Week 14 marks the regular-season finale for the majority of college football's marquee programs, with some tangling in rivalry clashes.
Given that the SEC is widely considered the best conference in the country, it comes as little surprise that five of six teams involved in Saturday's marquee games hail from that cluster.
The most pivotal showdown for the national championship picture involves the two-time reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. They will put their No. 1 ranking on the line in traveling to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on fourth-ranked Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
Let's take a closer look at that epic matchup, along with the other games that should prove to be the most entertaining. That will be followed by a complete list of all the contests on tap for this week.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 4 Auburn Tigers
The Tide have posted three shutouts this season, but haven't faced a rushing attack as prolific as Auburn's as of yet.
Tigers dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall is the type of playmaker who can give Nick Saban's team headaches. Alabama failed to contain Texas A&M Aggies QB Johnny Manziel in each of the past two years, and Marshall's comparable athleticism could create similar issues.
Head coach Guz Malzahn has engineered an amazing turnaround with Auburn after the team went 3-9 a season ago. Malzahn has helped Marshall's development, too, while allowing the Tigers to control time of possession thanks to a lack of turnovers:
But then AJ McCarron (23 touchdowns, five interceptions) gives the Tide a two-time national championship-winning signal-caller of their own—a young man who has continued to win on the biggest stages imaginable.
Saturday could very well mark the best Iron Bowl yet, but for Auburn to pull off the upset and triumph at home, it will come down to winning the battle in the trenches against the Tide's immense size.
That seems like too tall of a task for the Tigers to stand up to, but Marshall and Co. should make it very interesting.
Prediction: Alabama 23, Auburn 17
No. 6 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks
The only non-SEC team in this lot is the Tigers, who have recovered well since being dismantled 51-14 by BCS No. 2 Florida State on Oct. 19 at home.
Senior quarterback Tajh Boyd went out the right way in Death Valley, throwing five touchdowns to five different receivers in a 51-6 romp over the Citadel Bulldogs.
Boyd gives Clemson a clear advantage under center over his Gamecocks counterpart Connor Shaw, but South Carolina has a superior running game led by running back Mike Davis.
Although Davis didn't play in last week's blowout of Coastal Carolina, he, superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles—who were also ailing—will all be ready to go, per the Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner:
It will be intriguing to see how the Gamecocks' defense matches up with an explosive, balanced Clemson attack.
However, the explosive, big-play ability of Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins—as NFL.com's Dan Greenspan notes—is hard to ignore:
Look for Watkins to be the determining factor in shredding the South Carolina secondary, as Boyd's mobility will allow him to elude the rush and make enough plays to give Clemson a huge road win in the Palmetto Bowl.
Prediction: Clemson 27, South Carolina 24
No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies vs. No. 5 Missouri Tigers
With all due respect to the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, the Buckeyes should take care of business in the Big House against the unranked Wolverines.
OSU is also slated to face Michigan State in the conference championship game, too, while Missouri is seeking a victory to take on the winner of the Iron Bowl for the SEC championship.
The attention also shifts here because of Johnny Manziel, regarding how he will fare for the Aggies in what will be his final game before he decides whether or not to declare for the 2014 NFL draft.
Manziel had the worst game of his brief, amazing collegiate career in a 34-10 loss at LSU in Week 13, but he has a chance to bounce back against another quality opponent in Mizzou on the road.
This should be a shootout, because the Aggies are putrid on the side of the ball Manziel isn't on—107th out of 123 FBS teams in total defense, to be exact.
Texas A&M gave up over 300 yards on the ground to LSU last week, and may be yielding a good chunk to another Tigers team in Columbia on Saturday.
Expect the Aggies to step up at least a little on defense so that Manziel doesn't have a meager 19:41 of possession time, which is what happened in Baton Rouge.
As long as that happens, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will respond to adversity as he has in the past: by growing the legend that is "Johnny Football."
