Winners and Losers from Week 13 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2021

Winners and Losers from Week 13 of College Football

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    What a weekend for college football.

    Rivalry week did not disappoint with some exceptional games between teams that simply do not like each other across the nation. There was none bigger than No. 5 Michigan dominating second-ranked Ohio State in the Big House for its first win in "The Game" since 2011.

    We were treated to an Iron Bowl classic with Alabama surviving in four overtimes, and Bedlam was an absolute beauty with Oklahoma State outlasting Oklahoma in another memorable showdown.

    Oregon took care of Oregon State, and while Wake Forest took care of business to secure a spot in the ACC championship game, Wisconsin squandered its opportunity to face Michigan in the Big Ten championship. 

    The Egg Bowl kicked us off on Thanksgiving with Ole Miss winning 10 regular-season games for the first time ever, and two days of wall-to-wall football produced a ton of fun. There were epic collapses by North Carolina and Nebraska, Washington State planting a flag on Washington's field after a rout and much more.

    Let's take a look at the winners and losers from Week 13 of college football action. 

Winner: Michigan FINALLY! in "The Game"

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    If you could have drawn up a Big Blue blueprint for an epic victory over hated rival Ohio State in The Game, Saturday would have been it.

    Not only did Michigan beat the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes, it dominated them. Not only did the Wolverines bend Ohio State to the way they wanted to play, they imposed their will and broke Ohio State's. The Buckeyes were out-toughed, out-coached and out-played in a 42-27 win.

    Every time the Buckeyes cut the lead with a touchdown, Michigan had an answer with its exceptional offensive line and relentless rushing attack. It was a 4-hour party in the Big House, and the Wolverines were a nasty host.

    As a result, they're going to the Big Ten championship game and heading directly for the top four of the College Football Playoff.

    "We went out and executed pretty much thoroughly," Harbaugh told Fox afterward. "It was great."

    Michigan won with gaping holes for its running backs on its way to 297 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Hassan Haskins had a career-high five touchdown runs to go along with 169 yards.

    Michigan won by harassing C.J. Stroud, getting to him multiple times and knocking him down others. Elite edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson led the Wolverines with three sacks as the Wolverines controlled the tempo.

    Michigan won with magnificent coaching, as Jim Harbaugh shook this massive monkey from his back with great decision after great decision. He stuck with quarterback Cade McNamara after a costly early-game interception in the red zone and sprinkled in JT McCarthy moments perfectly. He rode the running game and dialed up everything needed for the big win.

    It was the Wolverines' first win over Ohio State since 2011, snapping an eight-game streak. This was everything we hoped it would be with a shocking conclusion.

Loser: Oklahoma in a Wacky Tussle in Bedlam

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    How 'bout them Cowboys?

    Oklahoma State was favored at home against rival Oklahoma in Bedlam on Saturday night, but the Cowboys found themselves with everything turning against them after a disastrous third quarter.

    Not only had the defense self-destructed against the Sooners, they fumbled into their own end zone and recovered for a safety, then muffed a punt that Oklahoma recovered in the end zone to turn a tie game into a nine-point deficit. Then, they missed a field goal, and Spencer Sanders threw an interception in the red zone.

    All that happened in 15 disastrous minutes, which you'd think would be enough for a strong, seasoned program like Oklahoma to take advantage and win. You'd be wrong.

    Instead, Oklahoma saw everything come crashing down in the fourth quarter to be eliminated from the Big 12 championship game with a 37-33 loss. After the game, Lincoln Riley shot down rumors connecting him to the head coaching vacancy at LSU.

    Had the Sooners won, they'd earn a rematch next week with Oklahoma State. Instead, the Cowboys will play Baylor thanks to some wackiness. What do you expect from Bedlam? It's the first Oklahoma State win in the series in seven years in a game that had more swings than an Oklahoma dance hall.

    An explosive 37-yard touchdown run by Sanders early in the fourth quarter shaved the lead to 33-31. Then, Oklahoma's Eric Gray muffed a punt on the 5-yard line about 5 minutes later that was recovered by the Cowboys and turned into a 1-yard touchdown for the final tally.

    The defense did the rest, regaining the form that made them one of the most fearsome units in college football throughout the season. A heroic effort by OU quarterback Caleb Williams with a 56-yard run to the Cowboys' 24-yard line had OU throwing into the end zone in the final minutes.

    But they couldn't get it across the goal line as Collin Oliver pulled down Williams from behind on fourth down to end the game.

Winner: Everybody Treated to a Brilliant Iron Bowl

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    This is the way rivalries were meant to be played, where the inexplicable happens at every turn and we're treated to an ending few will forget.

