Winners and Losers from College Football Week 14
The final weekend of the college football season is nearly complete, and what an exciting few days it has been.
All of the drama began Thursday night with the Big East, and it will finish up tonight in the ACC and Big Ten.
There have already been overtime thrillers and last-minute finishes. Did we mention the SEC title game?
As always, there are teams that rose up to the occasion and others that fell flat on their faces.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 14.
Winner: Louisville Cardinals
The Louisville Cardinals came back Thursday night to knock off Rutgers 20-17 in what turned out to be the Big East title game.
Despite trailing 14-3 at halftime, the Cardinals came out strong in the second half and won the game on a 29-yard field goal with under two minutes remaining.
The victory forced a tie atop the Big East standings, but the Cardinals have the advantage in the tiebreaker and will likely be headed to the Orange Bowl.
After losing two straight games, head coach Charlie Strong regrouped his team, and it picked up a huge road win to close out the regular season.
Loser: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Few teams had a more disappointing finish to the regular season than Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights lost their final two games of the year, including a heartbreaker against Louisville.
The home game was a chance for Rutgers to win the conference outright. That did not happen, as Rutgers fell 20-17.
Perhaps the turning point in the game was a fake field goal that went for a touchdown. The score would have put Rutgers up 21-3, but was instead called back because of an illegal man downfield.
Turnovers were once again the Achilles' heel for Rutgers, as it committed three of them, including two very late in the game.
Winner: Teddy Bridgewater
There might not be an individual winner this week as big as Teddy Bridgewater.
The sophomore quarterback came into the season finale against Rutgers with a broken non-throwing hand. He then sustained a severe ankle injury.
None of that mattered as he led the Cardinals in a come-from-behind victory over Rutgers.
Bridgewater finished the game 20-of-28 for 263 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The win was big for Bridgewater for more reasons than one.
He led his team to the Big East championship and a BCS bowl game, but maybe biggest of all, he will be returning home to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl.
What a night it was for Bridgewater.
Loser: The MAC
There was a legitimate chance for the Mid-American Conference to steal a BCS bowl bid if Kent State would have knocked off Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game.
It was not to be, as Northern Illinois prevailed in double overtime, 44-37. What a day it would have been if the MAC stole a BCS berth from a team like Oklahoma.
However, Northern Illinois came out on top.
While there is still a shot for the Huskies to jump up five spots in the national rankings and qualify for a BCS bowl game, that is not likely to happen.
Tough break for everybody associated with the MAC, except Northern Illinois fans, of course.
Winner: Jordan Lynch
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch finally got a chance to showcase his talents on a national stage Friday night. He certainly did not disappoint.
The junior completed 19 of 34 passes for 212 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also carried the ball 36 times for 160 yards.
Those rushing yards allowed him to pass Denard Robinson for most yards ever by a quarterback.
Not many people have heard much about Lynch, but he is one of the best in the country. He might be a household name next season.
Maybe even a Heisman contender.
Loser: UCLA Bruins
UCLA had not one, but two shots to beat Stanford over a six-day period and failed on both occasions.
The Bruins were much better in the second meeting, but still came up short, falling 27-24.
They were minutes away from a berth in the Rose Bowl but will instead have to settle for much less. Even though running back Johnathan Franklin was impressive with 194 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, it was not enough in the end.
Tough week for UCLA and head coach Jim Mora Jr.
Winner: Kevin Hogan and the Stanford Cardinal
Not too many freshmen have been thrown into a starting role like Hogan has midway through a season and excelled quite like he has.
The quarterback has now orchestrated five straight Cardinal victories to close out the regular season, including four straight against top-16 teams.
The 27-24 victory over UCLA on Friday night in the Pac-12 Championship Game was the culmination of the past month.
Hogan has been the difference for Stanford and is the primary reason the Cardinal will find themselves in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
Who would have expected that to be the case at the beginning of November?
Loser: Oklahoma State Defense
Everybody knew that this was going to be a high scoring game, but most figured the Baylor Bears defense would have a little more trouble slowing down the Cowboys.
That was not the case on Saturday, as Baylor completed another successful end to its season with a 41-34 win over Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys defense allowed 615 yards, including an astounding 320 on the ground. There was no answer for the Bears offensive attack.
Oklahoma State will now stumble into bowl season 7-5 having lost two straight. Not a good way to end the regular season for Mike Gundy and his squad.
Winner: Lache Seastrunk and the Baylor Offense
As mentioned, the Baylor offense had no trouble putting points on the board against Oklahoma State, and that was due in large part to running back Lache Seastrunk.
The sophomore carried the ball 16 times for 179 yards and a 76-yard touchdown that was one of the best we have seen all season.
As Seastrunk broke away, he had an apparent leg injury. Instead of falling to the ground, he hobbled his way into the end zone and scored just before the defense caught up to him.
