By Stewart Mandel
November 21, 2012
College Football Pickoff: Week 13
Thursday, Nov. 22
7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) TCU (6-4) at No. 18 Texas (8-2)
It's time for that annual post-turkey tradition when we gather around the TV to watch the Longhorns and ... the Horned Frogs. TCU's defense could cause problems for Texas, but the Longhorns' once horrific defense has shown improvement the past three games (15.3 points per game). Texas shouldn't be threatened by TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin.
Saturday, Nov. 24
8 p.m. ET (ABC) No. 1 Notre Dame (11-0) at USC (7-4)
USC has nothing left to play for other than to ruin its rival's season. Maybe that means the Trojans won't play as tight as they have for most of the season. But it's asking a lot of redshirt freshman backup quarterback Max Wittek to lead the offense against an outstanding Notre Dame defense that's allowed just one touchdown drive of 60 yards or longer all season.
Noon ET (ABC) No. 20 Michigan (8-3) at No. 4 Ohio State (11-0)
Long before the season ever started, before we knew anything about either team's record, I believed Urban Meyer would win his first Michigan game. It just so happens the Buckeyes wound up 11-0. Michigan's new offensive wrinkle, with Devin Gardner at quarterback and Denard Robinson playing everywhere, will keep things interesting, but Braxton Miller will eventually take over.
3 p.m. ET (Pac-12) No. 5 Oregon (10-1) at No. 16 Oregon State (8-2)
The Beavers don't come in with quite as stingy a run defense as Stanford, but Oregon State's unit isn't bad (23rd nationally). More notably, the receiving tandem of Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks (202.5 combined yards per game) can exploit Oregon's thin secondary. But Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota will rebound from last week's loss with a big performance to win a shootout.
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC) No. 6 Florida (10-1) at No. 10 Florida State (10-1)
Now this is what a Florida-FSU game should look like. The Gators, to their credit, have found a way to win 10 games without the threat of a passing attack (6.6 yards per attempt, 89th nationally). That's not going to work against Florida State's top-ranked defense (3.7 yards per play). 'Noles quarterback EJ Manuel will be under heavy pressure, but he'll make enough plays to win.
3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-3) at No. 14 Oklahoma (8-2)
The Cowboys' offense is as explosive as ever (7.2 yards per play, No. 2 nationally), but the big difference from last year's Big 12 title team is that Oklahoma State has gone from No. 1 in turnover margin to No. 92. A few bad plays can swing things against the Sooners and quarterback Landry Jones (66.7 completion percentage, 3,245 yards, 24 touchdowns, eight interceptions).
6:30 p.m. ET (FOX) No. 11 Stanford (9-2) at No. 15 UCLA (9-2)
This may be the toughest game to call of the entire season to date. Both teams are peaking right now, but both are coming off huge wins in highly anticipated games and could very well come out flat. With a close call like this, it's generally better to go with the better defense. Stanford's defense is ranked No. 11 nationally (4.6 yards per play); UCLA's is ranked No. 64 (5.6).
7 p.m. ET (ESPN) No. 13 South Carolina (9-2) at No. 12 Clemson (10-1)
Normally, in SEC-ACC clashes, my rule is to always pick the SEC. But South Carolina does not inspire confidence right now. It struggled for three quarters against Wofford, and Marcus Lattimore is gone and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is hobbled. Clemson star Tajh Boyd won't put up 400 yards on an elite defense, but South Carolina doesn't have the firepower to keep up with the Tigers.
3:30 p.m. ET (CBS) Auburn (3-8) at No. 2 Alabama (10-1)
Yes, I'm basically giving myself a point here. But it's worth it just to avoid the 400 angry e-mails I would get from Alabamans if I left the Iron Bowl out of this week's picks. I've got no deep analysis here. The Tide are really good. The Tigers are really bad. Auburn may play above itself for a quarter or so because of the rivalry atmosphere, but its offense has shown no sign of challenging an elite defense.
Saturday, Noon ET (BTN) Indiana (4-7) at Purdue (5-6)
All the Boilers need to do is beat their rival to reach a bowl game and (possibly) save coach Danny Hope's job. The teams have had nearly identical Big Ten seasons: Both beat Illinois and Iowa, gave Ohio State a scare and lost to everyone else. Still, it fees like the Hoosiers' program is on the upswing. This is their chance to build some offseason momentum.
Record Last Week: 6-4               Record This Season: 71-49

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