Top teams in danger of toppling.
Rivalries galore dominate the storylines in Week 13’s edition of the most compelling matchups across the college football landscape.
There are several games where the top teams in the College Football Playoff hierarchy are in danger of toppling. While some upsets are far likelier than others, the raw emotion and competitive fire associated with these guaranteed annual meetings create an intangible X-factor where, frankly, anything is possible.
All of this makes these forthcoming matchups all the more tantalizing to dive into.
No. 4 Michigan at No. 10 Ohio State
In the 115th meeting between these two arch-rivals, a College Football Playoff bid is on the line for the Wolverines. What better way to earn it?
Working in the Buckeyes’ favor is the fact the game is in Columbus and that they’ve owned this matchup of late, winning 13 of their last 14 against the Maize and Blue.
But what once was one of the sport’s best coaching duels is now lopsided. Jim Harbaugh is getting the most out of the least-talented top-10 team in the country. Urban Meyer’s latest loaded Ohio State roster isn’t in playoff position despite a cream-puff schedule.
Maybe the Buckeyes reserved any semblance of innovative offensive play-calling and fundamentally sound defense to play spoiler to the Wolverines.
Auburn at No. 1 Alabama
The Iron Bowl has fostered tremendous drama of late. Fans won’t soon forget 2013’s “Kick Six” game and the Tigers’ big upset last year.
Both those contests spoiled the Crimson Tide’s hopes of a perfect season, with the former costing them the chance at a third straight national championship.
Incumbent Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham knows what it takes to topple the Tide. Here’s the problem: his counterpart, Tua Tagovailoa, is far and away the superior player.
The only solace Auburn can take is how flat Alabama was versus The Citadel. A 10-all halftime tie showed the Tide can suffer a letdown. One can’t blame the them for looking ahead to their rivalry game, though. Their dominant form should return in Tuscaloosa.
No. 3 Notre Dame at USC
Pride can be a strong catalyst. The Trojans are a traditional powerhouse yet find themselves scrapping for bowl eligibility in Week 13. They’ll host an Irish team riding into the Coliseum high off a 36-3 win over previously 12th-ranked Syracuse.
There’s little indication Notre Dame will slow down, especially due to how well quarterback Ian Book has played this year. He’s completed 72.6 percent of his passes and helped make coach Brian Kelly’s club a far more well-rounded bunch.
USC has a true freshman signal-caller in JT Daniels who’s had a predictably rocky maiden campaign. Daniels and Co. rank 93rd in total yards per game, which doesn’t bode well against an Irish defense that yields a mere 4.40 yards per play.
South Carolina at No. 2 Clemson
Trailing Duke 6-0 after the first quarter in their last contest, the Tigers scored 35 unanswered. Now they’re at home again for the latest entry in the Palmetto Bowl.
All the Gamecocks can really hang their hats on is a gifted quarterback in Jake Bentley. He has to play his best for South Carolina to have any chance. Against ranked opponents, the visitors are 0-4 this season, with all those foes being from the SEC.
Clemson is the clear class of the ACC. Its closest call of the year came in a two-point win over Texas A&M in September. The Aggies beat the Gamecocks by three a little over a month later.
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” Using the above daisy-chain logic, perhaps.
No. 11 Florida at Florida State
The Seminoles will play a second straight at home and must win to be bowl-eligible. They escaped with a one-point victory over Boston College to keep those hopes alive in Week 12.
This entry of the Sunshine Showdown could be rather lopsided, though. It’d feel extra great for the Gators to foil FSU’s bowl prospects. They certainly have a good enough defense to shut down the Seminoles’ floundering offense.
Florida has forced 21 turnovers this year, is No. 28 in total defense and should have little trouble containing an opposing passer in Deondre Francois who’s completed less than 50 percent of his throws in each of his last three starts.
Kyler Murray vs. Will Grier
With the visitors one game up in the Big 12 race after the 13th-ranked Mountaineers’ shocking loss to Oklahoma State this past weekend, No. 6 Oklahoma and West Virginia promise to put on an absolute thriller in Morgantown.
Murray’s dual-threat capabilities are an X-factor that could tip this game in the visitors’ favor. However, home-field advantage can’t be underestimated, nor can the plethora of weapons at Grier’s disposal.
Mountaineers receivers David Sills V and Gary Jennings Jr. have 24 combined touchdown catches. Junior wideout Marcus Simms brings a more explosive element to the passing game in his own right.
It may simply come down to who has the ball last between these decorated field generals.
Gardner Minshew vs. Washington secondary
Washington State’s golden-armed wunderkind has thrown for more yards than anyone in 2018. Week 13 may present his toughest test of the year against No. 16 Washington’s stout defensive backfield.
The Huskies have yielded only 5.92 yards per attempt and 9.34 yards per completion. Minshew is the only signal-caller among the NCAA’s top 19 passers entering Week 13 who doesn’t average eight yards per attempt (7.4).
It’s not as if Minshew is overrated, because, um, he threw seven touchdowns in Week 12’s 69-28 romp over Arizona. The short passing game essentially functions as the Cougars’ rushing attack.
Against such a tough Huskies defense, however, Minshew must execute about as well as in his last outing. Otherwise, No. 8 Washington State could fall in front of friendly fans in its regular-season finale.
Matt Wells vs. Bryan Harsin
Wells leads Utah State, while his counterpart Harsin spearheads a perpetually thriving Boise State program. The Aggies and Broncos are ranked No. 21 and No. 23 respectively in the latest CFP poll. They’re also playing for their Mountain West division crown.
Both coaches played quarterback and returned to their alma maters to become offensive coordinators and, yes, head coaches.
Senior Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien has had a steady career and should be a 2019 NFL draft pick. Utah State’s Jordan Love, a sophomore, has thrown 25 touchdowns to only four picks this year while taking only seven sacks.
In short: these coaches can clearly, effectively develop their position of expertise. It’ll be titillating to see these lesser-known but brilliant offensive-minded head coaches do battle with so much at stake in Boise.