College Football Players, Coaches and Teams to Watch in Week 13
After a heart-stopping Week 12, college football carries on into Week 13, which boasts several marquee matchups.
ESPN's College GameDay will be on hand when No. 4 Baylor visits No. 10 Oklahoma State, with the winner taking control of the Big 12 title race.
No. 22 LSU will play host to No. 12 Texas A&M, as Johnny Manziel and the Aggies put their BCS and Heisman Trophy hopes on the line. Elsewhere in the SEC, No. 8 Missouri will visit No. 24 Ole Miss, as the Tigers look to move one step closer to clinching the SEC East crown.
Out on the west coast, Oregon's Marcus Mariota looks to return to full health against Arizona, while No. 14 UCLA and No. 17 Arizona State do battle in the Rose Bowl to determine the likely Pac-12 South champion.
Finally, in the Midwest, No. 13 Michigan State and No. 3 Ohio State both look to clinch division crowns with wins this week.
Come find which players, teams and coaches to watch through the catalog of crucial Week 13 contests.
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Week 13 Matchup: at No. 22 LSU (3:30 p.m. ET on CBS)
Spread: LSU -4.5
Eyes are always on the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, but they will be even more so when he takes on No. 22 LSU this weekend.
As the redshirt sophomore ventures into Death Valley in Baton Rouge, La., it'll be just his third road game of the season.
Not only is it an intriguing matchup between two SEC powers in need of victories, but it will also be a defining moment in Manziel's run for Heisman No. 2.
With perceived favorite Jameis Winston facing serious off-field issues, Manziel can bring the focus back on the field and on himself with a big game against the Tigers.
Keep an eye on Manziel to see if he runs free in Tiger Stadium. If he does, your eyes might also see him lifting a second Heisman Trophy in December.
HC Jim Mora, UCLA
Week 13 Matchup: vs. No. 17 Arizona State (7 p.m. ET on FOX)
Spread: ASU -2.5
In one of the biggest matchups of the weekend, Jim Mora's UCLA Bruins will play host to Todd Graham's Arizona State Sun Devils.
The winner will be in the driver's seat to take the Pac-12 South title. If UCLA loses, its division hopes will be done.
With that hanging over his head, it remains to be seen how Mora will manage his running backs. The Bruins have received a major spark from the addition of linebacker Myles Jack to the offensive backfield. However, UCLA is also anticipating the return of starting back Jordon James, as reported by Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times.
James was one of the nation's top rushers before suffering an ankle injury on Oct. 3 against Utah. It was his absence that caused a dip in UCLA's offensive production and created the need for Jack in the backfield.
UCLA will need to score points in bunches to keep up with the explosive ASU offense, and backfield production will be key for the Bruins as it has been all season.
How Mora handles his backfield could be the difference between a Pac-12 South title and a mediocre bowl bid for the Bruins.
Week 13 Matchup: at No. 24 Ole Miss (7:45 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Spread: Missouri -2.5
Missouri will be under the microscope for each of the next two weeks.
The Tigers hold the keys to the SEC East castle, but they'll have two daunting tests still remaining, and they must pass both to win the division.
Next week, Mizzou must take down Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, but first, it will head to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss.
The Rebels already sent LSU out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a loss and nearly did the same to A&M. The Rebels aren't quite the class of the conference yet, they have proven to be very tough to beat in their own stadium.
While all the pressure is on Mizzou going forward, there will also be a focus on its quarterback situation. The Tigers will bring back starter James Franklin, which B/R's Barrett Sallee reported this week, but Mizzou knows it has a more than capable backup in redshirt freshman Maty Mauk. If Franklin falters, could Gary Pinkel and the Tigers turn back to Mauk?
Tune in Saturday night to see how Missouri will handle its SEC East burden.
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Week 13 Matchup: at Arizona (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2)
Spread: Oregon -19.5
In nearly two full seasons, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had never logged negative rushing yardage in a game.
Since injuring his knee, he has now finished in the red on the ground in two straight games. This week, he could be making his way back into the black.
Offensive coordinator Scott Frost on Saturday said he anticipates Mariota being close to 100 percent, perhaps to the point where he won’t need the brace against the Wildcats. Mariota said he will wait until later in the week to make that decision.
“The knee is good,’’ Mariota said. “I went through practice today and felt good.’’
Mariota said the knee brace is “a little more restrictive” but he said he doesn’t feel like it affects his decision making.
There are also two interesting situations surrounding Mariota and the Ducks. The first: the Heisman. If the Ducks' field general snaps for the incredible numbers he was posting earlier in the year, he could fight his way back into the race as the Heisman is still very much up for grabs.
Finally, there is a question of the Ducks' motivation. Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com quoted several Oregon players this week saying they are underwhelmed by the thought of playing the Rose Bowl, rather than the national title game.
Since Oregon is essentially out of the national title race, how will Mariota and Co. handle their coming games?
HC Art Briles, Baylor
Week 13 Matchup: at No. 10 Oklahoma State (8 p.m. ET on ABC)
Spread: Baylor -9.5
Baylor has a chance to deliver a knockout blow to Oklahoma State in the race for the Big 12 title. The Bears will then need just a win over Texas to seal the conference crown.
BU is the only original Big 12 member without a regular-season or postseason football championship. Head coach Art Briles has already brought the Bears out of the cellar of the league, can he take the next step this week?
If Baylor wins, it will also likely move to No. 3 in the BCS Standings, where it will sit on deck for a national title berth in the event of a Florida State or Alabama loss.
But first, Briles must lead his team to a win in Stillwater, Okla. As ESPN's Max Olson detailed, Baylor will be doing battle with the Cowboys with a load of question marks due to injury.
With his team less than 100 percent, Briles faces possibly the toughest test of his coaching career this weekend.
Michigan State Spartans
Week 13 Matchup: at Northwestern (12 p.m. ET on ESPN)
Spread: Michigan State -7
Michigan State can clinch the Big Ten Legends Division with a win over Northwestern this weekend.
While that is a major part of the Spartans' plan, what will come after this week is even more important. Once they clinch their division, they will be matched up with No. 3 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
With that game looming, MSU will be under the microscope to see whether or not it has what it takes to knock off the Buckeyes. The Spartans have one of the nation's best defenses, but will need to show a bit more offensive consistency to provide a serious threat to OSU.
In that game, Michigan State's BCS hopes will likely be on the line. The Big Ten is likely to earn two BCS bowl berths, with the second slot coming down to MSU and Wisconsin.
If the Spartans can't measure up with OSU, that bid will go to UW. Even more to the point, if Michigan State doesn't look BCS worthy this week against the Wildcats and next week against Minnesota, it'll be the Badgers regardless.