25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 12
We have almost reached Week 12 of the college football season and the BCS race is heating up. With that being said, there is not a lot to choose from this weekend.
To put it plainly, this is certainly not a marquee weekend for college football games. We do, however, have three games with ranked opponents squaring off.
In addition to these games, there are also some other storylines to keep an eye on as the week progresses on through the weekend.
Here are 25 key storylines to watch heading into Week 12.
A Wednesday Night in the MAC
The MAC will take center stage on Wednesday night as four of the best five teams in the conference will be on display.
At 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU, the 8-2 Ohio Bobcats take on the 7-3 Ball State Cardinals. Later on in the evening the 8-2 Toledo Rockets battle the 9-1 Northern Illinois Huskies on ESPN2.
This will be quite a night for the MAC to put on a show in front of a national audience.
On Saturday, Kent State travels to Bowling Green, as all of the top six teams in the conference meet this weekend.
How Will Alabama Respond?
After a devastating home loss to Texas A&M, Alabama will try to rebound on Saturday. Good thing for the Crimson Tide is Western Carolina is next on the slate.
Western Carolina is 1-9 overall and 0-8 in the Southern Conference. This could be a beatdown of epic proportions.
Look for Alabama to get right against the Catamounts before taking on Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
A Huge Battle in the Big East
With the Louisville loss at Syracuse over the weekend, the Big East is now wide open.
The two teams who have a chance to derail Louisville are Cincinnati and Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are undefeated in conference play and Cincinnati only has one loss in the Big East.
On Saturday, the two teams meet at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, with the winner putting themselves in prime position to take the conference crown.
This is one of the most important games of the entire weekend.
Can Notre Dame Continue the Magic?
Notre Dame needs two more wins to finish undefeated and put itself in position to play for the BCS National Championship.
The next team on the schedule is Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 5-5 are certainly no pushover. It will however take a monumental effort by Wake Forest to knock off Notre Dame.
Stranger things have happened, however, and the Fighting Irish are always one for the dramatics.
A Highly Anticipated Battle for Los Angeles
The two biggest games of the weekend are in the Pac-12. This is one of them, as city rivals USC and UCLA square off.
Both of these teams are very talented and rank in the top 20 in the country. That makes for an excellent game.
There is a lot on the line here, including bragging rights and a possible position in the Pac-12 championship.
Will Tennessee Be Knocked out of Bowl Eligibility
One of the biggest disappointments in the entire country has been the Tennessee Volunteers.
Right now they stand at 4-6 overall and 0-6 in SEC play. Winning the final two games of the season is essential if the Vols have bowl aspirations.
A road trip to Vanderbilt on Saturday will not be easy, however, as the Commodores have been one of the hottest teams in the country lately.
Is This a Trap Game for Kansas State?
Kansas State has two games remaining on its schedule, with the easier of the two being Saturday's showdown with Baylor.
After a few tough games in previous weeks, this certainly has the possibility of being a trap game for the Wildcats. They surely don't want to get caught looking ahead to Texas, the final game of the season.
Baylor has enough talent to hang with Kansas State, particularly if Klein is not playing at a high level.
Will Ohio State Remain Undefeated
The Ohio State Buckeyes have been one of the true surprise teams in the country this season. Nobody could have expected them to be 10-0 at this point of the season.
With that being said, the final two games of the year will be extremely challenging. It all starts on Saturday with a road trip to 7-3 Wisconsin.
This would be Ohio State's chance to clinch the Big Ten Leaders Division, but they are not eligible for postseason play. The Buckeyes have been known to struggle in Madison, and this is going to be a huge challenge.
Can Southern Mississippi Win a Game
After a win by Massachusetts over the weekend, Southern Mississippi is now the only winless team at the FBS level.
The Golden Eagles are 0-10 and have two very winnable games left to end the season. This week they take on UTEP at home.
While this may not seem like a huge storyline to some, there is some interest in seeing a team go winless for an entire season.
Can Mississippi State Get Back on Track
After starting the season with such promise, Mississippi State has lost three games in a row and fallen to 7-3.
Granted, those losses have come to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU. Either way, they have not looked particularly good and just dropped completely out of the rankings.
This week the Bulldogs have a home game against Arkansas. This is a game they need to win to restore some confidence. Judging by the past few weeks, that is easier said than done.
Will Anything Else Come of the Tommy Tuberville Incident
Tommy Tuberville has been in hot water this week, but as of right now it looks like the incident is going to fade into distant memory.
He was reprimanded by the Big 12 commissioner, and it seems like the issue is a done deal.
Still, stay tuned as a lot could happen between now and the end of the week.
Who Will Make a Heisman Push?
All of the Heisman candidates have had their moments so far this season.
Last week it was freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. Before that it was Oregon running back Kenjon Barner.
Collin Klein, Braxton Miller, Manti Te'o and Marqise Lee have all had their moments as well.
Who will step up this week and shine in the national spotlight?
Don't Forget About BYU and San Jose State
One of the last games of the evening is a good one out west, where BYU and San Jose State will square off.
