Who’s Hot (and not) in college football entering Week 13. Former Big 12 rivals, Oklahoma and Colorado, score the biggest wins on Saturday.
South Florida QB Quinton Flowers
Flowers has been flying under the radar this season, except for the defenses that have had to face him. Without much attention, he’s jumped Marlon Mack as the headliner of the Bull attack, while leading the program to a 9-2 mark entering the finale with rival UCF. Flowers has always been a dangerous scrambler, rushing for more than 100 yards in six of the last eight games. But he keeps blooming as a passer, too, throwing three long touchdowns in Saturday’s win at SMU to bring his season total to 22.
The “other guys” in the Sun Belt title hunt are now the team to beat with two weekends remaining. Troy-Appalachian State was the league’s game of the year a week ago, won by the Trojans. But the Red Wolves, overlooked following an 0-4 start, have roared back with six straight wins. And the latest, 35-3 over ranked Troy on the road, was an absolute stunner. The D has played remarkably well for coordinator Joe Cauthen, guiding ASU to within road wins over Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas State from capturing an outright conference championship.
The Yellow Jackets haven’t had much recent success against instate rival Georgia, winning just three times since the turn of the century. But they ought to like their chances this Saturday in Athens. The Bulldogs remain a work-in-progress in Kirby Smart’s first season, despite taking their last three over Kentucky, Auburn and Louisiana-Lafayette. Tech, meanwhile, has rebounded from a rough midseason patch to win four of its last five games. And whether Justin Thomas is running the option or Matthew Jordan comes off the bench, the system is beginning to generate more back-breaking offensive plays.
Christian McCaffrey and Stanford
It’s not easy finishing disappointing seasons, when the bar is perennially set at winning championships. But the Cardinal, with McCaffrey back as the fulcrum, has acquitted itself well since falling out of contention with a 4-3 start. With a visit from Rice upcoming, Stanford is poised to finish the regular season on a five-game winning streak after McCaffrey rushed for a career-high 284 yards to keep the Axe on the Farm. The Cardinal still has a shot at 10 wins for the sixth time in the last seven years. Not bad in what was an unmistakably down year for the program.
Pitt Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada
The Panthers don’t harbor a lot of scary skill position talent, but the numbers say otherwise. Canada has done a brilliant job of play-calling and developing senior QB Nathan Peterman this fall, as Pitt has scored at least 36 points in nine of the last 10 games. A week after stunning Clemson, 43-42, the Panthers slapped 56 points on Duke behind an almost perfectly balanced attack. The way Pitt is moving the ball, this is not a team that anyone with defensive deficiencies will want to face in December.
Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols
Terrific back, that Donnel Pumphrey of San Diego State. But is the nation giving enough credit to that other Mountain West workhorse, McNichols? Doubtful. While McNichols is a little more thunder to Pumphrey’s lightning, he’s been the Broncos’ offensive spine for the past two seasons. In fact, he’s rushed for at least 100 yards in 16 of his last 19 games, including 206 and four scores Friday night versus UNLV. Boise State will ride McNichols this week in Air Force and then again in December.
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
It’s not uncommon for NFL-ready players to begin covertly tapping the brakes a little this time of year. Cook is not one of those budding Sunday stars. In fact, he used the Carrier Dome as another audition for scouts, rushing for 225 yards and four scores to smash the all-time Seminole rushing mark and tie the school’s career TD record. Cook has been a warrior in Tallahassee. This Saturday, likely his home finale, Cook faces the rugged Gator front, which failed to keep him in check in 2014 or 2015.
Houston DT Ed Oliver
Freshman All-American? Pffff. Oliver is making a serious run at the 2016 All-American Team that includes all classes. The highest profile recruit in Cougar history has performed like the highest profile recruit in Cougar history from the moment he stepped foot on campus. On Thursday night, the true freshman spearheaded an all-out assault on Louisville’s playoff hopes, abusing the Cardinal O-line with his explosive first step for six tackles, three stops for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Kudos to Mike Gundy, his staff and his kids. Despite starting 2-2, the Cowboys did not buckle. In fact, they doubled down on their commitment to turn the season around, winning seven straight to enter the pre-Bedlam bye week with a wicked head of steam. Oklahoma State endured a couple of tough battles with Kansas State and Texas Tech the last two weeks, surviving both. But this past Saturday, it went into Fort Worth as an underdog and absolutely schooled TCU, 31-6, behind the running of Justice Hill and Chris Carson.
Football in the Entire State of Oklahoma
The Cowboys were outstanding in Week 12, physically dismissing TCU at Amon G. Carter. But the Cowboys were not the only team from the state that impressed on the road Saturday. Oklahoma crushed West Virginia in Morgantown to remain unbeaten in Big 12 play. And Tulsa earned its eighth win by defeating underrated UCF in Orlando behind the rushing duo of D’Angelo Brewer and James Flanders. With the possibility of multiple openings in the state of Texas, keep an eye on Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery, who’s done a nice job in his second year.
Hats off to the Gators, specifically the defense, which spearheaded a most improbable upset of LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday. And in so doing, Florida is off to the SEC Championship Game as the East Division champ to face Alabama for a second straight year. This is not a great Gator team, particularly when it has the ball. But the D stepped up all game, preventing big plays between the tackles and shutting the door on the Tigers with a walk-off goal line stand to hold on, 16-10.
One. More. Win. That’s all that separates the Buffaloes from wrapping up a remarkable regular season with a Pac-12 South Division title and a date with either Wazzu or Washington in Santa Clara on Dec. 3. Colorado earned its biggest win of the season, toppling the 22nd-ranked Cougars behind the ground heroics of QB Sefo Liufau and RB Phillip Lindsay. If the Buffs can hold serve in Boulder against Utah this Saturday, the journey from last place pick in the preseason to division champ will be complete under National Coach of the Year favorite Mike MacIntyre.