While Week 13 has several high-profile games that will impact the College Football Playoff, like Michigan-Ohio State, Oklahoma-West Virginia and Washington State-Washington, there are three other games with incredibly high stakes, but for a different reason.
Each of the three games will be played between a pair of teams with 5-6 records, meaning the winner of each matchup will clinch bowl eligibility. Success is measured differently at different programs, but making a bowl game is a pretty standard measuring stick across the country.
Here are the three games this weekend where both teams need a win to guarantee a bowl bid.
Baylor vs. Texas Tech, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
All-time series: Texas Tech leads 38-37-1
Last meeting: Texas Tech def. Baylor 38-24
After a 5-2 start to the season, Texas Tech has lost four straight and it’s been a season of “What if?” for the Red Raiders after a five-point loss to Oklahoma, a seven-point loss to Texas, an eight-point loss to West Virginia and a nine-point loss to Iowa State.
Texas Tech competed with the Big 12’s four best teams and came up short each time. Even winning just one of those games, especially if the win was against West Virginia (then undefeated and ranked No. 12) or Oklahoma (then ranked No. 7), could have been potentially season-defining and would have ensured the Red Raiders wouldn’t be searching for a sixth win entering the final week of the regular season.
Texas Tech has alternated between quarterbacks Jett Duffey and Alan Bowman this season, most recently when Duffey replaced the injured Bowman at halftime of the Oklahoma game. Despite playing in just seven games, Duffey is the team’s leading rusher with 369 rushing yards.
Reaching a bowl in the second season of Baylor coach Matt Rhule’s tenure would be a remarkable accomplishment after the Bears went 1-11 last season. Entering Week 13, half of the teams in the Big 12 are tied with a 3-5 conference record, so Baylor is at least competitive in the conference in a season in which it had to play the top three teams – Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas – on the road.
Texas Tech currently holds a two-game winning streak in the series, which has a very streaky past. Before the Red Raiders’ current win streak, Baylor won the previous five and Texas Tech won 15 straight meetings from 1996 to 2010.
This is the last year of the game being played on a neutral field in Arlington with Baylor hosting in 2019 and Texas Tech hosting in 2020.
Purdue at Indiana, Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Indiana
All-time series: Purdue leads 73-41-6
Last meeting: Purdue def. Indiana 31-24
The Old Oaken Bucket – the rivalry trophy coveted by Indiana and Purdue – will travel south to Bloomington, Indiana, for this in-state rivalry, but will it stay there after Saturday night? Purdue won last season, ending a four-year run in which Indiana claimed the trophy.
It may not feel like it, but yes, Purdue and Indiana have the same records, despite the Boilermakers’ current third-place standing in the Big Ten West and the Hoosiers’ sixth-place position in the East.
Purdue has beaten three ranked teams this season, most notably No. 2 Ohio State, but all three games were at home and the Boilermakers have lost their last two road games. A 41-10 loss at Minnesota was puzzling, especially considering what Purdue’s offense is capable of with quarterback David Blough, running back D.J. Knox and wide receiver Rondale Moore.
Indiana limps into its regular season finale having lost five of its last six games, most recently a 31-20 defeat at No. 4 Michigan in which the Hoosiers led at halftime. They’ve pushed the Big Ten East powers with whom they share a division – Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State – but they don’t have any wins to show for it.
For either school, a win doesn’t just represent a bowl appearance, but a level of short-term consistency in making bowl games that neither program has seen in some time. A win for Purdue would guarantee its first back-to-back bowl berths since 2012, while Indiana could make three bowl games in four seasons for the first time since 1993.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
All-time series: Tennessee leads 75-32-5
Last meeting: Vanderbilt def. Tennessee 42-24
Historically this has been a fairly lopsided series, especially in the last 90 years. Since 1927, Vanderbilt has beaten Tennessee just 13 times. But a win Saturday would give the Commodores their third-straight win over the Volunteers and their fifth in seven years.
Tennessee has already eclipsed its win total from last season, but making a bowl game in coach Jeremy Pruitt’s first season in Knoxville would represent progress and hint at a potentially bright future as the Vols try to return to 10-win seasons and SEC Championship contention.
A win on Saturday could go a long way for Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason. After slow progress in his first three seasons at Vandy – from 3-9 in 2014 to 4-8 in 2015 to 6-7 and an Independence Bowl appearance in 2016 – back-to-back 5-7 seasons could suggest a slight regression. Vanderbilt came up just short on the road against Notre Dame (22-17), Kentucky (14-7) and Missouri (33-28), and that could be the theme of the Commodores’ season unless they take care of business at home against Tennessee.
Vanderbilt and Tennessee are equals in record and also advanced statistics, according to Football Outsiders’ S&P+ rankings. They’re ranked No. 77 and No. 78 nationally, respectively, heading into Week 13.