The end of the college football regular season has arrived for 126 teams. Cal and USC play next week, and the Army-Navy game will be Dec. 14. Otherwise, this is it for the regular season. Some teams will play in conference championship games and then move on to a bowl game.
For a lot of players, this will be their last meaningful football game. With that in mind, along with all the bowl, conference and College Football Playoff considerations, you could argue that every game is a situational spot in Week 13.
Coaches are on the hot seat or already gone. Players are trying to get noticed by scouts and improve their draft stock. Some teams have even quit as a whole, though individuals on those teams will still play hard. You really have to do a lot of thinking and analyzing every week in this sport, but Week 13 takes it up a few notches.
I’ll focus on some of the bigger ones this week, and then we’ll cover some different college football topics through the bowl season. Hopefully it has helped you narrow down the card and look at some games in a different light. Hopefully it has also helped you cash some tickets.
One final time, here are some situational spots to consider for Week 13.
This is obviously the biggest one, and this is the week in which you are likely to pay a little bit of a premium on teams with five wins. It can fall through the cracks in other weeks, but not this one.
Here are the teams with five wins going into this week, excluding Tuesday MACtion: Memphis, Tulsa, Florida State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, TCU, West Virginia, Maryland, Rutgers, Charlotte, FAU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion, Hawaii, San Jose State, Florida, LSU, South Alabama and Troy.
Of those teams, Virginia Tech, TCU, Florida, LSU and Troy have already let their head coaches go or, in LSU’s case, will let him go at the end of the season.
Of those teams, eight play against each other: Rutgers vs. Maryland (-1.5), MTSU vs. FAU (-3.5), Charlotte vs. Old Dominion (-10) and Florida State vs. Florida (-2).
Bowl-eliminator games are always intriguing handicaps. In this case, the only team in a bad spot looks to be Florida after the firing of Dan Mullen. Otherwise, we should get max efforts across the board.
UTEP at UAB (-13.5, 49.5)
UTEP will be going bowling for the first time since 2014. It is worth noting that UTEP has not won a bowl game since 1967, a nugget sure to be in our College Football Bowl Betting Guide to be released in about 2 1/2 weeks. The Miners are 7-4 and haven’t won eight games since 2005. If they win here and win the bowl game, they’ll get nine wins for the first time since winning 10 games in 1988.
OK, so the cart is going before the horse here with a 13.5-point underdog, but this is a program with nine combined wins over the last five seasons. Meanwhile, UAB, which lost to UTSA in devastating fashion last week, will not play for the Conference USA title for the first time since 2017. That is UAB’s annual goal, and it is now unattainable.
Bill Clark is an excellent coach, but this is a terrible spot for UAB in a game that now has very little meaning because UTSA went 77 yards in seven plays to score the game-winning touchdown on a play that featured a dropped snap and a tipped ball. I’m not sure how UAB bounces back, and I like UTEP plus the points.
Texas Tech at No. 9 Baylor (-14.5, 52)
This game is what I’d call sneakily fascinating. Let’s run through the moving parts. Texas Tech was shut out last week for the first time since 1997, so that was an embarrassing performance from the Red Raiders and one from which they’d like to bounce back.
New Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire was actually Dave Aranda’s associate head coach and outside linebackers coach at Baylor until he took the Texas Tech job in November. Interim Sonny Cumbie is still the head coach, but McGuire is certainly involved.
McGuire is said to be an outstanding recruiter and had a hand in getting a lot of the current Baylor players to the school. He’s also in the process of looking to poach assistants to fill out his coaching staff, so that adds intrigue.
Also on the coaching front, Aranda is a very hot name, possibly to return to LSU, where he was the defensive coordinator and associate head coach from 2016-19. Baylor has to play through that distraction. The Bears have a shot to get to the Big 12 championship game as well. They need a win and an Oklahoma loss to Oklahoma State. The Baylor game is at noon EST and Bedlam is at 7:30 p.m., so the Bears will have a lot to think about as the day goes along.
Oh, and to top it all off, Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon is questionable with a hamstring injury he suffered last week.
I actually like this spot for Texas Tech and think McGuire will end up with a ton of input against a roster he knows inside and out.
No. 19 Houston (-32.5, 56) at UConn
Can anything help UConn at this point? Probably not, but you know Houston is absolutely looking past the Huskies in advance of next week’s huge AAC championship game against Cincinnati. (And we could argue the Bearcats are doing the same against East Carolina.)
