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25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 12

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIINovember 12, 2013

25 Key Storylines to Watch Heading into Week 12

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    College football's Week 11 provided a major BCS shakeup and, while Week 12 doesn't boast as much national title consideration, there will still be plenty to watch for and follow over the weekend.

    In the following 25 slides, we'll breakdown the national title picture and the race for some of college football's major awards, including a Heisman Trophy update after the fall of Oregon's Marcus Mariota.

    From there, we'll take a full look at the big matchups upcoming this week, including the Pac-12 tilt between Stanford and USC in Los Angeles, the site of this week's ESPN College GameDay.

    Each conference race will be broken down, complete with lists of teams still hopeful of attaining bowl eligibility. 

    Look for that and more up ahead.

    Note: All rankings based on Week 12 BCS Standings.

1. Alabama's Quest for No. 3

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    Alabama started the season at No. 1. The Crimson Tide are still No. 1, and they're doing everything in their power to make sure they remain at No. 1.

    If they do the job, they'll be on the only team in (FBS) college football history to win three straight national titles.

    Here is a look at their biggest competitors in the national championship race, as seen in the Week 12 BCS Rankings:

    RankTeamRecordBCS Avg.
    1Alabama9-0.9958
    2Florida State9-0.9619
    3Ohio State9-0.8926
    4Stanford8-1.8689
    5Baylor8-0.8618

2. Who Is the New Heisman Favorite?

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    In just one game, Oregon's Marcus Mariota went from being the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy to dropping all the way back to the middle of the pack among the legitimate contenders.

    Here is how Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee sees the current Heisman race shaping up after the stumble by Mariota against Stanford:

    1. Jameis Winston, Florida State
    2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
    3. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
    4. Bryce Petty, Baylor
    5. Mike Davis, South Carolina

    Mariota still has some outstanding numbers and still hasn't thrown an interception yet this year, but in the eyes of many voters, he is likely out of the race. The redshirt sophomore choked in the biggest game of the season. That loss knocked his team out of the national title race, and much of his team's struggles came thanks to his own personal struggles.

    Meanwhile, Jameis Winston is still heading up a team that is likely to earn a national title berth, and although his numbers have plateaued recently, he still might be the man to beat in the race for college football's biggest honor.

    Johnny Manziel looks to be his biggest competition at this point. The reigning Heisman winner is No. 2 nationally in total offense, as he has accounted for 392 yards per game. He does have two downfalls: his team's absence from the national and SEC title races and his alarming 11 interceptions. However, it is hard to argue that any player in college football is more electric than John Q. Football.

    Petty entered the race with a big performance against Oklahoma and will have several chances to boost his resume as the season rolls along. Baylor will be battling for the Big 12 title and will be in the spotlight as one of the top five teams in the nation in the final weeks. If Petty continues to pace the Bears with big numbers, he'll become a more and more legitimate contender.

    Mike Davis, along with several other running backs, is mostly an also-ran on this list. Davis and many other running backs, including Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, are having outstanding years, but just aren't legitimate Heisman contenders ahead of the quarterbacks on this list.

3. Doak Walker Race Update

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Arguably the nation's top rusher, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey kept up his ridiculous average of 152.6 yards per game over the weekend. Well, he at least came close, tallying 149 yards and a touchdown against UCLA.

    While Carey might stand as the favorite to win the Doak Walker Award, there are plenty of talented backs in the running for the honor. Here are seven of the favorites:

    Andre Williams, Boston College: 246 CAR, 1,471 YDS, 12 TD (163.4 YPG)

    Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: 216 CAR, 1,221 YDS, 11 TD (152.6 YPG)

    Bishop Sankey, Washington: 222 CAR, 1,305 YDS, 13 TD (145.0 YPG)

    Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: 184 CAR, 1,213 YDS, 7 TD (134.8 YPG)

    Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: 143 CAR, 1,160 YDS, 11 TD (128.9 YPG)

    Mike Davis, South Carolina: 166 CAR, 1,058 YDS, 10 TD (117.6 YPG)

    Tre Mason, Auburn: 181 CAR, 1,038 YDS, 16 TD (103.8 YPG)

