Rivalry week is the most important week of any in college football. It allows every team to finish the season strong. Even if a certain program is down in the dumps and won't qualify for the postseason, a win over the hated rival helps make everything feel that much better.
This time of year is also when all the madness happens. Any team can lose this week due to everybody waking up for the key matchup. It makes for an exciting week and is a perfect opportunity for the bold predictions to live strong.
Nothing is too insane during Week 14. That includes several top-ranked teams suffering a loss, many underdogs becoming bowl eligible and college football having a new Heisman front-runner.
Oh, and don't try to rain on the parade. Last week, I correctly predicted that the Friday night game would be entertaining, San Diego State would beat Boise State and that Arizona would give Oregon a run for its money.
Note: These are bold predictions. Meaning that very few are supposed to be taken seriously. Relax.
Christian Hackenberg has shown flashes of greatness and has also reminded you that he is a freshman who is going to make mistakes. Now that he has almost a complete season under his belt and it's the last game of the year for the Nittany Lions, he is going to show you why the Big Ten should be very afraid next season.
The young quarterback is going to go into Camp Randall Stadium and throw for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns against Wisconsin. Still not sure if it'll be good enough for Penn State to win, but it will make Nittany Lions fans quite happy heading into the offseason.
This is pretty much Penn State's bowl game and with receiver Allen Robinson on the field, who may leave for the NFL draft, this team should be highly motivated. I see big numbers for Hackenberg, a quarterback who hasn't thrown a touchdown in his last four contests.
Hutson Mason has been one of the best backup quarterbacks for quite some time. You're just not familiar with him since Aaron Murray has been busy breaking school and conference records over the last few years.
But with Murray going down with an unfortunate ACL injury, Mason will prove that he is more than capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Shoot, he threw for 189 yards and completed 68.4 percent of his passes last week against Kentucky.
His victim this week?
The Yellow Jackets have the 13th-worst passing defense in the ACC and have allowed five passing touchdowns in the last two games. Mason will play at a high level and show Georgia fans that the sky isn't falling after all.
So much for the Texas A&M-LSU matchup turning into a shootout, eh?
Let's try our luck with Texas A&M-Missouri.
There's no question the Tigers are going to get theirs against this weak Texas A&M defense. The Aggies have allowed 75 combined points in the last two weeks and surrendered more than 500 yards in both of those games. Yeah, James Franklin and Henry Josey are going to put up points.
The Missouri defense is terrific, but do you really think Johnny Manziel and company are going to be shut down for a second straight week? It's possibly his last regular-season game in an Aggies uniform, so there's no way he goes out like a chump.
This game will go back and forth for 60 minutes.
Clowney, come out and play.
It's been well documented that Clowney hasn't lived up to the hype this season. He only has 32 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and has even taken a couple of games off. One of those games he decided to miss was last week against Coastal Carolina. It's understandable why he didn't play in that meaningless snooze fest, but that means he's rested and ready for Clemson.
A rested Clowney is a scary Clowney.
Not only will the rivalry have him motivated, but it's very likely this will be his last game at Williams-Brice Stadium. Expect him to unleash all of his frustration on quarterback Tajh Boyd and double his season sack total in one game.
Thanks to Clowney and a heavy dose of physical running back Mike Davis, South Carolina beats Clemson by at least three touchdowns. Hey, what did you expect? The Gamecocks have won the last four meetings and all of them have been decided by double digits.
Clemson has drastically improved over the years but hasn't exactly proven it is ready for the big stage just yet. Besides the close win over Georgia during the season opener, the Tigers haven't beaten a ranked team since. They had a chance against Florida State, but that game was over five minutes after kickoff.
The Tigers just aren't prepared for the physicality of South Carolina. Not to mention winning a game in the Cock Pit isn't an easy feat.
Something is going on with Miami, and it isn't good. Since losing to Florida State, the Hurricanes have lost two of their last three games and struggled against a two-win Virginia team.
