College Football: B/R Experts Answer Biggest Questions for Week 13
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, there are many reasons for gratitude in Week 13 of the 2022 college football season.
Most notably, though, the rivalries. All of those beloved, goofy trophies are at stake, along with bragging rights for the next 12 months. Some of them—headlined by The Game between Michigan and Ohio State—have championship hopes on the line.
And you know B/R's experts are ready for the action.
The six-person panel—Max Escarpio, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—convened to preview Rivalry Week and all its goodness.
What Are You Most Thankful for in the 2022 Season so Far?
I suppose "All of it" is not a serviceable answer, but please note that I love college football for everything it is, everything it isn’t and all that it brings us week after week.
That, however, is not an acceptable answer. So, let me go with something more direct.
No team has delivered more season-long excitement than this one. From the come-from-behind wins to the chaotic walk-off field goals, the Horned Frogs have been the best watch in college football and one of the nation’s best teams.
It hasn’t been dominant, although that’s what I appreciate about it. TCU has found new ways to win over the course of three months, and it’s been a wild ride to reach this point. With the Horned Frogs now two wins away from the College Football Playoff, I want the ride to continue.
Can this team beat Georgia? Probably not! But would I love to watch it try? Absolutely.
While I respect Nick Saban and Alabama too much to say I am happy they are out of the playoff, I am thankful to see some new teams approaching a shot at the CFP this season.
It looks like Ohio State will be back in the playoff this year, provided the Buckeyes take care of business against Michigan on Saturday. I, for one, am pretty pumped to see C.J. Stroud and this Buckeyes offense on a big stage.
Speaking of quarterbacks, how about Caleb Williams and USC possibly getting in for the first time ever? For the second time, Lincoln Riley may have a playoff team in his very first season. He last did in 2018 when Oklahoma played Georgia in a Rose Bowl semifinal thriller. Riley doing this a second time makes it all the more impressive.
And lastly, TCU getting in—assuming it remains unbeaten against Iowa State and wins the Big 12 title game—in Sonny Dykes' first season would be fun to see. I think the Horned Frogs still feel a bit disrespected with their No. 4 ranking, so they'd have something to prove in the semifinals.
What's the Best Matchup Outside the Top 25?
There are a bunch of good options in the "Power 5 games with legitimate implications" category. You've got Arkansas-Missouri with Mizzou looking to become bowl-eligible. Same goes for Pitt-Miami with 5-6 Miami hoping to avoid a losing season. And then there's Nebraska-Iowa with Iowa trying to lock up a spot in the Big Ten title game.
But give me 9-1 Coastal Carolina at 7-3 James Madison.
Because of some Grade A, antiquated B.S., first-year FBS program JMU is eligible for neither the Sun Belt title game nor for a bowl. So this is it for the Dukes: One final home game with a chance to *unofficially* win the Sun Belt's East Division. (Both teams would be 6-2 in league play and JMU would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.)
This game is about more than that for James Madison, though. It's about sending a message in Year 1 in its new home. The Dukes won at Appalachian State in their first league game, and book-ending that first season with a win over Coastal Carolina sure would be something.
Conversely, if Coastal Carolina gets the W to enter the Sun Belt championship against either Troy or South Alabama with a 10-1 record, maybe the Chants could still sneak into the Group of Five's spot in the Cotton Bowl? The CFP selection committee seems to be all-in on making sure it goes to the AAC champion, but Coastal shouldn't be that far behind No. 19 Tulane, No. 22 UCF and No. 24 Cincinnati.
For me, this choice came down to Duke-Wake Forest and Oklahoma-Texas Tech. Rolling with the latter.
The game involves a blue-blood program, Oklahoma, that is obviously unhappy with 2022 and needs to foster some goodwill heading into bowl season. On the other side is a Texas Tech program with a first-year coach that feels much differently.
While Joey McGuire’s debut in Lubbock could have gone better, nobody would sneeze at a seven-win regular season with a sweep of Texas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, if fellow first-year coach Brent Venables gets beat by the Red Raiders, there will be much harrumphing in Norman, regardless of last weekend’s win in Bedlam over Oklahoma State.
