B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Week 14
Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State have earned the spotlight. They're headed to the College Football Playoff with a chance to bring home a national championship.
Week 14, however, was about more than the Top Four and USC dropping out of the CFP race.
Along with UGA and Michigan, eight programs won conference titles, and two more attained bowl eligibility. Those accomplishments aren't as nationally impactful as the CFP, but the celebrations are unique, special and might be the greatest athletic moment for hundreds of college football players around the country.
B/R's Weekly Awards loves the 131 Football Bowl Subdivision teams equally, and our Week 14 spotlight is all over the map.
Team of the Week: Georgia Bulldogs
Folks, they're terrifying again.
The reigning champs laid a smackdown on upstart LSU, cruising to a 50-30 victory in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia won its first conference crown in five years and earned a return trip to the CFP.
Stetson Bennett carved up the LSU secondary, completing 23 of 29 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns. But the Dawgs also controlled the ground with 255 yards behind the trio of Kendall Milton (113 yards), Daijun Edwards (77 yards) and Kenny McIntosh (55 yards, two scores)
LSU piled up 549 yards and technically outgained Georgia. However, most of that damage happened after the Dawgs built an overwhelming 35-7 edge before halftime.
Georgia is the undisputed No. 1 team. Can the SEC champions bring home a second national title in a row?
Spoiler of the Week: Utah Utes
Utah stumbled early and dipped out of the national title race, but the Utes remained a thorn in Pac-12 play.
That upside became an enormous problem for USC, which needed a win to secure its place in the College Football Playoff. The Trojans fell painfully short because Utah straight-up dominated.
Cameron Rising wrecked the USC defense, throwing for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the 47-24 triumph. Ja'Quinden Jackson rushed for 105 yards and two scores, while Micah Bernard added 88 yards and a touchdown. Utah, which earned a thrilling 43-42 victory in the regular-season meeting, again crested the 500-yard mark on USC.
Utah's upset win prevented USC from completing a remarkable story in Lincoln Riley's debut season. There is no championship, and there is no CFP trip on the horizon.
Instead, the Utes are Pac-12 champs for the second straight year.
Upset of the Week: K-State Edges TCU
After USC's loss, TCU entered Saturday with an exceptionally optimistic outlook. As long as the Horned Frogs didn't lose in a blowout, they'd probably be headed to the CFP.
Make no mistake, though: 12-0 TCU wanted a Big 12 championship and an undefeated year.
Kansas State put a damper on the party.
Despite yet another second-half comeback from TCU, K-State pulled off a 31-28 victory in overtime. After the defense twice stonewalled TCU at the goal line, Ty Zentner hit a 31- yard field goal to seal the upset and hand Kansas State its first conference title in 10 years.
When the Wildcats take on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, they'll aim to match a single-season program record of 11 wins.
The Vengeful: Tulane and Fresno State
In October, Fresno State lost to Boise State 40-20 as star quarterback Jake Haener sat out with an injury. Tulane fell to UCF 38-31 when the teams met in mid-November.
But both programs had their revenge Saturday.
Haener led Fresno State to a comfortable 28-16 win, helping the Bulldogs pull away in the fourth quarter. He threw for 184 yards, while Jordan Mims rushed for 83 yards and two scores.
Tulane, meanwhile, jumped ahead quickly and never trailed in a 45-28 victory. Michael Pratt accounted for 442 yards, and Tyjae Spears finished a yard shy of 200 on the ground.
Fresno State celebrated its first Mountain West title since 2018, and Tulane—a first-time AAC champ—sealed its spot in a New Year's Six game: the Cotton Bowl against X.
Trend of the Week: Michigan's 2nd-Half Dominance
When a team is 13-0, point differentials will likely be impressive. That part is not surprising.
Nevertheless, Michigan has done a remarkable job after halftime this season. Heading into the Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue, the Wolverines had outscored opponents 227-87 in the first half. After the break, they'd amassed a 251-65 edge.
The season-long trend has only become more prominent.
Dating back to an Oct. 8 win at Indiana and including Saturday's triumph, Michigan had a 157-20 advantage in the second half of games. That is, by any definition, an overpowering defense. And it showed up again.
Michigan's 14-13 halftime lead quickly ballooned to 28-13, and the Wolverines stalled any promising drive. Purdue entered the red zone on four second-half possessions but threw an interception and settled for three field goals, leading to a comfortable 43-22 U-M victory.
Whether the Maize and Blue can continue the trend will define their future. But that second-half excellence has unquestionably propelled Michigan back to the CFP.
Arrival of the Week: Cade Klubnik
I'm not saying Cade Klubnik will be Clemson's starter in 2023. I'm not saying DJ Uiagalelei will transfer during the offseason.
Yet if both of those become a reality, it's fair to suggest neither development will be a surprise.
Klubnik, a 5-star true freshman, made scattered appearances throughout the season because Uiagalelei started hot. He produced at a solid level for about half of the campaign. But since mid-October, Uiagalelei has resembled his 2021 version who tossed more interceptions than touchdowns.
Saturday night, Klubnik announced himself to the nation.
He completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards, rushed for 30 more and provided a touchdown in both ways. Aided by a solid defensive day, Klubnik and Co. soared past North Carolina 39-10 to win Clemson's seventh ACC championship in the last eight seasons.
Clemson is headed to the Orange Bowl for a matchup with Tennessee, which will be without star quarterback Hendon Hooker (knee). Klubnik, to no surprise, is expected to land his first career start in the matchup.
Best of the Rest: Week 14
Quiet Repeat of the Week: UTSA Roadrunners
Yeah, Michigan and Utah won a second conference title in a row too. But the Roadrunners continued an amazing rise led by head coach Jeff Traylor, who's turned a modest Conference USA squad into a powerhouse. UTSA posted a 26-32 record in Larry Coker's tenure and a 19-29 mark under Frank Wilson, but the back-to-back C-USA champs are 30-9 with Traylor. Star quarterback Frank Harris totaled 390 yards and five scores in the 48-27 win over North Texas.
The Champions: Toledo and Troy
Toledo has returned to the pinnacle, winning its fourth MAC title since the league began playing championship games in 1997. The defense held Ohio to 262 yards in the 17-7 triumph. Troy capped its fantastic season with a win over Coastal Carolina, snatching the program's first outright Sun Belt championship since 2009. Both quarterback Gunnar Watson and running back DK Billingsley accounted for three scores in the 45-26 win.
Golf Claps of the Week: Bowl Eligibility!
In addition to 10 championship games, the slate included two regular-season games. Buffalo edged Akron 23-22, and New Mexico State rolled lower-division Valparaiso 65-3. Although the makeup games may have seemed forgettable—if you even knew about them—Buffalo earned a sixth win to formally secure bowl eligibility, and NMSU added a sixth win to solidify its approved waiver.