College Football Week 13 Preview: Storylines, Matchups, and Predictions for the Biggest Matches | college football

• Preview of Week 13’s Biggest Games in College Football: TulaneCincinnati, Michiganohio state, south carolinaClemson, OregonOregon state and Notre DameUSC.

• Game of the Year: Second-ranked Ohio State takes on No. 3 Michigan in a game with huge playoff implications.

• USC faces the toughest test yet: The sixth-placed Trojans try to keep their playoff hopes alive against No. 15 Notre Dame, a top-five team in PFF’s power rankings.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

This Saturday marks the end of the 2022 college football regular season. While that thought may be unsettling, the feeling is bittersweet to say the least, as there’s a slew of juicy rivalry week matchups, including the biggest game of the year in No. 2 ohio state vs number 3 Michigan.

Here are the storylines to know, matches to watch and predictions for the five biggest matches of Week 13.

No. 19 Tulane green wave at No. 24 Cincinnati Bearcats

How to watch: 12 p.m. ET on ABC (Friday)

Storyline to know: There may be a Six Bowl game on the line

The highest ranked Group of Five champion is guaranteed a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. As of now, the three ranked Group of Five schools are all in the American Athletic Conference: No. 19 Tulane, No. 22 UCF and No. 24 Cincinnati.

This game determines who hosts the AAC title game. The loser does not play in the championship game at all, meaning there is no New Year’s Six.

Matchup to watch: Tulane’s run game vs. Cincinnati’s run defense

The Green Wave runs the ball on over 57% of their plays, the second highest percentage in the AAC. In those attempts, Tulane has picked up a first down or a touchdown 31% of the time, the fourth highest percentage in the Group of Five. Tyja Spears is the most valuable group of five returning this season, according to PFF’s above-average wins.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati has the third most run-stops in the nation this season (241). The leaders of that unit are internal defensive lineman Don’t Corleone and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. Corleone’s 94.8 run defense mark is two points higher than any other defenseman in college football. Pace’s 15 tackles for a loss or no win are the sixth most among FBS linebackers.

Forecast: Cincinnati 27, Tulane 23

The Bearcats pull out the win, closing in on their third straight New Year’s Six bowl game.

number 3 Michigan Wolverines at No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

How to watch: 12 p.m. ET on FOX

Storyline to know: game of the year

Ohio State vs. Michigan may be the best rivalry in college football, but this year’s game is also the biggest of the season.

The winner of this colossal showdown essentially wins a spot in the College Football Playoff, making this matchup a pseudo-playoff game. The loser still has a chance to make it to the final four, but needs some help in the form of one TCU loss and/or a USC loss.

Matchup to watch: Will Blake Korum to suit?

Blake Corum is Michigan’s offense. The junior running back is the nation’s most valuable non-quarterback this season, according to PFF’s above-average wins. His 96.1 mark tops all of college football, and it would also set the PFF College record for highest rated season by a Power Five player if it holds.

Highest rated seasons by a Power Five player in PFF College Era (since 2014)

However, Corum may not be able to build on its record number this weekend. During last week’s win Illinois, he suffered a right knee injury. He was able to come back for one wear before leaving for good.

If Corum can’t go, Michigan may have little chance.

Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan 24

Corum is bothered, but he’s not 100%. Ohio State retaliates for last year’s loss and secures a spot in the College Football Playoff, while Michigan must stay home and seek mayhem.

South Carolina Gamecocks at No. 8 Clemson Tigers

How to watch: 12 p.m. ET on ABC

Storyline to know: Can South Carolina knock out two playoff contenders in a row?

Last week, South Carolina dismantled then-No. 5 Tennessee, 63-38. The Gamecocks had added an average of 0.486 expected points per game, the most of any team in Week 12. The loss took the Volunteers from a legitimate playoff contender to one with no chance of entering.

Clemson does need some help to make the playoffs in a USC loss one TCU loss and one LSU loss. That’s a moot point, though, if South Carolina plays as well as they did last Saturday and takes down the Tigers.

