Week 13 has two games between ranked teams with massive College Football Playoff implications.
The first is the top-10 matchup between No. 9 Penn State and No. 2 Ohio State: The winner of that game will likely represent the Big Ten East in the conference championship game and take the driver’s seat for Playoff consideration. The other is the top-25 matchup between No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 4 Georgia: If the Aggies upset the Bulldogs in Athens, it will knock them clean out of Playoff contention.
Other notable games to watch this week include the AAC matchup between Navy and SMU, as well as the ACC matchup between Pitt and Virginia Tech. Baylor-Texas will be worth monitoring, as well.
We at Sporting News are 74-15 through 12 weeks this season, coming off another strong performance in which we went 7-1 in our picks. With that, SN’s’ Week 13 college football picks (lines provided courtesy of Sportsbook Review as if 4 p.m. ET on Monday, Nov. 18):
No. 6 Oregon (-14.5) at Arizona State
All that stands between Oregon and a one-loss Pac-12 championship game berth is two .500 teams. The first of those opponents is Arizona State, which has split its last two meetings with the Ducks in single-possession games. This game has no bearing on the Pac-12 divisional races, but Herm Edwards’ team will come into this game ready to play spoiler. They hang around for a quarter or two before Justin Herbert wills Oregon to a win in Tempe.
Pick: Oregon 31, Arizona State 20
No. 21 SMU at Navy (-4)
This game is of vital importance to the American Athletic Conference championship game. Assuming the winner of SMU-Navy wins its next game (against Tulane and Houston, respectively), they could conceivably make the AAC championship if Memphis loses to Cincinnati on Nov. 29. The Midshipmen lead the country in rushing (349 yards per game) by way of their triple-option attack, while SMU ranks 30th in rush defense (124 ypg). It will be close, but the backfield duo of Shane Buechele (3,195 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, eight interceptions) and Xavier Jones (1,063 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns) should lead the Mustangs to a hard-fought win.
Pick: SMU 35, Navy 34
UCLA at USC (-13.5)
This rivalry game means little in the grand scheme of things, both in the Pac-12 and larger national football landscape, but it is a curious game considering the implications for Trojans coach Clay Helton. The fifth-year USC coach has been on the hot seat for most of the season, and there’s no guarantee a win against the 4-6 Bruins will be enough to secure his return for the 2020 season. USC’s Kedon Slovis and UCLA’s Dylan Thompson-Robinson should both put up big numbers, but look for the overall-better Trojans to come away with a win.
Pick: USC 33, UCLA 27
No. 12 Michigan (-8.5) at Indiana
Michigan can’t afford to look ahead to “The Game” next week — not with this 7-3 Indiana team. The Hoosiers have lost 23 straight in this series, but have played the Wolverines to one-possession games in three of their last four trips to Bloomington. Indiana backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey stepped right into injured Michael Penix Jr.’s shoes against Penn State last week, completing 31 of 41 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown. Michigan would rather its defense keep him off balance for the entirety of this game, but the progression of Shea Patterson the last three weeks (43 of 67 passing, 635 yards, seven touchdowns, zero interceptions) bodes well if this game stays close late. We guess the Wolverines will pull away midway through the fourth quarter.
Pick: Michigan 30, Indiana 21
Pitt at No. 25 Virginia Tech (-4)
This game, coupled with next week’s rivalry matchup between Virginia and Virginia Tech, will likely decide which team faces Clemson in the ACC championship game. If Pitt wins out and Virginia Tech beats Virginia next week, the Panthers will play the Tigers in Charlotte, N.C. for the ACC title. If the Hokies win out, they’ll get that honor. This game could pivot on Kenny Pickett’s ball security: Pitt is 4-1 in games in which he doesn’t register an interception, and 2-2 in games he does. The Hokies have 12 interceptions on the season as a team, including three players (Caleb Farley, Dax Hollifield and Jermaine Waller) with at least three picks. The Hokies get at least one takeaway in a close win.
Pick: Virginia Tech 27, Pitt 23
Texas at No. 13 Baylor (-5)
A Baylor win will ensure the Bears rematch with Oklahoma for a chance at the Big 12 championship, but Baylor may have bigger things in mind: Matt Rhule and Co. still have an outside chance at becoming the No. 4 seed in the Playoff assuming Baylor wins out and avenges its only loss of the season. That might be too tall an order, but Rhule will have his team ready to play after the heartbreaking loss to the Sooners, who overcame a 25-point deficit to upend the Bears. That said, Texas hasn’t scored more than 27 points in four of its last five games (the one exception a 50-48 win over Kansas). That doesn’t bode well against a Bears defense that has given up 22.6 points per game in Big 12 play this season. Baylor rights the ship before moving on to Kansas and a rematch with Oklahoma.
Pick: Baylor 31, Texas 27
No. 24 Texas A&M at No. 4 Georgia (-13.5)
Texas A&M represent what is likely the last true regular-season road block between Georgia and a College Football Playoff berth. The Aggies have won their last four games with a plus-81 win differential, while Georgia has had to slog through one-possession victories over Auburn and Florida (sandwiched around a 27-0 win over Missouri). The Bulldogs have gotten by on the strength of their defense this season, allowing only South Carolina to score more than 17 points this season (20). The challenge for them will be to limit Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond, whose dual-threat ability can cause headaches for Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. Mond will make a few plays, but look for Jake Fromm to continue playing mistake-free football (he hasn’t thrown an interception in over a month) in another Georgia win.
Pick: Georgia 30, Texas A&M 20
No. 9 Penn State at No. 2 Ohio State (-18.5)
Penn State represents the first of a three-game gauntlet separating Ohio State from its first Playoff berth since 2016. The Buckeyes will be happy to have Chase Young back along the defensive line. He should be a huge disruptor in Penn State’s backfield, not only for Sean Clifford’s ability to target KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth, but also running back Journey Brown’s ability to make positive gains. Conversely, Shake Toney and Yetur Gross-Matos will look to make life miserable for Justin Fields. This game will be closer than the -point spread, but Field’s dual-threat ability, coupled with the running prowess of J.K. Dobbins, should be enough for Ohio State to keep Penn State at arm’s length on Saturday.
Pick: Ohio State 38, Penn State 24