25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 13

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIINovember 18, 2013

25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 13

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 12 set the bar incredibly high with several thrilling finishes in Los Angeles, Orlando and Auburn, but Week 13 promises some fireworks of its own.

    No. 4 Baylor will travel to No. 10 Oklahoma State for a crucial Big 12 tilt, while No. 14 UCLA and No. 17 Arizona State will stage a matchup with similar Pac-12 Conference title implications.

    No. 8 Missouri will be trying to hold on to its lead in the SEC East when it travels to take on No. 24 Ole Miss. Elsewhere in the SEC, Johnny Manziel and No. 12 Texas A&M will head into Death Valley to face No. 22 LSU.

    In the Week 13 storylines, we'll take an early look at all of those matchups, several award races, while also breaking down every conference race and even the BCS rankings.

    Note: All rankings based on Week 13 BCS standings.

1. Can 'Bama Be Beat?

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    Alabama played one of its worst games of the season on the road against an SEC opponent last weekend and still came away with a 20-7 win over Mississippi State.

    The Crimson Tide are still set up to play for their third straight national title, but with Auburn coming next week and the SEC title game after that (if they top the Tigers), 'Bama will have to be better than it was against MSU. Tide head coach Nick Saban agrees, as written by ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough:

    Alabama was sluggish, uninspired and out of sorts. The offense turned the ball over a season-high four times, and the defense struggled with communication. The Tide remained undefeated, but at a cost. 

    A week after beating a BCS-level LSU team convincingly, Alabama was suddenly flawed. UA coach Nick Saban said his team had won, but it really didn't beat Mississippi State in the process. He put the so-so performance on his shoulders and said that there was no question Alabama has to get better if it wants to reach its ultimate goal of a national championship. 

    If they do sharpen up and make the title game, they'll need to be at their best to top Florida State. The Seminoles notched their second straight 59-3 win over an ACC foe and have been dominant in almost every game this season.

    From start to finish, Alabama has looked more beatable than FSU. But 'Bama is still No. 1 for a reason, and Saban is the always-present X-factor.

    Can anyone derail the Tide on their way to Pasadena? And can they top Jameis Winston and the 'Noles if they make it there? We'll find out in time.

2. Who's on Third?

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    Ohio State held on to the No. 3 spot in the Week 13 BCS rankings, barely holding off Baylor.

    B/R's Samuel Chi broke down what OSU's .0013-point lead in the standings means going forward, and the news isn't great for the Buckeyes:

    It's just about certain that Baylor will be the No. 3 team in the next BCS standings if it can defeat No. 10 Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Bears will gain enough in the computer rankings (a mere one-place improvement in one computer is all they need) to make up the .0013 deficit, but they'll also most likely pick up a few votes by defeating a Top 10 team.

    This might seem irrelevant right now, with Alabama and FSU seemingly locked in at No. 1 and No. 2. However, if one is to falter over the waning weeks of the season—or in their conference title games—it'll open the door for the No. 3 team to take a berth in the national title game.

    As of Week 13, OSU would take that berth. But if Baylor finishes strong, the Bears will play for a national championship.

    If both win out, which team would be most deserving? Let us know what you think down below.

3. Bowl Projections

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    Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer projects the BCS bowl picture playing out like this, as of Week 13:

    • BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Florida State
    • Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. UCF
    • Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Ohio State
    • Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. Fresno State
    • Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Wisconsin

    Also, check out B/R's full bowl projections from Brian Pedersen. While we'll have to wait another season to see a playoff, there will still be plenty of intriguing matchups this year.

4. Heisman Watch

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    B/R's Barrett Sallee tabs the Week 13 Heisman Trophy rankings featuring five quarterbacks at the top:

    1. Jameis Winston, Florida State
    2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
    3. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
    4. Bryce Petty, Baylor
    5. AJ McCarron, Alabama

    The race looks to be down to just Florida State's Jameis Winston and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

    Winston will benefit from his team likely earning a national title berth, though his numbers are nowhere near that of Manziel.

    The reigning winner, Manziel, has tallied 3,313 yards passing and 31 touchdowns to go with 611 rushing yards and eight scores. Winston has amassed 2,938 yards and 28 touchdowns through the air, as well as 145 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

    While Manziel has accounted for nearly 1,000 more yards and eight more scores, his team's two losses will hurt. However, if he finishes strong in marquee games against LSU and Missouri, he might be hoisting Heisman No. 2 in December.

