With only one ranked-versus-ranked matchup on the schedule in college football Week 12, we didn’t expect a whole lot of drama Saturday.
For the most part, the action went down as expected. Heavy favorites did what they’re supposed to do, though we did see one major upset on Saturday afternoon.
These were the biggest takeaways from the action Saturday in Week 12.
Cowboys cannot be pleased with late-season performance
The past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride for the Oklahoma State Cowboys and their fans.
They went into Week 10 with a legitimate shot to claim the top spot in the Big 12 against Oklahoma. Instead, Baker Mayfield proved too hot to handle in a very entertaining game that went down to the wire and saw the Cowboys fail when it mattered most.
Then last weekend they managed to come out on top of another barn burner against Iowa State, winning 49-42 thanks to a tremendous game by Mason Rudolph.
However, on Saturday Rudolph was forced into some bad mistakes. He threw two interceptions to close out the first half, one of which led to a touchdown for the Kansas State Wildcats, who went into halftime with a surprising 28-13 lead.
That score proved to be the definitive edge Kansas State needed in a narrow 45-40 upset win over the Cowboys. If not for a tremendous fourth-quarter surge, the score would have been extremely one-sided, as the Cowboys scored three touchdowns to pull close at the end.
Now 8-3 on the season, Oklahoma State can still make some postseason noise with a big bowl win, but the way this team has stumbled late in the season has to be very disappointing.
Miami almost fell into a not-so-concealed trap
We called this. Miami hosting an average Virginia club, one week removed from an emotionally charged win over the Fighting Irish, with the ACC Championship Game already locked up — your classic trap game.
It ended up taking the biggest comeback in five years for Miami to pull out the win. The Hurricanes went into halftime down by seven points (thanks to a very controversial touchdown by the Cavaliers) and went into a two-touchdown hole early in the third quarter.
That’s when Miami finally woke up from its stupor and remembered it was the No. 3 team in the nation. The Hurricanes went on to score 30 unanswered points, holding Virginia to just 89 yards after the early second-half touchdown.
Still undefeated, Mark Richt’s club can chalk this up to an ugly win and move on as one of the playoff teams heading into Week 13. Up next is a scrappy Pittsburgh team before the highly anticipated Battle Royale against Clemson on championship weekend.
Wisconsin too stifling on defense for offensively challenged Wolverines
It was always going to be a tough task for Michigan to beat Wisconsin in Madison Saturday, even under the best of circumstances. Freshman quarterback Brandon Peters has been somewhat of a spark plug for Michigan’s offense, and he had the offense in decent shape heading into the latter stages of the third quarter, down by just four points.
Then Wisconsin linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel drilled the young quarterback into the turf, ending his day and quite possibly his season. Peters ended up needing to be carted off the field and then taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
After that, Michigan had no chance. Wisconsin went on to shut down the Wolverines’ stagnant offense to the tune of just 24 yards the rest of the game.
Still undefeated, Wisconsin is still alive for one of the four playoff spots. But based on the quality of opposition the Badgers have played against this year, the CFP committee will likely still see them in an unfavorable light this upcoming Tuesday.
It wasn’t pretty, but Notre Dame rebounded against Navy
On a dreary, windy, rainy day in South Bend, the Fighting Irish got back to business following last weekend’s embarrassing blowout loss to Miami with a grind-it-out 24-17 win over Navy.
Brandon Wimbush was all over the place with his accuracy, especially early, and actually got receiver Equanimeous St. Brown hurt on a high pass that ended with St. Brown landing awkwardly on his head. After the game, head coach Brian Kelly said the receiver is being evaluated for a head injury, which is hardly surprising given the nasty fall he took.
Thankfully Wimbush did settle down after a while. He finished with 164 yards and two touchdowns through the air and added another on the ground, and Notre Dame was able to make the most out of its opportunities.
Incredibly, the Irish won despite Navy possessing the ball over 42 minutes in the game and grinding out 23 first downs. It was an ugly win, but the Irish will take it. They’ll head into their final game of the season against Stanford with just two losses and will be in great shape for a big-time bowl berth with one more victory.
