25 Things We Learned from Week 14

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIDecember 2, 2013

25 Things We Learned from Week 14

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    When Auburn's Chris Davis crossed the end zone to give the Tigers an Iron Bowl win and send Alabama out of the national title game, jaws dropped in living rooms all across the country.

    Some cried, some rejoiced. But outside of The Plains, no town saw more jubilation than Columbus, Ohio.

    As 'Bama fell from No. 1, Ohio State moved up to No. 2 and within striking distance of a national title berth.

    That was the biggest lesson from Week 14, but there was much more learned as college football heads into December and its Championship Week.

    Click on for 25 developments from the wild final weekend of the regular season.

1. The SEC's Title Regin Is over

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    Seven years, seven crystal footballs, four teams, one conference.

    The SEC's seven-year stranglehold on the BCS championship was impressive, but it is finally over—or so it seems.

    After Auburn's upset of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State sit at No. 1 and No. 2 are are both favored going into their conference title games. The SEC, with Auburn, 'Bama and Missouri at No. 3, 4 and 5 looks like it will be on the outside looking in.

    There's a chance that a one-loss SEC champion, Auburn or Mizzou, could pass OSU for No. 2 next week, but that still remains to be seen.

    The Buckeyes and the Seminoles will both be deserving national title participants if they finish as their undefeated conference champions this week.

2. Gus Malzahn Is Coach of the Year

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    John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

    With all due respect to Duke's David Cutcliffe, Missouri's Gary Pinkel, USC's Ed Orgeron and the other Coach of the Year contenders, Auburn's Gus Malzahn is the Coach of the Year.

    Malzahn took over a 3-9 Auburn team that seemed destined for several down seasons and took it to the SEC title game in the toughest division in college football.

    He also out-coached the man Nick Saban in the Iron Bowl, leading his Tigers to top the Crimson Tide in the biggest game of the entire college football regular season.

    To be the best, you have to beat the best. Malzahn beat the best, so there should be no question who is the coach of the 2013 season.

3. Nick Saban Is Human

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    No, Nick Saban isn't a college football coaching cyborg sent to Tuscaloosa to lead Alabama to prominence.

    The Crimson Tide head coach did a favor to coaches everywhere Saturday, showing that even the best can make mistakes.

    The loss to Auburn isn't all on Saban's shoulders by any stretch of the imagination, but he missed on a few calls down the stretch that cost his team dearly.

    'Bama had a chance to kick a field goal from Auburn's 13-yard line in the fourth quarter, which would have given it a 10-point lead. Instead, Saban sent his offense out on fourth down and running back T.J. Yeldon was stopped cold, giving the Tigers new life.

    He then elected to go for an incredibly long field goal in the final seconds of the game, which resulted in Auburn's game-winning touchdown return.

    While there was more to Alabama's loss than those two plays, one has to think Saban would choose differently if he could do it all over again.

4. Bowl Picture Is a Mess

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    With 35 bowl games, there are only 70 spots available.

    Already this year, 78 teams have attained bowl eligibility, and three more schools will have a shot at reaching 6-6 this week.

    South Alabama, Rutgers and Southern Methodist all sit at 5-6 with one game remaining to hit .500.

    Even if they all fall this week, there will be a number of eligible teams left out of the bowl picture.

    With so many teams on the bubble, it will all be in the hands of the bowl committees to decided which teams go bowling, and which will stay home for the holidays.

5. BCS At-Large Situation Will Break Hearts Somewhere

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    Like the overall bowl picture, the BCS at-large picture is muddled as well.

    Of the 10 spots, there are a few bids that are either an absolute guarantee or a near-lock at this point. Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama, the SEC champion, Big 12 champion, AAC champion and Pac-12 champion are all going BCS bowling. 

    That leaves three at-large spots and several worthy bid winners. Northern Illinois will take one of those bids if it beats Bowling Green Friday.

    With NIU in, Clemson, Oregon, Baylor and Michigan State will be vying for the last two spots. The Rose Bowl is likely to take MSU to replace OSU, if the Buckeyes win the conference title. If MSU wins the Big Ten, they will probably both be in.

    If everything plays out as expected, it will be up to the bowl committees to select the final at-large team between CU, UO and BU. At least two teams will see their BCS dreams crushed.

6. UCF Destined for BCS

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    While all of college football's "destiny" talk is surrounding Auburn, Central Florida has had an equally charmed season.

    UCF barely edged South Florida last week, just two weeks after its miraculous comeback against Temple. 

