Studs and Duds from Week 14 in College Football
If Week 14 of the 2013 college football season didn't do it for you, you should probably give up on this whole "sports" thing. It isn't meant to be.
For everyone else, let's take Sunday to collectively appreciate what we just witnessed, from Ole Miss and Mississippi State kicking things off on Thanksgiving to the final set of night games on Saturday.
What an incredible slate rivalry week gave us, and somehow, the hype was exceeded by the action on the field.
Of course, while you'll read plenty of summarizing essays and articles about what a special turn this season has taken, none of it would be possible without players stepping up and making plays when their teams needed them the most.
Let's take a look at some of the studs and duds from Week 14.
All stats via ESPN
Stud: WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
After Florida fell to Georgia Southern 26-20 on Nov. 23rd, most fans probably figured the Gators stood zero chance against the mighty Florida State Seminoles.
But you never know what to expect in a rivalry game, and with so much at stake for Jimbo Fisher's team, seeing this one stay close wouldn't have been all that surprising. While quarterback Jameis Winston is often the player who stomps on opposing teams' hopes and dreams, it was his wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, who played that role in "The Swamp."
Benjamin, just a sophomore, had nine grabs for 212 yards and three touchdowns in the 'Noles' 37-7 win, which keeps them in prime position for a spot in the BCS championship game.
Given how poorly Florida has played this season, anything someone does against Will Muschamp's team doesn't look too impressive. But the Gators are still giving up just over 21 points per game, so what Benjamin did to help propel his team to a 12-0 regular-season record was pretty special.
Dud: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Without anything to play for, seeing Texas A&M come up short at Missouri isn't the most surprising story from Saturday. But the poor play of wide receiver Mike Evans is downright shocking.
Against the Tigers, Evans finished with four grabs for just eight total yards. Part of the reason he finds himself on this list is because of the enormous reputation he's built throughout the season. Evans already has five games with over 100 yards receiving, including two in which he topped the 275-yard mark.
Make no mistake about the sophomore wide receiver's talent, because he has tons of it and will be putting it to good use in the NFL someday. But in Saturday's game against a quality Missouri squad, Evans came up empty, and the Aggies suffered their fourth loss of the year.
Stud: QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Sort of lost in the craziness of Saturday was a pretty massive upset in the Big Ten, which featured Penn State topping Wisconsin, 31-24.
The ringleader of the Nittany Lions' effort, which came after a disheartening loss to Nebraska on Nov. 23rd, was quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The true freshman completed 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns without a pick on the road against a defense that had been giving up just under 15 points per game.
The Badgers were one of the hottest teams in the country, having won six straight before the loss. But Hackenberg showed yet again that his future is as bright as they come, and the Nittany Lions pulled off one of the more stunning victories of Week 14.
Dud: QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has had a wonderful career for the Tigers, and nothing that happened Saturday will change that fact. But fair or not, part of his legacy will revolve around his inability to beat South Carolina.
In a 31-17 loss to the Gamecocks, Boyd completed 19 of 27 passes for 225 yards, which is a decent line against a team giving up just 20 points per game. But he also threw two interceptions with zero touchdowns, and both turnovers were of the head-scratching variety in the fourth quarter.
Boyd did manage to score a touchdown on the ground, but he only totaled 16 rushing yards in the entire game. The result was a second loss on the season and, potentially, the end of any BCS dreams still remaining.
While you can't point fingers at Boyd alone, he didn't play well enough to lead his team to victory in one of its biggest games of the season, and that's enough to put him on the "duds" side of the list.
Stud: WR Josh Huff, Oregon
There's nothing quite like having a career game on Senior Day, which is exactly what Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff had in the Ducks' 36-35 nail-biter over Oregon State.
Huff, playing his last game in Autzen Stadium, caught nine passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with just 29 seconds left in the game. On that play, quarterback Marcus Mariota found Huff across the middle, but the ball was thrown slightly behind the senior.
Huff leaped into the air and caught the pass before falling onto his back to the sound of a roaring crowd. The catch won the game and ultimately helped the Ducks avoid what would have been a miserable December after dropping two previous games in November to Stanford and Arizona.
Now, Oregon remains in play for an at-large BCS bid thanks to a career day from its best receiver.
Dud: QB Casey Pachall, TCU
When a quarterback leads his team to a near-upset of a one-loss conference rival, you have to figure he played a darn good game. And at times in the Horned Frogs' 41-38 loss to Baylor, Casey Pachall did exactly that.
But if he's responsible for keeping the score close, he's also guilty for the loss. You see, Pachall completed 20 of 45 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns, which isn't terrible. But he also threw three interceptions, two of the "pick-six" variety. The first one gave the Bears a 10-point halftime lead, and the second extended that lead to 17 just into the third quarter.
On top of that, Pachall had his team down by just three points after a touchdown pass to begin the final quarter. But while the defense did its part in slowing down the scary Baylor offense, the offense was unable to even tie things up with a field goal.