Will Grier is everything to the Mountaineers
Just over halfway through the first quarter, in a 0-0 game, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier dove for the pylon in an effort to put his team on the board early. Just before he crossed the goal line, the ball came out of his grasp, and instead of a touchdown it ended up being Texas’ ball at the 20-yard line.
Even worse, Grier ended up suffering a gruesome injury to his middle finger and had to leave the game.
From there, Texas went on to dominate the game. Grier’s replacement, sophomore Chris Chugunov, wasn’t bad. But he wasn’t great, either, passing for just 189 yards with one touchdown as the Longhorns romped to win 28-14.
West Virginia came into the game averaging averaging 39 points per game, good for 11th in the nation. Grier has thrown 34 touchdowns this season as the trigger man for this pass-happy offense. With him in the lineup, the Mountaineers have a shot to win any game. Without him, they were toast.
If UCF wins out, Knights belong in playoff
As we detailed last weekend, the UCF Knights have an eerily similar strength of schedule compared to Wisconsin. Like the Badgers, the Knights are undefeated through Week 12, but unlike their mirror image they’re not getting any love from the CFP committee.
Ranked No. 15 heading into this weekend (Wisconsin was No. 5), the Knights did what they’ve been doing all year long, blowing out Temple 45-19.
They just have so many weapons. Quarterback McKenzie Milton threw four touchdowns Saturday to four different receivers. The running game wasn’t its usual dominant self but still accounted for two scores as well.
No team in the nation scores more points than UCF. And if the Knights win next weekend’s War on I-4 against in-state and American Athletic rival USF, and the American Athletic Championship Game, they belong in the playoff.
Defense and running game show up huge for TCU, sans Kenny Hill
One week after being dominated by Oklahoma, TCU was in for another big challenge taking on the high-scoring Red Raiders. Making matters more difficult, starting quarterback Kenny Hill was ruled out with a concussion and didn’t even make the trip to Lubbock.
After Texas Tech jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, it looked like the Horned Frogs might be in some trouble without their star signal caller. However, the Red Raiders would not score again in the 27-3 blowout win for TCU.
Backup quarterback Shawn Robinson struggled, going for just 85 yards on 6-of-17 passing, though he did throw a touchdown. But the team’s defense and special teams picked up the slack in a major way.
Robinson was effective on the ground, along with Kyle Hicks, as the Horned Frogs finished with 204 yards on 42 carries. The defense forced two turnovers, the second of which turned into seven points for the Horned Frogs, which maintained their spot in the Big 12 Championship picture heading into Week 13 with the big win.
Still in the running for bowl berth, FSU explodes
With just three wins and three games left to play, the Florida State Seminoles were in must-win territory Saturday, and the rest of the season, to earn a bowl bid.
Delaware State never had a chance.
Second largest margin of victory in program history! pic.twitter.com/ciI7LBfMLc
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) November 18, 2017
It wasn’t a fair fight to begin with, but Florida State played with the kind of desperation you’d expect from a major program under such circumstances.
Everyone got involved. James Blackman had his best game passing all year, finishing with three touchdowns. The running game rumbled for 246 yards and five touchdowns. Safety Derwin James came up with his second interception of the year and turned it into six points. The special teams blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown.
It was all-out devastation by the Seminoles, who are still alive for a bowl game heading into the final two weekends of their season.
No Auburn hangover for the ‘Dawgs
Last weekend’s trip behind the woodshed was devastating for Georgia, as Auburn bulldozed its way to a blowout win to hand the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. However, given the strength of schedule, the playoff was still attainable with a strong response Saturday, and the rest of the season.
Phase 1 of that plan was a grand success against Kentucky, as the Bulldogs imposed their will on the Wildcats with ruthless efficiency. The run game was back on track after being dominated by Auburn’s defensive front last weekend. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 238 yards and five touchdowns, and the ‘Dawgs finished with 381 rushing yards in total.
Georgia’s defense was stout, allowing just 262 total yards and 4-of-13 third-down conversions.
Now if the Bulldogs win next weekend against Georgia Tech and then win the SEC Championship Game, they’re in the playoff.
