Rivalry weekend is almost upon us, and things look a lot different at the top of the BCS Rankings than they did just a few short weeks ago.
Notre Dame is one win away from punching its ticket to the national championship, Georgia and Alabama are each two wins removed from doing the same and the Florida Gators are just a win and a few key losses away from making it to Miami as well.
College football's Week 13 promises to have some great football, and there are loads of games that just beg to be previewed. Here are 50 bold predictions for college football's long-awaited rivalry weekend.
Texas beats TCU and gives the nation a preview of what's about to happen to Kansas State in Week 14.
While Texas has had some inconsistency throughout the year, there is a general theme of improvement on the defensive side of the Longhorns. If the trend continues, Texas is staring right at a win over TCU this week.
If the improvement is sizable, look for another Kansas State loss to be in the "Bold Predictions for Week 14" article.
Kent State beats the Ohio Bobcats in overtime.
Kent State and Ohio are two evenly-matched teams that have put on some great shows so far this year. Nothing will change in Week 13, except that the opponents are on much more equal footing this time around.
Ohio takes Kent State to overtime and Kent State pulls out the win.
Taylor Martinez has career game against the Iowa Hawkeyes with over 400 yards of total offense.
While this may not revive his Heisman campaign, it will certainly set him up for a decent campaign next season. (Assuming he stays for his senior season, of course.)
LSU routs Arkansas 49-0, raising questions as to where LSU "should" be ranked.
Alabama defeated Arkansas 52-0 back in Week 3. With LSU's near-victory over the Tide and both losses coming at the hands of current top-four teams, LSU's placement in the polls after routing Arkansas may both surprise and upset you.
LSU's offense has improved immensely since that loss to the Florida Gators. It wouldn't be out of the question to see LSU jump over Kansas State with a dominating performance against the Razorbacks.
Keith Price throws for a season-high 300 yards.
Rivalry weekend brings an across-the-board level of motivation unmatched in any other week in college football. (Individual games have this level of motivation any time a No. 1 team comes to town.)
Keith Price has shown flashes of brilliance at times this season, and he will shine like a star against the Washington State Cougars in Week 13.
Arizona State upsets Arizona and knocks the Wildcats out of the top 25.
Arizona State and Arizona have hung around right next to each other in the Pac-12 South Division rankings for the majority of the 2012 season. In fact, both teams are currently 4-4 in conference play entering Week 13.
The debate as to which team is better will finally be settled this week when Arizona State wins.
Pittsburgh upsets Rutgers.
This has got to be the boldest prediction on the list. Pittsburgh has not played consistently this season at all, but the Panthers have shown up big in big games.
Pitt upset then-No. 13 Virginia Tech and took Notre Dame to overtime. While those don't seem like solid predictors, Pitt is sitting at 4-6 right now. To make a bowl game, the Panthers have to win out. That is a level of motivation that we haven't seen affect this team yet.
The Panthers will play well under pressure and take down the Scarlet Knights in the process.
The Michigan Wolverines upset the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Michigan has had a disappointing season, but two of its three losses came to the two best teams in the nation. Michigan has plenty of ammunition to argue a higher ranking than No. 19, but a signature win is not on that list.
A win over the team that no one else in the Big Ten could beat would certainly earn the Wolverines a jump in the BCS Standings. The fact that this year's match is in the Horseshoe would make the victory even sweeter.
Teddy Bridgewater throws for over 400 yards for the second consecutive game.
Teddy Bridgewater was briefly on the Heisman radar earlier in the season. The loss to Syracuse absolutely decimated his potential dark-horse campaign. But that won't stop him from taking it out on Connecticut this week.
He threw for 424 yards against the Syracuse Orange, but the end zone was just not to be found. That will not be the case in Week 13.
Now that Dooley's been fired, Tennessee beats Kentucky.
The situation at Tennessee is the dead horse of the season. Derek Dooley got fired, and that is the end of that debate. Why it happened, what the circumstances were and whether it was the right decision are all topics that will surely be discussed in the future.