4. Thorpe Semifinalists Announced

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    Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    The Jim Thorpe Association has released the list of semifinalists for the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award, which will be awarded to the nation's best defensive back:

    C.J. Barnett, Sr. Ohio State
    Deone Bucannon, Sr. Washington State
    Landon Collins, Soph. Alabama
    Aaron Colvin, Sr. University of Oklahoma
    Darqueze Dennard, Sr. Michigan State
    Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr. Oregon
    Kyle Fuller, Sr. Virginia Tech
    Vernon Hargreaves, Fr. Florida
    Lamarcus Joyner, Sr., Florida State
    Steven Nelson, Jr. Oregon State
    Cody Prewitt, Jr. Ole Miss
    Calvin Pryor, Jr. Louisville
    Jason Verrett, Sr. TCU
    Jimmie Ward, Sr. N. Illinois
    Ty Zimmerman, Sr. Kansas State

    A few interesting notes: Florida's Vernon Hargreaves checks in as the lone freshman on the list, while Alabama sophomore Landon Collins is the only sophomore.

    There are plenty of players in position to win the award, but the favorites figure to be Ifo Ekpre-Olomu of Oregon, Kyle Fuller from Virginia Tech and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner.

    The release noted that the finalists will be named on Nov. 25, with the winner being named on Dec. 12.

5. Is Gus Malzahn the Coach of the Year?

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    It's hard to argue against Auburn's Gus Malzahn as the 2013 Coach of the Year.

    Liberty Mutual, which sponsors college football's Coach of the Year award, currently has Malzahn atop its leaderboard—and for good reason:

    1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
    2. Bill O'Brien, Penn State
    3. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
    4. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
    5. Nick Saban, Alabama

    Considering his competitors, Malzahn should be a shoo-in. He currently has his Tigers at 9-1 and in contention for the SEC title. 

    That is a great accomplishment in and of itself, but it is even more impressive considering Auburn finished 3-9 without a single win in SEC play a year ago.

    That kind of turnaround is definitely deserving of a Coach of the Year honor. Now, all Malzahn has to do is finish strong.

6. Stanford Looks to Lock Down 4th Straight BCS Bid

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    Al Saracevic of the San Francisco Chronicle lamented that Stanford's win over Oregon was a bittersweet one. He pointed out that, if the Cardinal hadn't lost to Utah, they might be in contention for a national title:

    Stanford executed the perfect Duck hunt, using power and precision to overcome Oregon's high-speed attack. It was Nerds over Nike on a bittersweet night at Stanford Stadium.

    The sweet was self-evident. Everyone loves to beat Oregon. The bitter dates back to Oct. 12, the day Stanford lost to Utah.

    If it weren't for that shocking upset, a 27-21 loss that saw unbeaten Stanford stall on the Utes' 6-yard line late in the game, the Cardinal could be playing for a national championship in January.

    While that might be correct, Stanford should be focusing on the sweet. If the Cardinal can take down USC this week, they'll be very close to playing in their fourth straight BCS bowl. 

    That feat is even more impressive, considering that streak will have spanned the loss of coach Jim Harbaugh, who just took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, as well as the loss of a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick, quarterback Andrew Luck.

    In an age where inconsistency is king, a lot must be said for the program that Harbaugh and David Shaw have built.

7. USC's Resurgence Under Ed Orgeron

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    Speaking of inconsistencies, USC has gone through a decade's worth of ups and downs just this season.

    Just a few weeks ago, the Trojans were playing in a nearly empty Los Angeles Coliseum. Now they'll be hosting Stanford with ESPN's College GameDay in town, and they are hoping for a big draw, as reported by Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News

    USC has experienced a rocky season at the Coliseum, with fans chanting for the firing of former coach Lane Kiffin and quarterback Cody Kessler asking the crowd to stop booing at the outset. Recently, supportive but lower-than-expected crowds attended games coached by Ed Orgeron.

    But the Trojans expect that change Saturday when USC hosts No. 5-ranked Stanford. The game is big enough that ESPN announced Sunday it would bring its popular GameDay program to the Coliseum.

    “Hopefully our fans will show up and pack it out (at the Coliseum),” Kessler said. “It’s going to be a showdown and exciting.”

