B/R Experts Answer Biggest College Football Questions for Week 13
Three College Football Playoff Top 10 teams suffered losses in Week 12, and at least two more will take an L this week as No. 2 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan and No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 7 Oklahoma State highlight the final weekend of the regular season.
As we do every week, our college football experts—David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Morgan Moriarty and Brad Shepard—will attempt to predict the unpredictable.
For Week 13, we offer predictions on the hottest burning questions, such as:
- Who wins "The Game" with both teams ranked in the Top Five?
- Who wins "Bedlam" with both teams ranked in the Top 10?
- What happens in the four showdowns between 5-6 teams seeking bowl eligibility?
- Will the three remaining undefeated teams survive the weekend?
- And which of the many Friday games is the biggest must-watch affair?
We're on the case.
No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 5 Michigan Wolverines: Who You Got?
For eight consecutive long, painful years, the Michigan Wolverines have watched Ohio State celebrate a win in "The Game." Jim Harbaugh has yet to taste victory in the most important battle since his return to his alma mater.
Nothing can spoil the rebound season for the 10-1 Wolverines, who have played brilliantly thanks to defense and a quality running game. Quarterback Cade McNamara is a leader who has done everything Harbaugh asked him to, and he has done it beautifully.
Still, so much is at stake Saturday. The winner heads to the Big Ten championship game and, most likely, the College Football Playoff. It would mean everything to a Wolverines program that has returned to relevance but not the pinnacle of the national spotlight.
Unfortunately for them, few teams are as hot as the Buckeyes, and nobody is playing better on offense. With Heisman Trophy hopeful C.J. Stroud to lead the way with more weapons than a weekend hunting retreat, the Buckeyes have the firepower to beat anybody they play.
As well as the Wolverines are playing, they probably can't post the points needed to win this game. The eight-point spread seems low considering how strong the Buckeyes are on offense. But with so much drama and emotion involved, who knows what will happen?
The guess is Ryan Day's team stays hot, and while it'll be close for a time, the Buckeyes will pull away and win 40-27.
I've tried to talk myself out of Ohio State winning this game. (Not because I want Michigan to win, but when EVERYONE agrees on how a Top Five showdown will go down, I always worry about how and where it'll go wrong.)
Maybe Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo will create enough pressure with their pass rush to make C.J. Stroud uncomfortable in the pocket for a change.
Perhaps Blake Corum will return from his high ankle sprain at close to full strength, giving the Wolverines their thunder-and-lightning tandem in the backfield.
It's possible Cade McNamara has a sensational day throwing the ball against a secondary that allowed at least 360 passing yards against each of Penn State, Purdue and Tulsa.
And perchance—desperate to finally win this game—Jim Harbaugh digs deep into his bag of tricks for a successful fake punt or a surprise onside kick about which the crowd never stops roaring.
However, this Buckeyes offense has so many weapons and the run defense has improved so much since the beginning of the year that even if all of those things were to happen, Ohio State still could eke out a road win.
Ohio State wins big (41-28), but I hope this comes right down to the wire. We deserve some Big Ten East drama after the 56-7 blowout last weekend.
CFP Bedlam! Does Oklahoma or Oklahoma State Improve to 11-1?
This rivalry has not been kind to Oklahoma State. While I love Bedlam, it historically hasn't been much of a rivalry. The Pokes are 18-90-7 all-time in Bedlam, which is suboptimal. Since 2003, they have won this game twice in 18 tries.
But this year feels different for a few reasons.
For starters, Oklahoma State is a really good team tied for the nation's No. 2-ranked scoring defense (14.9 points per game). It has been a dominant group, and it just pitched a shutout against Texas Tech.
That feels meaningful given how lackluster Oklahoma's offense has looked—at least by Lincoln Riley's standards. Last week, in the Sooners' win over Iowa State, Oklahoma QBs combined to throw for less than 100 yards. Oklahoma still won; that's the good news. But these issues could become more pronounced and impactful on the road against a quality team.
While the series has not treated it kindly, I like Oklahoma State. If Mike Gundy's team can muster up enough offense, it's in business.
As Adam noted, Oklahoma State's history in this one-sided rivalry makes this a much tougher decision than it should be.