Win this one, and OU brass feels better about its decision to hire Venables. If McGuire pulls out the W, he can hang his Lone Star State recruiting rep on a big win over the Sooners. These two offense-driven teams should make a fun game to watch.
Which Top 25 Team Is on the Highest Upset Alert?
In the week of in-state rivalry matchups, Louisville heads to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky is far from a competitive SEC team, having one of the most disappointing seasons in the conference. The Wildcats are currently on a two game skid, dropping games to Vanderbilt and Georgia.
Louisville is on the other side of that scale, winning five of its last six games. The Cardinals have some solid wins on the resume.
However, this matchup against Kentucky should be a toss-up. Kentucky has endured struggles on the offensive end, but quarterback Will Levis will provide an end-of-season spark to snag a victory for the 'Cats.
Several teams absolutely could be looking at a monumental collapse like Tennessee had a week ago.
The Vols play upset-minded Vanderbilt in Nashville, and the Commodores are looking to get bowl-eligible. UT, meanwhile, has to begin life post-Hendon Hooker after the quarterback tore his left ACL. How is that locker room following the disaster at South Carolina?
South Carolina travels to rival Clemson and undoubtedly now has the confidence to hand Dabo Swinney’s team its second loss.
How will Ole Miss react to all the Lane Kiffin rumors before the Egg Bowl? The Rebels looked distracted in a lopsided loss to Arkansas. Auburn has extra motivation in the Iron Bowl in "win one for Cadillac" scenario with Carnell Williams likely coaching his final game (for now) at his alma mater.
Plenty of other rivalries could swing either way with Texas having its hands full against Baylor, Kansas State needing to get by Kansas, North Carolina playing NC State and Florida State battling Florida. But I’ll roll with Tennessee and Clemson being on the biggest upset alerts.
No. 19 Tulane or No. 24 Cincinnati in Decisive Aac Game?
Amid the many rivalry games that will be decided this week, please don't sleep on this delightful football.
Last year’s College Football Playoff darling, Cincinnati, will take on a program that has grabbed that baton, at least up until now.
Tulane has a win over Kansas State and just two losses this season. Those two defeats came by a combined 10 points. This week, however, the Green Wave is an underdog, albeit a small one, on the road.
Cincinnati has two losses as well, and those have come by a combined 11 points. The Bearcats have won nine of the past 10 games.
This one is tricky. While I love what Tulane has done—and I certainly regretted picking SMU to beat the Green Wave last week—I lean Cincinnati. Home field will be significant, and it feels like this program was constructed to play (and thrive) in a game of this nature.
Bearcats win, although it’s going to be tight.
Two weeks ago, I picked UCF to upset the Green Wave, and that happened. I liked Tulane to take care of business a week ago against SMU, and that was easy. So, I’ve been feeling Willie Fritz’s team pretty well lately.
Though Cincinnati is battle-tested, I think Tulane is the more complete team, has the best player on the field in Tyjae Spears and is good enough defensively to get it done.
This just hasn’t been the same type of consistently strong Cincinnati team all season. Despite the letdown against UCF, Tulane has been pretty steady. This is a huge opportunity for Tulane to host the AAC championship game, and there’s just too much on the line for the Green Wave to fall flat again.
Give me Tulane with a 30-27 win in a classic.
No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State: Who You Got?
Got to love a good "unstoppable force vs. immovable object" debate, right? Ohio State is leading the nation in yards per play on offense, while Michigan ranks first in yards allowed per play on defense.
Here's the thing, though: The Buckeyes already faced the defense that ranks just behind Michigan, and they destroyed the Iowa Hawkeyes by a score of 54-10.
Granted, Michigan's offense is way better than Iowa's offense. Heck, if you're playing in a Turkey Bowl game this weekend, your offense might be better than Iowa's offense. But the point is I'm not worried about Ohio State finding a way to score, and I'm far from convinced that Michigan will be able to keep pace.
