(Photo Creds: http://www.al.com/auburnfootball/index.ssf/2017/09/instant_analysis_jarrett_stidh_1.html)
The biggest week of regular season college football is upon us. Rivalry week is one of the fiercest weeks in football as many arch-nemeses play against each other. Sometimes, a win over your rival can only be used as bragging rights, while others can shape the entire college football scenery. Here are my top 5 match-ups to watch in Week 13 of college football with honorable mentions (Keep in mind that this is just my opinion, we will likely disagree on some things):
5. Ohio State at Michigan
One of College Football’s biggest rivalries, this game usually has much more on the line with both teams looking to represent the BIG 10 East in the Conference Championship and perhaps have a shot to make the College Football Playoffs. Michigan’s glaring offense struggles have led them to 3 losses this season, giving them no shot at a CFP birth. However, if the cards fall the right way, Ohio State still has a shot to make the Playoffs, especially with the exceptional play of J.T. Barrett this season, having accounted for 3,300 yards, 40 touchdowns, and only 8 turnovers. However, with the Conference Championship already set (Wisconsin vs. Ohio State), this game has little meaning outside of bragging rights, unless Michigan can kick-start their offense and upset the Buckeyes.
4. South Florida at Central Florida
Two seasons ago, UCF finished the 2015 season 0-12 and brought in Head Coach Scott Frost to fix the program. Fast forward to 2017 and the Knights are one win away from flipping their record to 12-0… barring one game. South Florida is no cake-walk, sitting with only one loss and a win away from replacing UCF as the AAC East Champions. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers has been limited in the team’s newly installed offense, but is still one of the most explosive players in college football. A win for either program will give them a shot at Memphis and a chance to be the lone Group of 5 team to make a New Year’s Six Bowl.
3. Clemson at South Carolina
The Gamecocks are 8-3. That’s a surprise to many college football fans after the team lost their best play-maker Deebo Samuel in Week 3, but South Carolina has yet to pick up a significant win now that NC State has fallen out of the Top 25. Clemson is preparing to face an undefeated Miami in the Conference Championship, assuming Miami can defeat Pitt. There is a possibility that Clemson is already looking ahead to their match-up for the ACC title, which would be a mistake considering that another loss would all but end their CFP hopes. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley has had his fair share of struggles lately, but a good game from him against a tough Clemson defense could propel the Gamecocks to a 9-3 record with a win over a top-5 opponent. However, if Kelly Bryant can lead the Tigers to a win, they will still have a ton to play for once the week is over.
2. Georgia at Georgia Tech
Georgia may not be the No. 1 team in the nation anymore, but they are still sitting firmly with one loss and their ticket already punched to the SEC Championship. However, Georgia Tech traveled to Athens last season and defeated the Bulldogs last season, and are one win away from bowl eligibility this season. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall and running back KirVonte Benson have both accounted for over 1,000 rushing yards this season as their triple-option offense looks to challenge a stiff Georgia front-seven with the 6th ranked rushing defense in the nation. With a ton to play for, a win for either team would be a huge milestone for their program.
1. Alabama at Auburn
No. 1 vs. No. 6. SEC Championship on the line. This is what football is all about. As the Crimson Tide travel to Auburn, Playoff implications will be going through the minds of every player on the field. One of College Football’s biggest rivalries, the Iron Bowl will decide who takes on Georgia in the SEC Championship and have a birth in the CFP. Alabama’s young defense has stepped up this season as usual, but they will be tasked with slowing down Heisman sleeper Kerryon Johnson, whose 1172 rushing yards leads the SEC and 16 touchdowns is tied for 1st. Don’t forget about Jarrett Stidham, who is putting up solid numbers as he hopes to take the Tigers to the National Championship and be remembered by the fan-base forever. The Tide loads of talent on the offensive side of the ball as well, with Jalen Hurts, Damien Harris, Calvin Ridley, and Bo Scarbrough look to lead Alabama to their 2nd title in 3 years. This game is sure to be a thriller.
Washington State at Washington
Quarterbacks Luke Falk and Jake Browning could lead a game that turns into a shootout, but both teams have struggled as of recent and are no longer in the Playoff race.
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Minnesota is one win away from bowl eligibility in P.J. Fleck’s first season while Wisconsin looks to stay undefeated and need every win they can get against a weak schedule.
West Virginia at Oklahoma
This game was about to blow the hinges off the door with 15 total touchdowns or more as a possible outcome, but the injury to West Virginia Will Grier could turn this game into a sleeper if Chris Chugunov is unable to put up high numbers. Grier and Baker Mayfield are both tied with 34 passing touchdowns a piece.
Louisville at Kentucky
People continue to write off Lamar Jackson as a Heisman candidate this season, but his numbers indicate otherwise. Louisville had previous won 5 in a row until Kentucky pulled off the upset last season in a surprising shootout. With Jackson at the helm and Kentucky returning a very similar team, including SEC rushing touchdown leader Benny Snell (tied for 1st), this game has a chance to be heavily offensive-driven once again.