5. Williams for Heisman?

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    No running back has put up numbers anywhere near that of Boston College's Andre Williams, and for that, head coach Steve Addazio thinks he should mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race.

    As reported by Jack McCluskey of ESPNBoston.com, Addazio didn't mince words when asked if he thinks Williams should be a Heisman candidate:

    Absolutely. I think that any time you have a dominant football player that is all about the right things and stands for what’s right in college football, then that’s what that award represents. There are some tremendously worthy candidates out there, but why not Andre?

    Addazio certainly has a case. Williams ranks No. 1 nationally with 1,810 yards and 288 rushing attempts, and he has reached the end zone 14 times. With a ridiculous average of 181 yards per game, the BC workhorse is far and away the most prolific running back in the nation.

    His endorsement came after Williams' record-breaking performance against North Carolina State, in which he tallied 339 rushing yards on 42 attempts. 

    While he might be left out of the Heisman conversation, he'll at least stand as a favorite to win the Doak Walker Award, given to college football's best running back.

6. The Rise of Duke

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    After Duke's monumental win over Miami (Fla.) over the weekend, the Blue Devils have officially arrived as the favorite to win the ACC Coastal.

    Laura Keeley of The News & Observer painted the picture of Duke's rise after its big victory:

    In the aftermath of Duke’s 48-30 victory against Miami, senior cornerback Ross Cockrell, still dressed in his playing gear, walked into the media interview room.

    “Wow,” he said, drawing out the “o” as he looked around at all the reporters and cameras awaiting him.

    “This is the most people I’ve ever seen postgame,” he said after he sat down. “… But things change once you start winning games.”

    Things have certainly changed for Duke, which has long been an ACC bottom-dweller. The Blue Devils cracked the Top 25 polls for the first time since 1994 with their win.

    The runaway victory over the Hurricanes marked a perfect storm over the week. Duke entered Week 12 in a four-way tie for first place in the Coastal with Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami. The Yellow Jackets lost to Clemson, the Hokies fell to Maryland and the Blue Devils took care of business against the 'Canes, giving them sole possession of first place in the division.

    If Duke wins out against Wake Forest and North Carolina, it will be headed to Charlotte to take on Florida State for the ACC title.

7. What Will USC Do with Coach O?

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    Let the debate begin.

    USC's rebirth under interim head coach Ed Orgeron became complete when the Trojans took down then-No. 4 Stanford Saturday night, marking an incredible turnaround for a program that fired its head coach just weeks earlier.

    After the win, Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com made the claim that Orgeron is the guy for USC to hire full time:

    Orgeron was engulfed in a sea of cardinal-and-gold-clad fans on the field after USC upset No. 4 Stanford, 20-17, Saturday night at the Coliseum. It was an unprecedented show of support for the team and coach by a fan base that had become so apathetic with the product on the field that the Coliseum was half-empty two months ago, with a majority of those fans booing and calling for the coach's job.

    Fast-forward six weeks and USC's band is playing songs dedicated to the Trojans' coach, while fans do card stunts at halftime professing their love for him. Forget sexy -- "Coach O" has quickly become the most popular figure on campus and turned what was going to be a difficult decision for Haden, the USC athletic director, into a no-brainer with two games left in the regular season.

    Meanwhile, Chris Huston of CollegeFootballTalk countered with an opposite claim:

    Fresh off USC’s 20-17 upset of No. 5 Stanford on Saturday night, calls are coming from media, fans and some Trojan players for interim head coach Ed Orgeron to be hired as USC’s permanent head man going forward.

    Besides the fact that some of these sentiments are self-serving (media people love talking to Orgeron and having him as a head coach again would make for good copy), they are also filled with the same type of fuzzy-headed thinking that got USC into this mess in the first place.

    Huston went on to cite Orgeron's rough tenure at Ole Miss and other available candidates as reasons for why he shouldn't be hired, while also lamenting that players and fans shouldn't choose a coach.

    USC athletic director Pat Haden is stuck between a rock and a hard place with this decision. No matter which way he goes, he'll need to pick a coach who can bring USC back to prominence—or he'll be ridiculed for making the wrong choice.

8. Baylor and Oklahoma State: The New Big 12 Powers

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    The era of Oklahoma and Texas dominating the Big 12 Conference is over, as ESPN.com's Jake Trotter writes:

    Two Thursdays ago, Baylor flattened Oklahoma utterly and convincingly for its 12th consecutive victory dating back to last year. Then over the past weekend, Oklahoma State ran Texas out of its own stadium -- again. 

