Winners and Losers: The SEC title game will feature two teams playing at their best

Dr. Saturday

There wasn't a whole lot of suspense when it came to figuring out who would play in the SEC title game.

Georgia had clinched its spot weeks ago and even though Alabama needed a win against Auburn to claim the SEC West title, the Tigers haven't put up much of a fight against anyone this season and it would be the same against the No. 2 team in the country.

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But what made this last week of the regular season so great was not the suspense, but the lack of it. Alabama and Georgia pounded their opponents into submission. They left little doubt which teams belonged in the SEC title game and in turn, made the game that much more exciting.

Georgia jumped out to a big lead against Georgia Tech before taking its foot off the gas and coasting to a 42-10 win. Alabama put 42 points on Auburn in the first half — yeah, you read that right — and then kept beating down the hapless Tigers for a not-so-surprising 49-0 Iron Bowl win.

Having both Alabama and Georgia playing at such a high level is big considering what's at stake in the SEC title game. The winner will more than likely play in the national championship against Notre Dame, another huge winner on Saturday after it went on the road and finished a 12-0 season with a 22-13 win over USC.

When Georgia played LSU in the SEC championship last year, it was a bust. LSU stomped the Bulldogs 42-10 and exposed a major discrepancy between the West and the East.

So, this year, Georgia was out to prove that it belonged in the SEC title game and with such a coveted prize on the line, this year's game will be a lot more interesting and likely a lot more competitive.

And in that regard, we're all winners.

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Saturday:


Johnny Manziel: Manziel's last performance before the Heisman Trophy is given out probably secured the award for him. If the Texas A&M freshman quarterback can't win it with his numbers and accomplishments, a freshman may never take home the Heisman.

Manziel came into this week as the frontrunner in the race, and bounced back from a scary twisted knee early in the game against Missouri to complete 32 of 44 passes for 372 yards and three touchdown passes, and he rushed for 67 yards and two more scores in a 59-29 win. He also broke Cam Newton's SEC single-season record for total offense in a season. Newton won the Heisman Trophy. Manziel probably locked up his Heisman with his regular-season finale.

Penn State: It probably shouldn't be a surprise that the Nittany Lions were resilient after Wisconsin tied the game with 18 seconds left. Penn State has been through worse and keeps battling (they're a bunch of fighters, after all). The Nittany Lions -- whose tributes to injured linebacker Michael Mauti were nice and all, but seemed a little like a memorial for a guy who just hurt his knee -- scored first in the overtime, and then the defense pushed Wisconsin back a few yards on the Badgers' first possession. The Badgers missed a long field goal, and Penn State won its final game of the season.

Penn State finishes the season 8-4, and 6-2 in the Big Ten, which is far beyond most expectations for the Nittany Lions heading into the season.

Utah State: The Aggies' first outright conference championship since 1936 is also the last WAC championship. Utah State sits atop the WAC in the conference's final football season, getting its first ever 10-win season with a 45-9 victory over Idaho. After the game, Utah State accepted an invitation to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

''We definitely know we did something big, but I don't know if we understand the significance,'' Utah State senior cornerback Will Davis said, according to the Associated Press.

Landry Jones: Jones always seems to be under fire, but when his career is done, the Oklahoma quarterback is going to hold some impressive records. He became the Big 12 all-time passing leader on Saturday, passing Texas Tech's Graham Harrell even though he got hit hard on the throw that set the mark. He would rebound nicely after that hit. He also became the first player in FBS history with 3,000 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in each of his four seasons.

Jones had a huge day against Oklahoma State. He completed 46 of 71 passes for 500 yards, and led a rally to get Oklahoma into overtime. A gutsy call by the Sooners, putting in its oversized backup quarterback Blake Bell for an obvious run on fourth-and-1, resulted in a 4-yard touchdown with four seconds left to send the game into overtime. In overtime, an 18-yard touchdown run by Brennan Clay sealed a dramatic 51-48 win. Landry wasn't involved in the final two scoring plays, but without him, Oklahoma wouldn't have had a shot at the dramatic win.

