Winners and Losers from Week 13 of College Football
As several top-ranked programs edged closer to the College Football Playoff, Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller and Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson both made history.
What is ordinarily Rivalry Week lacked some of the traditional games—such as Michigan and Ohio State, for example—but a couple of those contests still produced key results. Alabama won the Iron Bowl, and Oregon lost to Oregon State.
Those results, along with Fuller's debut, Patterson's massive game and Michigan State's upset over Northwestern, headlined the biggest news from Week 13.
This piece will be updated through Saturday night.
Winner: Notre Dame's Swarming Defense
Heading into halftime, Notre Dame and North Carolina were locked at 17. By no means was that a reason to panic, but the worst-case scenario for the Irish lingered. Lose in Chapel Hill, lose to Clemson for the ACC title, and no College Football Playoff.
The defense, however, eliminated that thought.
Notre Dame tallied eight tackles for loss—including six sacks—while limiting the Tar Heels to 298 yards and 17 points. Not only did UNC not score in the second half, the Heels totaled 58 yards on 25 snaps. Notre Dame absolutely locked up the offense.
While the Irish aren't officially in the ACC Championship Game, a victory over either Syracuse or Wake Forest would do it. Plus, there's a legitimate chance if they win both of those contests, they'd reach the CFP despite a loss to Clemson.
Notre Dame will not be the national title favorite, but this defense certainly gives the Irish a good shot.
Loser: Pac-12's Fleeting Playoff Hopes
In the initial Top 25, the CFP selection committee put a mountain between the Pac-12 and the Top Four. Oregon and USC checked in at 15th and 18th, respectively, with their 3-0 records.
The weekend didn't improve the chances of making that climb.
Oregon dropped out of the CFP picture with a 41-38 loss to rival Oregon State. Then, because of COVID-19 protocols (positive tests and contact tracing) at USC, the Trojans and 2-0 Colorado couldn't play. It would've been a massive win for either team.
Instead, the Pac-12 will exit the final week of November with no team holding a record better than 3-0. It's simply improbable the conference will be a legitimate CFP threat.
Winner: Iowa State's Big 12 Title Pursuit
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell will be mentioned in NFL and high-profile college openings this offseason. Few people have anticipated Campbell would remain in Ames for a long time.
But right now, the Cyclones are on the verge of the most successful season in program history.
On the final play of regulation, Texas kicker Cameron Dicker hammered a 58-yard field-goal attempt that could've forced overtime. But as the ball narrowly missed the left upright, Iowa State's sideline erupted in a celebration meaning more than a 23-20 win.
Iowa State is one victory from the Big 12 Championship Game.
While it's no sure thing, the Cyclones need to defeat West Virginia next weekend. This is a momentous opportunity for the program, which has neither appeared in the conference title game nor earned a league championship in the non-B12CG years.
Loser: Kent State Trying to Stop Jaret Patterson
Kent State would probably be content to never see Jaret Patterson on the other sideline ever again.
After rushing for 511 yards and eight touchdowns in Buffalo's first three games, he came awfully close to matching those numbers on Saturday alone. Patterson thrashed Kent State with 409 yards and eight scores in a 70-41 Buffalo win.
Seriously: 409 yards, eight touchdowns.
Patterson—who eclipsed 300 yards last week—totaled the second-most rushing yards in a single FBS game, only trailing Oklahoma's Samaje Perine's 427 in 2015. Patterson's eight scores matched the FBS record also shared by Illinois' Howard Griffith (1990) and Arizona State's Kalen Ballage (2016).
The draft-eligible Patterson has rushed for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns in three career matchups with Kent State.
Winner: Sarah Fuller Makes History
COVID-19 protocols caused a major disruption in Vanderbilt's specialist group, but it created a chance for history.
The goalie of the women's soccer team, Sarah Fuller joined the roster and traveled with the Commodores to Missouri. After the Vandy offense failed to reach scoring territory in the first half, she finally took the field to kick off the second half.
Fuller became the first woman to participate in a Power 5 football game and third Division I player overall. She joined Katie Hnida (New Mexico) and April Goss (Kent State).
The play itself was ordinary: Fuller chipped a squib kick toward the right sideline, which Missouri harmlessly recovered but had minimal, if any, chance to return. She perfectly executed a simple plan—the only thing you ask of a college football player.
And that's exactly what Fuller is.
Loser: Syracuse's Last-Second Execution
Some things must be seen to be believed.
Trailing 36-29 late in the fourth quarter, Syracuse drove into scoring territory. As the clock ticked below 30 seconds to play, the Orange faced 3rd-and-goal at the North Carolina State 7-yard line. Short of a turnover, it ended about as badly as possible.
Rex Culpepper took an 11-yard sack instead of throwing it away. And because Syracuse didn't have a timeout. it couldn't stop the clock. But the offense sprinted back to the line of scrimmage just in time! The Orange would have one final play! Culpepper took the fourth-down snap with one second remaining.
And he spiked it.
Oh, no. No, no, no. He spiked it.
And that, my friends, is how Syracuse dropped to 1-9 on the season. Would the Orange have scored? Probably not! Still, that's a crushing way to finalize a loss.
Winner: Alabama's Blowout in Iron Bowl
If any remaining opponent were to upend Alabama in the regular season, Auburn probably had the best chance. While that's not necessarily high praise—Alabama was a 24-point favorite—the Tigers have provided some stunners in the rivalry.
Long story short: Not Saturday.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones bolstered his Heisman Trophy resume with 302 yards and five touchdowns in the 42-13 thrashing. DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III both caught two scores, while Smith racked up 171 yards on seven catches.
Plus, the defense continued its excellent recent play. In the last three contests, the Tide have allowed a total of nine points. Auburn averaged a measly 4.3 yards per snap.
Alabama is two victories over LSU and Arkansas from a 10-0 regular season and likely CFP berth, no matter what happens in the SEC Championship Game.
Loser: Northwestern's Dream Year Ends at MSU
One week after Northwestern knocked off Wisconsin and moved into the headlines, the Wildcats are leaving the spotlight.
Michigan State—in perfectly Michigan State fashion—pulled off a 29-20 upset of eighth-ranked Northwestern. Matt Coghlin kicked a late go-ahead field goal, and the Spartans recovered an ill-fated desperation lateral in the end zone as time expired.
True, the loss didn't totally ruin Northwestern's season. The Wildcats can still appear in the Big Ten Championship Game with victories over Minnesota and Illinois (or a Wisconsin loss). That remains a big accomplishment for the program.
But the best-case scenario of a CFP berth is now likely gone.
Winner: Trevor Lawrence Shines in Return
Following a positive coronavirus test and a canceled game, Trevor Lawrence made his long-awaited return to the field. Pitt had no answers for the likely No. 1 NFL draft pick.
Lawrence threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns while propelling Clemson to a 31-0 lead in the first quarter.
Not a bad 15 minutes.
Lawrence wrapped up the contest with 403 yards, his second 400-yard showing of the season. Clemson racked up 581 yards in the 52-17 victory and improved to 8-1.
Barring a schedule change, Clemson ends the regular season next Saturday at Virginia Tech. As long as the Tigers win in Blacksburg, they'll likely seal a rematch with Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game. And this time around, Lawrence will be available.