    As the Big 12 flagship programs continue to flounder, the Bears and Cowboys have taken over control of the conference. 

    And, while Oklahoma and Texas will be scrambling to make respectable bowls, Baylor and Oklahoma State will be duking it out this weekend for the conference crown with "College GameDay" in town. 

    There's no question that Baylor and Oklahoma State have been the class of the Big 12 this season. BU and OSU rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

    The two programs that were Big 12 bottom-dwellers not long ago will now square off in Stillwater, with their tilt going a long way toward deciding the conference title.

    The winner will just have to win out to win the league. The two new Big 12 rulers will kick off at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. ESPN's College GameDay will also be in town for the weekend.

9. High-Stakes Showdown: Arizona State at UCLA

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    The winner of this weekend's meeting between UCLA (8-2, 5-2) and Arizona State (8-2, 6-1) will be in the driver's seat to win the Pac-12 South—and both teams know it.

    Both teams have had their missteps this year, but both are still alive to accomplish their postseason goals, as UCLA coach Jim Mora succinctly said, per Doug Haller of AZCentral.com.

    "We got something we’re after,” Mora told reporters, “(and) it’s still available to us.”

    UCLA remains a game behind the Sun Devils in the division but will take control with a win.

    Meanwhile, Todd Graham's team sits atop the division, but the ASU boss knows there is plenty of work left to do, starting this week, per Haller:

    We haven’t done anything yet. Our goal has always been to win the Pac-12 South, the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl. We’ll see how we respond, but I have great belief in these guys. … We’re real close. You can tell how they’ve played that we’ve got a heck of a football team, but at this level, the margin for error is very small.

    The Bruins will play host to the Sun Devils at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox.

10. Can Missouri Hold On?

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Missouri might be in control in the SEC East division, but its work is far from done. 

    The Tigers have a one-game advantage over South Carolina in the standings, but since USC holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, they must win both of their final games to win the league.

    As Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star writes, Mizzou will have to earn the division title the hard way:

    But I look at this way. This is SEC. Teams prove their worth by winning. In a year in which Missouri has surpassed all expectation and squashed any notion the program wasn’t prepared for SEC rigors, work remains to finish an amazing achievement. And now Mizzou knows precisely what is required. South Carolina finished league play 6-2. The Tigers need to finish 7-1. It’s theirs for the taking.

    If the Tigers are to take the division and earn a trip to Atlanta to play for the SEC title, they'll have to go through a tough venue at Ole Miss and stop the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Manziel.

    Mizzou will host A&M next Saturday but will first have to make it out of Oxford with a win. 

    The Tigers and the Rebels will kick off at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at 7:45 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN.

11. Manziel vs. Mettenberger

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    LSU is preparing for a shootout against Texas A&M.

    It might be a tall task, but Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger asserted that his offense isn't going to change up its style to keep the ball out of the hands of Manziel and the A&M offense, per Jim Kleinpeter, The Times-Picayune:

    We talked about it today. We're not going to sit on the ball the whole game, we're still going to be aggressive. Obviously they have a very good offense. We're going to have to score a lot of points and keep drives going. Hopefully we can do both of those successfully. We've been in a couple of shootouts this year.

    Mettenberger also talked about what he expects to see from the aggressive Aggies defense, stressing execution and ball security:

    They kind of play with nothing to lose on defense. They'll bring the house a lot and make plays but give up plays as well. I think they know they can do that because they've got such a good offense. It's going to be our job to execute and not turn the ball over.

    With A&M averaging 49 and LSU averaging 38 points per game, a shootout is a virtual guarantee. It'll likely be on Mettenberger's arm to keep up with Manziel and the Aggies.

    LSU and A&M will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS from Baton Rouge.

12. Wisconsin and Minnesota Battling for College Football's Coolest Trophy

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    College football's best rivalry trophy, Paul Bunyan's Axe, has been housed in Madison for the past nine years, and Wisconsin will look to make it 10 by topping Minnesota yet again this weekend.

    As written by Jeff Potrykus of the Journal Sentinel, the Badgers aren't about to relinquish the gigantic forestry tool to the Gophers:

    "It's been so long since we haven't had the Axe here," said quarterback Joel Stave, who said he was a fourth-grader the last time the Gophers beat UW. "That's not something you ever want to be a part of, the team that lost the Axe."