Right now, Tennessee has long-term assistants that are in charge of the program. The "rookie" is gone, and there will be a new attitude of hope on the UT campus. In response to the "clutter" having been removed from the football team, the Vols will play with a new sense of unity.
Kentucky will not survive against the newly motivated Tennessee Volunteers.
Miami beats Duke. Self-imposed bowl ban hurts a little worse.
One week after the announcement of the self-imposed, second-straight bowl ban, Miami will travel to Duke to wage war with the surprisingly bowl-eligible Blue Devils.
Miami will win this game easily, and the players will be quite aware that the win over Duke would have put them into the ACC title game if not for the bowl ban.
Hopefully, the NCAA recognizes that sacrifice after the investigation is through. If not, there are going to be some highly upset Hurricanes fans.
Baylor lights up Texas Tech.
Baylor is coming off an incredible performance against the Kansas State Wildcats in Week 12. For the first time in school history, the Bears beat a No. 1 team. The fact that it pushed them to a 5-5 record will serve as motivation for Week 13's match against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Baylor is going to light up Texas Tech to the tune of a 49-28 stomping. That will prove that the defensive performance against Collin Klein was not just a good day, it was a sign of things to come.
Williams has one of his best games of the season to earn the Biletnikoff Award off the Texas Tech Red Raiders' defense.
While Marqise Lee did pass him up as the nation's leading receiver, Terrance Williams will have something on his resume that Lee doesn't: a win over a team that mattered.
USC is unranked and has fallen to every ranked team on its schedule so far. Williams will reclaim the title of "nation's leading receiver" and will have the win over Kansas State under his belt.
Passing Lee for the top spot will happen against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and Williams will secure the Biletnikoff.
Oregon trails at halftime and explodes in the second half to rout the Oregon State Beavers.
Oregon has avoided playing from behind almost all season long. Even in the Stanford game, the Ducks only trailed for just under 10 minutes. Oregon State will come on strong with Cody Vaz and get out to an early lead, thanks to a stiff defense.
That will provide Oregon with all the motivation it needs to fire the afterburners and make Oregon State pay dearly for what Stanford just did to Oregon in Week 12.
Kenjon Barner's second-half performance against Oregon State makes him the clear favorite for the Doak Walker Award.
Barner will be the spark that lights the Ducks' afterburners, and he will have another performance that gets a lot of press throughout the coming week. The nation's best running back will no longer be up for debate after what he does to the Beavers.
Auburn gets out to a quick lead over the Tide, but Alabama successfully overcomes the deficit to earn the trip to the conference championship game.
Nobody in the Auburn University football program is pleased with this season's results, nobody. The Iron Bowl is one of the most storied rivalries in college football.
In 2009, Auburn got out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter that took Greg McElroy all game to overcome. In 2010, Alabama got out to a 24-point lead that took Cam Newton all game to overcome.
2011 was the exception to the rule: Alabama won 42-14, and there was very little doubt as to who was going to win that game. Auburn will not have forgotten that.
The Tigers will throw every play that has ever worked against the 2012 Tide directly at the defense. The Tigers will find early success, but McCarron will do everything he needs to do to make sure that Auburn doesn't spoil the potential trip to Atlanta.
Barrett Jones allows zero sacks yet again against the Auburn Tigers to secure the Outland Trophy for the second time in his career.
Barrett Jones is the most versatile offensive lineman in the history of college football. He's been an All-American at two different positions on the offensive line, and he's on track to be an All-American at his third position in three years.
He will prove everything he needs to prove against Auburn. After this week, it will be Barrett Jones and "the other guys" competing for the Outland.
Dee Milliner secures the Jim Thorpe Award and raises his draft stock against the Auburn Tigers.
Dee Milliner is currently projected to be selected fourth in the 2013 NFL draft, assuming he declares at the end of the season. Milliner will use the Auburn Tigers and the sketchy quarterbacking situation to make a statement.
He will show everyone that he's the best defensive back in the country, and will secure the Jim Thorpe Award in the process.
