If you believe this is the most important season in college football's modern history, and I don't know how you could quantifiably make that case, but go with me here, then this is the most important weekend in the most important season in college football history.
Sixty games dot the schedule from Tuesday night through early Sunday morning, and nearly all of them have real, certifiable, tangible consequences riding on them, on top of the #BRAGGINGRIGHTS that will carry over through the next 364 days in many cases. In fact, there are 49 such games, including 14 five-win teams looking for their all-important sixth win and 20 games with direct conference championship implications, and one that improbably involves the same team.
It's almost too much. This much meaningful football actually exceeds physicians' recommended limits.
Here, we have listed each important game and lay out what is on the line in each of them. (Rankings reflect the latest AP poll.)
Ohio at Miami (Ohio) (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Ohio is the first of 14 5-6 teams playing for its postseason life in its final game of the regular season.
No. 6 TCU at Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): TCU is in an ongoing race for the Big 12 and national title, while Texas is in a neck-and-neck race with Arkansas for the highly-mythical "team that struggled in the first half of the season but, man, they really turned it on in the second half, didn't they?" national championship.
LSU at Texas A&M (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Texas A&M desperately wants LSU to respect it enough to view the Aggies as a rival, but that won't happen until A&M beats the Bayou Bengals in a game that counts a handful of times. This game doesn't mean anything, but the Tigers are the only SEC West bunkmate that A&M has yet to beat. This game also rivals Notre Dame-USC (more on that later) as a Disappointment Bowl consolation game, as either LSU turns 7-2 into 7-5, or Texas A&M turns 5-0 into 7-5.
Northern Illinois at Western Michigan (11 a.m. ET, ESPNU): The first of a number of divisional championship games, Northern Illinois can clinch a spot in its fifth straight MAC championship with a win, while Western Michigan makes its Detroit debut with a win and a Toledo loss later in the afternoon.
Nebraska at Iowa (noon ET, ABC): Nebraska must beat Iowa and win its bowl game to avoid losing four games for an unthinkable seventh straight season. (Or, the Huskers could lose both and break the streak that way.) Iowa hasn't beaten Nebraska in back-to-back years since downing the Huskers three straight times from 1942-44.
Western Kentucky at No. 19 Marshall (noon ET, Fox Sports 1): Marshall's continued quest for an undefeated season meets Western Kentucky's quest to not finish 6-6 and get left out of the Conference USA bowl picture.
Houston at SMU (noon ET, CBS Sports Network): SMU's final second to last chance to avoid the ignominious fate of finishing the season as FBS's only winless team. SMU closes out their season with Cincinnati next weekend.
Central Florida at South Florida (noon ET, ESPN2): UCF wins at least a share of its second straight American title with victories over South Florida and East Carolina.
Toledo at Eastern Michigan (1 p.m. ET, ESPN3): The Rockets will know by halftime whether or not they're playing for a spot in the MAC championship. Matt Campbell should wear Western Michigan brown under his hoodie.
Akron at Kent State (1 p.m. ET, ESPN3): The Zips haven't been bowl eligible since 2005, coming close in 2006 and 2013, but not much in between. They'll get there with a win over last-place Kent State.
Arkansas at No. 17 Missouri (1 p.m. ET, CBS): With a satellite fan club in Athens, Ga., Arkansas travels to Columbia to decide the SEC East title. A Mizzou wins sends the Tigers to Atlanta for the second straight year, a loss puts Georgia in the SEC title game for the third time in four seasons. And an Arkansas wins puts the Razorbacks, owners of the nation's longest intra-conference losing streak just two weeks ago, in the Top 25.
Stanford at No. 9 UCLA (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): UCLA plays for a rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 championship, with thoughts of leap-frogging a gaggle of one-loss teams into the College Football Playoff, while Stanford plays to avoid a 6-6 season.
No. 13 Arizona State at No. 12 Arizona (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX): The Sun Devils and Wildcats will play with one eye each on the scoreboard, as a UCLA loss puts the winner of the Territorial Cup into the Pac-12 championship.
No. 21 Colorado State at Air Force (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): A win finishes Colorado State's regular season at 11-1, giving the Rams a strong case for a New Year's Six bowl as long as they win the Mountain West title. But the Rams can't do that unless Boise State loses to Utah State on Saturday night.
Virginia at Virginia Tech (8 p.m. ET, ESPN): It's not the finale either envisioned back when Virginia Tech knocked off Ohio State and Virginia started 4-2, but there is real suspense in the Commonwealth Cup. Both teams enter at 5-6, so the winner extends its season and the loser ends it. Virginia Tech has won 14 of the last 15, including seven in a row in Blacksburg.