    "It is an easy game to focus on," senior linebacker Chris Borland said. "It's the rivalry. We've got the Axe in our locker room. We see it every day. On top of that, they're a much-improved team."

    As linebacker Chris Borland alluded to, it won't be easy this time around. The Gophers debuted at No. 25 in the BCS this week and are winners of four straight games.

    The game will feature two of the top four rushing attacks in the Big Ten Conference. UW ranks No. 2 in the league, averaging 307.9 yards on the ground per game. U of M comes in at No. 4, averaging 218.5 rushing yards per contest.

    The two rivals will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

13. Big Ten Tickets to Be Punched This Weekend

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    While Wisconsin and Minnesota play for their gargantuan axe, Michigan State and Ohio State will be playing for a berth in the Big Ten title game.

    Both can sew up a spot in the conference championship game this week. OSU will be in with a win over lowly Indiana or with a loss by the Badgers. MSU will be in with a win over Northwestern or a loss by the Gophers.

    Both squads are undefeated in Big Ten play and have certainly earned their division titles. As Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press wrote, the Spartans did it with the biggest victory in Mark Dantonio's tenure over Nebraska:

    They did what champions are supposed to do when challenged, venturing into hostile territory and relentlessly imposing their will on the opposition.

    This was the most important game to date in Mark Dantonio’s seven years at Michigan State – even more important than playing for a shot at the Rose Bowl in the inaugural Big Ten championship game two years ago – because the expectations were never higher than they were approaching this pivotal game.

    As MSU met those expectations, it now has a shot at another Rose Bowl berth. The Spartans will visit Northwestern at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN, while the Buckeyes will host Indiana at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2.

14. Can UCF Hold On?

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    A win is a win. It's cliche, but it's definitely UCF's M.O. this season.

    After the Knights nearly saw their BCS hopes chopped down by Temple, they look something like a team of destiny.

    Head coach George O'Leary thinks that someone on high is looking out for his team, as written by Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel:

    After heart-stopping wins in Happy Valley, Memphis, Louisville and Orlando, the Knights once again found a way to survive.

    "I told the players, if you go to church tomorrow make sure you're in the front pew," UCF coach George O'Leary said. "Somebody is looking out for them. Those games don't usually happen like that. … That's why you never, never, never give up. That's the resilience of the team."

    UCF still has three games left to win before it can claim the American Athletic Conference title and head off to a BCS bowl, the toughest of which will come Thursday against Rutgers.

    The Scarlet Knights have also had a penchant for playing in close games this season; they could be in for another thriller.

    UCF will host RU at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

15. UNC's Rebound

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    One month ago, bowl eligibility seemed like nothing but a dream for 1-5 North Carolina.

    But since then, the Tar Heels have won four straight and can attain bowl eligibility by beating Old Dominion this weekend.

    Through it all, head coach Larry Fedora has stressed focus for UNC, per Turner Walston, GoHeels.com:

    I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you better just keep doing the things you’re doing and not let all the distractions on the outside . . . if you start thinking about that then you start causing problems for yourself. The focus has to be where it’s been and we don’t want to change that, and we want to keep everybody in that same mode where we’re all thinking the same way, still doing the things that put us in that position.

    Quarterback Marquise Williams echoed his coach's sentiments, saying the Heels haven't even mentioned bowl eligibility:

    “To be honest we haven’t talked about a bowl game,” Williams said, stressing the team’s mindset is on going 1-0 each week. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on and that’s where our focus is going to be, just focusing on getting this win this Saturday and then what’s next.”

    This Saturday, Williams and the Heels should have no problem taking care of business against an ODU team that has just one win over an FBS team this season.

    The Monarchs and the Heels will kick off at 12 p.m. ET Saturday.

16. Hangman Week for 'Noles and Tide

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    Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    The cupcake game has now been replaced with the "hangman" game.

    During its 59-3 blowout of Syracuse this week, some Florida State players were spotted playing hangman on a whiteboard on the sidelines.

    There's a good chance that FSU will be playing hangman once again this week. The Seminoles will host Idaho (1-9), which is the second-worst scoring defense in the nation, allowing 45.7 points per game.

    Alabama will be in the same situation, hosting Chattanooga—though it isn't likely that anyone will be playing hangman on Nick Saban's sideline.