That was the final dagger in the game, as it came with just over five minutes to go and gave Baylor a 41-27 lead at the time.
What a day it was in Waco for Seastrunk and the Bears.
Loser: Charlie Weis
Kansas completed its awful season with a 59-10 road loss against West Virginia. The loss was its 11th straight and capped off an 0-9 mark in league play.
While Charlie Weis is likely to get another season in Lawrence, he is going to have to do better in 2013 in order to keep his job.
The Jayhawks are not only the worst team in the Big 12, but are also one of the worst teams in the entire country.
Certainly a season to forget for Kansas.
Winner: Oklahoma's BCS Hopes
There are few teams who dodged more bullets this weekend than the Oklahoma Sooners.
After Northern Illinois defeated Kent State on Friday night, the Sooners' BCS hopes were still alive.
Oklahoma came out and knocked off TCU 24-17 to virtually lock up a BCS spot.
While there is still a lot to be decided tonight, Oklahoma is likely to either end up in the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl as it has clinched at least a share of the Big 12 title.
It was not thought likely heading into the weekend, but it appears a certainty that Oklahoma has earned a BCS bowl bid.
Loser: TCU at Home
Considering everything it had to go through this season, TCU did not do a bad job, finishing the season 7-5 and 4-5 in Big 12 play.
What is mind boggling is the 0-4 league mark the Horned Frogs posted at home.
Home losses to Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma are certainly not bad losses, but who would have expected the Horned Frogs to lose all four of those games?
Just winning two of those home games would have made for quite a season during its first in the Big 12.
Winner: The Big 12
There are only 10 teams in the Big 12, but nine of them are bowl eligible. It looks like two of those nine teams will be headed to BCS bowl games.
Having a league where 90 percent of teams qualify for a bowl game says enough.
From top to bottom, this is the most complete league in the country. While it might not have the top level talent of the SEC, there is no question that this is a very deep league.
It has been a great season for the Big 12, and it culminated with another nice day on Saturday.
Loser: Whoever Had to Witness Oregon State and Nicholls State
I know this game was a makeup from a rainout earlier in the season, but was it really necessary to play it at the end of the season?
Oregon State throttled lowly FCS school Nicolls State, 77-3. The win gives Oregon State a 9-3 overall record and dropped Nicolls State to 1-10.
It might have been better just to play a scrimmage and have fans come watch that.
Everybody, particularly those in attendance, would have been much better served if they had not seen this game.
Winner: Boise State's BCS Hopes
Even though a BCS berth is not likely, Boise State kept its slim hopes alive with a 27-21 victory over Nevada.
The Broncos improved their record to 10-2 and are sitting at No. 20 in the BCS rankings.
With losses by Kent State, Texas and UCLA, Boise State will need some help from the pollsters to jump ahead of Michigan.
While that is not likely to happen, this has still been another very successful season for the Broncos, despite all of the players lost from last season.
Loser: Connecticut Huskies
Needing only one more win to become bowl eligible, the Connecticut Huskies did not show up, losing 34-17 to Cincinnati.
Turnovers were the difference for Connecticut as the Huskies committed three and only forced one out of Cincinnati.
The Huskies were forced to play from behind for most of the day and that is not something they are built for. With only 36 yards rushing on 29 attempts, it was not a good day for the Connecticut rushing attack.
A week after going on the road and knocking off Louisville in triple-overtime, Connecticut played like it did earlier in the season.
Winner: Cincinnati Bearcats
The Cincinnati Bearcats went on the road and knocked off a Connecticut team who only needed one more win to become bowl eligible.
For the fourth time in the past five seasons, Cincinnati won at least a share of the Big East title. This time it was only a share of the crown as Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse are also staking claim to the title.
No other team from a BCS conference has won its league four of the past five seasons and the Bearcats are now one-win away from another 10-win season.
They are most likely headed to Charlotte to take on Duke in the Belk Bowl.
Loser: Georgia Bulldogs
What a gut-wrenching loss for the Georgia Bulldogs and its fanbase. Alabama scored the go-ahead touchdown with just over three minutes to go to take a 32-28 lead it would not relinquish.
While the loss was not a major surprise, what hurts the most is just how close Georgia was. The Bulldogs got inside the 10-yard line with 15 seconds remaining, but poor clock management was the downfall.
An Aaron Murray pass was caught by Chris Conley inside the five-yard line, but he was tackled and time ran out on the Bulldogs.
There is no team in the country that will have more trouble falling asleep than the Georgia Bulldogs and their fanbase.
Winner: Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama Crimson Tide did it again. It was not pretty but Nick Saban's bunch found a way to come out with a 32-28 victory over Georgia in the SEC title game.
They will now move on to face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game.
Alabama appeared to have it won on a Dee Milliner interception with less than a minute to go, but then it was ruled that the ball hit the ground.
Georgia drove inside the 10-yard line with 15 seconds to go, and it appeared Alabama was going to be upset.
