College Football Teams on Upset Alert in Week 14
This season might go down in history as one of the greatest ever. It is the last year before the new playoff system kicks in and upsets are not only possible but they are now expected. Last week did not disappoint with the undefeated Baylor Bears were dominated in every single aspect of their game against Oklahoma State, the Oregon Ducks gave their PAC 12 Championship spot back to Stanford after getting routed by Arizona, and Florida's FCS opponent Georgia Southern ruined what was left of their season despite not completing a pass. Will week 14 continue a trend of top ranked teams losing in a crucial part of the season?
#1 Alabama at #4 Auburn
Alabama started its season as the preseason #1 team in the country and will look to remain the kings of college football as they prepare to take on Auburn. The Crimson Tide struggled two weeks ago against Mississippi State and even had a few miscues early in last week's game against Chattanooga, but all eyes are now on what could be the best game of the college football season. There are few weaknesses on this team when they play to their full potential, but it is easy to point out that the Tide has struggled at times in the secondary as well as the offensive line. Alabama is still a phenomenal defensive team and has tons of playmakers on offense. Quarterback AJ McCarron can make a strong push in the Heisman campaign with a solid victory on the Plains. The biggest question surrounding this game is this: Will Alabama lack motivation and fall to their in-state rival?
A well-timed bye week could benefit the Tigers dramatically, but they can not win this game with a Hail Mary. Gus Malzahn has brought life back into this team especially offense. Auburn is now ranked #3 in the country in rushing offense compared to finishing last season ranked #80. The ground game has been the key to this offense all season and quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason will have to bring their 'A' game if they want to put up big numbers. The running game is important because Marshall has not necessarily established himself as a great passer. Their is no secret formula to beating Alabama because you have to play solid on both sides of the ball. Does Auburn's offense and defense have what it takes to pull off the biggest upset of the season?
There is a lot on the line in this year's Iron Bowl because the winner will travel to Atlanta to play in the SEC Championship. Alabama seems to be the clear favorite, but they were also a clear favorite in 2009 before having to execute a game-winning touchdown drive. This rivalry is arguably one of the most heated in the country and this game is always important no matter where each team is ranked. The level of importance is obvious, but who will come out on top when these two top 5 teams go to head-to-head?
#3 Ohio State at Michigan
Ohio State is patiently waiting for one of the top 2 teams to lose so they can get into the national title game. The Buckeyes still have two more games to play including its annual rivalry game with Michigan. It's hard to imagine that Michigan can challenge a team that has the best offense in the Big Ten lead by quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde. There are a few concerns on defense, but who really notices the defense when your offense is putting up 48 points a game. If Ohio State plays to their pull potential than there will not be any concern in the game, but a win is not guaranteed. Will the Buckeyes keep their national title hopes alive and avoid losing against their arch rival?
Michigan started the season 5-0 and won big games over opponents like Notre Dame. All was well until the Wolverines lost in four overtimes to Penn State. Now their record stands at 7-4. Three of their four losses were decided by four points or less so they are slightly better than their record shows. Quarterback Devin Gardner is steadily improving, but the key to beating Ohio State lies in the hands of the defense. If they do not stop Miller or Hyde than this game will be over before it gets started. Home field advantage is a big plus for the Wolverines and a win can help fans forget about the other 4 losses. Michigan can not afford to play like they have the last 6 games, but did this team have enough talent to take out the Buckeyes?
Ohio State and Michigan is another great example of a heated rivalry. Most fans from either side find satisfaction in beating their rival even if they have not played well in the other 11 games. That's where Michigan finds itself, wanting to ruin the Buckeyes season in Ann Arbor. It easier said than done, but one thing Ohio State can not do is underestimate their opponent especially when it is a rival like Michigan.
#25 Notre Dame at #8 Stanford
Stanford will have the opportunity to play in the conference championship game thanks in part to Arizona beating Oregon last week. Now they look to end their season with a win over Notre Dame. Stanford is 9-2 on the year losing both games by a combined total of nine points. Defense has been the backbone of this team, but quarterback Kevin Hogan and running back Tyler Gaffney are on top of their game this team is one of the best in the country. Stanford could very easily be undefeated and in the hunt for a possible national title if not for their losses at Utah and USC. After seeing what they did to Oregon, it is easy to say the Cardinal did not play to their full potential in every game of the season. Will a guaranteed spot in the PAC 12 Championship cause Stanford to overlook Notre Dame?
The Irish are certainly not a team to overlook and it is only fair to mention the team is 8-3 despite not having Everett Golson at quarterback. Head Coach Brian Kelly is doing a phenomenal job at Notre Dame even with the 3 losses. Notre Dame's only true mediocre loss was to PIttsburgh but its been countered by impressive wins over Arizona State, Michigan State, and BYU. Like Stanford, Notre Dame has relied a lot on its defense this year and stopping Tyler Gaffney will be important an important key to making this game close. Quarterback Tommy Rees has struggled at times, but you can not overlook the fact that he has 25 passing touchdowns for a team that does not even have a 1,000 yard rusher. How the Fighting Irish plays on offense should actually be the biggest contributing factor to pulling off an upset, but do they have what it takes to take out Stanford at home?
A team should never be okay with losing, but in this case Stanford does not have much to gain or lose in this game because a win in the PAC 12 Championship will be more important. It would affect their ranking, but a win in the conference championship puts them in a BCS no matter where they are ranked. Notre Dame has a lot to gain with a victory over Stanford, and all though it may not be easy an upset in this game is very possible.
Arizona at #12 Arizona State
Arizona State will try to end their regular season with a win over in-state opponent Arizona. The Sun Devils are coming off an impressive victory over UCLA, but while the win was nice it came at a cost as running back Marion Grice suffered a lower leg injury. The extent of his injury is not certain but he is currently day-to-day and not expected to be 100% by Saturday. Quarterback Taylor Kelly is a playmaker who can manage without Grice's assistance. Any thoughts of this game being an easy victory for the Sun Devils are now diminished because of Arizona's dominant win over Oregon. The biggest concern will be stopping Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, but Arizona State does have the third best rushing defense in the conference. How much will Marion Grice's injury affect the Sun Devils and can they successfully stop Ka'Deem Carey?
Carey may not be a Heisman contender, but he won the over the hearts over the Arizona faithful with 204 rushing yards and four touchdowns a week ago. The Wildcats' win over Oregon was more than enough to impress fans from all over the country and even with their big win they open as pretty big underdogs to Arizona State. Sometimes being an underdog is used as a motivation tool, and this game is probably one of the greatest examples. Arizona State plays solid on both sides of the ball so Arizona will have to control the clock successfully and take advantage of scoring opportunities. The Wildcats have been up and down this season, but it would certainly help to end the year with two wins of two ranked opponents with one of those being an in-state rival. Can Carey continue his success from last week and help Arizona pull off its second straight upset?
This game would have been entertaining regardless, but it gained a whole lot of interest after fans saw how Arizona dismantled Oregon. Arizona State has home field advantage on the line for their PAC 12 Championship game against Stanford and Arizona has the opportunity to become a ranked team with a win. The season may be coming to an end, but there are always high stakes in a rivalry game.