Week 13 of the college football season features the huge showdown in the Big Ten East that will affect the College Football Playoff rankings.
No. 2 Ohio State meets No. 8 Penn State at noon at Ohio Stadium in a pivotal showdown that should determine who represents the Big Ten East in the conference championship game Dec. 7. No. 4 Georgia will look to pad its resume against Texas A&M.
Every week, Sporting News will survey the landscape looking for Heisman contenders, coaches on the spot, upset alerts and other trends. With that in mind, get ready for Week 13:
A month ago, it was easy to pin-point Ohio State’s best bet to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. It was Chase Young, but the defensive end’s Heisman hopes took a hit with a two-game suspension which he returns from this week against the Nittany Lions.
Young, who leads the FBS with 13.5 sacks, could still make a run if he goes on a tear against Penn State and Michigan before the Big Ten championship game, but those other two offensive players could make a run.
Justin Fields has accounted for 41 total TDs and 246 points this season, just two points behind LSU’s Joe Burrow and 14 points behind Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. Fields has done all that with just one interception. He’s the better right now.
Don’t rule out J.K. Dobbins either, who ranks fifth in the FBS with 1,289 rushing yards. He averages 7.0 yards per carry with 13 TDs. Dobbins would be the least likely of the three, but he has the same big stage to work with.
Coach on the spot
Texas A&M clawed its way back into the AP Top 25, and at 7-3 the Aggies have a chance over the next two weeks to play spoiler at No. 4 Georgia and No. 1 LSU.
It’s an interesting two-week spot for second-year coach Jimbo Fisher, who at some point will be expected to break through against the best teams in the conference. That comes with the territory of a $7.5 million contract.
So far, Fisher is 1-5 against top-10 teams, and the Aggies have won one in seven overtimes and lost the other five by an average of 13 points per game. You could give Texas A&M the benefit of the doubt knowing those losses were to Clemson (twice), Alabama (twice) and Auburn, but Fisher was brought in to change that. The biggest question is whether they can get a split.
Otherwise, Texas A&M will just be a good 7-5 team.
What would that make Texas? Yeah, we picked Texas to make the College Football Playoff this year, and that looks bad after the Longhorns suffered their fourth loss of the season in a 23-21 loss at Iowa State in Week 12.
Yet we took still took Texas to beat Baylor in an upset this week. In fact, we’ve picked the Longhorns in nine of 10 games this season. It is inherently difficult to unhook from the Horns, even when they have lost four one-score games this season.
That is the hurdle Tom Herman must clear with this team. Texas has 14 losses the last three seasons, and 11 of those losses were one-score games. This would be a chance to break that string – or the Longhorns would just be a good 7-5 teams.
Perhaps Texas and Texas A&M can settle that in a bowl game.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury against Mississippi State, and the general belief is that was probably his last snap at the college level.
Tagovailoa would finish his career with a national championship and as a Heisman runner up in 2018, but his legacy is more than that. He would have to be considered the efficient college football quarterback of all time. He has 7,442 yards, 87 TDs and 11 interceptions with a 69.3 completion percentage.
But it’s the 199.4 passer rating that sticks out most. That’s more than 20 points better than the current leader. Sam Bradford (175.6), Baker Mayfield (175.4), Marcus Mariota (171.8) and Tim Tebow (170.8) are the only ones to finish higher than 170.
Let’s hope that doesn’t get lost when Sporting News releases the top 10 all-time players for the 200th anniversary of college football in 2069.
Think about it …
Two more things about Ohio State that could only be true in the College Football Playoff era …
You could make a strong argument that next week’s installment of The Game against Michigan is the least-important of the potential games left on their schedule. The Buckeyes need to beat Penn State to get to the Big Ten championship game, and likely need win the conference championship to wrap up their spot in the CFP. Ohio State could lose to Michigan and still get in the Playoff.
Don’t believe it? Ask Alabama how it felt to lose the Iron Bowl and win the national championship in 2017.
The other one? Ohio State leads the FBS in scoring offense (51.5) and scoring defense (9.8) and is beating teams by more than 40 points per game. They might be the No. 2 seed behind LSU and nobody outside of Columbus will think twice about it.
You created this Playoff, and you want more teams.
Keep in mind more scenarios like this would come with it.