    Seven of the Knights' 11 games, and six of their 10 wins, were decided by just one possession.

    Close or not, UCF has continued to win and is at least the co-AAC champion. The Knights will clinch the league's BCS bid with a win over Southern Methodist this weekend, or if Cincinnati loses to Louisville Thursday.

    The AAC might be the weakest automatic qualifying conference, but UCF is a worthy BCS representative.

7. Duke the Unlikely ACC Coastal Champion

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    Joining Auburn and UCF is Duke, college football's third "team of destiny."

    The Blue Devils won their final eight games to rebound from an 0-2 start in ACC play and win the Coastal Division title.

    Duke had to have a load of help from the several preseason favorites, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, that didn't seem to want to win the division crown.

    Nonetheless, Duke notched the first 10-win season in school history and has a shot at a BCS berth. The shot is a long one, as the Blue Devils will have to take down national title favorite Florida State to make it happen.

    Even if they fall short, the job done by David Cutcliffe in Durham cannot be clebrated enough.

8. The Big 12 Has Its Conference Title Weekend

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    With just 10 teams, the Big 12 no longer has a formal championship game in the final week of the season.

    However, this year worked out so that the league has a quasi-playoff.

    Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas are all tied atop the conference at 7-1 in league play. OSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over both.

    The Cowboys will take on rival Oklahoma at Noon EST Saturday. If they win, they'll be going BCS bowling. If they lose, it'll take the title race to Game 2 Saturday.

    BU and UT will meet in Waco at 3:30 p.m. EST. The winner will at least earn a co-Big 12 title and will earn the outright crown and a BCS bid if OSU falls.

9. An Awesome Big Ten Title Matchup Is Coming

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    The Big Ten title matchup between Michigan State and Ohio State was sealed last week, but the stakes were amplified when OSU moved to No. 2 in the BCS rankings.

    Now, the Buckeyes will take on the Spartans with their national title dreams within reach.

    It'll be a new dynamic for OSU, as it has been playing from a relative underdog position, with something to prove all season long. Now all the pressure will be on it to keep its No. 2 ranking.

    Meanwhile, MSU will be playing with nothing to lose and everything, specifically an automatic BCS bid, to gain.

    The No. 1 Spartan defense will be gunning for Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and Co. Can Ohio State handle its new position as a likely national title candidate?

10. Marshall and Rice Set for C-USA Title Game

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    The race for both Conference-USA divisions came right down to the final week.

    East Carolina, the perceived conference favorite, took on Marshall with the winner taking the East Division. Meanwhile, Rice hosted Tulane, where a win would give the West title to the Owls.

    Rice delivered at home, edging Tulane behind a strong defensive effort.

    On the flip side, Marshall exploded offensively to blast ECU 59-28 and claim the East.

    As detailed by Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, Rice will host the conference championship game, as the tiebreaker went to the higher team in the BCS standings.

    The Owls and the Thundering Herd will kickoff at Noon EST Saturday.

11. No BCS for Bulldogs

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    Fresno State's BCS bowl chances were hurt a week ago when it fell behind Northern Illinois in the BCS rankings.

    However, the Bulldogs still could have closed the season with wins over San Jose State and Utah State, which might have been enough to send them back ahead of the Huskies to earn the BCS non-AQ bid.

    Now, none of that matters.

    Fresno fell to SJSU 62-52, despite 519 yards and six touchdowns from quarterback Derek Carr, ending their BCS at-large hopes.

    The Dogs will still play for the Mountain West title Saturday against USU, but a BCS berth is out of the question.

12. Bowling Green Is NIU's Final BCS Blockade

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    With Fresno State now completely out of the way, Northern Illinois is just one win away from earning its second straight BCS berth.

    The Huskies swept aside Western Michigan 33-14 in their final regular season game behind quarterback Jordan Lynch, who broke his own NCAA record with 321 rushing yards.

    Now, NIU's final road block is Bowling Green and the Mid-American Conference championship.

    The Falcons dominated Buffalo 24-7 last Friday to win the MAC East Division, and now they are the only thing standing between NIU and the BCS.

    BGSU and NIU will kickoff from Ford Field at 8 p.m. EST Friday.

13. Arizona State Is Pac-12's Most Dangerous Team

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    This season's Pac-12 title has been long expected to go to either Stanford or Oregon in the North Division. And while the South Division has boasted several talented teams, none were perceived as being on-par with the Cardinal and the Ducks.

