College football's Week 13 winners and losers

Dan Wolken

You can say Ohio State won twice on Saturday.

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Davon Hamilton (53) is congratulated by safety Damon Webb (7) and defensive end Jalyn Holmes (center) following his fumble recovery at the goal line during the third quarter.

First, the Buckeyes beat Michigan 30-27 in overtime, practically stealing a game that seemed lost in the third quarter when they fell behind by 10 points. Second, they watched Penn State wrap up the Big Ten’s East division, which means Ohio State’s body of work is complete at 11-1 — and is still almost certainly good enough to get them back into the College Football Playoff.

In other words, Ohio State is probably in the final four without having to risk anything in a conference championship game against Wisconsin (a team that took the Buckeyes to overtime in October), where there would be only be risk and downside with a loss and nothing to gain with a win. Don’t you think Alabama would sign up for that deal if they could?

Though Urban Meyer probably will be a little bit nervous until Dec. 4 because Ohio State doesn’t technically control its own destiny and the CFP selection committee has never included a team that didn’t win its conference, the Buckeyes should feel pretty safe.

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After all, they were No. 2 this week, just added a win against another top-five team and own earlier top-25 victories over Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Regardless of what else happens, it would be shocking if the committee left Ohio State out.

That makes Ohio State the biggest winner of all Saturday. Here are the other winners and losers from the college football weekend:


Penn State: In the era of Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, getting Penn State to the Big Ten championship game ranks as the most impressive and unexpected accomplishment for any team this season. We can debate whether the Nittany Lions deserve to go to the Playoff or whether they’re really one of the best teams in the country, but they absolutely earned their way to Indianapolis with an 8-1 conference record and a head-to-head win against Ohio State.

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With so much on the line, give James Franklin and crew a lot of credit for taking care of business against Michigan State in a 45-12 win. They’ll have an opportunity against Wisconsin to prove just how good they are, but given all the ugliness around the program and roster issues Franklin inherited due to NCAA sanctions, he’s done an incredible job to get Penn State to this point in just his third season.

Virginia Tech: Don’t sleep on the Hokies. That’s some free advice for Clemson, which will have to face Virginia Tech next weekend in the ACC championship game trying to nail down a playoff berth. Though they’ve had their problems this season with turnovers — which accounts for why Virginia Tech finished 9-3 rather than 11-1 — this is a very good team with dangerous skill players.

First-year coach Justin Fuente has done a marvelous job installing his system, and it looks like the Hokies are clicking again at the right time. Virginia Tech followed up a 34-31 win at Notre Dame with a nearly flawless 52-10 beatdown of Virginia, racking up 289 rushing yards. All in all, it’s hard to find much to complain about as the Hokies return to the ACC title game for the first time since 2011.

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Washington: The Huskies needed to win and look impressive doing it in the Apple Cup on Friday. They checked both boxes in a 45-17 win against Washington State, and now they’re very much in the race for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Since losing to Southern California in an uncharacteristically lethargic performance, the Huskies outscored Arizona State and the Cougars by a combined 89-35 and look like they’re back to being their dominant selves.

The biggest knock is still strength of schedule, and Washington will absolutely need to do it again in the Pac 12 championship game as they try to win their first conference title since 2000 .

Western Michigan: Regardless of how much more talent you have than your opposition, it’s hard to go undefeated in college football. So give the Broncos full credit for pulling off a special 12-0 season, capped by a 55-35 win against Toledo. If they can win one more against Ohio in the Mid-American Conference championship game, Western Michigan will probably head to the Cotton Bowl, an accomplishment only firebrand coach P.J. Fleck could have dreamed up when he took over a 1-11 team four years ago.

Michigan's Jim Harbaugh furious with officiating in loss to Ohio State

Indiana: There was a stretch in the late 1980s and early 1990s under Bill Mallory when Indiana football was regularly making bowl games. Apart from that, sustained success has basically been nonexistent in the history of the program, which tells you what a good job Kevin Wilson has done there. Indiana scored with 4:59 remaining Saturday to grab a 26-24 victory against Purdue and finish 6-6 for a second consecutive year and will play in back-to-back postseasons for the first time since 1990-91.

Credit first-year defensive coordinator Tom Allen with big improvement on that side of the ball and quarterback Richard Lagow, who didn’t put up big numbers but was a tough customer and performed well enough against good teams to at least give his team a chance.

Boston College: Steve Addazio was almost certainly coming back next season regardless of how B.C.’s season ended, but the Eagles went ahead and erased all doubt by winning their final two games to finish 6-6, including Saturday’s 17-14 upset at Wake Forest. Nobody is going to do backflips over beating UMass, Wagner, Buffalo, NC State, UConn and Wake to get to a bowl game, but it’s a huge step forward given where they were in late October riding a 12-game ACC losing streak. The bottom line is Addazio has gotten Boston College into the postseason three times in four years.

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Georgia Tech: Just when you think Paul Johnson’s successful run might be winding down, he comes up with the season he needs at exactly the right moment. After last season’s shocking 3-9 disappointment, Georgia Tech was in some real trouble this year at 3-3 with an offense that wasn’t operating at its typically high level. But the Yellow Jackets closed strong to finish 8-4, capped off by a 28-27 win at Georgia.

It’s the second consecutive time (and third overall) that Johnson has won in Athens, and he once again ended any talk that he might be on the hot seat with new athletics director Todd Stansbury. Assuming Johnson isn’t interested in retirement, he’s probably sticking around Atlanta for a long time to come.

