Week 12 saw six ranked teams go down which included unbeaten Minnesota and Baylor. It also saw Oklahoma and Penn State held on to their playoff hopes by escaping as one-loss teams. With two weeks before championship weekend, anxiety is high as every play matters much more in November. Let’s take a look at some of the critical matchups in our week 13 college football watch guide.
With the SEC mostly taking the week off for the annual late November FCS games, we primarily focus on the Big 12 and PAC 12 race along with the Non-Power Five battle for the New Years Six Bowl. The final three weeks will be very interesting as Memphis, Cincinnati, Boise State, Appalachian State, and SMU battle for that spot. Let’s preview the weekend as we look at our week 13 college football watch guide.
Note: All game times are in central standard time
Week 13 College Football Watch Guide
Both teams come into this game controlling their own destiny. The winner will have the inside track at representing the East in the Big Ten Championship Game and the College Football Playoff. Incredibly, Ohio State comes into this game as an 18-point favorite over the Nittany Lions. Justin Fields is in the thick of the Heisman race with his 31 touchdowns and only one interception on the year. But, the balance has been key and J.K. Dobbins 1,289 yards and 13 scores on the ground is evidence of that. For Penn State, Sean Clifford has struggled over the last couple of games barely completing over 50% of his passes while throwing four of his six interceptions on the year. He will need to have his best game of the year for the Nittany Lions to pull off the shocker in Columbus.
The respect for what Minnesota has done was on full display as the playoff committee only dropped the Gophers one spot after their tough loss to Iowa last weekend. They still control their own destiny in the Big Ten. But, first, a victory against Northwestern will set up a winner take all game against Wisconsin next week in Minnesota to play for a championship. Meanwhile, it’s been a tough year for Northwestern this year in a 2-8 season. The Wildcats haven’t been a complete pushover, however in only losing by two to Purdue, three to Nebraska, and by nine points to Wisconsin. And, they got a much needed decisive victory over UMass last weekend. If Gopher quarterback Tanner Morgan is unable to go this could very well be a 4th quarter game.
The Cowboys have rebounded from a mid-year slump to win three consecutive games. They remain alive in the Big 12 race, although they would need Baylor to lose twice to advance to the Big 12 Championship Game. However, part of that improvement has been the continued success of Chuba Hubbard. The Sophomore leads the country with 1,726 yards rushing and almost certainly will eclipse the 2,000-yard mark by the end of the year. Conversely, West Virginia got their biggest win of the year knocking off Kansas State last week in Manhattan. The move at quarterback from Austin Kendall to Jarret Doege proved to be a spark for the Mountaineer offense as he threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State. This has the makings of a great game in Morgantown.
There has been no shortage of opinions of Georgia staying at number four in the College Football Playoffs. Be that as it may, A&M comes calling in what looks to be the final challenge before the SEC Championship Game for the Bulldogs. Georgia has been suffocating on defense and completely dominated Auburn for three-quarters last weekend, before hanging on 21-14. Jake Fromm has been rock solid since South Carolina and D’Andre Swift reached the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row. For Jimbo Fisher, his club has won the games they were supposed to win but has lost to every ranked opponent they have faced this year. The Aggies finish with Georgia and LSU and a 7-5 finish will be viewed as a disappointment in College Station. Kellen Mond has been average this season but has not thrown an interception in a month. He will have to have the best game of his career for the Aggies to hang in here.
The Wolverines have played well since the loss to Penn State in winning three straight. They are purely playing for bowl positioning at this point, but could certainly still produce a lot of chaos. That starts this week as they head to Bloomington to face the much improved Hoosiers. Shea Patterson has been hot in throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions since the Penn State game and that will need to continue this week. Meanwhile, at 7-3 Indiana could be positioned to win 10 games in a season for the first time in program history. They feel like they let one slip away last week in Happy Valley and could get much-needed redemption in their final home game of the season.