    No, the Iron Bowl wasn't pretty on Saturday, but it was pretty ridiculous, all the same.

    When the ball of "What's happening?" finally unfurled, Bryce Young's two 2-point conversion passes to John Metchie III gave Alabama a 24-22 survival in four overtimes in a game where seemingly little went right. It was an unbelievable finish to a game that saw the 20-point underdog Tigers dominate for much of the game. 

    Those two conversion attempts were great, but Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Bryce Young shrugged off a poor performance thanks to relentless pressure all day and pieced together a drive for the ages that will go down in Crimson Tide lore.

    Trailing 10-3 with a little more than a minute and a half left in the game and backed up on his own 3-yard line, Young went to work. The reason he had that much time was a costly mistake by AU running back Tank Bigsby, who ran out of bounds to give Alabama more time to drive.

    Young would make them pay. He started with a 22-yard completion to Metchie on 3rd-and-10, added a 21-yard pass to Ja'Corey Brooks, a 14-yarder to Jahleel Billingsley and a 28-yard scoring toss to Brooks to tie it with 24 seconds left. He had some timely runs sprinkled in there, too.

    In overtime, though the teams traded blows, Young made more plays, and Alabama escaped Auburn with a shot at a national championship still in tact. The Tigers played without starting quarterback Bo Nix and had just 159 offensive yards, but the defense stood tall much of the game until the end.

    "I can't put it into words," UA coach Nick Saban told the CBS crew after the game. "For the guys to keep fighting like they did and to have the 90-something yard drive to tie it up and get it into overtime. I'll tell you what, the players, I'm so proud of the way they competed in the game and fought. We said that's what we wanted to do at halftime, and I couldn't be prouder of them. It's unbelievable."

Loser: Wisconsin Squandering a Big Ten Championship Game Spot

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    All the Wisconsin Badgers had to do was win.

    Of course, in college football, that's easier said than done, especially in a rugged Big Ten donnybrook against a defensive-minded, run-oriented Minnesota Golden Gophers team. Instead of winning to clinch a spot opposite Michigan in the conference championship game, they couldn't get the offense going.

    It was a far cry from the Badgers team that had reeled off seven consecutive wins, averaging nearly 32 points per game in that span to battle back from a rough start to the season to look like the best team in the Big Ten West.

    Instead, Minnesota whipped them in every facet of the game Saturday, ending the Badgers' hopes of a conference championship. Iowa instead will play the Wolverines.

    The Badgers were 4-of-14 on third-down conversions and just 1-of-4 on fourth-down conversions, mustered just 17 first downs, 233 total yards and a Graham Mertz interception.

    With everything in front of them, they couldn't take care of their own business on Saturday. 

    The game was tied at 13-all in the fourth quarter when Tanner Morgan found Chris Autman-Bell for a 27-yard touchdown to cap a 74-yard drive. A field goal with 6 minutes to go put the Gophers up by two scores. After Minnesota's go-ahead TD, Wisconsin mustered just 76 yards and a missed field goal.

    The Gophers wound up hoisting the axe at the end, thanks to Paul Chryst not being able to come up with any answers on the offensive side. The Badgers desperately need to find a way to muster more firepower on that side of the ball moving forward.

Winner: Washington State Fueling the Fire After First Apple Cup Win Since 2012

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    Maybe it was steeped in the heat of the winning moment. Maybe it was taking out literal years of frustration. Maybe it was borne from pure hatred of a rival.

    Whatever was the case, nothing spells college football disrespect in all its glory like storming an OPPOSING field and planting your flag in the middle of their 50-yard line.

    That's exactly what happened Friday night when Washington State destroyed rival Washington 40-13 to end the Huskies' miserable season. It was the Cougars' seventh win after their own topsy-turvy season, which saw coach Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants fired after failing to follow the state of Washington's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

    The victory was Wazzu's first in the Apple Cup since 2012 and its first in Husky Stadium since 2007. With the game long out of reach and many of the Washington faithful already filed out of the stadium, the Cougars celebrated with their fans on the field. They partied for several moments afterward.

    It was a sight to behold. Quarterback Jayden de Laura was the one who planted "Ol' Crimson," the Cougars' flag.

    "It's special. Coug Nation deserves it, this team deserved it, the seniors deserved it," Washington State running back Max Borghi said, according to the Associated Press. "I can't really put words into it yet, it hasn't really sunk in. But holding that Apple Cup trophy is something we've all dreamt about and it was incredible.”

