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College Football 2012 – Week 14 Recap

Alabama clinches SEC championship, national title shot
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sadly, we’ve come to the end of another exciting regular season in college football. Unless you are Notre Dame or Alabama, you are left wondering what might have been. Yet, despite the sadness inherent in the end of the season, there was still a lot of excitement this week—and of course bowl season still ahead of us.

Here are all the highlights from this week in the Top 25:

#1 NOTRE DAME (12-0), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

Notre Dame punched its ticket into the national-title game with last week’s win over USC. The Irish will now prepare to take on #2 Alabama in a matchup of the nation’s two best scoring defenses.

#2 ALABAMA 32, #3 GEORGIA 28

Georgia’s offense scored more points against the Crimson Tide than anyone else this season, but the Bulldogs’ defense gave up 300+ rushing yards for the third straight week, allowing Alabama to win the SEC championship and advance to the BCS national title game against Notre Dame. Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 334 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron didn’t have a great night, throwing for just 167 yards and one touchdown (plus an interception in the end zone), but he made the big play when he needed to, hitting Amari Cooper for a 45-yard touchdown to provide the go-ahead score with just 3:15 to play. Georgia had a chance to pull off the upset in the game’s waning seconds, but saw their opportunity slip away on a fluke play. With just nine seconds left at the Alabama eight-yard line, Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray attempted a quick pass to the end zone. But the ball was tipped up at the line of scrimmage and receiver Chris Conley instinctively grabbed it rather than letting it drop and stopping the clock. He was tackled at the five-yard line and the clock ran out on the Bulldogs’ title hopes.

#4 OHIO STATE (12-0), SEASON COMPLETE

Because of NCAA probation, the Buckeyes are ineligible to compete in a bowl game. But Urban Meyer’s squad returns a ton of talent next year, including do-it-all quarterback Braxton Miller, so look for Ohio State to be in the thick of the national-title chase next season.

#5 FLORIDA (11-1), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

Florida came one USC-over-Notre Dame upset away from another all-SEC national title game. With SEC champion Alabama in the championship game, the Sugar Bowl must take another SEC team if ranked in the top four, meaning the Gators are likely headed to New Orleans.

#6 OREGON (11-1), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

Oregon’s loss to Stanford not only knocked the Ducks out of the national championship hunt, but also out of the Pac-12 title game. Now they can only wonder what might have been and wait for their bowl announcement (most likely an at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl).

#7 KANSAS STATE 42, #23 TEXAS 24

Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown and added another 184 yards and a touchdown through the air to lead Kansas State to its first Big 12 title since 2003, and just the third in school history. Running back John Hubert added 66 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Playing for the injured David Ash, Texas quarterback Case McCoy had a solid night with 314 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. But the Longhorns were never able to get their running game going, totaling just 99 yards on the ground. Kansas State is the one Big 12 team that has had consistent success against Texas, winning the last five over the Longhorns and seven of nine games since the conference was formed in 1996. The Wildcats will now be headed to the Fiesta Bowl against a BCS at-large team, likely #6 Oregon.

#8 STANFORD 27, #17 UCLA 24

Freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for 157 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 47 yards and another score to help the Cardinal beat UCLA for the second straight week and lead Stanford to its first Rose Bowl bid since 1999. Running back Stepfan Taylor accounted for 133 total yards, giving him 4,212 in his career—a new school record. UCLA outgained the Cardinal 461-325 and had a chance to tie the game in the waning moments. But freshman kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 52-yard attempt sailed wide left with just 34 seconds on the clock. UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. The Cardinal is the only team in the FBS to have beaten four consecutive ranked opponents.

#9 LOUISIANA STATE (10-2), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

LSU wrapped up the regular season with a 20-13 win over Arkansas. With Florida and Alabama likely locked into the BCS, the Tigers will probably be headed to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

#10 TEXAS A&M (10-2), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

Freshman phenom quarterback Johnny Manziel cemented his spot as the Heisman front-runner after his 439-yard effort to close out the season against Missouri. The Aggies must now wait to find out to which bowl game they’ll be headed.

#11 SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

The Gamecocks wrapped up their regular season by knocking off archrival Clemson, 27-17. Now the Gamecocks will wait for their bowl assignment, most likely the Outback Bowl.

#12 OKLAHOMA 24, TEXAS CHRISTIAN 17

Landry Jones led last minute drives to secure the Sooners’ last two wins. But this time the defense stepped up to make sure no such dramatics would be needed, forcing two turnovers and allowing just three points on the Horned Frogs’ final five possessions. Jones threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns, tying him with Ty Detmer for fifth all-time in the FBS history. TCU game into the game ranked seventh nationally in rush defense but gave up 115 yards and a touchdown to OU running back Damien Williams. TCU has now lost four consecutive home games, its longest such streak since 1996-97. The win gives OU a share of the Big 12 title (the Sooners have never gone more than two years without a conference title under Bob Stoops). With Kansas State’s win sending the Wildcats to the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma looks to be in good shape for a BCS at-large bid.