Once again, the Crimson Tide pulled it out. What a game and what a win for Alabama.
Loser: Georgia's Clock Management
What ever happened to downing the ball?
If Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had spiked the ball, when Georgia got inside the 10-yard line and 15 seconds remained, the Bulldogs could have regrouped and had three shots into the end zone in the closing seconds.
They had no shot to get four plays off anyway, so wasting a down was not a big deal.
That last sequence will be living in the minds of the Georgia faithful all winter long. That was certainly tough to swallow.
Winner: Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon
Alabama struggled to move the ball in the early going, but when the Crimson Tide decided to make it a point to run the football, they started to move down the field.
The running back combination of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 334 yards on 45 carries with three touchdowns.
They were men among boys on Saturday afternoon and certainly the difference for the Crimson Tide.
The Alabama running back position continues to reload, and this year is no different. The duo was on full display in the SEC title game.
For this group, the next task will be the Notre Dame front seven.
Loser: South Florida Quarterbacks
This picture says it all as the South Florida Bulls completed another disappointing season. This one was worse than the others. The Bulls finished 3-9 and 1-6 in Big East play.
The troubles began early in the season, but really picked up when senior quarterback B.J. Daniels went down for the season.
Saturday night was the culmination of everything as South Florida ended up using tight end Evan Landi at the quarterback position due to multiple injuries.
This season could not come to an end sooner for the Bulls. A 27-3 loss at home against Pittsburgh sealed the deal.
Winner: The Bowl Eligible Pittsburgh Panthers
The Pittsburgh Panthers did the improbable, winning their final two games of the season. They are now headed to a bowl game after finishing the season 6-6.
For Pittsburgh, it was all about defense on Saturday night. The group held the South Florida Bulls to 115 total yards, including only six on the ground.
After the debacle against Notre Dame, followed up by the loss at Connecticut, it was hard to imagine Pittsburgh knocking off Rutgers and South Florida to close out the regular season.
That is precisely what they did and they are now going bowling somewhere.
Losers: Central Michigan Chippewas and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
With Georgia Tech being granted a waiver to become bowl eligible and Pittsburgh winning its final game of the season it is looking right now like Central Michigan and Western Kentucky will be kept out of bowl games despite being bowl eligible.
The Chippewas are sitting at 6-6 right now while the Hilltoppers are 7-5.
This is not uncommon as there are typically a few teams left out. However, two weeks ago, it looked like there would not be enough teams with winning records to fill all of the spots.
Tough break for these two schools.
Winner: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Even though Georgia Tech fell 21-15 to Florida State in the ACC title game, the Yellow Jackets were granted a waiver earlier this week, allowing them to participate in a bowl game at 6-7.
This is very similar to what happened with UCLA last year and Georgia Tech should consider itself lucky.
To their credit, the Yellow Jackets did not lay an egg against Florida State. The game was not quite as close as the final score indicates, but was not a blowout by any stretch of the imagination.
Georgia Tech did have a chance to win it in the closing minutes, but could not move the ball downfield through the air.
Loser: Nebraska Rush Defense
There are bad defensive games and then there is the effort the Nebraska Blackshirts put on in the Big Ten championship game.
The Wisconsin Badgers had their way with a Nebraska defense that simply could not slow down the Badgers rushing attack in a 70-31 loss.
It likely could have gotten much worse. Wisconsin had 643 total yards, including 542 on the ground, including an astounding 10 yards a carry.
So much for that Rose Bowl most Nebraska fans had thought was a guarantee heading into play on Saturday.
This display is still the most stunning result of the day.
Winner: Wisconsin Rushing Attack
Wisconsin has three very talented running backs and they were on full display in the Big Ten championship game.
The trio of Montee Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon combined for 526 yards and eight touchdowns on only 45 carries.
Did Montee Ball make a Heisman push? The senior rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.
The Badgers only needed to throw 10 passes the entire game.
It was an absolute beat down of epic proportions. One Nebraska or Wisconsin will not soon forget.
Loser: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame is certainly not a loser for anything it has done this weekend, but it might have been better served facing Georgia in the BCS National Championship game.
Alabama is a much more difficult matchup for the Notre Dame, as Georgia is much more turnover prone, something Notre Dame feasts off of.
The Alabama Crimson Tide can match Notre Dame up front and it will be hard for the Fighting Irish to put many points on the board against the very talented Alabama defense.
Notre Dame is the biggest winner this season, but not this week. They would have benefited from playing Georgia instead of Alabama.
Winner: Collin Klein and Kansas State
While he did not drastically improve his Heisman stock, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein did nothing to hurt his chances.
The senior quarterback completed 8-of-14 passes for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Once again he did it on the ground, rushing for 103 yards and two scores on 23 carries.
Kansas State rolled the Texas Longhorns 42-24 on its way to a Big 12 title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. Quite a day for Kansas State and the Big 12.