    The fans had reason to spurn the program early in the year, as the Trojans put a boring product on the field and notched some embarrassing results early, prompting the midseason firing of head coach Lane Kiffin.

    However, they have been on the rise recently, posting three straight decisive wins. USC still has its issues, but a win over Stanford would define the season—and perhaps earn Ed Orgeron the full-time coaching job.

8. ACC Coastal Chaos

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    Two weeks ago, Miami (Fla.) was ranked inside the Top 10 and was the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC Coastal division.

    Then the Hurricanes were clubbed in consecutive weeks by Florida State and Virginia Tech, tearing the Coastal asunder. Miami, VT, Duke and Georgia Tech now all have two losses in league play, making for a mess in the standings.

    Thankfully, Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com straightened out the situation:

    Georgia Tech sets the stage: Georgia Tech travels to play Clemson this Thursday. It will be the Yellow Jackets' final ACC contest of the season, entering the conference play clubhouse at 6-2 or 5-3 after the game. Georgia Tech has a head-to-head advantage against Duke but not Virginia Tech or Miami.

    Miami's path to Charlotte: The Hurricanes face a must-win on the road next week against Duke, likely falling from division title contention with a third conference loss. But even winning the final three games of the season (at Duke, Virginia, at Pittsburgh) will not be enough as Miami would lose a tiebreaker with Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes need to win out and Virginia Tech needs to lose.

    Virginia Tech's path to Charlotte: The Hokies bounced back in a big way after back-to-back ACC losses and now sit in a great position to win its sixth Coastal Division titles in nine years of ACC division play. Because Virginia Tech holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against Miami and Georgia Tech, the Hokies need victories against Maryland and Virginia and at least one Duke loss to finish at 6-2 in ACC play and earn the title game bid.

    Duke's path to Charlotte: The Blue Devils need Clemson to beat Georgia Tech on Thursday in order to avoid getting shut out in a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Yellow Jackets. If that happens, Duke needs to beat Miami, Wake Forest and North Carolina to finish the season 6-2 in ACC play with wins against Virginia Tech and Miami.

    The race will (hopefully) clarify Thursday week when Georgia Tech takes on Clemson. If the Yellow Jackets lose, Duke will be the lone team in control of its own destiny in the division. Miami and Duke play Saturday, further clarifying the scenario.

    As a summary: If GT loses, Duke can win out and win the division. Miami needs to win out and needs Virginia Tech to lose. Virginia Tech needs to win out and needs Duke to lose.

    A lot will be decided this week.

9. Role Reversals: Auburn vs. Georgia

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    It isn't a huge surprise that this weekend's tilt between Auburn and Georgia features one team ranked No. 25 and another at No. 7.

    The surprise is that Auburn is the higher ranked of the two.

    UGA began the season as a national title hopeful, but injuries and a rough schedule have played against the Bulldogs, leaving them just on the cusp of the Top 25. Meanwhile, the Tigers have been arguably the biggest surprise of the college football season, turning their 3-9 finish a year ago to a 9-1 start this year.

    While that is a major role reversal, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will also be showcasing a new role when he takes on his former team this weekend. Marshall originally was a cornerback at UGA but was dismissed from the team, sending him to junior college, then to AU.

    Now, he'll be under center when he takes on his former team. UGA head coach Mark Richt had plenty of praise for his former player, per Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    I've said on plenty of occasions, if a guy has a situation where he doesn't finish at Georgia, a guy that signed with us, my goal for him is to find a new home and have success there, so I'm happy for Nick.

    (Marshall is) a very talented guy, a very dangerous runner. He's got a strong arm, too, so he's definitely a dual-threat issue.

    With Marshall and the Tiger offense playing at a high level, expect a shootout with Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs on the other side of the field.

    Auburn will host UGA at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS.

10. Big 12 Battle: Oklahoma State vs. Texas

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    When Oklahoma State visits Texas in Austin this weekend, major Big 12 title implications will be on the line.

    Still undefeated in league play, Texas can afford one loss (to a team not named "Baylor"). But thanks to its upset at the hands of West Virginia, Oklahoma State has no room for error.