    However, Arizona State has changed that perception. The Sun Devils have come on stronger than any team in the league late in the season.

    ASU had one of its best performances of the year against rival Arizona in a game it didn't really even have to win. The Sun Devils had already clinched the South, while Arizona was fresh off a momentous win over Oregon. But they came out and blasted their rival 58-21 anyway, even without star running back Marion Grice.

    The Sun Devils were no match for Stanford early in the season, but they have improved exponentially since then.

    With a BCS bowl bid on the line, don't count out Sparky.

14. Mizzou vs. Auburn: The SEC Title Game We All Predicted

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    Auburn was picked to finish fifth in the SEC West, while Missouri was tabbed at sixth in the East before the season.

    Now, the two will play for the SEC title—just as everyone expected. The two Tigers have been incredible stories this season and have earned their SEC stripes.

    Mizzou went 5-7 last year but rebounded in a big way, taking control of the SEC East and taking down two ranked foes, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, in its final two games to win the division.

    Auburn went 3-9 in 2012 and brought on new head coach Gus Malzahn, who spurred an incredible turnaround that culminated last week with an upset of then-No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, which served as the de facto West title game.

    Both squads boast explosive offenses and talent on defense and will make for a thrilling SEC title matchup.

15. Sun Belt Champ Louisiana-Lafayette Headed to New Orleans

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    Louisiana-Lafayette has locked down at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference crown and can take the outright championship with a win over South Alabama this week.

    With that contest still looming Mark Hudspeth's squad already knows where it will be headed for the postseason.

    Trey Iles of The Times-Picayune reported Saturday that the Ragin' Cajuns have accepted a bid to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

    This will be ULL's third straight trip to the New Orleans Bowl. The Cajuns beat East Carolina and San Diego State in each of their last two appearances in the bowl.

16. Miami (OH) and Georgia State: College Football's Only Winless Teams

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    Only two teams, Miami (Ohio) and Georgia State, will end the 2013 season winless.

    Connecticut looked like it might be on its way to a winless campaign, but it won in each of the last two weeks after dropping nine straight to start the season.

    Southern Miss and Hawaii were both in grave situations as well, as each was winless going into Week 14.

    However, USM exploded for a season-high 62 points against UAB to break a 23-game losing skid. Next, Hawaii held off a late rally from Army to post a 49-42 victory and avoid a 0-12 finish.

    The RedHawks and the Panthers weren't as lucky. Miami was crushed 54-11 by Ball State, while GSU didn't fare much better, falling 38-17 to South Alabama.

17. Ed Oregeron Is out at USC

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    Ed Orgeron's journey at USC has been one of the feel-good stories of the 2013 college football season.

    Many were pulling for Coach O to return as USC's full-time head coach after leading the Trojans to a 6-2 record after the midseason firing of Lane Kiffin.

    However, that feel-good story won't have a fairytale ending.

    USC has tabbed Steve Sarkisian as its new head coach, reported by ESPN's Joe Schad Monday.

    And as ESPN's Brett McMurphy tweeted, Orgeron isn't happy about being passed over for the job. In fact, he is "outraged" and won't even coach the Trojans in their bowl game.

    Even though Orgeron won't be back in Troy, he should earn a head coaching job elsewhere.

18. Muschamp Is Coming Back, but Will Have to Produce in 2014

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    It has been a dreadful season in Gainesville, as Florida stumbled to a 4-8 finish, snapping its 22-game bowl streak.

    Even with the rough result, UF athletic director Jeremy Foley affirmed that head coach Will Muschamp will be returning as the Gators' head coach, as reported by Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel.

    Instead, the Gators have fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis, as announced on the school's official website.

    While Muschamp is probably happy to still be employed, there is now a timer on his tenure in Gainesville.

    If he doesn't produce in 2014, he'll be gone.

19. Bo Pelini to Return Too

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    The Bo Pelini hot-seat talk has been swirling all season long and the Nebraska coach had finally had enough after his team's final regular season game, a defeat to Iowa.

    A frustrated Pelini proclaimed, "If they want to fire me, go ahead."

    However, Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst apparently turned down his invitation, as reported by George Schroder and Dan Wolken of USA Today Sports:

    My approach has always been to not comment publicly about our coaches until their full seasons are complete, as I strongly believe it is unfair and counter to best practices. However, given the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture about our head football coach, I want to reaffirm what I have said many times since I have arrived at the University of Nebraska — that I positively respect, appreciate and support our football student-athletes, coaches and staff, as we do everyone in the Husker family. We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.

