It speaks to the wondrous magic and unpredictability of the 2023 college football season that we arrive at Week 13 with multiple teams still capable of reaching the College Football Playoff. In addition to the intensity of “Rivalry Week” rounding out the year, there are multiple matchups that will define the race to the final four and the opportunity to compete for a national championship.
Which are the five games in Week 13 that will shape the race for the College Football Playoff?
Five Week 13 Games That Shape the College Football Playoff Race
Michigan vs. Ohio State
It would be remiss to start anywhere other than “The Game” which projects to be the ultimate College Football Playoff Race decider. With so many undefeated teams still in contention heading into Week 13, the potential for a conference to send two teams to the final four seems extremely low — although stranger things can and have happened in this rollercoaster of a 2023 season.
This most bitter of rivalry games is riddled with repercussions.
The winner of “The Game” will go to the Big Ten Championship Game. With no disrespect intended to the Iowa Hawkeyes, that team then sets themselves up as an undefeated conference champion and a lock for the College Football Playoff.
There isn’t another Week 13 game with as much riding on it. Both teams are in the top four right now, but a defeat for either — despite the high-ranked loss — seems certain to cast them into the dogfight of one-loss teams that have only a slim chance of advancing to the College Football Playoff.
We’re currently looking at a potential undefeated SEC champion, Big Ten champion, ACC champion, and Pac-12 champion that all have the résumé and pass the mythical “eye test” to warrant inclusion in the final four over a one-loss team from any conference. Michigan currently holds a two-game win streak over Ohio State, with home-field advantage in Week 13.
Oregon vs. Oregon State
Outside of Michigan vs. Ohio State, there is just one other game in Week 13 that features an all-ranked matchup. While having two ranked teams doesn’t necessarily make for an important game or even a high-quality game, Oregon vs. Oregon State is no ordinary game.
It’s a rivalry game of the highest order, packed with hatred but also rammed with ramifications.
Having lost to Washington in Week 8, the Dan Lanning-led Ducks must beat their bitter rival to remain alive in the College Football Playoff race. A defeat in Eugene on Friday night not only gives the Beavers bragging rights as their rival flies off to the Big Ten but also effectively ends their Pac-12 and playoff challenge.
A win secures them a rematch with the Huskies in Las Vegas next Friday, a rematch that has the potential to end Washington’s bid to return the Pac-12 to the playoff. It also allows Oregon to catapult itself into contention. There couldn’t be any more at stake in the Black Friday night clash.
Florida vs. Florida State
The latest College Football Playoff rankings told the Florida State Seminoles exactly what the selection committee thinks of their current résumé.
As things stand, they’re the lowest-ranked of the undefeated teams in contention, meaning a defeat in the next two games has unthinkable consequences for Mike Norvell’s team.
We don’t know how the committee might view a one-loss Ohio State or Michigan versus an undefeated ‘Noles team, but we can presume from the latest rankings that should they be a one-loss FSU team, their chances of leapfrogging the loser of Michigan vs. Ohio State is slim to none and slim just left the building — presumably to another conference.
So, the Florida vs. Florida State rivalry game has more ramifications beyond a simple and deep-rooted disdain for each other. How sweet it would be for a Gators team that has lived in the shadow of the Seminoles all season to plunge the spear of defeat into their bitter rival, ruining their chances of returning to national relevance with a trip to the College Football Playoff.
With both teams losing their starting quarterbacks to Week 12 injuries, this game takes on a very different complexion from what we may have expected as the season progressed toward this final date with destiny.
Thankfully, both teams have impressive running games with talented backfields. In a foot race to the CFB playoff, Trey Benson’s speed may be a defining factor.
Texas vs. Texas Tech
With one loss to the Oklahoma Sooners already on their résumé, the Texas Longhorns can’t afford another defeat this season if they’re to win the race to the College Football Playoff. Unlike FSU in the game above them here, Steve Sarkisian’s team isn’t guaranteed a spot in their own conference title game let alone in the final four. As a result, this game means everything to Texas.
Not dropping another game is also important for a Longhorns team that hasn’t been overly impressive down the stretch. They’ve twice almost blown big leads and last week started slowly before finally overcoming Iowa State in Ames. Texas Tech hasn’t lived up to expectations in 2023, but depriving rival Texas of a potential playoff berth would be incredible motivation.
LSU vs. Texas A&M
Brian Kelly’s LSU Tigers team can’t make the SEC Championship Game and neither can the 14th-ranked, three-loss program make it to the College Football Playoff.
So, you may ask how this game is remotely relevant to the race for the final four. Well, with the emphasis clearly on résumé during discussions, LSU features prominently on several teams’ win records in 2023.
As it stands, LSU is the best win on Florida State’s résumé. They’re the only ranked win for the ‘Noles, ranking fifth at the time they played. A loss for the Tigers to Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon significantly devalues that element of FSU’s candidacy for inclusion in the College Football Playoff.
It impacts Alabama too, but with Ole Miss and Tennessee all still ranked, it perhaps doesn’t hold the same weight. Furthermore, a Texas A&M win only increases the value of the Crimson Tide’s win on the road to the Aggies — which could prove to be a factor when it comes down to weighing Alabama against Texas.
Other Games in Week 13 with College Football Playoff Race Ramifications
While the five games above have the potential to mix up the College Football Playoff race the most, the following will also have either a direct or indirect impact on who may make it to the final four. Both Washington and Georgia are involved in games that should be comfortable wins — which is why they’re not included above — but in “Rivalry Week,” anything could happen.
- Louisville vs. Kentucky
- Auburn vs. Alabama
- Washington vs. Washington State
- Georgia Tech vs. Georgia
- South Carolina vs. Clemson
- Arizona State vs. Arizona