In college football, polls and rankings are the ultimate seeds of debate. Our Pylon University panel of experts bring you a rundown of national title contenders each week. We’ll be looking at teams, plays, trends, and experiences that make college football great ‒ from Division 3 to the Power Conferences ‒ along with key CFB weekend matchups.
A staid slate of games awaits college football fans this weekend ‒ the calm before the storm that is Thanksgiving/Rivalry weekend, where the stretch drive begins and the final rankings will be settled. The SEC’s top teams are fattening up on Sacrificial U. and Patsy State this weekend, with only Ole Miss at Arkansas offering a matchup between equals. Elsewhere, Arizona battles Utah in a key Pac-12 matchup and the annual USC-UCLA grudge match takes place out west.
Teams’ vote points are in parentheses (out of 50 possible points). Our Week 13 voting panel consists of Derek Gilpin, Adam Jones, Skrub, Big Mike and GmoGmo. This week, Derek offers his comments on what to expect from the best of the FBS.
Game of the Week:
#8 Ole Miss (13) at Arkansas ‒ 3:30 p.m. ‒ CBS
FCU Staff: Arkansas gave head coach Bret Bielema his first SEC victory last week against LSU, and his second would see the Razorbacks become bowl eligible. After a red hot start, the Rebels crashed to earth with back-to-back losses to LSU and Auburn. Their playoff dreams are on life support, as are Bo Wallace’s Heisman hopes. Lots of storylines to watch, making this FCU’s selection as the Game of the Week.
Why You Should Watch: Hey! It’s an SEC game between two somewhat evenly-matched league teams! Ole Miss can only keep pace and hope for a win in the Egg Bowl and losses by higher-ranked competitors to keep their championship hopes alive, while the Razorbacks can end the Rebels’ dream and achieve bowl-eligibility.
The Rest of the Rankings
#1 Alabama (49) vs. Western Carolina ‒ 4:00 p.m. ‒ SEC Network
FCU Staff: This sets up as a classic trap game for the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban’s squad is coming off a huge win over previous #1 Mississippi State and their bitter rivals are on tap for next week. But a trap game requires a dangerous opponent and the Catamounts from the FCS do not post much of a threat.
Derek: Have to beat the best to be the best right? Alabama’s win over Mississippi State moves them up to #1 in my poll. They always looked like they were in control during that game. Wins over Texas A&M and West Virginia are also beginning to look more impressive as the season wears on. This is a tune-up week before the big matchup against Auburn.
Why You Should Watch: You love a one-sided, uncompetitive, stat-padding scrimmage. Or the Alabama fight song. It’s gonna get played a lot.
#2 Florida State (43) vs. Boston College ‒ 3:30 p.m. ‒ ABC/ESPN2
FCU Staff: Another slow start, another late victory for the Seminoles. Florida State was down early against Miami last week but pulled out the win late. This pattern was on display last season in the matchup between these two teams, with Boston College enjoying an early 11-point lead before Jameis Winston and company roared back. While a sluggish start might not doom them Saturday, it will before the season is over.
Derek: FSU’s wins lack style points, but they keep on getting the job done as they extend their win streak to 26. With Duke fading they shouldn’t have another real test until the playoff.
Why You Should Watch: You love to see highlights of “The Hail Mary.” We’ve written a tiny bit about Sunday’s 30-year anniversary of Flutie to Phelan. Expect to see this play shown a few times during the telecast.
#3 Oregon (41) vs. Colorado ‒ 4:30 p.m. ‒ Pac-12 Network
FCU Staff: Another contest with trap game potential. On paper the Buffaloes pose no threat to Oregon and their high-powered offense. Colorado’s two victories are a three-point victory over Massachusetts and a seven-point win over Hawaii. But with next week’s “Border War” looming, we would not be surprised to see the Ducks looking ahead on their schedule.
Derek: I think Oregon’s position in the Top 4 is relatively safe for now absent a shocking loss in their last two games. Arizona State’s loss last weekend eliminated the chance of the Pac-12 championship game becoming a play-in game for this year’s playoff.
Why You Should Watch: Marcus Mariota is having an historic season and this is a rare day game for the Ducks. Unfortunately, it is on the “my-cable-provider-doesn’t-carry-it” Pac-12 Network, so yet again east coast fans will not get a chance to see Mariota play a conference game.
#4 Mississippi State (33) vs. Vanderbilt ‒ 7:30 p.m. ‒ SEC Network
FCU Staff: In their defeat against Alabama, the Bulldogs showed they have the talent to hang with the big boys. The challenge this week for Mississippi State is to turn in an impressive showing to keep their playoff position. The Commodores are the perfect opponent for the Bulldogs to regain their confidence before taking on Mississippi in the regular season finale.
Derek: The Bulldogs definitely had the talent to stay with Alabama, but the occasion seemed too big for them at times. They regroup against Vanderbilt at home before going on the road for the Egg Bowl. All three of the teams ranked ahead of them have struggled at times, and if any of them slip up the Bulldogs could easily slide back into the Top 4.
Why You Should Watch: At least Vanderbilt is a conference opponent, though even that is problematic. The Bulldogs need an impressive victory, not just to bounce back from a rough performance at Alabama, but because they need to be in top-form for the Ole Miss clash to maintain their tenuous grasp on a playoff spot.
