Biggest Winners and Losers from College Football Week 14
Week 14 has settled some scores in college football. Conference championships have been put to rest and the bowl picture is becoming much clearer.
LSU secured their perfect season with a dominant performance over Georgia. Houston was manhandled by Southern Miss, West Virginia skimmed by South Florida and Oregon put UCLA out of their misery for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
In addition to those, Wisconsin and Michigan State dueled for the inaugural Big Ten championship, and the right to meet Oregon in Pasadena. Virginia Tech and Clemson held their rematch for the automatic bid to the Orange Bowl.
On top of all of that, there were a slew of Big 12 games going on this week since they don't have enough teams to hold a championship game this year.
Certainly, there were winners and losers on the field of play. However, who didn't even play, but "won" thanks to what happened this week?
Here's a look at the winners and losers of Week 14.
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I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't certain the Tigers would come away with a victory this week. It's not that I thought Georgia was necessarily a better team, but that I wondered if LSU would even bother showing up to play this game.
Yes, it's the SEC championship game, and winning the conference was undoubtedly one of the first goals on the Tigers' to-do list for the season. However, with a spot in the national championship game already locked up, it would have been hard to get motivated to do their best.
Plus, the only team LSU played with a truly stingy defense was Alabama, and they forced the Tigers into overtime. Georgia also has a stingy defense, and there was an argument that could have been made in favor of the Bulldogs having much more to win than the Tigers in that game.
However, LSU showed once again why they're the best team in the nation. They didn't just beat a fired-up Georgia team. No, they annihilated them 42-10.
After this performance, it really doesn't matter what happens on January 9, 2012. The Tigers have faced seven teams that were ranked at the time they met and came away victorious every single time.
Losers: Houston Cougars
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Yes, that's a photo of Southern Miss players on a Houston slide. That's the point.
Houston put together a 12-0 season heading into the Conference-USA championship game. They were ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings and were in prime position to grab a BCS bowl.
In the span of one afternoon, they lost the C-USA title and the BCS bowl berth when they were hammered by the Golden Eagles 49-28.
It wasn't even that close really. Southern Miss surrendered a touchdown late in the game, already celebrating a 49-21 lead with far too little time left for the Cougars to stage a comeback.
Now Houston will head back home to hear of the bowl pairings Sunday night and will have to spend the entire offseason thinking about what might have been.
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The Horned Frogs didn't just win their game this week. They did do that, throttling UNLV 56-9.
More than that though, they may have just gotten a spot in a BCS bowl.
That's far from a given as the Horned Frogs came into the week ranked No. 18. However, with Houston's demise, there becomes another open spot in the BCS pecking order, and the Horned Frogs might just get that vote.
It will all depend on how the BCS voters see this victory over the Rebels and how much additional boost they may give the Frogs for their earlier win over Boise State.
They could be "double winners" this week if the BCS decides to move them high enough in the rankings to potentially snag one of the big bowls of the season.
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Georgia had an opportunity to really shake things up. They got a shot at the No. 1 team in the nation and could have created some interesting questions in the BCS title race. They could have stolen away the SEC title. They could have earned their way to the Sugar Bowl.
They didn't do any of those things.
Despite jumping out to a 10-0 lead over the Tigers early, Georgia couldn't sustain the momentum and couldn't contain LSU's defense. Ultimately, the wear and tear started bleeding over to the defensive side of the ball and the Bulldogs couldn't do anything with the LSU machine.
When the clock struck zeroes, the Bulldogs saw 42-10 in LSU's favor. They saw the conference title torn away, and they saw any shot at a BCS bowl disappear in the confetti that blanketed the ground like snow.
Winner: RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
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Ball has exploded onto the Heisman scene the last few weeks. In truth, I'm not sure what took pundits so long to start paying attention to this guy.
I'm sure part of it had to do with Wisconsin's light out-of-conference schedule. There needed to be a big enough body of work against quality competition to draw a conclusion.
Well, sites like ESPN and CBSsports have Ball in with the front-runners of the Heisman Trophy race, and a few of their "experts" have even selected him as their trophy leader at the moment.
While that's all reason enough to consider Ball a winner this week, his performance in the Big Ten championship game may just seal the deal for the Wisconsin runner.
