Winners and Losers from Week 14 of College Football
When this Iron Bowl was billed as the best game in the long history of the rivalry, it smelled a bit of media puffery—especially when No. 1 Alabama was tabbed as a 10-point favorite over No. 4 Auburn on the road.
As it turned out, the college football media was right—and Las Vegas oddsmakers were wrong—as this year's tilt on The Plains will go down as one of the most incredible finishes, and wire-to-wire games, not just in Iron Bowl history, but ever in the sport.
Auburn returned a missed field goal the length of the field to knock Alabama out of the national title game, a result that perfectly encapsulated the wild and crazy 2013 season that has been. The Tigers' win will have long-reaching consequences throughout the BCS, as will several other results from Week 14.
Numerous coaches were fighting for their jobs over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and even more teams were battling for conference titles and BCS berths.
From Auburn to Seattle, and from Fort Worth to Chapel Hill, college football's Week 14 was the best of a season that has delivered an incredible show.
Click on to see who triumphed and who stumbled through the final full week of the 2013 campaign.
Winner: Dan Mullen
Remember when Dak Prescott showed up in the fourth quarter and the Bulldogs won the Egg Bowl?
It's something Dan Mullen will surely never forget.
It was a popular belief that the Mississippi State boss was coaching for his job in the Egg Bowl. If the Bulldogs had lost, they would be ineligible for a bowl with two straight losses in their only must-win game on the schedule against Ole Miss.
It looked like the coaching search was about to start in Starkville, as MSU trailed in the fourth quarter with third-string quarterback Damian Williams at the helm.
Then Prescott entered the game and gave the Dawgs new life. MSU tied the game at 10 with less than three minutes left and nearly won it at the end of regulation, but a missed field goal sent it into overtime.
Mullen's job teetered on the edge on 4th-and-1 in extra time, but he rolled the dice as if he had nothing to lose, and Prescott delivered, barreling in for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Afterward, Mullen spoke on the "miraculous recovery" made by Prescott, who was only cleared the day of the game, courtesy of OleMissSports.com:
It was pretty amazing. Dr. Schoals from Nashville had flown in before the game to check (Prescott) out. I talked to my wife today and told her that there’s no chance he’s playing. Dr. Schoals came in and said, ‘I saw him two weeks ago and thought he’d be lucky to play in a bowl game.’
He came in today and said, ‘I’ve never seen it before. It must be a miraculous recovery.’ He was getting updates and reports. He said it must be a miracle. He said he was going to clear him to go play in the game.
Prescott asked Mullen to be put in the game in the fourth quarter and the decision paid off. As MSU escaped with a 17-10 Egg Bowl win, Mullen escaped with a new lease on life.
Loser: Fresno State
Fresno State's BCS hopes are finished.
The Bulldogs had fallen behind Northern Illinois in the BCS standings, but wins over San Jose State and Utah State to close the season could've closed that gap.
Now, all of that is irrelevant. The Dogs fell 62-52 in a shootout to the Spartans, taking them out of the BCS conversation.
It certainly wasn't the fault of star quarterback Derek Carr, who finished 38-of-50 for 519 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He was barely outdueled by SJSU's David Fales, who tallied 547 yards and six touchdowns without a pick.
However, the fault here falls on the Fresno defense, which was ripped for 736 total yards. SJSU converted 11 third downs in 16 tries.
As Carr relayed afterward, Fresno was distraught after its loss, but will focus on winning the Mountain West title, per Jason Clay of GoBulldogs.com:
Guys are tore up, as well they should be. This will be easier to put [behind us] because we are playing for our No. 1 goal, and that's a conference championship. It's so hard to win every game, it really is.
Although the Dogs are out of the running for a BCS berth, they will still take on Utah State for the MWC title next week.
Winners: Bowling Green and Northern Illinois
While Northern Illinois took one step closer to earning a BCS berth with the loss by Fresno State, it also learned its opponent for the Mid-American title game.
