Winners and Losers from Week 13 in College Football

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Winners and Losers from Week 13 in College Football

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    It’s Rivalry Feast Week in college football, and it should be an exciting weekend of action as we sit back, digest those Thanksgiving dinners and gorge on pigskin.

    Friday’s action gave us a heart-stopping moment when Central Florida star quarterback McKenzie Milton suffered a gruesome injury in the Knights’ win over South Florida. Getting to 11-0 was huge, but UCF has heavy lifting to do without its leader.

    The night slate gave us two beautiful bouts, with a matchup between Oklahoma and West Virginia in an offensive-minded Morgantown Masterpiece and the Apple Cup, where Washington and Washington State dueled in a driving snowstorm.

    Ohio State provided Saturday’s biggest shocker—not because the Buckeyes beat Michigan, but because they dropped 62 points on the Wolverines in a blowout win. Alabama and Georgia also walked away with double-digit wins.

    Clemson and Notre Dame took care of business Saturday night, and the LSU-Texas A&M seven-overtime game for the ages was the perfect nightcap to an amazing weekend of football.

    Let’s take a look at college football’s biggest winners and losers from Week 13.

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    In a game unworthy of adjectives that featured everything and went on forever, Texas A&M squeezed out one more astonishing play than LSU.

    Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond found receiver Kendrick Rogers for the go-ahead two-point conversion to finally dispatch the Tigers 74-72 at Kyle Field in the seventh overtime of the highest-scoring game in FBS history.

    Rogers was a human cheat code in overtime, catching two touchdown passes and three two-point conversions, and LSU’s vaunted secondary had no answers for him. 

    Though Mond completed just 23 of 49 passes, he made play after play in pivotal moments, throwing six touchdown passes, three two-point conversions and zero interceptions.

    “You gotta believe you’re gonna do it,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher told SEC Network’s Kris Budden after the game.

    A&M finally got its signature win after taking Clemson to the brink back in September, and the Aggies finished second in the SEC West in Fisher’s first season.

    Mond threw a supposed game-ending interception in the waning minutes of regulation that prompted a premature Ed Orgeron Gatorade bath, but a review of the play showed Mond’s knee was down when he fumbled the snap, meaning the pick never happened.

    Instead, the sophomore quarterback converted a 4th-and-18 pass right at the marker.

    After completing a pass to the 19-yard line, Mond spiked the ball with no time left on the clock, but a review showed there was 1 second left, giving him one more chance. He found Quartney Davis for a score to send the game into overtime.

    That’s where even more madness ensued, and college football fans were treated to the game of the year between two great teams with playmakers galore on offense and gassed defenses. It was an epic showdown with a ridiculous finish.

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    Thanks to some vacated wins, the NCAA didn’t recognize Florida State’s 36-year consecutive bowl streak. But that didn’t keep those postseason games from happening.

    It didn’t keep rival Florida from snapping that streak on Saturday with a 41-14 domination of the Seminoles, either.

    A week after FSU’s fourth-quarter deep pass completed a comeback win over Boston College to put the ‘Noles in position to extend their postseason streak despite a forgettable first year under Willie Taggart, the hated Gators made sure to end any late-season encouragement in Tallahassee.

    The Sunshine Showdown was a throwdown by the Gators. Because of it, the Seminoles will sit at home and watch bowl season for the first time since 1981. Even that year, they were bowl-eligible at 6-5. The last time FSU had a losing season was 1976, which was its first year under legendary head coach Bobby Bowden.

    So, Taggart’s seat is going to be plenty hot after this year; it’s just an unacceptable season for a proud program used to competing for championships, not having to scrape by to earn bowl eligibility.

    It’s easy to forget Jimbo Fisher’s final season in Tallahassee wasn’t great, either. After Deondre Francois’ injury in last year’s season opener, the Seminoles finished 7-6. This year, they went 5-7 and had major issues on both sides of the ball. Those issues reared their heads Saturday, too.

