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November 28, 2008

Keep an eye on: Week 14 story lines

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

Each Friday, Rivals.com's college football experts give fans six things to keep an eye out for over the course of the weekend.

Terry Bowden: The ACC

The division champs will be determined. Maryland is at Boston College, and BC can lock up its second consecutive trip to the title game with a win. If the Terps win, Florida State wins the Atlantic Division. Virginia Tech needs only to beat Virginia to win the Coastal Division for the second season in a row. If the Cavs win, Georgia Tech wins the division.

Olin Buchanan: The Iron Bowl

I'm interested in seeing whether Alabama can end a six-year losing streak against rival Auburn and finish the regular season undefeated. On the surface, it would appear Alabama shouldn't have too much trouble against the struggling Tigers, who have lost five of their past six. But strange things can happen in rivalry games, and Alabama has had some close calls. The Tide typically needs to run well and Auburn's rushing defense is solid. If the Tigers get a turnover or two and stay close, the fourth quarter could be great drama.

Tom Dienhart: Nebraska

Everyone wondered how many wins Nebraska would get in its first season under Bo Pelini. I felt a 7-5 record would be considered a tremendous debut. Now look at the Huskers. If they beat Colorado, Nebraska will be 8-4 and likely headed to the Gator Bowl. Remember: This was a 5-7 team last season under Bill Callahan. Not even the most ardent Nebraska Kool-Aid drinker could have envisioned the success Pelini has enjoyed in his first season in Lincoln. The season looked to be on the brink when the Huskers lost three in a row to fall to 3-3. But Nebraska has rebounded to go 4-1 in its past five, and a win over Colorado would further cement the notion that Pelini was the right man for the job and give the program big-time momentum heading into the offseason.

David Fox: Dabo Swinney

When Clemson fired Tommy Bowden in October, it looked as if the Tigers would have an ambitious national coaching search. But I'm curious as to how many Clemson officials will feel the right coach already is in place if the Tigers beat South Carolina. A win would make interim coach Dabo Swinney 4-2, including three wins in the ACC. Bowden started 3-3 this season, with two of those wins against The Citadel and South Carolina State. How much favor would Swinney win under those circumstances? Remember, a year ago West Virginia had little intention of retaining Bill Stewart as coach until he beat Oklahoma.

Mike Huguenin: Oklahoma State and Oregon State

The "little brothers" get a chance do big things in their rivalry games Saturday. Oklahoma State is playing at home, and it can wreck Oklahoma's shot at a national title. While Oklahoma State considers Oklahoma its biggest rival, the same can't be said for OU, which looks at Texas as its biggest cross to bear. If Oklahoma State's ground game gets cranked up, there indeed could be bedlam in the Bedlam Series. As for the Civil War, Oregon State almost always is overlooked in favor of Oregon. But the Beavers can make a huge national statement Saturday at home against the Ducks. If the Beavers win, they head to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1964 season. True freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers is said to be "extremely doubtful" for the Beavers. But Oregon State has been resilient this season, and that means its wide receivers including senior Sammie Stroughter may move to the forefront of the offense.

Steve Megargee: Florida State and Georgia Tech

One reason the ACC has lost some respect the past few seasons is because Florida State and Georgia Tech have struggled against their in-state rivals from the SEC. Florida has won four in a row over Florida State, while Georgia has beaten Georgia Tech seven consecutive times. The national perception of the ACC could change quite a bit if either Florida State or Georgia Tech pulled an upset this week. The idea isn't so far-fetched. Florida struggled to win 21-14 at Florida State two years ago on its way to winning the national title. Georgia Tech ran for 472 yards last week in a 41-23 rout of Miami. The surprising success of Georgia Tech (8-3) already has garnered Paul Johnson the type of praise that eluded his predecessor, even though Georgia Tech won at least seven games and reached a bowl in each of Chan Gailey's six seasons with the Yellow Jackets. Of course, Gailey never beat Georgia. If Johnson can beat the Bulldogs in his first year on the job, the honeymoon should last at least until next year's Georgia-Georgia Tech game.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-10 | SEC

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