NIU had already clinched the MAC West and closed its regular season with a win over Western Michigan. To make that win sweeter, Jordan Lynch tallied 321 rushing yards to break his own NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a game.
Meanwhile, Bowling Green bested Buffalo in the de facto MAC East title game Friday to earn its berth. The Falcons defense stepped up and silenced the Bulls offense, holding it to just 236 total yards in a 24-7 win.
That defensive unit will face a whole new challenge in stopping Lynch and Northern Illinois for the MAC title.
BGSU would love to play spoiler and knock NIU out of the BCS, but the Huskies won't be an easy out.
Winners: Rice and Marshall
As Bowling Green and Northern Illinois are set for the MAC title game, Rice and Marshall each won to seal spots in the Conference USA Championship Game.
Marshall blasted East Carolina, 59-28, behind 539 total yards and three forced turnovers to win the de facto C-USA East title game.
Shortly after, Rice held off a late Tulane rally to post a 17-13 win and take the C-USA West. After the victory, Owls head coach David Bailiff lauded the effort of his defense, per RiceOwls.com:
I'm so proud of how our defense played, to not give up a first down in the first half. They (Tulane) had 26 yards rushing on the game. The game ball goes to the defense. Coach (Chris) Thurmond and his staff did a magnificent job. Not only was there a good game plan, we had some great effort tonight out of the defensive line and how our corners locked those receivers up. Phillip Gaines and Bryce Callahan played a big-time game and locked those receivers down.
The league title game will feature an excellent matchup between the Owls defense, which held Tulane to just 123 total yards Saturday, and the explosive Thundering Herd offense.
The two will square off on Saturday at noon EST. The site is still yet to be determined. Whichever squad is higher in Sunday's BCS standings will play host.
Loser: Brady Hoke
Michigan saved its best effort for the final game of the season.
The Wolverines, after a rough 11 games, had archrival Ohio State on the ropes and were just a few feet away from a season-saving upset.
Quarterback Devin Gardner hit tight end Devin Funchess for a touchdown with just 32 seconds left on the clock, bringing U-M to within one point, 42-41.
Head coach Brady Hoke made a gutsy call to go for the two-point conversion. As brave as the decision was, it was also understandable for a team with nothing to lose.
However, Hoke's bravado wasn't rewarded. Gardner, who finished with 451 passing yards and four touchdowns, was intercepted on the two-point try.
Two UM leaders, linebacker Jake Ryan and Gardner, both voiced their support for Hoke's decision afterward, per MGoBlue.com:
"It's a game. We want to win. I mean, that's what we were thinking. That's what Coach Hoke was thinking, and we're always going to stick with him," Ryan said.
"Coach asked us if we wanted to go for it and everybody said yes," Gardner said. "We ran a two-point play we've run in practice, and they got a jump on it and intercepted the ball."
With five losses in the last seven games, Hoke and the Wolverines will have to move on to a bowl after a regular season lost in Ann Arbor.
Winner: Will Muschamp
No, Will Muschamp didn't do the impossible and lead his team to an upset of No. 2 Florida State.
Foley met with the media before UF's 37-7 loss to FSU, saying he was compelled by all the outside noise to confirm Muschamp's status as the head coach in Gainesville.
The UF AD called the season unacceptable, but also expressed confidence in Muschamp's ability to right the ship:
I have total confidence in coach Muschamp. I've made that very, very clear. You know, gotta fix some things and you know when you have seasons like this, that's what you do. You evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don't panic.
Obviously, it's not acceptable. It's not who we are. It's not what we're about. We're confident we can fix it.
The good news: Muschamp will have some extra time to recruit and work toward next season, as Florida's 2013 campaign is over.
Winner: Bo Pelini
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini invited the school's administration to fire him after his team was clubbed, 38-17, by Iowa at home on Friday.