    The Gators tried to add insult to injury and plant their flag at the center of the field at Doak Campbell Stadium, but Florida coach Dan Mullen interrupted his own ESPN postgame interview to make them stop.

    It was a classy move by Mullen, whose team ended a five-game losing streak to the Seminoles and knocked them into an offseason full of questions in the process.

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Unless you’re Alabama and literally beat everybody by more than 20 points, there are going to be some grit games throughout the course of a college football season.

    How you respond to those outings and that adversity breeds a championship mentality.

    You can say what you want about Notre Dame and its lack of style-point wins this year, but the bottom line right now is all the Fighting Irish do is win. They did that again on Saturday, rallying from a 10-point deficit to squelch USC’s upset hopes with a 24-17 win.

    The Irish jumped on an onside kick after a late Trojans touchdown and went into the victory formation that doubled as a College Football Playoff formation. 

    The Irish are going to the playoff at 12-0; it’d be ridiculous to leave them out. This is Notre Dame’s 10th perfect season since 1945 and first since 2012. While the Irish may not strike fear into the hearts of the nation’s best, nobody should take them lightly.

    Quarterback Ian Book did not have his best game against the Trojans, but he came on late, ending with 352 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and running back Dexter Williams’ 52-yard go-ahead score was huge.

    On top of those two plays, the defense also rebounded from being obviously rattled by USC’s talent and speed early in the game. In the end, though, that championship attitude showed and bled through in the Irish’s play.

    That’s why they’re one of the three most impressive teams in the nation this year, along with Alabama and Clemson. It’s going to be interesting to see how Brian Kelly‘s team matches up in the playoff.

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    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    When anybody is injured as gruesomely as McKenzie Milton was in Central Florida’s 38-10 win over South Florida at Raymond James Stadium on Friday, it makes you sick.

    That Milton is one of college football’s biggest superstars, a fringe Heisman Trophy contender who is the undisputed leader for the team with the longest winning streak in college football, compounds the disappointment.

    Milton took off on a designed second-quarter run around the right end. Coming up in coverage, Bulls cornerback Mazzi Wilkins went low for the tackle, contacting the redshirt junior quarterback on the knee.

    He immediately began writhing in pain, coaches motioned for medics to come over, and Milton’s leg wasn’t where it was supposed to be. He was carted off the field and reportedly had successful knee surgery Friday. 

    Now, a Knights team that finally started earning respect from the College Football Playoff selection committee—recently jumping over Ohio State and into ninth—must continue without a player who’s accounted for 79 total touchdowns since the start of last year, the most of any FBS player.

    But the Knights persevered and are now 11-0. When asked what he’d say to his team at halftime, UCF head coach Josh Heupel told the ESPN crew: “Let’s go play. Let’s go play for him.” 

    The Knights did, led by a ground attack that featured 181 yards and three touchdowns by Greg McCrae. Quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. was nowhere near the force McKenzie is, but he managed his team to yet another win.

    “It breaks your heart for a kid who’s worked so hard to go out and compete,” Heupel told ESPN afterward. “[Milton] loves his brothers, and he plays for them. I’m proud of the way our kids responded here today.”

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Entering the Big Ten’s biggest game of the year, Ohio State Buckeyes freshman receiver Chris Olave had just five catches for 70 yards the entire season.

    Against the Wolverines, the San Marcos, California, native was all over the place, breaking out as the biggest star on a team full of them in a 62-39 Ohio State win.

    He caught a pair of touchdown passes from Dwayne Haskins in the first half to help OSU build a lead. Then, as Michigan looked like it was about to start unraveling, Olave sped up the process, blocking a Michigan punt into the hands of fellow freshman Sevyn Banks, who raced for a touchdown and a 34-19 lead.

    Olave was a major weapon for Haskins, who cemented his status as a top-three Heisman Trophy candidate. The sophomore quarterback torched the nation’s top-ranked pass defense and broke Drew Brees’ Big Ten single-season passing touchdown record with his 40th of the year and fourth of the day on his way to five total.

