Winners and Losers from College Football Week 12
It was another thrilling weekend in Week 12 of the college football season.
We witnessed historic performances, record-setting days and even had to endure a handful of blowouts featuring several SEC teams against designated cupcakes.
There is no question that this was the most exciting night of the college football season, which would not be complete without some huge upsets, of course.
With the top two teams in the country going down, Notre Dame and a team from the SEC are in line to play for the BCS National Championship.
As always, there are winners and losers from the week. Here they are.
Rutgers came out a winner in a number of different ways.
The Scarlet Knights went on the road against a talented Cincinnati offense and completely shut down the Bearcats.
The 10-3 victory keeps Rutgers at the top of the Big East standings and puts it in prime position for an Orange Bowl berth.
Later in the day, news broke that Rutgers and Maryland are in talks with the Big Ten (h/t Dana O'Neil, Brett McMurphy and Andy Katz of ESPN.com). What a move that would be for the university.
Loser: The Louisiana Tech Offense
Louisiana Tech came into the game second in the country, averaging more than 53 points a game.
The unit was completely shut down in the first half against a talented Utah State team. The Bulldogs were able to make a game out of it, sending it into overtime on the final play of regulation. But in the end, the 24-point deficit was too much to overcome. Utah State prevailed 48-41.
Had the Bulldogs won out, they had a legitimate chance for a BCS berth. As of right now, it does not even look like the 9-2 Bulldogs will even win the Western Athletic Conference.
Certainly not a good day at the office for Louisiana Tech.
Winner: The MAC
The best six teams in the MAC all did battle over the weekend, and once again the conference proved just how talented it is at the top.
Kent State went on the road and knocked off Bowling Green, 31-24. The win propelled the Golden Flashes to 10-1 and puts them in prime position to crack the BCS Top 25 on Sunday night.
Northern Illinois also came out victorious by the exact same score at home against Toledo on Wednesday night. The Huskies also could be ranked come Sunday night.
How wild would it be if two MAC teams cracked the Top 25? These two are on a collision course to meet in the MAC Championship Game.
Loser: Montee Ball
It is certainly hard to consider Montee Ball a loser by any stretch of the imagination. But the way his day ended, he can't feel too good.
Ball scored his 78th touchdown to tie Travis Prentice for first all time.
With the Badgers down 14-7 late in the fourth quarter, Ball dove over the pile in an attempt to get into the end zone on a 4th-and-1 from inside the 2-yard line. The ball was knocked loose by Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, and the Buckeyes recovered.
Even though Wisconsin did manage to send the game into overtime (before losing), this was a golden opportunity for Bell to break the record in Madison, and in dramatic fashion no less.
Now if it is going to happen, it will have to be away from home.
Winner: The Ohio State Defensive Line
Not only did the Ohio State defense and line hold up at the goal line late in the fourth quarter, but the group dominated throughout the game, leading Ohio State to a hard-fought win.
Defensive end John Simon spent most of the day in the Wisconsin backfield, totaling four sacks on the day.
Even though Wisconsin came back and sent the game into overtime, the Ohio State defensive line took over once again in the extra period.
If it wasn't for the pressure Ohio State put on Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips, the Buckeyes might have been upset in this one.
Loser: Matt Barkley
The slim Rose Bowl hopes USC had dissolved Saturday as the Trojans fell to crosstown rival UCLA 38-28.
While it was a disappointing day for the entire team, there is no question that Matt Barkley has to be feeling it the worst. He left the game in the closing minutes with an injury, but that didn't matter.
What did matter were the two interceptions he threw and the three USC turnovers. That was the difference in the game.
Even though the Trojans outgained the Bruins, they fell by double digits to continue a disappointing senior season for Barkley.
Winner: Montel Harris
As mentioned earlier, records were broken this weekend, but no performance was more impressive than that of Temple running back Montel Harris.
The Boston College transfer rushed for 351 yards on 36 carries and scored seven touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns are a Big East record.
He did not practice much of the week because he took a helmet to the left knee a week ago. That did not seem to matter, however, and when fellow running back Matt Brown went down with an injury early in the game, it was all Harris from that point on.
Harris has been through a lot over the past few years, including injuries and suspensions, and has come a long way in his football career.
Loser: Another Close Loss for Michigan State
When it comes to heartbreaking losses, no team has suffered like Michigan State. Saturday was another chapter in a season the Spartans would like to forget.
Michigan State fell 23-20 at home to Northwestern in another gut-wrenching defeat.
The loss drops the Spartans to 5-6 and was the team's fifth conference loss by four or fewer points. Those five losses have come by a combined 13 points.
Michigan State will have one week to regroup. The Spartans must knock off Minnesota on the road to become bowl eligible.
