Predicting Week 15's Biggest Performances in College Football
It's Week 15, also known as Championship Week, which means BCS National Championship hopes and Heisman Trophy campaigns will be placed in the center of the table.
As each team shows its cards for the final time before bowl season, we'll find out which teams are bluffing and which ones hold the heftiest hands.
Missouri and Auburn will meet in the improbable SEC Championship Game, and both will look to lock down a BCS bid while bolstering their BCS title resumes.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Ohio State will play for their conference titles while aiming to hold on to their places in the polls and earn a trip to Pasadena to play for the crystal football.
With essentially every conference deciding its champion this weekend, which stars will emerge as the biggest difference-makers?
Click on to find out.
Note: All rankings based on Week 15 BCS Standings.
QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Week 15 Matchup: vs. Bowling Green—Fri., Dec. 6, 8 p.m. EST on ESPN2
Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois will have one final formidable test before they can be deemed a BCS-worthy team.
The Huskies will take on Bowling Green for the Mid-American Conference title. The Falcons boast the best defense in the league.
They are No. 1 in the MAC against the run (134.8 YPG), the pass (161.8 YPG) and in scoring (13.8 PPG), where they rank fifth nationally. They are also No. 7 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 296.6 yards per contest.
On the flip side, NIU ranks No. 1 in the MAC and No. 4 in the nation in rush offense thanks to Lynch, who broke his own single-game NCAA rushing record with 321 yards on the ground last week.
While the Falcons have played well, particularly late in the season, they won't be able to stop Lynch—not with a BCS berth and Heisman Trophy consideration on the line. He won't break his rushing record again, but he'll do enough to carry NIU.
Prediction: 23-of-29, 287 YDS, 2 TDs, 0 INTs | 21 CAR, 178 YDS, 2 TDs
RBs Desmond Roland and Jeremy Smith, Oklahoma State
Week 15 Matchup: vs. No. 16 Oklahoma—Sat., Dec. 7, noon EST on ABC
Oklahoma State will host rival Oklahoma with the Big 12 Conference title and a BCS berth on the line.
The Cowboys, after an ugly upset at the hands of West Virginia in September, have come on late to take control of the Big 12 race.
Much of that resurgence came thanks to the emergence of running back Desmond Roland, who replaced starter Jeremy Smith in October. This weekend, OSU will need both to play well.
OU boasts one of the best pass defenses in the nation, which will make life difficult for quarterback Clint Chelf and the OSU air attack.
That's where Roland and Smith come in. The Cowboys will need the duo to soften up the Sooners defense and help move the chains and sustain long drives.
Both might be kept under 100 yards on the game, but together they will play a huge role for OSU against OU.
Combined Prediction: 26 CAR, 188 YDS, 3 TDs
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Week 15 Matchup: vs. No. 25 Texas—Sat., Dec. 7, 3:30 p.m. EST on FOX
As Baylor and Texas fight for a share of the Big 12 title (and perhaps a BCS berth, if Oklahoma State falls), the key matchup will be between the UT rush defense and the BU rush offense.
For the Longhorns, stopping the run has been the difference between winning and losing all season. In their three losses, they have been ripped for 335 yards on the ground on average, far above their total average on the season of 176.6 yards.
Baylor knows this and knows it will have to run the ball well to win. The Bears also likely realize they have been held under 100 rushing yards just once this year—in their one loss.
Look for BU to establish the ground game, specifically with star running back Lache Seastrunk. The redshirt junior was putting up Heisman-type numbers, but thanks to an injury, he wasn't able to break 100 yards through all of November.
It's December now. Seastrunk is healthy and will be raring to rip up the 'Horns. Watch as Seastrunk busts several big runs to give his school its first Big 12 title.
Prediction: 20 CAR, 201 YDS, 3 TDs
DE Carl Bradford, Arizona State
Week 15 Matchup: vs. No. 7 Stanford—Sat., Dec. 7, 7:45 p.m. EST on ESPN
Arizona State wasn't ready for Stanford when the two met in September. This time will be different for the Sun Devils.
In the Pac-12 Conference Championship, ASU now knows what to expect from the Cardinal and knows it will need a big game from its defensive front to post a win.
The leader of that group, defensive end Carl Bradford, played as well as any defender in the nation over the final month of the regular season.
As the Stanford power offense looks to lean on ASU, Bradford, Will Sutton and Co. will be there to push back. And when the Cardinal take to the air, they will be there to harass quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Bradford has a knack for saving his best performances for the biggest games, and he'll do that this weekend.
Prediction: 7 TAK, 3 TFL, 2 SACK, 2 QBH, 1 PBU, 1 FF
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Week 15 Matchup: vs. Duke—Sat., Dec. 7, 8 p.m. EST on ABC
In the biggest mismatch of Championship Week, Florida State will take on Duke.
The Blue Devils have been a great story this season, winning their first divisional title and posting 10 wins for the first time in school history, but they're in for a brutal beating in the ACC Championship.
Duke has flourished by winning close games or pulling away late, but this one won't be close.
With the sexual assault case behind him, as reported by the Associated Press' Gary Fineout (via Yahoo! Sports), FSU quarterback Jameis Winston will focus on his chance to lock down the Heisman Trophy and a spot in the BCS title game.
He doesn't need an enormous game to accomplish either of those goals, but he'll have one anyway.
Prediction: 22-of-30, 371 YDS, 4 TDs, 5 CAR, 8 YDS, 1 TD
LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Week 15 Matchup: vs. No. 10 Michigan State—Sat., Dec. 7, 8:17 p.m. EST on FOX
Don't expect a big day from Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and the Ohio State offense against Michigan State.
The Spartans defense is one of the best in the nation and will do its part to keep the Buckeyes in check. However, the Spartans offense is also one of the weakest in the Big Ten, which will open the door for the Ohio State defense to make the ultimate difference.
OSU doesn't receive much credit for its defense, even though it is led by All-American Ryan Shazier at linebacker.
The junior leads the Big Ten with 123 tackles on the season and has amassed 40 of those over the last three games. As a national title berth has come closer to reality for the Buckeyes, Shazier has only played better.
Now that his team is one win away from making that dream a reality (BCS rankings pending), Shazier will put on a stunning show yet again.
Prediction: 14 TAK, 4 TFL, 1.5 SACK, 1 FF, 1 INT
QB James Franklin, Missouri
Week 15 Matchup: vs. No. 3 Auburn—Sat., Dec. 7, 4 p.m. EST on CBS
It has been a strange year in the SEC, so it's only right that the once defensively dominated conference will decide its champion in a game that will feature a truckload of offensive fireworks.
Mizzou's defense against the Auburn offense will likely make the biggest difference in the contest, but James Franklin and the balanced MU spread attack could have a field day against the suspect AU defense.
Auburn's pass defense is 13th in the SEC and was gouged for more than 400 yards by the league's two best passing offenses, Texas A&M and Georgia.
While Mizzou isn't quite as dangerous through the air as those two attacks, it won't have any problem shredding the opposition.
After separating his shoulder, Franklin received a new lease on his senior season and was able to return two weeks ago against Ole Miss. Now that he's back, he will do everything he can to bring the SEC title back to Columbia and send his team to the BCS.
Against the weak Auburn secondary, he'll do a lot.
Prediction: 20-of-27, 321 YDS, 3 TDs | 11 CAR, 57 YDS, 1 TD
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