2016 Week 13 NCAAF Weekend Preview

November 25, 2016

It’s been a crazy November already, but most people are in agreement that things are about to get even more interesting this weekend.

Rivalry Week brings out special emotions in campuses across the country, which in turn gives teams an energy that they may have been lacking in prior weeks depending on how the season as a whole has been going for them. Thus, we get exciting football places we would not normally expect.

But naturally, the spotlight is still on the marquee matchups that will have a direct impact on the Playoff picture.

To help predict these incredibly difficult games to choose, one of my buddies from my minor league baseball days joins the blog. Steve is one of the few guys left I know that actually works in sports, so you know he took this seriously and gives the guests a decent chance to close the three game gap that currently exists.

K. Becks: 37-23

Guests: 34-26

Let’s take a look at the top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll likely need to keep the remote right next to you on Saturday to stay current with all the action unfolding.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#5 Washington at #23 Washington State (Friday, 3:30 PM ET)

The Huskies have found themselves in an enviable although not necessarily coveted position. While Washington is the first team on the outside looking in of the Top 4, two potential conference champions also sit on the outside. Not only does Chris Petersen’s squad need to win this game to preserve any chance at the Playoff, but they may need to do some further convincing so that the Committee doesn’t change its mind about the Huskies.

Washington State had done a pretty good job on the defensive end this season until last weekend, when Colorado gashed the Cougars for 258 yards on the ground. The problem with this is that Washington will look to do the same thing on offense, and it’s now clear that it can be achieved. Typically Washington State would be okay with a few more yards given up, but the loss of wideout River Cracraft noticeably affected Luke Falk at the offense against the Buffaloes. The Cougars were not quite as explosive as they had been with Cracraft in the game, something that will play a role in this game as well.

The Huskies haven’t been somewhat shaky against their best competition this season, but it’s hard to deny Myles Gaskin and the Washington front from moving the ball at will. Gaskin is behind just Christian McCaffery in rushing yards this season and has a chance to close the gap between them quite significantly today. Washington claims its spot in the Pac-12 title game with a win in the Apple Cup.

My Pick: 45-35 Washington

Steve’s Take: #23 Washington State over #5 Washington 42-21  – I think coming off a disappointing loss at home versus Colorado, the Cougars are going to play angry. I also think that playing a rivalry game at home plays to their advantage. Also, USC threw for nearly 300 yards in their matchup with Washington. A Mike Leach “air-raid” team could put up 350+ passing yards in the first half.

#3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

In what has been dubbed the biggest meeting between these hated rivals since the Game of the Century in 2006, the Buckeyes and Wolverines will be playing for what is essentially a lock in this season’s College Football Playoff. It is hard to imagine the winner of this game, which will ultimately end up being at least the No. 2 team in the country, being left out despite potentially not even winning the Big Ten Conference.

Say what you want about Ohio State’s somewhat inconsistent offensive performances throughout the season, but Urban Meyer’s team still has the capability of outscoring any team in the country. A lot has been made of J.T. Barrett’s accuracy issues this season, but not enough attention has been paid to the fact that he doesn’t have an NFL caliber deep threat to stretch the defense as he did in his first two years as the starter. To move the football on the Wolverines (or anyone, for that matter) the Buckeyes need to effectively utilize an increasingly dangerous running game with Mike Weber and use Curtis Samuel as much as a decoy as an actual playmaker. Like a deep threat option, the threat of Samuel can put Michigan in a similarly compromising position.

Last week’s game against Indiana showed that without Speight at quarterback, the Wolverines will try to play shutdown defense and chew up clock with the running game. Unfortunately, in this one Michigan must break a more talented run defense and hold an offense that can score even more quickly than the Hoosiers. Jim Harbaugh may have made the Wolverines relevant again, but he’ll have to suffer another year of defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes.

My Pick: 21-17 Ohio State

Steve’s Take: #2 Ohio State over #3 *ichigan 38-17 – Buckeyes almost dropped one last week at Sparty, but I think (know) Urban Meyer will have his guys ready for this week. Barrett, Samuel and Weber all have big days, and I think the defense forces 2+ turnovers. *ichigan just hasn’t impressed me when playing good teams. They lost their only road game against a team with at least one conference win (@ Iowa). Maybe Harbaugh can get it done next year. Plus, being an OSU grad, there’s no way I’d pick against my Buckeyes here.

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

The Iron Bowl will take a backseat to The Game in Columbus this season, but it still has very real Playoff implications. Alabama has already wrapped up the SEC West crown but the Tigers can spoil things for their in-state rivals and perhaps the conference as a whole with a victory in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide won’t be easy to beat, but at least Auburn will have Kamryn Pettway back for the game.

To say that Alabama has been the most dominant team in college football this season is really just stating the obvious. The SEC has been down, but no one has really come close to taking out the Crimson Tide in 2016 (sorry LSU). The defense has not allowed a single touchdown since October 22, and it has been nasty against the run all season. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Pettway is coming back from a leg injury that appeared serious at first, so it remains to be seen just how effective he will be. Even a 100 percent healthy back may not be enough to take down the Crimson Tide, however. LSU is the only team to have held Alabama to under 31 points this season and with every week Jalen Hurts becomes a more dangerous quarterback. Auburn has only been average against the pass and quite frankly the run defense numbers won’t mean much against a team that gains nearly 250 yards on the ground via a multitude of options.