It will be a chance for the Spartans to ruin senior day at Minnesota just like Northwestern ruined theirs.
Winner: The Clemson Offense
Don't look now, but the Clemson offense has developed into one of the top groups in the country.
That talent was on full display Saturday afternoon in a 62-48 victory over North Carolina State. Clemson totaled 754 yards, with 426 coming through the air and 328 on the ground.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for all of those yards and five touchdowns, and running back Andre Ellington totaled 124 yards on 22 carries.
Clemson is likely a win away from a Sugar Bowl berth as the offense continues to improve each week.
Loser: The SEC Scheduling
It is one thing to play a cupcake once a season, but when nearly half the conference does it on the same weekend, it stands out.
This week, six teams in the SEC scheduled FCS schools, and not surprisingly all won in rather convincing fashion.
Having five of the top nine teams in the country play FCS schools this late in the season makes for an extremely boring week.
This was not only a loss for the SEC, but also for college football fans in general. Maybe a nine-game conference schedule is in order.
Winner: The Michigan Offense
Denard Robinson started on Saturday...at running back. That's right, the Michigan Wolverines have a new quarterback in former wide receiver Devin Gardner and were very tough to stop.
Michigan has decided to stick with Gardner, at least for the time being, and it looks like it will work out.
Gardner completed 18 of 23 passes for 314 yards, three touchdowns and an interception against Iowa. Robinson, meanwhile, carried the ball 13 times for 98 yards and also caught two passes for 24 yards.
With the biggest game of the season coming up against Ohio State, this offense looks like it is only going to get better.
The Wolverines will, however, be without the services of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who left on a stretcher with a brutal leg injury.
Loser: Texas Tech
Texas Tech had a chance to make a serious move toward the top of the Big 12 standings but laid an egg in Stillwater, Okla.
The Red Raiders were dominated in every phase of the game and lost 59-21 to Oklahoma State.
What hurt Texas Tech were three turnovers, including two interceptions by quarterback Seth Doege. The Red Raiders defense, though, was unable to force a single turnover.
Oklahoma State somehow managed to score 59 points while only completing 12 passes. That is certainly something to brag about.
It has been a struggle in recent weeks for Texas Tech, as the Red Raiders have lost three of four. Their only win came in overtime against Kansas.
Winner: The Five-Year-Old on College Gameday
Even though Lee Corso called him a midget on national television, this five-year-old Oregon fan was probably the best guest they have had all season.
He flat-out knew his stuff and might have been the smartest five-year-old I have ever seen.
Whether he realized Corso called him a midget or not is still debatable, but the way he let it roll off him, he showed some serious poise.
I definitely see a bright television future for this young kid.
Loser: Florida Gators Offense
Another week and another Florida victory. But once again the offense struggled mightily against a far inferior opponent.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel did not play due to a sprained right ankle, but backup Jacoby Brissett had a Driskell-like performance, completing 14 of 22 passes for 154 yards.
The Gators' offense did a whole lot of nothing, totaling only 356 yards against an FCS school in Jacksonville State.
Florida only had 10 points midway through the third quarter when a Jon Bostic pick-six put the game on ice.
Winner: The Notre Dame Defense
With all due respect to Alabama, LSU and Florida, the best defense in the country resides in South Bend.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish pitched their first shutout of the season in a 38-0 victory over Wake Forest on Senior Night.
Wake Forest was held to 209 yards of total offense and was 4-of-15 on third-down conversions.
This group continues to get better and is ready for a showdown in Los Angeles against a very talented USC offense.
Loser: Arkansas Falling out of Bowl Contention
The Arkansas football program has been through a lot over the past year, and Saturday it learned that a bowl game is not in the immediate future of the Razorbacks.
Arkansas fell 45-14 to a Mississippi State team on a three-game losing streak. The Razorbacks were dominated from start to finish, allowing more than 500 yards of total offense.
The loss sealed Arkansas' fate and assured there would be no more football after a home game against LSU on Friday.
The end could not come any quicker for the players (and entire program, for that matter).
Winner: Florida State Clinching the ACC Atlantic Division
Florida State had no problem handling an overmatched Maryland team, winning 41-14 and clinching the ACC Atlantic in the process.
The Seminoles are one of the best teams in the country and rank in the top five nationally in both offense and defense.
It will be interesting to see how the Florida State offense fares next week against the ultra-talented Florida defense.
The Seminoles are likely to play Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 1 with an Orange Bowl berth on the line.
Loser: Ole Miss in the Fourth Quarter
Ole Miss had a chance to become bowl eligible this weekend with a win at LSU. The Rebels were close to pulling off a huge upset before the defense fell apart in the fourth quarter.
LSU scored three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes with an offensive explosion Tigers fans had not seen all season.
