College Football: Winners and Losers from Week 14

Morgan MoriartyDecember 4, 2022

College Football: Winners and Losers from Week 14

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    Deuce Vaughn
    John Bunch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Championship Weekend of college football is finally upon us. For the College Football Playoff, this weekend has huge implications. It's the last chance for teams to make a case to get into the final four spots. No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 TCU and No. 4 USC were all playing in conference title games over the weekend.

    The action got started on Friday night, as No. 11 Utah upset No. 4 USC in the Pac-12 title game. On Saturday, No. 3 TCU also fell to No. 10 Kansas State 31-28 in overtime in the Big 12 Championship. Later in the day, No. 1 Georgia took care of LSU in the SEC title game 50-30 on its way to attempt a repeat at winning the national title again. Tulane won the AAC Championship by beating UCF 45-28 at home, as well.

    Let's run through Week 14's winners and losers so far.

Loser: USC Lets Utah Ruin Its Playoff Hopes Twice in the Same Season

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    Micah Bernard
    Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Utah Utes have been a thorn in USC's side all season long. Utah was the only team to beat USC earlier in the season, winning 43-42 on Oct. 15.

    Even with the loss the Trojans still had a chance to make it into the playoff. Utah entered the matchup with three losses, so there were no playoff chances for the Utes with a win over USC. But if the Trojans beat Utah to win the Pac-12, a playoff bid was going to be heading USC's way.

    But Friday night turned into a disaster scenario for the Trojans in the second half. USC led this game 17-3 early in the second quarter. But the Utes responded by scoring two quick touchdowns in less than four minutes to tie things up at halftime.

    In the third quarter, Utah struck first with a three-play scoring drive off of a 57-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Rising to Money Parks. Utah added to its lead early in the fourth quarter with a 35-yard field goal. But it looked like USC could come back, responding with a touchdown to pull within three.

    But late in the fourth quarter, Utah's defense came up huge. After Utah scored another touchdown to take a 10-point lead, Utah's defense picked off a Caleb William pass to get the ball back at their own 39-yard line. The Utes capitalized with a 53-yard touchdown run by Ja'Quinden Jackson to make it 40-24.

    On 4th down on USC's ensuing possession, Williams was sacked by Mohamoud Diabate, who forced a fumble to give Utah the ball back on USC's 32. Utah scored the last touchdown of the night to win big, 47-24.

    It was quite the disappointing finish for a USC team that looked primed for a playoff run. Especially given that the Trojans were the Pac 12's last chance to have a team make it into the playoff. It looked like head coach Lincoln Riley could lead another team in his first season to the playoff, just like he did with Oklahoma in 2017. But Utah beat a very good USC team twice in a row to keep the Trojans out.

    And Utah deserves a ton of credit here. For the first time ever, the Utes have emerged victorious in the Pac-12 championship game two seasons in a row. And this makes the second time that Utah beat the same team twice to do so—last year, Utah beat Oregon twice to take home the title. You also have to tip your cap to Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham. With the win over USC, it gives Utah the third double-digit win season in four years.

Winner: Tulane's Going to Its First Cotton Bowl in School History!

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    Michael Pratt
    AP Photo/Matthew Hinton

    Head coach Willie Fritz staying at Tulane for the foreseeable future appears to be a very good thing. On Saturday, Tulane hosted the AAC Championship game for the first time ever, hosting the 9-3 UCF Knights. UCF entered as one of just two teams to have beaten Tulane this season, defeating the Green Wave 38-31 on Nov. 12.

    Tulane got revenge for that loss to UCF earlier in the season as the Green Wave won 44-28 at home. Tulane led 24-7 early in the third quarter, but UCF attempted a comeback in the fourth. The Knights scored three touchdowns in the second half, and Tulane held onto a 31-28 lead with 9:48 left. But Tulane scored two touchdowns on two possessions to get the 45-28 victory. Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt had a fantastic day, throwing for 394 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. He added another 48 yards rushing with a touchdown, too

    2022 has been a season of firsts for Tulane. For the first time in school history, Tulane was ranked in the College Football Playoff. The Green Wave checked in at 19th in the first rankings of the season that were released in November. With the win over UCF, Tulane is on-track to finish ranked even higher than its current 17th ranking.