    It was a major offensive outburst for the talented Buckeyes, who had been teetering on the brink of collapse much of the season. With off-the-field controversy, major defensive struggles and inconsistency running the ball, OSU still managed to hold it together and enter Saturday with just a single loss.

    None of those issues manifested themselves against the Wolverines. They made a team that looked destined for the College Football Playoff look very average. The elite athletes recruited by Urban Meyer and Co. showed up and showed out all day.

    Now it’s the Buckeyes who could play their way up the rankings and perhaps into the playoff, and Olave cemented himself as a player to watch after turning in a stellar performance in The Game.

    Michigan still hasn’t won in Columbus since 2000.

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    John Weast/Getty Images

    There are going to be a ton of questions about Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury’s future with his alma mater after yet another disappointing season in Lubbock.

    The Red Raiders endured a ton of bad luck with injuries to their top two quarterbacks. But the bottom line is they’ve not been able to stop anybody on defense throughout Kingsbury’s tenure, and that was the case again Saturday as Charlie Brewer had a big game in a 35-24 Baylor win.

    San Antonio television anchor Joe Reinagel of CBS affiliate KENS5 tweeted Saturday afternoon that he was hearing from a good source that Kingsbury had been fired. No other reports surfaced throughout the day, so that may be premature.

    But, at the very least, the program with which Kingsbury starred as a quarterback has to be concerned about its favorite son at the helm. 

    Kingsbury told the Associated Press he expects to talk to athletic director Kirby Hocutt soon about his future.

    “Going to talk to Kirby and take it from there,” Kingsbury said after the game“… He’s been phenomenal with me, and supportive and given me everything I needed to be successful at Texas Tech. I have the utmost respect for Kirby and what he’s done for this university, and he’s the best AD in the country. We’re all lucky for him.”

    Hocutt has to make a tough decision on Kingsbury, but there have to be plenty of grumbles in Lubbock, whether his job is safe for now or not.

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The rivalry known as Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate turned into a clean, old-fashioned tail whipping on Saturday. Georgia looked to be in championship form heading into next weekend’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama.

    Georgia slammed Georgia Tech 45-21 in Athens, putting together perhaps the most well-rounded offensive outing of the season. That’s huge news for the Bulldogs, who were inconsistent on that side of the ball early on but have really meshed in recent weeks.

    Since losing to LSU on October 13, the Bulldogs trounced ranked opponents Florida (No. 9) 36-17, Kentucky (No. 9) 34-17 and Auburn (No. 24) 27-10. They also took down UMass 66-27. Against a Power Five opponent and a hated Yellow Jackets team, everything worked for UGA.

    Perhaps the most welcome sign was quarterback Jake Fromm’s performance. He was much more than just a game manager, finishing 13-of-16 for 175 yards and four touchdowns before they called off the dogs.

    There won’t be many more whispers about Justin Fields replacing Fromm after this game; he is the clear-cut leader.

    The Bulldogs’ catalyst of the past few weeks, running back D’Andre Swift, continued his second-half onslaught with 105 yards on just 14 carries, and Elijah Holyfield added 79 yards on nine carries.

    If Georgia is going to shock college football and topple the Tide next week in Atlanta, the Bulldogs are going to have to score points and be efficient offensively. That will take Fromm’s best effort as UGA tries to return the favor from Alabama’s national championship comeback last season.

    The Dawgs look ready. Saturday should be all you need to see to know that the Crimson Tide aren’t just going to waltz into the College Football Playoff unscathed. Coach Kirby Smart clearly had his team prepared for Tech on Saturday, and they continued to play at a high level.

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    “Hey! Good game in that little Friday night shootout, Kyler Murray!”

    “Chin up, Will Grier. Strong showing in a losing effort, big guy.”

    “Big-time rebound game against the nation’s top-ranked pass defense, Dwayne Haskins. We’d forgotten about you.”

    All those college football players are bona fide stars, but they’ll all get participation awards when it comes to this year’s Heisman Trophy. 

    Those contenders undoubtedly put up spectacular showings. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor was good but not great. Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew had a bad night in an Apple Cup loss to Washington.

