Winners and Losers from Week 14 of College Football
Ohio State and Clemson placed the finishing touches on undefeated regular seasons to kick off Saturday's portion of rivalry week.
Despite Michigan's recent improvement, the Buckeyes went into Ann Arbor and put another smackdown on the Wolverines. Led by J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State enjoyed a 56-27 win.
Clemson, meanwhile, wasted little time in cruising past South Carolina. For the fifth consecutive game, Trevor Lawrence had at least a three-touchdown, zero-interception day, and the Tigers are positioned to win their fifth straight ACC championship.
Those afternoon games followed a few notable midweek results but preceded the weekend's marquee showdowns in Minneapolis, Auburn and Stillwater. Plus, LSU later joined Ohio State and Clemson at 12-0 with a win over Texas A&M.
Saturday's action is only getting started, and Bleacher Report is tracking all the pertinent news.
Winner: Virginia Snapping Skid Against Virginia Tech, Winning Coastal
At long last, the Commonwealth Cup is headed back to Charlottesville. The 15-year drought is over for Virginia, which earned a 39-30 triumph over rival Virginia Tech.
But the celebration had a much greater reason, too, because the victory propelled Virginia to the Coastal Division crown.
"It's an essential step," UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall told reporters. "You can't build a consistent conference or national contender unless you own your state. You have to win your division before you can win the conference championship."
Virginia will likely be a heavy underdog against 12-0 Clemson on Dec. 7. But as Mendenhall alluded to, the program's first appearance on the ACC Championship Game stage is major progress.
Loser: Nebraska's Season Ends with a Dud
Nebraska received far too much preseason hype, yet the Huskers' lack of bowl qualification is an absolute failure.
To make matters worse, they've lost to Iowa in five straight years.
After clawing back from a 24-10 deficit, Nebraska collapsed at the finish. Even after being saved by two, um, questionable calls (an overturned completion and uncalled targeting), the defense surrendered enough yards for Keith Duncan to hammer a 48-yard field goal for a 27-24 Iowa lead with one second remaining in regulation.
Scott Frost should return as the Huskers' head coach in 2020, but the temperature on his proverbial seat is rising.
Winner: Key Group of 5 Favorites
Top teams from non-power conferences are fighting for a spot in the Cotton Bowl. Friday, the favorites all backed up their billing.
No. 18 Memphis surged to a 17-3 advantage over No. 19 Cincinnati and outlasted the Bearcats for a 34-24 win. The victory earned Memphis home-field advantage the AAC Championship Game—yes, against this same Cincinnati team—and ensured it would remain the highest G5 team in the CFP rankings.
Boise State and Appalachian State kept the pressure on Memphis with victories later in the day.
The 20th-ranked Broncos capitalized on a couple of turnovers to hold off Colorado State for a 31-24 win. Then, No. 25 App State racked up 522 yards to obliterate Troy 48-13.
Memphis is the New Year's Six favorite, and Boise State is likely to follow. But if Cincinnati and Hawaii spring some upsets, Appalachian State would have a chance to steal the NY6 bid.
Loser: Michigan's Effort to Salvage 2019
Michigan lost to Ohio State for the eighth consecutive time.
The alternate takeaway is Jim Harbaugh has to answer the same old questions for another year.
Yes, the Wolverines showed rapid progress after an unimpressive 5-2 start. Yes, a nine-win regular season still means the program has a relatively high floor. Yes, the roster has plenty of talent, and the incoming recruiting class is strong.
Nevertheless, nobody inside the U-M facilities will be satisfied with any of that when it coincides with another loss to Ohio State—and another blowout, at that. One year after giving up 567 yards in a 62-39 loss to the Buckeyes, the Wolverines conceded 577 yards in a 56-27 rout.
Despite the frustration for some Michigan fans, Harbaugh isn't going away. But neither are Ryan Day, Justin Fields or the Buckeyes.
Winner: CFP Top Four Teams in the Afternoon
Throw in Ohio State's dominant victory, and the trifecta of Top Four teams that played in the noon ET window thrived.
No. 3 Clemson held South Carolina to 174 yards, earning a 38-3 victory and improving to 12-0. Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins combined for 212 receiving yards and all three of Lawrence's passing scores, while Travis Etienne scampered for two touchdowns.
Defense once against carried No. 4 Georgia, which forced a remarkable 13 punts in a 52-7 thrashing of Georgia Tech. Although a slow offensive start and three lost fumbles put a damper on Georgia's day, the Dawgs are still 11-1 heading into the SEC Championship Game opposite LSU.
All three programs are a win away from reaching the College Football Playoff.
Loser: Louisville Trying to Stop Lynn Bowden Jr.
Did you see the viral highlight of a punter breaking what seemed like 476 tackles and running from his end zone for a touchdown?
That's actually Kentucky star Lynn Bowden Jr., and the junior added several clips to his latest highlight reel Saturday. He obliterated Louisville for 284 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries, guiding the Wildcats to a comprehensive 45-13 victory.
One of the few nerve-wracking moments happened when Louisville's Javian Hawkins broke off a 56-yard touchdown to make it 17-13 before halftime. But from there, Bowden scored three times—all runs of 32 or more—and Kentucky didn't allow another point.