17. Ducks Atop Pac-12 North but Face Unlucky No. 11

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    ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel pointed out an interesting trend regarding the Oregon Ducks and the No. 11 that only a numerologist would be able to truly explain:

    In the 11th game of last season, Oregon lost to Stanford, 17-14, in overtime. In the 11th game in 2011, Oregon lost to USC, 38-35. In the 11th game in 2009, Oregon held on to win at Arizona, 44-41, in three overtimes. I’m not smart enough to figure that out. Ducks offensive coordinator Scott Frost told me that in April. The coaches didn’t have a reason, other than fatigue or overconfidence. But they are aware of it. If Oregon looks flat at Arizona this week, it won’t be from falling into the same trap. 

    Going further, UO's loss to Stanford this year came in Week 11. In Week 11 of 2010, the Ducks nearly fell to Cal while ranked No. 1, though they escaped with a 15-13 win.

    It's a good thing the Pac-12 isn't the Pac-11, or Eugene might have slid off into the Pacific Ocean by now.

    The Ducks will look to overcome their No. 11 jinx at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday against Arizona, either on ABC or ESPN2.

18. Where Did Oregon State's Offense Go?

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    Before its tilt with Stanford, Oregon State was looking like a legitimate Pac-12 contender, mostly thanks to its offense. The Beavers were on fire, as quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks were at the top of the nation statistically.

    OSU hadn't been held under 33 points all year. In three games since then, the Beavers haven't even broken 20. 

    As Lindsay Schnell of The Oregonian wrote, head coach Mike Riley is all out of answers as to why OSU is on an ugly three-game losing streak:

    Afterward, a despondent Mike Riley could barely answer questions in his press conference. He was short with reporters, a rarity for him even after a loss.

    Asked what he thought about OSU’s offense, Riley shrugged and said, “Not very good.”

    The play of Mannion? “He just missed some throws.”

    What wasn’t working on offense? “Most of it.”

    One Oregon State official commented that it was the lowest he’s ever seen Riley.

    The Beavers will need to dig themselves out of their rut quickly, as they still have two tough tests remaining this season. OSU will travel to Oregon to close the season but will first host Washington this week.

    The Huskies and the Beavers are scheduled for the Week 13 nightcap at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

19. Non-AQ BCS Race

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    Latest BCS Rankings

    Fresno State: No. 15

    Northern Illinois: No. 16

     

    BCS Non-AQ Rules

    Teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences can earn an automatic BCS bid by winning their conference and finishing in the top 12 of the BCS. However, if they are ranked ahead of a champion from an AQ conference, they only have to make the Top 16.

    Currently, Fresno State and Northern Illinois are both inside the top-16 cutoff and UCF—the AAC leader—comes in at No. 18.

    The one stipulation is that only one non-AQ team can earn an automatic bid. So, if the season ended today, Fresno would be BCS bowling for the first time in school history, and NIU would be on the outside looking in.

     

    Outlook

    Northern Illinois beat the best team left on its schedule, Ball State, but that wasn't enough for the Huskies to jump the Bulldogs in the BCS. That is very bad news for NIU, as it looks as though it will need a Fresno loss to make a BCS bowl.

    The most likely place for that to happen is in the Mountain West Conference title game, where the Dogs are likely to face Boise State. The Broncos pushed them to the brink earlier this year, but the Dogs escaped with a 41-40 victory.

    If Fresno State wins out, it will almost certainly be in the BCS.

20. American Breakdown

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    Conference Title Race

    TeamAAC RecordOVR Record
    UCF5-08-1
    Louisville5-19-1
    Cincinnati5-18-2

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: UCF, Louisville, Cincinnati, Houston

    Almost there: Southern Methodist (4-5), Rutgers (5-4)

    Barely alive: Memphis (3-6)

     

    Outlook

    Central Florida had a brush with disaster but mounted a miraculous comeback against Temple to remain atop the American Athletic Conference. The Knights scored 10 points, including a ridiculous one-handed diving touchdown grab, in the final two minutes to escape with a 39-36 win in Philadelphia.

    UCF will need to stay the course and beat Rutgers, South Florida and SMU to close the season in order to win the division. The Knights hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville but won't play Cincinnati.

    UL and Cincy will square off on Dec. 5, but both need UCF to lose to stay alive in the conference title race.