    Meanwhile, the leader in the clubhouse for college football’s top individual award cemented his status as the best in Saturday’s Iron Bowl. That’s when Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa shredded Auburn’s secondary throughout the second half in an eventual 52-21 win over the Tigers.

    Tagovailoa’s second-half surge led to 28 points for his team. With the Crimson Tide clinging to a 17-14 halftime advantage, the quarterback led two quick-strike drives that totaled 144 yards in the first six minutes of the third quarter.

    The sophomore from Hawaii wound up completing 25 of 32 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns. He added another score on the ground for good measure, and Jalen Hurts took over in garbage time.

    Bama had just 123 rushing yards because it didn’t need them. It has Tagovailoa, after all, and he’ll take home the individual hardware and try to lead his team to another national championship.

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Games like Clemson vs. South Carolina are where heroes are born, and Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley played like one on Saturday night in a five-touchdown performance that kept Carolina in the thick of the game against one of the nation’s best teams.

    But while Bentley torched the Tigers’ vaunted defense, South Carolina had no answer for Clemson’s offense—particularly its running game, which took charge and carried the the second-ranked Tigers into next week’s ACC Championship Game in a 56-35 win.

    South Carolina has experienced defensive issues all year in the SEC, and they were compounded against in-state rival Clemson. 

    Everything the Tigers did on that side of the ball worked. It’s a good thing, too, with Bentley smoldering on the other side.

    Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence had his best game yet, finishing 27-of-36 for 393 yards and a touchdown, distributing the ball to nine different receivers, led by Tee Higgins’ 142 yards and a touchdown.

    The real dominance came on the ground, though. Clemson churned out 6.4 yards per carry for a total of 351 rushing yards and added seven rushing touchdowns. Six different runners carried the ball, led by fringe Heisman candidate Travis Etienne’s 28 carries for 150 yards and two scores.

    Tavien Feaster had 63 yards and a score, and short-yardage back Adam Choice added 56 yards and three touchdowns.

    Carolina coach Will Muschamp is a defensive-minded former coordinator who cannot be happy with that side of the ball this year, especially after it cost them a potential upset Saturday night. But Clemson certainly looks poised to play Pitt next week.

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Too many empty possessions were followed with defensive collapses for Kansas State on Saturday night in Ames, Iowa.

    The end result was a monumental meltdown against Iowa State that saw the Wildcats go from a 38-21 fourth-quarter lead to a stunning 42-38 loss to the Cyclones in the highest-scoring game in series history.

    Nobody expected an offensive onslaught between the two defensive-minded teams. As a matter of fact, all those points was as surprising—albeit to a lesser degree—as the Ohio State-Michigan outburst to start the day. But KSU’s defense collapsed down the stretch in a major way.

    That means Bill Snyder’s team will be sitting at home instead of bowling.

    It was just a grueling way to lose a game with so much on the line, but every facet of the Wildcats team failed it in the fourth quarter.

    Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy found Sam Seonbuchner for a three-yard touchdown with 10:18 left. On the ensuing drive, Thompson was sacked; he fumbled, and Cyclones defender Michael Rose returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. David Montgomery then added an 18-yard run with 4:34 left to take the four-point lead.

    When K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson’s pass to receiver Dalton Schoen was just a couple yards too far with 1:14 left and no flags were on the field, that sealed it for Iowa State.

    The Cyclones reached seven wins with the victory; meanwhile, the Wildcats wasted a brilliant effort from running back Alex Barnes, who eclipsed 180 yards on the ground.

    It’s a tough finish for what could be Snyder’s final game. We’ll have to wait to see what decision he makes on what’s been a great career, but this game won’t be a fondly remembered part of it.

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    It’s been easy to forget about Miami.

    The Hurricanes were one of college football’s biggest stories last year, soaring all the way up into the Top 10 in a season where The U looked like The U again under head coach Mark Richt. However, Miami suffered a late-season collapse, losing its final three games of the season after starting 10-0.