    At 8-4, Nebraska fell short of its expectations but will still be going bowling to close the season. Like Muschamp, Pelini must show improvement next year, or he too will likely be forced out.

20. Dan Mullen Is Safe in Starkville

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    Before Thanksgiving, Dan Mullen's career was teetering on the edge.

    Mississippi State sat at 5-6 with a crucial test coming against rival Ole Miss. A loss would be MSU's second straight in the rivalry—and it would also keep the Bulldogs home for the holidays.

    With Mullen's job perhaps on the line, he received a huge assist from his team, and particularly quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott had only been cleared to play on Thanksgiving morning and entered in the fourth quarter to spur a thrilling comeback.

    Prescott punched in the game-deciding touchdown in overtime, as MSU notched a 17-10 win.

    Now with the Golden Egg in tow and a bowl upcoming, Mullen should be back to coach the Dawgs next season.

21. Ferentz and Iowa on the Rise

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    After last year's 4-8 finish, it was widely believed that a hefty buyout was the only thing keeping head coach Kirk Ferentz at Iowa.

    Buyout aside, Ferentz earned his post in Iowa City this year, as the Hawkeyes rebounded to finish 8-4.

    All four of Iowa's defeats were closely contested, and all came to teams currently sitting in the BCS standings.

    The Hawks finished with a pair of gutsy wins over Michigan and Nebraska, two teams expected to compete for the Big Ten Legends Division title. Instead, Iowa finished at No. 2 in the division, behind only Michigan State, which went 8-0 in league play.

    This all came with a first-year starter at quarterback, Jake Rudock. With offensive youth, Iowa shows promise for the future, which is a stark contrast from its prospects this time last year.

22. No BCS for Badgers

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    With just two losses to BCS contenders Arizona State and Ohio State, Wisconsin had a legitimate shot to finish the season strong and earn a BCS at-large bid.

    The Badgers won six straight after falling to OSU and were on their way to fulfilling that prophecy.

    However, they stumbled in their final game at home against Penn State.

    The Badgers had one of their worst offensive outputs of the season and picked a bad time to do so. UW was gouged by PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg for 339 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 defeat.

    As a result, the Badgers saw their BCS dreams dissolve.

23. That Iron Bowl Was Great, Now When Is the Next One?

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    As amazing as this Iron Bowl was, there are bound to be some thrilling battles between the two bitter rivals for years to come.

    On offense and defense, Alabama outplayed Auburn and showed why it has been regarded as the No. 1 team in the nation all year long.

    The Crimson Tide have talent that might not be matched by any team in the nation. However, the Tigers showed that they aren't far behind.

    Special teams blunders by 'Bama and a little implausible magic proved to be the difference, but none of that would've mattered if Auburn hadn't played well enough all game long to still be in position to win.

    The Tigers looked every bit as well-coached as the Tide and showed that their 11-1 record is no fluke. 

    The 2013 Iron Bowl might never be matched, but the rivalry is sure to produce more fireworks in the coming seasons.

24. The ACC Is Weak

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    The ACC started as hot as any conference in the country, highlighted by Clemson's win over Georgia and Miami (Fla.)'s win over Florida in the early going.

    But by the end of the regular season, the league was exposed.

    Clemson, the No. 2 team in the conference, was dominated by South Carolina, the No. 4 team in the SEC to close the season.

    The ACC has just three teams in the BCS Top 25, the third of which, Duke, only beat Troy by seven points. The Blue Devils are an outstanding story for the 2013 season, but their strength on a national level is still suspect.

    Florida State, the lone banner-carrier for the conference, will put the league's reputation on the line in the national title game.

25. Urban Meyer Will Have Shot at Another Ring

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    Urban Meyer started the SEC's seven-year title reign in 2006 at Florida with a win over Ohio State.

    Now at Ohio State, Meyer has a chance to lead the Buckeyes to become the first non-SEC team to take the crystal football since he won that ring in 2006.

    The Buckeyes moved to No. 2 in the BCS rankings after Alabama fell to Auburn. 

    If OSU takes care of business against Michigan State it should earn a berth in the national title game. Of course, that will depend on the final BCS rankings, but as it stands now, Ohio State will be in with a win.

    Meyer was the first coach to take a non-AQ team (Utah) to a BCS bowl in 2004. He started the SEC's title reign seven years ago.

    Will he add the final BCS title to his resume this year?