Based on what we've seen this season—more specifically, over the past month—the Cowboys should be favored by double digits.
They have been uncommonly dominant on defense, holding three of their past four opponents below 150 yards of total offense. They get to face a Sooners offense that has been struggling for a few weeks and just had its first sub-100-yard passing day since 2014. (And if you ignore that 44-7 win over Kansas in which Samaje Perine rushed for 427 yards and Cody Thomas was starting at quarterback for the injured Trevor Knight, Oklahoma's next most recent sub-100-yard passing game came in the 2006 installment of Bedlam.)
Throw in Jaylen Warren as a workhorse at running back for the Cowboys, and this one could get ugly.
But Oklahoma has a 17-1 record in this rivalry when both teams are ranked and won by double digits both of the previous times both teams were ranked in the Top 10 (1984 and 2015).
I'm throwing caution to the wind, though, and picking Oklahoma State 28-17.
Will Georgia, Cincinnati and UTSA All Finish Their 12-0 Quests?
I didn't think this question might be asked at the beginning of this season, but here we are.
First off, Georgia will have no problem against 3-8 Georgia Tech. Yes, the game is in Atlanta, but the Dawgs can't do anything but dominate the Yellow Jackets. Not to mention GT is riding a five-game losing streak.
But both Cincinnati and UTSA have interesting games to close out the regular season.
Cincy has to go on the road to face a 7-4 East Carolina team that looks like it could give the Bearcats a run for their money. The Pirates have beaten a lot of the same teams Cincinnati has, and they lost a close one in OT at Houston, which the Bearcats will face in the AAC championship. Plus, this one is on the road for Cincy. This game will be close, although the Bearcats have won their last two games by a combined 51 points. The new No. 4 College Football Playoff ranking will give Cincinnati all the motivation it needs to get another victory.
Lastly, UTSA also hits the road to face North Texas, which has won its last four games after starting the season 1-6. Although the Roadrunners are merely 10.5-point favorites, UTSA is the better team. Plus, it would be awesome for the Roadrunners to finish 12-0, so I'm actively rooting for this to happen.
Well, Georgia will beat Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs have won the last three games in this Peach State rivalry by a combined margin of 100 points, and that may stretch to four wins by 150 points after Saturday, given how horrific Georgia Tech's defense has looked over its last seven games.
I'm also confident Cincinnati will beat East Carolina, albeit not quite as sure as I am about UGA over GT. Not only are the Bearcats the better team, but the ECU offense has also committed 20 turnovers and faces a Cincinnati defense that has forced 30 turnovers. Even if Cincinnati has an unexpectedly difficult time moving the ball, it should benefit from multiple takeaways en route to a victory.
If things go sideways for any of these undefeated teams before their conference championships, it'll be for UTSA against North Texas. The Mean Green are only 5-6, but they have won four in a row and boast a potent rushing attack. However, North Texas is 1-5 against FBS teams that have won at least four games this season and needed a last-second field goal to get a home win over UTEP in the lone victory. The Mean Green will put up a valiant fight, but UTSA will "meep meep" its way to a 12th W.
Who Wins the Four 'Winner Goes Bowling' Games?
The four Week 13 matchups between 5-6 teams are: Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic; Charlotte at Old Dominion; Maryland at Rutgers; Florida State at Florida.
I wouldn't hesitate to pick Florida State if this matchup was in Tallahassee. Saying a team has "quit" feels unfair, but there has been a...waning appearance of motivation around the Gators. They'll at least embrace the pride of a rivalry game, but Florida State scores late to steal a win and finalize Florida's miserable season.
In the other matchups, I'm most confident about Old Dominion. The defense has ceded 19.3 points per game in a four-game winning streak and should silence Charlotte's running game. If ODU indeed wins, it's a fantastic story. Two years ago, the Monarchs finished 1-11 and only beat an FCS team. Then they opted out of the 2020 campaign. Here they are on the brink of bowl eligibility.
Rounding out the group, I'll take Middle Tennessee and Maryland. I don't feel great about either pick, but none of these four teams is playing well to end the year. Among them, the only victories in the last three weeks are against 1-10 Florida International and 2-9 Indiana. Go get that bowl, though!