    On Saturday, the ‘Canes exacted a little bit of revenge, shutting down what had been a potent Pittsburgh train that was rolling over conference opponents throughout the second half of the season on its way to next week’s ACC Championship Game.

    Last year, coach Pat Narduzzi’s team knocked off Miami before the Hurricanes went to play Clemson for the conference title. This time, it was Miami’s turn. Pitt will still take on the Tigers next week, but the Panthers will have to play a whole lot better if they’re going to have a chance.

    The 24-3 loss to Miami was thorough. The Hurricanes handed Pitt just its second conference loss, and a running game that had been churning up opponents for the past few weeks was dormant against coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense.

    Pitt had 11 first downs, was just 1-of-15 on third-down conversions, had 131 passing yards, and, most surprisingly, mustered just 69 yards on the ground.

    Narduzzi said his team “ran into a buzzsaw” against Miami and even joked that “Warren Sapp came out of retirement,” according to WPTS Sports. It sure felt that way at times, as Miami looked far and away like the better of these two 7-5 teams.

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    Loren Orr/Getty Images

    Not long after America watched the Texas A&M Aggies come out on top in of one of the wackiest, most dramatic games of the year, FBS’s other set of Aggies couldn’t pull off an Aggies parlay.

    The memorable season for Utah State coach Matt Wells ran into a big blue roadblock in Boise State in a 33-24 loss to the Broncos. Yes, the Aggies have been one of the best Group of Five stories in the nation, but Boise has been here before, and it showed.

    The Broncos continued their dominance on the blue turf, getting a breakout run from Alexander Mattison to seal it late and then giving the ball to him again on 4th-and-goal from the 1 with four seconds left to put the finishing touches on a 33-24 win.

    The loss drops USU to 10-2 on the season, and, more importantly, it gives Boise State the Mountain West Mountain division championship. That means the Broncos will host Fresno State in the conference championship game next week in a rematch of Boise’s 24-17 win on Nov. 9. 

    In that game, the Bulldogs were favored on the road but couldn’t pull off the win. Boise was a slight favorite Saturday night and took care of business. Though senior quarterback Brett Rypien was steady, Mattison was spectacular, finishing with 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

    This season, Mattison has extended the streak of 1,000-yard rushers at Boise to 10.

    For USU, quarterback Jordan Love’s incredible season continued with 361 passing yards and three touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to put the Aggies in the conference title game.

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    On a night when almost zero defense was played in Morgantown, Oklahoma’s beleaguered unit made a pair of plays that proved to be the difference in a crucial 59-56 road win over West Virginia.

    There’s no question the Sooners have been hamstrung by their defense much of the year and were time and time again Friday night.

    Head coach Lincoln Riley fired coordinator Mike Stoops in early October, and it hasn’t gotten much better since then. That scar on the Sooners’ record could keep them from being as attractive to the College Football Playoff selection committee.

    But with both offenses firing missiles in the chilly mountain air and Kyler Murray doing his Heisman thing on offense, OU got a couple of plays from its D. Both were on WVU Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Will Grier, whose career night was blasted by the blunders.

    First, Caleb Kelly wrapped up Grier with 3:06 left in the first half, forcing him to fumble. Kelly disengaged from Grier, picked up the fumble and rumbled 10 yards for a touchdown to pull OU ahead 35-21. It was a big moment considering the Mountaineers scored before the break and tied it up early in the third.

    Then in the fourth, after WVU had a long run inside the 10-yard line called back thanks to an odd personal foul for a block out of bounds, Grier was hit again, this time by Kenneth Mann, who forced another fumble as Grier tried to do too much.

    This time the ball was picked up by Curtis Bolton and returned 48 yards for a touchdown to give OU a 59-49 lead.

    Grier’s career-high 539 passing yards weren’t quite enough thanks to those forced errors, and Oklahoma again survived its defensive deficiencies by making tons of offensive plays and doing just enough on defense to earn a spot against Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 1.

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Washington State once again held its own destiny in its hands. All it needed to do was beat heated rival Washington in the annual Apple Cup, and not only would the Cougars go to the Pac-12 Championship Game, but they would also remain on the cusp of the College Football Playoff conversation.

