None of the top 3 teams in the country are in action this weekend, but there are plenty of games with conference and championship implications on the line. So here are your top 10 storylines to watch headed into Week 12. Special thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for some of the nuggets sprinkled throughout:
1. Look ahead Saturday. I love the people on my live chats that chip in with some of these catchy weekend slogans. With four games featuring two ranked teams, it is easy to look past this week and salivate at the thought of what next week has to offer: Arizona vs. Oregon, Auburn vs. Alabama, LSU vs. Arkansas, Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State and Boise State vs. Nevada. Though there is no blockbuster game this weekend, some have the potential to have an impact.
2. Big Ten race. No. 7 Wisconsin is at Michigan, No. 9 Ohio State is at No. 20 Iowa and No. 12 Michigan State is at Purdue. The Badgers, Buckeyes and Spartans all have eyes on winning the Big Ten title and a berth in the Rose Bowl. If all three win out, the highest team in the final BCS standings goes to Pasadena. If Iowa beats Ohio State, and Wisconsin and Michigan State win out, then the Spartans go. Wisconsin needs to win out, stay ahead in the BCS standings or have Michigan State lose. Ohio State needs to win out and have Wisconsin lose, or move ahead of the Badgers in the BCS standings. There are plenty of other scenarios out there.
3. Does Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill give the Aggies a chance to beat Nebraska? After replacing Jerrod Johnson in the second quarter against Kansas, Tannehill is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,109 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in just under four games. Cyrus Gray has four straight 100-yard games rushing as well. But it could be slow going against a Nebraska secondary featuring two of the best cornerbacks – Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard. Nebraska clinches the Big 12 North with a win or a Missouri loss to Iowa State.
4. Football in baseball stadiums. Army and Notre Dame renew their rivalry at Yankee Stadium, while Illinois and Northwestern play at Wrigley Field on Saturday. The Black Knights and Fighting Irish played each other at the old Yankee Stadium many times, with the last meeting there in 1969. This will be the first football game at the new stadium. Meanwhile, events took a bizarre turn in the game at Wrigley when the Big Ten announced Friday morning that each offense will head toward the West end zone for player safety reasons. The layout of the field drew concerns this week because there was little space between the back of the East end zone and the outfield wall.
5. An encore for the California defense? The Bears surprised the college football world when they held the high-octane Oregon offense to just 15 points last week. Can another performance like that be expected against No. 6 Stanford? The Bears have been a vastly different team at home, and the Cardinal haven’t won at California since 2000. With Brock Mansion at quarterback, that defense is going to have to slow Andrew Luck down to have a shot at pulling the upset.
6. Does No. 21 Mississippi State have what it takes to beat No. 13 Arkansas? The Bulldogs face a ranked opponent for the second straight week after losing to Alabama. They have the advantage of playing at home. Arkansas has won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two, but that lone Mississippi State win came in Starkville, 31-28 in 2008. Mississippi State is going to have to get pressure on Ryan Mallett to have a shot.
7. ACC race. It is pretty simple in the Coastal. If No. 16 Virginia Tech beats No. 24 Miami on Saturday, then the Hokies win the division. They only need one win in their final two games to clinch. As for the Atlantic, things are more complicated with Florida State, Maryland and NC State all in the hunt. All three cannot win out because they all play each other in the next two weeks: Florida State is at Maryland on Saturday; NC State is at Maryland next week.
8. Big East race. Pittsburgh can still win the Big East if the Panthers win out. But they are at USF this weekend, and the Bulls are surging, having won three straight. The Bulls have had the reputation of starting fast and then falling apart late in the season. But coach Skip Holtz has brought a toughness to this team, and he knows how to win championships, too. Syracuse is playing Connecticut on Saturday. Story to watch in that game: Connecticut RB Jordan Todman against the Syracuse defense.
9. Weather in Boise. The No. 4 Broncos have the national spotlight to themselves tonight when they host Fresno State. As the only undefeated team playing, they can make a case for why they are the top non-AQ team in the country. But rain is expected in Boise, and it could turn into snow as the game progresses. That means there is the potential for a relatively low-scoring game. Would that impact their standing?
10. Record watch. Three rushing quarterbacks have a chance to write their names in the NCAA record books. Michigan's Denard Robinson needs 78 yards to set the NCAA single-season record for most rush yards by a quarterback. Air Force’s Beau Morgan ran for 1,494 yards in 1996. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick needs 51 rushing yards to become the first player in NCAA history with three seasons of 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez needs 43 rushing yards to become the third quarterback in NCAA history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing as a freshman.