There's no more pressure on the final weekend of the college football regular season. Playoff berths and conference championships are on the line. Careers can be made. A standout showing can mean a Heisman Trophy. With those big stakes, the pressure to perform can produced unexpected results and performances. But where will the surprises on Week 14 come from?
That's why we're here to make sense of things. The USA TODAY Sports college football staff — Scooby Axson, Jace Evans, Paul Myerberg, Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Dan Wolken — weigh in with bold predictions for Week 14 of the college football season:
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The upset is there are no championship game upsets
Although there is a chance for absolute chaos, expect chalk when it comes to the top four winning on Championship Saturday. If serve holds, Georgia, Michigan, Washington (even though they are ranked higher and nearly 10-point underdogs to Oregon) and Florida State to punch tickets to the playoffs, with the Huskies and Seminoles struggling to those victories.
Chaos would include a Texas victory over Oklahoma State and Alabama beating Georgia with all the resume comparisons and complaints coming from now until the semifinals are played. -- Scooby Axson
Iowa can make life difficult for Michigan
Iowa will not win the Big Ten title game. Full stop. But can it drag Michigan down into the mud? Maybe! Iowa’s defense is truly spectacular, especially when you factor in the level of difficulty it plays on thanks to the Hawkeyes’ atrocious offense. Their putrid attack stands no chance against Michigan’s own dominant defense – the Wolverines sit only behind a Penn State side that shut Iowa out – but can the Iowa defense stifle Michigan a bit to cover a spread that’s stretched to more than three touchdowns? I think it’s possible … if Iowa doesn’t throw a pick-six or two. -- Jace Evans
Oklahoma State messes with Texas' playoff hopes
Oklahoma State gets the last laugh and ruins Texas’s Big 12 farewell tour and playoff hopes with a win in the conference title game. The Cowboys’ best hope of scoring the upset is to land a big game from running back Ollie Gordon, who can probably earn himself a spot as a Heisman Trophy finalist with another 100-yard performance in a win. The Longhorns ended November with an impressive win against Texas Tech but have been gettable at times in going 11-1. Oklahoma State just needs to avoid turnovers and make Quinn Ewers uncomfortable in the pocket. -- Paul Myerberg
Louisville spoils Florida State's playoff hopes
Tate Rodemaker did a solid job leading the Seminoles past Florida to keep the team unbeaten and on track to make the playoff. But it was announced Friday that Rodemaker's status for the ACC title game is in doubt. Going to a third quarterback would make things even more difficult with the loss of Jordan Travis still fresh. Louisville didn't fare well its last time out against Kentucky, but the Cardinals will be plenty motivated for their first ACC championship game appearance. Florida State will provide plenty of fight. Unfortunately, it won't be enough, and the door will be open for playoff chaos when the semifinals are announced Sunday. -- Erick Smith
Texas has no trouble with Oklahoma State
The CFP committee has largely managed to avoid having to make tough decisions in the four-team playoff era. Sure, there’ve been a few exceptions, but usually conference championship weekend has clarified matters. Things might not be as simple this year.
Oklahoma State has a chance to resolve one possible conflict by eliminating Texas from the equation, but it’s hard to trust the Cowboys to make that happen. They followed a lackluster September with a terrific five-game stretch culminating in that victory against Oklahoma, the reason they’re here as it happens. Since then, however, they laid an egg at Central Florida, nearly let Houston hang around too long and, most recently, needed two overtimes to escape BYU.
There’d probably be an air of satisfaction around the Big 12 offices if the Cowboys can complete the sweep of the SEC-bound pair, even if a Longhorns’ loss would eliminate the league from this year’s national championship hunt. But it’s not going to happen. Texas will try at least one cute play that will blow up spectacularly – Sark can’t help himself –, but in the end the more talented ‘Horns will prevail. -- Eddie Timanus
SMU closes out American era with Tulane win
Tulane goes into the American Athletic championship game looking to claim a second straight New Year's Six bowl bid, but to get there the Green Wave will have to beat a hot SMU team that has won eight in a row. Though Tulane has the championship experience, I'm going with SMU here because I like the way Rhett Lashlee's offense is playing late in the season and they've been more dominant than a Tulane team that hasn't been particularly explosive late over the last month. A top-20 team in passing offense nationally, top-50 in rushing and top-10 in fewest turnovers committed, SMU is a very well-balanced attack.. If SMU takes care of the ball, the Mustangs will win their final AAC game before jumping to the ACC next season. -- Dan Wolken
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football bold predictions for Week 14. Playoff chaos coming?