After the struggles Ole Miss went through last season, a bowl appearance would make this a very successful season.
Now, with rival Mississippi State remaining on the schedule, the Rebels are going to need to pull off the upset.
Winner: UCLA Clinches Pac-12 South Title
Not many could have predicted earlier in the year that UCLA would be playing in the Pac-12 title game.
With a 38-28 victory over rival USC, the Bruins will be there. UCLA is 9-2 and two games ahead of everybody else in the Pac-12 South.
Running back Johnathan Franklin is one of the best in the country, averaging a gaudy 6.4 yards a carry. He has totaled 1,270 yards on 199 carries.
Whether UCLA can hang with Oregon remains to be seen. The Bruins will certainly make a better showing than last season.
Loser: Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati had a chance to knock off Rutgers, jump to the top of the Big East standings, vault into the BCS Top 25 and put itself in prime position to play in the Orange Bowl.
Unfortunately for the Bearcats, the offense failed to show up and Cincinnati fell 10-3 at home.
The Bearcats came into the game leading the conference in scoring, but struggled to finish drives, missing a field goal and throwing two interceptions.
Cincinnati also failed on a 4th-and-inches inside the 10-yard line in the third quarter. This loss was a major disappointment for the Bearcats and their fans.
Winner: Taylor Martinez and Nebraska
Taylor Martinez passed for 308 yards and two TDs on 21-of-29 passing in a convincing 38-14 victory against Minnesota. In the process, he became the school's all-time passing leader.
Martinez has been a pleasant surprise this season as a passer and continues to improve each week.
The Nebraska offense has developed into one of the best in the Big Ten. With a win over Iowa in the season finale, or a loss by Michigan against Ohio State, Nebraska will win the Big Ten Legends Division and take on Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Loser: Conference USA
The two premier teams in Conference USA squared off Saturday, as Tulsa knocked off Central Florida, 23-21.
That was quite a game. But as for the rest of the conference, there is a lot to be desired. The way it stands right now, there might only be three bowl-eligible teams, as East Carolina is bowl eligible with six wins. SMU had a chance, but fell to 5-6 in losing to Rice. Houston also lost to Marshall, falling to 4-7.
With one week left, to be bowl eligible, SMU must knock off Tulsa. Rice can also reach a bowl game with a victory at UTEP.
If these games do not turn out right, there will be only three C-USA teams reaching bowl games.
Winner: Vanderbilt Commodores
The Vanderbilt Commodores won their seventh game of the season, knocking off Tennessee 41-18 in convincing fashion.
It is not often that Vanderbilt has a seven-win season. Head coach James Franklin has this program headed in the right direction. After starting off the year 2-4, the Commodores have won five straight, including four in the SEC.
With a road game at Wake Forest to end the season, this team could be looking at 8-4 and a New Year's Day bowl if everything falls into place.
When is the last time that could be said?
Loser: Derek Dooley
The Volunteers have been awful and have gotten progressively worse. After falling to Vanderbilt, Tennessee stands at 4-7, 0-7 in SEC play.
Something has to change, and on Sunday Tennessee fired head coach Derek Dooley.
Winner: The Les Miles Postgame Press Conference
Les Miles was at it again. There is no question that he is one of the most entertaining coaches in all of sports and he proved that once again in this postgame presser after his Tigers came back to knock off Ole Miss, 41-35.
One thing is certain: He is very proud of his players and in the way they responded after trailing late in the game.
Loser: Missouri Tigers
After knocking off Tennessee in four overtimes last week, Missouri lost at home to Syracuse on Senior Night.
The loss might have been the worst of the season for Missouri, as the Tigers are now 5-6 and will need a win on the road against Texas A&M to qualify for a bowl.
This has to be a tough pill to swallow for head coach Gary Pinkel and his squad, as Syracuse scored with 20 seconds remaining to go ahead 31-27 and come away with the huge upset.
Certainly not a good first season in the SEC for the Tigers.
Winner: Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel furthered his Heisman candidacy in a 47-28 win over Sam Houston State.
He finished with 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries. He also passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns on an efficient 14-of-20.
Those numbers give him more than 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing. That is the first time in the history of college football that a freshman has put up those kind of numbers, and only the fifth time any quarterback has.
While he is not the front-runner, this guy is certainly in the Heisman conversation.
Loser: The Kickers
It seems like every week college football kickers are getting worse. That was on full display this week.
There were kicks missed in big games everywhere.
Whether it was the mixed extra point by Tyler Bitancurt of West Virginia or the missed field goals in Stanford-Oregon, Rutgers-Cincinnati or USC-UCLA, the kickers were just awful on Saturday.
Kicking continues to be a major problem for a lot of talented teams.
