2018 NCAAF Week 13 Weekend Preview

November 23, 2018
By K. Becks

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already made it to Rivalry Week in the 2018-2019 college football season.

It feels like just yesterday that the weather was 80 degrees in Ohio and Columbus residents were blowing off the non-conference games in favor of Fall beer festivals. And no, that’s not a dig at the inconsistent Midwest weather (or the fact that is nearly was 80 degrees here about two weeks ago). The season has just come and (almost) gone so quickly.

But it’s not gone. In fact, we’re to the point where things are most exciting and chaos has historically ensued. Rivalry Week annually coincides with a short work week, giving die-hard fans the opportunity to kick their feet back and take in the action uninterrupted if they desire.

With just a couple of full weeks remaining in the regular season, fans are playing through all the scenarios that need to happen for their team to have a shot at being selected for the Playoff. Some are far-fetched, but others that seemed ridiculous just a few weeks ago are far from being described as such now.

As the weeks remaining in the season wind down, so too does the opportunity for the guests to collectively capture the head-to-head prediction game title. After last week’s victory over Jared, I now sit in the driver’s seat with the overall standings looking like this:

K. Becks – 41-19

Guests – 40-20

This week, my buddy Zach will make his annual appearance as the guest prognosticator for Rivalry Week. Zach brings with him a heavy heart, and Around The Corn is thinking of him and his family, but perhaps a little help from somewhere is headed his way regarding how these games play out.

Before we get to the games, here are my “Three Thoughts” from Week 12.

  1. The guy teaching outside contain to Ohio State’s defense needs to be fired. It won’t happen until after the season has concluded, but it’ll happen, because that performance against Maryland was gross.
  2. UCF is for real, and it’s too bad, because it won’t matter. The Knights destroyed Cincinnati, their only real competition of the season, and moved up just a single spot in the CFP.
  3. We all thought the Pac-12 was going to cannibalize itself out of the Playoff this season, but things are actually trending towards the Big 12 doing it. More on this later in the article.

Here’s a rundown of the top games to focus on this weekend.

5 Games to Watch This Weekend

#6 Oklahoma at #13 West Virginia (Friday, 8 PM ET)

The Mountaineers were unable pull the rabbit out of the hat against Oklahoma State last Saturday, effectively ending their CFP chances this season. West Virginia will look to flip the script and do the same to the Sooners Friday night, which just two weekends ago survived the scrappy Cowboys. An offensive shootout is almost assured between these two, which raises questions about Oklahoma’s ability to survive the top teams in the country in a potential Playoff matchup.

Put simply, Oklahoma’s defense is a problem standing between the Sooners and a national championship. Lincoln Riley’s squad allows 425 yards of offense per game to opponents, over 260 of which is averaged through the air. While the Mountaineers have come up short twice already this season, Will Grier has come up short just once, against Iowa State’s stifling secondary. In all other games Grier has thrown for a minimum of 332 yards and will be able to do so at home on Friday night. Oklahoma has played with fire a few times already this season but won’t be able to assert dominance with a second half comeback in this one. The Sooners will be out of the Playoff conversation as we head into Saturday morning.

My Pick: 45-42 West Virginia

Zach’s Take: This is an interesting matchup. I have a strong disdain for WVU, just something that came naturally to me – I can’t really explain it. That being said, I think they have a better overall team than the Sooners, and Will Grier is a damn good college quarterback. Lincoln Riley is a better head coach than Dana Holgorsen’s hairpiece, but the Mountaineers have more talent. WVU 38, Sooners 31

#16 Washington at #8 Washington State (Friday, 8:30 PM ET)

The Cougars are just a couple of wins away from potentially causing a lot of headaches for the Playoff Committee. Although most (including ATC) wrote off the Pac-12 midseason thanks to cannibalism, Washington State is right in the thick of the mess and is just a road field goal away from potential perfection. The Apple Cup could provide relief to the Committee holding its breath it won’t need to make too many tough decisions, though. Washington has been a bit of a disappointment this year but its strongest asset also happens to be Mike Leach’s kryptonite.

The California Golden Bears aren’t world beaters by any stretch of the imagination, but drew the blueprint for how Washington can win this game. Despite giving up 334 yards passing to Gardner Minshew in that game, the Golden Bears allowed just one touchdown through the air, the only time this season that the Cougars have failed to connect for multiple in a single game. On paper Washington’s secondary is second only to Cal in the Pac-12, but in reality the Huskies are more dangerous. Add the fact that a senior quarterback will be playing in his final Apple Cup for Chris Petersen’s squad, and you’ve got a team that can put together a complete performance against Washington State. It has been a hell of a run for the Pirate, but it’ll stop before Leach & Co. can grab the Apple. Cup, that is…

My Pick: 34-28 Washington

Zach’s Take: Never pick against a pirate as cunning as Mike Leach. Chris Peterson will have his team prepared, but not enough for the Coug’s passing attack.  State 27, Huskies 24

#4 Michigan at #10 Ohio State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The 115th edition of The Game seems to be a case of “now or never” for individuals on both sides. Jim Harbaugh has yet to beat Ohio State in his four year tenure at Michigan, and both patience by the fan base and a potential Playoff berth seem to be on the line in this year’s game. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano may be preaching laissez-faire to the media regarding Ohio State’s efforts on that side of the ball recently, but another Maryland-like performance against the Wolverines and Schiano is likely looking for a job at the conclusion of the season. Only one of these two will avoid feeling the heat, which only a victory will provide.

In my opinion, this game has a point barrier that will decide the winner. If the winner has fewer than 30 points, it will be Michigan, signalling that its defense is truly one of the best in the country and that Dwayne Haskins was unable to effectively move the football in Urban Meyer’s system. If the winner has more than 30 points, it will be Ohio State, signalling that Haskins and J.K. Dobbins combined to do enough work in the running game to open up routes for the Buckeye receivers. Additionally, it probably meant that Ryan Day had the green light to open up the playbook for the first time since the Purdue loss. The Buckeyes haven’t lost this rivalry game since 2011 and won the last time they were a home underdog, in 2004. Streaks will continue in Columbus.

My Pick: 42-37 Ohio State

Zach’s Take: I’ve never picked against my team and I’m not going to start now. The team up north may be favored in this one (for once), but anything can happen in The Game. If the Buckeyes can mix in a rushing attack with Haskins’ passing game, and if the defense can scheme well and make in-game adjustments, Ohio State comes out on top. That’s a lot of “ifs”, but it can happen. OSU 31, ttun 28. Go Bucks.

#7 LSU at #22 Texas A&M (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

This rivalry, which began in 1899, has seen the Tigers capture seven straight victories including all of the games in which the two schools have been a part of the SEC. LSU is in a puzzling, yet enviable position. Ed Oregeron’s team is mathematically eliminated from participating in the SEC title game yet sits within striking distance of a Playoff slot if a few teams ahead of it slip up. The groans of “SEC bias” will only continue to grow louder with each week that other Power 5 schools (and a particular Group of Five one) are ranked lower, but the problem could take care of itself this weekend in College Station.

LSU’s defense was highly touted up until Alabama’s clinical dismantling of it on November 3, which is all the more reason why the Tigers being at No. 7 in the latest CFP rankings is such a head scratcher. Texas A&M is balanced offensively, with Trayveon Williams in the backfield and Kellen Mond behind center providing the name recognition for a team that will challenge the aforementioned highly touted defense. The difference in this one will be turnovers – if the Aggies can win that battle against the SEC’s most optimistic defensive unit, a home victory is in the cards. If not, it will be yet another missed opportunity for a team that has experienced a couple of them already this year.

My Pick: 34-31 Texas A&M

Zach’s Take: Everyone is looking for A&M to take the upset in this game. I think LSU is way too overated at No. 7, but I think Joey Burrow will still get the job done if he can actually understand what coach Orgeron says at halftime. Seriously, what is that guy saying? Geaux LSU. Tigers 21, A&M 17

#21 Utah State at #23 Boise State (Saturday, 10:15 PM ET)

The Mountain division of the Mountain West Conference is on the line in this one, with the winner also set to own home field advantage in next week’s conference title game. Utah State has been a surprise this year, winning 10 games during the regular season for the first time since 2012 thanks to the league’s most potent offense. Boise State isn’t far behind on paper, but has an edge in the experience department. Broncos senior Brett Rypien is wrapping up a record-breaking career on the blue turf and will try to avoid passing the torch early to one of the Mountain West’s next bright stars, sophomore Jordan Love of Utah State.

Anything but an offensive shootout would go against everything that this rivalry has stood for since Colin Kaepernick and Kellen Moore were slinging the ball around nearly a decade ago. At the very least, this game will come down to the performances of the two quarterbacks in it. Rypien is the elder statesman and will need to play like it, avoiding turning the ball over to a defense that has 18 interceptions on the season (best in the country). Love has been terrific since throwing two of his four interceptions of the season in the first game of the season against Michigan State. While statistics would suggest Love can outduel Rypien, it’s difficult to pick against the senior on his home turf, especially when battling for a conference title game spot.

My Pick: 35-34 Boise State

Zach’s Take: I haven’t watched either of these teams play this season, and have zero analysis to offer. I’ll pick against Boise St, since Kyle will probably let his bias

get the best of him. Utah St 42, Boise 34

5 Games to Flip To

#20 Syracuse at Boston College (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

This matchup would have been a lot more interesting two weeks ago, but both teams have still had a good season. Boston College’s tough defense will look to take a page from Notre Dame’s book in dealing with Eric Dungey.

Troy at Appalachian State (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET)

The Sun Belt’s Group A (which, by the way, is one half of the lamest division name combo since Legends/Leaders) is on the line in this one. Both teams come in hot, riding multiple game winning streaks.

Auburn at #1 Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Anything is possible during Rivalry Week, but this one sure feels like foregone conclusion. A victory over Alabama by the Tigers may require a bigger miracle than Kick Six.

South Carolina at #2 Clemson (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Similar to the Iron Bowl, the Palmetto Bowl highlights a very lopsided matchup on paper. Unless South Carolina’s defense has its best performance of the season, this one will be lopsided on the field as well.

#3 Notre Dame at Southern Cal (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

College football fans hoping that Notre Dame would end its CFP chances by losing before regular season’s end aren’t even holding their breath on this one. That’s a pretty accurate indicator of how this season has gone for the Trojans.

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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