UConn seems content to have one win over Yale, as the last three weeks against MTSU, Clemson and UCF have resulted in losses by 31, 37 and 32 points. Houston could sleepwalk through this game and probably win by a substantial margin. However, it still merits a mention because this won’t be the only lookahead spot of the week. It is just one of the most obvious, especially because this isn’t a rivalry game to stay focused.
Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana (-22, 54.5)
This one is a rivalry game, but Louisiana will be extremely tough to back this week. Coach Billy Napier is the subject of all sorts of rumors, as his Ragin’ Cajuns have the only perfect conference record in Sun Belt action and are riding a 10-game winning streak.
They’ll get a crack at Appalachian State with double revenge after losing the Sun Belt championship game in 2018 and ’19 to the Mountaineers. In the two head-to-head meetings since, Louisiana has won 24-21 and 41-13. The Ragin’ Cajuns got robbed of a chance to play Coastal Carolina for the conference title last year because of COVID-19, so they have won the West Division three times and have zero conference titles to show for it.
How does a team like that stay focused on the task at hand as a three-touchdown favorite this week? That’s the big question, especially against a Warhawks team that has two big upset wins over Troy (+ 23.5) and Liberty (+ 32.5). The spot absolutely favors the upset-minded Warhawks.
Oregon State at No. 11 Oregon (-7, 61)
Oregon had its College Football Playoff hopes ended by Utah last week. Mario Cristobal’s team will be tasked with attempting to bounce back in what used to be known as the Civil War rivalry game against Oregon State.
This is a revenge spot for the Ducks, who lost for just the second time since 2007 to the Beavers. We also have some messy tiebreakers here for a spot in Las Vegas against Utah on Dec. 3 in the Pac-12 championship game. With a win, Oregon is in and will be in the ultimate revenge spot against the Utes. An Oregon State win would mean Washington State would go if the Cougars beat Washington in the Apple Cup. Oregon State needs a win and a Wazzu loss to go to Sin City.
The Beavers have some strange losses this season but have played extremely well the last two weeks. You would think the spot favors them, but Oregon may also circle the wagons and let out some frustration given last week’s loss and last year’s defeat at the hands of Oregon State. The bubble-burst theory may not be as effective in rivalry games.
Florida International at Southern Miss (-10.5, 45.5)
Imagine sitting in the risk room at the sportsbook thinking about how to line this game. Southern Miss is a 2-9 team that has scored 108 points in seven conference games. FIU is a 1-10 team that has scored 114 points in seven conference games but has clearly quit on the season. The Golden Eagles won last week and scored 35 points, but it was a misleading box score.
It is just outlandish to see a 2-9 team listed as a double-digit favorite, yet it appears wholly justified. FIU has been outscored 184-41 in the last four games. Butch Davis added fuel to a raging inferno with his recent comments about the state of the program, and this will be his last game as the coach. It seems like the players played their last game weeks ago.
But this is an example, albeit an extreme one, of what we can get late in the regular season. You could give me $10,000 to bet on FIU risk-free and I’d probably tell you to keep your money.
Clemson (-11.5, 43) at South Carolina
We finish with a rivalry near and dear to my heart. The Palmetto Bowl isn’t Ohio State vs. That Team Up North for this Cleveland native, but I’ve grown to love this game due to my wife, who grew up just outside Columbia. While my premier rivalry interest has gone quite well, this one has not.
Clemson has won six in a row, and five have not been close. The teams did not play last season for the first time since 1908. The reinvigorated South Carolina program still lacks the talent of Clemson’s well-established juggernaut, but the Gamecocks play extremely hard for Shane Beamer and it has been a very successful first season.
Last week South Carolina achieved bowl eligibility for the first time in three seasons. This was a 2-8 football team last year, and Beamer and the players were very emotional after the game. Usually I’d be very concerned about a spot like that, but the program seems much different under Beamer.
A Clemson victory would tie for the longest winning streak in the series, which belonged to the Tigers from 1934-40, a mark they undoubtedly would have tied last season had the game been played. It hasn’t been a great season for Clemson, but a statement win here would ease the blow.
I expect a whale of an effort from both teams, and sometimes having both teams on equal footing is a situational spot in and of itself.