#5 TCU (30) ‒ BYE
FCU Staff: TCU is scoreboard watching this week and feeling the heat. Both Baylor and Ohio State are in position to leapfrog the Frogs with big wins this week. And with Texas looming, TCU cannot afford another mediocre performance after Thanksgiving because not even Trevone Boykin will be able to save them.
Derek: Their performance this weekend against Kansas was concerning; not so much them falling down earlier, but their inability to separate when given the opportunity in the second half. TCU may be ripe for an upset next week when they travel to Austin to play the Longhorns.
Why You Should Watch: This was a quiz. By reading this you have failed.
#6 Baylor (26) vs. Oklahoma St. ‒ 7:30 p.m. ‒ FOX
FCU Staff: The Bears are in a tremendous position. With games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State remaining, Baylor can pad their playoff resume while TCU sits idle this week and finishes with Texas and Iowa State.
Derek: It may come down to style points between the Bears and TCU and, if it does, I’m beginning to have more faith that Baylor will pass TCU before the year is up. It would also be in Baylor’s best interest for K-State not to drop another game before their end of the season showdown. A convincing win over the Wildcats would do a lot towards getting Baylor into the playoff.
Why You Should Watch: Baylor’s high-flying offense puts on a show and they have every reason to put on as dazzling a display as possible against the Cowboys. Style points and margin of victory shouldn’t matter… but they do. A psychological victory over idle TCU (and their narrow escape against Kansas) might help the Bears’ cause with the voters. Oh, and Gus Johnson.
#7 Ohio State (17) vs. Indiana ‒ 12:00 p.m. ‒ BTN
FCU Staff: Can Urban Meyer and company squeeze into the playoff? They need three more wins and a lot of help to get there, but in a season like this, anything is possible.
Derek: I guess the best thing you can say about Ohio State is they didn’t have a letdown against an average Minnesota team. Nebraska losing hurts OSU’s chances of getting a high profile win in the B1G championship game. Its going to take a lot of crazy things happening for the Buckeyes to even be considered for a Top 4 spot.
Why You Should Watch: Tevin Coleman. The Indiana running back may be overshadowed by fellow Big Ten rushers Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah, but NFL scouts are paying attention. Coleman is on the verge of breaking Indiana’s single season rushing record and is coming off a 33 carry, 307 yard performance last week against Rutgers. Besides, what are you doing at noon on Saturday? Brunch?
#9 Georgia (12) vs. Charleston Southern ‒ 12:00 p.m. ‒ SEC Network
FCU Staff: Another Jekyll-and-Hyde squad, the Bulldogs need a win to keep pace in the SEC East with Missouri. The Buccaneers are a nice tune up opportunity before Clean, Old Fashioned Hate Week.
Derek: When Good Dawgs show up they beat any team in the country ‒ SEC West Champion beware. However, Bad Dawgs can also lose to almost anyone ‒ Florida and South Carolina.
Why You Should Watch: There is virtually no chance that Georgia loses this game. Charleston Southern might irritate and annoy Georgia’s fourth-string, but the Buccaneers will be blown off the field by halftime by UGA’s starters. With Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley out with an ACL tear, freshman Nick Chubb gets a day to pad his stats.
#10 UCLA (6) vs. USC ‒ 8:00 p.m. ‒ ABC
FCU Staff: Like an old pair of sneakers or your favorite sweater, seeing the Bruins and Trojans square off is a nice reminder of years gone by as the holidays approach. Sure, both squads got off to decent starts and have since stumbled along the way. However, rivalry plus potential Pac-12 championship game berth equals decent football.
Derek: A chance at a rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game is up for grabs when UCLA plays USC this weekend. The Bruins are more than capable of spoiling another Oregon season.
Why You Should Watch: A traditional cross-town rivalry that isn’t as appealing this year given the Trojans struggles. The Bruins need the win to keep the pressure on Oregon and Arizona State for the Pac-12 Championship.
#11 (tie) Kansas State (1) – Beat visiting West Virginia, 26-20 (Thursday night)
FCU Staff: Big 12 fever. Catch it!
Derek: If the Wildcats hadn’t let the Auburn game slip away, the situation in the Big 12 would really be crazy. Instead, Kansas St. will be relegated to trying to spoil Baylor’s season.
Why You Should Have Watched: The disciplined Wildcats kept their slim title hopes alive by winning, while West Virginia just wants to watch the world burn.
#11 (tie) Wisconsin (1) at Iowa ‒ 3:30 p.m. ‒ ABC/ESPN2
FCU Staff: Following their win over Nebraska the Badgers now sit atop the Big Ten East. Win out and Wisconsin earns a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Why You Should Watch: Melvin Gordon goes for 409? Watching Big Ten conference games should be classified as cruel and unusual punishment.
#11 (tie) Arizona State (1) vs. Washington State ‒ 1:00 p.m. ‒ Pac-12 Network
Why You Should Watch: Who doesn’t love offense? There won’t be much defense played, because the Sun Devils apparently don’t believe in defense, but points will be scored and there will be many opportunities to raise your glasses in celebration.
#11 (tie) Michigan St. (1) vs. Rutgers ‒ 12:00 p.m. ‒ BTN
FCU Staff: This is a football game between two teams in the Big Ten. That about covers it.
Why You Should Watch: You are an alum, or you are interested in who the Patriots will select in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Follow Mark on Twitter @mabrowndog.