East Carolina at Tulsa (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Two straight losses likely ended any Peach Bowl dreams, but wins over Tulsa and Central Florida and losses by Memphis and Cincinnati can give East Carolina a piece of the American title in their first year in the league.
Michigan at No. 7 Ohio State (noon ET, ABC): A win or loss not only extends a final verdict on 5-6 Michigan's postseason hopes, it likely does the same for Brady Hoke's tenure. His job status is in Jim Hackett's hands now, and the few quotes Hackett has given indicate he's giving Hoke every available chance to keep his job. Losing to Ohio State makes Hackett's decision for him. On the opposite sideline, Urban Meyer has never lost a Big Ten regular season game, and a win gives him the first back-to-back-to-back 8-0 campaigns in school history. Oh, and there's the matter of the College Football Playoff. This would be a very bad time for Urban to suffer his first regular season conference loss in his three seasons in Columbus.
No. 16 Georgia Tech at No. 8 Georgia (noon ET, SEC Network): Georgia will know its SEC East fate will by kickoff, so the Bulldogs will either be playing a tune-up for Mississippi State or Alabama in the SEC championship and a chance to back door their way into a semifinal berth, or simply a spot in the Orange Bowl or a game of similar prestige. Georgia Tech has a date with Florida State next week, so the Yellow Jackets have a chance under the "hey, stranger things have happened" corollary. And then there's the fact that Georgia Tech has only beaten Georgia once since 2000.
South Carolina at No. 23 Clemson (noon ET, ESPN): Dabo Swinney has beaten Florida State, won the ACC, won a BCS game, but he hasn't beaten South Carolina in this golden era of Tiger football from 2011-14. Facing a 6-5 Gamecocks squad that's struggled mightily on defense, he'll never have a better opportunity.
Kentucky at No. 24 Louisville (noon ET, ESPN2): A season that started so sweet has slowly but surely turned sour for Mark Stoops. A win sends Kentucky to its first bowl since 2010, and ends a three-game losing streak to their in-state rivals. A loss sends them into the winter on a six-game losing streak. That's quite the dichotomy. For Louisville, the possibility of ripping off a third straight double-digit win season is in play with a victory.
Cincinnati at Temple (12 p.m. ET, ESPNews): A win allows Cincinnati to keep pace with Memphis and Central Florida for the American title and possible access bowl berth, while Temple is playing for bowl eligibility in Matt Rhule's second season on campus.
West Virginia at Iowa State (12 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Not that long ago, West Virginia hosted TCU and College GameDay, and came within a buzzer-beating field goal of pulling off the victory. Now they're 6-5 and on a three-game losing streak. A win if nothing else ensures will avoid a second straight losing record.
Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic (12 p.m. ET): In its first season as a full-fledged FBS member, the 5-6 Monarchs will be bowl eligible with a victory. No telling if a bowl will actually select them, but just getting there is remarkable.
Rice at Louisiana Tech (12 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): This is essentially a Conference USA semifinal game. The winner wins C-USA's West Division and earns the right to play spoiler against Marshall next week.
Illinois at Northwestern (12 p.m. ET, ESPNU): No nuance necessary here. Illinois is 5-6. Northwestern is 5-6. Winner moves on to a bowl game, loser stays home for the winner. An Illini victory would represent demonstrated progress for Tim Beckman, with improvements from two to four to six victories in his three seasons on the job.
N.C. State at North Carolina (12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network): More than bowl positioning and bragging rights (UNC has won two straight), this is more about the collective mental health of two fan bases that saw the potential for so much more in this 2014 season.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Troy (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): A Georgia Southern loss allows the Ragin' Cajuns to claim a share of the Sun Belt title (it would be their second straight), but they'll have to beat Troy first.
Texas State at Georgia State (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3): A win moves Texas State to 7-5 on the season and in position to play in their first bowl game as an FBS program.
Idaho at Appalachian State (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Everything that was written directly above applies to Appalachian State as well, though the Mountaineers would have to submit a waiver for eligibility due to the NCAA's (completely absurd) bowl procedures.
New Mexico State at Arkansas State (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3): With three straight Sun Belt titles entering this season, a win moves Arkansas State to 7-5 and in position to swipe up a bowl berth ahead of the Bobcats or Mountaineers.
