2017 Week 13 NCAAF Weekend Preview

November 24, 2017

Rivalry weekend is upon us, and boy does it seem like the season rolled by quickly.

While fans finish up the remaining leftovers of their Thanksgiving Day meal, college football will take center stage on Friday and Saturday with a slew of games that have both bragging rights and College Football Playoff hopes on the line.

This weekend will also serve as a proper cleanser to wash away the unmemorable NFL games that we had to suffer through on Thursday, another reminder that you can’t simply throw together a lineup of non-traditional matchups and expect that it will keep the general public awake.

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season of college football, the head-to-head prediction game is down to the wire. My victory over Trent last weekend has cut the guests’ lead, which was four games at one point, to just a single game.

This weekend my buddy Zach joins the blog to try and save the lead for the guests. Considering that he is trending towards becoming a two-time fantasy football loser this year, I shouldn’t be worried. But alas, rivalry weekend is typically where I get ambitious with my upset picks and so I need to be careful about what I say.

Here are the overall records:

K. Becks – 40-20

Guests – 41-19

Let’s take a look at the matchups on this packed extended weekend.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

South Florida at #15 Central Florida (Friday, 3:30 PM ET)

The AAC, comprised primarily of old Big East teams and newcomers that generally populate the northeast and midwest United States, is being run by the state of Florida in 2017. The top two teams in the East division of the conference will play each other in what is being branded as a rivalry game, with the winner punching its ticket to the AAC title game next weekend. As the top bill on Friday afternoon, it’s definitely one worth watching.

The Bulls and Knights are the conference’s top rated defenses in terms of overall yardage allowed per game, but UCF gets it done on both sides of the ball, averaging 522 yards per game on offense as well. I am convinced that man of South Florida’s offensive performances this year are why Charlie Strong isn’t getting more looks by major programs to fill a head coaching void. Against a similarly talented defense, the Bulls will have trouble scoring and Quinton Flowers will be exposed as an athletic quarterback with less than desirable decision making.

My Pick: 30-17 Central Florida

Zach’s Take: Hot damn, UCF is good again. Hey, South Florida’s not bad either with only one loss, I guess Charlie Strong may be a good coach when not placed in a miserable situation after all. Has this game really stolen the spotlight this week? No, but both coaches will imminently be leaving their respected programs after this season or the next, so let these fans enjoy this while they can. UCF takes this one, 35-28

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

It’s interesting that in the week leading up to a rivalry game he has yet to win, Jim Harbaugh’s name has surfaced in the news after Brady Quinn reported that the Wolverines are allegedly working on a lifetime contract with their current head football coach. The news is laughable for more than a couple of reasons, the biggest of which being that Harbaugh hasn’t even taken his school to a Big Ten Championship game in his three years at the program. At 8-3 overall, the Wolverines must wait another year for that to happen, and the redeeming value in this game is to ruin Ohio State’s (admittedly small) chance at getting into the Playoff.

Unfortunately for Michigan, that won’t happen. As of Wednesday, Brandon Peters was still in concussion protocol and it is unclear whether the Wolverines will need to start third string Alex Malzone. If they do, Ohio State’s defense will be licking their chops thinking about getting to an inexperienced signal caller in a rivalry game. Even if it is Peters in the pocket, the outcome will likely be the same. Michigan doesn’t have the offense to keep up in this one, so assuming that a focused Ohio State defense takes the field Saturday afternoon, this one won’t be all that close.

My Pick: 38-17 Ohio State

Zach’s Take: People think this game is a “trap game” for OSU like the Iowa game turned out to be, but I would argue that no rivalry game could be considered that, especially one of this scale. If you need extra motivation to get fired up for this game, then you don’t belong at either university. That being said, OSU on paper is a much better team and if the right one shows up on Saturday, this won’t even be close. I don’t think it will be. OSU 45, TTUN 17

#1 Alabama at #6 Auburn (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The outcome of the Auburn/Georgia game two weeks ago has given Tigers fans hope that this one can go their way. The 237 yards rushing that Auburn posted on the Bulldogs were the most that Kirby Smart’s defense had allowed in one game all season, and the offense was balanced enough that none of Georgia’s adjustments could stop the onslaught that occurred. Alabama is a more similar football team to Georgia than people would like to admit, so the Crimson Tide going on the road for this Iron Bowl isn’t going to be a cakewalk by any means.

