun Watson has the big passing stats with more than 3,200 yards throwing but he also has been prone to big mistakes and has 13 interceptions. South Carolina’s defense has to contain the edges and not let Watson get out of the pocket where he is most dangerous. Keeping him contained and turning him into a pure passer will be critical. South Carolina has won four of the last five and is bowl eligible in year one of the Will Muschamp era. The Gamecocks are going to have to maintain a consistent running game against an athletic Clemson defense to keep the weight off the shoulders of freshman quarterback Jake Bentley. Full disclosure: My wife’s side of the family does lean more heavily towards the garnet and black than the orange and purple, but I’ve got to make sure I am covered on all areas.