One week to go and there are BCS bids and conference championships to be decided. It wasn’t a big week for upsets, but the rivalry games did not disappoint. UCLA is 6-6, but will play for the PAC-12 title. If they lose, will they miss out on a bowl game due to a losing record? That’s just a thought. Ladies and gentlemen, the winners and losers from Week 13:
Northern Illinois clinched a spot in the MAC Championship game with an 18-12 win over Eastern Michigan on Friday. Chandler Harnish rushed for 148 yards including a 68-yard touchdown as the Huskies will represent the MAC West in the conference’s championship game. Northern Illinois will take on Ohio at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday night.
USC QB Matt Barkley
In USC’s final game as a team on probation, quarterback Matt Barkley made the arch-rival UCLA Bruins pay. Barkley passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns as USC blanked UCLA 50-0. Barkley threw two touchdowns each to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. The Trojans finish 2011 with a 10-2 record.
In what could be the last match-up between Texas and Texas A&M for a long time, it was the Longhorns that pulled out the victory on the final play of the game. Ryan Tannehill’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Fuller with 1:48 to play gave the Aggies a 25-24 lead. Case McCoy led Texas down the field and on the final play of the game, Justin Tucker lined up to attempt a 40-yard field goal. Tucker’s kick split the uprights as Texas avenged last season’s loss to A&M and improved to 7-4.
The last remaining winless team in the FBS is winless no more. The Florida Atlantic Owls used a pair of Alfred Morris touchdowns in the final quarter to defeat UAB for their first win of the year 38-35. FAU will conclude 2011 at home against Louisiana-Monroe.
One week after having its hopes of a national title dashed, the Oregon Ducks circled the wagons and defeated Oregon State 49-21 to win the PAC-12 North. Quarterback Darron Thomas passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns while LaMichael James rushed for 142 yards and a score. The Ducks will host UCLA on Friday night in the inaugural PAC-12 Championship.
For the first time since October of 2007, the Colorado Buffaloes have won a road football game. In Salt Lake City on Friday, Colorado defeated Utah 17-14. Utah kicker Coleman Petersen’s field goal attempt as time expired was no good as the Colorado seniors experienced the first road win of their careers in the final game of their careers. Colorado finishes with a 3-10 record.
Alabama RB Trent Richardson
It remains to be whether or not Alabama gets a second chance at LSU in the BCS National Championship, but Alabama junior tailback Trent Richardson may have run himself to a Heisman Trophy in Saturday’s 42-14 win over arch-rival Auburn. Richardson’s only touchdown came on a five-yard-reception, but Richardson finished the game with 203 yards rushing on 27 carries. Alabama will finish the regular season with an 11-1 record and will await its BCS fate next weekend.
Houston’s first appearance in the BCS and Conference USA’s first team to bust the BCS may be just one week away. The Cougars clinched a spot in the Conference USA Championship on Saturday with a 48-16 win at Tulsa. Case Keenum passed for 457 yards and five touchdowns as Houston overcame an early deficit and scored the game’s final 28 points. Receiver Patrick Edwards finished with 181 yards receiving and four touchdowns. Houston will host Southern Mississippi on Saturday afternoon in the Conference USA Championship. A win for the Cougars will likely equal a trip to a BCS bowl game.
Wisconsin will get a re-match with Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten Championship following Saturday’s 45-7 blowout of Penn State. In a game in which the winner would clinch a spot in the conference championship, the Badgers dominated. Penn State drew first blood, but the final 45 points of the game went to Wisconsin. Montee Ball rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns giving him 34 on the season. Ball is just five touchdowns behind Barry Sanders for the single season record. The Wisconsin defense held Penn State to 233 yards of offense while forcing four turnovers. The win gives the Badgers the Leaders division and Wisconsin will meet Michigan State in Indianapolis on Saturday with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line.
The champions of the Western Athletic Conference are the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech shut out New Mexico State 44-0 on Saturday; Hunter Lee rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Louisiana Tech later learned that it had won the conference outright after Nevada was defeated by Utah State 21-17. Louisiana Tech finishes the regular season 8-4 and will participate in a bowl game for the first time since 2008.
With a trip to the ACC Championship on the line, Virginia Tech went into Charlottesville and shut out Virginia 38-0. The Hokies forced four Virginia turnovers in the contest. David Wilson led Virginia Tech with 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Logan Thomas passed for a pair of scores and rushed for another as the Hokies clinched the ACC Coastal division. Virginia Tech will have an opportunity to avenge its only loss of the season as it meets Clemson in Charlotte for the conference title on Saturday.
For the first time since 2003, Michigan defeated arch-rival Ohio State with a 40-34 win on Saturday in Ann Arbor. Quarterback Denard Robinson accounted for all five Michigan touchdowns including a touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms in the third quarter to put the Wolverines ahead for good. Up 40-34, Ohio State took the ball with hopes of a late touchdown and an upset victory, but Braxton Miller’s fourth-down pass was intercepted by Michigan’s Courtney Avery to end the Buckeyes’ hopes. After three straight losing seasons, the Wolverines are 10-2 and will likely get a New Year’s Day bowl game.