Auburn needs to find a way to win the possession battle if the Tigers are going to upset Alabama in this one. The Crimson Tide aren’t unbeatable, but Nick Saban does a masterful job at taking away opportunities for the opponent to score. If this game turns into an offensive shootout, the Tigers are better equipped to win. But if Alabama wins the possession battle and is able to keep the Auburn defense on the field for long stretches, then the outcome of this game will resemble so many before this where we end up praising Saban’s ability to control the game.

My Pick: 27-23 Alabama

Zach’s Take: Oh, I like this game for once. Bama knows it doesn’t even matter if it loses this game, they’ll still be in the Playoff. This is another classic rivalry and running back Kerryon Johnson has been an absolute beast for Auburn this year. I think Auburn comes in ready to play, and pulls the upset.

War Eagle 24, Bama 20

#3 Clemson at #24 South Carolina (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

It has been some time since the Palmetto Bowl has been of interest to fans outside the state of South Carolina, but this year it could have major implications on the College Football Playoff if the resurgent Gamecocks are able to best the Tigers. The problem for Will Muschamp is that although the Gamecocks have managed to put together a respectable season for the first time since the Steve Spurrier era, the problems that existed when Muschamp was at Florida have followed him to Columbia.

As good as South Carolina’s defense has been this year, the offense has been anemic. In fact, the Gamecocks allow more yards defensively (366 per game) than they gain (352 per game). Stopping Kelly Bryant is a tough task due to Bryant’s ability as both a runner and passer, so it will take a major effort by South Carolina’s defense to keep this one close. I don’t think it is going to happen – I’ve never had much faith in Muschamp coached teams and I think Florida fans know all too well how this game will likely end.

My Pick: 31-16 Clemson

Zach’s Take: Will Muschamp somehow crept into the Top 25 this season with an average Gamecocks team. Clemson needs to win this one and they know it. I don’t think Clemson is nearly as talented as they were last season, but this game’s done with already. Clemson 31, SC 10

#8 Notre Dame at #21 Stanford (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

This game feels like a matchup between two teams that are heading in different directions. Although the Fighting Irish sit at No. 8 in the rankings, they are really the only team in the top nine that people aren’t giving much of a chance to make the Playoff. It’s hard to argue with the majority, as Notre Dame was demolished by Miami two weeks ago and then struggled mightily with Navy last weekend. Stanford and the rest of the Pac-12 were out of the Playoff conversation long ago, but in typical fashion David Shaw’s team is peaking at the end of the season.

It’s no secret that the Cardinal will use Bryce Love in heavy doses, but the question will be whether the Fighting Irish can stop it. Through the first eight games, Notre Dame had not allowed more than 185 yards on the ground. In the last three contests, teams have rushed for over 200 each time. Love has been held to modest outings this season, but the Cardinal are good enough defensively to give their offense plenty of opportunities to score. Keeping Stanford’s offense off the field will be key for Notre Dame, and from what I’ve seen out of the team lately, the Fighting Irish won’t be able to do it.

My Pick: 30-27 Stanford

Zach’s Take: Can you say hangover? I may have a disdain for ND but my bias against them doesn’t excuse the drubbing they took from the U, and almost blowing it against Navy.

Josh Adams is a talented back, but Stanford’s Bryce Love ain’t no joke and David Shaw is one of the most underrated coaches in football, IMO. Stanford 30, ND 21

5 Games to Flip To

#2 Miami (FL) at Pittsburgh (Friday, 12 PM ET)

The Hurricanes have had trouble with mediocre competition all season, and the Panthers are college football’s prime example of mediocrity.

#7 Georgia at Georgia Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Yellow Jackets have a rushing offense capable of giving the Bulldogs trouble in this one. Georgia can use this game as a warm up for Alabama or Auburn’s offense which they will have to deal with next week.

#23 Boise State at Fresno State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

These two teams have already clinched their respective division in the Mountain West, so this is essentially Leg 1 of 2 (final leg scheduled for next weekend).

West Virginia at #4 Oklahoma (Saturday, 3:45 PM ET)

Baker Mayfield won’t start on Senior Day, but unless he’s out for more than a half, the Sooners don’t have a ton to worry about here.

#13 Washington State at #17 Washington (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

Winner goes to the Pac-12 title game. You could say that this one is for all the apples.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Zach 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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