Choke jobs by entire teams
After a thrilling college football regular season with hundreds of games and great performances, it all led up to Saturday. Conference championship week. A slate with everything on the line delivered plenty for college football fans to enjoy.
Fans witnessed one of the most exciting games across the entire season on Saturday that was capped off with an unbelievable finish. Meanwhile, Week 14 also provided a shakeup in the race for the Heisman Trophy that might decide who wins the most prestigious trophy.
Of course, it wouldn’t be football without some truly dreadful performances. From star players being major disappointments in big games to utter choke jobs by entire teams, there was no shortage of duds in the conference title games.
Here are the studs and duds from college football’s championship games.
Stud: Marcus Childers, quarterback, Northern Illinois Huskies
In an exciting Mid-Atlantic Conference title matchup, Childers came through with one of the best championship comebacks we’ve seen in some time.
The Huskies trailed by 19 in the third quarter and hope started to seem lost. Childers found something in himself and turned his frustrating inconsistency into utter dominance with a clutch gene.
He threw for 300 yards for the first time this season and accounted for a season-high four touchdown passes. The redshirt sophomore even used his legs in this game with 58 rushing yards in the comeback performance and a MAC title to go along with it.
Dud: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, wide receiver, Oklahoma Sooners
On a day when Brown could have become an icon in Oklahoma for years to come, he instead experienced a game he will want to forget. Even worse, it ended in a potentially worrisome injury for Hollywood.
Brown, who has been a reliable big-play threat throughout the season, dropped two touchdowns in the first quarter against the Texas Longhorns. The nightmare start carried over into the next two quarters with two huge drops, including a potential 47-yard catch in the second quarter that replay nullified.
Unfortunately, Brown’s day got worse. He suffered an injury to his left foot in the fourth quarter and had to be carted into the locker room with a towel over his head. Everything that could go wrong for Brown did on Saturday.
Stud: Sam Ehlinger, quarterback, Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns might have fallen short in the Big-12 title game, and a four-loss season is disappointing. However, Saturday also once again showed why the future remains bright for this program.
Ehlinger shined once again versus the Sooners with two rushing touchdowns, 42 rushing yards and a strong performance through the air. Among his 349-yard, two-touchdown performance, the sophomore’s unbelievable 29-yard strike showed his true talent.
Texas isn’t quite back to its place of dominance but it can get there with Ehlinger. As long as this defense improves and there are weapons around him, performances like this will become common.
Dud: Big 12 officiating
Kris Boyd was mad at Big 12 refs 45 seconds before it was cool pic.twitter.com/NADHBtxtW8
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) December 1, 2018
One of the best conferences in the NCAA’s most popular sport has some of the worst officiating in all of collegiate athletics. So of course it showed up in the Big-12 Championship battle with everyone’s eyes on the game.
It started with an unfathomable decision to review an interception that was already wiped out by a penalty. Saturday’s crew made a series of questionable calls and missed a clear defensive pass interference. In a game with plenty of excitement, the conference’s officials found a way to be a distraction on Saturday. It’s a problem that keeps getting worse for the Big 12.
Stud: Kyler Murray, quarterback, Oklahoma Sooners
Murray’s football career is coming to a close, and while it understandably leaves many sad, he is making sure to provide us all with memories we’ll never forget.
The junior’s unbelievable season carried into the conference championship with a game-defining performance against Oklahoma’s biggest rival. Murray finished Saturday with 379 passing yards, three touchdown passes and a 196.3 quarterback rating.
Murray simply dominated Texas, even during moments when it felt like the Sooners had no momentum. His stat line could have been even better if not for a few drops, but all that matters to the Heisman Trophy contender is the win with a shot at the CFB Playoff.
Dud: Memphis Tigers
Blowing a three-score lead once in a game is bad. It’s simply inexcusable to do it twice. Memphis held a 17-point lead twice in this game, and each time saw it slip away.
The Tigers dominated Central Florida in the first half and seemed poised for an upset. Somehow, UCF found a way to overcome the odds with its backup quarterback and outscore Memphis 21-0 in the fourth quarter to seal a 56-41 victory. From a 17-point lead to a 15-point loss, it was just an utter choke job by Memphis.
Stud: Darriel Mack Jr., quarterback, Central Florida Knights
No one would have been surprised if UCF dropped this game. It lost not only its best player in quarterback McKenzie Milton, but the team also lost its emotional leader. Milton’s absence showed early in the game, but then we saw Mack Jr. rise to the call and deliver.
The freshman quarterback simply dominated in this game with a dual-threat attack Memphis could never stop. He ran for four touchdowns with 59 rushing yards and threw for 358 passing yards with two scores and a 203.1 quarterback rating. The Knights’ future seemed bleak without Milton. Now things look a little brighter after this stunning performance.
Dud: Tua Tagovailoa
Tagovailoa came into Saturday’s SEC Championship on the verge of sealing his Heisman Trophy campaign with the odds clearly in his favor to bring home the trophy. Instead, he had the worst game of his collegiate career.
The star quarterback, who got his start as a fill-in quarterback when Jalen Hurts struggled against the Georgia Bulldogs last year, experienced the opposite side of the script this week. Tagovailoa threw two interceptions and just seemed off the entire game. Then he was finally forced to depart with an ankle injury.
Tagovailoa needed his backup, the same man he replaced a year ago, to save the day and be a hero for Alabama. If Hurts didn’t come through, the seemingly unbeatable Crimson Tide would be defeated. Thankfully for ‘Bama, he did.
Stud: Jalen Hurts
Many expected Hurts to transfer at the end of the 2017 season. He is a great quarterback, and after being benched in the title game, no one would have blamed him for leading. Instead, he stayed with Alabama and waited for his moment to come.
It came on Saturday in a miraculous comeback that shocked everyone. Hurts replaced Tagovailoa, threw a game-tying touchdown pass then ran in the game-winning score with less than 70 seconds left in the game.
A player beloved by all of those around him, who supported everyone even after being benched, got his second chance and took advantage of it. There was no better moment in college football this season than this one.
Dud: Evening slate of games
After watching the SEC Championship, college football fans were riding an unbelievable high due to witnessing one of the best games of the year. It was followed up by the most unappealing slate of conference championships with very little on the line.
The No. 2-ranked Clemson Tigers easily put away Pittsburgh in the ACC Championship to clinch the No. 2 spot in the CFB Playoff. Meanwhile, No. 6-ranked Ohio State took the field with their chances of a playoff appearance already out the window.
This is simply inexcusable. The ACC Championship could have been played in the morning with the Big-12 and Big-10 Championships together in the afternoon. It would have all been capped off with a thrilling SEC Championship with all eyes tuned in. Instead, we got a snoozer of an evening slate to end the season with a dud before bowl games begin.
Stud: Dwayne Haskins
Haskins stood under center at the start of Thursday’s game with a chance to jump back into the Heisman Trophy race. Even with the CFB Playoff likely out of the question, he showed everyone why he deserves to be in New York.
The redshirt sophomore capped off his regular season with one of the greatest gems in his football career. He completed 34-of-41 passes for a career-high 499 passing yards, five touchdowns and a 220.5 quarterback rating.
Haskins will head into his bowl game with over 4,500 passing yards, 46 touchdown passes and four rushing touchdowns on the season. He elevated Ohio State’s offense to insane levels and is more than deserving of consideration for this year’s Heisman Trophy.