It was a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend full of the three most important “F’s” – family, food, and, of course, football. From a Texas-Texas Tech thriller on Thanksgiving night to the late night Bedlam Rivalry in Stillwater, Oklahoma, there was plenty of college football to feast on over the weekend. The College Football Playoff picture got a little clearer yet, at the same time, it got a little cloudier. Time will tell as we head into conference championships next week. Here’s a look at Week 13’s winners and losers.
Iowa took care of business on Thanksgiving Friday when it beat Nebraska 28-20 and Michigan State proved last week was no fluke when the Spartans manhandled Penn State 55-16. The two teams will meet for the Big Ten championship next Saturday with the winner likely headed to the College Football Playoff. The Spartans win all but eliminates defending national champion Ohio State from the final four.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer coached his final regular-season football game, the annual in-state rivalry against Virginia. For the 12th consecutive time, Beamer’s Hokies defeated the Cavaliers. Joey Slye hit a late field goal, and the Virginia Tech defense sealed the win with a late interception to give Beamer a 23-20 win. The victory also makes Virginia Tech bowl eligible meaning the Hokies will go bowling for the 23rd consecutive season.
Derrick Henry propelled Alabama into the SEC championship game with career highs – 46 carries and 271 yards – as the Crimson Tide recorded a 29-13 win over Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl. With his big day, Henry broke the school record for the most rushing yards in a single season with 1,679 as well as the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 21. Henry’s late-season heroics makes him the front-runner in the race for the Heisman Trophy.
Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch threw more touchdown passes than he threw incompletions on Saturday in a 63-0 win over SMU. Lynch threw for seven scores, all in the first half, as the Tigers ended the regular season on a high note. Also, a winner, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente appears to be the leading candidate for the Virginia Tech job. Fuente built the Tigers into a legitimate power in the American Athletic Conference and is 19-6 over the last two seasons.
After a week of “he will be” and “he won’t be” the LSU head coach, it appears that Les Miles will indeed remain in Baton Rouge. The Tigers finished the regular season with a dominant 19-7 win over Texas A&M giving LSU an 8-3 overall record. In 11 seasons at LSU, Miles has won at least eight games every season and has an 111-32 overall record with two SEC titles and a national championship in 2007. By the way, Miles has won more games in the last five seasons than current Alabama head coach Nick Saban won in his five seasons as LSU’s head coach.
We mentioned Ohio State, which with the Michigan State win over Penn State, will miss the Big Ten championship and a chance at the national championship. But, the Buckeyes are not the only program in Ohio that suffered over the weekend. Toledo needed only to beat Western Michigan on Friday to earn a berth in the MAC Championship game. That did not happen as the Broncos defeated the Rockets 35-30 to send Northern Illinois to its sixth straight MAC title game. Then, the Rockets learned that head coach Matt Campbell would be leaving to take the head job at Iowa State. Campbell went 35-15 in his four-plus years at Toledo.
For all of the adversity it faced with injuries throughout the season, Notre Dame’s 10-2 season could be considered a success. With a berth in the College Football Playoff on the line, the Irish faced Stanford in Palo Alto and after taking a 36-35 lead with just 30 seconds to play appeared to have at least a shot at one of the four slots in the CFP. But, Stanford senior quarterback Kevin Hogan connected with junior wide receiver Devon Cajuste for a gain of 27 yards that set up the game-winning field goal by Conrad Ukropina. With the 38-36 win, the Cardinal, who play USC for the Pac-12 title next Saturday, cling to their own CFP hopes. The loss eliminates Notre Dame from any chance at a CFP berth.
Penn State fell apart and dropped its third straight game to end the regular season at 7-5. The Nittany Lions faced three ranked teams to end the season and lost all three (Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State). Coming into the season, Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg was considered by many as the nation’s top pro-style quarterback and possibly the top pick in next year’s NFL Draft. The junior threw for 2,386 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only five interceptions, but he was sacked 38 times and completed just 53 percent of his passes. While he will still likely be drafted high, the luster of Hackenberg wore off some this season.
Rutgers appeared to have its second Big Ten win of the season after holding a commanding 24-3 lead midway through the second quarter and a 31-13 halftime advantage. Then, like the rest of the Scarlet Knights season, the wheels fell off. In the end, Rutgers would lose 46-41 to Maryland, finish 1-7 in the conference and 4-8 overall. Head coach Kyle Flood and the school’s athletic director Julie Hermann were then fired on Sunday.