    With desperation on their side, the Cowboys will be a forced to be reckoned with, explains ESPN's Max Olson:

    Why Oklahoma State might win: Do not underestimate these Pokes. They’ve reeled off five straight wins since the 30-21 upset loss to West Virginia, found their run game with the bruising Desmond Roland and have one of the best defenses in the Big 12 under new coordinator Glenn Spencer. They know what’s on the line this weekend: If they want to win the Big 12, they must beat Texas.

    No. 24 Texas and No. 12 OSU will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

11. Can Nebraska Muster Up More Magic vs. Michigan State?

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Make that two consecutive magical comebacks for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    The Huskers looked to be dead in the water after a loss to Minnesota but are now a win over Michigan State away from taking control of the Big Ten Legends division and perhaps earning a berth in the Big Ten title game.

    Tom Shatel of the World-Herald illustrated the scenario surrounding the confusing Huskers squad and their upcoming tilt with the Spartans:

    The immediate future is big and mean and green. Michigan State is coming to town and you wonder how Garrison's hockey line is going to block the Spartans' big, bad defense. This will be fun. MSU was in first place two years ago and didn't show much in Lincoln. After last year's fourth-quarter comeback, Sparty might think it owes NU one. Or two.

    If Michigan State wins, it will essentially clinch the division, with a two-game lead over NU and the tiebreaker with two to play. And the last two weeks will have more context.

    If the Huskers can extend again, it's all tied up and it's onto the next thrill rides, at Penn State and against Iowa.

    We have a season, and it's more of a season than we thought we had last week, and certainly more than two weeks ago. This team limps ahead, but now there's a quarterback, and defense, quickly gathering steam.

    Whatever this is that we're watching, it marches on.

    With Tommy Armstrong Jr. apparently entrenched at quarterback and Ameer Abdullah, one of the Big Ten's best running backs, beside him, NU can't be counted out—even against the nation's No. 1 defense.

    Nebraska will host Michigan State at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC/ESPN2 with its conference title dreams on the line.

12. Baylor Moves Forward with Injury Issues

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Baylor proved its legitimacy with a decisive 41-12 win over Oklahoma this past Thursday. But now the Bears will have to carry on with some uncertainty in their explosive offense.

    As ESPN's Jake Trotter reported, Baylor will be without star receiver Tevin Reese, who dislocated his wrist, for at least the rest of the regular season. The Bears also don't know how much they'll be able to depend on running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, who are day-to-day going forward.

    Freshman Shock Linwood, a former 247Sports composite 3-star, was outstanding in relief of Seastrunk and Martin, tallying 182 yards on 23 carries. As Trotter wrote, head coach Art Briles and quarterback Bryce Petty remain optimistic with Linwood in the backfield:

    In place of Martin and Seastrunk, freshman Shock Linwood exploded for 182 yards on 23 carries. It wasn’t just gaping holes the offensive line carved out for him, either. Linwood amassed 97 of his yards after contact, repeatedly driving his way through Oklahoma defenders for big plays on the ground.

    “Shock's performance was non-surprising,” Briles said. “He's a good football player, understands the game.

    “You give him an opportunity, he's going to take advantage of it.”

    This wasn’t first time Linwood took advantage of an opportunity. Despite essentially being Baylor’s third-team tailback (Linwood) is now second in the Big 12 with a rushing average of 89.3 yards per game, trailing only Seastrunk.

    “Shock is going to step up great,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “His success is no surprise to any of us."

    The Baylor offense will have to be on point over the next few weeks, whether Seastrunk and Martin are available or not. The Bears will face two potential shootouts against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in their next two contests.

13. Nick Saban Fears "Relief Syndrome"

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    John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    It's no secret that Alabama head coach Nick Saban is all about focusing on the process of winning week in and week out through a college football season.

    That's why it was so surprising that the 'Bama boss was overcome with joy after his team beat LSU. The Crimson Tide still have four wins separating them from a national title berth, leaving plenty of processes still to be followed.

    ESPN's Alex Scarborough quoted Saban Monday talking about the "relief syndrome" that looms after big wins:

    The biggest thing is the players have to embrace the next challenge of what they need to do to play well. You cannot take things for granted. There can't be any kind of relief syndrome that, 'We got by that game.'

