Bleacher Report’s Expert College Football Predictions for Week 13

Bleacher Report's Expert College Football Predictions for Week 13

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Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett

Rivalry week is here, and it should be one to remember.

Ohio State and Michigan will square off in Columbus in a game with massive College Football Playoff implications. Top-ranked Alabama will look to polish off an unblemished regular season in the Iron Bowl against Auburn, and the Apple Cup between Washington State and Washington will decide the Pac-12 North on Friday afternoon.

Who will emerge from rivalry week victorious?

Experts Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee, Christopher Walsh, Greg Couch and Michael Felder break it down in this week’s edition of expert picks.

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Does Coach O Go Out on Top at LSU and Beat Texas A&M?

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LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron

Adam Kramer

Let me first say that this game somehow feels perfectly made for Thanksgiving, and I look forward to watching it in a food and wine coma. Thank you, scheduling gods.

Second, yes, I believe Ed Orgeron gets a win in what will likely be his final game at LSU—at least as a head coach. I think it will be close and a great deal of fun, but I’ll predict the Tigers edge out a win and respond by carrying Orgeron off the field. 

It likely won’t be enough for him to land the gig full time. Not impossible, but not likely. But for one final night, Coach O will get to savor this one.


Barrett Sallee

Scroll down to Felder’s section for a well-deserved victory lap for he and I successfully pegging LSU as a mess this year.

For this game…it will still be a mess. The loss to Florida took everything out of the Tigers both physically and emotionally. Physically, they were whipped at the line of scrimmage in the second half, and they now have a short turnaround to prepare for an Aggie team that sleepwalked through the UTSA game. Emotionally, the ups and downs of the tumultuous season have to be wearing on them after coming up one yard short in a rivalry game last week.

Texas A&M is beat up as well, but the Aggies will be the first team all year to have a reasonable amount of success against LSU’s defense thanks to its stud receiving corps. That’ll force Tiger quarterback Danny Etling to win a game with his arm, which will not happen.

Coach O will lose his final two, miss out on the full-time job and wait around to see if the new guy keeps him on staff.


Christopher Walsh

It’s a shame that Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight is out for this game, because I’d like to see how he’d do against the Tigers defense. I want to pick LSU because Texas A&M is 75th in the nation against the run, but I’m going with the Aggies. They’re home on Thanksgiving, and this is going to be the fifth straight ranked opponent for LSU, which is coming off the emotional loss to Florida. I’m expecting a tired team that isn’t playing for much. 


Greg Couch

Starting off with a tough one. Late-season games like this and small bowl games are usually about what the teams are playing for and what’s their state of mind. Both of these teams have to feel deflated and defeated. A&M was rolling, then lost to Alabama, then crashed off the side of the road. LSU’s players probably felt as though they could keep Orgeron as their coach—they never could—until last week’s late loss to Florida. I’m going with Coach O finding a way to get his team to play hard one last time. LSU wins.


Michael Felder

How precious is it that “go out on top at LSU” would mean getting to 7-4 by beating an 8-3 Texas A&M squad? Seems like not long ago Barrett (8-4) and I (7-5) were getting called idiots for not putting LSU as a sure thing into the playoffs. In this spot, after going 0-for-Mississippi, I think the Aggies are ripe for the taking. LSU will get its seventh win, the Aggies finish on a four-game SEC losing streak and—in the grand scheme of things—neither team will be thrilled with 2016.

Does Auburn Have Any Shot to Upset Alabama in the Iron Bowl?

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Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson


I am done saying never in this sport. I certainly wouldn’t say never about this. We saw someone run back a missed field goal for a game-winning touchdown as time expired in 2013. Weird [expletive deleted] can happen in games such as these.

That being said, this would be a tremendous upset. A month ago, it looked plenty feasible. Now, especially with Auburn’s injuries, it’s a lot to ask.

Sure, Alabama didn’t look great last Saturday. In a weird way, though, that’s almost better for the team and certainly head coach Nick Saban from a motivational standpoint. The Crimson Tide will be fine.

