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Even as championship weekend looms in Week 14, rivalry weekend was just as important across the country. With a full slate of games on Friday and Saturday, the college football world was busy fleshing out conference races.
While Alabama, Clemson and Georgia were each able to stave off their rivals, the rest of the Top 10 endured turbulence. LSU dropped an entertaining 74-72, seven-overtime affair that came down to the final two-point conversion by Texas A&M. Notre Dame and Oklahoma narrowly avoided losing as road teams, but they march forward in the thick of the playoff chase.
Change is coming still, as Ohio State dominated Michigan, Washington State fell in the Apple Cup, and UCF gained a road win but lost its most valuable player. The Buckeyes should vault upward, whereas the Tigers, Wolverines, Cougars and Knights are all but eliminated.
There was meaningful action beyond the Top 10 that affected the bowl picture. Colorado, Arizona, Kansas State and Indiana were among the teams that laid duck farts and missed the chance to reach six wins and eligibility. Both Arizona and Kansas State squandered fourth-quarter leads that seemed insurmountable en route to losses.
Texas secured its rematch with the Sooners next weekend as it survived a surprising scare at Kansas. Boise State is all set to host Fresno State for the Mountain West Championship Game. Memphis blew out Houston as Darrell Henderson continued his incredible production. The Tigers will face UCF next week.
Bleacher Report’s panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.
Here is our Week 14 poll:
1. Alabama (last week: 1)
2. Clemson (2)
3. Notre Dame (3)
4. Georgia (5)
5. Oklahoma (6)
6. Ohio State (10)
7. UCF (7)
8. Michigan (4)
9. Washington State (8)
10. Texas (11)
11. Penn State (12)
12. Boise State (15)
13. Florida (16)
14. West Virginia (14)
15. Washington (17)
16. LSU (9)
17. Syracuse (20)
18. Kentucky (21)
19. Army (18)
20. Utah State (13)
T-21. Northwestern (24)
T-21. Utah (19)
T-23. Fresno State (22)
T-23. Texas A&M (NR)
25. Mississippi State (NR)
Others receiving votes: Iowa State, Cincinnati, Missouri, Pittsburgh, NC State
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Week 13 was a banner weekend for some of the top quarterbacks in the country. Household names Tua Tagovailoa, Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray and Will Grier lit up their opponents in stunning offensive performances.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray combined for a whopping 903 passing yards and seven touchdowns in what appeared to be a seven-on-seven contest Friday night. Murray added another 114 and a score on the ground and sealed Oklahoma’s win in Morgantown with two clutch plays. Grier’s turnovers helped the Sooners win, but his performance was still a noteworthy accomplishment despite the team’s shortcomings.
Tagovailoa continued his path of destruction against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. After a solid but unspectacular first half from the Tide, Tagovailoa came out like a fire-breathing dragon. He tallied 119 yards on three third-quarter touchdowns and had five TD passes overall, bringing him to 36 (against only two interceptions) on the season.
Haskins also had a performance worthy of the Heisman. Following up his best game of the season against Maryland, he torched Don Brown’s defense with his precision and decision-making. Haskins leads the country with 41 passing touchdowns and has only seven interceptions. His blend of playmaking in the pocket and avoidance of mistakes is remarkable for a first-year starter.
One of these players will win the Heisman Trophy. All belong in New York at the ceremony, along with a few others.
This week was not as kind to McKenzie Milton (injury) and Gardner Minshew. Minshew’s performance against Washington in a downpour was disappointing and one of the reasons the Cougars were eliminated from the playoff race and Rose Bowl.
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One of the most difficult tasks in the college football season is to rank teams at the beginning of the season. Many Top 25 lists are torn up and shredded several times over within the first month.
This year, there were three preseason AP Top 10 teams that finished with five losses. Wisconsin (No. 4) and Auburn (No. 9) suffered their fifth losses and dropped to 7-5 on the season on Saturday. Miami (No. 8) beat Pitt but still finished 7-5. All three teams dramatically underperformed, as their offenses were often the culprit in losses.
Wisconsin’s pathway to the Big Ten title game seemed easy in the summer. With Northwestern, Iowa and Purdue as their biggest competition, the Badgers only had to rely on their conservative system to contend for a Rose Bowl bid. But that plan quickly dissipated as their new starters failed to adequately replace their departed players.
The Miami Hurricanes’ 2017 success pumped massive energy into the program, but there was a reason so much skepticism surrounded them last year. Their offense cratered as their receiving depth was lost and the quarterback position became a constant eyesore. This team needs a massive offensive personnel overhaul.