Florida at No. 1 Florida State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): The last time a lame duck Florida coach oversaw his final game at Doak Campbell Stadium, the Gators won. Florida State has won 27 straight and spent this season doing a Nik Wallenda impression, tightroping their way across the Grand Canyon. Florida has no excuse not to let it all hang out with a trick play or seven.
No. 4 Mississippi State at No. 18 Ole Miss (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS): The biggest Egg Bowl ever, and Mississippi State's final argument to get into the College Football Playoff (assuming Alabama beats Auburn later in the day). For Ole Miss, it's a chance to add a satisfying conclusion to a regular season that was a dream through mid-October and has been a nightmare since.
No. 5 Baylor vs. Texas Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2): A chance for Baylor to add an impressive victory before Kansas State comes to Waco last week, and the final opportunity for Kliff Kingsbury and company to add a high note before the end of a disappointing season.
No. 10 Michigan State at Penn State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2): Michigan State can't repeat as Big Ten champions, but it can play in a New Year's Six bowl for the second consecutive season, something that's never been done in school history.
No. 22 Minnesota at No. 14 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN): For some reason relegated to Big Ten Network, the Big Ten West championship will be decided in Madison. First to 300 rushing yards wins. A win puts Minnesota in its first Big Ten championship and in position to win its first conference title since 1967, while a Wisconsin win puts the Badgers in the Big Ten title game for the third time in its four-year history, and in position for its fourth conference crown in five seasons.
Notre Dame at USC (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox): With respect to our friends at Ole Miss, the loser of this has the sourest end of the season in college football. Either Notre Dame finishes 7-5 after starting 6-0, or USC finishes 7-5 while losing to Notre Dame and UCLA for the third straight season. That's only happened once before in school history, from 1991-93.
San Jose State at San Diego State (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network): San Diego State clinches a spot in the Mountain West championship with a win over the Spartans and a Fresno State loss later that night.
UAB at Southern Miss (3:30 p.m.): The future of UAB football is out of his hands, but Bill Clark can clinch eligibility for just the second bowl game in program history with a victory over Southern Miss.
Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Slinking slightly out of view, the SnyderCats can win the Big 12 outright with wins over Kansas and Baylor and a TCU loss to Texas or Iowa State. A Kansas win gives Clint Bowen a strong push of momentum to remain in a job he very much wants to keep.
Connecticut at Memphis (4 p.m. ET, ESPNews): Memphis clinches at worst a share of the American championship with a win over the 2-8 Huskies. This is a program that won three games combined in 2010-11.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network): Tennessee clinches a bowl berth with a win, which would be its first since 2010. Win this one and the to-be-determined bowl game and the Vols will have their first winning season in half a decade.
BYU at California (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network): BYU has absolutely nothing on the line - the Cougars are already locked into the Miami Beach Bowl, win or lose. But Cal needs a win to send Sonny Dykes' bunch to a bowl in his second season, securing a massive turnaround from last year's 1-11 debut.
Louisiana-Monroe at Georgia Southern (6 p.m. ET, ESPN3): A win over the 4-7 Warhawks clinches an outright Sun Belt title in Georgia Southern's first year in the league.
Hawaii at Fresno State (7 p.m. ET): Quite the cliffhanger for the 5-6 Bulldogs, as a win moves them not only to bowl eligibility but also secures the MWC West Division championship, and a loss cuts the season short for the first time in Tim DeRuyter's three year tenure.
Pittsburgh at Miami (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Didn't seem possible after starting 3-0 and without Florida State, Notre Dame, Clemson or Louisville on the schedule that Pittsburgh would need a win on the final Saturday of the season to clinch a bowl game, but here we are. Paul Chryst's Panthers have dropped four one-score games this season.
Middle Tennessee at UTEP (7 p.m.): Woe is the Conference USA team that goes 6-6 and sits on the outside looking in at the postseason. Both teams enter this one at 6-5, so you do the math.
No. 15 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN): Just the No. 1-ranked team in the country looking to wrap up the SEC West championship and move one step closer to a national championship against the team that denied them both opportunities last season in the most painful way possible, and it happens to be the most-heated rivalry in the sport.
No. 2 Oregon at Oregon State (8 p.m. ET, ABC): Oregon is looking to keep its spot among the top two and a presumptive "home" semifinal in the Rose Bowl, while 5-6 Oregon State is looking to extend its season. Remember, Oregon needed a touchdown with 29 seconds left to fend off the Beavers last season in Eugene.
Utah State at Boise State (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2): Yet another de facto conference semifinal game, as Boise State win the MWC Mountain Division with a victory, while Utah State can do the same with a win and a Colorado State loss to Air Force on Friday.