Winner: Ryan Nassib
The Syracuse senior quarterback continues to improve his draft stock. He is rising fast and certainly helped himself in leading the Orange to a comeback win at Missouri.
His 17-yard touchdown pass to Alec Lemon with 20 seconds remaining gave Syracuse the 31-27 win and also bowl eligibility.
Nassib finished 26-of-40 for 385 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
There is no question that he is one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft.
Loser: West Virginia
Another week and another gut-wrenching loss for West Virginia. Despite scoring 49 points and leading in the final minute, the Mountaineers still manged to lose their fifth straight game.
West Virginia put up some gaudy offensive numbers, with 778 total yards. Quarterback Geno Smith passed for 320 yards and four touchdowns.
The big story for the Mountaineers was Tavon Austin. He not only did it on special teams, but carried the ball 21 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 82 yards.
Wide receiver Stedman Bailey caught 13 passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns.
Still, in the end, it was not enough.
Winner: Landry Jones
Talk about a performance. Landry Jones put on a show in Morgantown, passing for 554 yards and six TDs.
He completed 38-of-51 passes and led the game-winning drive, hitting Kenny Stills with 24 seconds remaining to give Oklahoma the 50-49 victory.
It was a game the Sooners needed to remain in contention for a BCS bowl berth. They did just enough to come out with a victory, as Jones proved he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Loser: The Only Winless Team
There is only one team at the FBS level who still has not won a game. That team is Southern Miss, and the Golden Eagles were so close to getting that victory on Saturday night against UTEP.
Southern Miss scored a touchdown with just under three minutes remaining and attempted a two-point conversion to win the game.
The attempt failed and now Southern Miss only has one more chance for a W.
A road game looms at Memphis next Saturday.
Winner: Baylor Bears
The Baylor Bears dominated Kansas State from start to finish en route to the stunning 52-24 upset victory. Simply put, the Wildcats were never in the game.
The Bears finished with 580 yards of total offense and held Collin Klein in check, particularly on the ground.
While the win only improved Baylor to 5-5, it does give the Bears a legitimate shot at bowl eligibility. It was easily one of the biggest upsets of the season.
Loser: Collin Klein and Kansas State
Kansas State not only lost its national title hopes, but Collin Klein might have seen his Heisman hopes dashed as well.
The senior quarterback only rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He did throw for 286 yards with two scores, but threw three interceptions and never got in a rhythm.
The loss was reminiscent of Oklahoma State's late-season upset loss to Big-12 rival Iowa State last season that spoiled its unbeaten season. Saturday's Kansas State loss knocks the Big 12 out of the national title picture.
Winner: Stanford Cardinal Defense
Nobody could have imagined Stanford limiting the Oregon offense to 14 points. That is exactly what they did, and the Cardinal came out on top in a game in which they were 21-point underdogs.
A 17-14 overtime victory has jumped Stanford right back into the BCS conversation, and a win over UCLA in the season finale will put the Cardinal in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Stanford overcame three turnovers and still won on the road against the team many considered to be the best in the country.
Loser: The Oregon Offense
There is no question that the biggest disappointment of the night was the Oregon offense. The group had been leading the country in points per game, but was held to 14 by the Stanford defense.
Kenjon Barner and the Oregon rushing attack could not get anything going as they were held to 198 yards rushing on 40 attempts.
Those are not bad numbers, but not what Oregon is used to—particularly from Barner, who rushed for only 66 yards on 21 carries.
This was certainly a day the Oregon faithful would soon like to forget.
Winner: Notre Dame and Its Fans
While plenty of teams pulled off major upsets, there is no doubt that the biggest winner of the night was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
With Kansas State and Oregon both going down, Notre Dame will now find itself No. 1 in the BCS standings. A win over USC in the season finale and the Fighting Irish will (likely) be in the national championship against the SEC winner.
Not even the biggest Notre Dame homers could have expected that when they woke up Saturday morning.
Loser: Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is not a loser for anything it has done on the field, but its players and fans are now realizing they would be in contention for a national championship if not for NCAA sanctions.
If eligible, the Buckeyes would likely be either No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS standings. Urban Meyer and his group will have to wait at least another season for their BCS dreams to come true.
Winner: The SEC
The SEC has come away this week looking as good as ever. If Notre Dame somehow gets knocked off by USC, there will likely be two SEC teams in the national championship game once again.
With Alabama and Georgia slated to play for the SEC championship, the winner would go, along with Florida if the Gators can get by Florida State.
Who would have thought that was possible a week ago?
Loser: The SEC Haters
Those SEC haters must have a sick feeling in their stomach. With what happened this weekend, the SEC is in a better position than it was at this time last season.
All the SEC haters might be extra quiet this week. There is once again a strong possibility of two SEC teams meeting in the BCS National Championship Game.