    But the Huskies and their rugged defense went into the driving snow in Pullman and shaved up the Mustached Mystique by forcing Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Gardner Minshew II into a pair of pivotal mistakes.

    The graduate transfer quarterback’s two interceptions proved crucial as the Huskies held Wazzu at arm’s length much of the night before scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown to pull away and win 28-15 in miserable conditions.

    The weather favored Washington’s grind-it-out style, and WSU head coach Mike Leach’s offense couldn’t get into its normal rhythm. The Cougars also didn’t have a defensive answer for senior runner Myles Gaskin, who churned out 170 yards and three touchdowns.

    The Huskies ground out a typical win with defense, exceptional running from Gaskin and some well-timed plays by steady senior quarterback Jake Browning. All that equalled the sixth consecutive Apple Cup victory for U-Dub.

    So, instead of Wazzu representing the North Division in the conference championship game next Friday, coach Chris Petersen and company spoiled the Cougars’ season and tossed the Pac-12’s hopes of representation in the College Football Playoff in the garbage.

    For Washington, it was little solace to salvage a conference championship game appearance after a disappointing season that started with the Huskies ranked sixth but saw them lose three times.

    They never trailed Friday night, and Petersen remained unbeaten in the Apple Cup.

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    Twenty-one college football teams went into this week needing a win to become bowl-eligible. Ten of those teams used a win to get in.

    There was a lot of drama and storylines involved, too.

    Several of the games were winner-take-all battles such as Baylor beating Texas Tech, Vanderbilt whipping Tennessee for the third consecutive year and Purdue toppling instate rival Indiana.

    For the Commodores, they not only embarrassed Tennessee by knocking the Vols out of a bowl chance in Jeremy Pruitt’s first year, but they also won their third consecutive game over their rivals for the first time since 1926.

    Minnesota continued its strong second-half surge with a 37-15 whupping of Wisconsin to cap the Badgers’ disappointing season. The Golden Gophers got to hoist the Axe for the first time in 15 years in another massive win for the P.J. Fleck era.

    Purdue was a Fleck victim recently, but the Boilermakers recaptured some of their midseason magic by beating the Hoosiers and keeping Indiana out of the postseason. It’s a nice story for a change at Baylor that Matt Rhule got the Bears to a bowl, too.

    Meanwhile, Florida State tanked and Arizona blew a big, late lead to Arizona State. Florida Atlantic blew a 21-10 halftime lead against Charlotte to send Lane Kiffin home for the holidays All three were a win away from becoming bowl-eligible. 

    It was a big day for some teams, while others are left with plenty of offseason questions.

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    Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

    As Bryce Perkins completed pass after pass, helping Virginia storm back, it looked like 15 years of frustration would be exorcised.

    But even in a bad year, the Hokies found a way to break the Hoos’ hearts with a wild-and-wacky 34-31 overtime win that was gut-wrenching for Virginia.

    “This football team’s been through a lot, and we had adversity in this game, and our kids stuck together and found a way,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente told the ABC sideline crew after Friday’s game. “We knew it was going to be a back-and-forth battle. We just had to find a way to keep plugging away.”

    After Virginia turned a Ryan Willis interception at the UVA 11-yard line into just three points and a 31-24 lead late in the fourth quarter, many fans at Lane Stadium scrambled for the exits.

    But the Hokies weren’t done. They pieced together an incredible drive, punctuated by Dalton Keene, who wrestled a 45-yard catch from Bryce Hall to put Tech into Hoos’ territory.

    Steven Peoples burst up the middle toward the goal line, but he fumbled into the end zone, where Hezekiah Grimsley recovered for the game-tying touchdown. 

    Brian Johnson nailed a 42-yard field goal in overtime after Virginia’s Charles Snowden missed a sure sack that would have put Tech out of field-goal range. Bryce Perkins then fumbled the ball without anybody touching him, and VT recovered for the victory.

