Originally Published: November 16, 2011

Golden Chances

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

They're saying this week in college football is a dud, as dull as a library on Friday night, and bland as tofu. The bloggers are here to spice things up. There are titles still on the line, coaches and players throughout the country who still have something to prove and milestones to reach.

For some, Week 12 is bigger than others. Virginia and Virginia Tech are both still battling for the Coastal Division title, and Florida State still has a chance to tie Clemson for the Atlantic Division title, though the Tigers have already clinched the division. There's more at stake, though, than just the standings. Here's a look at …

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Robert Mayer/US PresswireSaturday's game against South Florida is an important one for Al Golden and the Canes.

Why Week 12 matters to Al Golden

Because bowl eligibility is still on the line. There's no telling how much trouble Miami could be in following the recent NCAA allegations, but a future bowl ban should be considered a very real possibility. Golden needs to get his team to the postseason and enjoy it now while it lasts, because the Canes might not have that option in the near future thanks to possible NCAA sanctions. At Miami, fans want national championships. Getting to a bowl shouldn't have to be a major accomplishment. Miami has two more chances to reach the six-win mark, but should only need Saturday's trip to South Florida.

Because South Florida got the last word in 2010. Last year's 23-20 overtime loss to South Florida was the straw that broke Randy Shannon's back. Late that Saturday night, former AD Kirby Hocutt fired Shannon, and a snowball of change quickly began to roll. Golden obviously isn't going to get fired if he loses, but he should fare better than his predecessor did, and shouldn't need overtime to do it.

Because it's an in-state game with in-state implications. Recruiting, bragging rights -- it's all important anytime Miami plays an in-state opponent, and it's doubly important for Golden as he continues to assert himself as a recruiter within the state. It's one thing to lose to rival Florida State on the road, but to lose to a team that's 1-4 in the Big East? That's not close to a state championship, that's a state of despair.

Because Miami should finish with a winning nonconference record. With wins over Ohio State and Bethune-Cookman and a loss to Kansas State, the Canes have a chance to finish the nonconference season at 3-1, at that's what should be expected.

Shattered Streaks?

By David Ubben
ESPN.com

So, no premier matchups in Week 12? Still twiddling your thumbs for two weeks while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State win?

No worries. Texas Tech has a chance to continue one of America's most impressive streaks on Saturday. Its trip to Missouri matters a whole lot, with only a game against Baylor at Cowboys Stadium left on the schedule.

Texas Tech's been eligible for a bowl game every season since 1993, a span of 18 seasons. "Philadelphia," starring Tom Hanks, "The Fugitive" and "Schindler's List" all came out that year.

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Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesThings haven't gone well for Tommy Tuberville and Texas Tech since their win over Oklahoma.

Ace of Base recorded "The Sign." "The Bodyguard" soundtrack was the year's top-selling album.

Translation: It's been awhile; much longer than any other streak for a Big 12 team.

To keep that streak going, though, the Red Raiders must win as 17-point underdogs at Mizzou on Saturday.

The team met Sunday and didn't talk much football. The focus? Keeping motivation through one of the most difficult stretches anyone in the locker room has ever endured.

"We've just gotta have something positive happen to us," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "It looks like everything's gone against us, but as I told the players, we've got to make something happen, so that's pretty much how we're handling it going into these two games."

The Red Raiders knocked off then-No. 3 Oklahoma, ending the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak. That's Tech's only win in its past six games.

"We've not had any consistency on either side of the ball," Tuberville said.

Receivers have been moved to cornerback. The team's leading rusher, Eric Stephens, was shelved for the season after dislocating his knee against Texas A&M.

"We've tried to patch the holes here and there, and pretty much we've been discovered in some areas by some of these real good teams we've played," Tuberville said.

Now, the task ahead of Texas Tech is discovering the early-season mojo that produced the win over Oklahoma and near-misses against Kansas State and Texas A&M.

Otherwise, next year will be the beginning of what the program hopes is another historic streak.

Spotlight on Huskers

By Adam Rittenberg
ESPN.com
Week 12 might be a snoozer in many parts of the country, but in the Cornhusker State, they're wide awake.

Their beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers still have plenty at stake, beginning Saturday at No. 18 Michigan.

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Rob Christy/US PresswireCoach Bo Pelini and Nebraska still have hopes of reaching a BCS bowl.
After surviving an awkward week as "Penn State's opponent," the 16th-rated Huskers have reclaimed the spotlight all for themselves. There's no need to downplay what's on the table for coach Bo Pelini and his team Saturday at the Big House.

1. Legends division livelihood

Nebraska can prolong the Legends division race to the final weekend of the regular season if it knocks off Michigan. A Huskers win would prevent No. 15 Michigan State from clinching the division title even if it takes care of Indiana at Spartan Stadium. If the Huskers lose to Michigan and Michigan State beats Indiana, it's all over. The Spartans would go to Indy.

By beating Michigan, Nebraska would put itself in position to turn up the heat on Michigan State in Week 13, even if the Spartans also win Saturday. Nebraska's regular-season finale takes place on Black Friday against Iowa. A Huskers win would force Michigan State to beat Northwestern the following day in Evanston to win the division. As Nebraska found out Nov. 5, Northwestern is playing much better as of late.

"We have a lot to play for," Pelini said Monday.

2. BCS at-large livelihood

Even if Nebraska falls short in the division, it can stay alive for a possible BCS at-large berth by beating Michigan. If the Huskers sweep Michigan and Iowa to finish the season at 10-2, they would be in the running for an at-large berth. While Big Red didn't have the season some expected, it would finish on a three-game win streak that includes wins in both State College and Ann Arbor.

A third loss likely would remove Nebraska from both the division race and from the BCS bowl picture entirely.

Beating Michigan takes on added importance because the Wolverines are in a similar position, needing help in the division but eying a possible BCS at-large berth. Michigan also can finish the regular season at 10-2 if it knocks off both Nebraska and archrival Ohio State, a team it hasn't beaten since 2003. Wolverines fans are itching to travel to one of the big bowls, and Michigan would be an enticing option. Nebraska can make that dream go away Saturday.

3. Big Ten respect

Nebraska might not win the Big Ten title in its first year as a league member. But after a very shaky start in its new league, the Huskers can finish on a strong note.

Much was made about Nebraska's first Big Ten schedule, which featured divisional crossover games against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State, and road trips to Madison, State College and Ann Arbor. Most teams that must visit Camp Randall Stadium, Beaver Stadium and Michigan Stadium in the same season would gladly take a 2-1 mark.

If the Huskers win Saturday, they'll finish the stretch at 2-1 and show they can perform on the Big Ten's biggest stages.

"When our schedule came out these were the two games I was most excited for," safety Austin Cassidy said of the trips to both Penn State and to Michigan. "To have these two back-to-back, it's definitely a challenge. I think this team, Coach Bo, is all about taking a challenge in stride and really pushing and testing yourself.

"It's going to be fun."

Week 12 will be a fun week for Nebraska. And a very meaningful one.

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