College Football 2013: 5 Big Questions for Week 15
There aren’t many games left this season, but the ones on tap are huge. Here are the big questions as we go into championship weekend:
Can Ohio State Take Care of Business?
The No. 2 Buckeyes know that a win in the Big Ten title game most likely puts them in the national championship. If they can pull it off, it will be their offense that does it—Ohio State averages 48.2 points per game (third best nationally) and ranks sixth in the country in total offense. However, the Buckeyes haven’t faced a defensive test like the one ahead of them this week. The No. 10 Spartans lead the nation in both rushing defense and total defense, and have held five of their last six opponents to six points or less. Ohio State is seeking its second consecutive undefeated season. (The Buckeyes finished 12-0 last year, but were ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA probation.) The Spartans are hoping for their first Rose Bowl bid since 1988.
Can Duke Shock the Football World?
The words “Duke” and “championship” haven’t historically gone together unless the word “basketball” was also involved. But the No. 20 Blue Devils, who are enjoying their first winning season since 1994, have an opportunity shake up the football world when they face No. 1 Florida State in the ACC title game. To do so, they’ll have to overcome a juggernaut on both sides of the ball. The Seminoles rank second nationally in scoring offense and lead the country in scoring defense. FSU’s average margin of victory this year has been more than 42 points, and only once has an opponent come within 28 points. Freshman phenom Jameis Winston can make a final statement for the Heisman Trophy while the Seminoles could secure their first BCS title game since making three straight appearances from 1998 to 2000.
Will an SEC Team Crash the Party?
Even though Auburn’s shocking win over Alabama ended the Crimson Tide’s hopes for a third straight BCS title, the SEC is still not out of the running for an eighth consecutive championship from the unlikeliest of candidates. A year ago, No. 3 Auburn and No. 5 Missouri both finished with losing records. But here they are, one win away from possibly playing for a national championship. While everyone will remember the tipped pass against Georgia and the kick return against Alabama, Auburn’s been getting it done all season with a powerful running game that ranks fifth nationally. Missouri features a more balanced offensive attack, led by four-year starting quarterback James Franklin. He missed four games with a shoulder injury but shook off some early rust with a solid effort (233 passing yards and two touchdowns, plus 80 yards rushing) in last week’s win over Texas A&M that secured the SEC West title. Auburn is hoping for a shot at its second national title in four years, while Mizzou is after its first conference championship since 1969. One of these teams could find themselves playing for the BCS trophy if either Florida State or Ohio State should stumble this weekend. Some BCS gurus believe the SEC champion could even leapfrog one of those two teams into the title game.
Will Bedlam Reign in the Big 12?
Despite the fact No. 17 Oklahoma has won nine of the last 10 in its series with Oklahoma State, the Sooners find themselves double-digit underdogs to the No. 6 Cowboys in this year’s edition of the Bedlam rivalry. After some early struggles, Oklahoma State has rounded into one of this year’s most complete teams and can claim its second Big 12 title in three years. The Sooners, meanwhile, have improved on defense this season but have struggled to find any consistency at the quarterback position. Shuffling between Trevor Knight and Blake Bell after nearly a decade with Sam Bradford and Landry Jones under center, O.U. finds itself in the unfamiliar position of ranking 103rd in passing offense. Knight will get the start this week and will need to have a solid showing against an opportunistic OSU defense that ranks second nationally in turnover margin. If the Sooners can pull the upset, the Big 12’s BCS bid will go to the winner of the Baylor-Texas matchup.
Can Jordan Lynch Bring Home the Hardware?
All season long, one Heisman candidate after another has seemingly fallen by the wayside (Clowney, Manziel, Mariota, McCarron, etc.). As a result, the door has opened for the most unlikely of candidates. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch led the Huskies to the school’s first BCS bid last season and now has them undefeated and knocking on the BCS door once again. This season, Lynch has thrown for 2,457 yards and 22 touchdowns (just five interceptions) and rushed for another 1,755 yards and 20 scores. He is just the fifth player in FBS history to pass and run for 20 touchdowns in the same season. He also broke his own NCAA record last week with 321 rushing yards. Lynch has quietly moved onto many Heisman voters’ radar screens, and the senior will have one more chance to make his case in this week’s MAC title game against Bowling Green.