However, athletic director Shawn Eichorst turned down the invitation. He released a statement Saturday, as reported by ESPN's Mitch Sherman, affirming his support for Pelini:
My approach has always been not to comment publicly about our coaches until their full seasons are complete, as I strongly believe it is unfair and counter to best practices. However, given the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture about our head football coach, I want to reaffirm what I have said many times since I arrived at the University of Nebraska—that I positively respect, appreciate and support our football student-athletes, coaches and staff, as we do everyone in the Husker family.
We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future.
Pelini has been under fire all season long, particularly after the release of a profanity-laden audio tape on which he was extremely critical of the Cornhusker fanbase. After the recent loss to Iowa, Pelini confidently welcomed his firing.
"They want to fire me, go ahead," he said Friday, per Sherman. "I believe in what I've done. I don't apologize for what I've done. I don't apologize to you. I don't apologize to anybody."
Lucky for Pelini, he really doesn't have anything to be sorry for—at least, according to Eichorst.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has received college football's royal treatment this season.
Praise in the papers, Gatorade baths and now a ride off the field on his players' shoulders—and it has all been deserved.
The Blue Devils edged rival North Carolina, 27-25, on Saturday to win the ACC Coastal Division title and clinch a spot in the conference title game against Florida State.
The win was No. 10 for Duke—the first double-digit win season in school history.
Quarterback Anthony Boone led the way for Duke with 274 passing yards and two touchdowns. Afterward, he lauded the job done by his coach in turning the once-downtrodden program around, per the Associated Press (via ESPN):
"He's the first one to really come here when the team was in the dumps and say, `I'm going to change this program around,'" Boone said of Cutcliffe. "And people were laughing at him. It all goes back to him."
Duke nearly blew a nine-point second-half lead, but kicker Ross Martin booted what proved to be a game-winning 27-yard field goal in the final three minutes.
DeVon Edwards, who also had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, sealed the deal with an interception shortly after Martin's game-winner.
Duke and FSU will kick off Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.
Loser: Washington State and Oregon State
With nine Pac-12 teams eligible for only seven bowl berths, Oregon State and Washington State were both in need of wins against their rivals Friday to boost their resumes.
Wazzu fell 27-17 in Seattle to Washington, as its offense mustered just 326 total yards in the loss. Afterward, Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday acknowledged WSU's unenviable position, per Washington State Athletics:
Definitely frustrating. I’m real close with the seniors on this team, so it sucks to go out this way. Just a tough loss all the way around.
You definitely want to take (the bowl bid) out of chance’s hand, but we weren’t able to do that. We’ll see what happens.
OSU looked like it was going to pull the upset of Oregon, but the Ducks rallied late, notching a touchdown in the final 30 seconds to pull out a 36-35 victory.
Now, OSU and WSU each sit at 6-6, with their bowl status in question.
The Beavers are riding a five-game losing streak, and the Cougars haven't been to a bowl since 2003, making them both questionable selections.
It's in the hands of the bowl brass now.
The cardiac Knights struck again.
UCF, the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference, put its BCS hopes in jeopardy yet again against a team with just two wins on the season, but escaped.
The Knights nearly lost to Temple (2-10) earlier this month but miraculously won, 39-36. This time, they were trailing South Florida (2-9) in the final five minutes but came back to win, 23-20.
This victory wasn't as dramatic as the one over the Owls, but it was still far too close for comfort. Nonetheless, UCF won when quarterback Blake Bortles connected with Breshad Perriman for a 52-yard touchdown pass in the final frame, putting it one win away from a BCS berth.
UCF clinched at least a share of the AAC title and will be going BCS bowling with a Cincinnati loss or a victory of its own against Southern Methodist to close the regular season.
Six of Central Florida's 10 wins have come by just one possession. But, as they say, a win is a win, and UCF is moving toward its first BCS berth.
A nine-game losing streak to close the season wasn't exactly what Bret Bielema had envisioned for his first season at Arkansas.
