B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Week 13
If you have a rooting interest, Week 13 might've been unkind to your preferences. The final stage of the 2021 regular season featured a couple of College Football Playoff contenders leaving the picture, several long winning streaks ending in rivalries and plenty of shocking games around the country.
But if you could sit back and watch from a neutral perspective, what a weekend for the sport.
Michigan finally dethroned Ohio State, and Oklahoma State toppled Oklahoma. Washington State planted a flag on Washington's field. UTSA fell tantalizingly short of an unbeaten year, and the list goes on.
Best of all? The madness set up a thrilling championship week. We'll get there, but let's start with Bedlam.
If you're new here, hello! Every Monday this season, B/R will distribute a handful of awards. Some will review the previous weekend's slate, and others will preview what's coming up. A few topics might be humorous or downright strange.
Team of the Week: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Heading into Saturday's prime-time affair, Oklahoma State had managed only two victories in the last 18 editions of Bedlam. The rival Sooners had defeated OSU in six straight meetings, too.
And early in the second half, it seemed Oklahoma might end up finding that seventh consecutive win. Justin Broiles picked up a mishandled punt in the end zone for the easiest touchdown of his life, pushing the Sooners' advantage to 33-24.
Oklahoma State didn't recover immediately. The next two possessions ended in a missed field goal and an interception.
It's understandable if OSU fans started to feel the discomfort of impending doom. This could be 2011 all over again. So close to competing for a national title, but a late-season loss shattered that dream.
But in the fourth quarter, the Pokes responded. After a touchdown trimmed the deficit to 33-31, they capitalized on Oklahoma's own mishandled punt—not a great day for special teams, huh?—to put up the winning score in a 37-33 triumph. The defense forced two turnovers on downs to protect the win.
Although toppling Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game wouldn't lock Oklahoma State into the CFP, the Pokes are on the doorstep and one nudge from crashing the party.
#TeamChaos Win of the Week: Michigan Wolverines
Sure, the Wolverines could've been the Team of the Week. This victory feels like the ultimate chaos, though.
Ohio State's reign in both the rivalry and the Big Ten—even if only temporarily—will not continue in 2021.
Michigan ended several of the Buckeyes' incredible streaks: four Big Ten titles, eight wins in the series and 29 games against Big Ten teams.
After several years of hot-seat talk, Jim Harbaugh is safe. There's no way Michigan is looking at a coaching change anymore.
No matter what happens in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa, the Maize and Blue are officially a threat to Ohio State. It's no longer wishful thinking to say that. Sure, Harbaugh is 1-5 in the rivalry, but 0-6 might've meant a new coach in Ann Arbor. This single result, a 42-27 win propelled by Hassan Haskins' five touchdown runs, altered the perception of these programs substantially.
Michigan doesn't want to be finished yet, either.
Beyond the Buckeyes, the lone Big Ten program to reach the College Football Playoff was 2016 Michigan State. If the Wolverines beat Iowa, they'll secure a trip to the Playoff.
Spoiler of the Week: North Texas Mean Green
Three programs entered Week 13 aiming for 12-0, and both Georgia and Cincinnati accomplished the perfect regular season.
UTSA, however, could not do the same.
North Texas sprinted out to a 17-3 lead in the first quarter. After UTSA shaved the deficit to four, the Mean Green answered with a dominant 18-minute spurt. They stretched the 17-13 edge to 31-13 before halftime and scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to take a commanding 45-13 advantage on the Roadrunners.
The loss should do little to diminish a stellar 2021 campaign for UTSA, which hosts Western Kentucky for the Conference USA Championship Game on Friday night.
But the victory meant a whole lot to North Texas.
Following a 1-6 start, it seemed like a lost season that could end in Seth Littrell no longer running the program. Instead, the Mean Green rattled off a five-game winning streak to become bowl-eligible, earned their first victory over a ranked team since 1974 and probably bought Littrell another year in Denton.
Moment of the Week: Gabe Taylor's Interception
In 2007, the football world grieved the loss of an amazing talent. Sean Taylor was an All-American safety at Miami in the early 2000s and a rising NFL star for Washington, but an intruder shot and killed him during a burglary on Nov. 27 that year.
Saturday marked the 14th anniversary of his death. And his brother, Gabe Taylor, made a clutch play.
Rice trailed 31-21 in the fourth quarter but scored twice—including one with 1:01 remaining—to take a 35-31 lead on Louisiana Tech. As the clock steadily ticked away, Tech reached the 33-yard line. Though quarterback JD Head escaped some pressure, he heaved a pass downfield that dropped into the waiting arms of Taylor.
Taylor, who wears No. 26 like his brother did at Miami, also collected five tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup in the win.
Divisional Parity of the Year: MAC West
As the dust settles on the 2021 regular season, two divisions managed a rare accomplishment. Every program in the seven-team SEC West and six-team MAC West are bowl-eligible. That hadn't happened since the SEC West in 2015.
In the SEC, though, 11-1 Alabama's record far surpassed the bottom of the division. Auburn and LSU both finished 6-6.
Meanwhile, the MAC was a glorious mess. Northern Illinois and Central Michigan turned in 8-4 records, followed by Toledo, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan at 7-5. And on Tuesday night, Ball State joined the six-win group with its victory over Buffalo.
Most notably, all of them registered a record between 4-4 and 6-2 in the MAC. The race hardly could've been closer in 2021.
Thanks to a 39-38 win at Central Michigan in October, NIU has a shot at the program's fifth league title since 2011. The Huskies will take on Kent State in the MAC Championship Game while everyone else prepares for a bowl appearance.
Week 13 Rundown
Disrespect of the Week: Wazzu's Postgame Celebration
Totally, completely here for this. Not only did Washington State fans storm the field after the team snapped its seven-game skid to rival Washington, they did it on the road! Not only did Cougs quarterback Jayden de Laura celebrate with them, he planted the flag at midfield! Safe to say Wazzu should be ready for retaliation when Washington visits Pullman next season.
Under-the-Radar Win of the Week: Notre Dame Hits 11-1
Stanford is bad. This award isn't about a 31-point victory in a rivalry game. No, this section is simply focused on Notre Dame putting itself on the brink of yet another CFP trip in perhaps the quietest way possible. The CFB world understandably hasn't talked much about the Fighting Irish since Cincinnati stomped them in South Bend. But if two of Alabama, Michigan and Oklahoma State lose in their respective conference title game, Notre Dame might sneak into the CFP.
Half-Truth of the Week: Lincoln Riley Didn't Leave for LSU
"I'm not going to be the next head coach at LSU," Lincoln Riley said after Oklahoma's loss on Saturday, per Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated. And within 18 hours, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported USC is working out the final details to hire Riley.
My mom would call this a lie of omission, Lincoln.
Best Championship Week Storylines
This is very simple. Four of the 10 conference championship games will have a direct impact on the College Football Playoff.
At noon ET, Oklahoma State must defeat Baylor to stay in the conversation. Notre Dame, on the other hand, will be rooting for an Oklahoma State loss. Cincinnati would also feel better about its CFP position if the Pokes lose in the Big 12 title game.
Both the SEC and AAC championships kick off at 4 p.m. ET. Georgia is likely CFP-bound regardless of the result, but neither Alabama nor Cincinnati—taking on Houston—can afford a loss.
Michigan rounds out the marquee games with a prime-time clash against Iowa. That matchup is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET, and the Wolverines can secure a CFP berth with a victory.
We'll be watching all 10 matchups closely. Still, those four contests undeniably have an extra bit of significance.