Can Mississippi State Remain Top (Bull)Dog in the SEC? Big Questions for Week 12 in College Football
This weekend, we finally get the biggest game of the year in the SEC, and, thus, the nation. Here’s a look at that and some other big story lines in college football this week:
Who Takes the Driver’s Seat in the SEC?
The biggest game of the year (at least so far) will take place in Tuscaloosa this weekend, as No. 1 Mississippi State faces its toughest test yet at No. 5 Alabama. The Crimson Tide needed a last-minute miracle last week at LSU to keep their own playoff hopes alive, but their overtime win set up this monster showdown. I won’t go so far as to call it a play-in game, as both still face tough tests (Mississippi State at No. 10 Ole Miss, Alabama vs. No. 9 Auburn). But this will definitely be a big-game atmosphere as both teams try to keep their title hopes alive.
Even Auburn fans can’t wait for Saturday to get here to watch this one.
Can Dak Prescott Work Himself Into the Heisman Mix?
After putting up 19 touchdowns in the last five weeks, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is on the verge of running away with the Heisman Trophy. So with the Ducks on a bye this week, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott will have the stage to himself. If the Bulldogs can pull off the road upset at Alabama behind a big performance by Drescott, this could be the showcase he needs to put himself in the Heisman mix.
This is your time to shine, big fella. Suit up.
How Will the Committee Sort Out the Big 12?
Despite all the talk about the SEC West, the toughest job for the playoff committee might be determining who comes out of the Big 12 if both Baylor and TCU run the table. Baylor holds the head-to-head matchup after TCU inexplicably gave up 24 unanswered Bear points in the final 11 minutes of their October shootout. But the Horned Frogs have responded with four consecutive wins in which they’ve put up an average of 49 points per game. Baylor, meanwhile, fell flat the following week in an upset loss at West Virginia.
If both teams run the table, Baylor would win the Big 12 via the head-to-head tiebreaker. But will that, along with a season-ending matchup with No. 13 Kansas State, be enough to overcome their weak schedule and lift them back over the Horned Frogs in the eyes of the committee?
Can Nebraska Keep Its Slim Title Hopes Alive?
Everyone has Ohio State penciled in as the Big Ten’s only hope of getting a team in the playoffs. But the Cornhuskers might still have a little something to say about that. With just one loss (on the road to Michigan State), No. 13 Nebraska might be the darkest of dark-horse playoff contenders and will need to pull off a road upset at No. 25 Wisconsin.
The big question is the status of star running back Ameer Abdullah, who left the Huskers’ last game with a sprained knee. Coach Bo Pelini says he is unsure what Abdullah’s status will be this week. If he can go, regardless of playoff implications, this could well be a Heisman finalist play-in game between Abdullah and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, who are first and second, respectively, in all-purpose yards this season. If he can’t, well, Bo Pelini is 3-8 on the road against ranked opponents.
Can Florida State Punch Its Ticket?
Wide right. Now matter how many years ago it happened, games against Miami will always bring shudders down the spines of Florida State fans.
This year, the stakes are as high as ever as this should be the Seminoles’ last real challenge standing between them and the college football playoff. Despite Miami’s struggles in recent years, Vegas lists Florida State as just a two-point favorite. The Hurricanes have won three in a row by an average of 24 points per game and would like nothing better than to ruin their in-state rivals’ championship hopes.
Florida State, meanwhile, is not nearly the dominant force it was last year and has needed to come from behind in each of its last three games. They haven’t been impressive, to be sure, but Jameis Winston has seemed to make the plays when he needs to. Can he do it one more time?