BYU lines up against No. 24 USC on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Cougars went on to stun the Trojans 30-27 in overtime. (BYU Photo)

The BYU fan’s guide to Week 13 of college football

Food. Family. Football.

There’s no better combination, making this one of the best weekends of the season.

Before you tune in to the Saturday night showdown between BYU and USC, keep an eye on several other matchups that could prove crucial to the Cougars’ potential for a rise in the rankings and New Year’s Six Bowl appearance.

Here’s your menu. The Egg Bowl’s your Thursday appetizer. Enjoy the feast.

*All times Mountain

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers (2) looks for an open receiver during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee State, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi State won 55-10. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

No. 9 Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2) at Mississippi State (7-4, 4-3)

Thursday, Nov. 25 | 5:30 p.m. ESPN | Favorite: Mississippi State (-2)

Last week: Ole Miss vanquished Vanderbilt 31-17 and Mississippi State man-handled Tennessee State 55-10

Key matchup: A staunch State rush defense versus Rebel rush offense – The spotlight has been on the Bulldog offense, but Mike Leach’s team is No. 7 nationally in rush defense, allowing only 96 yards per game. Rival Ole Miss is the nation’s No. 7 rush offense, putting up 231 yards per game. Quarterback Matt Corral and four Rebel running backs have posted over 500 yards on the ground this season.

Player to watch: Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers – While Corral has been in the Heisman conversation for much of the season, his Starkville rival leads him in many categories. Rogers is ranked second in the FBS with 4,113 passing yards and leads the nation in completion percentage at 76.

Root for: Mississippi State – At this point, most any loss for a team in front of BYU may help. A Rebel loss creates the potential for BYU to rise.

Boise State (7-4, 5-2) at No. 21 San Diego State (10-1, 6-1)

Friday, Nov. 26 | 10 a.m. CBS | Favorite: Boise State (-2.5)

Last week: The Broncos pounded New Mexico 37-0 while San Diego State let UNLV hang around too long in a 28-20 win.

Key matchup: A battle of two solid defenses – Despite its four losses, Boise State boasts a stingy defensive crew. The Broncos have the nation’s No. 11 scoring defense as they allow just 18 points per outing. Just ahead of them? None other than San Diego State. The Aztecs are allowing just 17 a game. If you want offense, look elsewhere on Friday.

Player to watch: San Diego State safety Trenton Thompson – the leader of the Aztec secondary will be crucial to stopping the big-play ability of Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir. Thompson is one of the best in the country against the pass, with 11 pass break-ups on the season.

Root for: San Diego State – Not only does a San Diego State win bolster Utah’s resume, and in turn BYU’s, but this sends Utah State to the Mountain West title game. This outcome gives BYU the potential of three opponents playing in conference title games, the others being Utah and Baylor.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws a pass against Michigan State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

No. 2 Ohio State (10-1, 8-0) at No. 5 Michigan (10-1, 7-1)

Saturday, Nov. 27 | 10 a.m. FOX | Favorite: Ohio State (-8)

Last week: The Buckeyes mauled Michigan State 56-7. Michigan did the same to Maryland, 59-18.

Key matchup: Ohio State’s juggernaut offense versus Michigan’s defense – Ohio State rank lead or rank top-3 nationally in total offense, scoring offense and third-down conversion percentage. The Wolverines come into this one as prepared as any team for that firepower, boasting one of the best defenses in the country. Mike MacDonald’s crew is allowing just 16 points, 307 yards and 179 pass yards per game.

Player to watch: Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud – Stroud has the chance to be the Big Ten’s first Heisman winner since 2006. The star signal-caller has posted 3,468 passing yards for 36 touchdowns to just six interceptions on the year. During the Buckeyes current eight-game win streak, Stroud has tossed 29 touchdowns to just three picks.

Root for: Ohio State – A Buckeye win keeps Michigan from jumping into the playoff and denying Cincinnati a spot. Cincinnati needs to remain in the top-4 if BYU wants a better shot at a New Year’s Six appearance.

Oregon State (7-4, 5-3) at No. 11 Oregon (9-2, 6-2)

Saturday, Nov. 27 | 1:30 p.m. ESPN | Favorite: Oregon (-7)

Last week: Oregon State overpowered Arizona State 24-10 while the Ducks had their wings clipped in a 38-7 defeat at Utah.

Key matchup: Oregon front-seven versus Oregon State ground game – The Ducks are only allowing 128 yards per game on the ground, while the Beavers are averaging 230 per contest behind running back B.J. Baylor.

Player to watch: Oregon State running back B.J. Baylor – He’s one of the most underrated ball carriers in the country and the rivalry game at Oregon is a chance for him to make a splash. Baylor has racked up 1,200 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns this season.

Root for: Oregon State – If the Beavers pull off the upset, then according to Pac-12 tie-breaker rules, Washington State would play Utah for the Pac-12 Championship. Depending on what happens with Baylor and Utah State, this would give BYU four opponents playing for conference titles. Oh, and another loss for Oregon could give BYU room to rise in the rankings.

Penn State (7-4, 4-4) at No. 12 Michigan State (9-2, 6-2)

Saturday, Nov. 27 | 1:30 p.m. ABC | Favorite: Penn State (-1)

Last week: Penn State ran over Rutgers 28-0 while Michigan State hemorrhaged points in a 56-7 loss at Ohio State.

Key matchup: A tale of two defenses – Penn State brings the nation’s No. 4 scoring defense into East Lansing. The Nittany Lions are allowing just 16 points per game. Then there’s Michigan State. The Spartans are allowing 463 yards of total offense each week, bad enough for No. 120 nationally. A porous Michigan State defense might be just the thing an inconsistent Penn State attack needs.