Jeff Driskel has a heroic return against the Florida State Seminoles. The nation gets really scared that another all-SEC title game may occur.
The Florida Gators have displayed a questionable offense in 2012. While it has been everywhere from potent to stagnant, Jeff Driskel will prove that he's developed into a title contender.
He will lead the Florida Gators to a commanding win over the rival Florida State Seminoles and scare the nation by keeping the Gators right behind Alabama and Georgia in the BCS Top 25.
If that happens, then a USC win over Notre Dame would make an all-SEC national championship game a possibility for the second year in a row.
After a relatively quiet year in the Big 12, Oklahoma's Landry Jones has an insane performance against the nation's 57th-ranked scoring defense.
Oklahoma State's bad pass defense will allow Jones to rip off a second game in a row of over 500 passing yards. Jones will not object.
Michigan State takes down Minnesota to earn a trip to the postseason.
Michigan State faces the Minnesota Golden Gophers holding onto a 5-6 record. The Spartans will dig deep and find a way to win a game that they are supposed to win. (Something they haven't been extremely adept at thus far.)
James Franklin's squad from the SEC delivers a shutout to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, earning their spot on the radar for the 2013 season.
Wake Forest has only been shut out twice this season, and that was by the Florida State Seminoles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. No, Vanderbilt isn't as good as either of those teams, but Wake was held to six points by the NC State Wolfpack.
Vanderbilt will add a third shutout to Wake Forest's 2012 record in Week 13.
Penn State adds a little insult to the injury that is the Wisconsin Badgers' season.
While the Badgers will go to the conference championship game against Nebraska, the Lions will remind them that they're only going because Ohio State and Penn State are both ineligible for postseason play.
Cairo Santos of the Tulane Green Wave is a perfect 20-for-20 on field goals this season. Other than Alabama's short-range kicker, Santos is the only kid in the nation with a perfect field-goal record.
As Jeremy Shelley is not on the list of finalists for the Lou Groza Award, Santos's perfect performance against the Houston Cougars will earn him the award easily.
Stanford has another great performance against the UCLA Bruins, further proving that the Washington Huskies loss was definitely a fluke.
With the win over UCLA, Stanford earns a trip to the conference championship game next week. The Cardinal will get an instant rematch with the UCLA Bruins for the Pac-12 title.
Zach Ertz plays a key role in Stanford's win over the UCLA Bruins. His key role in taking Stanford to the Pac-12 title game instead of the Oregon Ducks earns him the respect he deserves.
He becomes the clear favorite to win the Mackey Award.
Johnny Manziel backs up his entire season with another outstanding performance, this time against the Missouri Tigers.
Manziel locks in the Heisman as a result of his late-season heroics, and there aren't many people on the Heisman Watch List that can do anything about it.
Johnny's performance against the Missouri Tigers also earns him the Davey O'Brien award. Manziel is one of the best freshmen that college football has ever seen.
If his development continues its upward trend from this season, the Aggies may see a national championship before he leaves the program.
South Carolina upsets Clemson and leaves no room for doubt as to who the Palmetto State champion is at the end of the game.
South Carolina wins by no less than two touchdowns, regardless of who the favorite is.
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is the biggest individual factor in the defensive fireworks show that takes down the Clemson Tigers.
Clowney shoots to the top of the list for the Chuck Bednarik Trophy as a result of his performance against yet another top-11 team.
Colorado State has already had a season that's equally as good as last year's three-win jaunt. The biggest difference is that the Rams took down the Colorado Buffaloes in the season opener.
That was a taste of what's to come in Fort Collins. And to make the season even better than it already is, the Rams will take down New Mexico to finish with four wins for the first time since making it to the New Mexico Bowl in 2008.
Ole Miss proved that it's really coming along under new head coach Hugh Freeze when it took LSU to the wire in Death Valley last week.
