Every game is a situational spot in Week 14. Every single one of them. Some games have bowl implications. Some games have division and conference implications. College Football Playoff. Rivalry. Look-ahead to title games. Or quite simply the last game of the season and the last game of the careers of a lot of these players. Motivation will be all over the map on a team level and on an individual level.
You have to look a lot deeper in most of these games. You have to decide what matters most to you about these spots and these angles. We’ll highlight some of the clear standouts, but there are a ton of considerations lurking just below the surface of most of these games.
We won’t have one of these next week, but we will have one when the bowl games are announced.
Here are the CFB situational spots to consider for Week 14:
Western Michigan at Northern Illinois – Tuesday night MACtion with a little something extra on the line. Western Michigan needs a win to secure a berth down the road in Detroit in next week’s conference title game. Northern Illinois has nothing to play for except spoiler and that only goes so far. The Huskies are falling short of a bowl game for just the second time since 2007. The pressure is on the team that needs to win, but, in this case, the Broncos make a lot of sense, especially in a bad-weather game.
Ole Miss at Mississippi State – The Egg Bowl is a standalone affair on Thursday night. The new Ole Miss AD gave Matt Luke a vote of confidence going forward, but a loss here would mean a 4-8 season for the Rebels. Mississippi State is trying to get bowl-eligible, which gives Ole Miss even more incentive to play spoiler.
Virginia Tech at Virginia – The Commonwealth Cup has gone to Virginia Tech 15 straight years and 19 of the last 20. This has been about as one-sided as a rivalry gets. The Hokies have been flipped into a favorite in Charlottesville for this one. There is something extra on the line this season, as the ACC Coastal Division crown will go to the winner of this game. That means a chance to lose to Clemson in Charlotte next week. But, it also means a banner or a flag or whatever the winning team will use to commemorate the victory. This is obviously a huge game.
Toledo at Central Michigan – What sort of effort do we get from Central Michigan this week? Western Michigan *should* win on Tuesday. If the Broncos lose, the door opens for CMU and this line will shoot up. If the Broncos hold serve as a favorite, this game means nothing to Central Michigan. The Chips don’t have a shot at 10 wins or anything with a WMU win. That is sure to take a little bit of wind out of the sails. On the other hand, Toledo already has six wins, so there isn’t much incentive for the Rockets either.
Miami of Ohio at Ball State – Ball State cannot go to a bowl game. Miami of Ohio can and is already going to the MAC Title Game next week. There is no incentive whatsoever for Miami of Ohio in this game. In fact, it would probably be better to let a lot of guys rest in the second half to go into next week healthy. Ball State is already favored, but the spot really does lend itself to fading Miami of Ohio.
Iowa at Nebraska – Iowa would have a shot at a 10-win season with a victory this week against Nebraska. Nebraska needs a win to go to a bowl game. Falling short of a bowl in Scott Frost’s second season would have to be viewed as a major disappointment. We always have to wonder whether or not these five-win teams want to go to a bowl. It means extra practice. It means another game. It means more abuse on their injured and tired bodies. A swag bag and one more game may not always be worth it to these teams. Don’t assume that all five-win teams are going to go balls out to win. Most will. Some won’t, so you don’t want to pay a premium if that is the case.
Cincinnati at Memphis – Cincinnati is already a lock to play for the AAC Championship next week. Memphis needs a win or a Navy loss. But, these two teams also have extra incentive in the form of the New Year’s Six bowl berth for the best Group of Five team in the nation. These two teams are ranked in about the same spot and would play again next week if Memphis wins. It is fair to wonder if Cincinnati is less worried about the NY6 and more worried about the conference crown. If the latter is true, it seems plausible that injured QB Desmond Ridder gets a week to rest and prepare for the conference championship game.
Boise State at Colorado State – Boise State is also in that NY6 mix. The Broncos are already locked into the conference championship game against Hawaii, but style points this week against Colorado State wouldn’t be a bad idea in an attempt to get that NY6 slot. This is one of those rare cases in the regular season finale where a team is already locked into a title game, but has some additional incentive.
Washington State at Washington – This rivalry has not gone well for Mike Leach. At all. Washington has not had a good year, but has owned this series the last six years, holding Washington State to 17 or fewer points in every game. This is Washington’s worst team in that span. Can Leach erase some of the bad memories of the last few seasons? We saw Washington mail one in last week against Colorado, perhaps looking ahead to this game. It sure seems like they are focused on keeping the Apple Cup again.
Appalachian State at Troy – Troy needs a win for bowl eligibility, but faces long odds to get it. App State is on the outside looking in at the NY6 bowl bid and won’t get there with Boise and Memphis/Cincinnati ahead of them. Could we see a relaxed effort from App State here with Louisiana on deck in a rematch of last year’s title game? It sure is a possibility. Troy had a chance at bowl eligibility last week against Louisiana and responded by losing 53-3. We’ll see what happens here, but App State is in a different spot than Louisiana was last week.