21. MWC Breakdown

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    Conference Title Race

    Team/DivisionMWC RecordOverall Record
    WEST  
    Fresno State6-09-0
    San Diego State5-16-4
       
    MOUNTAIN  
    Boise State5-17-3
    Utah State5-16-4

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: Fresno State, San Diego State, Boise State, Utah State, Colorado State

    Almost there: San Jose State (5-5), UNLV (5-5)

    Barely alive: Wyoming (4-6)

     

    Outlook

    With a one-game lead and a head-to-head tiebreaker over San Diego State in the Mountain West's West Division, Fresno State can clinch with just one more win in its final two regular-season games against New Mexico and San Jose State. The Bulldogs can also clinch win a loss by SDSU.

    In the Mountain Division, Boise State must win both of its final two games against San Diego State and New Mexico to win the division. The Broncos have the head-to-head tiebreaker over USU but notched one league loss to Fresno.

    Right now, it looks like a rematch between Boise and Fresno is inevitable for the MWC title game.

22. Sun Belt Breakdown

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    Conference Title Race

    TeamSBC RecordOVR Record
    Louisiana-Lafayette5-08-2
    Arkansas State4-16-4
    Louisiana-Monroe3-25-5

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: UL-Lafayette, Arkansas State, Texas State, Western Kentucky

    Almost there: UL-Monroe (5-5), Troy (5-6)

    Barely alive: South Alabama (3-6)

     

    Outlook

    Louisiana-Lafayette still holds the keys to the Sun Belt and can clinch the conference title with a win over Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 30 or over South Alabama on Dec. 7.

    Since the Ragin' Cajuns hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over Arkansas State, the Red Wolves will need ULL to lose both of its games to close the season. Meanwhile, ULM will need the same and will also need a pair of losses from ASU, since the Red Wolves own that tiebreaker.

23. MAC Breakdown

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    Conference Title Race

    Team/DivisionMAC RecordOVR Record
    EAST  
    Bowling Green5-17-3
    Buffalo5-17-3
       
    WEST  
    Northern Illinois6-010-0
    Ball State6-19-2
    Toledo5-17-3

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: Bowling Green, Buffalo, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Toledo

    Almost there: None

    Barely alive: Central Michigan (4-6)

     

    Outlook

    The MAC race saw a few major changes in Week 12. Northern Illinois took full control of the MAC West with its win over Ball State, while East leader Buffalo fell to Toledo.

    Buffalo's loss didn't alter anything in the East race. The Bulls will take on Bowling Green on Nov. 29, with the winner taking the division title.

    Toledo's win did keep it alive in the West. The Rockets will host NIU this Wednesday, and if they win, they'll create a three-way tie atop the division.

24. C-USA Breakdown

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Conference Title Race

    Team/DivisionCUSA RecordOVR Record
    EAST  
    East Carolina6-18-2
    Marshall5-17-3
       
    WEST  
    North Texas5-17-3
    Rice5-17-3

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: East Carolina, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Rice, Tulane

    Almost there: Texas-San Antonio (5-5)

    Barely alive: Florida Atlantic (4-6), Louisiana Tech (4-6)

     

    Outlook

    A hat-tip goes to the Conference-USA schedule-makers for slating Marshall and East Carolina together in the final week of the season. The Pirates will head to Huntington on Nov. 29 to decide the C-USA East title, as both teams are tied atop the division standings.

    Out West, the onus is all on North Texas' shoulders. The Mean Green hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Rice and can win the division by winning out against UTSA and Tulsa. 

25. Looking Ahead

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    With Week 14 comes Thanksgiving, and with Thanksgiving comes football—and several rivalries. Here's a quick peek at the Week 14 slate (All times Eastern):

    DateMatchupTime
    Thurs, Nov. 28No. 24 Ole Miss at Mississippi State7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
    Thurs, Nov. 28Texas Tech at Texas7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
    Fri, Nov. 29Iowa at Nebraska12 p.m. (ABC)
    Fri, Nov. 29Oregon State at No. 5 Oregon7 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
    Sat, Nov. 30No. 25 Minnesota at No. 13 Michigan StateTBA
    Sat, Nov. 30No. 14 UCLA at No. 23 USCTBA
    Sat, Nov. 30Arizona at No. 17 Arizona StateTBA
    Sat, Nov. 30No. 2 Florida State at Florida12 p.m. (ESPN)
    Sat, Nov. 30No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan12 p.m. (ABC)
    Sat, Nov. 30No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Auburn3:30 p.m. (CBS)
    Sat, Nov. 30No. 7 Clemson at No. 11 South Carolina7 p.m. (ESPN)
    Sat, Nov. 30No. 12 Texas A&M at No. 8 Missouri7:45 p.m. (ESPN)