It looked like the Razorbacks would close an otherwise failed 2013 campaign with a momentous upset of rival LSU. The Hogs, holding a 27-24 lead, had the Tigers pinned down to their own 1-yard line for their final drive.
Starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger was out of the game for LSU, making their chances even brighter. However, freshman backup Anthony Jennings led the Tigers out from the shadow of their goalpost and hit receiver Travin Dural on a 49-yard touchdown pass to put LSU ahead, 31-27.
Arkansas had no answer, ending its season in sadness. Afterward, Bielema let out nine losses worth of emotion, per ESPN:
I'm numb. I'm frustrated and wanted to have some good feelings heading into the offseason. I just wanted to give these seniors that Golden Boot trophy and see them run across the field. I wanted to see them celebrate. I wanted our guys to taste it.
While the close result might show promise for the future, the Hogs are still left with a bitter taste in their mouth moving on to the offseason.
Winners: Texas and Baylor
Ahead of their Dec. 7 battle, Baylor and Texas kept their hopes for the Big 12 title and a BCS berth alive.
The Longhorns rolled Texas Tech, 41-16, on Thursday behind a strong defensive effort to move to 8-3 and 7-1 in league play. Head coach Mack Brown was pleased with the performance of his players, via TexasSports.com:
Proud of our guys. Proud for our seniors. The guys worked really hard the last six practices leading into this ballgame to be physical on both sides of the ball.
Proud of our team. Proud of the way they fought. A lot of guys are banged up. End of the year. At least they've given themselves an opportunity to go to Waco and play for a championship.
The road was much rougher for the Bears, who had to hold off a second-half rally from upset-minded TCU to pull out a 41-38 victory. The BU offense still wasn't quite back to full form, though running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin both returned to action.
The two will meet next Saturday in Waco, with the winner clinching at least a share of the league crown.
For a BCS berth, that winner will need Oklahoma State to fall to Oklahoma next Saturday.
There will be no three-peat.
When AJ McCarron hit Amari Cooper on a 99-yard touchdown pass to put Alabama ahead 28-21, the Crimson Tide looked to be on their way to Pasadena for the national title game—with McCarron perhaps on his way to the Heisman Trophy podium.
But just as it looked like the Tide would close out the win, the Tigers struck back. Nick Marshall found Sammie Coates for a 39-yard touchdown strike to tie the game with 32 seconds left on the clock.
At this point, the game seemed destined for overtime. Alabama made one last-ditch effort at a game-winning field goal from 57 yards out. And even as Adam Griffith's attempt fell short, overtime seemed certain.
But Auburn's Chris Davis, normally known as its leading tackler and pass defender, was there to change the college football landscape. The senior caught Griffith's field goal attempt with his heels just short of the back of the end zone, darted out and sliced up to the left, tiptoeing along the sideline. From there, he cut back toward the middle of the field where only blue shirts remained.
As Davis crossed into the end zone, Alabama's national and SEC title hopes disappeared with an astonishing 34-28 loss.
It is my responsibility. I think our coaches did a great job this year with this team. We just did not make the plays when we needed to make them on third and fourth down today to get this chance to win. I think you have to give Auburn's players a lot of credit. They have had a great season. They played a great game. They made the plays they needed to make today and that is probably the difference in this ballgame.
One miracle just wasn't enough for Auburn.
Two weeks after the Tigers topped Georgia on an incredible tipped touchdown pass, they shocked the college football world by beating top-ranked Alabama, 34-28.
For that, the Tigers can thank not only cornerback Chris Davis for his stunning return, but also running back Tre Mason, who galloped for 164 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Quarterback Nick Marshall had an excellent day as well, finishing 11-of-16 passing with 196 total yards and three total touchdowns.
Credit also goes out to the Auburn defense, which bent but didn't break under the offensive pressure from Alabama. The Tigers held the Tide to just four third-down conversions in 13 tries.
