Dallas Colleges: What to watch 112713

What to watch in the SEC: Week 14

November, 27, 2013
Call it rivalry week, hate week, whatever you like. It's here, and it should be as memorable as ever when matchups between in-state rivals highlight the SEC lineup. Let's take a look at some of the key points around the league this weekend.

1. For all the marbles: Have you heard the Iron Bowl is this weekend? If not, you probably don't live in Alabama. Allow me to fill you in. Top-ranked Alabama will visit No. 4 Auburn on Saturday. It's a game with major conference and BCS implications, as the winner will represent the SEC West in the league championship game. Likewise, the Eastern Division remains up for grabs. No. 5 Missouri leads, but must defeat No. 21 Texas A&M in order to represent the division in Atlanta. With an A&M win, No. 10 South Carolina will win the East thanks to its victory against Mizzou.

2. In-state hate: The Iron Bowl, which is likely the nastiest in-state rivalry of them all, will receive the most national attention this week because of its championship implications. However, it's certainly not the only place you'll find distaste for the cross-state enemy. It kicks off with Thursday's Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Then you've got Auburn-Alabama, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida-Florida State all on Saturday.

3. ACC vs. SEC: The ACC thought last season that it might finally break through in rivalry games against opponents from the mighty SEC. Then Georgia wiped the floor with Georgia Tech, South Carolina controlled its game against Clemson, and Florida used a 24-point fourth quarter to beat FSU 37-26. This weekend might be a different story, however. At 4-7, Florida is enduring its worst season in decades and enters as a decided underdog against unbeaten FSU. Georgia faces uncertainty with quarterback Aaron Murray sidelined when it visits Tech. And while South Carolina is favored by five points, No. 6 Clemson is ranked higher and is certainly capable of winning in Columbia.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsCan Johnny Manziel keep his Heisman bid alive?
4. Manziel's recovery: Johnny Manziel's chances of winning another Heisman Trophy took a blow with his stumble against LSU last weekend (16-for-41 for 224 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs). They aren't dead yet, though. Manziel's numbers remain competitive -- he ranks fifth nationally with an 89.5 opponent-adjusted Total QBR -- and he has one final chance to impress voters in a marquee game on Saturday night. Missouri's pass rush has been impressive, so Manziel could place himself back in the center of the Heisman conversation with a strong effort against the Tigers.

5. Battle for the boot: How can it be that No. 17 LSU and Arkansas ranked first and third nationally just two seasons ago when they met? When the Razorbacks visit Baton Rouge on Friday with the Golden Boot trophy at stake, they will be 25-point underdogs. Certainly some of that point spread has to do with the Tigers' impressive 34-10 win against Texas A&M. More of it is that Arkansas has been awful for most of the season. The Razorbacks have lost eight straight games, by an average margin of 21 points, as they enter this weekend's finale. While the Battle for the Boot has often ended in crazy fashion, it would be a surprise to see this installment remain competitive into the fourth quarter.

6. Murray's replacement: For the first time since the 2009 season, someone other than Murray will start at quarterback for Georgia. The SEC's all-time leading passer underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that he tore Saturday against Kentucky. The starting nod will go to Hutson Mason, who led Georgia to four touchdowns and a field goal in five possessions against the Wildcats. Georgia Tech has to like seeing a different quarterback under center for the Bulldogs, as Murray was 48-for-65 for 738 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception in three career starts against the Yellow Jackets.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJames Franklin has Vandy on the right track.
7. Will Vandy's run continue? Vanderbilt looked like a possible bowl team at midseason, but that was before the Commodores won four of their past five games -- and could complete the regular season with a four-game winning streak by beating Wake Forest on Saturday. Posting back-to-back eight-win regular seasons would make yet another statement about the progress the program has made under coach James Franklin.

8. Bowl bid at stake in Starkville: Not only will Dan Mullen's Mississippi State club (5-6) be playing Thursday to recapture some of the in-state mojo it lost to Ole Miss in the past year, the Bulldogs must beat the Rebels in order to achieve bowl eligibility. Mullen's three-game winning streak against the Rebels ended last fall when Hugh Freeze's club won handily, 41-24, and then Ole Miss added insult to injury by signing one of the most heralded recruiting classes in school history. It would be another embarrassing blow if Ole Miss beats the Bulldogs to prevent them from reaching the postseason.

9. Clowney vs. Boyd: South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney harassed Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in last season's win, earning Boyd 4.5 sacks as the Gamecocks beat the Tigers for the fourth time in a row. Boyd finished 11-for-24 for 183 yards and tossed two interceptions -- one of which led to Dylan Thompson's win-clinching touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington. Boyd has been terrible in two starts against South Carolina, and he'll have to perform more consistently against Clowney & Co. in order to end the losing streak.