    You've got to be aggressive and you've got to play to win. You can't play to keep from getting beat.

    Alabama will look to avoid a letdown on the road Saturday night against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are just 4-5, but all of their losses came to teams currently ranked in the Top 25. 

    Saban's club will look to hand the Bulldogs loss No. 6 this weekend. Cowbells will be clanging all around the Tide at 7:45 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN.

14. Jimbo Fisher Looks to "Eliminate the Clutter"

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Staying on the topic of coachspeak, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher is also making sure that his team keeps its eyes on the present, rather than focusing on national title talk.

    With FSU being almost a lock for the BCS title game, Fisher has adopted a new favorite saying, as Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel writes:

    FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has uttered one of his favorite phrases, "eliminate the clutter," all season. With no other team standing in FSU's way for its first trip to a national championship game since 2000, expect Fisher to stress focus and avoiding outside distractions more than ever.

    "I hope it doesn't matter," Fisher said of BCS talk. "And it shouldn't matter. Where we're at should not matter. How we play and how we prepare should matter. If they ever believe in our system, if they ever believe in eliminating the clutter, if they believe in what we're teaching, now is the time.

    "Success, to me, reveals what you really are."

    Florida State has just three regular-season games remaining. The Seminoles will host Syracuse this week, and Idaho next week before taking a trip to Florida in their last regular-season contest.

    From there, FSU will just have to take out a mystery team (Duke, perhaps) in the ACC title game.

    FSU and Syracuse will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC/ESPN2.

15. Urban Meyer Is Doing All He Can

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    Don't say he didn't try. Urban Meyer knows his team, ranked No. 3, will need some help in the BCS to earn a national title bid.

    Lately, his teams have been posting as many style points as possible and, meanwhile, Meyer has been tabbing his Buckeyes at No. 2 with his USA Today Coaches Poll vote, as ESPN's Austin Ward reported.

    Meyer's attitude has rubbed off to his players, as wide receiver Evan Spencer said he thinks OSU would "wipe the floor" with Alabama and FSU, per Ward.

    The OSU coach also added that these high expectations come with the caveat that his team must play like one of the top teams in the country:

    The message is you have to play great. You're held to (a higher standard) to be even mentioned with those other teams. Be careful what you wish for—that means you have to practice and play at a certain level.

    We practiced at a very, very high level today. And we all expect them to play at a very high level, because you're in the same breath with some very, very good teams.

    The Buckeyes have outscored their last two opponents 119-14 and will look to do the same to Illinois this Saturday at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN.

16. South Carolina Takes on Injury-Riddled Gators

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    Going into the season, this week's tilt between SEC East foes South Carolina and Florida was on the short list of games that could decide the division.

    But as Florida has fallen as a crippled victim of the injury bug, this contest is almost an afterthought.

    The Gators lost their 10th player for the season, linebacker Antonio Morrison, to a torn meniscus this week, as reported by ESPN's Jeff Barlis. UF coach Will Muschamp admitted that the injuries have taken a psychological toll on his team, but he is trying to coach them through it:

    You just gotta coach through it. We've just got to find ways to overcome that. It's something—the psychological battle of getting our guys in the right situations so they can be successful.

    I certainly think [the amount of injuries] has had its effect. But we've got to find ways to get it right.

    The Gators aren't likely to break through against the Gamecocks, who will need a win to keep their SEC East title hopes alive.

    USC and UF will kick off at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

17. UCLA's Fantastic Freshman: Myles Jack

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    UCLA linebacker Myles Jack was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for Week 11.

    That's correct: The linebacker was named offensive player of the week.

    He earned it, too. In addition to eight tackles, two tackles for a loss, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery on defense, the true freshman took six carries for 120 yards and a touchdown.

    Before that performance in a 31-26 win over Arizona, he had never taken a snap on offense in college.

    Jack insisted that he still wants to play linebacker, as tweeted by Associated Press reporter Greg Beacham, but UCLA might need him elsewhere. The Bruins tallied 249 rushing yards against the Wildcats—their highest output since Sept. 21 vs. New Mexico State.