In its final conference game as a member of the Big XII, Texas A&M lost on the final horn to arch-rival Texas 27-25. A&M jumped to a 16-7 halftime lead, but Texas answered with 17 third quarter points. Down 24-16, Texas A&M got a field goal from Randy Bullock and re-gained the lead on a touchdown toss from Ryan Tannehill to Jeff Fuller with just under two minutes to play. On the final drive of the game, Texas drove 48 yards to the Aggies’ 23-yard line. On the final play of the game, Texas kicker Justin Tucker drilled a 40-yard field goal to give the Longhorns the victory. Texas A&M fell to 6-6 with the loss and will likely have a bowl game remaining before it transitions to the SEC. Texas and Texas A&M will not play again until at least 2019.
After a 6-0 start to 2011, Illinois has lost six straight following a 27-7 loss to lowly Minnesota on Saturday. The Fighting Illini were held to 160 yards of offense while converting on just two of 15 third down conversions. Illinois is bowl-eligible, but has had a dismal finish to what appeared to be a very promising season. At 6-6, Illinois will need a bowl victory just to have a winning season after a 6-0 start. Head coach Ron Zook was fired on Sunday.
Despite all the turmoil that took place around State College, Penn State needed only to win at Wisconsin to cement a spot in the first ever Big Ten Championship. Things looked good early as Matt McGloin’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Drake gave the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead. But that would be one of the lone highlights for Penn State as Wisconsin scored the final 45 points in a 45-7 rout. Wisconsin nearly doubled the offensive output of Penn State while the Nittany Lions turned the ball over four times in the loss. Whether or not Penn State gets a bowl invitation remains to be seen. With the loss, Penn State falls to 9-3.
With a trip to the Conference USA’s title game on the line, Tulsa was embarrassed at home by an undefeated Houston team by a score of 48-16. Tulsa took an early 7-0 lead on G.J. Kinne’s 11-yard touchdown toss to Willie Carter, but that was the last touchdown the Golden Hurricane would score. Houston racked up 558 yards of offense against Tulsa and scored five touchdowns in the second half. Tulsa suffered its first conference loss of the season and fell to 8-4 overall. The Golden Hurricane could still wind up in the Liberty Bowl should Houston defeat Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA Championship.
With a chance to advance to the ACC Championship for the first time ever with a win, the Virginia Cavaliers were held scoreless in a 38-0 loss to arch-rival Virginia Tech. All season long, Virginia has prided itself on taking care of the football and playing great defense, but on Saturday, the Cavaliers did very little of either. Virginia was held to just 30 yards rushing while committing four turnovers and allowing the Hokies to amass 410 yards of offense. Quarterback Michael Rocco passed for 211 yards, but threw two interceptions. Virginia fell to 8-4 with the loss, but will compete in its first bowl game with Mike London at the helm.
Ohio State and Florida
Prior to the beginning of the year, Ohio State and Florida has each reached the BCS National Championship twice in the previous five years. After losing rivalry games on Saturday, both schools fell to 6-6. Ohio State lost to Michigan for the first time since 2003 while Florida held arch-rival Florida State to 92 yards of offense and still lost convincingly. Michigan beat the Buckeyes 40-34 while the Gators fell to FSU 21-7.
Week 13’s Biggest Winner
Despite an 11-0 start, LSU still needed to beat Arkansas to advance to the SEC Championship in Atlanta. The Tigers fell behind 14-0, but a Kenny Hilliard touchdown and a 92- yard punt return for a touchdown by Tyrann Mathieu evened the score at 14. LSU took its first lead in the final minute of the first half on a Jordan Jefferson touchdown pass to Russell Shepard. Arkansas drew to with four on a field goal by Zach Hocker, but the final 20 points of the game went to the Tigers as LSU defeated the Razorbacks 41-17. Hilliard finished with 102 yards rushing while Rueben Randle caught nine passes for 134 yards. The LSU defense held a potent Arkansas offense to just 254 yards. With the victory, LSU wins the SEC West and will face Georgia for the conference championship on Saturday in Atlanta.
Week 13’s Biggest Loser
The Razorbacks of Arkansas held dreams of a National Championship entering Saturday’s contest at LSU. Those dreams seemed on the verge of becoming a reality as Alonzo Highsmith returned a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown to give Arkansas a 14-0 lead. LSU would answer however with 21 straight points to take a 21-14 lead at halftime. Arkansas kicked a field goal on its opening possession of the second half to draw to within four, but the Razorbacks managed just 14 yards for the remainder of the game as LSU downed Arkansas 41-17. Arkansas finished with just 254 yards of total offense and turned the ball over three times in the loss. Arkansas finishes the regular season 10-2 and will likely wind up in the Capital One Bowl.