Can it happen? Certainly. Does it feel likely? Not particularly, no.



Yeah, Auburn has a shot. In fact, I’ll go even further and say that Auburn will have the ball in the fourth with a chance to tie or take the lead.

Defense travels, and Auburn’s defense has been rock-solid for much of the season. Conversely, Alabama’s offensive line got banged up a bit last week against Chattanooga, when tackle Cam Robinson and guard Korren Kirven both left early with shoulder injuries. It’s hard enough to hold off Auburn end Carl Lawson and tackle Montravius Adams at full strength. Doing it at less than full strength will be even more difficult.

It will come down to Auburn’s offense. Can it consistently move the chains and/or can the offense hit enough big plays? I say no, but the opportunities will be there.



Of course it does. This is arguably the biggest football rivalry in the nation, and anything can happen in the Iron Bowl (see: the “Kick Six”). Though Alabama has already clinched the SEC West title, it won’t be looking past Auburn. Even if the Tigers were at full strength—and they clearly aren’t—Alabama has too many playmakers on both sides of the ball. Defensively, it ranks first nationally against the run, second in total and scoring defense and ninth in passing-efficiency defense. 



Absolutely. Alabama only seems to be a robot. Every major team in the country this year has proven to be fallible at some point. This could easily be Alabama’s week against Auburn. Alabama’s offense might not be able to run up a ton of points on this defense. The problem is that Alabama’s defense will score. Take Alabama to win, but Auburn has a shot.



Sure, the Tigers have a shot. But it isn’t going to happen. Whether Sean White can go or they have to use Jeremy Johnson with a side of John Franklin III, Auburn is going to lose. This offense got cooking for a minute and I started to buy into Auburn for a bit but, alas, I do not see a victory in the cards for the Tigers. That said, even in a losing effort, I’m excited to see their defensive line push for some success against the Crimson Tide.

Will Ohio State Beat Michigan?

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Michigan RB De’Veon Smith


Yes, but I am not oozing with confidence. Given the defenses of these two teams, this could very well be a low-scoring, ugly (the good kind of ugly) game that comes down to a turnover or special teams. 

Or not. It’s hard to know how good these teams are compared to one another, although I feel slightly more confident in Ohio State’s offense than I do with Michigan—especially with the change at quarterback.

I believe that J.T. Barrett, Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber make a few more plays. If that indeed happens, let the playoff curiosity commence.



Give me the Buckeyes, and give ’em to me by 10. 

That’s not to say this game won’t be close. It probably will be. But the Buckeye defense will come up with a clutch stop or turnover late in the fourth, giving Barrett the chance to put the icing on the cake late in a battle between two college football powers.

Read on to find out if it’ll be enough to send Urban Meyer‘s crew to the Big Ten title game.



Even though the College Football Playoff selection committee ranked Ohio State and Michigan second and third last week, respectively, neither was overly impressive over the weekend while pulling off a narrow win. Regardless, a ton will be on the line here, as Michigan can clinch a spot in the Big Ten title game with a victory, while Penn State has the tiebreaker over Ohio State. Both teams have top-rated defenses, so a low-scoring game seems likely. The difference could be the quarterbacks. Barrett passed for only 86 yards last week against Michigan State, but he ran for 105. That might be enough for Ohio State to pull out a close win.



Yes. Michigan is back and Michigan is great and all that other stuff about Jim Harbaugh. But this team looks ready to fall more so than to beat Ohio State and then Wisconsin. It’s great for the rivalry, though, that this is a fair fight again. Ohio State by 10.



Coming into 2016, I thought this would be a matchup of undefeated teams where Ohio State would make one extra play to give it the victory over the Wolverines. Now, while both team’s records have a blemish, I’m predicting the same result. Ohio State, with one extra play, gets the job done to claim the victory. We’re going to get a good game out of both teams, but I’m giving the slightest of edges to the Buckeyes.

