Why you should always, always keep fighting: the Top Ten Things to Watch for in Week 12

1. Why you should always keep fighting - After getting off to slow(ish) starts, a handful of teams have shown why the answer is always to keep plugging and plugging and plugging away:

1a) Vanderbilt: A 56-24 loss to Texas A&M on Oct. 26 dropped Vanderbilt to 4-4 (1-4 SEC). But with last week's win over Florida, and games ahead vs. Kentucky (on Saturday), at Tennessee and vs. Wake Forest, an unprecedented second-straight 9-4 season is still in play.

1b) North Carolina: Following a how-in-the-world-did-that-happen loss to Miami on Oct. 17, North Carolina was a dismal 1-5. A win at Pittsburgh Saturday pushes the Tar Heels to 5-5 with home games against Old Dominion and Duke to close the season.

1c) Kansas State: Last year's Big 12 champions started the year with a loss to North Dakota State, and found itself 2-4 after blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Baylor on Oct. 12. Bill Snyder's Wildcats have blown out West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech and joined Baylor as the Big 12 team you don't want to play. K-State hosts TCU on Saturday and Oklahoma next Saturday, then closes the year at Kansas.

1d) Florida Atlantic: Carl Pelini left behind a 2-6 that many had left for dead. A win over then-Conference USA leading Tulane has the Owls primed for a 4-0 finish with a closing slate of Southern Miss, New Mexico State and Florida International (combined record: 2-26). 

1e) Central Michigan: At 3-6 coming off two consecutive three-touchdown losses, Dan Enos' Chippewas are the unlikeliest members of this club. But look at the rest of their schedule: at Western Michigan, vs. Massachusetts, vs. Eastern Michigan (combined record: 3-27). The bus would have to get lost on the way from the stadium to keep this team from 6-6.

2. Pre-Thanksgiving appetizers - With all due respect for Week 12, the biggest games of this weekend are really just placeholders for bigger games in the coming weeks. Auburn has to beat Georgia to face Alabama in the biggest Iron Bowl since (at least) 1994. Arizona State and UCLA have to beat Oregon State and Washington, respectively, to set up a winner-take-all brawl in Tempe next Saturday for the Pac-12 South crown. Texas and Oklahoma State duel in Austin for badge carrier status as the Big 12's official challenger to Baylor.

3. Take the names off these teams, who do you like? - Team A has hasn't lost since Sept. 21, with three of its five straight wins coming by at least 13 points. Team B has lost two straight in resounding fashion and hasn't won a game by more than four points since Oct. 5. Team A beat Challenger X 13-10, while Team B lost to Challenger X 42-24. Who you got?

(Team A is Duke. Team B is Miami.)

4. Lots on the line in Lincoln - In 2011, Michigan State took a Pat Narduzzi-led defense that ranked 11th or higher nationally in total, scoring, rushing and passing defense to Lincoln. Nebraska won, 24-3. It was the type of day where two teams combined to throw the ball for 166 yards. This year, Michigan State brings in a better defense and status as a heavy favorite. But there's this: the Spartans are 0-8 all-time in Lincoln. 

5. Urban's Multicolored Dreamcoat - To avoid the indignity of potentially going 25-for-25 on game day but 0-for-2 on national championship appearances, Urban Meyer will spend his off Saturday wearing the following colors: maroon (for Mississippi State vs. Alabama), orange (for Syracuse vs. Florida State), cardinal and gold (for USC vs. Stanford), red and black (for Texas Tech vs. Baylor), green (for Michigan State vs. Nebraska) and red (for Wisconsin vs. Indiana). 

6. Spotlight on Coach O - At 4-1 overall and 3-0 in Pac-12 play, Ed Orgeron has coached his way into Pac-12 Coach of the Year territory. A Trojans win over Stanford and the engraver is probably safe to get a head start and at least scratch an "Ed" into the trophy. On the opposite sideline - and in Eugene - it'll be interesting to see how much Stanford and Oregon have in the emotional tank after last week's slobbernocker. 

7. Seven Win Steve Strikes Again? - This season is about proving two interrelated things for Steve Sarkisian: that he can win more than seven games and that he can win games that matter away from Seattle. Washington has won exactly seven games each of the past three seasons, and sits at 2-8 in its last 10 Pac-12 games. Sitting at an ominous 6-3 on the year and 0-2 in Pac-12 road games, a win at No. 13 UCLA would kill two birds with one football. 

8. Full circle in Columbia - The last time Florida missed a bowl game an account of excessive losses instead of NCAA probation? 1986. That was four years before Steve Spurrier's hiring at Florida. Now the school's all-time winningest coach can plant the kiss of death on the worst Florida season in more than a quarter century. Unless, that is, you think Florida beats Florida State on Nov. 30. 

9. Last call in Lawrence - If Kansas is to avoid an unthinkable third straight winless Big 12 season, logic says they'll need to beat West Virginia in Lawrence on Saturday. Look at this way: road games are out of the question considering the Jayhawks' last Big 12 road win came a year before Mark Mangino was let go. That leaves two home games, and Kansas isn't beating Kansas State. So why not end a 27-game skid against a West Virginia team that's uncertain at quarterback and is crossing time zones for the third time in four weeks? 

10. Goose Egg Watch - Our weekly status update for the five winless teams left in major college football: Southern Miss hosts Florida Atlantic, Connecticut visits SMU, Georgia State hosts Louisiana-Lafayette and Hawaii hosts San Diego State. Miami (Ohio) fell to Kent State, 24-6, on Wednesday to become college football's first double-digit defeat team. 

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