College News & Analysis

College Football Week 13 Takeaways: Notable grades, advanced stats and more

Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) rushes for a touchdown in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia and Michigan lock up playoff spots: Both the Bulldogs and Wolverines finished the regular season 12-0, clinching spots in the College Football Playoff.

TCU and USC still need another win: Both the Horned Frogs and Trojans can make the playoff if they win their respective conference championships next weekend.

A new Heisman favorite: USC quarterback Caleb Williams is now the heavy betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy after his heroic performance in a win over No. 15 Notre Dame.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

Chaos reigned supreme in the final week of the college football regular season. Week 13 saw three playoff contenders fall while a new leader for the Heisman Trophy emerged. 

Here are the biggest takeaways from a wild slate of action.


Three playoff contenders eliminated

Heading into Week 13, nine teams remained with playoff aspirations. Six are left after an upset-heavy slate.

Fifth-ranked LSU suffered a shocking 38-23 loss at the hands of Texas A&M, which finished the season 5-7. The Tigers’ normally elite run defense was gashed by Aggies running back Devon Achane. Heading into Saturday, LSU’s 90.8 run-defense grade was the eighth-best mark in the Power Five. Achane ran for 215 yards against the Tigers, including a Power Five-leading 161 yards after contact. Now with three losses, LSU won’t be able to make the playoff even with a win over Georgia in the SEC championship game.

For the second straight week, South Carolina eliminated a playoff contender. After the Gamecocks took down then-No. 5 Tennessee last week, they vanquished eighth-ranked Clemson on Saturday, 31-30. Tigers quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled mightily in the loss, earning a 47.2 passing grade that tied for sixth-worst among Power Five quarterbacks this week. Clemson is now 10-2 and can only hope to win the ACC championship and make a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Finally, ninth-ranked Oregon suffered a devastating 38-34 loss to rival No. 21 Oregon State, which mounted an improbable comeback. The Ducks led by 21 with under five minutes left in the third quarter, and not only did the Beavers come back, but they did so despite having only 60 passing yards by the final whistle. Oregon’s third loss of the season eliminates any chance of a playoff berth and means the team won’t be going to the Pac-12 championship game.


Georgia and Michigan lock up playoff spots

Not only do we know of three teams that won’t be going to the College Football Playoff, but we also know half of the final four. 

Top-ranked Georgia clinched one spot with a 37-14 victory over Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs’ run defense dominated the Yellow Jackets. Georgia’s average depth of tackle was only 2.55 yards downfield, the third-lowest figure among Power Five teams for the week. Now, the Bulldogs are 12-0 and will make the playoff even with a loss to LSU in the SEC title game.

The other guaranteed playoff team is No. 3 Michigan, which dominated second-ranked Ohio State, 45-23, in the biggest game of the year. The Wolverines' offensive line had its way with the Buckeyes up front. Michigan averaged 3.8 yards before contact per attempt, the sixth-most among Power Five offenses for the week.

For the first time since 2000, the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes in consecutive years. Like Georgia, Michigan has done enough to lock up a spot in the playoff even if it loses to Purdue in the Big Ten championship game.


TCU and USC still need one more win

The only other undefeated team in the country is fourth-ranked TCU. Fair or not, the Horned Frogs still need to win the Big 12 championship game to make the playoff. They'll face No. 12 Kansas State, a team they beat 38-28 a month ago. It wasn’t an easy win, though. TCU went down 28-10 late in the second quarter before scoring 28 unanswered to pull off the comeback. 

No. 6 USC can also make the playoff by winning the Pac-12 championship. The Trojans proved a lot on Saturday with a 38-27 victory over No. 15 Notre Dame, a top-five team in PFF’s power rankings heading into the weekend. Now, the Trojans will battle No. 14 Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, the only team to beat them this season.


Ohio State and Alabama can only watch from home and hope for chaos

Ohio State and Alabama are the only other schools with a shot at cracking the final four, and both won’t be playing on conference championship weekend.

By losing to Michigan, the then-No. 2 Buckeyes missed out on a Big Ten championship game appearance for the second straight year. Before that, the last time Ohio State didn’t win the Big Ten title was in 2016. For the Buckeyes to get in the playoff at 11-1, they’ll need either TCU or USC to lose in their respective conference title games.

Somehow, Alabama is still in the running to make the College Football Playoff with a 10-2 record despite missing out on the SEC championship game. Both of Alabama’s losses came on the road to top-10 teams in Tennessee and LSU on the final play of each game. If both TCU and USC lose next weekend, there’s a chance the committee makes the Crimson Tide the first two-loss team invited to the College Football Playoff.


Caleb Williams becomes the heavy Heisman favorite

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud entered Week 13 as the Heisman Trophy favorite, but after his loss to Michigan, USC quarterback Caleb Williams has become the runaway leader.

The sophomore is (-2500) in BetMGM’s latest odds to win the Heisman Trophy. Essentially, that gives him a 96% chance to win the coveted stiff-arm trophy, something Williams himself seems to be aware of.

Against Notre Dame, Williams had plenty of Heisman moments en route to a four-touchdown performance.

His 90.9 grade is tied for the fourth-highest among Power Five quarterbacks this season. As long as he doesn’t lay an egg in the Pac-12 championship game, Williams looks poised to become USC’s first (official) Heisman winner since Matt Leinart in 2004. 

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