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Winners and Losers: Bad late season nonconference games slow the momentum of the BCS race

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(Getty Images)

In a sport where November separates the contenders from the pretenders, this past weekend was a letdown.

Instead of all of the nation’s top teams playing intense games that could make or break their season, we were forced to watch the nation’s top two teams – Alabama and Florida State – beat up on opponents that had no business even being on the field with them.

It was boring. It was embarrassing. It killed the mood.

Alabama defeated Chattanooga 49-0, Florida State beat Idaho 80-14, and most of us turned the channel by the end of the first quarter.

We get the reasoning - a welcome break from the tough conference season and the ability to rest and heal players prior to a big rivalry game - but that doesn't mean its best for college football as a whole.

It’s one thing to play a bad team in your league, but playing a bodybag nonconference game while your supposed to be jockeying for position in the BCS standings weakens the product and stems the excitement of the race to the national title game ever so slightly.

No one cares if a team plays a bad nonconference opponent in September, that’s expected. But at this time of year, we want to see games like Baylor-Oklahoma State and Missouri-Ole Miss. We want to be shocked by an Oregon loss and engaged by a UCLA comeback bid even if it falls short.

And while, yes, Florida did lose to an FCS team, the chances of that happening on a regular basis are slim.

Perhaps the new College Football Playoff will change things. Get rid of these late-season nonconference sacrifices and give us all a product that will help November live up to the hype as college football’s most intense and pivotal month.

Because watching powerhouses like Alabama and Florida State beat up on cupcakes is a loss for the fans.

Here are the rest of the winners and loser for Week 13:

WINNERS

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(Getty Images)

Illinois: The nation’s longest conference losing streak is finally over. Illinois’ 20-16 win against Purdue snapped a 20-game conference losing streak and gave the Illini seniors a positive note in what has been a rough couple seasons. The Illini had not won a Big Ten game since beating Indiana 41-20 on Oct. 8, 2011.

Bob Stoops: Thanks to a 41-31 win against Kansas State, coach Bob Stoops because the all-time winningest coach in Oklahoma history. Stoops now has 159 wins, breaking a record set by Legendary OU coach Barry Switzer. The win also came against Bill Snyder, a man to whom Stoops credits a lot of his success. Stoops was a former assistant to Snyder and considers Snyder a mentor.

Washington State: It’s been a decade since Washington State played in a bowl game, but the Cougars are headed back to the postseason after beating Utah 49-37. It was a surprising result considering Utah’s defense has been steady most of the season. But the Cougars’ high-powered offense was able to rack up 578 total yards, the most the Utes have allowed this season. Washington State now has an opportunity to guarantee itself a winning season with a win over Washington in the annual Apple Cup next week.

Derek Carr: Carr has been trying desperately to get his name in the Heisman race and his performance against New Mexico on Saturday should at least pique some attention. Carr completed 27-of-37 passes for 522 yards and seven touchdowns. And that was in three quarters of work. Carr has been putting up ridiculous numbers all season, he just happens to play in a mediocre conference, which has hurt his draft stock. Still, throwing for 500 yards and seven touchdowns on anyone – especially a conference opponent – something that should be celebrated.

Georgia Southern: Yes, it's going to be the most talked about win by an FCS school all season, but let's give the Eagles one more call for the 26-20 victory over Florida. Beating an FBS opponent is impressive by itself. But beating one while going 0-3 for (obviously) 0 yards through the air? That's incredible.

Georgia Southern ran 54 times for 429 yards. Yes, Florida knew the option was coming, and GSU still had almost eight yards a carry. Even better? They had a live eagle at the game.

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(USA Today Sports Images)

BONUS WINNER

LOSERS

Eastern Michigan: All those good feelings Eastern Michigan had after its big win against Western Michigan last week faded pretty quickly after Bowling Green had its way with the Eagles and handed them a 58-7 loss. But what was more stunning than the result were the stats. Bowling Green had 560 yards to Eastern Michigan’s 65. EMU had just four first downs and was 1-for-18 with 4 yards passing. Not sure a team could have a more miserable day than that.

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Sam Ficken (Getty Images)

Penn State special teams: It’s usually unfair to point to one specific player as a reason a team lost a game, so we won’t do that, but Penn State kicker Sam Ficken certainly had an afternoon to forget. The Nittany Lions jumped out to an early lead on Nebraska with a Christian Hackenberg touchdown pass, but Ficken promptly missed the extra point, clanking a low line drive off the upright. That point would loom large, as the Lions and Cornhuskers battled to a 20-20 tie, forcing overtime.

Penn State got the ball first in the extra frame, but could not pick up a first down. Ficken then missed a 37-yard field goal. Nebraska’s Pat Smith ended the contest soon after with a game-winner from 42 yards.

But Ficken wasn’t the extent of Penn State’s special teams woes. In the second quarter, punter Alex Butterworth dropped a snap, leading to a blocked punt and after Penn State went ahead in the third quarter, the kickoff unit promptly allowed Kenny Bell to bring the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Not a good day.

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Johnny Manziel struggled against LSU (USA Today Sports)

Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota: In a make or break week for Heisman Trophy candidates, two of the favorites – Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota – had off-weeks. Manziel, last year’s winner, was held in check by a physical LSU defense as the Aggies fell 34-10 on the road. The Tigers made Manziel’s life miserable as they ended A&M’s 13-game streak of scoring 40 or more points. Manziel completed a career low 39 percent of his passes, going 16-of-41 for 224 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Mariota had a better day statistically compared to Manziel, but threw his first two interceptions of the season as the Ducks were upset by Arizona, 42-16. With the Ducks behind from the get-go, Mariota threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, completing 27 of his 41 pass attempts. While he didn’t play badly, Mariota certainly didn’t look as sharp as he had all season. Mariota and the Oregon offense just couldn’t get on track. It took over eight minutes to pick up their first first down. It just wasn’t their day.

Tennessee: Not only did the Volunteers lose to Vanderbilt, but UT lost to Vanderbilt on a fake jump pass.

Vandy quarterback Patton Robinette ran towards the line of scrimmage, faked the jump pass and skirted around right end for the game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left and the 14-10 win.

Even worse? It's the first time since 1926, when Vanderbilt won the last of its seven straight against Tennessee, that the Commodores have won consecutive games against Tennessee.

Sam Cooper contributed to this post

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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