    Borghi was one of the heroes for the Cougars, rushing for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and de Laura passed for 245 yards. Again, the game was about the Huskies' horrendous offensive ineptitude, too. They couldn't generate anything on the ground.

    These are two programs heading in different directions, and both are looking for new coaches for different reasons. But this year finally belonged to the Cougars.

Loser: Mike Norvell and Florida State Blowing a Golden Opportunity

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    After a frustrating, disappointing season, Florida State and coach Mike Norvell had the opportunity to seize a little bit of the Sunshine State spotlight on Saturday with a win over rival Florida.

    The Gators are searching for a head coach, and Miami may have beaten Duke, but the Hurricanes have far from a settled situation with coach Manny Diaz. A Seminoles win would have gotten them bowl-eligible and could have been a boost into the offseason.

    Instead, they fell flat, falling behind by 17 points and losing 24-21 to rival Florida. Meanwhile, the Gators are heading to a bowl game.

    The ending was especially embarrassing for the 'Noles, too. After Jordan Travis led FSU to a touchdown to close the gap to three points with less than a minute remaining, the Seminoles lined up for an onside kick for the chance to get possession and win the game.

    Parker Grothaus did his best Charlie Brown impression instead, whiffing on the kick. The ball barely nodded off the tee, and the Gators had possession. With only two timeouts remaining, Florida State couldn't stop the clock and ultimately lost.

    It was an embarrassing conclusion to a terrible game for Florida State. Now, it's no guarantee Norvell's seat temperature is manageable heading into the offseason. Everybody knows what happened when the quick-triggered FSU administration fired Willie Taggart. How long are they going to stick with Norvell?

    UF interim coach Christian Robinson got a Gatorade bath after the game, and now, everybody has to wait and see what the Gators do with their coaching search. Will it be Billy Napier? Lane Kiffin? Somebody else?
    No matter what the decision is in Gainesville, though, the questions will continue to swirl in Tallahassee.

Winner: King Breece

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    This has not been the year the Iowa State Cyclones have wanted or even expected. They beat TCU to finish 7-5 on Friday, despite a season where they started in the top 10 of the rankings.

    Recently, the embarrassing Matt Campbell "best version of ourselves that we can become" comment was bizarre and drew heaps of criticism. 

    You can debate Campbell's comments and the struggling season all you want, but one thing that's clear: The Cyclones have one of the best college football running backs of all time in Breece Hall, and his career has been one high note after another for the junior.

    With this 39-yard scoring run against the Horned Frogs, Hall broke the FBS record for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown, getting a scoring scamper in his 24th game in a row.

    Hall broke the record of Arkansas' Bill Burnett, who set the previous record of 23, set from 1968-70.

    In his three years as Iowa State's feature back, Hall has been brilliant. After 897 yards in 2019 as a freshman, the 6'1", 220-pound junior from Wichita, Kansas, was exceptional a year ago with 1,572 yards and 23 total touchdowns (including 21 on the ground).

    This season hasn't been quite as good as that one, but he still has 1,472 yards and 23 total scores this year after an 18-carry, 242-yard and four-touchdown thrashing against TCU.

    Now, he's an NCAA record-holder, and while he still could come back for another season, the runner looks like a future NFL superstar. With the shelf life of players at that position short in the pros, Hall would be smart to eschew another year in Ames and head to the league.

    If this was his final regular-season game, he made it memorable.

Loser: UTSA for the First Time All Season

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    North Texas crashed UTSA's party.

    The Roadrunners entered the final game of the season ranked and undefeated, one of the biggest surprises of the college football season. They had several dramatic wins and a head coach in Jeff Traylor, whose name has been floating around for bigger openings.

    There wouldn't be any terrific finales for UTSA on Saturday. Instead, the North Texas Mean Green boat-raced the Roadrunners in an embarrassing 45-23 loss. It was easily Seth Littrell's biggest win since he was a hot commodity in leading his team to back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2017-18.

    This was a weekend for huge upsets, and while there isn't a whole lot of national clout around UTSA, this was a large-magnitude loss for the Group of Five program that had teetered on the cusp of powerhouse status this season.

    UTSA quarterback Frank Harris got banged-up, and while Eddie Lee Marburger had some positive flashes, this was about a domination on both sides of the ball for the Mean Green. A team that had been strong all year was 2-for-13 in third-down conversions and recorded just 16 first downs.

    On the other side of the ball, North Texas torched UTSA for 456 total yards, including 340 on the ground.
    With the division title on the line last week against UAB, the Roadrunners came back for a huge victory over the Blazers, unseating the defending Conference USA champions to represent the West Division. But this was far from the way they wanted to finish the season.

