Winners and Losers: There will be four conferences in top four of next CFP poll
Alabama saved the SEC’s hopes in the College Football Playoff.
With Saturday’s 55-44 come-from-behind win against Auburn, the Crimson Tide ensured that the SEC would have at least one team still in the top four when the committee announces its rankings on Tuesday.
For a while, the SEC's place in the College Football Playoff looked a little dicey.
The Tide trailed Auburn 33-21 early in the third quarter after quarterback Blake Sims threw his third interception of the game. But the Tide stuck with Sims and he rallied his team to five touchdowns on the Tide’s five other possessions of the second half to secure the win.
Alabama was the SEC’s lone hope for a playoff spot after No. 4 Mississippi State lost to Ole Miss earlier in the day. Now, there should be one representative from four different conferences in the top four for only the second time this year.
Previously, the SEC had managed to secure two playoff spots during the first, second, fourth and fifth weeks of the playoff rankings. Even during the third week, Alabama was ranked No. 5 and knew if it won out, it would have a spot in the playoff.
But now that Alabama has slipped past Auburn and has just Missouri standing in the way of it being the top overall seed, it brings up the question of whether the playoff committee would omit Alabama even if it were to lose to the Tigers. Would Alabama have done enough to warrant a spot in the playoff with two losses over several deserving one-loss teams?
Alabama losing next week is, of course, a long shot. The SEC East is significantly weaker than the SEC West, and Missouri did lose to Indiana and got blown out by Georgia already this season.
While Alabama might not get much of a challenge from the Tigers in the SEC title game, there are plenty of other title games, including Oregon’s game against Arizona and Florida State’s game against Georgia Tech, that could throw a big monkey wrench into the playoff rankings when it is all said and done.
While we were close to chaos this week, Alabama’s win kept some semblance of order even if there will still be a few unhappy teams come Tuesday.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 15:
After trading 131 combined points with Marshall, the Western Kentucky head coach wasn’t interested in perpetuating the blow-for-blow battle between the teams. After a 25-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Doughty to Jared Dangerfield made it 66-65 in Marshall’s favor, Brohm called for the two-point conversion and the win. Doughty hit Willy McNeal for the conversion and Marshall’s dreams of an undefeated season were dashed. Sure, the gunslinger mentality was aided by the fact that kicker Garrett Schwettman was injured earlier in the game when he was hit on a blocked field goal, but he still gets our love for going big. Oh, and Doughty was pretty awesome, too, throwing for eight touchdowns and 491 yards, out-gunning Marshall QB Rakeem Cato, who threw for seven touchdowns and 417 yards, but had four interceptions to Doughty’s two.
Keenan Reynolds: The Navy quarterback’s tour of destruction continued, as he racked up 119 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries in a 42-40 win over South Alabama in Mobile. The three rushing scores gave Reynolds 61 for his career, breaking the QB record of 59 that was held by Nebraska's Eric Crouch and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick. Oh, and he's a junior. Montee Ball's record of 77 career rushing touchdowns is well within reach. On Friday, Reynolds spearheaded a ground attack that tallied 388 yards, and also completed a pass for 42 yards. Navy is now bowl eligible and should be heavy favorites against 4-7 rival Army on Dec. 13.
Frank Beamer: Virginia Tech has, by all accounts, performed pretty poorly for much of the year. A 6-6 overall mark, and an ugly 3-5 in the ACC is far from the standard coach Frank Beamer has set during his tenure in Blacksburg. But on the other hand, the Hokies won their 11th straight meeting against Virginia with a 24-20 win, reached bowl eligible status for the 22nd straight season, and in the process, denied the Cavaliers their first bowl berth since 2011. That’s a nice list of wins to take some of the pressure off Beamer after a season of disappointing losses.