Pittsburgh isn't a great team, but it does have a respectable defense. Ranked sixth in the ACC in total defense, the Panthers have forced at least two turnovers in three of their last four games. They also have arguably the best defensive player in the country in defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Get familiar with the name.
If Miami is having a hard time beating teams that won't participate in a bowl this season, there's no telling what happens on a road trip to Heinz Field.
This game will be a lot closer than you may think.
Maybe I'm crazy, but I continue to beat that Minnesota drum. The Golden Gophers are a good football team. And even though they let me down last week against Wisconsin, they still kept the score within two touchdowns for the first time since 2009.
Making progress, people.
Anyway, Minnesota will play another ranked opponent in Michigan State, a team that has won the last three meetings. That streak will come to an end in front of a packed house in Spartan Stadium.
Although they didn't beat the Badgers, the Golden Gophers proved they could hang with the big boys and keep a balanced team in check. Michigan State has a big game next week against Ohio State and will get caught looking ahead.
The Golden Gophers will finally earn their respect.
Every time I see Duke ranked in the polls, I have to remind myself that I'm not looking up basketball statistics. Duke is really 9-2 and will play Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.
Man, I love sports.
But let's not jump the gun just yet. The Blue Devils must still travel to Kenan Stadium and play a North Carolina team that has won five straight. It's also a program that has won eight of the last nine meetings against Duke.
The Tar Heels have finally gotten their act together thanks to inspired play from dual-threat quarterback Marquise Williams and a defense that is allowing just less than 25 points per game. Due to the home crowd and the Tar Heels having the hot hand as of late, this will be just one of many upsets that takes place during the weekend.
Central Florida can just taste a BCS bowl appearance.
Not so fast, my friends!
South Florida comes to town in hopes of ruining that possibility. You may laugh at the 2-8 record, but one of those wins did come against a nine-win Cincinnati team. The Bulls are also getting closer to a win with their last three games being decided by less than two touchdowns. It should also be mentioned that UCF has lost all four meetings against South Florida.
The Bulls will get a solid performance from senior running back Marcus Shaw and defensive lineman Aaron Lynch. The Knights can cancel their flight to a BCS bowl.
It seems like every time the writing is on the wall for the Irish to lose, they dig deep and find a way to win. Well, except for last season against Alabama, but you get the picture. Notre Dame doesn't have enough talent and is too banged up to win a game in Stanford Stadium against an elite Stanford team.
But it will happen.
Tommy Rees has increased his level of play the last month or so and is getting some much-needed help from a variety of running backs. The banged-up defense is also still making plays, as there have been 15 tackles for loss in the last three games.
The Irish are still a physical team capable of grinding out wins just like Stanford. Considering the Cardinal have lost two games they shouldn't have, let's make it three. Notre Dame beats Stanford in back-to-back years for the first time since 2007-08.
What's a running back got to do to get some love around here?
I'm tired of watching a handful of quarterbacks battle it out for the Heisman. Besides, it doesn't seem like any of them want the award anyway after last week's terrible performances by some of the top candidates.
Let's throw Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey a bone.
The junior has rushed for 1,559 yards and 16 touchdowns, and he is fresh off a four-touchdown performance in the huge upset win over Oregon. Add that to the game he's going to have against Arizona State, and you have yourself a playmaking running back who is the main reason the Wildcats are going bowling for the second straight season.
Carey deserves some Heisman love.
Arizona State deserves all the credit in the world and should be happy after securing a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Nobody thought the Sun Devils would outperform UCLA and USC for the South Division.
But doesn't it seem like success has happened a little too fast?
Just a few years ago, the Sun Devils were struggling to even qualify for a bowl appearance under head coach Dennis Erickson. Now they're the new face of the Pac-12 and ready to compete for BCS bowls? I think the spotlight finally catches up to this team.
Arizona is feeling good about itself with its win over Oregon and would love nothing more than to get revenge over its in-state rival after last year's heartbreaking 41-34 loss. Behind Carey and a feisty defense, the Wildcats beat the Sun Devils for the second time in three years.
