Week 13 Lowe Down: Nothing Like Rivalry Week

Matt Lowe

November 28, 2015 at 1:51 am.

Nov 21, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) pitches the ball as Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) defends in the fourth quarter at Ohio Stadium. The Spartans won 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

J.T. Barrett and Ohio State are looking to get back in the win column against Michigan. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Welcome to Week 13 of The Lowe Down.

Rivalry week.

The week of out-of-nowhere upsets, pregame scuffles, miracle finishes, historic plays and impressive winning streaks (as in winning streaks over an archrival.)

In a rivalry game anything can happen. Somehow, someway, teams play well when they take on their arch-enemy. A 3-8 team can play like an 8-3 team.  And an 8-3 club can play like an undefeated juggernaut.

So much emotion is on the line, as well as pressure, in a rivalry game. And like I said before, records don’t particularly matter when a team is taking on a longstanding foe. Really, the only thing that matters is which team plays the best on that particular day. And then they get to boast about for 365 days.

This weekend, bad weather is pounding the Midwest and Eastern portions of the United States — we already saw that in the Baylor/TCU monsoon game Friday night — so we could be in for a very interesting final Saturday of the regular season.

Last week’s record was 16-7, bringing the yearly record to 171-57. To the games we go…

Saturday, November 28

No. 8 Ohio State (10-1) at No. 10 Michigan (9-2) 11:00 a.m. CT

It will be interesting to see how Ohio State responds after it was stunned by rival Michigan State last week. The Buckeyes’ offense was held to just 86 rushing yards and a paltry 46 yards passing, and star running back Ezekiel Elliot was critical of the offensive play-calling after the game. Elliot, who had just 12 carries for 33 yards on the ground, never got on track, nor did an Ohio State offense that’s been up and down all season long.

Michigan is one of the nation’s top defensive teams, allowing 14.9 points per game, but it has been vulnerable at times this season to good running teams with a dual-threat quarterback. And that is exactly what Barrett is. That will be a key matchup to watch in this game.

Another key matchup to watch will be Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock against Ohio State’s linebackers and secondary. Rudock has been great at times this season for the Wolverines, but he’ll really need to be on his game facing the Buckeyes’ back seven.

The Lowe Down: Ohio State 17, Michigan 13

No. 6 Notre Dame (10-1) at No. 9 Stanford (9-2) 6:30 p.m. CT

(copy by Anthony Gimino; my pick)

The annual Stanford-Notre Dame has turned into one of the best rivalries in the country.

It doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as USC-Notre Dame, or the now-on-a-break Michigan-Notre Dame series, but in recent seasons, this has turned into an entertaining and important battle.

This week’s matchup in Pala Alto is definitely big-boy football, with the 10-1 Irish needing a win to stay in the discussion for the College Football Playoff, and 9-2 Stanford trying to keep alive its tiniest sliver of hope of reaching the final four.

The injury problems for Notre Dame just won’t go away. Standout CB KeiVarae Russell suffered a season-ending leg injury last week, the eighth Irish starter to miss significant time this season. The team’s leading rusher, C.J. Prosise, is doubtful because of a sprained ankle.

Many were slow to come around on Stanford because of its opening loss at Northwestern. But the Cardinal has a steady senior quarterback in Kevin Hogan (an edge on Notre Dame’s youth/inexperience at the position), a great offensive line and a Heisman candidate in sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey. It will be interesting to see the power of Stanford’s offense against a Notre Dame defense that won’t be bullied.

The Irish haven’t been overly impressive lately, and with further injury trouble and long travel — they were in Boston last weekend — we like Stanford, which has gone 8-2 against the spread since its opening loss.

The Lowe Down: Stanford 34, Notre Dame 20


No. 3 Oklahoma (10-1) may be without quarterback Baker Mayfield (concussion) when it takes on No. 11 Oklahoma State (10-1). But even if there wasn’t any health concerns about Mayfield this would be a tough game for the Sooners. Yeah, I know the Cowboys fell to Baylor last weekend, but I like the Pokes to play well this weekend under the lights (7:00 p.m. CT kick time) on their home turf. Cold temps and rain are in the forecast so a wild one may be in store.

