College football Week 13: 15 players to watch
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

College football Week 13: 15 players to watch

Thanksgiving week is a special time in college football. Not only do we get an extended weekend of sorts to watch a cornucopia of pigskin action, but it is typically rivalry weekend across the country. The Apple Bowl, Egg Bowl, Iron Bowl, The Game, Bedlam, and a quartet of ACC-SEC in-state rivalries resume ... some after taking 2020 off ... and we're here for it.

It can also be a bit of a sad time as the regular season ends and, in turn, some college careers will end with it.

Oh, there are also spots in various conference championship games up for grabs, with several games also having national championship implications. It really ramps up from here.

So as we wind the regular season to a close, here are 15 players to watch as Week 13 rolls along. Happy Thanksgiving!

 
1 of 15

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

We all know the names of the College Football Playoff hopefuls and, while Wisconsin isn't on that list, they could play a major part in who makes the final four. After a 1-3 start to the season, the Badgers have won seven straight and put themselves a win over Minnesota this Saturday away from winning the Big Ten West (which has quietly been a fantastic race) and facing the Ohio State-Michigan winner in the conference championship game. Allen missed two of those early season three losses but has been the team's MVP during the seven-game winning streak. He's rushed for over 100 yards in each of those games and has gotten stronger as the year winds along. He followed up a 173-yard-3-touchdown performance against Northwestern with 228 yards and three more TDs against Nebraska last week. This freshman from Fond Du Lac looks like the next in a long line of great Badger backs. 

 
2 of 15

Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Iron Bowl is as much about toughness as it is about skill. Anderson is tough. He flies around the field in coverage and tackling ball-handlers, but is fantastic at pressuring the quarterback. His 13 sacks are just a half-sack back of the national leader and he has recorded at least one sack in each of the Tide's last five games -- all wins. He's also been a factor all over, tallying 12 tackles against LSU and 11 against Arkansas last week. Alabama at Auburn on Saturday afternoon. 

 
3 of 15

Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma

Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

How strange is it that we enter the annual Bedlam Game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and the Sooners seemingly have no idea what they have at quarterback? Spencer Rattler was the preseason Heisman favorite and top pick in the NFL Draft but has since been booed off the field, benched, and replaced with Caleb Williams who, well, has had the exact same sort of roller coaster season (yay! Heisman! Boo! Benched). So it's a rivalry game that has a lot riding on it, getting back to basics may be the best move for Lincoln Riley's bunch. Running back Kennedy Brooks is coming off a great game against Iowa State (115 yards and has found the endzone in five of the last seven games. The last time he played against Oklahoma State, Brooks ran for 160 yards and a TD in a 34-16 victory two years ago. 

 
4 of 15

Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

After the leftovers are put away (or you're bringing them back out for another round) on Thanksgiving night, relax on the couch for what should be a very entertaining Egg Bowl. The annual battle between Ole Miss and Mississippi State has been mired in controversial moments in the past, but this year's helping will be a good ol' fashioned offensive battle. On the Rebels' side, Matt Corral is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and will be one of the top signal-callers selected in next spring's NFL Draft. His stats are impressive (3,100 yards, 19 TDs, 3 INTs) but his leadership has really grown this year. He's fought through a nagging ankle injury all year, he's drastically cut down his turnovers from last year, and he even dressed down the team in a lackluster win over Vanderbilt last week. This is Corral's last Egg Bowl, and a national ESPN audience on Thanksgiving Day puts a big spotlight on a big rivalry and a guy who is striving for big things.

 
5 of 15

Hassan Haskins, Michigan

Hassan Haskins, Michigan
Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Look, we all know the kind of pressure that sits on Michigan heading into their showdown against Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh hasn't beaten the Buckeyes since he took over the Michigan job. The Wolverines haven't beaten the Buckeyes at all since 2011 and have lost 15 of 16 to their rival. Last year's game was canceled due to Michigan's COVID issues which led to some rolled eyes from Columbus about the Wolverines ducking OSU. Oh, and there is a spot in the Big Ten championship game on the line and this game's winner has an inside track to a spot in the College Football Playoff. That's all. So how can Michigan deal with all this? Hand the ball to Hassan Haskins. He's been the steadiest part of the offense for Harbaugh and the more he can grind out yards the less that C.J. Stroud and those great Ohio State receivers see the field. Haskins rushed for two TDs last week in a blowout over Maryland, which comes after 156 and 168-yard performances against Penn State and Indiana, respectively. If Michigan is finally going to beat Ohio State, Haskins will need to be a huge part of the offense. 

 
6 of 15

TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State

TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

While C.J. Stroud wowed everyone with his first-half dominance over Michigan State last week, this week's matchup against Michigan will reveal a different star. Watch for running back TreVeyon Henderson against the Wolverines. Henderson has rushed for 1,098 yards and 14 touchdowns this season -- his freshman season -- and recent history suggests that running the ball on Michigan tends to work for the Buckeyes. Two years ago, J.K. Dobbins piled up 211 yards and 4 TDs in The Game. Mike Weber went for 96 yards and a TD back in 2018. Dobbins rolled for 101 yards and a TD in 2017. Yes, there have been big games by the Ohio State quarterbacks in those games but the ability for Ohio State to run the football on Michigan has been a key factor in their continued dominance in this rivalry. 