I like the home teams in both Conference USA games. Old Dominion has won four in a row and will run all over a Charlotte defense that we will generously call "lackluster." Middle Tennessee is 0-5 away from home against teams not named Connecticut, so it's hard not to like Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.
I also like the home team in the Big Ten game, although it's tough to know what to make of either Maryland or Rutgers, who have each spent much of the past two months getting destroyed by the Big Ten's top half. At least the Scarlet Knights occasionally look competent on defense. It feels like Maryland hasn't gotten a defensive stop since September, so I've got Rutgers by a field goal.
In the highest-profile of the four games, give me Florida State on the road over Florida.
We've had a lot of laughs at the Seminoles' expense, but aside from the early loss to Jacksonville State, they've had a respectable season, and they enter the game off back-to-back wins over Miami and Boston College. Conversely, Florida is a five-alarm dumpster fire, struggling to establish its once-dominant run game and looking helpless on defense. 'Noles roll to six wins.
If You Had to Choose Just One Game to Watch Friday, It Would Be…
This one is tough, as I will have my eyes on plenty of games.
I will check in on Iowa-Nebraska, especially now that the Cornhuskers are playing a new QB. I am also fascinated by Boise State-San Diego State.
But the game I'm most intrigued by is Cincinnati-East Carolina.
Maybe I'm alone on that, but anything Cincinnati does from this point forward is must-see. With the final College Football Playoff standings growing close, everyone wants to know whether the Bearcats are in or out.
Last week, Luke Fickell's team looked worthy. Cincinnati blasted SMU, one of its toughest opponents this season. After a month of meh performances, that was superb. But East Carolina is wildly improved. Not long ago, the Pirates were one of CFB's doormats. Now they've got seven wins, including four in a row.
While Cincinnati is likely to win this game, it wouldn't shock me to see ECU give the Bearcats a scare. Regardless, I'll be watching.
I'm going with Boise State at San Diego State, and no, this isn't merely my latest attempt to force SDSU punter/kicker Matt Araiza into this piece every week. (Although, yes, please do tune in to watch the punting aficionado.)
The main reason I love this game is because of the stakes. Neither the MWC's Mountain nor West division champion has been crowned. San Diego State can clinch the West, or Boise State can remain in the hunt for the Mountain. Moreover, if SDSU wins this game as well as next week's MWC championship, it could end up in a New Year's Six bowl as the highest-ranked Group of Five champion should Houston upset Cincinnati in the AAC championship. (Current No. 24 Houston would probably leapfrog No. 21 San Diego State if that happens, but the Aztecs have a chance.)
The other reason I'm intrigued by this game is its unorthodox start time at 9 a.m. PT on the day after Thanksgiving. I can barely handle pouring myself a cup of coffee and getting comfy on the couch at that time of that day, but these guys will play an important game of football at that hour? That should be a fun adventure.
Will This Year's Installment of the Iron Bowl Be Competitive?
If you had asked me this question a few weeks ago, I would have said yes. But the course of Auburn's season has changed completely. Not only has it dropped three straight games against Texas A&M, Mississippi State and South Carolina, but it also lost starting quarterback Bo Nix to an injury.
Nix's backup, TJ Finley, made his first career start against the Gamecocks. He finished the night 17-of-32 for 188 yards and one touchdown. Maybe Finley can do better playing at home, but those types of numbers aren't enough to upset the Tide.
Alabama hasn't looked as dominant as it should have, especially last week against Arkansas, as well as three weeks ago at home against LSU. But Auburn is trending in the wrong direction as it closes out its season.
This thing might be competitive in the first quarter, but the Tide will pull away and win by at least a couple of scores. Rivalry Week is always a weird one, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's close for more than one quarter. We'll see.
Auburn doesn't have any chance at making this game worth watching into the fourth quarter.
That's not because I mistakenly believe this Alabama team is as good as it has been in recent years. The Crimson Tide are very good, but they lost to Texas A&M and had close calls against Florida, LSU and Arkansas. If you could make this year's Alabama play against previous iterations of the program, it would be the underdog against any Alabama team from the past five seasons.