#13 FLORIDA STATE 21, GEORGIA TECH 15

Seminoles running back James Wilder, Jr. rushed for two first-half touchdowns, but the Florida State defense was the real story of the game, getting a pick-six touchdown and holding the Yellow Jackets to just 183 rushing yards (ranked third nationally in rushing offense). Without leading rusher Orwin Smith (ankle injury), Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense was never able to get into any rhythm against the Seminoles’ defense, which ranked fourth nationally in rush defense. Florida State’s offense, however, struggled as well, turning the ball over three times while quarterback E.J. Manuel threw for just 134 yards and an interception. Florida State is now headed to the Orange Bowl, likely against Louisville. The loss dropped Georgia Tech to 6-7, but it has been granted a waiver by the NCAA to be eligible to play in a bowl game.

WISCONSIN 70, #14 NEBRASKA 31

Earlier this season, Nebraska pulled off the second-biggest comeback in school history to beat the Badgers. But this week, Wisconsin made sure there would be no Husker magic, rolling to a 42-10 halftime lead and coasting to an easy victory to secure the Big Ten title and the Badgers’ third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl. The Cornhuskers led the nation in pass efficiency coming into this game. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t do much to slow down a Wisconsin running game that rolled up 539 rushing yards and a school-record eight rushing touchdowns. Heisman finalist Montee Ball rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns, breaking the FBS mark for career rushing touchdowns in the process. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had a highlight-reel 76-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but was otherwise held in check (184 yards passing and two interceptions—including a pick-six—on 17/33 passing, plus another 64 yards and a second rushing touchdown). The Badgers will be the first five-loss team to ever play in the BCS.  Nebraska has made it to a conference title game three of the last four years under Bo Pelini, but have yet to win one. The Cornhuskers have not won a conference title since 1999.

#15 CLEMSON (10-2), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

After averaging 44.6 points per game, the Tigers’ high-powered offense was held to just 17 in last week’s loss to archrival South Carolina. Clemson is now left awaiting its bowl destination.

#15 OREGON STATE 77, NICHOLLS STATE 3

Oregon State rolled up 683 yards and a school-record 77 points over their mismatched FCS opponent. Beavers’ receiver Markus Wheaton had 12 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown in the win, breaking the school record for career receptions in the process. This game was supposed to have been played as both schools’ season opener back on September 3, but was forced to be rescheduled when Nicholls State couldn’t travel due to Hurricane Isaac.

#19 NORTHERN ILLINOIS 44, #18 KENT STATE 37 (2OT)

NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns while throwing for 212 and a score to give the Huskies their second straight MAC title. Equally impressive was the job the Huskies’ defense did on Kent State running back Dri Archer. Archer was held to just 15 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries after entering the game averaging 9.7 yards per carry. On the day, NIU outgained the Golden Flashes 524-260, but three Huskies turnovers let Kent State stick around until overtime. In the win, Lynch broke Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s single-season NCAA record for most rushing yards by a quarterback. This is the eighth game this year in which Lynch has passed for 200 and rushed for 100 in the game. Only one other quarterback in the FBS has done it more than twice (five times for Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel).

#20 UTAH STATE (10-2), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

Utah State routed Idaho, 45-9, last week to secure the Aggies’ first outright WAC title since 1936. Running back Kerwynn Williams needs just 39 more yards to set the conference record for career all-purpose yards, which he should be able to get in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

#21 MICHIGAN (8-4), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

In the second half of the loss to Ohio State, the Wolverines’ offense managed just 60 total yards and did not run a play in Buckeye territory. They are now awaiting their bowl assignment.

#22 NORTHWESTERN (9-3), REGULAR SEASON COMPLETE

Northwestern closed the regular season by winning three of its final four, but is left wondering what might have been after blown leads to Nebraska and Michigan in the final seconds of their games cost the Wildcats a shot at their first Big Ten title since 2000. Northwestern must now wait for their bowl assignment, likely the Outback Bowl.

BAYLOR 41, #24 OKLAHOMA STATE 34

Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk rushed for 179 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries to help the Bears close the season on a three-game winning streak. With the help of a first quarter pick-six, Baylor jumped out to a 24-3 lead early in the second quarter before the Cowboys offense was able to find any rhythm. OSU’s Clint Chelf threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, but also threw two costly interceptions. Baylor quarterback Nick Florence finished with 366 total yards (295 passing, 71 rushing) and a passing score in the win.

#25 BOISE STATE 27, NEVADA 21

The game was actually fairly even in terms of yardage (434 for Boise, 430 for Nevada), but a Wolf Pack fumble at the Boise State goal line proved to be the decisive mistake that cost Nevada the upset win. Receiver Matt Miller caught seven passes for 127 yards and a touchdown for the Broncos, while running back D.J. Harper added 130 yards and a score on the ground. Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, the nation’s sixth-leading rusher, ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. The win gives Boise State a share of the Mountain West title and a nation’s-best seventh consecutive 10-win season.

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