Every week throughout the season we’ll give you a college football viewing guide by highlighting the five best games of the coming weekend. We will also pick those five games against the spread, plus some other matchups that caught our eye from a betting perspective.
Only one game in Week 13 will unquestionably have an impact on the College Football Playoff race. But there is always room for upsets.
The main game comes in the noon window when No. 2 Ohio State hosts No. 8 Penn State in a game that will almost certainly decide the Big Ten East. The undefeated Buckeyes are in the driver’s seat for a CFP berth, while the one-loss Nittany Lions need to pull off the upset to realistically get back in the mix.
And while No. 1 LSU (vs. Arkansas) and No. 3 Clemson (idle) will stay near the top of the rankings, No. 4 Georgia could face a challenge from Texas A&M. Later in the day, No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah have road Pac-12 games in the state of Arizona: Oregon faces Arizona State (5-5) while the Utes head to Arizona (4-6).
But your day shouldn’t revolve solely around the CFP contenders. The 3:30 p.m. ET window is stacked. We’ve highlighted a few of those games below, but have your remote controls handy. Other games worth keeping your eye on include Michigan vs. Indiana, Pittsburgh vs. Virginia Tech in a crucial ACC Coastal matchup, and UCLA vs. USC in what could be coach Clay Helton’s final game with the Trojans.
(Note: All times ET, point spreads from betMGM)
5. Texas at No. 14 Baylor
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: FS1 | Line: Baylor -5.5
Baylor suffered its first loss of the year in heartbreaking fashion last week. The Bears jumped out to a 28-3 lead over Oklahoma, but allowed the Sooners to storm all the way back and win with a field goal in the final minutes. Had they beaten OU, the Bears would have been in a position to make a significant rise in the College Football Playoff rankings. Instead, BU dropped down to No. 14 and its CFP chances took a big hit. Still, Baylor can clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game on Saturday at home against Texas, a team it has not beaten since 2014.
Texas has to be considered one of the most disappointing teams in the country. Expectations were sky-high in Austin when the season began, but the Longhorns dropped to 6-4 with a road loss to Iowa State last week. Texas fans can live with close losses to LSU and Oklahoma, but losses to TCU and Iowa State have resulted in major discontent with coach Tom Herman. Last weekend in Ames, the Longhorns had a total of 54 yards on their first six drives of the game before finally getting on the board just before halftime. To make matters worse, the Cyclones were able to win the game on a last-second field goal, but only after a Texas offsides penalty gave them a first down and allowed them to run the clock down.
Picks: Sam Cooper: Baylor -5.5, Nick Bromberg: Texas +5.5
4. Temple at No. 19 Cincinnati
Time: 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN2 | Line: Cincinnati -10.5
With seven teams bowl-eligible and three others in the most recent CFP rankings, the AAC has undoubtedly been the top Group of Five conference in 2019. For several weeks, No. 19 Cincinnati was the highest-ranked G5 team, but the Bearcats dropped behind No. 18 Memphis ahead of Saturday night’s game against Temple. The Bearcats are 9-1 on the year and 6-0 in AAC play, but have had close calls against both East Carolina (46-43) and South Florida (20-17) this month. Nonetheless, UC can clinch the AAC East crown with a win over the Owls before heading to play Memphis next week.
On the other side, Temple’s divisional hopes are still alive, but it’ll be an uphill climb that starts against the Bearcats. After back-to-back losses, the Owls have now won two straight to improve to 7-3 (4-2 AAC) on the year. Those wins put Temple in position to win the division with wins over Cincinnati and UConn, but a divisional title is only possible if Cincy loses to Memphis next weekend. In last weekend’s 29-21 win over Tulane, Temple benefited from a massive performance from Quincy Roche: 12 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks. Temple will need another big effort from Roche to pull off the upset.
Picks: Sam: Temple +10.5, Nick: Temple +10.5
3. No. 25 SMU at Navy
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBSSN | Line: Navy -3.5
No. 18 Memphis has the same record as No. 25 SMU and Navy, but sits atop the AAC West standings because it has head-to-head wins over both the Mustangs and Midshipmen. That makes Saturday’s SMU-Navy game in Annapolis a pivotal contest.
Assuming Memphis beats South Florida on Saturday, the winner of the SMU-Navy game will turn into massive Cincinnati fans next week. If UC goes into Memphis and gets a win, either SMU or Navy will be in a position to steal the division crown with a win of their own — SMU hosts Tulane, Navy heads to Houston.
To beat SMU, Navy needs to bounce back from a rough 52-20 loss to Notre Dame last week, a loss that snapped a five-game winning streak. SMU enters this game coming off a bye week. The Mustangs started the season 8-0 before dropping a 54-48 shootout to Memphis on Nov. 2. A week later, SMU had another high-scoring game, this time a 59-51 victory over East Carolina. Perhaps the bye week gave SMU’s staff time to iron out some defensive issues.
