BCS Rankings 2013: 5 Biggest BCS Impact Games of Week 12
Unlike last weekend, Week 12 doesn't have five games that jump off the page as definite BCS busters. But sometimes, those are the weeks where the BCS is most likely to get busted.
Besides, even without a plethora of ranked-on-ranked matchups, its not like this week lacks for intrigue; there are still plenty of games that could alter the shape of bowl season.
Stanford finds itself in the spotlight once again, heading to USC for a huge game against the rival Trojans, just a week removed from beating also-rival Oregon on its home field.
Beyond that, games in the Big 12, Big Ten and SEC could all determine the fate of conferences and divisions, while one mid-week sleeper from a non-BCS league might turn out to have massive national upshots.
Bleacher Report's BCS Guru, Sam Chi, compiled a list of the five biggest impact games on the schedule this week and weekend. Here's a quick preview of each.
5. Ball State at Northern Illinois
Ball State has been fantastic on the road—and in general—this season, beating an ACC team (Virginia) by three touchdowns and dispatching MAC foes by roughly the same average margin.
Northern Illinois has its toughest test of the season in the Cardinals, which makes this perhaps their most important game.
A convincing win would send a powerful message to voters that the Huskies are for real. A close win would keep NIU on track for an undefeated season, but NIU would almost definitely need Fresno State to lose. A loss would put the team's hopes of crashing the BCS and winning a conference championship on ice.
Even though the Huskies have sustained success for two seasons, head coach Rod Carey knows that opportunities to compete for a BCS spot from the MAC are rare.
He wants his team to take advantage.
"I don't know if you ever want to let any opportunities pass," Carey said, according to Paul Myerberg of USA Today. "[T]here's no guarantees going forward and there's no guarantees going now, so don't wait to be great."
Carey's team will need to heed those words on Wednesday, especially on defense, where the Huskies have looked vulnerable in spots this season.
Ball State has a trio of very talented offensive skill players—quarterback Keith Wenning, running back Horactio Banks and receiver Willie Snead—that are itching to make some noise on a pretty big stage.
4. Georgia at Auburn
Georgia, like most every SEC team, pasted Auburn last season, beating the Tigers 38-0 on their home-field. Now that the script is (slightly) flipped, can Gus Malzahn's team exact revenge?
Auburn enters the game ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings, second-highest among all non-undefeated teams, trailing only Oregon. It controls its own fate in the SEC, and with some help, it even has a shot to crash the BCS National Championship—a thought that would have been utterly laughable as recently as a month ago.
The Bulldogs have stumbled in a few spots this year, but they are slowly starting to get healthy, and Aaron Murray continues to play at a high level. He and the offense can be counted on to produce some points in a hostile environment, but the defense faces a tougher task.
Auburn ranks third in the nation in both rushing yards per game and yards per rushing attempt, leading the SEC in those stats by a wide margin. Even without much pretense of a passing game, Bulldogs safety Josh-Harvey Clemons knows that his team might be susceptible to allowing long gains.
"You've just got to know your responsibilities," Harvey-Clemons said, according to David Ching of ESPN.com. "[E]verybody has to be gap-responsible because if one person's out of position, it can be a big play."
Georgia has allowed just 30 rushes of 10-plus yards this season, tied for 10th best in the country and trailing just Alabama in the SEC.
If it continues to defend the run with that kind of success, Georgia has a good chance of winning this game and derailing Auburn's BCS hopes.
3. Michigan State at Nebraska
This game might very well—and probably will—decide who wins the Big Ten Legends, extending its BCS implications far past the two teams taking the field.
Whichever team wins this game will likely play Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, and given each squad's body of work this season, the Buckeyes are probably hoping Nebraska comes out on top.
That won't be easy against the Michigan State defense, though, especially since the unit is hellbent on revenge after last year's 28-24 loss to the Huskers—a game Sparty thought it deserved to win.
Star cornerback Darqueze Dennard had a pick six called back for a questionable blocking penalty in last year's game, then compounded that frustration by picking up a costly—and also questionable—pass interference flag on Nebraska's game-winning drive.
Nebraska is the only Big Ten team he hasn't beaten, and the senior is eager to get that monkey off of his back.
"It would be a great thing for me, knowing that I've beat every team in the Big Ten in my career," said Dennard, according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. "A lot of people don't have the chance to say that."
Without Taylor Martinez, Nebraska already stood little chance of moving the ball against the top yardage defense in America.
With MSU's defense playing angry, those chances are even smaller.
2. Texas Tech at Baylor
Texas Tech is fading fast, having allowed 139 points in its last three games—all losses—after starting the year 7-0.
That doesn't seem to bode well heading into Arlington, as the Bears are coming off of their best win in 2013, a 41-12 drubbing of Oklahoma last Thursday. If Kansas State could drop 49 points on this defense in Lubbock, how many points should Baylor be able to drop with Texas Tech playing away from its home field?
The answer to that question will rely on big plays. Even in the last three games, when Texas Tech has been getting torched, its defense has not allowed yardage to be gained in chunks. It's just been plagued by letdowns for big gains.
"There’s been 22 explosive plays against us in the last three games," said defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, according to Mike Graham of the Dallas Morning News. "That’s over 23 yards per play. I can’t remember the exact number, there’s 600 and some odd yards on 22 snaps."
That could spell big trouble against Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, whose 28 completions of 30-plus yards are tied with Johnny Manziel for most in the country. His 20 completions of 40-plus yards give him sole possession of first, as do his 10 completions of 50-plus yards and eight completions of more than 60.
Baylor's most explosive receiver, Tevin Reese, will miss the game with a wrist injury sustained in the rout of Oklahoma, and Texas Tech better hope that helps slow this offense down.
Otherwise, Texas Tech could be in for a very long 60 minutes.
1. Stanford at USC
College Gameday will be in attendance as USC welcomes Stanford to the Coliseum, eager to see how a reinvigorated team, led by interim coach Ed Orgeron, will handle the suddenly red-hot Cardinal, which upset Oregon in Week 11.
Last year it was USC contending for a supposed BCS National Championship run, and Stanford was the team that played spoiler, but this year, the Trojans get a chance to flip the script.
Those who think that USC has a shot are hoping for some sort of letdown from the Cardinal, which hit a euphoric high in last week's win over Oregon and might not be able to keep up their adrenaline.
According to head coach David Shaw, however, there is little chance of that happening.
"We don’t have time for that," Shaw said, according to Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com. "[G]oing down to play at the Coliseum against USC on national TV, that’s enough to get your attention. We can’t afford to dwell on any of the things that happened last week."
If the same Stanford defense that showed up last week is present on Saturday, we could be in store for an old-fashioned slugfest.
According to Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings, Stanford and USC have the Nos. 2 and 5 defenses in America, respectively.
First one to 20 wins?