10. Tennessee tumble: There was a point when Tennessee was 4-3 and looked like an SEC East darkhorse after the Volunteers nearly beat Georgia and shocked South Carolina at Neyland Stadium. Then came a run of lopsided losses to three consecutive top-10 teams (Alabama, Missouri and Auburn) and a last-minute defeat against Vanderbilt. With Tennessee now 4-7, we know first-year coach Butch Jones won't lead the Vols to a bowl game, but his team could at least remove some of the bitter taste from its mouth by beating Kentucky, which has lost 15 straight SEC games.

What to watch in the Big 12: Week 14

November, 27, 2013
Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 this week:

1. Can Baylor rebound with a win? The Bears tumbled out of the BCS title race with their loss to Oklahoma State. Yet, Baylor can still have a special season. If BU wins its final two games against TCU and Texas, it can share the Big 12 title, even if OSU beats Oklahoma. If the Cowboys lose, the Bears could win the Big 12 title outright. Thus, they should be focused on returning to their pre-OSU form and refuse to let one chilly night in Stillwater snowball into multiple losses to end the season and ruin one of the best years in school history.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesMack Brown hopes Texas can get back to its winning ways.
2. Will Texas get back on track? Much like the Bears, UT is recovering from a beatdown by the Cowboys in its last game. Yet, much like the Bears, the Longhorns' Big 12 title hopes remain with a similar scenario. Wins over Texas Tech and Baylor could earn them a co-championship with an outright title within reach with a Cowboys loss to OU. That’s where the similarities stop. The Longhorns have had far more struggles throughout the year than Baylor but they also have a proven ability to overcome adversity. Which UT team will show up in the season's final weeks?

3. Can the Bears and Longhorns set up a super Saturday on Dec. 7? If Baylor and Texas win on Saturday, it will set up a terrific final Saturday in the Big 12 with OU visiting OSU and UT visiting Baylor on Dec. 7. A Cowboys’ loss in the early game would set up a pseudo-Big 12 title game in the afternoon. A Cowboys win would still leave a co-championship on the table for the UT-BU winner. Either way, wins from those two schools this week will set up a terrific end to the conference season.

4. Will TCU salvage some hope with a upset? The Horned Frogs’ season hasn’t turned out like they would have hoped. Lackluster offense, turnovers and the injury bug have been like an anchor on the leg of their defense but TCU still could salvage something out of this season by upsetting Baylor. Coach Gary Patterson wanted to make this game like a bowl game for the bowl-less Horned Frogs and he’s had two weeks to prepare for Baylor’s offense. This reeks of a potential trap game for the reeling Bears.

5. Has Texas Tech learned from its no-win November? Kliff Kingsbury hopes so. The Red Raiders have not won a game since Oct. 19 against West Virginia. Worse yet, they haven’t been within double digits of their opponent since the eight-point loss to OU. With several young playmakers on the roster, TTU has the chance to show it has at least learned and grown from those disappointing defeats when it plays the Thanksgiving contest against UT.

6. What will Tyler Lockett do for an encore? The Kansas State receiver had 12 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to OU. He can’t possibly match those numbers against Kansas, can he? He’s one of the conference’s top players and could continue to be unstoppable against the Jayhawks.

7. Will Iowa State or West Virginia head into the offseason with a win? The Cyclones and Mountaineers have been humbled this season after making bowl appearances in 2012. ISU is coming off a shutout over Kansas and WVU had a bye after the Jayhawks ruined its bowl chances. A WVU win could help Dana Holgorsen head into the postseason with some positive vibes while a ISU win would be a clear sign of the competitive nature of Paul Rhoads’ squad to win two games after losing seven straight to start conference play.

8. What’s the deal at quarterback in Lubbock? “They're all three healthy. So it will be between one of those three and see how it goes,” Kingsbury said this week. Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb and Michael Brewer are battling to start against the Longhorns on Thursday but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brewer get a shot since we’ve seen what Mayfield and Webb can do.

9. Could there be an upset in the Sunflower Showdown? KU was taking consistent steps forward until its 34-0 loss to ISU last weekend, taking a clear step backward. But the Jayhawks can earn some bragging rights and grab some momentum with a win over KSU on Saturday. The Wildcats’ four-game winning streak was snapped by OU last Saturday but they’re still the clear favorite in the Sunflower Showdown. But, this Jayhawk squad has shown enough positive signs that that an upset it not completely out of the realm of possibility.

10. Are Iowa State and West Virginia supposed to be rivals? No, seriously, are they? Nothing says rivalry weekend like Iowa State against West Virginia. That said, rivalries must start somewhere, so in this age of new teams in new conferences, maybe these two teams can start building a rivalry with a close, contested battle on Saturday.