25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into CFB Week 14
We are now entering the final weekend of the college football season, and as usual, there is a lot on the line.
College football will take center stage for three days beginning on Thursday night. The weekend will feature multiple conference championships along with some regular-season finales.
By late Saturday night, the BCS picture will have cleared up, and we will know exactly who is going where.
There is a lot to talk about both on and off the field, but here are the 25 biggest college-football storylines heading into the weekend.
Who Will Take the Big East?
Even though both teams lost on Saturday, Louisville will travel north to take on Rutgers, with the winner likely going to the Orange Bowl.
The Cardinals trail the Scarlet Knights by a game in the conference. A win by Louisville would likely force a four-way tie at the top of the league, with the Cardinals winning the tiebreaker and earning the BCS bid.
With a Rutgers win, the Scarlet Knights would win the conference outright and gain entry to a BCS bowl.
This could be an extremely low-scoring game, but it should be very close throughout.
The Health of Teddy Bridgewater
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks to be in good shape in terms of starting on Thursday, but how he'll hold up is another issue.
The sophomore quarterback injured his wrist in the triple-overtime loss to Connecticut and also suffered an ankle injury.
There is a fracture, but it is on his non-throwing hand, giving him a chance to play.
Without him, the Cardinals would have a hard time putting points on the board.
The MAC Title Is on the Line
The MAC championship is one of two games on Friday night, as two of the Top 25 teams in the BCS standings take center stage.
No. 21 Northern Illinois will be battling No. 17 Kent State in a game featuring two teams with identical 11-1 records and 8-0 marks in conference play.
The nation will finally get a chance to witness Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch.
He might prove to be too tough for Kent State to stop.
Will the MAC Earn a BCS Bowl Bid?
There is a chance the winner of the MAC championship will earn a berth in the Orange Bowl.
If Kent State comes out victorious, the Golden Flashes will likely move up at least the one necessary spot to qualify for a BCS Bowl.
They are certain to finish ahead of the Big East champion.
If No. 21 Northern Illinois wins, it is hard to imagine it moving up five spots and getting the BCS bid.
Oklahoma is a team that could be on the BCS bubble right now because of this.
A Shot at Redemption for UCLA
UCLA and Stanford will meet again on Friday, just six days after the Cardinal throttled UCLA in Los Angeles, 35-17.
It does not seem likely that UCLA can score enough points against the Stanford defense to pull off the victory, but stranger things have certainly happened.
There is plenty at stake, as the winner will go to the Rose Bowl, while the loser will be headed to a bowl game at the end of December.
UCLA gets its second shot to knock off Stanford and will need to catch a few breaks to do so.
Can Stanford Continue Its Magical Run?
Not many teams in the country have played a more grueling schedule than Stanford. A win over UCLA on Friday will cap off one of the greatest months in school history.
So far in November, Stanford has defeated Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA. All of those teams are in the Top 20.
The Cardinal will need one more win to secure a BCS berth.
With the way they are playing right now, it is hard to imagine them not getting it.
A Conference USA Champion Will Be Crowned
Tulsa and Central Florida will meet on Saturday for the Conference USA championship.
The two teams are both 9-3 and 7-1 in conference play. They met less than two weeks ago in Tulsa, and the Golden Hurricane eked out a 23-21 win.
Conference USA has been very weak the past couple of years, with the exception of the top-two or -three teams, and this season is no different.
There is a major drop-off in talent after these two teams, but this one will certainly be worth watching.
Will the Winning Ways of Baylor Continue?
The Baylor Bears have put together consecutive victories the past two weeks and are now bowl eligible at 6-5.
With one game remaining against Oklahoma State, this is a great chance for the Bears to improve their bowl status.
Baylor has one of the top-five scoring offenses in the country, averaging over 44 points a game.
This will certainly be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend.
How Will the Big 12 Shake Out?
The Big 12 is one of the most competitive conferences in the country, and with nine of the 10 teams in the league already bowl eligible, it will be interesting to see where everybody ends up.
Oklahoma still has a shot to win the conference with a victory over TCU and a Kansas State loss at Texas.
As much as the Longhorns would hate to be the reason Oklahoma won the conference, they would want nothing more than to beat Kansas State to close out the regular season.
Will Kansas Go Winless in the Big 12?
The Kansas Jayhawks have put together one of the worst seasons in the history of the Big 12 and will likely cap it off with a season-ending loss at West Virginia.
The Jayhawks have only won one game in 2012, the season opener versus South Dakota State.
Charlie Weis has not been the answer, at least not so far, and at 0-8 in league play, the season could not end any sooner for Kansas.
An Interesting Sun Belt Matchup
Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee will do battle on Saturday afternoon in a game that will decide the Sun Belt champion.
Both come into the game 8-3 overall and 6-1 in league play. They are currently tied for first in the league, and while there is no conference-title game, this is just as good as one.
These teams have played very challenging schedules this season and are much better than many would anticipate.
This is a very interesting matchup between two very talented teams.
Will Any More Head Coaches Bite the Dust?
With many teams' seasons coming to an end this past weekend, numerous coaches have already been let go.
Among the names on the list are Gene Chizik, Derek Dooley, John L. Smith, Tom O'Brien, Jon Embree, Danny Hope, Joker Phillips, Jeff Tedford, Frank Spaziani and a few others.
What will this week bring?
It is not likely that many teams will lose their coach before the weekend, but it is not out of the question that a few more will have been let go by this time next week.
Bowl Eligibility Still Up in the Air
A lot of teams became bowl eligible this past weekend, and there are two more teams that have a chance to accomplish the feat this weekend.