Clemson: The Tigers had not beaten rival South Carolina since 2008 and Steve Spurrier has taken endless shots at Dabo Swinney’s expense. Spurrier has been cackling all along, mocking little brother at every opportunity. Clemson went 32-8 the last three years, and yet, Spurrier was always there at the end, laughing. Well, not this year. It took playing QB Deshaun Watson playing while he was hindered by a torn ACL, and ignoring the swirl around offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who appears to be heading off to be SMU’s next head coach. But despite all of that, Clemson’s 35-17 victory was resounding, and the Gamecocks looked listless, much to the annoyance of Spurrier, who's struggled to explain his team’s failures this year. Watson completed 14 of 19 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, and Wayne Gallman gouged the Gamecocks on the ground to the tune of 191 yards and a score. This year, the state is orange.
A lot of big names have graced the backfield for the Miami Hurricanes over the years, names like Gore and James and McGahee and Portis. Johnson did something on Saturday that topped them all, flying by Ottis Anderson (3,331) to become the Hurricanes' all-time leading rusher. In the year of Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman (deservedly so), Johnson has been somewhat overlooked, despite plugging along with remarkable consistency in his career, and improving on his last two seasons, which both finished just shy of 1,000 yards, including last season cut short by an ankle injury. This year, he’s already up to 1,520 yards.
A season that saw Barrett thrust into a position he never expected to be in and then saw him rise above any expectation anyone could have for him came to a screeching and heartbreaking halt as his leg buckled under a tackle during Ohio State’s 42-21 win over rival Michigan. It seems like we were just talking about Barrett eclipsing the single-season touchdown total of Braxton Miller, the QB he replaced due to injury before the season started. But now, the same cruel injury fate has struck Barrett, right as he and his teammates were peaking. The fallout for Ohio State remains to be seen, but Barrett’s amazing year is over far too soon and his total touchdown mark will finish at 42.
Kentucky: Losing to your in-state rival 44-40 is bad enough, especially after a pregame scuffle that amplified the spotlight on the game. But here’s why Saturday’s loss to Louisville hurts even more: Had the Wildcats won, they’d have been bowl eligible. Even worse, bowl eligibility seemed like a foregone conclusion after 5-1 start to the season. But since then, Kentucky is 0-6, and only twice in that span were the Wildcats even within 10 points. Kentucky will miss bowl season for the fourth straight year, and Mark Stoops’ rebuilding project is still a work in progress.
Notre Dame: What a calamitous second half of the season for the Irish. The injuries were bad, Everett Golson was terrible, and it all came to a head in a 49-14 throttling at the hands of a USC team that got run over by UCLA just a week ago. It was so ugly that Golson finally got benched in favor of Malik Zaire in a move that smelled of pure exasperation. Notre Dame’s 7-5 mark ties the worst regular season mark of Brian Kelly’s tenure, and the bowl game the Irish are now eligible for will be full of question marks. Will Golson return to the starting lineup for his final game in a Notre Dame uniform? Will the torch be passed to someone like Zaire as part of hitting the reset button for 2015? Will the defense heal enough to at least restore some of the team’s backbone? It wasn’t there on Saturday, as USC QB Cody Kessler completely and historically torched that depleted secondary.
Notre Dame began playing football in 1887. They've played 1,233 games over 127 years. Cody Kessler is the 1st to throw 6 touchdowns on them.
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) November 29, 2014
Maryland: The Terps were up 35-10 late in the first half, and wound up losing 41-38 to Rutgers at home. The same Rutgers whose signature win before the game in College Park came at home against a Michigan team that finished 5-7, or Navy, which is currently 6-5 but is also, you know, Navy (sorry, Keenan Reynolds, we promise we still love you). Randy Edsall’s crew could have finished the year 8-4 and 5-3 in Big Ten play with wins over Iowa at home, and Penn State and Michigan on the road. They still have those wins, but the 7-5 record doesn’t shine quite as bright.
Rice: You can always expect to end up here if you give up 76 points to Louisana Tech in a game to decide the division champion, especially if you can’t even muster half as many points in a 76-31 loss. That’s a poor attempt at showing up in a big game. It was just 28-17 at halftime, but the Bulldogs ripped off 41 straight points during one stretch of the second half to bury the Owls. Louisiana Tech out-gained Rice 677-371 in total yards in the rout, setting up a first-to-50 Conference USA title game against Marshall on Dec. 6 which remains immensely intriguing despite the Thundering Herd’s stunning overtime loss to Western Kentucky.
Max Thompson contributed to this post.
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