    This is the first-ever AAC Championship for Tulane as well. The Green Wave came very close to playing for the conference championship in 2018, but lost the divisional tiebreaker to Memphis that season. This marks the first conference championship for the Green Wave since 1998, when Tommy Bowden led his team to a Conference-USA title. That was also the last time Tulane finished with double-digit wins, so this is a huge year for this Group of Five program.

    The cherry on top of this season for Tulane is retaining head coach Fritz. The head coach, who has gone 42-45 over seven seasons in New Orleans, was rumored to be a candidate for the vacant Georgia Tech job. But earlier this week, Fritz confirmed he was staying put in Tulane. The head coach has led the Green Wave to three bowl appearances. As Tulane prepares for its first-ever Cotton Bowl in school history, that's great news for Green Wave fans.

Loser: TCU's Hopes for a Perfect Season Ends in Big 12 Championship

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    Felix Anudike-Uzomah
    Tim Heitman/Getty Images

    The Horned Frogs had a chance to go 13-0 for the first time since 2010 on Saturday. The only team standing in their way was the No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats—which TCU had beaten 38-28 earlier in the season—in the Big 12 title game.

    But Kansas State showed exactly why it won five of its last six games this season. The Wildcats pulled out an upset over TCU, winning 31-28 in overtime to win the conference championship.

    This game was an absolute thriller, too. Kansas State led 14-10 at halftime and added a touchdown on its first possession of the second half to go up 21-10, but the Horned Frogs were in this game thanks to inspired play-making from quarterback Max Duggan. Heading into the fourth quarter, K-State had a 21-17 lead.

    Although Wildcats running back Deuce Vaughn's 44-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter looked like it might put the game away, TCU stayed in it. First, Duggan led TCU's offense down to K-State's 24-yard line, and kicker Griffin Kell nailed a 42-yard field goal to make it 28-20. TCU's defense forced a punt on the ensuing possession and gave the offense the ball with 4:47 left.

    Duggan put together yet another brilliant drive, highlighted by a 40-yard run that put the Horned Frogs deep in Wildcat territory. Duggan rushed for the touchdown on the next play and successfully converted the two-point conversion to tie the game up at 28, and the game went into overtime.

    However, TCU head coach Sonny Dykes will likely face many questions about his decision-making during OT. The Horned Frogs drove down to Kansas State's 1-yard line with ease but opted to call two straight running plays with Kendre Miller instead of putting the ball in Duggan's hands on third and fourth down, and Kansas State stuffed TCU on fourth down.

    The Wildcats drove down to TCU's 13, and kicker Ty Zentner made the 31-yard field goal to seal the upset victory.

    TCU will likely still make it into the playoff since this was its first loss of the season, and it already beat K-State earlier in the year. But if the Horned Frogs want to win their first national championship since 1938, the offense will likely have to stick with Duggan in critical moments. The QB finished with 110 rushing yards, 251 passing yards, two total touchdowns and an interception.

Winner: Georgia Puts Up 50 on LSU in SEC Title Game, Is Primed for CFP Repeat

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    Malaki Starks
    AP Photo/John Bazemore

    After LSU lost last week to Texas A&M, this SEC Championship Game between the Tigers and Georgia didn't have playoff implications. The Bulldogs were 17.5-point favorites and won handily, though LSU tried to keep things interesting. The Dawgs led only 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, but Georgia scored three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 35-10 lead. Its 50-30 win marked the program's second SEC title since 2017.

    LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels was injured in the second quarter, but backup Garrett Nussmeier played well. The redshirt freshman threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, averaging 10.9 yards per throw. His outing lost luster with a fourth-quarter interception and fumble, but he was impressive.