Both Pittsburgh and Connecticut pulled off upsets on Saturday over Rutgers and Louisville, respectively, and now just need one more win to become bowl eligible.
For Pittsburgh, the task will be much easier as the Panthers take on South Florida. While the game is on the road, Pittsburgh is a heavy favorite against a depleted Bulls team.
Connecticut, on the other hand, has to take on an 8-3 Cincinnati team. The Huskies are at home, however, and have played very well in recent weeks.
Will Boise State Win the Mountain West Conference?
Boise State has been a staple in the Top 25 for the better part of the past decade, and while this team has not been nearly as good, particularly on offense, as in years past, the Broncos can still win a share of the Mountain West Conference with a victory against Nevada.
The Wolf Pack are not going to go down without a fight, and being that the Broncos are away, nothing will come easy for Boise State.
This could turn out to be one of the better games of the afternoon.
Can Georgia Score Enough Points to Beat Alabama?
There is no question that the game of the day is the SEC championship between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia.
The Bulldogs could be the best team Alabama has played all season and might be able to give the Alabama defense some fits.
One of the biggest storylines heading into the weekend is whether or not Georgia can put enough points on the board to hang with the Crimson Tide.
Will Alabama Go Back to the BCS National Championship Game?
The Alabama Crimson Tide are the clear favorites coming into the showdown versus Georgia, but this game is likely to be very close.
It could come down to who wins the turnover battle. Georgia is also going to need to make a few big plays to be able to hang with the Crimson Tide.
A win by Alabama and it will be back in the title game.
Most of the football world will be tuning into this one on Saturday afternoon.
Can Florida State Salvage Its Season?
Entering the fourth quarter against Florida, it appeared like Florida State had a legitimate shot to knock off the Gators and prove itself as a legitimate national-title contender.
That was not the case, as the Gators took over at the end of the game on their way to a 37-26 victory.
With two losses, Florida State will now try to knock off Georgia Tech in the ACC title game and book its ticket to Miami for the Orange Bowl.
While that would still not be the season the Seminoles expected, a loss to the Yellow Jackets would make for a major disappointment.
Does Georgia Tech Have a Shot?
At 6-6, Georgia Tech will find itself in a bowl game no matter what happens against Florida State.
The Yellow Jackets are very reminiscent of the UCLA squad from a season ago that finished in the same position.
Is there a shot that Georgia Tech can knock off Florida State and make a surprise appearance in the Orange Bowl at 7-6?
That is very doubtful, but is not out of the question. Well, maybe it is.
Will Collin Klein Make a Heisman Push?
Collin Klein was the Heisman front-runner before Kansas State lost to Baylor.
Now, he will likely need an unforgettable performance against Texas on the road in order to be back in the hunt.
Even though he has put up excellent numbers all season long, considering how Johnny Manziel has played in recent weeks, it is hard to imagine Manziel not taking the award.
Klein, however, will have the final shot at making a move. He also will be doing it on a national stage.
Can Kansas State Lock Up the Big 12 and Fiesta Bowl?
One of the final games of the night will feature Texas making a road trip to Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats.
There is no question that this is one of the biggest games of the day, as there are Big 12-title implications on the line.
Currently, Kansas State is tied with Oklahoma, but holds the tiebreaker edge.
Texas can play spoiler. Can Collin Klein lead Kansas State to one more win in the final collegiate regular-season game he will ever play?
Who Will Be Smelling Roses?
In the Big Ten championship game, Wisconsin will be taking on Nebraska for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Even though Wisconsin is in the game by default, as Penn State and Ohio State are both on probation, this is going to be a battle.
The two played earlier in the season and Nebraska came away with a three-point, home victory.
This one could be just as close, and might come down to the final possession.
Will Anybody Else Emerge in the Heisman Race?
The Heisman race is not completely over, but it looks like Johnny Manziel is the guy to beat. As mentioned earlier, Collin Klein has the best chance to supplant him with a big performance at Texas.
But what other players could emerge on Saturday? While guys like Marqise Lee, Kenjon Barner, Braxton Miller and Manti Te'o are not playing, there are a few other names that are very familiar.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball might be the biggest of those names. He has been a force toward the end of the season.
Other players who could make a push for a trip to New York are AJ McCarron and Landry Jones.
How Will the BCS Picture Shake Out?
While the BCS-bowl picture has seemingly cleared up a little bit in recent weeks, there is still a lot to be decided.
The biggest question is who will be the two at-large teams.
As it appears right now, Oregon is a lock for the Fiesta Bowl. If Oklahoma can win and Kent State or Northern Illinois does not jump into the Top 16, the Sooners are almost a certainty for the Sugar Bowl.
The rest will ultimately be decided by conference-championship games.
Either way, there is still plenty on the line this weekend.
Will Any Big-Name Programs Hire New Coaches?
With so many open coaching spots, it is now that time of the year when big-name programs start pulling coaches from some of the smaller schools.
Arkansas and Tennessee are two of the schools that are in a hurry to do just that.
It may happen as early as this week, particularly for the Razorbacks.
Stay tuned, as things are going to get interesting.
Let the coaching carousel begin.
The Final BCS Rankings Will Be Revealed
On Sunday night, the final BCS rankings, along with all other pertinent bowl information, will be released, and the regular season, for all intents and purposes, will come to an end.
There is no question that Notre Dame will be at the top, but after that, there is a lot up in the air.
With quite an exciting weekend of college football ahead of us, Sunday night will be a little icing on the cake.