Stanford: This season, Stanford beat USC, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA. It's hard to dispute that the Cardinal was the best team in the Pac-12 this regular season, and now they get a chance to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Stanford cruised by UCLA 35-17 on Saturday to clinch the North Division title and set up a rematch with the Bruins in Palo Alto next week. While UCLA had little to play for -- it knew that Oregon's win over Oregon State meant it couldn't host the Pac-12 title game even with a win -- it was still an impressive win for Stanford. We'll see what adjustments UCLA's coaches make this week.


Rutgers and Louisville: Maybe Rutgers got caught looking ahead to Louisville. More likely, the Scarlet Knights just got caught in a tough road game. Either way, Rutgers was overwhelmed on Saturday against Pitt team that was 4-6 coming in, and its dreams of an undefeated Big East season ended with a 27-6 loss.

The good news for Rutgers is it can still win the Big East by beating Louisville in its regular-season finale, and the Cardinals are reeling. Louisville lost 23-20 in three overtimes to UConn, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater broke his left wrist. Bridgewater played through that injury, but also suffered a leg injury late in the game. He returned from that too, and should be fine for the Rutgers game on Thursday, according to, but neither team will feel very good going into that game. If Rutgers loses, a four-way tie for the Big East title is possible.

Al Borges: During the Michigan-Ohio State game, Wolverines offensive coordinator Al Borges was trending on Twitter. It wasn't because he was being universally praised for his game plan.

Last week, Michigan used quarterbacks Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson on the field at the same time for much of its win against Iowa. It was brilliant. The offense looked great. And, incomprehensibly, Michigan eliminated that from the game plan. Instead, Borges' uncreative and incoherent plan had both quarterbacks shuttling in, which seemed to hurt them both. Late in the game, Robinson and his 122 rushing yards weren't even on the field for a key series. Gardner threw an interception that drive, and Michigan never got the ball back. Michigan didn't score in the second half.

It was an absolute coaching failure by the Wolverines' offensive staff.

Pac-12 Network, and football fans: College football is rapidly becoming less about the fans and more about schools selling out anything and everything to make a few more bucks, and we're beat over the head with that fact all the time. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that the Oregon-Oregon State Civil War game was held hostage by the Pac-12 Network as it tries to leverage DirecTV and other carriers that don't carry the network. Many people, including many in Oregon, don't yet have the Pac-12 Network. So they couldn't see the rivalry game that has now been played 116 times. That's a shame. It used to be that treating the fans well actually mattered in college sports.

Mississippi State: It's hard to believe that a Bulldogs season which started 7-0 could end as such a disappointment. Mississippi State's last five games included four blowout losses, including a truly demoralizing 41-24 defeat at Ole Miss. The Bulldogs gave up more than 500 yards, and after taking an early 14-7 lead they were outscored 34-3 over the stretch that decided the game.

Meanwhile, it's an enormous win for Ole Miss. This snaps the Rebels' three-game losing streak in the rivalry, and makes them bowl eligible in Hugh Freeze's first season. This win makes the entire season a success.

Clemson: Chalk this one up as more proof the SEC is simply light years ahead of everyone else. Clemson hosted a South Carolina team that didn't have starting quarterback Connor Shaw, who was injured. And the Tigers got outclassed in a 27-17 loss. They couldn't block Gamecocks end Jadeveon Clowney, who had 4.5 sacks and dominated the entire game. And near the end, Clemson raised the white flag when it punted with three minutes left, trailing by 10 points. It's hard to win when the coaches are more concerned about keeping the final losing margin close.

Clemson's season is ultimately a 10-2 disappointment. The Tigers lost to their biggest ACC rival, Florida State, and their in-state rival, South Carolina.  South Carolina won its fourth straight game in the series for the first time since 1951-54. Clemson won't play for the ACC championship and won't play in a BCS bowl. The Tigers didn't beat one team this season that was ranked at the time of the game. While 10 wins is tough to accomplish, Clemson's season will probably be defined by its two losses instead.

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