College Football Players, Teams and Coaches to Watch in Week 12
None of college football's Top Five teams will take on a ranked opponent in Week 12, but there will still be plenty of weighty storylines to follow and crucial games to watch.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Georgia and Auburn will square off, each with their division title hopes on the line.
The Big 12 will also feature a battle with major conference title implications between Oklahoma State and Texas, while the Big Ten will put on a similar tilt between Michigan State and Nebraska.
Finally, we'll check out what to watch for in the chaotic ACC Coastal Division and in Los Angeles, where USC is trying to knock off No. 4 Stanford.
Note: All rankings based on Week 12 BCS standings.
Player: RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
Week 12 Matchup: at No. 24 Texas (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox)
Oklahoma State running back Desmond Roland has made just three starts, but he reached the end zone multiple times in all three of those games.
The OSU offense struggled early this season but found new life with the junior starting in the backfield. The team is now poised to make a late run at the Big 12 Conference title.
In order to complete that task, the Cowboys must beat Texas this weekend.
Luckily for Roland, he'll be lined up against a porous UT run defense. The Longhorns rank No. 84 nationally against the run, allowing more than 185 yards per game on the ground. Last week, they were gouged by West Virginia running back Charles Sims, who tallied 135 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
If Roland can turn in a similar performance this week, OSU should be able to take down Texas and remain in the Big 12 title hunt.
But if the Longhorns halt Roland, the Cowboys' league title hopes will dissolve quickly.
Team: Georgia Bulldogs
Week 12 Matchup: at No. 7 Auburn (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS)
Auburn has hopes of taking down Alabama in the final week of the regular season but will still have a serious test against Georgia this week.
UGA spent the better part of the season as a national title hopeful and, even despite being peppered with injuries, is still a dangerous group.
With Aaron Murray at the helm and running back Todd Gurley now back in the lineup, the Dawgs can score with just about any offense in the country. They'll need to be at their best to beat the Tigers, led by a talented backfield duo of Nick Marshall and Tre Mason.
Georgia still has some hope to win the SEC East title and can also play a major role in deciding the West by knocking off Auburn.
If UGA is on, it can happen. This classic SEC rivalry should be one of Week 12's best matchups.
Coach: HC Will Muschamp, Florida
Week 12 Matchup: at No. 10 South Carolina (7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2)
Florida lost its 10th player and seventh stater for the season, linebacker Antonio Morrison, earlier this week, as reported by ESPN's Jeff Barlis. As a result, Will Muschamp admitted that all the injuries have been taking a tremendous toll on his team:
After losing 34-17 to Vanderbilt during its homecoming game, Muschamp said the team was "fragile" and had a "woe-is-me mentality" in regards to dealing with adversity.
"You just gotta coach through it," he said Monday. "We've just got to find ways to overcome that. It's something -- the psychological battle of getting our guys in the right situations so they can be successful.
"I certainly think [the amount of injuries] has had its effect. But we've got to find ways to get it right."
If he can't coach his players through that situation this weekend, UF can kiss its 22-season bowl streak goodbye. At 4-5, Florida must win two of its final three games to reach bowl eligibility.
With a contest looming against Florida State in their final game, the Gators have to win this weekend or their season will end before December.
Muschamp isn't in danger of losing his job just yet, but how he finishes this season will go a long way toward determining how long his leash will be next year.
Player: QB Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska
Week 12 Matchup: vs. No. 16 Michigan State (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2)
There's no questioning that the Nebraska offense is centered around running back Ameer Abdullah.
The junior leads the Big Ten in rushing with 1,213 yards and seven touchdowns on the year, but this week, he'll be running against the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation, Michigan State.
While facing that stout Spartan front, the Huskers will need more from quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. The freshman displayed great confidence while speaking to the media this week, saying the MSU defense is beatable (h/t Diamond Leung, MLive.com):
They are one of the best defenses in the country, but at the same time, they can be beat. Our offense, when we're clicking, we're clicking. I don't think anybody in the country can stop us when we're doing our thing and when we're going 100 percent, and we're marching down the field.
It'll be on Armstrong to back up that talk on the field Saturday.
Team: Duke Blue Devils
Week 12 Matchup: vs. No. 23 Miami (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU)
The ACC Coastal is an absolute mess. With several teams tied with two losses in league play, Duke has as strong of a chance as any team at winning the division, and thus winning the conference and earning a BCS berth.
Let that sink in: Duke could go to a BCS bowl.
First things first: The Blue Devils must beat Miami this weekend. The Hurricanes are coming off a pair of blowout losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech. Last week the 'Canes showed that they are truly hurting (physically and psychologically) after the FSU loss and the loss of star running back Duke Johnson.
Meanwhile, Duke beat the VT team that just beat The U, giving the Blue Devils plenty to be confident about heading into this game.
Duke actually boasts the No. 5 scoring defense in the ACC and has allowed just 14.8 points per game over its last four contests.
That isn't what Miami's sputtering offense wants to hear.
Coach: Interim HC Ed Orgeron, USC
Week 12 Matchup: vs. No. 4 Stanford (8 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC)
This weekend might mark the first time a team fired its head coach midseason and went on to become the host site for an ESPN College GameDay contest just weeks later.
History aside, that is the scenario facing USC as it takes on No. 4 Stanford led by its interim head coach, Ed Orgeron.
Orgeron has led quite the resurgence in Los Angeles, leading the Trojans to a 4-1 record under his guidance, with just one four-point loss to Notre Dame coming on the road.
A win over Stanford would go a long way toward Orgeron earning a full-time gig at Southern Cal. It would also rip Stanford out of the BCS conversation and give the Pac-12 North keys back to Oregon.
Given the difference in ranking between the unranked Trojans and the Top Five Cardinal, one might think this would be a blowout, but that isn't the case. VegasInsider.com lists USC as just four-point underdogs.
Could USC pull off the upset and give its interim coach hope for a future in Tinseltown?
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