    Tune in to ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET to see if Jack makes a return to the backfield against Washington.

18. The Story of Texas Long Snapper Nate Boyer

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    In honor of Veteran's Day, read the fascinating story of Texas long snapper Nate Boyer from Grantland's Jordan Conn.

    Here's a snippet:

    So while living at a military base in southwestern Iraq, Boyer developed a routine. In the mornings, he went through standard physical training. In the middle of the day, he trained members of the Iraqi special forces — perhaps at a shooting range, perhaps in sessions focused on close-quarters combat. And in the afternoons, while other soldiers napped or read or called friends and family back home, Boyer searched YouTube for football tutorials. He fancied himself a wide receiver, so he found video of high school receivers coaches running their players through drills. He listened to the coaches ramble on about footwork and balance and positioning and all the fundamentals that Boyer had never learned.

    Then Boyer went outside in the raging sun, with temperatures approaching 120 degrees. He backpedaled. He high-stepped. He ran ladder drills — never mind that he had no ladder. He vaulted forward a few yards and then a few more yards to the left or right because he believed that was what constituted a proper passing route. Near the edge of camp, Iraqi guards looked upon Boyer's strange dance from a watchtower and wondered what the hell he was doing.

    After "football practice," Boyer went inside, ate dinner, and prepared for nightfall. And at night, he left the camp and fought a war.

19. Non-AQ Breakdown

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    Latest BCS Rankings

    Fresno State: No. 14

    Northern Illinois: No. 15

     

    BCS Non-AQ Rules

    Essentially, the champion of any non-automatic-qualifying conference (MAC, MWC, etc.) is eligible for the BCS if they finish the season ranked in the top 12 of the BCS standings.

    However, if they are ranked ahead of the champion of an AQ conference (in this case UCF is currently at No. 17), then they only have to be ranked in the Top 16 to earn a BCS bid.

    Fresno and NIU both fill that second stipulation, and it looks like one or both could make the Top 12 if they win out.

    It's important to note that only one non-AQ team can earn an automatic bid. That will go to whichever team is ranked higher. Right now, it looks like Fresno will earn that distinction. 

     

    Fresno State Outlook

    It's looking more and more like, if Fresno State wins out, it will be headed to a BCS bowl. The Bulldogs won handily against Wyoming over the weekend and will take on New Mexico and San Jose State to close the regular season.

    The Dogs will still have to win the Mountain West championship, likely against Boise State. 

    If that happens, their resume should put them ahead of NIU and high enough in the rankings to earn an automatic BCS berth.

     

    Northern Illinois Outlook

    Northern Illinois will have a huge tilt with Ball State (9-1 and No. 28 in the coaches poll) on Wednesday. The Huskies are hoping a convincing victory in that game can vault them ahead of Fresno in the BCS rankings.

    If not, they'll become big Boise State fans, hoping that the Broncos can take Fresno down in the MWC title game.

    Human voters will more than likely tab Fresno well ahead of NIU, given how the Huskies were crushed in their BCS appearance last year. So it will be tough sledding to make a real BCS jump.

20. AAC Breakdown

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    Conference Title Race

    TeamAAC RecordOVR Record
    UCF4-07-1
    Louisville4-18-1
    Cincinnati4-17-2
    Houston4-17-2

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: UCF, Louisville, Cincinnati, Houston

    Almost there: Rutgers (5-3)

    Barely alive: SMU (3-5), USF (2-6), Memphis (2-6)

     

    Outlook

    UCF took full control of the American Athletic Conference with a win over Houston in Week 11. The Knights hold tiebreakers over Louisville and UH and won't play Cincinnati.

    Going forward, they have four games remaining against four teams with losing records: Temple, Rutgers, South Florida and Southern Methodist. In other words, the odds of the Knights going BCS bowling are excellent.

21. Mountain West Breakdown

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    Conference Title Race

    Team/DivisionMWC RecordOVR Record
    WEST  
    Fresno State6-09-0
    San Diego State4-15-4
    San Jose State4-25-4
       
    EAST  
    Utah State5-16-4
    Boise State4-16-3

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: Fresno State, Utah State, Boise State

    Almost there: San Diego State (5-4), San Jose State (5-4), UNLV (5-5), Colorado State (5-5), Wyoming (4-5)

    Barely alive: New Mexico (3-6)

     

    Outlook

    Fresno State is almost a lock in the West. The Bulldogs just need to beat New Mexico to win, as they hold a tiebreaker over SDSU.