Matchup to watch: Which version of Spencer Rattler appears on Saturday?

Spencer Rattler, who was benched in Oklahoma last season, went to South Carolina for a fresh start. For the first 11 weeks, it didn’t seem like much had changed. His mark of 61.7 in that span ranked only 115th among FBS quarterbacks.

But something definitely clicked against Tennessee in Week 12.

Rattler’s 92.9 pass percentage was the highest of any FBS quarterback for the week. The redshirt junior threw five big pitches and no turnover-worthy plays in the upset. To be fair, the Volunteers have the eighth lowest-rated defense of the Power Five in passing plays this season. Clemson, meanwhile, is eighth best.

If Rattler continues his elite game, the Gamecocks could pull off their second big upset in as many weeks.

Forecast: Clemson 31, South Carolina 17

Clemson’s defense holds Rattler much better than Tennessee, and the Tigers keep their playoff dreams alive.

No. 9 Oregon ducks at No. 21 Oregon State Beavers

How to watch: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Storyline to know: Can Oregon secure a spot in the Pac-12 championship game?

number 6 USC will make up half of the Pac-12 championship game following the 48-45 victory over then-No. 16 UCLA last week.

The other half is for Oregon to lose. If the Ducks beat No. 21 Oregon State, they’ll have a shot at a trip to the Pac-12 championship game. A loss opens the door for number 13 Washington or No. 14 Utah.

However, Oregon is not eliminated with a loss. The Ducks would also need No. 13 Washington to lose to rival the state of Washington on Saturday night to make that happen.

Matchup to watch: Oregon’s footrace vs. Oregon State’s running defense

Oregon runs back Bucky Irving forced a missed tackle on 44% of his attempts, which would rank third among FBS running backs in the PFF College era.

Highest forced missed tackle percentage in PFF College Era (since 2014, min. 100 attempts)

*Subject to change

On the other hand, Oregon State has the highest run defense score in the Pac-12 with over seven points. James Rawls has eight tackles for a loss or no gain, tying the most among Pac-12 domestic defensive linemen.

Forecast: Oregon 31, Oregon State 28

The Ducks secure a trip to the Pac-12 championship game with a narrow victory over the Beavers.

No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at No. 6 USC Trojans

How to watch: 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Storyline to know: Can USC survive the toughest test of the season?

Sixth-placed USC is on the cusp of the program’s first-ever playoff appearance. All the Trojans have to do is win their next two games, and they will most likely compete.

However, that is easier said than done, especially this weekend. USC takes on Notre Dame, a top five team PFF’s power rankings. The Trojans are 2-1 against teams currently ranked in the top 50, with all three games decided by three points or less. This game should get down to the wire.

Matchup to watch: USC’s offensive line vs. Notre Dame’s pass rush

USC plays one of college football’s best offensive lines, earning a grade of 89.4 as a unit ranked third in the nation. The Trojans have allowed a sack or a quarterback hit on just 1.3% of their pass-blocking snaps, the second-lowest percentage in the country. Four of USC’s five offensive linemen are among the top 10 ranked by their position in the Power Five. With those consistently clean pockets, quarterback Caleb Williams has the country’s highest average time to throw (3.29 seconds).

Notre Dame has the seventh best pass rushing mark in the Power Five (85.2). The Fighting Irish pair that finished with the fifth best pass rush win percentage (56.4%) in the Power Five. The stars of that unit are linebacker Jack Kiser and edge defender Isaiah Foskey. Kiser’s 88.9 pass rushing rating is the third highest among Power Five linebackers, while Foskey is ranked No. 27 on PFF’s 2023 NFL Draft big board.

For Notre Dame to upset USC, the Fighting Irish will have to put constant pressure on Williams.

Forecast: Notre Dame 33, USC 30

USC is playing with fire in a number of games this season. The Trojans are incinerated by the Fighting Irish, ending their playoff ambitions.

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