The Lowe Down: Oklahoma State 24, Oklahoma 23

Florida is 10-1 yet it’s a slight underdog to 9-2 Florida State. Look, the Gators (6:30 p.m. CT kick time) have looked awful on offense of late but something tells me Treon Harris and his offensive mates will play well Saturday. Sean Maguire has played well since he took over the starting QB job for the ‘Noles, but his decision-making, and poise, will be tested against the Gators’ rugged defense.

The Lowe Down: Florida 16, FSU 13


The Iron Bowl is the biggest rivalry in college football, and if Auburn has any shot at pulling the upset over No. 2 Alabama (2:30 p.m. CT kick time) its offensive line (left tackle Shon Coleman and center Austin Golson have been banged up) will have to play its tail off against the Crimson Tide’s rugged defensive line.

If the Tigers’ front wall is unable to create a push in the run game against Bama’s front seven, it could be a long afternoon for either Jeremy Johnson or Sean White (didn’t look healthy (knee) against Georgia) at quarterback.

The last time Alabama played in Jordan-Hare Stadium it lost on the famed “Kick-Six” play. But Nick Saban’s team can win the West and atone for that loss with a win Saturday afternoon. Expect that to happen on the strength of Heisman frontrunner Derrick Henry, its talented defense, led by the aforementioned D-line,  and an emerging special teams spearheaded by dynamic return man Cyrus Jones.

The Lowe Down: Alabama 27, Auburn 10


The rumors are swirling that Saturday’s game versus Texas A&M will be Les Miles’ last as the coach of the Tigers. If those rumors are true, I will not be surprised at all if this game turns into a rout. I don’t think the Aggies’ defense will be able to stop Leonard Fournette to begin with, but if this truly is Miles’ last game, look for the Bayou Bengals to play their tails off in front of the home crowd under the lights (6:30 p.m. CT).

The Lowe Down: LSU 38, Texas A&M 14


Top-ranked Clemson (11:00 a.m. CT kick) lost five straight to South Carolina from 2009-13, but this year’s Gamecocks will have a hard time hanging with Dabo Swinney’s Tigers, who look to win this matchup for the second straight year. Look for Deshaun Watson to continue his Heisman surge against a 3-8 team coming off a home loss to The Citadel.

The Lowe Down: Clemson 45, South Carolina 14


The Rebels will be hoping for an Auburn upset in in the Iron Bowl. If that goes down, a win over Mississippi State would send Ole Miss to Atlanta as the SEC West representative.

The marquee players to watch in this primetime (6:15 p.m. CT) showdown are the QBs. Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly has passed for a conference-leading 3,504 yards and 25 TDs this season (12 interceptions).

Kelly’s counterpart, Dak Prescott, has been sensational as well. Despite playing behind an average offensive line (if that), Prescott has thrown for 3,159 yards and 23 TDs; he’s been picked off only three times. He also leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 478 yards and nine scores.

But with heavy rain and wind expected to be a major factor, taking care of the football will be vital, as will a consistent ground game. Prescott is State’s ground game so expect a big dose of him on the ground.  But watch out for Ole Miss bruiser Akeem Judd in this matchup. He’s a powerful runner who could have a big day in the expected conditions.

The Lowe Down: Ole Miss 24, Mississippi State 26

In other Saturday games:

SMU 27 at Memphis 42

Iowa State 38 at West Virginia 45

Louisville 23 at Kentucky 20

Indiana 45 at Purdue 38

Georgia 27 at Georgia Tech 20

Virginia Tech 23 at Virginia 27

Colorado 27 at No. 23 Utah 37

Penn State 20 at No. 5 Michigan State 34

No. 14 North Carolina 52 at NC State 28

No. 22 UCLA 33 at USC 37

Vanderbilt 10 at Tennessee 28

UConn 20 at No. 25 Temple 24

Arizona State 26 at Cal 34

Air Force 42 at New Mexico 28