    It marked the Hokies’ 15th win in a row in the series. If Tech beats Marshall next week, it will go to a bowl game for the 26th consecutive season: the nation’s longest recognized streak.

    “We live to fight another day,” Fuente said.

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    Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

    One of the most underappreciated college football players from the past four seasons went out with a cannon shot on Saturday as Syracuse trounced struggling Boston College in Chestnut Hill on its way to a quality bowl game.

    Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey has often battled injuries, playing in just 26 games in his first three seasons. This year, he’s battled inconsistency and has even been benched a couple of times in favor of talented youngster Tommy DeVito.

    But Dungey has been a stabilizing force who’s helped coach Dino Babers build the Orange into a ranked program, and the dual-threat senior played his final regular-season game against the Eagles on Saturday, turning in his best effort of the season in a 42-21 win.

    The Orange actually were underdogs on the road, but Dungey made sure that wouldn’t hold up. Syracuse rebounded nicely from last week’s lopsided 36-3 loss to Notre Dame in which Dungey left the game early with an upper-body injury.

    Dungey was able to play Saturday, and he was a dynamic force against the Eagles. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 362 yards and three touchdowns, and the Eagles had no answers for him. He added 34 yards on 18 carries and scored three more times on the ground.

    All six Syracuse touchdowns came via the arm or legs of Dungey. He propelled the Orange to a 9-3 regular-season record and gave them their sixth ACC win in what has been a brilliant step forward for Babers’ program.

    Even better, they sent Dungey out in style.

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    A week ago, there was more drama than anybody wants at this juncture of the season. Star defensive tackle Ed Oliver got visibly angry with head coach Major Applewhite when the team was going into the locker room at halftime. Applewhite told Oliver to remove a jacket reserved for active players.

    With Oliver suited up against Memphis on Friday and active for the first time since October, all would be well, right?

    Not exactly.

    While playing for the AAC West’s spot in the conference title game, Oliver remained in full pads but didn’t play in the second half. Applewhite told the Houston Chronicle‘s Joseph Duarte that Oliver tweaked the knee he’d injured and the timetable for his return would be two-to-three weeks.

    With Oliver out, the Tigers and star Darrell Henderson (178 yards) ran wild. They scored on five of their seven second-half possessions and tormented a young Cougars defensive front that featured two freshmen at times.

    Memphis won 52-31 and will play Central Florida on Dec. 1 in the title game. 

    Though Houston’s defensive woes were more deeply rooted than just Oliver’s absence, he was definitely missed. And Memphis rightfully exploited the weakest link. 

    Oliver told Duarte afterward that he planned to participate in the postseason. Unfortunately for the Cougars, they needed him Friday.

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    There were plenty of ugly warts on Texas’ 24-17 win over Kansas in Lawrence on Friday, but the final result at Memorial Stadium was beautiful for the No. 14 Longhorns.

    Texas built a 17-point fourth-quarter lead before it had to start sweating a little following a Peyton Bender touchdown pass. KU recovered an onside kick and then made a field goal. But the Longhorns recovered the next onside attempt and were able to go into the victory formation.

    The reward was the program’s first berth in the Big 12 Championship Game since 2009, when it played Alabama for the national title.

    Considering head coach Tom Herman’s sophomore campaign started with Texas’ second straight season-opening loss to Maryland, getting here is a major accomplishment.

    It hasn’t always been pretty, but the bottom line is the Longhorns are ahead of schedule and winning the way they should. They finished on the short end of a pair of shootouts against West Virginia and Oklahoma State earlier this year, or else they’d have an even better record.

    Quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw a pair of interceptions against the Jayhawks, but he was responsible for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) to help propel Texas into the title game. For anybody thinking KU is a gimme win, this could have been the Longhorns’ second consecutive loss in Lawrence.

    Instead, they came through with a victory to end the regular season. It may not win many happy headlines for national observers, but that doesn’t matter. The Longhorns are playing for the conference crown Dec. 1 at AT&T Stadium.

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    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    At least Kansas put up a fight in David Beaty’s final game before the Les Miles era begins in earnest.