Picks: Sam: SMU +3.5, Nick: SMU +3.5
2. Texas A&M at No. 4 Georgia
Time: 3:30 p.m. | TV: CBS | Line: Georgia -13.5
It’s been a while since Texas A&M played a marquee game. The Aggies, in Year 2 under Jimbo Fisher, had notable games against the likes of Clemson, Auburn and Alabama in the first half of the year. They lost all three, but have since won four straight to sit at 7-3 entering a ferocious finish to the year: trips to No. 4 Georgia and No. 1 LSU. A&M is scoring 37 points per game during its winning streak, led by junior QB Kellen Mond. For the year, Mond has thrown for 2,435 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 64 percent of his passes. Will he be up to the task against UGA’s vaunted defense?
Meanwhile, Georgia has been able to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to South Carolina with its own four-game winning streak, including wins over Florida and Auburn. Last weekend’s win at Auburn clinched the SEC East title for the Bulldogs, who are now ranked No. 4 in the CFP rankings. But Georgia cannot afford any slip-ups going into the SEC title game — likely against No. 1 LSU. We mentioned Georgia’s strong defense, but its offense has not exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. Jake Fromm was just 13-of-28 for 110 yards last week, but did throw three touchdowns in the win.
Picks: Sam: Texas A&M +13.5, Nick: Georgia -13.5
1. No. 8 Penn State at No. 2 Ohio State
Time: Noon | TV: Fox | Line: Ohio State -18.5
The last three meetings between Penn State and Ohio State have been decided by a total of five points. Ohio State won the last two by a single point, both in come-from-behind fashion. But based on the considerable 18.5-point spread, most expect the undefeated Buckeyes to run away with this one en route to another Big Ten East title. OSU has been rolling opponents week after week, putting a ton of points on the board behind quarterback Justin Fields and his array of weapons. Most notable for Ohio State this weekend, however, is the return of star defensive end Chase Young. The last time we saw Young, he had six tackles, five tackles for loss and four sacks in a win over Wisconsin.
For Penn State, this is a chance to shake up the College Football Playoff picture. PSU was No. 4 when the first CFP rankings came out, but then lost at Minnesota. Now, the Nittany Lions need to upset the Buckeyes to realistically get back in the mix. A win over Ohio State and then Rutgers next week would give PSU the East division crown, setting up a possible rematch with Minnesota in Indianapolis. For that to come to fruition, PSU needs to shore things up in the secondary. Both Minnesota and Indiana gashed the PSU defense through the air to the tune of 710 yards combined over the last two weeks.
Picks: Sam: Penn State +18.5, Nick: Ohio State -18.5
Records ATS to date: Sam: 33-29, Nick: 28-35
Week 13’s best bets
Nick Bromberg (Last week: 3-0, Overall: 16-20)
BYU at UMass (+40.5): Let’s ride with the Minutemen getting over five touchdowns again. UMass barely held on for the cover at Northwestern a week ago while BYU only ended up beating Liberty by seven at home. With the Cougars traveling across the country, this game is a blowout. But more like four or five scores and not six. Pick: UMass +40.5
No. 10 Minnesota at Northwestern (+12.5): This line is as low as it is because of the status of Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan, who hasn’t been cleared after suffering a concussion late in the game against Iowa a week ago. With or without Morgan, Minnesota should dominate the ball and 24 points should be enough to cover this number against a Northwestern team that’s been hapless against Big Ten opponents. Pick: Minnesota -12.5
North Texas at Rice (+6.5): The Mean Green have slid backward in 2019. After two-straight nine-win seasons, North Texas sits at 4-6 with two games remaining. Wins against both Rice and UAB are necessary to make a bowl game. The first step toward a bowl happens on Saturday as Rice is 1-9 after getting its first win of the season in Week 12. UNT wins easily. Pick: North Texas -6.5
Sam Cooper (Last week: 3-0, Overall: 19-16-1)
East Carolina at UConn (+14): East Carolina has put up a combined 105 points in its last two games, but lost both times. With an offense clicking like that, I have a hard time envisioning ECU going into UConn and not winning comfortably. The Huskies allow an average of 40.6 points per game. Pick: East Carolina -14
No. 18 Memphis at South Florida (+14): USF should have upset Cincinnati last week, but was doomed by four missed field goals. It was a really deflating loss that I think will be tough to come back from. Memphis needs this win to take another step toward an AAC West title. I think the Tigers roll. Pick: Memphis -14
Kansas State at Texas Tech (-2.5): Texas Tech showed a lot of fight, but ended up losing 33-31 at home to TCU last week. TTU gave up 226 rushing yards in the loss, and I think Kansas State — re-energized after a disappointing performance against West Virginia — can find some similar success. Pick: Kansas State +2.5
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