In just the first half, Ball had 16 carries for 107 yards with two touchdowns.
With Trent Richardson and Andrew Luck done until their respective bowl games, Ball took great advantage of the opportunity to show why he's the guy to bring home the hardware.
Losers: The Pac-12 Conference
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This was an historic year. As with the Big Ten, the Pac-12 welcomed in the era of divisions and played their first conference championship game.
It should have been something spectacular.
Instead, the whole thing was something of a sham.
The two best teams (Oregon and Stanford) were part of the same division. USC could have made an interesting opponent for the Ducks in the conference title game, but since they're still under suspension and aren't allowed to play in post-season competition, the fans were treated to Oregon vs...UCLA?
The best the conference could come up with as an opponent for the mighty Ducks was a 6-6 Bruins team that was blasted by 4-8 Arizona and dropped to USC 50-0 just a week ago.
Was there any doubt what the outcome of the game was going to be?
While the Big Ten is busy showcasing two teams with identical records, who battled fiercely earlier in the season, the Pac-12 got a cake-walk for a championship game.
Winner: Georgia Coach Mark Richt
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Sure, his Bulldogs were outclassed by LSU in the SEC championship game to the tune of 42-10. It wasn't necessarily his finest hour.
However, remember the heat under Richt's seat coming into the season? Remember how much hotter it got after the Bulldogs lost to Boise State to open the season?
Richt has had solid recruiting classes and has always seemed to be a step behind the curve in coaching that talent into true SEC contenders. There were rumblings throughout the nation that Richt needed to go before Georgia could get on to winning conference titles.
His seat should be pretty cool about now.
While his team still hasn't won the SEC title, they did put together a string of 10 straight wins and won the East Division. On top of that, losing to LSU isn't exactly shameful this year. Everyone has.
If he can come back next year with a nine-win (or better) season, he'll be sitting on ice.
Loser: QB Case Keenum, Houston
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It wasn't all that long of a shot for Case Keenum to potentially win the Heisman Trophy. His seasonal stats are phenomenal.
Keenum has 534 attempts with 383 completions (71.7 percent) for 5,099 yards, 45 touchdowns and five interceptions.
However, as great as those numbers are, Keenum threw two interceptions to go with his two touchdowns in the humiliating 49-28 loss to Southern Miss in the C-USA championship game. That's not going to convince Heisman voters that he's the man to take home their coveted trophy.
The one team Keenum faced with a truly quality defense caused him to cough up the football and look something less than Heisman quality. I think it's fair to say that Case Keenum won't be striking the pose in New York this year.
Winners: Oklahoma State
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On so many levels, this was a huge week for the Cowboys.
For decades (maybe forever) Oklahoma State has been considered the "little brother" of the Oklahoma Sooners. They've had to stand by as the nation gushed over the Sooners and pundits blabbed on about the boys from Norman making runs at national titles.
This year, they're the ones grabbing the attention and they're the ones in the BCS discussion.
If there was any doubt about that, their 44-10 spanking of Oklahoma put it to rest.
More than that though, the BCS has an interesting decision to make. All of the pundits have been saying that Alabama is a lock to get a rematch with LSU for the National Title. An Oklahoma State victory over Oklahoma wouldn't do enough to change that.
But what about a Cowboy hammering of the Sooners? What if Oky State made Sooner Nation look like a WAC team playing in a BCS Bowl (sorry Hawaii)?
They made a large enough statement in this game to raise some very interesting questions.
Losers: Heisman Voters
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What a tremendous class this year's Heisman Committee has to choose from! So, why are they losers?
You pick the winner and sleep well at night believing you made the right choice. With Robert Griffin III putting up crazy statistics, Kellen Moore having several years worth of evidence to support his case, Trent Richardson rumbling for over six yards per carry on the season, Montee Ball doing even better than that, Brandon Weeden leading an incredible Oklahoma State offense and Case Keenum putting Houston back on the map with his magic arm, how exactly do you choose with any confidence?
Take any one of those guys and transplant them into any number of years, and there would be no question that they are the best of the best. Put them all in the same class though, and no matter who you choose, there's are very real arguments for most of the others.