    That’s more than a couple of fellow Power Five whipping posts can say about their Friday games.

    Arkansas barely made a whimper in a 38-0 loss to a surging Missouri team that won four straight to end the year after that extra-down loss to Kentucky. After showing signs of life a couple of weeks ago against LSU, the Razorbacks were pummeled by Mississippi State and Mizzou to close the season.

    The Hogs have just two wins (over Eastern Illinois and Tulsa), and they lost to Colorado State and North Texas in Chad Morris’ first year replacing Bret Bielema in Fayetteville. There are plenty more questions than answers heading into the offseason for a team that looked far and away worse than any in the SEC this year.

    Arkansas was consistently bad, and Saturday may have been its worst performance.

    Oregon State also has been awful in Jonathan Smith’s first season in Corvallis, failing to consistently stop anybody on defense (the unit is second-worst in the nation). It was much of the same in the Civil War on Friday.

    Though the Oregon Ducks have scuffled during the second half of the campaign, they got things going on the road and never looked back, blasting the Beavers 55-15 in their Pac-12 rivalry.

    It’s not a surprise that Oregon and Mizzou dispatched the Beavers and the Hogs, but the relative ease of both wins are red flags for the losing programs entering an important offseason of development. Morris and Smith have their work cut out for them in tough conferences moving forward.

                                                                

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of Sports Reference and CFBStats.com.

    Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    They don’t have a Comeback Coach of the Year award, but if they did, Mississippi State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop would run away with it.

    Shoop joined first-year coach Joe Moorhead’s staff after a miserable stretch at Tennessee under Butch Jones. The Vols finished 82nd in total defense in 2017, and Shoop’s unit looked like it had no clue what it was doing against even serviceable offenses.

    All that changed this year with Mississippi State. The Bulldogs entered Thanksgiving night’s Egg Bowl against hated rival Ole Miss ranked fourth nationally in total defense, second in scoring defense, 13th in rushing defense and eighth against the pass.

    They didn’t go anywhere but up (and held steady against the pass) after a dominant showing against an Ole Miss team that entered second in the SEC in offense. In a 35-3 MSU win that was lowlighted by an ugly brawl, the Bulldogs D delivered the biggest black eye.

    Ole Miss mustered just 189 total yards despite entering the game averaging 539.7. Electric quarterback Jordan Ta’amu ended his career in Oxford with a forgettable performance, completing just eight of 17 passes for 87 yards and an interception.

    The Rebels squeezed out just 37 rushing yards and went 0-of-11 on third-down conversions.

    It was complete dominance as the Bulldogs exacted Egg Bowl revenge.

    As for Shoop, he is a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to college football’s top assistant coach. He probably won’t win it with Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown among the favorites, but Shoop deserves tons of credit for a big year.

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    When teams play Iowa, they often leave a hard-hitting, rugged affair feeling like they’ve been battered and bloodied.

    Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz actually was bleeding from the lip and sported a bruised face after his team’s 31-28 last-second win over Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Friday, but the wound was suffered in celebration, which made it worth the battle scars.

    After quarterback Nate Stanley found tight end T.J. Hockenson for 10 yards on a 4th-and-8 to set up Miguel Recinos’ 41-yard game-winning field goal in the driving rain, the scene was raucous as the Hawkeyes got their eighth win and hoisted the Heroes Trophy.

    “I just head-butted Stanley, unintentionally,” Ferentz told the Fox crew after the win. “That one’s easy to live with,” he said.

    The victory halted the fourth-quarter momentum Scott Frost’s Cornhuskers built by scoring a late touchdown and converting the game-tying two-point conversion. It also severed any good vibrations Nebraska could have built with a season-ending win.

    Yes, the Huskers made strides in the second half of 2018, particularly with freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. But Iowa is a battle-tested team, and the Hawkeyes came through with enough plays to get a victory. None was bigger than the fourth-down pass.

    “That was a huge play, obviously,” Ferentz said. “We thought we had a good matchup, so we just went with it, and Nate delivered a good ball.”

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