1. Does UCLA go up or down from here? – Even following last week’s uncompetitive loss to Stanford, everything is still in front of UCLA. The possibility of eight home games – six plus a Pac-12 Championship game and a Rose Bowl berth – is still there, if they manage to slay the green and yellow (and silver, and white, and black) behemoth in Eugene on Saturday evening. Whatever happens, though, the terrain doesn’t get any smoother from here. Just see Washington’s face plant against Arizona State following its back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon.
2. Can the Oregon State aerial show continue? – For most of this season, the Oregon State duo of Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks have been playing one game while the other 20 players on the field just try to get involved. Mannion has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns through seven games, with almost 1,200 of those yards and a dozen of those scores going to Cooks. Stanford’s pass defense isn’t as good as you may believe (38th nationally in pass efficiency defense), the best Oregon State has faced to this point is No. 77 Utah.
3. Does Stanford have enough offense to keep up with Oregon State? – That Utah game I mentioned? Oregon State lit the Utes up for 443 passing yards and five touchdown passes in 51-48 overtime win. Even if the Cardinal hold the Beavers to 80 percent of their averages, that’s still 350 passing yards and 35 points, more than Stanford has scored since September.
4. How does Texas Tech handle success? – Kliff Kingsbury spent his first 10 months in Lubbock building up his team’s psyche. (In case he hasn’t told you this week, the Red Raiders were picked seventh in the Big 12 this year.) Now they’re in the top 10 and picked by just about every expert to beat a top 15 team on the road. Nothing has affected Texas Tech yet, but how long will that continue?
5. Does Missouri wrap up the SEC East? – Speaking of handling success, read this piece on Mizzou’s long history of blowing in the worst possible way at the worst possible time. With their No. 1 and No. 3 quarterbacks in slings, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk will try to guide the Tigers past its third win over a ranked SEC East foe in as many weeks, with the knowledge that only Tennessee and Kentucky stand in the way of Missouri locking up a trip to the SEC title game by November 9. No pressure or anything.
6. If Miami beats Wake Forest, does Al Golden allow himself a smile? – The majority of Al Golden’s psyche is probably worried about all the things that could go wrong against Wake Forest on Saturday, but part of him has to feel like college football’s Andy Dufresne. For two years, he crawled through a sludge of NCAA uncertainty and came out with an undefeated, top ten team on the other side. With a win over Wake Forest, Miami heads to Tallahassee for a vintage Canes-Noles top 10 fist fight.
7. How many raucous locker room celebrations are there on Saturday? – Buffalo can become eligible for the second bowl berth school history, and first under Jeff Quinn, with a win at Kent State. Tulane can become eligible for its first bowl game since 2000, and first under Curtis Johnson, with a win at Tulsa. Playing what Bronco Mendenhall described as the toughest schedule in school history, BYU can become bowl eligible and move to 6-2 with a win over Boise State on Friday night. Duke can become bowl eligible for a school-record second straight season with a win at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
8. Who can least afford a loss, Mack Brown or Gary Patterson? – A setback on Saturday night drops TCU to 3-5, meaning they’d need to sweep West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State or beat Baylor to avoid its first empty December since 2004. Texas, meanwhile, is in first place in the Big 12 in late October for the first time since that other McCoy was at quarterback. TCU thus far has accomplished that rare feat of leading its conference in sacks and interceptions, and faces a mistake-prone quarterback (one interception every 31 passes entering this season) that hasn’t played that way in 2013 (one interception in 75 passes). If Texas can run the ball like it did against Oklahoma, that won’t matter.
9. Can Florida State rise above its own history? – After an emphatic win over an undefeated Clemson, undefeated Florida State lost its next ACC game to N.C. State in 2012. After an emphatic win over an undefeated Clemson, undefeated Florida State faces N.C. State on Saturday. That’s the type of symbolism so obvious that your ninth-grade English teacher would return your paper and tell you to try again.
10. Does Ed Orgeron even stand a chance? – Another slew of Trojans starters went down this week. The toll of sanctions plus sanctions-induced injuries has left USC with about half of a full roster available for Saturday. After that, the Trojans turn around and play at Oregon State on Friday. What chance does Coach O have?