    The East is pretty clearly cut, as well. Boise State holds the keys to the castle, owning a tiebreaker over Utah State. If the Broncos win out, they'll win the East and have a rematch with Fresno for the MWC title. 

22. Sun Belt Breakdown

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    Conference Title Race

    TeamSBC RecordOVR Record
    Louisiana-Lafayette4-07-2
    Arkansas State3-15-4
    Louisiana-Monroe3-25-5

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

    Already eligible: ULL, Texas State, Western Kentucky

    Almost there: Arkansas State (5-4), ULM (5-5), Troy (5-5)

    Barely alive: South Alabama (3-5)

     

    Outlook

    Louisiana-Lafayette had a great Week 11. While everyone was watching Baylor-Oklahoma and Oregon-Stanford, the Ragin' Cajuns topped Troy on Thursday, 41-36 to stay undefeated in conference play and in control of the Sun Belt.

    Then on Saturday, their biggest threat for the league title, Louisiana-Monroe, was stomped by Arkansas State. ULL already has the tiebreaker over ASU and will have an easy win over winless Georgia State this weekend.

    From there, the Cajuns will just need to win one of two against ULM and South Alabama to take the league title. Make no mistake, Mark Hudspeth's crew is thinking 10-2—the Cajuns have never won 10 games in a season.

23. MAC Breakdown

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    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Conference Title Race

    Team/DivisionMAC RecordOVR Record
    EAST  
    Buffalo5-07-2
    Bowling Green4-16-3
    Ohio3-26-3
       
    WEST  
    Ball State6-09-1
    Northern Illinois5-09-0
    Toledo4-16-3

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

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

    Almost there: None

    Barely alive: Central Michigan (3-6)

     

    Outlook

    Buffalo took full control of the MAC East with a convincing Week 11 win over Ohio. The Bobcats will play Bowling Green in a big "MACtion" tilt this Tuesday. If the Falcons win, it'll likely set up a de facto MAC East title game between them and the Bulls on Nov. 29.

    Out in the MAC West, the race will likely be decided on Wednesday when Ball State takes on Northern Illinois. The Cardinals are a force to be reckoned with and would love to end NIU's BCS hopes.

24. Conference USA Breakdown

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    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    Conference Title Race

    Team/DivisionCUSA RecordOVR Record
    EAST  
    East Carolina5-17-2
    Marshall4-16-3
       
    WEST  
    North Texas5-17-3
    Rice4-16-3
    UTSA4-25-5

     

    Bowl Hopefuls

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

    Almost there: Texas-San Antonio (5-5), Louisiana Tech (4-5)

    Barely alive: Florida Atlantic (3-6)

     

    Outlook

    The Conference USA East race hasn't changed in recent weeks. East Carolina and Marshall stand as the only two teams with one loss in the division and are destined for a de facto division title game on Nov. 29. Nice job, C-USA schedule makers.

    The West is close to being decided, as North Texas is in control with a tiebreaker over Rice. The Mean Green can clinch the division with wins over Texas-San Antonio and Tulsa to close the season.

    Rice's only hope is a UNT loss. Meanwhile, UTSA can re-enter the race by beating UNT next weekend, but the Roadrunners will also need a pair of Rice losses.

25. Looking Ahead

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    Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

    Week 13 will bring a solid slate of Saturday games. All of the following games are on Saturday, Nov. 23 and all times are Eastern:

    No. 5 Baylor at No. 12 Oklahoma State (TBA)

    No. 6 Oregon at Arizona (TBA)

    No. 19 Arizona State at UCLA (TBA)

    No. 11 Texas A&M at No. 21 LSU (3:30 p.m. on CBS)

    BYU at Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. on NBC)

    No. 9 Missouri at Ole Miss (7:45 p.m. on ESPN)

    Washington at Oregon State (10:30 p.m. on ESPN2)

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