However, this has not been a vintage Auburn defense, and the ceiling for the Tigers offense has been drastically lowered by Bo Nix's season-ending injury. If these weren't loathed rivals, no one would entertain the possibility of an upset.
It won't be as ugly as what Georgia will do to Georgia Tech, but I would be shocked if Auburn finishes within single digits of Alabama, let alone pulls off the upset.
Who Wins the P5 Divisions: ACC Atlantic, Big Ten West and Pac-12 North?
What a ridiculous mess the ACC Atlantic could be. From a national perspective, we stopped caring about Clemson following the loss to Pitt. But if Wake Forest loses at Boston College and NC State falls to North Carolina, Clemson takes the division. How perfectly ACC that would be. Wake Forest keeps it simple, however, and edges BC on the road to make the ACC championship game for the first time since 2006.
As for the Big Ten West, I am not picking against Wisconsin. The offense looked dreadful in September, but the emergence of a consistent passing attack has made UW a strong team. Last week's defensive letdown was an outlier, and Minnesota's passing game shouldn't trouble the Badgers like Nebraska's did.
I wouldn't feel great about this position if I was an Oregon fan. Although rival Oregon State is only 1-4 on the road, the four losses are by a combined 33 points. I anticipate a close game, but Oregon's rushing attack makes enough plays to hold off the Beavers and clinch the Pac-12 North.
I'll be extremely boring and pick the three teams that control their destiny to get the job done.
In the ACC, Wake Forest should take care of business against Boston College, even though it'll probably be 35 degrees with winds at 20 miles per hour in Massachusetts. The Eagles can't put up enough points to hang with this potent Demon Deacons offense.
Similar story for Wisconsin at Minnesota in the Big Ten, except the Badgers are familiar with those frigid conditions and it will instead be elite defense that wins the day. Wisconsin had an off day on defense against Nebraska, but it should get back on track against a mediocre Golden Gophers offense. From there, Braelon Allen will rush for at least 100 yards in a Wisconsin win for the eighth consecutive week.
Finally, Oregon will get back to the ground-and-pound game that it abandoned early in last week's loss to Utah. The Ducks will feed Travis Dye third helpings this Thanksgiving weekend if that's what it takes to beat an Oregon State team that is 1-4 away from home this season.
Which In-State Rivalry Game Produces the Most Dramatic Finish?
We know Bedlam will produce plenty of ulcer-inducing moments, but we've written about the game already, so what would be the fun in rehashing all that glorious content?
Instead, let's focus on an underrated rivalry in Kentucky-Louisville.
After three straight losses to Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee ended hopes of a "special" season, the Wildcats have righted the ship in the past two weeks in games they were supposed to win. Meanwhile, Louisville became bowl-eligible with a win against Duke last Thursday and would like nothing more than to turn around a rough early season by getting to seven regular-season wins.
This is a classic clash of styles between the grind-it-out offense of Kentucky and the electrifying dual-threat capabilities of Malik Cunningham and the Cardinals. Neither defense has been consistent, so the Governor's Cup could easily eclipse the 57-point total.
Regardless, it feels like this game will come down to the final possession. When that's the case, you have to roll with the best player on the field, and that's Cunningham. Look for him to make a huge play with the game on the line to carry the Cardinals to a dramatic victory.
This will be must-see TV.
If I cop out and go with "one of the MAC games," would that be OK? It better be, because that's what you're getting.
Option A is Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan. Six of EMU's last seven games have been decided by a possession, and CMU has two impactful players in nation-leading rusher Lew Nichols III and dynamic punt returner/wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton. They're both 7-4 and Northern Illinois has won the division, so they're playing for pride. But it could be a gem all the same.
Option B is Miami (Ohio) at Kent State for the MAC East crown. Not only is there a lot on the line, but it may also be the highest-scoring game of the weekend. You could put the over/under for fourth-quarter points at 27.5 points for this one and I'd probably take the over. We should see late fireworks in what might be a back-and-forth affair down to the wire.
If they're both duds, I still get Akron at Toledo and Ohio at Bowling Green. Only one of those four teams is bowl-eligible (Toledo), but you never know when or where some preposterous MACtion will break out.
Betting information courtesy of DraftKings.