5 Biggest BCS Impact Games of Week 14
Of the four BCS conferences with championship games—the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC—only five of the eight total participants have been decided.
After Week 14, every one of those games will officially be set.
The Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama will determine one of those spots in the SEC, as will an old-school former Big 12 matchup in Missouri.
Beyond that, a couple of nonconference in-state rivalries could go a long way in determining the shape of this postseason. And what of the Tobacco Road Rivalry getting introduced to big-time football in Chapel Hill?
In preparation for Week 14, Bleacher Report's BCS Guru, Sam Chi, sorted out the five biggest BCS impact games on the schedule. Here's a quick look at each.
5. Florida State at Florida
Florida State has barely needed to play its starters in the fourth quarter of any game this season; Florida is coming off a loss to FCS Georgia Southern, in which the winning team threw for all of zero yards.
Talk about a mismatch.
Still, this game is worth watching because Florida has to be somewhat better than it was in Week 13. It just has to. Despite the barrage of injuries, most every player it has was a highly ranked recruit; they should all have the potential to play decent football.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is engulfed in some very serious legal problems, but state attorney Willie Meggs is unlikely to decide on whether to charge him with sexual assault by kickoff.
"I very seriously doubt that we will be finished by Thanksgiving," Meggs said in a statement, according to Gary Fineout of the Associated Press. "We still haven't gotten everything we need to get."
There's no use speculating on Winston's situation until after Meggs makes his decision. If the quarterback is indeed charged, everything about his and FSU's season will be cast into doubt.
For now, Winston is innocent until proven guilty; eligible until someone says otherwise. This game could vault his team one step closer to Pasadena, and it could also essentially lock up his Heisman.
4. Clemson at South Carolina
If Missouri is able to beat Texas A&M at home this week, neither of these teams will be able to win their divisions and play in their respective conference championship games.
And that's exactly why this is so important.
The winner of this game will likely secure a spot in a BCS bowl. Without having to worry about playing and losing another game, the team that comes out on top is almost assured of an at-large bid.
If Clemson wants to be that team—the victor en route to the BCS—it will need to do a much better job with Jadeveon Clowney than it did in 2012, when he racked up 4.5 sacks. Tigers left tackle Brandon Thomas is seeking redemption on Saturday.
"Last year, I don’t think I was as physical as I am now. My technique has gotten better," Thomas said, according to Aaron Brenner of the Post and Courier. "Those two things will help me a lot in this game."
Clowney hasn't posted the same gaudy stats this season as he did in 2012, but playing against a familiar foe in (most likely) his final regular-season game might lead to a restored sense of purpose. Especially with a BCS berth on the line, he will not come out lethargic, as some have accused him of doing in spots this year.
B/R's Sam Chi admits that this is "essentially a BCS bowl play-in game," which makes it a curious inclusion all the way down at No. 4. But far be it from me to question the Guru.
3. Texas A&M at Missouri
Missouri still has an outside chance at making the BCS National Championship Game, but first it needs to take care of business on Saturday against Texas A&M.
A home win over the Aggies would clinch the SEC East title for the Tigers, staking them to a spot in the conference championship game against whoever wins the Iron Bowl. From there, it would be just one more win and a loss from either Ohio State or Florida State away from reaching Pasadena.
Missouri knows it can't get ahead of itself, though. Johnny Manziel is playing, potentially, his final regular-season game as a college athlete, and that cannot be taken lightly.
"[Manziel] makes chicken salad out of chicken (excrement) sometimes," said Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, according to David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune. "I was hoping he was going to leave for the draft already."
The Tigers defensive line is among the best in the country, which means it should be able to do some of the same things LSU did to Texas A&M's offense. But even if it wins in the trenches, getting to Manziel is only half of the battle.
The real test is trying to bring him down.
2. Duke at North Carolina
Duke has a chance to become the underdog story of the season, sitting one win away from clinching a spot in the ACC Championship Game against Florida State.
In order to do so, though, it will have to beat a UNC team that is firing on all cylinders after starting slowly this year. Despite starting a backup quarterback, the Tar Heels mercy-ruled Old Dominion last weekend, scoring 80 points in the first three quarters before having the game abridged in the fourth.
The Blue Devils defense has been prone to shootouts this year, most notably against Pittsburgh earlier in the season. But lately, the team has been stepping up its game in the second half.
"I think it's a tribute to Jim Knowles and the defensive staff and their ability to adjust," said head coach David Cutcliffe, according to Zac Elder of the Duke Chronicle. "...You have to be systematic [defensively]. I think it's helped us play better as the game goes (on)."
Still, Duke's defense cannot afford to wait until halftime before showing up. North Carolina's offense is far superior to, say, Wake Forest's. The Tar Heels will be able to score some points in the third and fourth quarter.
This one should be close throughout.
1. Alabama at Auburn
How could anything else be No. 1?
Chi calls this "most likely...the biggest Iron Bowl of all time," featuring the top-ranked Crimson Tide on the road against No. 4 Auburn. Something huge is always at stake when these two teams meet, but rarely is there so much national importance.
As always with Auburn this season, the key to Alabama's defensive game plan will be buckling down on the run. But Tide safety Landon Collins knows that they can't forget about the pass entirely.
"They can hit us with a deep pass, hit us with a bomb, any type of play that can get us off guard," Collins said, according to Marc Torrence of The Crimson White. "If we can contain their run, we got a better chance on the pass."
Georgia's rush defense had played well all season before facing Auburn, but the Tigers gashed it for 300-plus yards on the ground. Alabama is obviously more talented than the Bulldogs, but it cannot afford to get pushed around in the trenches.
Otherwise, Auburn might be able to hang around in Jordan-Hare.