Prediction: Texas A&M 45, Missouri 41
|Week 14 College Football Schedule|
|Tuesday, Nov. 26||Time (ET)|
|Western Michigan vs. No. 14 Northern Illinois||7 p.m.|
|Thursday, Nov. 28||Time (ET)|
|Texas Tech vs. Texas||7:30 p.m.|
|Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State||7:30 p.m.|
|Friday, Nov. 29||Time (ET)|
|Iowa vs. Nebraska||12 p.m.|
|Southern Methodist vs. Houston||12 p.m.|
|East Carolina vs. Marshall||12 p.m.|
|Toledo vs. Akron||12 p.m.|
|Miami (OH) vs. Ball State||1 p.m.|
|Bowling Green vs. Buffalo||1:30 p.m.|
|Massachusetts vs. Ohio||2 p.m.|
|Eastern Michigan vs. Central Michigan||2 p.m.|
|Texas State vs. Troy||2 p.m.|
|Arkansas vs. No. 17 LSU||2:30 p.m.|
|Florida International vs. Florida Atlantic||3 p.m.|
|No. 16 Fresno State vs. San Jose State||3:30 p.m.|
|Miami (FL) vs. Pittsburgh||3:30 p.m.|
|Washington State vs. Washington||3:30 p.m.|
|Oregon State vs. No. 13 Oregon||7 p.m.|
|South Florida vs. No. 19 UCF||8 p.m.|
|Saturday, Nov. 30||Time (ET)|
|No. 2 Florida State vs. Florida||12 p.m.|
|No. 3 Ohio State vs. Michigan||12 p.m.|
|Minnesota vs. No. 11 Michigan State||12 p.m.|
|No. 24 Duke vs. North Carolina||12 p.m.|
|Rutgers vs. Connecticut||12 p.m.|
|Temple vs. Memphis||12 p.m.|
|Kansas State vs. Kansas||12 p.m.|
|Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt||12:21 p.m.|
|Maryland vs. North Carolina State||12:30 p.m.|
|Southern Miss vs. UAB||1 p.m.|
|Air Force vs. Colorado State||2 p.m.|
|Colorado vs. Utah||2 p.m.|
|Wyoming vs. Utah State||2 p.m.|
|South Alabama vs. Georgia State||2 p.m.|
|North Texas vs. Tulsa||2:30 p.m.|
|Tulane vs. Rice||3 p.m.|
|Brigham Young vs. Nevada||3 p.m.|
|No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Auburn||3:30 p.m.|
|No. 9 Baylor vs. TCU||3:30 p.m.|
|Penn State vs. No. 15 Wisconsin||3:30 p.m.|
|Georgia vs. Georgia Tech||3:30 p.m.|
|Purdue vs. Indiana||3:30 p.m.|
|Idaho vs. New Mexico State||3:30 p.m.|
|Boston College vs. Syracuse||3:30 p.m.|
|Virginia Tech vs. Virginia||3:30 p.m.|
|Northwestern vs. Illinois||3:30 p.m.|
|Louisiana Tech vs. UTSA||3:30 p.m.|
|UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee||3:45 p.m.|
|Arkansas State vs. Western Kentucky||4 p.m.|
|Iowa State vs. West Virginia||4 p.m.|
|No. 6 Clemson vs. No. 10 South Carolina||7 p.m.|
|No. 25 Notre Dame vs. No. 8 Stanford||7 p.m.|
|Tennesssee vs. Kentucky||7 p.m.|
|Louisiana-Monroe vs. Louisiana-Lafayette||7 p.m.|
|No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 5 Missouri||7:45 p.m.|
|No. 22 UCLA vs. No. 23 USC||8 p.m.|
|Arizona vs. No. 12 Arizona State||9:30 p.m.|
|New Mexico vs. Boise State||10:15 p.m.|
|San Diego State vs. UNLV||10:30 p.m.|
|Army vs. Hawaii||11 p.m.|
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