Who Takes the Pac-12 North Title in the Apple Cup?

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Washington QB Jake Browning


The Apple Cup has always been one of my favorite football traditions, even during the lean years when it didn’t mean much beyond immense pride for both.

This year, that is not the case. The playoff, the conference and immense pride could be up for grabs. And I believe Washington will win a thriller.

I don’t view the loss against USC as an anomaly. Washington got beat by a better team. And while I have a great deal of respect for Wazzu and Luke Falk—who is a magician with the football—the Huskies are the more complete team. They’re beat up, but they’ll get by in a thriller.

This is going to be so much fun. Be sure to watch this one.



Give me the Huskies, and give ’em to me big.

Nothing against Washington State. It’s been a stellar season, and head coach Mike Leach should be recognized for it. But Washington’s offense is too tough to stop consistently. 

There will be points—lots of them—in this year’s edition of the Apple Cup. But the beat-up Husky defense will rise up with a couple of key stops, allowing the offense to run and hide in the fourth quarter. 



Washington is coming off a 44-18 victory against lackluster Arizona State, while Washington State fell short during its showdown with Colorado, 38-24. The Huskies are favored to win the Apple Cup for a fourth straight year, but this one might mean more than the previous three combined. Washington’s defense hasn’t been the same since pass-rusher Joe Mathis (foot) was lost for the regular season, and now linebacker Azeem Victor (leg) is out as well, meaning this has shootout written all over it. I’m going with Jake Browning and the Huskies by a field goal.  



I feel as if I pick Washington wrong pretty much every week. So bad news for Huskies fans: I’m taking Washington. The Huskies still feel like the class of the league. But Washington State feels like the working class. Maybe that’s all it takes—a willingness to stand there in front of Washington to see how strong the Pac-12 bully really is. Washington, 27-24.



Washington is going to get the win. I love what Leach was able to do in spots against Colorado to create space using a couple troublesome route combinations. I expect he’ll work in some of those same looks against the Huskies, but, much like against the Buffs, the better team will win over the course of 60 minutes. The Apple Cup mattering to the Pac-12 North race is the real, actual win here.

Can Penn State Close Strong with a Win over Michigan State?

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Penn State QB Trace McSorley


Like many games this week, I get a sense that this will not be easy. But yes, Penn State will deliver one final win. And by the time it does, it will know exactly what that means depending on what happens in Ohio State-Michigan.

Saquon Barkley should have more of a say in the Heisman conversation than he does right now, and I believe he’ll get some of that this week. I’m also curious how Michigan State responds after nearly pulling off the upset against Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions win. Before they win, they watch and hope.



Nope. In fact, this is the spot where Team Chaos will show up this week, as Michigan State will spring the upset and clean up what could be a mess for the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Even without Malik McDowell last week, the Spartans were up to the challenge of Ohio State, and they’ll have a similar performance against head coach James Franklin’s crew. Sparty will force two key turnovers, running back LJ Scott will have a big day and Michigan State will upset Penn State, sending Ohio State to the Big Ten title game.



It bears watching how Penn State reacts to the outcome of Michigan-Ohio State, which has an earlier kickoff. Regardless, Franklin didn’t take any chances, asking students to get back early from Thanksgiving break to support the team in person. Michigan State played Ohio State tough at home last week, but it likely won’t match that effort on the road. Penn State often seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, struggling in the first half and then getting into a rhythm. It’ll pull away late for the home victory.



Penn State keeps getting better and better. Michigan State has been a nightmare all year, even though it almost took down Ohio State last week. These two teams somehow traded places in the conference this year. Penn State gets another big win and heads to the Big Ten title game.



They can, but I’m going to go ahead and pick the Spartans to turn this upset. A week ago, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio’s team was super close to getting a win at home against Ohio State, but it just couldn’t push that two-point play across or get into field-goal range to end the day. Penn State has surged to finish the season, but so have the Spartans with an infusion of youth in critical spots. With no bowl game on the horizon, this game is it for those young players. I am casting my lot with the young guys on both sides of the ball for Michigan State.

