There is drama in college football even when the weekend lacks major showdowns. Teams near the top of the rankings have to guard against overconfidence and handle the pressure of games that could determine if they make the playoff or have an opportunity to play for a conference championship.
Week 14 offers this scenario. Three teams in the top four are road favorites of more than three touchdowns. Notre Dame, the lone team playing at home, is favored by almost five touchdowns against Syracuse.
That doesn't mean there is no mystery to what will happen Saturday. Could one of the favorites get tested?
What about below the top of the poll? Texas A&M and Indiana face challenging trips that could shape the outlook of their seasons. A matchup of unlikely unbeatens will take place at Coastal Carolina. And Texas coach Tom Herman faces possibly the largest game of his tenure.
A look at the five biggest questions for Week 14:
Does Clemson get tested by Virginia Tech?
Ha. How about: Does Clemson play starters in the fourth quarter? That's a better question than if the Tigers will be tested by an opponent that has lost three in a row, four of five and five of seven since starting 2-0. While the Hokies limp to the end of the regular season, the Tigers will be looking to put an exclamation point on every win from here on out in order to secure a spot in the playoff. Given how Clemson has historically fared late in the season under Dabo Swinney, especially after already having suffered a loss, look for the Tigers to take a big lead at halftime and breeze to the final whistle.
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Can Texas A&M impress playoff committee?
Reaching the SEC championship game is likely off the table, but there's still much for the Aggies to play for in the final two weeks. An at-large berth in the College Football Playoff isn't out of the question if Clemson loses to Notre Dame given A&M holds a win against Florida. But part of that calculation is that the Aggies have to earn some style points. They looked listless against LSU and now head to Auburn. It's a dangerous trip as the Tigers can show moments of brilliance among their frustrating inconsistency. This is a crossroads game for Texas A&M that will define if this season was the breakthrough it has sought under coach Jimbo Fisher or another frustrating one.
Auburn defensive back Christian Tutt tackles Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond during the second quarter at Kyle Field. (Photo: John Glaser, USA TODAY Sports)
Is this the end for Tom Herman at Texas?
Last week's loss to Iowa State that ended any realistic hope of making the Big 12 championship game has raised the heat on the Longhorns coach. Herman is 30-18 with two games left in his fourth season at the school and he's facing questions about his future. A loss Saturday at Kansas State could prove a tipping point. The situation isn't helped by two of the best players for Texas opting out this week. On the positive side, the Wildcats have lost four in a row and present Texas an opportunity to bounce back quickly. The Longhorns just have to go out and win it or change is likely coming in Austin.
Who wins in the biggest Group of Five matchup?
It's 9-0 Coastal Carolina against 9-1 Liberty in a rare late-season Group of Five matchup that stands as the best game of the week. Both teams have played solid schedules: Coastal has wins against Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State while Liberty has gone 2-1 against the ACC, with the loss coming in a 15-14 decision to N.C. State. And both teams are paced by great quarterback play, as Coastal's Grayson McCall has been one of the country's top freshmen at the position and Liberty's Malik Willis is averaging 8.6 yards per throw and 6.7 yards per carry. A win would strengthen the Chanticleers' case for reaching a New Year's Six bowl, though that would still require that Cincinnati fail to win the American Athletic championship.
How does Indiana handle the loss at quarterback?
The Hoosiers will move forward at No. 19 Wisconsin without star quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the win against Maryland. His replacement will be sophomore Jack Tuttle, a former top-tier recruit and Utah transfer who completed all five of his attempts for 31 yards against the Terrapins. Despite his obvious talent, it's unfair to expect Tuttle to match the impact Penix had in leading the Hoosiers during the program's breakout season. But don't forget: Tuttle will be throwing to two of the Big Ten's top receivers in Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle.
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