Week 12 went as predictable as you can get as all ranked favorites triumphed this week. Also, all four remaining unbeatens remained…well unbeaten, and nearly all of the College Football Playoff threats extended their hopes for another week.
Here were the most notable winners and losers from College Football’s Week 12.
*Since this is a weekly segment, the previous week’s winners and losers can be found here.
Wisconsin: There’s hardly anything pretty about Wisconsin football. When the Badgers’ defense is at their best, they rise to be one of the nation’s best, being superb in space and nearly unmovable at or around the line of scrimmage. On offense, they can run the ball on basically anyone but remain one-dimensional with a passing game that may hit on one or two big plays every week.
All of that was apparent in their “rock fight” of a win over Michigan, 24-10, where running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for another 100+ yards, Alex Hornibrook connected on three plays for 20 yards or more, and the Badger defense held Michigan to only 3.7 yards per play.
But if there’s one beautiful thing about Wisconsin it’s that 11-0 record.
Their latest win almost ensures that they will enter the Big Ten Championship game two weeks from now unbeaten (the Badgers visit 5-6 Minnesota on Saturday), and in turn means that this team needs just one 60-minute showing against Ohio State (which also has clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game) to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Oregon: Oregon knocked off up-start Arizona quite handily this week, 48-28, to punch their ticket to a bowl game. The Ducks’ recent win serves as a baseline for just how explosive their offense can be when quarterback Justin Herbert is healthy. Earlier in the season, if you can remember, Oregon’s offense was unstoppable, averaging 49.6 points in their first five games en route to a 4-1 record. At the time, we were starting to at least consider Herbert as one of the many candidates for the sport’s most prestigious honor.
But then Herbert suffered a broken collarbone midway through Oregon’s Week 5 matchup against Cal, and their once powerful offense quickly evaporated. Over the next five games, it averaged 15 points and only eclipsed 14 once. To a certain extent, we have to attribute that to who played quarterback. True freshman Braxton Burmeister was seemingly over his head against defenses like Washington, Washington State, and Stanford, where threw for over 100 yards just once, leading Oregon to just one win in that span.
Considering how great Oregon’s offense looked in Herbert’s return to the field, you could make a legitimate case that Herbert is the most valuable player in the country. In his first game back, Oregon’s offense exploded for 588 total yards. Herbert accounted for 275 of them, throwing for 235 and rushing for 40, with two scores. Herbert’s presence also opened holes for Royce Freeman and Tony Brooks-James to run wild against a run-of-the-mill Arizona defense.
As an aside, Freeman (135 YDS, 4 TD) is now at 5,499 career rushing yards. He jumped over LaDainian Tomlinson to No. 10 in the FBS record book, and he’s only 98 yards away from moving up to No. 7. He’s also tied for 14th in career rushing touchdowns with 58. Two more and he’ll be in the top 10.
Texas: For the first time in three years, the Longhorns will be going bowling, following their 28-14 win over West Virginia in Morgantown. Texas used a heavy dose of Daniel Young and Sam Ehlinger in this one, as the two combined to rush for 153 of the team’s 233 total rushing yards. In addition, the Longhorn defense stifled West Virginia’s explosive offense – albeit without quarterback Will Grier for three-quarters – holding them to 199 yards and 22 points under their season average.
While there may be a portion of the Texas fan base that expected more from Tom Herman’s debut, which was unfair: Herman may have come with an impressive résumé but this was never going to be an immediate fix. Getting six wins with the potential for eight would be a positive sign for 2018 and likely yield a strong close on the recruiting trail.
Oklahoma State: It was just two weeks ago that Oklahoma State saw a clear road to the Playoff. Even after a loss to rival Oklahoma to start November, the Cowboys still had the opportunity to make the Big 12 title game by winning out and having TCU lose once. But after a furious comeback against Kansas State fell short in a 45-40 loss, Oklahoma State has played its way out of Playoff and New Year’s Six contention and into a secondary bowl.
As far as the game goes, Mason Rudolph came to play on Saturday, firing three touchdowns for 415 yards. However, much of the Cowboys’ struggles came on defense where they allowed not only 45 points (as stated earlier), but an astonishing 6.8 yards per play to a Kansas State offense that ranks 89th nationally in total offense.
UCLA: Not only did the Bruins suffer a heartbreaking loss to USC on Saturday night – ultimately putting their bowl aspirations on hold – but now they have to finish the rest of their season without head coach Jim Mora, who was fired Sunday morning. This news doesn’t come as a surprise, though, as the writing was on the wall at the earliest of last season, where UCLA cratered to a 4-8 record.
The inability to develop talent around stars such as Josh Rosen, Myles Jack, Paul Perkins, and others also proved to be the death star in Mora’s Jedi suit, producing only two 10-win seasons throughout his six seasons in Westwood.
NC State: There was once a time where NC State was ranked 14th nationally and appeared to be the ACC’s third-best team. That ship has sailed. Now losers of three of its last four with their recent loss coming to hands of 7-4 Wake Forest, 30-24, the Wolfpack’s aspirations of having a great season is all but over.
In their latest setback to the Demon Deacons, NC State saw quarterback Ryan Findley bounce back in a big way by throwing it for 327 yards and one score. And even the Wolfpack’s running defense – which had been giving up 259.3 rushing yards apiece in its last three games – allowed only 69 total this week. However, NC State’s lackluster pass rush made life easy for Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford to sling it for 247 yards, 3 TDs, and only nine incompletions.
Week 12’s Top Performers
- QB Mike White, Western Kentucky: 39/54, 485 yards, 5 TDs against Middle Tennessee State
- QB Gardner Minshew, East Carolina: 31/45, 444 yards, 4 TDs against Cincinnati
- QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: 32/53, 425 yards, 3 TDs against Kansas State
- QB Ahmad Bradshaw, Army: 27 carries, 244 yards, 2 TDs against North Texas
- RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State: 24 carries, 222 yards, 2 TDs against Nevada
- RB AJ Dillon, Boston College: 24 carries, 200 yards, 2 TDs against UCONN
- WR Trevon Brown, East Carolina: 9 receptions, 270 yards, 2 TDs against Cincinnati
- WR Brendan O’Leary-Orange, Nevada: 11 receptions, 214 yards, 3 TDs against San Diego State
- WR Jordan Lasley, UCLA: 10 receptions, 204 yards, 3 TDs against USC