Player to watch: Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III – While the Heisman buzz around Walker has been subdued, he remains one of the nation’s top running backs. The Wake Forest transfer ranks No. 2 in the FBS with nearly 1,500 yards on the ground through 11 games.

Root for: Penn State – With Michigan State just one spot ahead of BYU, a Penn State win at Spartan Stadium could help the Cougars slide up a spot on Tuesday.

No. 14 Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2) at Minnesota (7-4, 5-3)

Saturday, Nov. 27 | 2 p.m. FOX | Favorite: Wisconsin (-7)

Last week: Wisconsin kept Nebraska at bay in a 35-28 win. Minnesota beat Indiana 35-14.

Key matchup: A wrestling match between two of the nation’s best defenses – Skip this game if you want points. This one could come down to whoever manages to find the end zone first. Wisconsin leads the nation in stuffing the run and is ranked behind only Georgia in total defense. Minnesota isn’t far behind, allowing only 290 yards of total offense each week, including a top-15 pass and rush defense.

Player to watch: Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan – The senior signal-caller has done enough to “row the boat” this season that he’s guided the injury-plagued Gophers to seven wins and an outside shot at the Big Ten West title. However, Morgan’s also thrown seven interceptions this season and this week faces a Badger defense that’s top-10 in the country having forced 14 picks on the year.

Root for: Minnesota – If the Gophers pull off the upset, then through Big Ten tie-breaker rules, they’re off to Indianapolis for the conference championship game. It would also cause the Badgers to plummet in the playoff poll and give BYU some breathing room.

No. 15 Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) at LSU (5-6, 2-5)

Saturday, Nov. 27 | 5 p.m. ESPN | Favorite: Texas A&M (-6.5)

Last week: Texas A&M strolled past Prairie View A&M 52-3 while LSU eked out a 27-14 win over a struggling Louisiana-Monroe.

Key matchup: LSU’s passing attack versus Texas A&M secondary – Few things have gone well for the Tigers this season, but quarterback Max Johnson has been a bright spot. Johnson ranks among the top-15 quarterbacks in the nation with 24 passing touchdowns to just six interceptions on over 2,500 yards through the air. The Aggies, on the other hand, are giving up just 182 passing yards and 15 points per game.

Player to watch: Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal – Leal leads the Aggie defense with 7.5 sacks this season and will be crucial to keeping LSU’s Johnson in check.

Root for: LSU – The Tigers are playing for bowl eligibility and will certainly fight to give head coach Ed Orgeron a winning sendoff in Baton Rouge. If LSU can pull off the upset, Texas A&M falls in the rankings and stays off BYU’s tail.

Oklahoma State’s Brendon Evers (98) sacks Texas Tech’s Donovan Smith (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

No. 10 Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1) at No. 7 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1)

Saturday, Nov. 27 | 5:30 p.m. ABC | Favorite: Oklahoma State (-4)

Last week: Oklahoma bounced back from a loss at Baylor by beating Iowa State 28-21. Oklahoma State shut out Texas Tech in a 23-0 win.

Key matchup: The ever-volatile Oklahoma offense versus a sack-happy Oklahoma State defense – Despite a few low-scoring weeks, the Sooners are still a top-10 scoring offense, averaging 39 points per game. Oklahoma State’s defense, however, ranks in the top-5 nationally in scoring defense, total defense, rush defense and sacks forced. The Cowboys have recorded a total of 41 sacks this season.

Player to watch: Oklahoma State safety Kolby Harvell-Peel – This Cowboy defender can do it all. He leads the team with three interceptions, is the third-leading tackler and has two sacks this season. No matter which quarterback Lincoln Riley and the Sooners start, Harvell-Peel will give him fits.

Root for: Oklahoma State – a Cowboy win has the potential to knock Oklahoma beneath BYU in the poll. Most importantly, this sends Baylor to the Big 12 Championship game and strengthens the Cougars’ resume.

No. 13 BYU (9-2) at USC (4-6)

Saturday, Nov. 27 | 8:30 p.m. ESPN | Favorite: BYU (-7)

Last week: BYU overcame a sloppy start to beat Georgia Southern 34-17. USC was wrecked 62-33 in its annual cross-town clash with UCLA.

Key matchup: A battle for ball security – Jaren Hall has thrown 18 touchdowns to just three interceptions this season. Meanwhile the shuffle of USC quarterbacks have accounted for 13 picks this season, that’s bottom ten in the FBS. Unfortunately for the Trojans, BYU comes into the Coliseum tied for ninth nationally in interceptions forced with 14 on the year.

Player to watch: BYU running back Tyler Allgeier – Given USC allowed 260 yards to UCLA last week, Allgeier could be in for a special performance on Saturday. The southern California native remains among the best ball carriers in the land with over 1,300 yards on the ground and 18 touchdowns through 11 games. With just 84 yards, Allgeier can surpass Pete Van Valkenburg (1972) for No. 2 at BYU in single-season rushing yards. Allgeier can also break the school record for single season rushing attempts with 25 carries against the Trojans.

Root for: BYU has a lot more than historical marks for Allgeier on the line in this game. With a win over the Trojans, BYU has the opportunity to finish with 10 wins in back-to-back regular seasons and leave one last positive impression on the College Football Playoff Committee before bowl berths are awarded.

BYU celebrates defensive back Dayan Ghanwoluku's game-winning interception in the Cougars' 30-27 overtime win over No. 24 USC on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 at LaVell Edwards Stadium (BYU Photo).
BYU celebrates defensive back Dayan Ghanwoluku’s game-winning interception in the Cougars’ 30-27 overtime win over No. 24 USC on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019 at LaVell Edwards Stadium (BYU Photo).
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