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Michigan vs. Ohio State, USC vs. Notre Dame, more we’re watching in Week 13


And here we are at Week 13.

It’s the final week of college football action before the best of the best head to their conference championship games, bowl games, and for a lucky quartet, the College Football Playoff. And that means there are a host of games with much at stake.

The biggest, of course, is the contest appropriately referred to as The Game — No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State (Noon ET on Saturday; FOX and the FOX Sports app). This season’s version of the sport’s biggest rivalry is a battle for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, a likely spot in the CFP, and possibly even a statement on who will rule the conference moving forward.

But as big as Wolverines-Buckeyes is, there are a handful of other games that carry also great meaning, some of them even impacting the CFP chase.

Here’s what we’re looking forward to watching in some of the biggest matchups this weekend. 

FRIDAY

What should people know about No. 21 Tulane at No. 25 Cincinnati? (Noon ET)

Young: This game is all about homefield advantage. The winner will have a chance to play for the opportunity to host the American Athletic Conference Championship. And unless something wild happens in the final week of the regular season — like UCF beating South Florida, Tulsa beating Houston and fun with tiebreakers — this game will be played again for the conference title game.

Cincy has been in this position before, but the Green Wave have not. I’m watching to see how much — or how little — each team leaves in their bag for a rematch a week away.

Cohen: It doesn’t mean as much this year with a four-team playoff, but Friday’s matchup between Tulane and Cincinnati will decide the best team in college football outside the Power 5 conferences. The Green Wave won eight of their first nine games this season as head coach Willie Fritz authored a tremendous turnaround following a 2-10 finish in 2021. They enter the weekend tied for 25th nationally in scoring at 35.1 points per game, which is tied for eighth among Group of 5 schools thanks in large part to dual-threat quarterback Michael Pratt’s 29 total touchdowns.

The Bearcats continue to solidify their claim as the best mid-major program in college football under head coach Luke Fickell. This is Cincinnati’s fifth consecutive year with at least nine wins and has a chance to be the program’s fourth 10-win season during that stretch. There are three bona fide NFL prospects worth watching on Fickell’s roster based on preliminary draft grades from earlier this year: QB Ben Bryant (third-round grade); CB Arquon Bush (late third); TE Josh Whyle (late third).

What are you watching in No. 16 UCLA at California? (4:30 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)?

Cohen: Consecutive home losses to Arizona and then-No. 7 USC eroded UCLA’s slim hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff as a one-loss team from the Pac-12, but there’s still plenty the Bruins can play for. At 8-3 overall, they’ve already equaled head coach Chip Kelly’s highest win total since taking over the Bruins in 2018 and have won at least eight games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2014-15. Finishing the year with a win over Cal and a win in whichever bowl the Bruins qualify for would get them to 10 wins for just the fourth time in the last 20 years.

Zooming in, Saturday’s game should be an appreciation for quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and tailback Zach Charbonnet, the offensive stars who fueled the program’s turnaround under Kelly. Thompson-Robinson enters the weekend with 10,235 career passing yards and 1,725 career rushing yards across five standout seasons. Charbonnet has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since transferring from Michigan ahead of the 2021 campaign.

Young: While the Bruins have lost the opportunity to play for the Pac-12 title, they haven’t lost the chance for a memorable season.

As Michael said, UCLA is looking for just its fourth 10-win season in two decades. That could go a long way toward future recruitment and prestige as the Bruins prepare for an eventual exit to the much more competitive and tradition-rich Big Ten.

SATURDAY

What are you looking forward to in No. 3 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State (Noon ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)?

Young: I’m watching to see if this year’s Heisman winner emerges from this game. A great performance by either Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud or a Willis Reed-style entrance and performance from Blake Corum would be right on cue.

The Buckeyes are not only looking to avenge their first loss to the Wolverines since 2011 but to restore its reputation as a tough and physical team after being called “a finesse team” — read: soft — by former Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis last year.

Cohen: It’s hard to look beyond the health of Corum after he dropped out of last week’s win over Illinois with an apparent knee injury. Corum ranks fifth nationally in rushing with 1,457 yards and is tied for second in rushing touchdowns with 18. For as good as the Wolverines’ offensive line has been in earning a second consecutive nomination for the Joe Moore Award, it’s Corum’s blend of sorcerous jump cuts and lightning-strike acceleration that provide the requisite pop. There are only six tailbacks in college football with more 40-yard runs than Corum (four) this season.

In a broader sense, whatever success Michigan has running the ball against Ohio State — or, conversely, a potential lack thereof — will shed some light on whether Buckeyes’ head coach Ryan Day succeeded in closing the toughness gap between the two programs after last year’s walloping in the trenches. All season, Day has spoken about the manner of his team’s loss at Michigan Stadium hovering over the program like a dark cloud. Can Ohio State respond by winning at the line of scrimmage?

The Game: Ohio State, Michigan to square off

RJ Young is joined by Geoff Schwartz to preview the biggest game of the college football season.

What are you curious to see in No. 12 Oregon at No. 23 Oregon State (3:30 p.m. ET)?

Cohen: Oregon’s hard-fought, 20-17 win over then-No. 10 Utah last week put head coach Dan Lanning’s team in the driver’s seat for a potential berth in the Pac-12 title game. The Ducks and the Trojans from USC are the only Pac-12 schools with a single conference loss this season and appear destined to meet for the league’s championship in Las Vegas next weekend. The two programs did not play each other in the regular season.

The final hurdle between Oregon and a trip to Las Vegas is an improving Oregon State squad led by fifth-year head coach Jonathan Smith. The Beavers’ 8-3 record this season already represents their highest win total since finishing 9-4 in 2012 under former head coach Mike Riley. Oregon State has beaten its in-state rival just twice in the last 14 years and has only notched 11 wins in the series since 1975. The Ducks maintain a commanding all-time lead of 67-48-10 since the game was first played in 1894. 

Young: Oregon State can inch closer to securing its first 10-win season since 2006 with a win against their in-state rival.

For Jonathan Smith and the Beavers, a win here would be pivotal in positioning them for a great season in 2023 and set them up as a force to be reckoned with in the new Pac-12 — Pac-10 again? — in the years after USC and UCLA depart.

For the Ducks, it’s about getting to the Pac-12 title game against USC. But that is only a certainty if Oregon beats Oregon State.

What’s worth watching in Iowa State at No. 4 TCU (4 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)?

Young: The Horned Frogs can’t afford a letdown here if they want to keep their hopes of playing for a national title alive. They must be perfect.

To do that, though, the Horned Frogs have to beat the worst team in the Big 12 in Cyclones, who also happened to beat perhaps the best team in the Big Ten West in Iowa.

I expect a slobber knocker.

Cohen: Much like Michigan will be racing against the clock to get Corum and backup tailback Donovan Edwards healthy in time for kickoff, TCU is monitoring the status of its star running back, Kendre Miller, as well as standout wide receiver Quentin Johnston — both of whom dropped out of last week’s come-from-behind, last-second win over Baylor

Head coach Sonny Dykes said Miller absorbed a powerful hit in the third quarter and was removed from the game for what sounded like precautionary reasons “to make sure he was in good shape.” But Dykes also revealed that Miller, who has rushed for 1,188 yards and 14 touchdowns, is dealing with more than one injury concern.

Johnston’s situation sounded a bit more serious when Dykes was asked about it earlier this week. The focal point of TCU’s passing game has battled injuries for the better part of a month, Dykes said, and generally only practices in the last couple of days of a…



Read More: Michigan vs. Ohio State, USC vs. Notre Dame, more we’re watching in Week 13

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