Southern Cal: It’s probably too late to matter in the Playoff race, but the Trojans have to feel good about the way they righted the ship to finish 9-3 (with a chance they could play for the Pac 12 title if Colorado loses to Utah on Saturday night). Quarterback Sam Darnold was good from the moment USC gave him the starting job, and he got better every week, culminating in Saturday’s 45-27 victory against Notre Dame.

Regardless of what else happens this season, USC will go into 2017 with a lot of momentum behind Clay Helton, who proved that he can coach and manage a crisis after starting 1-3. That will serve him well in recruiting as he tries to move the program forward.

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Air Force: Troy Calhoun just keeps pumping out winning teams, and now Air Force is officially the new nemesis of Boise State. The Falcons tripped up the Broncos for a third consecutive year 27-20 on Friday, with their defense staving off a late comeback with a goal-line stand. Air Force finished the regular season 9-3 and won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which makes this a highly successful year. Air Force has made a bowl game nine times in Calhoun’s 10 seasons.

Colorado: The Buffaloes continue one of the best stories of the season by defeating Utah 27-22 to claim the Pac-12 South and a spot in the conference title game next week. The Buffaloes roll into the Pac-12 title game on the strength of their first six-game winning streak since 1996, their first 10-2 record since 2001 and their first undefeated record at home since 1994.


Houston: It was a rough 24 hours for the Cougars faithful. Though it was probably obvious to fans long before the weekend that Tom Herman was going to end up elsewhere, his tenure ended on a sour note with a 48-44 loss at Memphis on Friday hours after he tried to weasel his way through an ESPN interview and acted as if nothing was happening on the job front. By the next morning, he was gone.

Meanwhile, the Cougars got a career passing day from quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (487 yards on 47-of-67 with four touchdowns) but were let down by a defense that allowed 34 first-half points and two Memphis touchdown drives late after Houston clawed back in the game. For a team with incredible preseason hype that beat Oklahoma and Louisville, finishing fourth in the AAC West with a 9-3 record has to rank as a bit of a disappointment.

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Louisville: Just a couple weeks ago, the Cardinals were talking about possibly sneaking into the playoff as a second ACC team. Players, in fact, were Tweeting about the perceived disrespect of being ranked fifth and promising to show the world Louisville belonged. It’s hard to know what changed since then, but Louisville basically imploded the last two weeks of the season with a blowout loss to Houston and Saturday’s 41-38 shocker at home to Kentucky.

It’s bad enough that Louisville lost the Governor’s Cup for the first time since 2010 as a 28-point favorite, but quarterback Lamar Jackson may have loosened his grip on the Heisman Trophy with three interceptions and a late fumble that set up Kentucky’s winning drive. This game may also have cost the Cardinals a trip to the Orange Bowl if Florida State ends up ranked ahead of them.

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Georgia: Finishing 7-5 in Kirby Smart’s first season was not what Bulldogs fans had in mind when Mark Richt was fired, but they couldn’t have been terribly surprised by a 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday after watching this team for three months. Georgia was pretty mediocre all year, with very few high points (beating Auburn was about the only one) and several lackluster efforts.

This time, Georgia coughed up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter and couldn’t beat Georgia Tech despite out-rushing the Yellow Jackets 263-226. Though the program Smart inherited definitely had some holes that he’ll have to fix in recruiting, his game management and offensive approach were questionable. He’ll have to grow up as a head coach along with his players.

Arkansas: There were some good things to draw from Arkansas’ 7-5 season, but blowing a 17-point lead at Missouri to lose 28-24 on Friday was not one of them. Arkansas had 503 yards of offense and controlled the ball for 40 minutes, but the Hogs gave up big plays on defense and had some key miscues in the red zone, which was fairly indicative of their season.

The most discouraging thing was that Arkansas got away from its identity as a physically bruising team to play against and instead had to get involved in shootouts to win. Bret Bielema is now 25-25 overall through four seasons and 10-22 in the SEC.

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Arizona State: The Sun Devils’ in-state rivals were so bad this year that it didn’t seem likely they would win a Pac 12 game. But obviously Arizona was good enough to beat Arizona State, which got embarrassed 56-35 on Friday while allowing 512 rushing yards. Though athletics director Ray Anderson has committed to bring back Todd Graham, it’s fair to wonder whether the decision might be different if he weren’t owed $14 million. Arizona State finished this season with six consecutive losses to post a 5-7 record, which looks even worse after last season’s 6-7 slide.

Ole Miss: Even though this has long since been a disappointing season for the Rebels, they way they completely imploded late in the season should be unacceptable to Hugh Freeze. Ole Miss had two chances to reach bowl eligibility but got blown out by Vanderbilt and at home on Saturday to Mississippi State, 55-20 and will finish 5-7. Though Freeze still has a career winning record in the Egg Bowl (3-2), this performance will not sit well with his fan base.

Before the game, Ole Miss announced that defensive coordinator Dave Wommack will retire, and there will be significant pressure to make an impactful hire there. Freeze has generated a lot of support with Ole Miss fans, but this season has been a disaster, and combined with an NCAA investigation still hanging over the program, Freeze faces a true moment of adversity.

Tennessee: The Vols' high hopes for the 2016 season ended in a 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt. Not to take away anything from the Commodores, who closed the regular season on a big high, and at 6-6, after a very slow start. Tennessee ends its regular season, one in which the Vols were expected to win the SEC East, at 8-4 (4-4  in the conference) and just about where they were a year ago. At least, as Butch Jones said earlier in the week, they are Champions in Life.