    Nussmeier aside, the biggest storyline was that Georgia hung 50 on LSU to continue its undefeated season. The Dawgs' 13-0 mark is their best since Vince Dooley was at the helm for their last undefeated campaign (12-0) in 1980. Quarterback Stetson Bennett, who has a chance to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony next week, threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns.

    The biggest question surrounding Georgia heading into this season was whether or not it could reload to defend its national title after losing a ton of talent. Through 14 weeks of the season, there's no question the Bulldogs have what it takes to repeat for the first time in program history, and they've made it look easy.

    The Dawgs will likely retain their No. 1 ranking on Selection Sunday, so they will face whomever the committee ranks at No. 4. They have passed each test this season with flying colors, and it feels inevitable that they will do the same thing in the playoff. Given how Georgia has played all season, and this huge win over LSU, there might not be a team good enough to stop it in 2022.

    We'll see if the Dawgs can keep winning dominantly in the playoff semifinals. It sure looks like this team has what it takes.

Loser: Clemson, for Not Starting Cade Klubnik Sooner

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    Cade Klubnik
    AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

    Clemson won its first ACC championship since 2020 on Saturday night, defeating North Carolina 39-10 in Charlotte. Although Clemson, which entered with two losses, is out of the playoff hunt, it was a return to normal to win the ACC. Prior to missing out on the ACC title game last season, the Tigers had won it each year dating back to 2015.

    But the biggest storyline to emerge from this game was head coach Dabo Swinney's switch to true freshman Cade Klubnik under center after two underwhelming series from DJ Uiagalelei. With Klubnik, a former 5-star quarterback prospect from the class of 2022, Clemson's offense looked better than ever.

    The signal-caller finished with 279 yards passing and a touchdown, along with another 30 yards rushing with a touchdown. Klubnik led the Tigers in both passing and rushing offense. But the most important stat? Klubnik went 15-of-15 for 107 yards on passes thrown less than five yards downfield, the most such completions without an incompletion by a Clemson QB in the last 15 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info.

    The biggest question Swinney will face during the offseason is this: Why didn't you start Klubnik sooner? Klubnik saw some playing time against Syracuse and in Clemson's loss to Notre Dame, where he threw an interception on his only pass of the night.

    Uiagalelei has improved from last season, but his struggles are still there. In the Tigers' loss to South Carolina last week, he finished with just 99 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception. In Clemson's loss to Notre Dame earlier in the season, he had 191 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

    If Swinney had pulled the trigger and opted to let Klubnik start over the veteran—just like he did with Trevor Lawrence over Kelly Bryant in 2018—maybe Clemson wouldn't be sitting with two losses and out of the playoff.

    We don't know what goes on in practice week in and week out, and Swinney must have his reasons for sticking with Uiagalelei for so long. But given Klubnik's impressive performance on a national stage, it's natural to question Swinney's decision-making this season.

    Will Klubnik be the starter moving forward into the offseason? Does that mean Uiagalelei will transfer? We'll have to see how it all plays out.

Winner: Michigan's Big Ten Title Defense

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    Junior Colson
    Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

    INDIANAPOLIS — For the second year in a row, Michigan hoisted the Big Ten trophy after a steady, well-balanced performance.

    Last season, the Wolverines throttled Iowa 42-3 in an impressive, irregular way. Nobody stood out statistically beyond anyone else, but practically the entire team played well. The story, while not identical, was awfully similar Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    Donovan Edwards gave Michigan a clear top performer, rushing for 185 yards and a touchdown. But the 43-22 victory was plenty more than a one-man show.

    J.J. McCarthy ripped several of his best passes of the season and tossed three touchdowns to three different players. Junior Colson, Rod Moore and Michael Barrett all notched 10-plus tackles. Jaylen Harrell recorded two sacks, and Will Johnson snagged a pair of interceptions. Running back Kalel Mullings even scored twice on limited carries.

    Purdue hung around into the fourth quarter, but Michigan's depth of talent outlasted the Boilers. Long runs, big passes and timely defensive stops all powered the Wolverines' win.

    And now, the Maize and Blue are returning to the CFP.

    Written by David Kenyon