UCLA’s overwhelming problems can’t mask Josh Rosen’s greatness
Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold will both be heavily scrutinized heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, and both have a legitimate shot to be the first man taken next April.
For what it’s worth, this scribe sees Rosen as the better pro prospect. He certainly outplayed Darnold Saturday night, even though USC beat UCLA 28-23.
Playing with an inferior supporting cast, Rosen passed for 421 yards with three touchdowns and one bad interception he’d like to have back. He’s been carrying the Bruins all year long and did it again Saturday night in Los Angeles. Bruins running backs never got going, and the defense couldn’t stop the run, either.
Yet in the end, Rosen nearly was able to do enough to pull out a win over No. 11 USC.
— Clemson, Alabama and Auburn all did what we expected early in the day. Facing weak opponents that had no business on the same field, they wiped the floor with the inferior competition, winning by a combined score of 159-17. Clemson gets one more week (against South Carolina) before the ACC Championship Game while Auburn and Alabama will go head-to-head next weekend in the annual Iron Bowl, which should be very intriguing.
— Ohio State and Oklahoma followed suit later in the afternoon. The Buckeyes blew out Illinois at home in Columbus, 52-14. The score was 38-0 at the half, and the Buckeyes just put it in cruise control in the second half to claim the Big Ten East. Oklahoma had no trouble putting the Jayhawks down in blowout fashion, 42-3, as Baker Mayfield did Baker Mayfield things, both on the field and on the sidelines.
— Saquon Barkley was featured early, and Penn State jumped out to a huge lead as he romped all over Nebraska’s paper-thin defense. He finished with 224 total yards, 208 of which were gained in the first half. And with three touchdowns on the day, he broke the school record for most career rushing touchdowns.
Record-breaking night for Saquon Barkley pic.twitter.com/bu340gEBUm
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 19, 2017
— Northwestern made Minnesota look like a junior varsity squad at home Saturday, shutting out the Golden Gophers 39-0. On both sides of the ball, the Wildcats ruled the field, out-gaining their opponent by a 2:1 margin and forcing five turnovers.
— Boy was that an uuuugly win by Mississippi State over Arkansas. Tied up late in the fourth quarter, Nick Fitzgerald threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Deddrick Thomas with 17 seconds left on the clock to escape unscathed. This game (on paper) shouldn’t have been close. But perhaps coming so close to beating Alabama last weekend, only to fall short, took the wind out of the Bulldogs’ sails in a major way.
— Memphis stayed red hot offensively against SMU, winning 66-45. Since losing to UCF in last September, the Tigers have averaged almost 51 points per game and have gone undefeated.
— Lamar Jackson, NFL-caliber passer.
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) November 18, 2017
Jackson set a new Louisville career yardage mark, going for 381 total yards while scoring four touchdowns Saturday against Syracuse. All he does is make big plays, whether by foot or via his talented arm. It’s likely Saturday marked the final time Jackson will ever play at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium at Louisville, and we’ll sure miss watching him every Saturday next year.
— Tennessee had no chance against LSU Saturday night in the rain at Neyland Stadium. The Tigers imposed their will on the hapless Vols, who lost their seventh conference game this year and appear destined to go winless in the SEC for the first time ever.
— Justin Herbert’s value to Oregon’s offense cannot be overstated. In the five games he missed due to injury, the Ducks averaged 15 points per game, and that includes a 41-point outburst against Utah. With him back in the lineup Saturday against Arizona, Oregon broke out for 48 points in a blowout win.
— NC State, once flying high, has been brought low the past month or so. The Wolfpack were on a six-game winning streak heading into the Notre Dame game last month. After losing to Wake Forest Saturday they’ve now lost three of their last four. And this one’s going to hurt, as it was a mistake-riddled affair in which they turned the ball over three times in the second half.
— Bryce Love once again gave us something to gawk at. The Stanford running back deserves a trip to New York after this season for what he’s done this year. Saturday, he rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown — a 57-yard dash that made FBS history and represented a new Stanford record as well. Just a tremendous young running back who has a bright future ahead of him at the next level if he can stay healthy.