Rivalry week will be presenting a challenge for nine teams to finish the regular season undefeated on their home turf.
Intimidation and domination is always on full display for teams looking to protect the house. There’s nothing like the 12th man making venues a house of pain for visitors, and that will be the goal for these nine teams in week 13. College football is winding down and everything is starting to come full circle.
All of these home teams have a lot to lose, and their opponents have everything to gain, so only the strong will survive.
Oregon: The Autzen Zoo is the most feared venue on the west coast, and the Ducks have held down the fort for nearly three seasons. Mario Cristobal’s squad is 6-0 inside Autzen Stadium this fall, and they’ve won 18-straight at home. Oregon is very angry after losing at Utah last week, which likely ended any Playoff hopes for the Pac-12. Regardless, the 11th-ranked Ducks are looking to bounce back and reign supreme in Eugene. After all, the Ducks are averaging 39 points per game at home in 2021, plus they’ve outscored their opponents a combined 234-120 in those contests. However, little brother Oregon State is no pushover. The Beavers beat the Ducks last year, they’re already bowl eligible and went undefeated at home this fall. So that makes this clash one of the most intriguing matchups of rivalry week.
Oklahoma State: The Pokes have already punched their ticket to the Big 12 Championship Game, and still have a ton to play for. Bedlam will have major Playoff implications for the Big 12, and the winner should be knocking on the door. The Pokes are the seventh-ranked team in the country, and have won seven-straight games at home dating back to last season. Over the last two games at Boone Pickens, Oklahoma State scored 55 points against Kansas and 63 against Texas Tech. Mike Gundy’s offense is peaking at the right time, and despite the youth in the unit, there’s a plethora of weapons to spread the ball around to. The Pokes are No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 3 nationally in total defense. Gundy’s team have outscored their opponents a combined 174-93 at home in 2021. However, Gundy is 2-14 against Oklahoma.
Michigan: There’s no denying the Wolverines have the spotlight matchup of the week. Jim Harbaugh is one win away from clinching his alma a first-ever berth in the Big Ten Championship Game. Rivalries don’t get much bigger than ‘The Game’ and this will be the the most pivotal clash in the series since 2006. The Big House will be rocking Saturday afternoon and the winner of this battle will move one step closer to a spot in the Playoffs. Michigan is 6-0 at home this season, but Ohio State has won its’ last four trips to the Big House. The fact that this rivalry wasn’t played last year gives it more luster this time around. The Wolverines are averaging 37.1 points per game at home this fall. It also helps that Michigan leads the Big Ten East in total defense. If Harbaugh beats the Buckeyes, he’ll finally receive his due.
Louisiana-Lafayette: No one has paid attention to the Rajin’ Cajuns since their season-opening loss. However, Louisiana has quietly won 10-straight games, and its’ last eight overall at home dating back to last year. Billy Napier continues to prove why he’s one of the most sought-after coaches, with all of the success he’s having with the program. Louisiana has already clinched a berth in the Sun Belt Championship Game against Appalachian State, and that’ll also be played at Cajun Field. The 23rd-ranked Rajin’ Cajuns have scored 41 or more points in three of their last four games at home. Louisiana’s defense has been very good at home too. The unit has allowed 13.6 points per game at Cajun Field this season and pitched a shutout. It should help Napier that rival Louisiana-Monroe is 0-5 on the road in 2021.
Baylor: Dave Aranda is one of the country’s fastest-rising coaches. Baylor can clinch its’ second-ever berth in the Big 12 Championship Game with a win over Texas Tech and a Oklahoma loss in Bedlam. The ninth-ranked Bears have won six-straight at home this season and outscored the opposition 238-118 in those contests. Baylor has the Big 12’s leading rusher in Abram Smith and the No. 2 scoring defense in the conference. That’s a recipe for built for success and why the Bears have a chance to finish the regular season with at least 10 wins for the second time in three years. Not to mention Baylor has outscored its’ last four opponents 79-44 at home during the second half. This will only be the second time the Bears will square off with the Red Raiders at McLane Stadium. Texas Tech lost its’ last trip to Waco.
Houston: The 19th-ranked Cougars are another team that has already clinched a berth in their league’s Championship Game. However, Houston’s last battle at home will be nothing more than a tuneup in preparation for Cincinnati on December 4. Connecticut (1-10) is one of the worst teams in the FBS this season and hasn’t won a road game since October of 2019. Meanwhile the Cougars have won six-straight games at home dating back to last season. Coach Dana Holgorsen has definitely made himself a Coach of the Year candidate with the way his team been playing. He turned the Cougars from a three-win team last season to a chance at finishing the regular season with 11 victories for the first time since 2015. Houston has also scored 31 or more points in four of its’ five games at TDECU Stadium this fall.
Michigan State: The Spartans were the biggest embarrassment of week 12. After getting annihilated like that Mel Tucker’s team will either fold or respond in a big way. However, as bad as that loss was at Ohio State, Michigan State only dropped five spots in the AP Poll and will be back at Spartan Stadium, where it has won five-straight. Penn State has dealt with its’ own shortcomings this fall. The ironic part about Saturday’s matchup, is the fact that both Mel Tucker and James Franklin have just agreed to lucrative contract extensions with their respective programs. The Spartans have been legit at home though. Tucker’s team has scored 37 or more points in three of the last four at Spartan Stadium. The defense got exposed majorly against the Buckeyes, and the Nittany Lions will be out to exploit those weaknesses.
Utah: There’s a dark mystique about Rice-Eccles Stadium that only Pac-12 fans understand. Oregon found that out the hard way last Saturday. Kyle Whittingham knows what it means to protect the house, and the Utes have won seven-straight in Salt Lake City dating back to last year. Whittingham’s boys are looking like the best team in the conference. Utah been destroying foes at home this fall and outscored the opposition a combined 181-82 in those games. Not to mention the Utes have won all of those contests by double-digits. With the Pac-12 Championship Game already on lock, Utah can’t be overlooking Colorado and thinking games are played on paper. Which is why Whittingham needs to show last week’s victory over the Ducks was no fluke, and it helps that the Buffaloes have yet to win a road game this season.
NC State: The Wolfpack have scored in the forties in three home games this season. NC State will need every bit of that explosiveness against a high-powered North Carolina squad this Saturday. The Wolfpack won nine-straight games at Carter-Finley Stadium. Dave Doeren’s squad would love to cap off the regular season with a blowout victory over the hated Tar Heels. After all, North Carolina hasn’t won a road game this fall. However, Mack Brown is 2-0 head-to-head against Doeren and plans on ruining the Wolfpack’s perfect record at home. Although a berth in the ACC Championship Game is likely out of the question for NC State, there’s still a chance for a New Year’s Day Bowl if it beats North Carolina. Nothing is set in stone though, and in hindsight this in-state clash may show two teams headed in opposite directions.
*Rankings based on AP Poll