Ole Miss will prove again this week that it's heading in the right direction by snapping a three-year losing streak against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Matt Barkley forced throws to Marqise Lee all game long against the UCLA Bruins. While the stellar receiver hauled plenty in to save Barkley's butt, six of Barkley's 18 incompletions were passes intended for Lee. A lot were into coverage close enough to get logged as a "pass broken up" for the defender.
Max Wittek will not have the tendency to force throws. He's a redshirt freshman with everything to prove and nothing to gain by favoring a specific receiver. USC could have won a few more games this season by simply playing better fundamental football.
The one thing Max Wittek will bring to the table is a penchant for reading through his progressions and throwing the ball to the open receiver. It sounds simple, but it's absolutely not. Barkley was playing from behind against UCLA, and his heart was telling him to get the ball into the hands of his best playmaker.
While he did a great job of spreading the ball around to many different targets, one-third of his passes that fell incomplete were to Lee.
Max Wittek will have a great game against Notre Dame, and the Trojan fanbase will smile in anticipation of what's coming next season.
Max Wittek's fundamental progression-reading performance will allow him to take advantage of his NFL-quality group of targets. While Wittek isn't a better quarterback than Matt Barkley right now, his limited slate of plays and the offense's heart to help the new guy as much as possible will translate to a big win over the Irish.
USC won't beat Notre Dame in spite of missing Matt Barkley, the Trojans will win because they're missing Matt Barkley. An injured senior on the sideline of the biggest game of the season will be the motivation for what turns out to be a season-saving performance.
Few Trojan fans will care that USC missed out on a championship opportunity if the Trojans can cap the season off with a win over the No. 1 team in America.
San Jose State will add to the woes of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs this week with a victory at home.
San Jose State fields a better defense than Louisiana Tech, although that's not really saying much. The Spartans have the talent to copy the successes of some of the teams that have already beaten the Bulldogs.
The team that once looked like it may play the role of BCS buster will end the season with three losses for a third-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference.
Since Ryan Allen and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will face a great defense, Allen will have the opportunity to put some serious punting numbers up in the game. (His season-long punt stands at 85 yards right now, but that will not likely change.)
With his continued stellar performance, Allen will pull down back-to-back Ray Guy Awards. Mostly thanks to the fact that he will reel off a season-high number of punts in Week 13.
With 61* teams already qualified for the postseason, the selection committee stands nine teams short of filling out the 35-bowl list. (Link goes to ESPN's standings chart.)
(Link explains that UTSA had a back-door opportunity, but the door was shut. Not even the elvish word for "friend" could open it.)
In the next few slides, we will cover which teams will help the bowl selectors by gaining eligibility during rivalry weekend.
Overall, it's reasonable to expect a total of 69 qualified teams. It's not necessarily likely, but it's reasonable.
Michigan State and Pittsburgh have already been covered in a previous slide, so our theoretical total is already up from 61 to 63.
*ESPN calls UTSA bowl-eligible, but a press release earlier in the season (via mysanantonio.com) established that the NCAA has called UTSA ineligible for postseason play beyond the potential conference championship trophy.
Ole miss is coming off a near-win in LSU's Death Valley at night. Ole Miss is fired up for a strong finish. As mentioned before, Ole Miss will stick it to Mississippi State during rivalry weekend.
As a result, Ole Miss will qualify for bowl season. The total number of teams qualified now stands at 63.
The Virginia Tech Hokies face off against the Virginia Cavaliers, who are already mathematically eliminated from the postseason. No win is a guarantee, but Virginia is certainly a winnable game for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech emerges victorious and qualifies for the postseason, though far short of the Sugar Bowl berth it got in 2011. Teams qualified: 64.
Baylor gets to face Texas Tech and Oklahoma State over the next two weeks. It would be easy to say "Baylor will win one of those games," but this article is about Week 13 predictions.
Baylor's defense has developed nicely throughout this season, though not always consistently. Baylor will beat Texas Tech and qualify for the postseason this Saturday. Teams qualified: 65.
Another team from the Big 12 makes a quick appearance here, and that's West Virginia. West Virginia started the season off 5-0, then dropped the next five games. We are all assuming that the Mountaineers wanted to make things interesting, right?