As head coach Gus Malzahn alluded to afterward, Auburn played well in all three phases of the game, resulting in the W, per AuburnTigers.com:
First of all I'm very proud of our team. We talked about that we wanted to keep it close, and if we could get it to the fourth quarter playing at home with our crowd we would find a way to win. Second week in a row that we won on a last play sort of thing. Real proud of our team. They've gotten better each week. I think we are playing our best, and we beat a very good football team tonight. Very good defensively, very good offensively, very good on special teams and our guys found a way to win. I'm very proud of our team.
The win put AU in the SEC title game and at least in the conversation for a national title berth.
Wisconsin's game was lost in the midday shuffle, outshadowed by the Iron Bowl. Also lost in the shuffle were the Badgers' BCS hopes.
UW collapsed in the second half at home against Penn State, falling 31-24. The Badgers picked a bad game to have one of their worst rushing outputs of the season.
After averaging nearly 300 yards per game on the ground heading into the week, Wisconsin was held to just 120 rushing yards.
PSU had huge days from its usual contributors. Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg finished 21-of-30 for 339 yards and four touchdowns, finding top target Allen Robinson eight times for 122 yards. Running back Zach Zwinak amassed 115 yards off 22 carries.
After falling behind 14-7 early, PSU posted 24 unanswered points to take the victory and finish the season at 7-5. Meanwhile, UW fell to 9-3, its BCS hopes crushed.
Winner: Ohio State
Ohio State was on the bus heading back from its thrilling 42-41 win over Michigan watching the Iron Bowl on a few small, grainy television screens.
It wasn't a 65-inch LED, but the Buckeyes saw all they needed to see, causing an eruption on the highway.
The Buckeyes needed either Alabama or Florida State to go down to give them a shot at a national title berth. That didn't look promising with UA and FSU both playing at an elite level, but college football happened.
Now, OSU has a shot.
Of course, with the BCS, nothing is promised. The ranking system could still slot Auburn ahead of OSU, but the Buckeyes hopes are much brighter than they were a week ago.
Ohio State has to keep up its end of the bargain as well. The Buckeyes will take on Michigan State for the Big Ten title on Dec. 7.
Winner: Florida State
Call it coincidence, but on the same day Florida State was set up to move to No. 1 in the polls, it saw a huge day from its wide receiver wearing a No. 1 jersey.
One of the many beneficiaries from Alabama's loss, the Seminoles will rise to the top spot, where they will stand just one win away from a national title berth.
While Auburn did its part, FSU also held up its end of the bargain, dominating Florida 37-7 in The Swamp to move to 12-0, thanks to a huge day from Kelvin Benjamin.
It wasn't the prettiest performance for the 'Noles, who had to overcome a slow start in Gainesville. However, after a rough first frame, Jameis Winston and Benjamin caught fire.
Winston finished 19-of-31 for 327 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He connected with Benjamin nine times for 212 yards and all three of the touchdowns.
His competitiveness is ridiculous. He's a competitor. Nothing fazes that guy. He thrives on that. ... The guy's ability to learn and process information is what puts him over the top. He can think. He understands what he's doing at all times. And when he makes a mistake, he can come off and tell you exactly why he did it, what he did or didn't do right.
Florida State will meet up with Duke on Dec. 7 in Charlotte for the ACC title game.
Winners: Todd Gurley and Georgia
Quarterback Aaron Murray has been the hero all season long for Georgia, but the senior was out of commission for the Bulldogs' rivalry tilt with Georgia Tech, putting the onus on someone else to step up.
Not surprisingly, that savior was UGA's star running back Todd Gurley.
The sophomore standout notched four total touchdowns, including one in the fourth quarter and two in overtime as the Dawgs pulled out a dramatic 41-34 comeback win in double overtime.
UGA fell behind 20-0 in the second quarter, but Gurley notched a nine-yard touchdown reception to put his team on the board before the half. Georgia outscored the Yellow Jackets 27-7 after Gurley's first TD to force overtime.