It's a good situation to be in, for sure. I wouldn't want to be the one with the deciding vote, though.
Winner: The Big Ten Conference
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If you didn't watch the Big Ten championship game, you really missed out!
While the Pac-12 showcased Oregon against a horrible overmatched UCLA team, the SEC had a blowout with LSU over Georgia and neither the Big East nor Big 12 could even host a title game, the Big Ten had a great inaugural championship game between Michigan State and Wisconsin.
There was more offense than the Big Ten is typically known for, yet some incredible defensive plays as well. Special teams were pretty special and the play-calling was gutsy by both coaches.
It may not be the greatest game every played, but for an inaugural conference title game, the conference definitely got this one right.
Losers: Anyone Having To Listen to Jim Delany During Halftime
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I can honestly say that I've had the pleasure of not having had to listen to Jim Delany on any regular basis. After the halftime show of the Big Ten championship game, I feel even more blessed.
I can appreciate his coming on television to discuss the Penn State situation, and I definitely agree that the situation should be dealt "with sensitivity toward the victims." That Penn State is donating their bowl proceeds to raise awareness of the issue of child abuse is commendable.
However, I've never sat through a more uncomfortable interview and have never heard a commissioner of a conference appear to have such little insight into football.
Actually, now that I think about it, the FOX crew's pandering to Delany was even worse than Delany himself...
Winners: Michigan Wolverines
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The Wolverines didn't even play this week, and yet, they won. Why?
Because they may have gotten a BCS bowl bid, thanks to what went on around the country.
Houston lost and lost big. Oklahoma lost and lost big. Virginia Tech lost and lost big.
Spots have become available for BCS bowl bids, and Michigan is in prime position to grab one. There are plenty of teams ahead of them in the rankings, but bowl selection rules dictate that no conference can have more than two teams in BCS bowls unless they hold both the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the final standings.
That leaves enough SEC, and Big 12 teams ahead of Michigan that can't get into BCS bowls because their conference already has filled their allotment.
It's not settled just yet, but there's a very good chance Michigan got to sit at home and watch their team get into a BCS bowl.
Losers: The Big East
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They're the conference with an automatic BCS berth that nobody believes deserves it. It really didn't matter what happened on the field this weekend, their entire conference race is a mess.
Cincinnati, West Virginia and Louisville all had a claim to the title. Does it matter who came out on top?
They may not get their BCS bowl bid because West Virginia was ranked only No. 23 coming into the week. Their narrow 30-27 victory over South Florida isn't likely to move them very high up the standings.
I guess you could actually say they're "winners"...they may get a BCS bowl without having earned it. On the other hand, if they do, it will be revealed once again that they are not playing BCS quality football.
Maybe the conference should be allowed to disintegrate in the madness that is conference realignment.
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Coming into the ACC championship game, Clemson didn't look like the favorite. Sure, they had beaten Virginia Tech 23-3 when they'd met back in October.
However, over the last month, the Hokies have looked like the much better team. Their defense has been stingy, and their offense has grown into a real threat.
Meanwhile, Clemson has struggled. They'd lost three of their last four and narrowly escaped Wake Forest 31-28.
When it mattered most though, the Tigers looked a little like the Clemson team that ripped off an 8-0 start to the season as they burned down the Hokies 38-10.
Clemson will be heading to the Orange Bowl as the ACC representatives after a huge victory Saturday night.
Winner: QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
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What a way to end a career! Wilson has come a long way from his days at North Carolina State.
Against a tough Michigan State defense, with a trip to Pasadena on the line, Wilson threw three touchdowns to lead his Badgers to victory 42-39.
It was an incredible game to begin with. The two teams fought back-and-forth, getting huge plays and great scores against defenses that have been relatively stingy all year long.
In the end, Wilson added that extra "X factor" that helped elevate the Badgers over the Spartans in a terrific inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.
On the day, Wilson was 17-of-24 for 187 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
On an even bigger note, Wilson got exactly what he wanted out of the move to Wisconsin. He got a conference championship, a BCS Bowl and an awful lot of people slobbering over what he's accomplished with the Badgers.
I'm sure some scouts were watching as well...