 
7 of 15

Sincere McCormick, UTSA

Sincere McCormick, UTSA
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

It took a wild finish against UAB last week, but UTSA enters the final week of the regular season undefeated. While McCormick is coming off arguably his worst game of the season (20 attempts, 65 yards), he still scored his 12th touchdown of the season and his fourth consecutive game with a score. To finish off the perfect regular season, UTSA faces North Texas, who they blew out a year ago. In that game, McCormick rushed for 251 yards and a TD.

 
8 of 15

Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan

Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Nichols currently leads the FBS in rushing by 18 yards over Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III. The freshman from Detroit has been shredding up the competition of late, with six straight games of at least 136 yards rushing and two straight 200+ yard games. In that six games stretch, he's rushed for 1,111 yards and 12 TDs. Another big game could give Nichols a nice cushion for the rushing title before bowl season. Central Michigan hosts rival Eastern Michigan on Friday. 

 
9 of 15

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

What a game for Ridder last week. In the game many pointed to as the Bearcats' toughest test in the second half of the season, Ridder threw for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns, rushed for a 40-yard touchdown, and even caught a TD pass. He was everywhere during the 48-14 win over SMU and has Cincy on the brink of breaking through to a College Football Playoff berth. The Bearcats did experience a lull leading up to the SMU game that they can't afford to have against East Carolina on Friday. 

 
10 of 15

Will Rogers, Mississippi State

Will Rogers, Mississippi State
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

When Ole Miss and Mississippi State hired Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach, respectively, a couple of years ago this is the kind of game we were hoping for. We touched on Ole Miss' Matt Corral earlier but Mississippi State's Will Rogers has a great opportunity to break out on the national stage. He ranks second in the country in passing yards and is coming off an unreal three-game stretch (1,223 yds, 15 TDs, 1 INT total). Last season, Rogers put up 61 attempts against Ole Miss in a seven-point loss. Look for another huge game in the season finale. 

 
11 of 15

Abram Smith, Baylor

Abram Smith, Baylor
Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

Smith struggled against Kansas State last week (backfield mate Trestan Ebner outgained Smith and scored a TD) but it may just be a blip in an otherwise great season for the senior back. His 46 yards against the Wildcats broke a streak where Smith rushed for at least 125 yards and it's actually the third straight game he's failed to find the endzone. The running back-turned-linebacker-turned-back-to-running back has had a magical season in Waco and has Baylor in reach of a shot at getting to the Big 12 title game (they need Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma) with a win over Texas Tech. With quarterback Gerry Bohanon's status up in the air after he was injured against Kansas State, look for Smith to get a lot of touches. 

 
12 of 15

Tavion Thomas, Utah

Tavion Thomas, Utah
Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

When people woke up Sunday morning and wondered what happened to then-playoff bound Oregon, the answer was Tavion Thomas. I talked about Thomas a couple of weeks ago and he's been performing at an elite level for a scary-good Utah squad. Look at his last three games:

UCLA: 160 rush yds, 4 TDs
Stanford: 177 rush yds, 4 TDs
Oregon: 94 yds, 3 TDs

He's been on fire and gets to go up against Colorado on Friday before a probable rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 title game next week. 

 
13 of 15

Jaylen Warren, Oklahoma State

Jaylen Warren, Oklahoma State
Sarah Phipps/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Over the last few weeks when discussing the College Football Playoff contenders, I keep dropping the comment that we better not sleep on Oklahoma State. They aren't a sexy team -- they win by playing fantastic defense and a physical offense -- but they've positioned themselves as a darkhorse playoff contender. It is Bedlam Week and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State is an immensely important game that decides the Big 12 title match-up as well as an outside shot for a playoff berth. Look for the Cowboys to establish running back Jaylen Warren early. Warren has only hit the 100-yard mark once in the last five weeks, but it was a 113-yard-3-TD performance against TCU on November 13th. Earlier this season, he destroyed Boise State, Kansas State, Baylor, and Texas in a four-week stretch (659 yds, 4 TDs in that span) when three of those teams were ranked. 

 
14 of 15

Kyren Williams, Notre Dame

Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Don't look now, but there is a possibility that Notre Dame is the only 2020 College Football Playoff team to make it back into the four-team bracket. Seriously. Clemson won't be there, and Alabama and Ohio State could miss out if Georgia and Michigan have anything to say about it. Notre Dame is surging right now, albeit against unranked opponents. Last week the Irish demolished Georgia Tech, 55-0, allowing running back Kyren Williams a chance to rest a little bit and gear up for Notre Dame's return to the west coast in this week's game at Stanford. Williams still scored two touchdowns in the win over the Yellow Jackets, running his streak of games with a TD to seven straight. He's also become more of a factor in the passing attack over the course of the season, making him a bigger threat in the offense. 

 
15 of 15

Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a 1-4 start to the season, Zappe and the Hilltoppers have reeled off six straight wins and now sit atop the Conference USA East Division. Zappe leads the nation in passing yards (4,640) by a healthy margin (Mississippi State's Will Rogers is over 500 yards back in second) and his 48 passing TDs in ten ahead of everyone else. He's tossed at least four touchdowns in each of his last four games and seven times this season. A win at Marshall on Saturday puts Western Kentucky in the Conference USA title game. 

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