Who’s Hot (and not) in college football entering Week 14. Ohio State defeats Michigan, but Penn State captures the Big Ten East with a victory over Michigan State.
Ragland and His RedHawks
Miami U. capped a most unlikely second half of the regular season by rallying Tuesday night for a sixth consecutive win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. The RedHawks began the year 0-6, but have been sparked by the return of sophomore quarterback Gus Ragland from an ACL injury suffered in April. In six games, he’s thrown 15 touchdown passes and no picks, helping give a tremendous boost to Chuck Martin in his third season of rebuilding in Oxford.
Air Force owns Boise State. For the third straight year, the Falcons upset the Broncos, the Mountain West standard-bearer, denying them any shot of winning the Mountain Division or making a run at a New Year’s Six bowl game. Air Force will also carry a five-game winning streak into the postseason, with a chance to win 10 games for underrated coach Troy Calhoun for the second time in the last three seasons.
Missouri DE Marcell Frazier
If Charles Harris leaves for the NFL Draft, Frazier is ready to carry the torch for D-Line Zou in 2017. Actually, the way Frazier performed in November, he might want to test the waters as well. The 6-5, 260-pound junior from Portland caught fire down the stretch, picking up at least one sack in each of the last three games. And in Friday’s comeback win over Arkansas, Frazier was unstoppable, making four stops for loss and a career-best three sacks of Austin Allen.
It was a November the Yellow Jackets will long remember. Tech actually turned things around at the midpoint of the season, a time when it had lost three in a row to put coach Paul Johnson’s future in jeopardy. But the Jackets rallied with five wins in the final six games, including Saturday’s upset of hated rival Georgia in Athens. It was Tech’s second straight win Between the Hedges, catapulting the program into the postseason with an 8-4 mark.
It took almost the entire regular season, but the Hawkeyes finally look like the team that won the Big Ten West a year ago and was favored in the preseason to do so again in 2016. After bottoming out with a 41-14 loss to Penn State on Nov. 5, Iowa closed out the regular season with consecutive wins over Michigan, Illinois and then Nebraska this past Friday, 40-10. Phil Parker’s D has been the catalyst, allowing a total of 23 points during the three-game winning streak.
The Broncos throttled Toledo, 55-35, their toughest MAC opponent on the schedule. The two Group of Five teams ahead of Western Michigan in the College Football Playoff Rankings, Boise State and Houston, lost. Corey Davis set the FBS record for career receiving yards. It was anything but a black Friday in Kalamazoo. A date with Ohio next Friday night at Detroit’s Ford Field should be all that separates the Broncos from representing the Group of Five in the Cotton Bowl.
LSU RB Derrius Guice
As one perennial Heisman contender readies to take his game to Sundays, another is poised to fill the void. It’s only a matter of time before Leonard Fournette announces he’ll forego his final year of eligibility as a Tiger. Naturally, he’ll be missed, and not just for football reasons, but LSU is set in the backfield with Guice for 2017. The sophomore has filled in spectacularly well for a dinged-up Fournette, rushing for at least 250 yards in two of the last three games, including a school-record 285 yards and four scores in Thursday’s pummeling of Texas A&M.
Florida State Against In-State Rivals
The Seminoles own the Sunshine State, and it isn’t even up for polite debate. Florida State has beaten Miami seven straight times, including earlier this year. And after handling Florida in Week 13, 31-13, it’s now defeated the Gators four years in a row. This Seminoles senior class becomes the first in program history to finish undefeated against both Florida and Miami. FSU hasn’t even allowed an offensive touchdown in the last two meetings with its rival from Gainesville, abusing an overmatched O-line with DeMarcus Walker and his fellow line mates. The season didn’t quite unfurl as the Noles would have liked, but they can take consolation in still having the upper hand on the Canes and Gators.
The Atlantic Coast Conference had four cracks at the Southeastern Conference in rivalry games Saturday. Won three of them, including Georgia Tech’s upset of Georgia in Athens, Clemson’s blowout of South Carolina and a Florida State victory over SEC East champ Florida. The only loss was Louisville’s stunning collapse at home to Kentucky. The ACC finished the regular season 6-3 versus the SEC, providing a nice runway into the postseason, which will provide the league 11 more shots to shine against non-conference competition.
USC’s Adoree’ Jackson
As the college football orbit fixed its attention on Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers Saturday, Jackson dispatched his own resounding statement about who’s the game’s most dangerous triple-threat. The Trojans remained one of the nation’s hottest teams, with Jackson stealing the show this week. The junior corner scored three touchdowns three different ways, a 55-yard punt return, a 52-yard reception and a spectacular 97-yard kick return, resulting in a rather timely Heisman pose for voters looking for a candidate to champion.
If the Huskies land a playoff berth, no one can accuse them of backing into the picture. Since its lone loss to USC on Nov. 12, U-Dub has easily dismissed Arizona State and Wazzu to capture the Pac-12. The Sun Devils? No attaboys for handling Todd Graham’s team. But what the Huskies did to the ranked Cougars—in Pullman—should leave no doubt about their potential. Jake Browning was sharp, and the Washington secondary made sure Luke Falk wasn’t, picking him off three times.
The Lions were aware that Ohio State had defeated Michigan earlier in the day, paving a pathway to Indianapolis. Penn State then shook off a slow start and took care of business, blanking Michigan State in the second half, 35-0, to capture the Big Ten East Division. That James Franklin, not Urban Meyer or Jim Harbaugh, will be coaching against Wisconsin next Saturday is a stunning testament to the entire staff and QB Trace McSorley, who threw four touchdown passes and only six incompletions in the clincher.
One leg of the journey is complete. It’s on to Santa Clara to face Washington in Friday night’s Pac-12 Championship Game. Since losing to USC on Oct. 8, the Buffs had no margin for error, yet they never buckled once, winning the final six regular season games to become this season’s most improbable division winner in college football. The last two victories, a week ago over Wazzu and Saturday against Utah, showcased a defense with the physicality and the secondary play to go stride-for-stride with Jake Browning and the speedy U-Dub skill players.
Urban Meyer vs. Michigan
The Buckeyes weren’t great on Saturday. The O-line struggled with the Wolverine pass rush and PK Tyler Durbin missed a pair of field goals that could have prevented overtime. But Ohio State showed resiliency and found a way to beat Michigan on a nifty Curtis Samuel run to keep its playoff hopes alive. Meyer is now 5-0 against his biggest rival, providing further evidence why he trails only Alabama’s Nick Saban as the premier coach in college football.