Finally, Auburn’s letdown season is arguably the most surprising. With a loaded defensive front and trusted offensive system led by Gus Malzahn, Auburn seemed legitimate. It simply lost focus too often in a quality conference, and the lack of growth from quarterback Jarrett Stidham hamstrung the team in key moments.
The lesson is that football is unpredictable, which often leads to wildly inaccurate preseason polls. These teams added to the long list of preseason darlings who didn’t live up to the hype.
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Ohio State’s domination of the Michigan Wolverines continued as the Buckeyes poured on the points throughout their 62-39 home victory on Saturday. Their 62 points set a school record for the most points scored in The Game. The teams combined for a total of 101, breaking the previous high of 86, all scored by Michigan back in 1902.
Despite entering the game as an underdog after several uneven and concerning performances against lower-caliber foes, Urban Meyer and his program were as well-prepared and focused as we’ve seen all season. It was the first game since their TCU showdown they appeared to be a complete team.
In addition to quarterback Dwayne Haskins shredding the Wolverines defense and reminding everyone why he’s a worthy Heisman candidate, the Buckeyes still added two interceptions and a blocked punt to help their powerful offense. Haskins broke the Big Ten record for passing yards in a season with his 318 yards and five touchdowns on the day.
After spending the season trying to figure out how to jump-start their running game and allow fewer big plays on defense, Meyer and his staff seemingly had all of the answers against Jim Harbaugh’s best Michigan team yet.
There was more emphasis on running gap scheme with counters and utilizing powerful pulling guards, and the result was a more balanced offense that produced 249 team rushing yards. When speedster Parris Campbell was given the chance on a jet sweep early in the fourth quarter, he sprinted 78 yards for a game-breaking touchdown. Campbell also added 114 receiving yards and one touchdown through the air.
Freshman receiver Chris Olave also earned his place in Buckeye lore as he contributed two receiving touchdowns and a blocked punt that led to a touchdown. Olave’s impact was surprising considering the veteran status of the Ohio State receiving depth chart, but he’s made the most of his playing time late in the season.
The win leaves the Buckeyes in a favorable position to make the playoff, though it’s by no means a given. Meyer is now 7-0 against Michigan, and this latest win was as much of a statement as any that he’s had against his rivals.
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Utah vs. Washington (Friday, 8 p.m. ET)
The Pac-12 Rose Bowl berth is on the line Friday night. With Washington’s defense suddenly healthier, the Huskies are going to be the favorite against the Utes. Utah is looking for its first Rose Bowl appearance, but is also coming off a disappointing loss at home against BYU. This should be a tasty appetizer for a huge weekend.
Texas vs. Oklahoma (12 p.m. ET)
Who doesn’t like a rivalry rematch with huge implications? The Red River Rivalry Part II should be a tremendous sequel to what was a great first battle between these hungry schools. The Sooners are looking to fight into the playoff final four, while the Longhorns would enjoy nothing more than to knock them out of the mix and secure their place in a major bowl.
Memphis vs. UCF (3:30 p.m. ET)
UCF’s outlook is less rosy without McKenzie Milton, but that could be a huge motivator for the program. The Memphis Tigers nearly pulled the upset last time they played. If it weren’t for Milton’s second-half brilliance last matchup, UCF would’ve surely lost. The Tigers are looking for revenge this time around.
Alabama vs. Georgia (4 p.m. ET)
All eyes should be on this afternoon contest. The SEC likely won’t fit two teams into this year’s playoff like last year, but there’s a pathway if things get zany Saturday. Alabama has looked unstoppable all year, but Georgia has the raw talent to pull off an upset. This could be the game of the year.
Fresno State vs. Boise State (7:45 p.m. ET)
The Fresno State Bulldogs clinched their second-consecutive divisional title against San Diego State Saturday. At 9-2 overall, they’ll be squaring off at Boise State next week thanks to tiebreakers. The Broncos were able to stifle one of the countries’ best offenses at home in a thrilling late game against Utah State. They’ll look to duplicate their home win against Fresno State.
Clemson vs. Pittsburgh (8 p.m. ET)
There’s not a team that’s been as surprisingly successful as the Pittsburgh Panthers. They’ve recovered from a poor start to represent their division in the ACC title game. Unfortunately for them, the Clemson Tigers are in full stride. An upset win for Pitt would shock the college football world, especially off a sizable loss to Miami.
Northwestern vs. Ohio State (8 p.m. ET)
Could Ohio State stumble after blowing the doors off its rivals? History shows Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes tend to play very well in the Big Ten Championship Game. Northwestern resembles Purdue, though, with a disciplined and gritty team that can take advantage of mistakes. The Wildcats might keep this game within striking distance if they can force a key turnover or two.