The Cougars are 6-4 overall but have played a very challenging schedule. The Spartans, on the other hand, are 8-2 with some difficult games earlier in the season.
While most people might not be up for this one, those who are will be able to watch two very talented teams do battle.
The Dessert Choice for the SEC This Week Is Cupcakes
One of the main reasons there are not a lot of marquee games this week is the fact that most SEC teams are enjoying a few cupcakes on Saturday.
Alabama will battle Western Carolina, Florida plays Jacksonville State, Georgia plays Georgia Southern, South Carolina takes on Wofford, Auburn squares off against Alabama A&M, Texas A&M battles Sam Houston State and Kentucky plays Samford.
It is good to know that Texas A&M has quickly caught on to the SEC scheduling.
Some intriguing matchups in that bunch involve Kentucky and Auburn. Both could be in trouble.
Can Nebraska Maintain Its Rose Bowl Pace?
Nebraska has two games remaining, and if it can win both of those games the Cornhuskers will take on Wisconsin for the Big Ten title.
This week, Minnesota comes to Lincoln. The Golden Gophers have been a pleasant surprise this season and might give Nebraska a challenge.
Odds are the Cornhuskers will pull away in the second half and come out with a double-digit victory, maintaining their Rose Bowl pace.
A Battle of Underachievers in Florida
Miami and South Florida will do battle on Saturday in South Beach.
Both have had disappointments this season, and a loss by South Florida would knock the Bulls out of any bowl possibility. Miami, on the other hand, comes in a 5-5 after a gut-wrenching 41-40 loss at Virginia.
It has seemed like an annual battle of disappointing teams. That has certainly been the case the past few seasons.
How Will the Washington State Situation Be Handled?
News broke last week that star Washington State wide receiver Marqise Wilson had quit the team due to abuse by the coaching staff.
This certainly does not come as a surprise, particularly with who the head coach of the Cougars is.
Mike Leach has had a history of this sort of thing, and it might not be long before he is forced out at Washington State, similar to what happened at Texas Tech.
A WAC Battle for the Ages
The top two teams in the WAC square off on Saturday afternoon as Utah State takes on Louisiana Tech.
Utah State comes into the game 8-2 overall and 4-0 in conference play. Louisiana Tech is 9-1 and also 4-0 in conference play.
This is a game featuring two Top 25-level teams, and what it will also feature is a ton of points. Louisiana Tech is second in the country in scoring, averaging over 53 points a game.
Utah State can also put some points on the board. The Aggies average 32 points a game and have a great balance of the run and pass.
When Will Derek Dooley Be Fired?
It now seems like it is only a matter of time before Derek Dooley is ousted at Tennessee.
The Vols have struggled in recent weeks, and while it will not likely come until the end of the season, it is always hard to tell when someone is going to be let go.
A bad loss at Vanderbilt might spell the end for Dooley, but it is looking now like it could happen after the season finale against Kentucky.
What About Gene Chizik?
Auburn has been a major disappointment so far this season, and this week the Tigers play an Alabama team from the SWAC.
There is no way the Tigers can lose this game, right? But if they do, it is very likely that Chizik will be out the door this time next week.
A win and he will save his job (at least for another week).
Between him and Derek Dooley, there are some coaches on the hot seat.
What Team Will Make a BCS Push?
There are some BCS spots that are virtually locked up, and there are a few others that are still up for grabs.
A few squads are battling for the final spot or two. One of the most intriguing teams among that group is the Clemson Tigers. Even though they are not ranked in the Top 10 in the BCS standings, the Tigers only have one loss.
Other teams battling for the final spots right now include Oklahoma, Florida, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Is Denard Robinson Going to Play?
The status of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is still up in the air for the home finale against Iowa on Saturday.
He has been battling an elbow injury the past few weeks and certainly wants to play on senior night.
Whether he plays or not, Michigan should have no trouble knocking off Iowa. But if Shoelace misses the game, it just wouldn't seem right considering the career he has had.
The Best of Conference USA Square off
There are not a lot of talented teams in Conference USA, but clearly the best of the two are Central Florida and Tulsa.
Both teams come in with two losses and are likely to meet each other in the Conference USA Championship Game a few weeks down the road.
This will be a good sample for each team to see where exactly they stand. Both teams are very talented and have the potential to be near the Top 25 by the end of the season.
A Huge Big 12 Matchup
Outside the Pac-12, the biggest game in the country on Saturday is between Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Both teams are ranked in the Top 25 and conference standings are on the line, as well as bowl positioning.
For fans who enjoy some points, this might be an excellent game to tune into.
Stanford and Oregon Do Battle
There is no question that the biggest game of the night is between Stanford and Oregon.
With a lot on the line, this will be the ABC Saturday night game. A win would secure the Ducks a spot in the Pac-12 title game.
A Stanford win will put the Cardinal in the driver's seat and make the Pac-12 standings a complete mess.
The high-flying Oregon offense will face its biggest test of the year against a defense that is allowing just over 17 points a game.
This should be a fun one.