It’s been a nightmare season in Austin this year for the Longhorns. It seems unfathomable that this team could be a five-loss team after last season. But, even though they have a very slim chance to make it back to the conference championship game conventional wisdom suggests that they are relegated to a spoiler role. Sam Ehlinger has been one of the bright spots this season in throwing 27 touchdown passes this year. He’ll have to continue to shoulder much of the offensive load for Texas to win this game. Baylor will have to be very careful to not let Oklahoma beat them in back to back games. After dominating the 24 minutes of the game against the Sooners, they were outscored by 24 points in the second half. With a win against Texas, Baylor will clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game in Arlington. Charlie Brewer was fantastic in the first half but struggled to get anything going in the second half. His consistency, as well as the running game, will be key for the Bears in this one.
Both SMU and Navy are on the outside looking in for the New Years Six bowl position. SMU still has a legitimate shot but will need some help from their American Athletic conference friends. Even so, the Mustangs have a chance to win 10+ games for the first time since the Death Penalty. SMU has a 3,000-yard passer in Shane Buechele, a 1,000-yard rusher in Xavier Jones and a 1,000-yard receiver in James Proche. They will be licking their chops as Navy gave up over 300 yards and five touchdowns last week against Notre Dame. Navy will look to get back to work after a disappointing performance last week. Malcolm Perry has been solid for the Naval Academy with over 1,150 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground this season. This game has all the makings of a shootout.
Memphis is in the same position that Cincinnati was in a week ago. They just need to survive and advance until next week. If they win, it will likely set up back to back games against Cincinnati in the regular-season finale as well as the conference championship game. The Tigers have scored at least 40 points in four consecutive games. That’s in large part due to quarterback Brady White and all-everything running back Kenneth Gainwell who has over 1,600 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. USF actually led Cincinnati 17-7 last week in the fourth quarter but was not able to finish the job. The Bulls are getting better quarterback play with freshman Jordan McCloud but will rely on their defense to keep this one close in the fourth quarter.
Oregon comes into this game as one of the hottest teams in the country in winners on nine straight. This will be the last road test for the Ducks before facing Oregon State in the Civil War next Saturday. Justin Herbert has emerged as a Heisman candidate late in the season but it has been the defense that’s been the catalyst of this winning streak. That was clearly evident last week in holding Arizona to only six points. Arizona State is quickly playing its worst football at the most inopportune time. Losers of four straight, the Sun Devils need to win one of their next two just to get themselves into bowl eligibility. Eno Benjamin has struggled to get going this year with only 800 yards rushing and quarterback play has been bad as of late. But, with these two teams heading in opposite directions, something tells me this will be a tight fourth-quarter game.
Like Oregon, Utah has been hot after a September loss to USC. The defense is absolutely the calling card for the Utes as they have held five of their 10 opponents to seven points or less. But, a healthy Tyler Huntley has been the consistent force for Utah offensively. He is completing 74% of his passes and has only one interception in 209 attempts. The addition of a healthy Zack Moss has been pivotal as well as he should reach the 1,000-yard mark by the end of this game. Meanwhile, Arizona is really struggling in all facets of the game. They have lost five straight and very much in danger of not making a bowl game. But, Grant Gunnell has played well at quarterback for the Wildcats in nine touchdowns and only one interception. He’ll need to continue his stellar play for Arizona to have a chance in this one.
The final game of the evening leaves us with perennial Mountain West Conference power Boise State taking on Utah State. Much is on the line in this game for both teams. Boise sits at 6-0 in conference play at Utah State is at 5-1. A win for the Broncos will make them a near lock o play for the conference championship. And, a win for Utah State will force a three-way tie in the Mountain division between Boise, Air Force, and Utah State and would knock Boise out of the New Years Six conversation. If the Broncos are able to win, they could take full advantage of potential chaos in the American Athletic Conference. Meanwhile, Jordan Love hasn’t enjoyed the same magic that he produced a year ago but is still one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the conference.