The Mountaineers have two chances to find that sixth win: against Iowa State and Kansas.
It's not even remotely "bold" to predict that Kansas will lose a game. West Virginia takes down Iowa State in Week 13 to go bowling. Teams qualified: 66.
The Rice Owls take on the UTEP Miners in Week 13. There are only three teams on the Miners' schedule that haven't beaten them.
Rice cruises by the Miners and earns a bowl bid. Teams qualified: 66.
Purdue decided to take a bit of a vacation in the middle of the season, placing a five-game losing streak between a 3-1 start and a 2-0 record over the last two weeks.
Regardless of how you feel about the Boilermakers, you've got to admit that they do have a chance at beating the Indiana Hoosiers. Purdue pushes past Indiana (but not easily) to punch its ticket to a game in December. Teams qualified: 68.
The five teams that could qualify are: Connecticut, Marshall, SMU, Wake Forest and Missouri.
Why they won't qualify:
Connecticut (4-6) and must win out to qualify. This week's game is against No. 20 Louisville.
Marshall (5-6) has one game left, and it's against the ECU Pirates (7-4).
SMU (5-6) faces Tulsa (9-2).
Wake Forest (5-6) takes on Vanderbilt (7-4, SEC).
Missouri faces No. 9 Texas A&M, who just took down then-No. 1 Alabama two weeks ago.
While none of these teams is locked out of the postseason, the schedules of each of them are brutal. The odds of any one of those teams making it through are low. Logically speaking, Pittsburgh should appear on this list, as the Panthers are 4-6 facing Rutgers this week.
As mentioned before, the Panthers will upset Rutgers, keeping their bowl hopes alive.
For decades, college football fans cried "foul" on the bowls, the BCS and any other form of national championship selection that didn't involve the top few teams battling on the field for actual supremacy.
While the response took entirely too long, the fans are getting what they want with a four-team playoff. While it may not be exactly what fans want, it's more than a decent start.
So, what will fans complain about now? The number of bowls. Historically, there were few bowls and making it into one meant you had a special season. From 1997 to the present, 17 bowls have been added. That brought the total number of bowls up from 18 to 35.
Think about it. With 18 bowls, the top 36 teams in college football made the postseason. That means that 90 percent of all teams selected for the bowls had at least made an appearance in the top 25 at some point during the season.
With 36 out of 124 teams qualifying, that meant only the top 29 percent of teams were rewarded with an extra game that a lot of people wanted to watch.
Now, we have so many bowls and such lax entrance requirements that 56.5 percent of teams get to play in the postseason. It's gotten so bad that there are bowls that may not happen unless the entrance requirements are lowered from 6-6 to 5-7 with a great graduation rate.
With no playoff agenda for fans to push anymore, making bowl season something where every game is worth watching will become the new agenda. There are two solutions to this:
1) Cut the number of bowls down and raise the entrance requirements.
2) Call bowl season what it is: exhibition season. Just pick interesting matches and let the playoff and five other bowls actually matter. (That's how we all look at it anyway, right?)
As discussed earlier, Florida will beat Florida State. With the Gators sitting behind Notre Dame, Georgia and Alabama, they are in a precarious position.
Assuming the games go as called in this article, Notre Dame loses and Florida, Alabama and Georgia all win. The current BCS Top 5 is:
1. Notre Dame
Here's how it should look if only Notre Dame loses in rivalry weekend:
5. Kansas State
Here's how it will look if only Notre Dame loses:
5. Kansas State
Why would that happen? Simply put, the human voters would vote Florida down just to avoid a potential all-SEC national title game.
It may be slightly accepted if it were to be Alabama vs. Florida for the national title, but the nation would tune out if it ended up being a Georgia vs. Florida rematch.
It would be bad enough to have an all-SEC title game again, but a rematch would be unacceptable. Whether you agree with Florida getting shafted or not, that's probably what will happen. Oregon's win over ranked Oregon State will give the voters all the excuse they need.