College football winners and losers in Week 13: Cincinnati remains on course for CFP spot; Texas rebounds
Cincinnati beat East Carolina 35-13 and is now one win from locking down a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Well, probably. Who knows what the playoff selection committee will do in the final rankings? In the first year of the format, in 2014, the committee tore up the rankings and moved Ohio State into the semifinals, drawing outrage from TCU, Baylor and the rest of the Big 12 — though the Buckeyes rewarded that faith by winning the national championship.
So it may be too soon to guarantee a spot for the Bearcats in the top four, especially with key games to come Saturday in the Big 12 and Big Ten. And pulling off an unbeaten regular season won't be easy: Cincinnati next takes on Houston, which hasn't lost since the season opener against Texas Tech.
But any thought that ECU might catch the Bearcats napping was put to rest before halftime. Closing out November with a perfect record puts Luke Fickell and Cincinnati atop Friday's list of winners and losers:
The Bearcats scored 21 points in the second quarter and sailed through the second half against one of the top teams in the American. The win included another productive display from quarterback Desmond Ridder, who threw for 301 yards and has gone for at least 274 yards in each of his last four games. One problem that again reared its head: Cincinnati missed a 45-yard field goal in the first quarter and has now made just 7 of 16 tries this season. That ranks the Bearcats 129th in the country out of 130 teams in field goal percentage.
San Diego State
The Aztecs are lurking in the New Year's Six race and ready to grab the Group of Five's automatic bid should Houston knock off Cincinnati. San Diego State moved to 11-1 and locked down a spot in the Mountain West conference championship game after beating Boise State 27-17 behind another superb game from one of the nation's top defenses. Boise put together 228 passing yards and just 91 yards rushing, the ninth time this season the Aztecs have held the opposition to under 100 yards on the ground.
The Longhorns snapped a five-game losing streak and beat Kansas State 22-17, removing a bit of the sour taste around Steve Sarkisian's first season and allowing for some optimism heading into what will be a long offseason. With star running back Bijan Robinson out for the year with a dislocated elbow, backup Roschon Johnson ran for 179 yards on 31 carries to help Texas avoid losing eight games for the first time since 1956. Still, Sarkisian becomes just the third coach in program history to post a losing record in his debut, joining Charlie Strong in 2014 and Dana Bible in 1937.
Iowa's dominance of purported rival Nebraska continued with a come-from-behind 28-21 win on the road, the Hawkeyes' seventh straight victory in the series and fifth straight win in Lincoln. Down 21-6 late in the third quarter, the Hawkeyes kicked a field goal, returned a blocked punt for a score, notched a safety, hit another field goal to tie the score and went ahead on a short touchdown run with three minutes remaining. (This was an extremely Iowa sequence of events.) This has been a fascinating 10-win regular season for a team in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl despite throwing for 11 touchdowns and averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Despite these struggles, the defense has Iowa one result away from playing for the Big Ten championship: Minnesota beating Wisconsin on Saturday would pit the Hawkeyes against Ohio State or Michigan.
The biggest issue with being one of the best three-win teams to ever come through the FBS are the nine stupefying losses. While pulled off in a multitude of ways, largely focused on a series of baffling failures on offense and special teams, the common thread through this uniquely miserable season was predictability: Nebraska was going to lose, with the only question being how. Bringing back Scott Frost in 2022 ensures that this program will stay on the national map for all the wrong reasons as the Cornhuskers attempt to pull off a turnaround under an embattled head coach with no precedent of success.
Beating Texas would've sent the Longhorns limping into the offseason and put the Wildcats in line for a national ranking with a bowl win against a solid Power Five opponent. The loss came down to the fact that Kansas State is one team with Skylar Thompson and another team without the senior quarterback, as seen countless times across the past two seasons. With Thompson again sidelined, backup Will Howard threw for only 65 yards but ran for 82, including a 71-yard score, but the offense was miserable on third down. The Wildcats will now enter bowl play looking to win eight games for the second time under coach Chris Klieman.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg