2015 Week 13 NCAAF Weekend Preview

November 27, 2015

The last full weekend of college football for the 2015 regular season is upon us.

With just one game remaining until conference championship games for many of the top teams, Rivalry Weekend is significant not only because of the copious amounts of hardware that will change hands throughout the next two days. It also represents a chance for severe underdogs to destroy a team’s chance at a College Football Playoff berth. Rivalry games can bring out the best in any team.

As far as the head-to-head prediction game is concerned, I have some work left to do. After Sarah took care of business last weekend, the overall standings are now:

K. Becks: 34-26

Guests: 36-24

This weekend my buddy Coleman will try to seal the deal for the guests by extending the lead far enough that it will be nearly impossible to make up the difference on Championship Weekend. Coleman is known for calling me out for my “Wishful Thinking Picks”, but I’ll continue to argue that my picks are a result of knowing that just about anything can happen in November.

Besides, he has disappointed me in the fact that he has watched very little college football this year. Like, is there really anything else more important, bro?

Here is a list of Around The Corn’s five games to watch this Rivalry Weekend as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#15 Navy at Houston (Friday, 12 PM ET)

The Cougars suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Connecticut last weekend, but perhaps more damning was the fact that the loss dropped Houston from first to second in the AAC West Division race. Now Tom Herman’s team must rebound the day after Thanksgiving and beat a strong Navy squad in order to preserve any hope of playing for the AAC title and ending up in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Navy has quietly asserted itself as one of the most dangerous teams in the AAC this season, with an offense that can keep pace with the likes of Memphis and Houston (38.2 PPG) and a defense that can shut down even the most potent opposing offensive attacks (350.9 yards allowed per contest). If Houston’s game last weekend is any indication, then the Navy defense will be the key to the Midshipmen holding onto sole possession of first place in the AAC West. UConn held the Cougars to just 318 total yards of offense, Houston’s lowest output of the season and only the third time Tom Herman’s offense has been held under 400 yards. Much of this could be contributed to the absence of Greg Ward Jr., who was out with an ankle injury, but Navy may not be facing a fully healthy Ward, either. And as important as Navy’s defense will be, dark horse Heisman contender Keenan Reynolds and the Midshipmen offense should be able to hang enough points on Houston’s defense to keep this one competitive if Ward does play well.

This is a difficult game to choose because Houston’s loss is marked with an asterisk due to Ward Jr.’s injury. But even with Ward, Navy should have enough offensive firepower to stay even with the Cougars if this game is high scoring. Navy’s defense remains the X-factor, but Reynolds will have another solid outing and lead the Midshipmen to a division clinching victory.

My Pick: 37-34 Navy

Coleman’s Take: Navy 38-35

#7 Baylor at #19 TCU (Friday, 7:30 PM ET)

Two weeks ago this game would have been in a prime-time slot and had the entire country watching due to playoff implications. But now only Baylor has any hope of making this year’s playoff and it’s a long shot at best. TCU is here to play spoiler to that long shot and prove to the country that it can win games despite being banged up.

If Trevone Boykin is healthy enough to play in this game, it will make this a heck of a lot more interesting. It is like night and day for the Horned Frogs offensively with Boykin in the game – they just aren’t the same team without him. That being said, TCU nearly took down now No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman without Boykin. Unlike that game, this one will be dominated by the offenses, with Baylor and TCU having the top two offensive units in the Big 12 in terms of yards per game. If Boykin is playing, he could take advantage of a Baylor defense that was sliced up by Baker Mayfield two weekends ago, an issue that has plagued Baylor all season. Without deep threat Josh Doctson, however, the Horned Frogs will still be lacking punch offensively.

The knock on Baylor before its loss to Oklahoma was that the team had not played any quality opponents. My concern was that the best defense the Bears had faced before the Sooners was West Virginia’s, which is ranked No. 70 in the country in yards allowed. TCU’s defense is much more similar to West Virginia’s than Oklahoma’s, something that will likely be reflected on the scoreboard in this one. Even if Boykin is back, I think that TCU’s health overall will be a factor and the Baylor offense will simply outscore the Horned Frogs.

My Pick: 52-45 Baylor

Coleman’s Take: TCU 52-49

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

The Game lost some luster with Ohio State falling out of the Top 4 in the playoff rankings and needing a lot of help to get back in, but for the first time since 2006 both teams are ranked in the Top 10 heading into this battle. Surely Michigan would love to put the clamps on a three game losing streak against the Buckeyes, but Ohio State should be playing with some added intensity after Ezekiel Elliot’s comments to the media following last weekend’s loss to Michigan State.

Regardless of what you think about Elliot’s rant, the fact is that Ohio State’s play-calling last weekend was atrocious. It became clear that the Buckeyes were not holding back earlier in the season to avoid showing their hand unnecessarily – there was just a lack of creativity up in the booth. Coach Meyer has stated that he will be more involved in the play-calling moving forward and the difference should be noticeable immediately. The Buckeyes will get Elliot more carries in this game and it should pay off in a big way. Michigan may have the best defense in the Big Ten statistically, but Indiana racked up over 500 yards on the Wolverines in a game the Hoosiers should have won, including over 300 yards on the ground. Feed the actual running back and let the quarterback throw the ball instead of looking for room on a designed run. If Ohio State can move the football in this game, it will have no problem holding Michigan to fewer points.

Jim Harbaugh has done an impressive job turning Michigan into a Big Ten contender in just one season as head coach. But there are still major issues on the offensive side of the football which are not going to be solved this season. If Ohio State utilizes its offensive skill players in the proper way, it should move the football just fine against the Wolverines. Anger about last weekend should also contribute to the final scoreline.

My Pick: 45-17 Ohio State

Coleman’s Take: Michigan 28-23

#6 Notre Dame at #9 Stanford (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Playoff Committee has sent a message to Notre Dame: join a conference or continue to find yourself on the outside looking in regarding the playoff. The Fighting Irish could still find their way into the top four with a victory over Stanford and a decent amount of luck, but the Cardinal are the last hope for the country’s best conference to get a team into the playoff and won’t be easy to beat.

Notre Dame’s balanced offensive attack is one of the key reasons why the Fighting Irish are in the playoff hunt and are primed to cause chaos in the voting room were they to beat Stanford on Saturday. But Brian Kelly’s offense does not play at the tempo of teams such as Oregon, California and Washington State, the three teams that the Cardinal have struggled to beat (or lost to) since losing to Northwestern in the season opener. If the Fighting Irish recognize this and put the pedal to the medal on offense, they will be in better position than if they methodically try to move the football down the field. Stanford’s defense can stifle that type of offensive approach. Meanwhile, the Cardinal have been moving the ball extremely well on the ground and Christian McCaffrey will be a handful for Notre Dame’s defense.

If Notre Dame cannot score quickly and often as Oregon did two weekends ago, it will have a difficult time winning this game. The Cardinal have trouble against fast paced offenses but bottle up the others. Offensively, Stanford will look to get things done on the ground and eat up clock. If the Cardinal wins the possession battle, it will win on the scoreboard as well.

My Pick: 34-27 Stanford

Coleman’s Take: Stanford 31-20

#3 Oklahoma at #11 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Battle of Bedlam is one of the most significant rivalry games of the weekend as Oklahoma shot up to No. 3 in the playoff rankings with just one game remaining for the Sooners. At this point the Cowboys would be playing nothing but spoiler, but what a treat it would be. Oklahoma State has beaten the Sooners just once in Stillwater since 2003, and this win would be particularly sweet as it would axe the Cowboys’ ultimate rival from playoff contention.

Popular opinion is that the Sooners are playing as well as anyone in the country right now, having beaten Baylor and TCU in succession and with Baker Mayfield making a late case for the Heisman Trophy with his play at quarterback. But Mayfield was knocked out of the TCU game with a concussion, and although he is expected to play it remains to be seen whether he will actually be on the field in this game. Additionally, TCU made a furious comeback after Mayfield left the game and nearly beat the Sooners with their own backup quarterback. The Cowboys have yet to be held to fewer than 30 points in Big 12 play, a testament to a two quarterback system that actually seems to work. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State’s primary signal-caller, has the arm to give Oklahoma’s pass defense trouble. He hasn’t thrown for fewer than 285 yards since mid-October and has a 12-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio in that time. Rudolph has been flying under the radar, but he has a case for playing as well as anyone in the country just as much as Mayfield does.

Defense may win championships according to the age old saying, but offense wins games. The Cowboys can produce as many points as they need to and will likely need to score a lot to stay in this game. But with Rudolph playing his smartest football of the season, Oklahoma State should take care of the football and capitalize on its chances. The Sooners aren’t playing a banged up team or one that hasn’t faced adversity yet. The color orange will once again haunt Oklahoma on Saturday night.

My Pick: 42-41 Oklahoma State

Coleman’s Take: Oklahoma 49-24

5 Games to Flip To

#4 Iowa at Nebraska (Friday, 3:30 PM ET)

This rivalry created at the hands of marketing professionals could create chaos if Nebraska plays like it did against Michigan State.

#1 Clemson at South Carolina (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Gamecocks lost to the Citadel last weekend, so an upset doesn’t look promising. But this is rivalry week.

Penn State at #5 Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Ohio State can beat Michigan by 50, but it really doesn’t matter unless Penn State can beat the Spartans as well. Buckeye fans will be rooting like hell for the all whites in this one.

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

The Iron Bowl isn’t a marquee game this season, but the Crimson Tide cannot avoid a slip up here if they want to secure a playoff spot.

#13 Florida State at #12 Florida (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

This game doesn’t have any playoff implications, but it is still a solid matchup between two Top 15 teams. Definitely worth watching if you’re simply a fan of good football.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Coleman did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

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