    North Texas had much more on the line with a postseason berth up for grabs, and they played like it. UTSA couldn't finish the undefeated season.

Winner: Oregon Taking Care of Business

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    The Oregon Ducks squandered their chance for a national championship a week ago with a lackluster performance against Utah.

    They wouldn't do the same with their Pac-12 title hopes Saturday.

    Despite losing to Oregon State last year, the Ducks went into this game with revenge on their mind and led the Beavers from the outset in a 38-29 win in Eugene.

    After an awful showing by quarterback Anthony Brown against the Utes a week ago, he had three touchdowns and 358 total yards, torching the Beavers with both his arm and his feet. Travis Dye added 99 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win.

    It was Dye who set the tone early with a 20-yard scoring run as Oregon built a 14-point first-quarter advantage. The game wasn't ever really close, either. Twenty of Oregon State's points came in the fourth quarter with the game already in hand as they tried to close the gap.

    It stings to not have the chance to play for the College Football Playoffs, especially after all the chaos that ensued on Saturday. But making it to the conference championship game for the third consecutive season is a big deal. Playing in the Rose Bowl isn't a bad consolation prize.

    For the Beavers, it was a disappointing finish to a strong season. They became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2013, but after Washington State's win Friday night in the Apple Cup, it ended any chance for the Beavers to play for a conference title.

    Still, beating the Ducks yet again would have been sweet. Coach Mario Cristobal's team was having nothing of it.

Winner: Ole Miss with an Eggcellent Win over Rival Mississippi State

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    It's taken Lane Kiffin two years to totally turn around Ole Miss football.

    The Rebels capped a historic regular season on Thanksgiving night with a 31-21 road win over hated rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. This was far from the shootout between Kiffin's Rebels and Mike Leach's Bulldogs many expected, but it was just as important for the Rebels.

    A thorough domination gave Ole Miss its 10th regular-season win for the first time in school history. The Rebels still have a bowl game to get to 11, and they're going to get a great postseason draw, too, but Kiffin's explosive turnaround has been impressive.

    Again, quarterback and future NFL draft darling Matt Corral was the masterful conductor until a terrible interception with 8 minutes left in the game and with an 18-point lead. He had 279 offensive yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    Even in a constant Starkville rain, Corral made play after play. It was far from beautiful, but when plays broke down, he churned out first-down yardage with his feet.

    But perhaps the best sign for the program was D.J. Durkin's defense. After a miserable season a year ago and some ups and downs on that side of the ball in 2021, the Rebels have played much better lately. 

    In five of the season's final six games, the Rebels allowed 21 or fewer points (all wins). The only hiccup came in a 31-20 loss to Auburn. On Thursday night, the Rebels pressured Will Rogers all night, making things miserable for him for the second consecutive year. MSU had just six points with 8 minutes left.

    Edge rusher Sam Williams added a pair of sacks, and it wasn't the chilly rainfall that cooled off the Bulldogs' sizzling offense; it was the Rebels, who got the big rivalry win in unconventional fashion.

Loser: Nebraska, Seizing Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

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    One of the biggest cliches in sports is to say a team is "snake bit." At this point, you have to wonder if Nebraska is playing football in a pit of vipers. 

    It's no surprise the Cornhuskers lost 28-21 to No. 16-ranked Iowa on Friday, giving the Hawkeyes seven consecutive wins in the rivalry and 10 victories for the season. With Wisconsin's loss to Minnesota, the win also earned them a trip to the Big Ten title game.

    But how the Cornhuskers lost was yet another vintage Nebraska meltdown.

    Leading 21-6 late in the third quarter against an Iowa team unable to muster any offense all year, the Huskers self-destructed. After a field goal trimmed the lead to 21-9, the Hawkeyes blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown early in the fourth to pull within five.

    Then, they sacked Logan Smothers in the end zone for a safety. The redshirt freshman signal-caller had given Iowa fits with his arm and especially his feet through the first three quarters as Nebraska built its lead, but he was shut down afterward.

    After an impressive go-ahead touchdown drive where Iowa's offense finally asserted itself, the Huskers drove the field for the potential game-tying or go-ahead score, but Smothers threw an interception inside the 2-yard line, and Iowa ran out the clock for the win.

    The 19-0 fourth-quarter face-plant was the football equivalent of a faux pas that gave coach Scott Frost's team a dubious mark. Friday's loss was the eighth one-possession loss this season, a FBS mark the Huskers certainly won't celebrate. They end the season 3-9 with Frost's leash shorter than ever.

    To put it in further unbelievable context, the Huskers have a zero point differential in Big Ten play, yet they finished with a 1-8 league mark. Perhaps no team is better at finding a way to lose.