If this game was at Auburn, it might be a different story. But for the Tigers to go into Tuscaloosa and take down the No. 1 team in the country with a running back coming off of an injury, it would be nothing short of miraculous. Auburn’s No. 13 ranking simply makes this game look like it could be closer than it will be.

My Pick: 38-21 Alabama

Steve’s Take: #1 Alabama over #13 Auburn 41-14 – Bama is good. Like, really good. And they’re at home. I think they just roll over Auburn (See what I did there?) and cruise into the SEC title game and towards the No. 1 seed in the CFB Playoff.

#22 Utah at #9 Colorado (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Buffaloes finally made it to the big stage last weekend and delivered a victory, which means that the country has taken notice now. Colorado has a chance to secure its place in the Pac-12 title game with a victory, something that won’t come easy against a Utah team that just suffered a heartbreaking and controversial loss to Oregon last weekend. Mike MacIntyre has likely already wrapped up Coach of the Year honors both regionally and nationally, but he’s still got some more work to do in order to achieve what seemed impossible at the beginning of the season.

Over the past several seasons, Utah has been the team in the Pac-12 that has defied expectations and made a name for itself as a true contender in the conference all while flying under the radar. But this season Colorado has used the same formula to orchestrate its best season in over a decade. The defense is the best in the Pac-12, but Phillip Lindsay has quietly become one of the most dangerous offensive players in the conference. The running back is a dual threat out of the backfield, rushing for over 1,000 yards this season and also serving as the team’s fourth leading receiver. Utah’s secondary will need to prepare to cover a plethora of options downfield, one of the things that makes Colorado’s system so difficult to stop. The Utes have shown the ability to put a lot of points on the board, but that has typically happened against the bottom half of the conference. Kyle Whittingham’s team must make this a chess match in order to win.

I was not a believer in Colorado heading into last weekend’s game against Washington State, but the Buffaloes impressed me with their ability to move the ball and shut down the Cougars on big third down opportunities. Mike MacIntyre’s team has been consistent all season, so it shouldn’t bother them that the Utes are typically one of the more consistent and disciplined teams in the conference. This is a fun story to watch unfold, and by the end of Saturday the Buffaloes will have clinched a trip to the Pac-12 title game.

My Pick: 26-23 Colorado

Steve’s Take: #9 Colorado over #22 Utah 34-24 – The Buffs are back! Wait, were they ever really here to begin with? Maybe back when Kordell Stewart was around, I don’t know. I think Colorado knows what’s at stake and can get themselves into the PAC-12 title game with a “W” here. Utah keeps it close for a while, but in the end, Colorado is just too solid of a team this year.

#15 Florida at #14 Florida State (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Neither team has been particularly consistent this season, which should make for an entertaining game that could be a story of two halves. Florida State has nothing on the line other than bragging rights for the year, and while Florida can’t relinquish their spot in the SEC title game with a loss, a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl becomes more distant with one.

It was clear this season the Seminoles were a step below both Clemson and Louisville this season, and most of this had to do with the fact that only one side of the ball showed up in many of their games. Florida State can move the football, and stop others from moving the football, but both have not happened against the best competition. Florida truly may have the best defense in the country after Alabama, which will make the job of Deondre Francois very difficult. LSU was on a roll offensively until it hit Florida, effectively ending talks that the Tigers were one of the most dangerous teams in the country right now.

Although Florida may not score a lot of points in this one, its defense is far more consistent than anything Florida State brings to the table. I expect the Seminoles to struggle moving the football and for both teams to score fewer than 20 points. In the end, that favors the Gators, which have three victories this season scoring fewer than 21 points.

My Pick: 17-14 Florida

Steve’s Take: #15 Florida over #14 Florida State 27-21 – I’m going to show some personal bias with this pick. One of my lifelong friends from North Canton, OH, Austin Appleby, is starting at QB for the Gators. In 4 starts, he’s 3-1, (2-1 on the road including @ LSU) with that one loss coming at Tennessee when the Vols were the “team of destiny” for the season (and the defense stopped playing in the second half). Bias aside, the Gators defense has been great for (almost) the entire season, and I don’t think that changes. Florida State has been pedestrian at best this year and I think their lack of consistency on offense will cost them in this one.

5 Games to Flip To

Toledo at #21 Western Michigan (Friday, 5 PM ET)

The Rockets are a tough regular season finale matchup for the undefeated Broncos. Expect lots of points to be scored in this one.

Minnesota at #6 Wisconsin (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

A win by the Badgers would preserve Paul Bunyan’s Axe and send Wisconsin to the Big Ten title game next weekend.

Michigan State at #7 Penn State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

A Spartans victory would clear up a lot of the muck that currently exists in the Big Ten, where a conference champion may end up getting left out of the Playoff in favor of a higher ranked team from the same league.

South Carolina at #4 Clemson (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The Gamecocks have had a better season than expected, but beating the Tigers in Death Valley would be a shock.

Wyoming at New Mexico (Saturday, 10:15 PM ET)

The Cowboys winning means that the highest ranked Group of Five team currently (Boise State) would not be able to win its conference and thus not be eligible for a automatic New Year’s Six bowl berth.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Steve 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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