In overtime, UGA wouldn't be stopped behind Gurley. The Tarboro, N.C., native punched in a six-yard score and tallied a 25-yard touchdown dash in the second overtime to give the Dawgs the victory.
It has been a trying season in Athens, but Gurley's heroic effort sweetened an otherwise sour 2013 regular season.
With their fate in their own hands, the pressure was all on the Tigers in the final two weeks of the season.
Missouri was set to take on two ranked SEC foes, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, and just one loss would take the SEC East title out of Columbia, Mo., and send it to Columbia, S.C.
While South Carolina and countless outsiders were waiting for the Tigers to fail, they didn’t. Mizzou owned the moment, topped the Rebels and the Aggies, and won the SEC East.
The Tigers silenced Johnny Manziel and the explosive A&M offense in a 28-21 win Saturday night to seal their date with Auburn in an SEC title matchup that exactly zero people on the planet predicted before the season.
The Tigers benefited from timely performances from all of their usual contributors. Quarterback James Franklin threw for 233 yards, ran for another 80 and hooked up with both his two favorite targets, L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, for touchdowns.
Junior running back Henry Josey delivered the game-winning touchdown, a 57-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, to lock up Mizzou’s trip to Atlanta.
The two Tigers will meet next Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC crown.
Losers: South Carolina and Clemson
South Carolina and Clemson both took critical blows to their BCS hopes Saturday.
The Tigers lost to the Gamecocks, 31-17. The final score is especially harmful to CU, as a close result would’ve been beneficial to its BCS resume.BCS bowl committees will now have to think twice about selecting a Clemson squad that turned the ball over six times and posted a disconcerting dud in a rivalry game.
Meanwhile, USC delivered a big win, but as Missouri topped Texas A&M, the Gamecocks’ hopes for a BCS berth were eradicated. In addition to the six takeaways, South Carolina got a great performance from quarterback Connor Shaw, who accounted for 246 total yards and two touchdowns.
As strong as the Gamecocks have been, they still have three SEC teams ahead of them—Mizzou, Auburn and Alabama—all vying for a maximum of two BCS berths.
Both of the rivals had great seasons, as they each finished the regular season at 10-2, but they also both had national and conference title hopes that fell short.
Winner: Arizona State
The night couldn’t have been much sweeter for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils crushed rival Arizona, 58-21. The win gave them the hosting bid for the Pac-12 title game ahead of Stanford.
ASU did it without star running back Marion Grice, but D.J. Foster performed well in his stead, tallying 24 yards and two touchdowns off 23 carries.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly also had a strong day, completing 13 of 25 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, the ASU defense intercepted Arizona’s B.J. Denker three times.
UA running back Ka’Deem Carey tallied 157 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, but it wasn’t enough to make up for his team’s four turnovers.
The Wildcats fell to 7-5, while the Sun Devils improved to 10-2. They’ll now play host to Stanford on Dec. 7.
Losers: Ed Orgeron and USC
The latest chapter in the tremendous tale of Ed Orgeron and USC wasn’t as vibrant as the previous ones.
The Trojans failed to add another feel-good story to Orgeron’s tome, as they fell flat in a 35-14 loss to rival UCLA.
The Bruins led from wire-to-wire as quarterback Brett Hundley, as well as their committee rushing attack, spearheaded the rout.
Hundley finished 18-of-27 passing for 208 yards, while also running 13 times for 80 yards and two scores—his second-best ground output of the season.
Running back Paul Perkins, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes each added rushing scores as well. Jack also tacked on a fumble recovery for one of two UCLA takeaways on the day.
USC benefited from a strong performance from running back Javorius Allen, who netted 123 rushing yards and a score, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Bruins.
The Trojans now await a bowl invite. Assuming a decision isn't made before, it will be Orgeron's last chance to impress before the Trojans choose a permanent head coach.