"Lynn said, 'don't worry about it, I got you,' and he did." Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said of Bowden, per the Associated Press. "What can you say about Lynn? He's truly remarkable in so many ways."
Winner: Everyone Who Watched the Iron Bowl (and Auburn)
Whew, buddy, was that fun!
The 2019 edition of the Iron Bowl included nine lead changes, three non-offensive touchdowns, 93 total points and one memorable Auburn victory. The Tigers pulled out a 48-45 upset after Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas missed a potential game-tying 30-yarder with two minutes remaining in regulation.
Auburn broke the record for most points allowed by a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team, surpassing the 46 from LSU three weeks ago.
True, the result didn't come without a little controversy. Without a review, Auburn never would've had a chance for its final play in the first half. But the replay check gifted the Tigers an attempt at a 52-yard field goal, which Anders Carlson drilled.
Auburn, though, made the play when it mattered. The Crimson Tide did not, and their CFP dreams died because of it.
Loser: Minnesota's Hopes of a Big Ten Crown
P.J. Fleck is ahead of schedule. Minnesota should be exceptionally pleased with its second 10-win season since 1905. The Golden Gophers are clearly trending the right direction.
And, for a moment, none of it matters.
With the Big Ten West Division title—and Paul Bunyan's Axe—on the line, the Gophers stumbled to a 38-17 loss. Instead of having a chance to win their first Big Ten title in 52 years, they're watching Wisconsin head to the conference championship game for the sixth time in nine seasons.
Minnesota, it appears, is close to becoming a regular threat in the West. Simply having an opportunity to win the division is progress, but the next step is winning a game of this magnitude.
Winner: Baylor Rolls Kansas, Cruises to 11-1
Baylor is heading to the Big 12 Championship Game on an emphatic note.
Propelled by a balanced offense, the Bears held a 34-0 lead at halftime over Kansas. The Jayhawks didn't score until it was 48-0 late in the third quarter, and Baylor rolled to a 61-6 triumph. The offense rushed for seven touchdowns along the way.
And so, in Matt Rhule's third season after he arrived with a serious culture problem to fix and debuted at 1-11, Baylor has flipped its record. The Bears' 11 wins have tied a single-season program record.
Barring a stunning string of upsets, Baylor won't be headed to the College Football Playoff. But a New Year's Six bowl berth is now extremely probable—and impressive.
Loser: Texas A&M's Attempt to Stop Joe Burrow, LSU
Texas A&M entered the regular-season finale at LSU with a meager 5.9 yards allowed per pass attempt this season. That was the 10th-best mark in the nation and offered the slightest bit of hope.
Joe Burrow, as he's done all season, made it irrelevant.
The Heisman Trophy favorite assembled yet another huge stat line. Burrow completed 23 of 32 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions during the 50-7 win. He connected with Ja'Marr Chase seven times for 197 yards and two scores.
Behind 73 more passing yards from Myles Brennan and 87 rushing yards from Clyde Edward-Helaire, the second-ranked Tigers outgained the visitors 563-169.
Expectations were pretty low for the Aggies, but they managed to present even less of a challenge than anticipated.
Winner: UAB Returns to Conference USA Title Game
Experience—or the lack thereof—guarantees nothing about a team's future, but it's usually a good indicator of whether to expect progress.
UAB went 11-3 last season and won the Conference USA title. However, it ranked 130th nationally in returning production this season, per SB Nation. That was dead last in the FBS.
Yet 12 games later, the Blazers have continued their fascinating return from a different kind of dead.
Southern Miss fell to Florida Atlantic early Saturday and then UAB toppled North Texas 26-21 to win the West Division. The Blazers will head to FAU for the C-USA title game next week.
In three seasons since the program's two-year absence from the field, UAB is 28-11. Now, the Blazers have a chance to win consecutive league titles—a remarkable feat, regardless of the result.
Loser: Houston's Run Defense in Loss to Navy
Houston, you had a problem. It started up front.
After finishing last week's victory over Tulsa with minus-one rushing yards allowed, the Cougars didn't come anywhere close to repeating that success. Navy's triple-option attack flummoxed Houston all night, resulting in 447 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
Navy fullback Jamale Carothers rumbled to 188 yards and five scores, while quarterback Malcolm Perry slithered his way to 146 and a touchdown. CJ Williams and Tyreek King-El both scored once too.
For good measure, Perry also completed two passes for 107 yards. Navy piled up 554 yards in the 56-41 triumph, dropping Houston to a disappointing 4-8 in Dana Holgorsen's first season with the team.
Winner: Oklahoma Avoids Drama in Stillwater
If you watched Beldam hoping for drama, the opening possessions suggested it could be coming. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State traded touchdowns to begin the rivalry game.
That's about as entertaining as it got, unfortunately.
Oklahoma State failed to score another touchdown, falling to OU 34-16. Though the Cowboys kicked a trio of field goals, three-pointers will never be enough against this high-powered Oklahoma offense. The Sooners finished with a 450-335 edge in total offense and didn't commit any turnovers for the first time in five outings.
Lincoln Riley's club will shift its attention toward preparing for Baylor, which seized a 28-3 lead during their matchup earlier in November. Oklahoma knows it cannot afford a similar showing, considering the razor-thin margin separating the Sooners from Utah.
But a win means they'll have an excellent shot at snagging a place in the College Football Playoff.