When you combine fiery emotion with the way USC has been playing as of late, you end up with a scary mixture. The Trojans have won five straight and look pretty good on both sides of the ball. The defense has improved to elite status, while the offense has taken impressive strides and is starting to develop a balanced attack.
Meanwhile, the Bruins are about as inconsistent as it comes. The offensive line is falling apart, the coaching staff is forced to use defensive players on offense and quarterback Brett Hundley can be a turnover machine.
USC should have no problem rolling in this one and winning its sixth game in the last seven tries against UCLA.
After the blowout win over the in-state rival, USC athletic director Pat Haden walks up to Ed Orgeron with a contract and a pen and begs him to sign on the dotted line.
USC has responded well to the interim coach and is playing better than it has in years. Not only have the results improved, but the whole feel of the program has changed. Players have energy and passion and seem like they enjoy being on the field. When Lane Kiffin was calling the shots, nobody on the field seemed happy, and the overall product was a disaster.
The Trojans should be careful with how they handle the hiring process considering it will determine the direction of the program. However, winning speaks for itself, and Orgeron has done a lot of that in the second half of the season.
This may the first time Gators fans aren't even excited about the matchup against Florida State. Florida seems lost on both sides of the ball, has lost six games in a row and is fresh off a loss to mighty Georgia Southern. It is ugly in Gainesville, and it is going to be a long offseason due to the inability to qualify for a bowl appearance.
But don't overlook the Gators.
Florida-Florida State is one of the few rivalries where records, statistics and what's going on in the outside world doesn't matter. These two teams wake up for this game and usually play a lot better than they actually are. Sure, the Seminoles should be able to treat the Gators like they're Syracuse and mop the floor with them.
Somehow, someway, Florida finds a way to win this game.
Ole Miss won the Egg Bowl last season for the first time since 2008. It's also a team that looks better on paper and has impressive games against LSU and Texas A&M under its belt. However, the Bulldogs will show up big at Davis Wade Stadium.
Although Mississippi State has lost three of its last four games, it's fought hard against tough competition. Texas A&M only won its game by 10 points, and Alabama was never quite able to pull away in a lackluster 20-7 win.
Much like the Rebels, the Bulldogs are playing well. It's just that Ole Miss is able to finish its games and has won a few more. Mississippi State is just one win away from qualifying for a fourth straight bowl appearance.
What better way to get that done than against the in-state rival?
Dan Mullen's squad beats Ole Miss for the fourth time in five tries.
I hope you like college football games to last about six hours. Make sure you bring your sleeping bag and enough food to feed an army. You're going to need it.
Washington quarterback Keith Price is averaging 31 pass attempts a game and should get even more throws (assuming he plays) against a Washington State secondary that is ranked 11th in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Connor Halliday leads the country with 54 pass attempts per contest. In the loss against Oregon, he set a college football record with an incredible 89 passes.
It's no wonder his arm didn't fall off.
Price will throw the ball a lot because his offense has the advantage, while Halliday will sling it just because head coach Mike Leach hates running backs. When the game is over, you end up with a combined 200 pass attempts.
There's no way Fresno State beats San Jose State on Friday afternoon. The Bulldogs will come out sluggish, and the Spartans will make them pay. Hey, I'm just playing the percentages here.
When these two teams meet, San Jose State will be playing its fourth straight game where it can qualify for a bowl appearance. It's lost the first three. There's no way the Spartans end the season with four straight losses and fall one win short of a bowl game.
David Fales is more than capable of matching Derek Carr score-for-score. The Spartans will have the ball last and end up putting the ball in the end zone with less than 30 seconds remaining.
San Jose State goes bowling for a second straight season!
If there's ever a season for the Beavers to win a Civil War, it's this one.
Oregon State hasn't beaten Oregon since 2007, but this year's Ducks aren't the same as we're used to seeing. After losing two of their last three games in blowout fashion, Oregon is finally showing a few chinks in its armor.
The Ducks are turning the ball over a lot more than usual, the offense isn't scoring nearly as many points and the engine to the zone-read offense, Marcus Mariota, is dinged up after last week.