Winner: Bold Quarterback Changes Saves San Diego State's Season

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    Brady Hoke had to shake it up with a Mountain West Conference title game berth on the line.

    His San Diego State Aztecs needed a win to represent the West division in next week's championship but were trailing by 13 points at home and couldn't muster anything offensively. So, he made a move, benching ineffective Lucas Johnson in favor of Jordon Brookshire.

    The move wound up sparking the Aztecs and saving the season.

    Brookshire lost his job to Johnson earlier this season, and SDSU's passing game flourished on its way to 10 wins entering Friday's grudge match against a Boise State team with championship game aspirations of its own. But the signal-caller made the most of his second opportunity.

    Once he entered, the Broncos couldn't stop him. SDSU reeled off 24 unanswered points on its way to a 27-16 come-from-behind win to erase Boise's hot streak, knocked the Broncos out of their outside opportunity to make it to the championship game and rolled into the title game.

    Had the Aztecs lost, Fresno State would have jumped them in the standings.

    Brookshire was having none of it. He completed 11 of his 15 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown and was dynamic on the ground, too, with his big body churning downhill and barreling over Broncos defenders. He added nine carries for 46 yards and a rushing touchdown, too.

    On the other side, SDSU's defense kicked it up a notch, smothering Hank Bachmeier with relentless second-half pressure that forced him into a couple of interceptions. It seemed every time he dropped back to pass, he was either sacked or hit.

    The win was coach Brady Hoke's team's 11th this year, and the Aztecs will try to complete the season as the Mountain West's best next week.

Loser: Mack Brown's Mastery of North Carolina State

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    It seems this week's "Losers" category has a flavor of epic collapses. You won't find many worse than North Carolina's in an inexplicable 2-minute crumble against rival North Carolina State.

    Leading by nine points with 2:12 left in the game after reeling off 24 unanswered points, the Tar Heels gave up a 64-yard scoring toss from Devin Leary to Emeka Emezie, an onside kick recovery and another Leary-to-Emezie strike from 24 yards away to lose 34-30.

    On the final drive, UNC was called for a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty and a defensive pass interference on Storm Duck to springboard the Pack into position for the go-ahead touchdown.

    Sam Howell's last-second heave into the end zone was intercepted, preserving a Wolfpack win that looked improbable so late in the game after they'd jumped on UNC early.

    "I just told the team we've got to finish, that's all it is," UNC coach Mack Brown said afterward, according to InsideCarolina's Isaiah Lucas. "We've got to make the plays that they made down the stretch and we've got to be more mature and we can't have the penalties. We did everything you could possibly do wrong with two minutes left, to not finish the game."

    With so much to play for, NCSU made all the plays with the game on the line, keeping its hopes for a spot in the ACC championship game alive until Wake Forest beat Boston College to win the Atlantic Division. 

    But this was just as much about what North Carolina failed to do. Just like in the loss to Pittsburgh, they broke down at the end. It's an all-too-familiar refrain from Brown's team this year. So much promise wilted into a 6-6 season full of disappointment.

    This was the worst one yet and a typical bad-breaks way to close out the regular season.

Winner: Wake Forest and the Clawfense

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    Earlier this week with rumors swirling around Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, the Demon Deacons locked up their coach long-term with a contract extension.

    On Saturday, they locked up the Atlantic division of the ACC.

    Needing a victory to stave off North Carolina State and Clemson, the Demon Deacons traveled to Chestnut Hill and took care of business against Boston College with a 41-10 domination.

    Nobody really saw the Deacs handling an improved Eagles team the way they did, but that's really been the story of the season. Yes, there are a lot of feel-good stories around the country in every conference and geographic region, but you won't find many with the legitimacy of Wake.

    Quarterback Sam Hartman has grown into an elite weapon for the No. 21 Demon Deacons, and he was terrific leading Clawson's evolving "Clawfense" again Saturday, torching Boston College for 236 passing yards, 51 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

    North Carolina's Sam Howell got all the headlines as the ACC's premier signal-caller entering the year, but Hartman has out-Howell'd Howell with his arms and his feet. He will go up against the other terrific conference quarterback in the title game in Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett.

    Perhaps the biggest positive for Wake Forest on Saturday, however, was on the other side of the ball. The defense has struggled much of the season but was terrific against Boston College, allowing just 182 total yards (19 passing yards) and nine first downs.

    It was a lopsided showing, and on its biggest stage with so much at stake Saturday, Clawson's team rose to the occasion. It's games like this that make his contract worth every penny.