The Top Ten Things to Watch For on a Loaded Saturday
1. Is Baylor the Big 12's best team since 2009? - The trends say Baylor has no business winning this game. They've lost 34 straight road games against ranked opponents. A top five Big 12 team has seen its shot at a perfect record and national title berth end in a November road game under the lights, a trend both Baylor and Oklahoma State have a hand in: Baylor as the spoiler in 2012 and Oklahoma State as the spoiled in 2011. If the Bears emerge from Stillwater unblemished, there's a 93.7% chance they're winning out - TCU doesn't have the offense to keep up, and Texas isn't winning in Waco. No Big 12 team has done that since Texas in 2009.
2. We could know the Pac-12 South champion by Saturday night - Throughout the offseason, Todd Graham talked Rose Bowl. A lot. All day, every day, he had his team thinking Rose Bowl. The Sun Devils will go to the Rose Bowl Saturday afternoon for a shot to return there on New Year's Day. A win over UCLA wraps up Arizona State's first Pac-12 South title and a trip (probably) to Eugene with the Granddaddy on the line.
3. The most Big Ten game ever - It doesn't get any more B1G than this: temperatures in the low 20's, Wisconsin and Minnesota battling for Paul Bunyan's Axe, first team to 250 rushing yards wins. Maybe if we're lucky the football gods will give us a snowstorm in the second half.
4. Missouri's strange march to the SEC title game - Here's how you know Missouri is an odd fit in the SEC East: the Tigers are still playing conference games. While SEC East heavies Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are all but done with their conference seasons (Georgia does host Kentucky on Saturday, though), Missouri still has a fight on its hands to get to Atlanta. A tough two-week swing begins with a trip to Oxford on Saturday to meet an Ole Miss team riding a four-game winning streak, and boasts a legitimate claim to be the best three-loss team in college football. Pro tip, Tigers: if you want to fit in in this conference, you should be playing Mississippi Valley State this week, not Ole Miss.
5. Texas A&M at LSU -
6. Vanderbilt at Tennessee -
Two SEC games without a whole lot more than bowl positioning bunched together because they could be the most fun of the entire weekend. How strange is it that a November game at Death Valley will probably boil down to who holds the ball last? Johnny Football doing his Johnny Football thing on the road - where he's never lost a game - looking to out-duel the pass catching combo of Zach Mettenberger to Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. Who among us realized LSU has the fifth-most efficient passing attack in college football?
In Knoxville, the streaking Vanderbilt Commodores look to win consecutive games over Tennessee for the first time in eight decades. A loss would also give Tennessee seven setbacks and doom the Vols to a second straight empty December. I'd say Butch Jones needs a win.
7. Nebraska and Michigan, oh Nebraska and Michigan - Quick recap of these two teams: After a 5-0 start, Michigan has dropped three of its past five games. Each loss has been equally disastrous in its own way, a four-overtime loss at Penn State, a 29-6 flattening by Michigan State and a 17-13 loss to Nebraska in which the Wolverines gained 175 total yards. The wins have been equally ridiculous, 63-47 over Indiana and last week's 27-19 four-overtime win over a suddenly hapless Northwestern squad.
Nebraska is 7-2 but could just as easily be 5-4 after needing a Hail Mary to squeak by Northwestern and beating Michigan on a late touchdown despite losing the turnover battle, 2-0.
Michigan visits Iowa and Nebraska visits Penn State on Saturday. I have no clue on the outcome, but you'll leave each game shaking your head.
8. The annual SEC-FCS challenge is this Saturday - It's that time of year, when seemingly half the SEC takes a one-week break before rivalry weekend to host a lucky Football Championship Subdivision squad. You just know one of these games will be way too close at halftime, it's only a matter of which one: Coastal Carolina at South Carolina, Georgia Southern at Florida and Chattanooga at Alabama.
9. Ohio State's ongoing beauty pageant - Last week, Ohio State went on the road, put up 60 points and came home unhappy. This week's opponent, Indiana, allows the second-most yards per game on a per game basis. I'm thinking the Buckeyes cover the five-touchdown spread by halftime, what about you?
10. The Division II and Division III playoffs get underway this weekend - We'd be remiss without giving proper shoutouts to those lucky enough to extend their seasons this weekend. Best of luck to all involved.