Oregon State gets a big performance from quarterback Sean Mannion that includes no turnovers, and the Beavers shock the Ducks just like Stanford and Arizona did earlier this month.
It's tough to imagine this being possible before the season started, but Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch will be the Heisman front-runner after this week.
Johnny Manziel continues to choke away the award with three losses, Bryce Petty gave it away after the loss to Oklahoma State and Marcus Mariota has played poorly in two of his last three games. There's also the off-the-field issues surrounding Jameis Winston that make him a mystery as far as the award is concerned.
Why not Lynch?
His team is undefeated and after the beatdown against Western Michigan, he'll likely surpass 4,000 total yards and 40 total touchdowns. Cry about the lack of competition all you'd like, but the kid is playing at an insane level this season.
Devin Gardner has to break out of his funk eventually. At some point he has to ignore the bogus play calls and start playing at the level he's capable of. Forget standing in the pocket behind an offensive line that couldn't block a prank phone call. Use that athleticism, roll out of the pocket and make plays the best way you know how.
That's got to be the game plan against an Ohio State defense that leads the Big Ten with 36 sacks. We're talking about a Michigan offensive line that has allowed 32 sacks in 11 games. Gardner must be alert and ready to make plays with his legs to keep that pass rush in check.
Assuming Gardner wakes up and plays the same way he did last year against the Buckeyes, he should have another big day. After all, Ohio State did allow Northwestern and Illinois to score in the 30s.
But, but, but... We should be ranked ahead of Florida State and have a shot to play Alabama.
Stop that crying!
Worry about the next game and take care of business against Michigan. While Ohio State does have this game won on paper, the talent level for Michigan is still quite high. Devin Gardner is still capable of making plays, freshman running back Derrick Green is being used a lot more and linebacker Jake Ryan is just now starting to regain form to help out the defense.
The 7-4 record isn't pretty, but the Wolverines are still capable of hanging in there and pulling one out at the end. That's what will happen here. It'll be a tight defensive battle throughout when the crowd at Michigan Stadium gets behind the Wolverines and inspires a last-minute touchdown that wins the game.
Down go the Buckeyes!
TCU really isn't the type of team that you want to play after being embarrassed on national television. You want to be able to take your frustrations out on a team and win the game pretty convincingly. That's tough to do against a Horned Frogs defense that is third-best in the Big 12.
Gary Patterson's defense features a terrific secondary that is capable of getting physical with Baylor's receivers and making them uncomfortable. Quarterback Bryce Petty won't have guys running wide open like he's used to and will have to force the ball into tight windows. That's going to result in a couple of interceptions.
TCU will struggle on offense as usual, but the defense will make enough big plays for the Horned Frogs to beat Baylor for the second straight season.
At this stage in his career, Nick Marshall is more of a runner than a passing quarterback. He's completing 58.4 percent of his passes and has only one game this season of 300-plus passing yards. Auburn relies heavily on a running game that is ranked second in college football.
However, one-dimensional offenses don't beat Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. You must be able to mix it up to keep that defense honest and avoid falling in the same trap that so many other teams have already fallen into.
Expect Marshall to have a Zach Mettenberger-type performance from last season. Nobody expected him to throw the ball, and he came out picking the secondary apart for 298 yards. This year's Alabama secondary isn't nearly as talented.
Look for Marshall to find Sammie Coates and Ricardo Louis in space to help rack up the passing yards for the young quarterback.
Sometimes it just happens to be your year. You can't help but get that feeling for Auburn. It was a question if this team would even qualify for a bowl in Gus Malzahn's first season. Now, the team could reach the SEC Championship Game with a win over the Tide and possibly play for a national title.
Yeah, it's safe to say that this season has been successful. It's also been a little lucky with the last-minute touchdown drive to beat Texas A&M and the improbable touchdown pass to hold off Georgia. It's like this team keeps finding ways to win regardless of what it takes.
Alabama should win this game, and it would be such an easy pick, but the ordinary never happens this time of the year. Not sure how it happens, but Auburn digs deep and finds a way to win once again.