You can't ever blame a loss solely on one player, and we won't do that here. But TCU did a lot of things well and was in position to win, and Pachall just couldn't make it happen.
Stud: CB Chris Davis, Auburn
A number of players made the 2013 Iron Bowl one of the most special games in college football history. Auburn's Tre Mason and Nick Marshall both played their tails off. For Alabama, quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper all had huge games.
And yet, it's Tigers senior cornerback Chris Davis whose name will be etched in stone until the end of time. It was Davis who stood under the goal post as Alabama attempted a game-winning 57-yard field goal, and it was Davis who caught the kick as it fell short, returning it 109 yards down the sideline to win the game.
As Yahoo's Pat Forde noted, only four times in the history of the sport has a player returned a field goal miss for a touchdown. And of course, it's never happened in walk-off fashion, not to mention in a game between two of the top teams in the country who also happen to be bitter rivals.
"This is going down in history," Davis said in Forde's piece. "This is one of the moments I'll tell my son about."
So yes, while the "stud" award could go to a number of players from either team, we're giving it to Davis, who made one of the most memorable plays you're ever likely to see.
Dud: QB B.J. Denker, Arizona
One week after torching the Oregon Ducks, Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker was unable to muster a similar effort in the Wildcats' 58-21 loss to Arizona State.
Denker, who had been slowly improving since a sluggish start to the 2013 season, completed just 15 of 30 attempts for 175 yards and three interceptions against the Sun Devils. While he also managed to run for 87 yards and a score, the fact remains that his turnovers allowed Todd Graham's team to run away with an easy victory and claim the Territorial Cup.
Plus, in an offense designed to utilize the quarterback's speed, piling up 50-100 yards per game on the ground isn't going to turn heads. After a stepping-stone win against the Ducks that seemed to legitimize the direction of Rich Rodriguez' program, Denker's performance in the blowout defeat was disappointing on every level.
Stud: RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
You could almost consider this "stud" slide an award to be split between Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, who both played huge roles in the Buckeyes' 42-41 victory over Michigan.
After all, Miller did have 286 yards of total offense to go along with five touchdowns. But we're giving the nod to Hyde, who bruised his way to 226 yards rushing and a touchdown in the victory.
His lone score broke a 35-35 tie and ultimately won the game. Typically when a running back has a big day on the ground, you can point to several long runs that boosted the stat line. However, Hyde's longest run was only 33 yards, meaning he consistently chunked off first-down yardage to sustain the Buckeyes' offense.
His next challenge will be going against a stout Michigan State defense, but if Hyde's recent string of performances is any indication, he'll be looking forward to delivering the first blow instead of taking it.
Dud: Minnesota Quarterbacks
We don't enjoy picking on one player from a losing team, so we're going to spread the blame to both Golden Gopher quarterbacks in Minnesota's 14-3 loss at Michigan State.
Your first indication that Jerry Kill's team failed to get much production from its signal-callers is the scoreboard, which shows a lone field goal for the visiting team. But the box score also backs up that notion.
Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner combined to complete just nine of 25 passes for 125 yards and two interceptions. And in an offense that has been known to utilize the quarterbacks' legs, the two managed just nine yards on the ground.
The result was an offense that gained just 249 total yards, and in a game where the defense allows two scores and only 324 yards of offense, that kind of effort from the quarterback spot is extremely disheartening.
Stud: RB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
Whether it's Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor or now Tyler Gaffney, Stanford always seems to have the very definition of a punishing, workhorse running back in its backfield.
Against a stout Notre Dame front seven, Gaffney carried the ball 33 times for 189 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal's 27-20 victory over the Fighting Irish, which helped secure another 10-win season.
Despite having nothing to play for (Stanford had a place in the Pac-12 championship game, win or lose), the Cardinal still managed to play their brand of football against Notre Dame, punishing Brian Kelly's team between the tackles for four quarters.
It was Gaffney leading the charge, and while this game may not be as memorable as his 45-carry, 157-yard performance against Oregon, it was just as important in helping Stanford maintain its growing reputation as one of the elite teams in the country.
Dud: Fresno State Defense
With a potential BCS bid up for grabs, Fresno State came up with 52 points in another dazzling offensive performance. Unfortunately, the defense gave up 62 points, and the Bulldogs left San Jose State with their first loss of the season.
While quarterback David Carr was throwing for 519 yards and six touchdowns, the defense was allowing Spartans' signal-caller David Fales to throw for 547 yards and six touchdowns of his own, with most of the damage coming in the first half.
When you have an elite offense, the defense isn't under as much pressure to get stops throughout the entire game, but you never expect that to equal giving up 62 points. The offense, which scored just 11 points in the second half, probably feels as though it could have done more.
But this one has to be pinned on the defense, which came up with an all-time awful performance, crushing the Bulldogs' chances of landing in a BCS bowl game.