Who Will Secure the Pac-12 South Title, Colorado or USC?

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Colorado RB Phillip Lindsay


USC has become one of the best stories in college football, but Colorado will secure the title with a win at home over Utah.

Seriously, why aren’t we talking about Colorado more? Because it doesn’t have an overpowering star? Can we all agree to change this?

A win here will go a long way in doing that, and I believe Colorado gets it done. And not to get ahead of myself, but there is a real possibility Colorado makes the playoff. It’s no sure thing, but it’s something you should mentally prepare for just in case.



Run Ralphie Run…all the way to Santa Clara and the Pac-12 title game.

Utah’s defense won’t be up to the challenge of the threat created by Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau and running back Phillip Lindsay. Similar to last week, this will be a fun game with the Buffs pulling away late to clinch their first Pac-12 South title.

USC will destroy Notre Dame to go out on a high note, but it will miss out on the Pac-12 title game.



I like both teams to win this week, so my answer is Colorado. Notre Dame has already secured a losing season and USC might be the best team it’s seen all year. Colorado is coming off a big win against Washington State, where Liufau passed for 345 yards and ran for 108 and three touchdowns. Utah will be a much tougher test, but Colorado will play with purpose. 



Have to go with Colorado here. The Buffs defense has been great for much of the year, and Liufau has found a way to move like crazy despite Colorado’s subpar blocking. Maybe the blocking, and the whole team, is getting better each week. Colorado still has a shot at the playoff, as long as Michigan beats Ohio State. USC is playing like a power again, but the Buffs have to lose to Utah for the Trojans to have a chance. Not happening. Buffs win.



USC’s hay is already in the barn. All it can do is watch and see what happens, hoping for a tie where it holds the head-to-head advantage over the Buffaloes. Colorado has a date with a tough Utah team coming off a disappointing loss to Oregon. The game is in Boulder, and that place should be rocking for the Buffs to beat the Utes. Ralphie’s rise is real, they get to the Pac-12 title game and we see double-digit wins by a Colorado team for the first time since 2001.

Can Wisconsin Polish Off the Big Ten West vs. Minnesota?

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Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook


Yes. It’s worth noting that Minnesota might be the least discussed eight-win team in Power Five history, although a lot of that has to do with the schedule.

Still, this is a decent team with a quality defense that should be able to hang with Bucky for a while. Ultimately, however, Wisconsin is slightly better in almost every phase of the game.

Playing in Madison doesn’t hurt, either. Heads-up, playoff committee.



Yes, and it will be because of its defense.

We all saw T.J. Watt’s ridiculous pick-six last week. But Wisconsin’s defense has been solid all year by getting pressure with four (or five) and giving the back end plenty of chances for success.

The defense will throttle Minnesota, quarterback Alex Hornibrook will do enough through the air and the Badgers will move on to the Big Ten title game.



I grew up in Minnesota and even took a couple of classes at the University of Minnesota, so it pains me to make this pick. The Gophers have had a good season but haven’t won Paul Bunyan’s Axe (which is an awesome trophy, even though I always fear someone is going to get hurt retrieving it) since 2003. Moreover, the game is in Madison, and the Badgers are playing for a spot in the Big Ten title game. There are just too many factors favoring the home team. 



Does anyone realize that Wisconsin is in the top six and in perfect position to reach the playoff? I like the Badgers’ chances of getting to the final four more than any other Big Ten team’s chances. No one—other than Alabama—is playing better than these guys. Badgers roll.



It is remarkable that Wisconsin is this good but is still sitting one loss away from watching Nebraska, with a win over Iowa, steal its Big Ten West spot. The Badgers know what is on the table, and I expect them to come out focused and handle their business against the Golden Gophers. This is a Wisconsin team that I fully expect to come out of the other side of this game staring down the likes of Michigan, Ohio State or possibly Penn State, knowing that it can win that game.