Georgia at Georgia Tech – The Bulldogs control their own College Football Playoff destiny. A win over LSU in the SECCG will do it. All this game requires is a win. The spread is 28. It is a rivalry game and Georgia has put a beatdown on the Yellow Jackets each of the last two years after losing in 2016. The Bulldogs have bigger things at stake. Covering 28 isn’t at the top of the list. It may happen anyway and the Bulldogs don’t have to prep for the option this time around. But the spot is not great.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee – Hide the women and children here. Tennessee has lost three straight to Vanderbilt and all by double digits. The Tennessee seniors have been through a lot, but this is a rivalry dominated by Tennessee up until recently. This feels like the type of spot for Tennessee to hang a beatdown on a Vanderbilt team that may move on from Derek Mason after the year.
UNC at NC State – North Carolina will be bowl eligible with a win. NC State will not. In fact, NC State is missing a bowl game for the first time since 2013. It has been a real disappointing season in Raleigh. The blow can be softened a little bit with a win here over UNC to keep the Tar Heels from bowling. This isn’t on the North Carolina/Duke rivalry scale, but there is no love lost either. NC State has won three in a row.
FIU at Marshall – FIU is going to a bowl game and just won a Super Bowl by beating Miami. Is there any chance that the Panthers get up for this road trip to Huntington, West Virginia the weekend after Thanksgiving? I can’t see it at all. Marshall needs help to win the East Division. This game is at noon and FAU plays Southern Miss later in the day. Marshall is in a much better spot than FIU here and it could play out in a big way.
Ohio State at Michigan – I mean, this one is obvious, right? Huge game. Michigan is 0-7 in its last seven games against Ohio State and Jim Harbaugh has been there for four of them. Ohio State was tested last week by Penn State and got a passing grade, but it wasn’t impressive. The Buckeyes have CFP aspirations, while Michigan just wants to win this game for once.
Wisconsin at Minnesota – Everything is on the line here. The Big Ten West hangs in the balance in Minneapolis as the Badgers and Golden Gophers square off. The right to face Ohio State is the prize. Both teams should be totally amped up here. Wisconsin has played a lighter schedule lately and has been in this type of spot before, so we’ll have to see if those two factors help their cause on Saturday.
New Mexico State at Liberty – It is real tough to see New Mexico State excited about this one. This is a very long way to go in order to finish the regular season. These two teams have already played this season. Liberty won 20-13 in Las Cruces. Liberty needs a win here. The Flames have wins over Hampton and Maine. Only one can count towards bowl eligibility without getting a waiver from the NCAA. A seventh win would remove that requirement. This is the first season in which the Flames have been bowl-eligible with the transition from FBS. Now, they can actually make one with a win here.
Fresno State at San Jose State – We were all rooting for San Jose State. It has been a long time since the Spartans were a good team. This season’s team flirted with it, but last week’s heartbreaking loss to UNLV is a lot to bounce back from. Bowl eligibility is no longer hanging in the balance. Fresno State is already going to one. Maybe SJSU sends out Josh Love on a high note, but the circumstances this week are pretty tough to come back from.
UNLV at Nevada – These games are always weird. UNLV has fired Tony Sanchez. He’ll coach this week’s rivalry game against Nevada anyway. It is really hard to know what the players think of all of this. You’ll have to check the papers, press clippings, and social media soundbytes. All in all, though, Nevada is out for revenge this week after last year’s loss and the Wolf Pack are clearly the better team.
Alabama at Auburn – Alabama has no margin for error. The Crimson Tide need to secure an impressive win this week and hope for some help in the College Football Playoff picture. Auburn won’t make it easy, of course, but the Tide can ill-afford to feel sorry for themselves at all. Both teams are essentially off of bye weeks, so the spot isn’t bad at all. It’s just a big game with big implications.
Louisiana Monroe at Louisiana – Last season, Louisiana won 31-28. The Ragin’ Cajuns had to win in order to get to the Sun Belt Championship Game. This season, Louisiana is already in. How does that change the dynamic of this game? It is a rivalry game, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have bigger worries and they have a revenge game against App State next week no matter what. The Warhawks are getting a lot of points here in a game that doesn’t mean a whole lot to Louisiana outside of being a rivalry. Maybe that’s enough.
Arizona at Arizona State – The Territorial Cup is on the line between the Arizona Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU is coming off of a huge upset of Oregon that could very well linger into this week, but ASU is also the vastly superior team and at home. Arizona will not be going bowling and Kevin Sumlin’s job should seriously be in question. Though the spot looks bad for ASU coming off of last week’s win, they are still the preferred side.
UAB at North Texas – UAB lost to Southern Miss earlier this season. The Blazers beat Louisiana Tech. Louisiana Tech beat Southern Miss, but lost to UAB. There is a lot going on in the C-USA West. LA Tech is a three-touchdown favorite against UTSA. Southern Miss is a big dog to FAU. UAB needs to beat North Texas as a short pup. If all three win, Southern Miss holds the tiebreaker by virtue of the win over FAU. It is a mess, but all three basically need to win.
BYU at San Diego State – How does San Diego State get interested in this game? It means nothing and the Aztecs just went to Hawaii and lost out on a chance to play in the Mountain West Conference Title Game. This game has no bearing on anything for either team, but you have to feel like SDSU has a real hangover potential here.