C.J. Stroud drastically outplays J.J. McCarthy, taking back whatever ground he lost to Caleb Williams in the Heisman race. Ohio State covers the 7.5-point spread and Over 56 cashes before the fourth quarter even begins.
My perception of this showdown is pretty simple.
If the Wolverines are without Blake Corum, they're not winning. If they don't have Donovan Edwards either, they're really not winning. At no point has Michigan's passing game shown an ability to carry the offense.
But! The beautiful thing is I'm merely a dude with a keyboard, while Michigan's defense is ridiculously good. Only one of the Maize and Blue's 11 opponents have surpassed 17 points, which is absurd. Last weekend, Illinois became the second foe to even crack 300 yards. While not impossible, I find it unlikely Ohio State will run away in a blowout.
For clarity, I'd still pick the Buckeyes if Corum plays. But my confidence level rises if he's unavailable because Michigan's defense would have to carry an unfair load.
If you believe J.J. McCarthy and U-M's aerial game can show something it hasn't all year, I applaud your blind faith and will congratulate you on a guess well done if Michigan wins.
Who Earns the Pac-12 Championship Spot Opposite USC?
The simplest scenario for the Pac-12 Championship is USC vs. Oregon. The Ducks have to defeat Oregon State this weekend to secure their spot in the title game.
Oregon’s had some bumps in the road in recent weeks, losing to Washington and narrowly winning against Utah. They should take care of business against rival Oregon State despite being on the road. Oregon State is a very underrated team, but the Ducks' electric offense will be the driving factor to clinching their title slot.
It seems like two high-scoring offenses will battle it out for the Pac-12 championship in a clash between Caleb Williams and Bo Nix.
Beyond the Ducks, the other options are Washington and Utah.
Friends, this tiebreaker process could be a complicated journey that involves a Cal win or maybe not a Cal win. And we're diving into the hypotheticals because I'm picking Oregon State to upset Oregon.
It's obvious that Nix's foot/ankle injury is a concern. After running all over defenses this season, his first non-sack carry against Utah was a critical fourth-quarter conversion. Important, yes, but very late. Oregon State has a terrific secondary, one that is built to capitalize on Nix if he's forced to rely on his arm again.
From there, I have Washington beating Washington State and Utah cruising past Colorado. That creates a three-way deadlock with Oregon, Washington and Utah, and a UCLA victory over Cal sends Utah into the Pac-12 Championship Game on the fourth step of the tiebreaker.
Sure would be simpler if Nix is visibly healthier and Oregon wins, eh?
Will No. 6 USC Avoid a Letdown to No. 15 Notre Dame?
The Trojans have their eyes set on the College Football Playoff. They can’t afford another loss this season. Their biggest problem is that Notre Dame is one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a five-game win streak.
Head coach Marcus Freeman has the Fighting Irish headed in the right direction, despite losing the first two games of the season. After a loss to Marshall in Week 2, Notre Dame has come out victorious in eight of the last nine contests. But they haven’t played an offense as skilled as they’ll see this weekend.
USC is averaging 42.9 points per game with a whopping average of 513 yards. They’ve won their last four games and should keep their foot on the gas against the Irish. The pressure is on the Trojans, but USC should handle business and move to 11-1.
Saturday's matchup between them should be a great one. USC is coming off its best game of the season, a 48-45 win over UCLA on the road. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is 8-3 on the season, having won five straight games. Two of those victories came against then-ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks, beating Syracuse and then Clemson.
I think USC has what it takes to win on Saturday against Notre Dame. The Trojans are peaking at just the right time, led by quarterback Caleb Williams. Last week against UCLA, he had a season-best game, throwing for 470 yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame will keep it closer and lower scoring than some of USC's recent games, especially since ND has a top-20 defense. But this USC offense both creates and capitalizes on scoring opportunities, ranking second in total red-zone trips (61) and eighth in touchdown rate (75.4).