Can’t navigate the week’s college football schedule? Never fear, we break down the best Week 13 matchups in a special holiday viewing guide.
1. Texas Tech at Texas, 7:30 p.m. ET, FS1
Coach Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders’ offense has been somewhat overshadowed due to a five-loss season. They rank sixth nationally in total offense (7.09 yards per play). The problem? Texas Tech comes in at No. 117 in total defense (6.7 yards per play allowed). Now Texas’s own sluggish offense must take advantage of the Red Raiders’ porous defense if it hopes to avoid a worse record in 2015 (4-7) than it had in Charlie Strong’s first year (6-7) in 2014.
1. No. 7 Baylor at No. 19 TCU, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The reigning Big 12 co-champions meet again, but only one still has a shot at making the College Football Playoff. Baylor bounced back from a loss to Oklahoma two weeks ago with a 45-35 win over previously unbeaten Oklahoma State last Saturday. But for the Bears to survive, they’ll need a big performance from third-string quarterback Chris Johnson. The sophomore is likely to start after he threw for two touchdowns last week in place of injured freshman Jarrett Stidham. TCU’s quarterback situation is less certain, however, with Trevone Boykin still questionable after missing last week’s loss to Oklahoma with a sprained ankle.
2. No. 15 Navy at Houston, Noon ET, ABC
Houston’s bid for an undefeated season came crashing down in a 20-17 loss at Connecticut last week. But the Cougars can still clinch the AAC West with a win over Navy on Friday. The winner of this game earns home-field advantage over either Temple or South Florida in the league title game on Dec. 5. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. remains hobbled with a sore ankle he sprained against Memphis on Nov. 14, while Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds remains one of the nation’s most effective option passers.
3. Oregon State at No. 17 Oregon, 4 p.m. ET, FS1
Vernon Adams Jr. showed Oregon fans how much of an impact player he can be last week against USC. Adams passed for 407 yards and six touchdowns in a 48-28 win, the most touchdowns ever thrown by an opposing quarterback against USC. The victory was the Ducks’ fifth straight after a 3-3 start. Now they close out the season in the Civil War against an Oregon State team that’s yet to win a Pac-12 game in Gary Andersen’s first season. But the Beavers might not provide a big challenge; their defense allows opposing quarterbacks to complete 68 percent of their throws.
1. No. 8 Ohio State at No. 10 Michigan, Noon ET, ABC
Judging by the comments from Ohio State players—particularly Ezekiel Elliott—after last week’s loss to Michigan State, the sky seemed to be falling in Columbus. But while the Buckeyes no longer control their Big Ten destiny, they could keep their playoff hopes alive with a win over rival Michigan. Now a Wolverines defense that ranks third nationally stands in the way as does a quarterback in Jake Rudock who’s thrown 10 touchdowns in his last three games. Ohio State, however, has won 11 of the last 13 in this series.
2. No. 1 Clemson at South Carolina, Noon ET, ESPN
Given the current state of Clemson and South Carolina, it’s hard to believe the Gamecocks recently controlled this Palmetto State rivalry. Under Steve Spurrier South Carolina had won five straight in the series before Clemson snapped the streak with a 35-17 win at Death Valley last fall. Now the Tigers travel to Columbia as the No. 1 team in the country, while the Gamecocks—led by interim head coach Shawn Elliott—suffered an inexcusable loss to the Citadel last week. But South Carolina opened the season with a 17-13 win over North Carolina, which hasn’t lost since and is locked in as Clemson’s opponent in the ACC title game. Can Spurrier’s former team take down another ACC contender?
3. Georgia at Georgia Tech, Noon ET, ESPN2
This week Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson admitted he couldn’t have predicted his team’s 3-8 record during fall camp. “It's kind of been a situation where every game, for the most part, we've been in and we find a way to self-implode,” Johnson told reporters. But the Yellow Jackets could end the season on a high note by topping Georgia in a rivalry dubbed “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”. The Bulldogs venture to Atlanta having similarly disappointed this year; they needed overtime to escape Georgia Southern 23-17, just last week. If the Dawgs drop this game, expect even more heat on head coach Mark Richt.
1. No. 2 Alabama at Auburn, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
In each of the last three seasons, the winner of the Iron Bowl has gone on to win the SEC title. That won’t be the case if Auburn wins this time around; the underachieving Tigers already have five SEC losses. That’s why all the pressure rests on Alabama’s shoulders this weekend. For the first time in years, Auburn has very little to lose in this matchup; it attained bowl-eligibility last week by virtue of its win over Idaho. The question is whether Will Muschamp’s run defense (12th in the SEC) can contain Heisman candidate Derrick Henry and an Alabama attack that’s looked dominant in recent weeks.
2. Penn State at No. 5 Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
One week ago, Ohio State had its eyes set on a playoff berth. But with a win against Penn State on Saturday, Michigan State can clinch the Big Ten East and a spot in the conference title game opposite Iowa. The Spartans’ defense came up big last week in its 17-14 win over the Buckeyes, who were held to just five first downs and 132 yards of offense. That Michigan State defense could overwhelm Penn State if the Nittany Lions’ offensive line, which has allowed a Big Ten-worst 37 sacks this year, can’t protect quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
3. No. 22 UCLA at USC, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Both UCLA and USC entered the year as playoff contenders. Since then, the rivals have combined for seven losses. But the winner of this matchup clinches the Pac-12 South, which means a conference title isn’t out of the question for the Bruins and Trojans. USC quarterback Cody Kessler has again looked like one of the best passers in the Pac-12 with 25 touchdown passes and just six picks. Freshman signal-caller Josh Rosen and UCLA, however, are fresh off a 17-9 upset of Utah. Can the Bruins win a third straight over their Los Angeles rivals?
1. No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 11 Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Oklahoma is optimistic quarterback Baker Mayfield will play in Bedlam after sitting out the second half of last week’s 30-29 win over TCU with a concussion. That’s good news for the Sooners, who suddenly look like the Big 12’s best playoff bet after Oklahoma State lost to Baylor last week. Moreover, the then-unbeaten Cowboys gave up a whopping 700 yards to the Bears in the loss. Oklahoma lost last season’s matchup with Oklahoma State, 38-25 in overtime, but Bob Stoops’s program has won five of the last six meetings in Stillwater.
2. No. 6 Notre Dame at No. 9 Stanford, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX
The injury bug seems to have an infatuation with Notre Dame this season. Ahead of a road trip to Palo Alto, the Fighting Irish lost starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell for the season with a right tibia fracture. Moreover, starting running back C.J. Prosise is doubtful with a sprained ankle. A win over Stanford, which has already clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game, would be a key data point in Notre Dame’s playoff résumé. But the Irish must look better than they did in last week’s 19-16 win over Boston College, in which they committed five turnovers.
3. No. 13 Florida State at No. 12 Florida, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida had already clinched the SEC East way before its embarrassing performance against Florida Atlantic last week, when it needed overtime to survive the Owls. But for the Gators’ slim playoff shot to remains alive, they must take care of business against Florida State. The ‘Noles are 4-1 against Florida under Jimbo Fisher, and they boast one of the best running backs in the nation in Dalvin Cook, who ranks third nationally with 147.5 rushing yards per game. Can the Gators’ sixth-ranked rushing defense (3.18 yards per carry) stifle Cook and the Seminoles?