College Football, Week 13 — 4 Winners, 4 Losers

UH had a big weekend
UH had a big weekend
Photo by Jack Gorman

So that was it. Thanksgiving weekend came and went, and despite a schedule dotted with potential foundation shaking games, when all was said and done, everything just slid right into place. Granted, it took until Stanford's last second field goal sailed through the uprights against Notre Dame, but it would appear that, barring an upset of major proportions, we are getting a playoff with some permutation of Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, and the Big Ten champion (Iowa or Michigan State). 

If there are going to be chaos, it will have to wait for one more week. North Carolina, Florida…. the two of you are out only hope. 

WINNERS

4. U of H
When the Cougars lost to UConn last weekend, even though it was a bad loss (the Coogs next opponent, Temple, dismantled UConn 27-3 on Saturday night), the fact was the goals for Tom Herman's team all still remained intact. Beat Navy, host the AAC title game, win that, go win a big bowl game — those were and are still the goals. And thanks to a 52-31 thrashing of the Midshipmen on Friday afternoon, all is well for the Coogs. They are AAC West champs and Temple comes to town this weekend. Hell, you could even argue they caught a break when LSU decided to keep Les Miles and reduce the number of potential marquee vacancies that will woo Tom Herman by one. 

3. Derrick Henry
After Week 1 of the season, I wrote this about Henry:

I have no idea how Henry translates to the next level, since Trent Richardson has officially made me question my evaluation of every Alabama running back now, but I know we need to see Henry touch the ball more than 13 times a game. There was an old saying about Michael Jordan in college — the only person who could hold him under 20 points was Dean Smith, his coach, who liked to share the ball. The same might end up being said about Henry and Bama OC Lane Kiffin. 

On Saturday in the Iron Bowl — 46 carries, 271 yards. Since the beginning of October in games against FBS opponents, an average of 31 carries a game. Lane Kiffin gets it. When Jacob Coker is your QB, you ride that horse till it bucks you.

2. Big XII
So I guess the Big XII may not need a conference title game to have a team in the playoff after all. That was perhaps the most overblown storyline of the post-selection period last season. TCU and Baylor weren't left out as punishment for no conference title game. They were left out as punishment for a direct affront to the mandate that you schedule at least one challenging game out of conference. As it turns out, all you need to make the playoff from the Big XII is to dominate the second half of the season and win one good game outside of conference (OU snuck out of Tennessee with a comeback win in the first month of the season.) 

1. Les Miles
All week long, it wasn't if, but WHEN LSU would be firing Les Miles after the Texas A&M game. And all week long, Miles kind of conducted himself as if he were buying those reports, acting very nostalgic and thankful for the opportunity in Baton Rouge. Then a funny thing happened — LSU beat A&M, the crowd chanted Miles' name, the players said great things about him, and somewhere long the way, the school either changed its mind or their candidate to replace Miles fell out. Whatever the case, Les Miles, in a hybrid combination of a shock and a clusterfuck, will remain the coach at LSU, which means we will hopefully get several more seasons of this….

BONUS WINNER: Luke Turner, David Bailiff and Rice University
With all the talk of stipends for players, draft prospects, and playoff controversy, it gets lost in the wash that like 95 percent of these kids are actually grateful just to get the scholarship and play football for four more years. If you need a video to represent the silent majority, this 90 seconds from Rice graduating senior Luke Turner is pretty damn good...

LOSERS

4. Notre Dame
As I've mentioned on occasion on air and in this space, Notre Dame is my team. So naturally after Stanford kicked a last second field goal to beat the Irish on Saturday night in what was a nearly perfect college football game to watch (high stakes, back and forth, high level offensive football, last second finish), everyone on Twitter wanted my girlfriend to tweet pictures of me in tears over the loss, which dropped Notre Dame to 10-2 on the season and ended their hopes for a playoff bid. Heres the thing — with OU, Iowa, and Michigan State all winning, ND wasn't getting a playoff bid anyway. So I could either be sad on Saturday night after the loss, or pissed off on Tuesday over a playoff snub. Now, my negative feelings are out of the way, and I can get on with my week. That's how I view it. 

3. Illinois
After a season in which they fired their head coach the week of the season opener, Illinois decided to extend interim head coach Bill Cubit's contract by two years rather than find a true full time replacement. When asked about the decision, here's what Illini AD Paul Kowalczyk had to say:

Well, there's a slogan that should sell season tickets — ILLINI FOOTBALL… WHERE WE DON'T PUT A DAGGER INTO OUR OWN HEARTS! It's times like this that I get mad that goofs like Kowalczyk make a lot more than what I make in a calendar year. 

2. Texas A&M
What an appropriate close out to the 2015 season for the Aggies — a 19-7 loss to a team whose coach was reportedly about to get fired, 250 yards of total offense, all while dressed in all black uniforms that are worn solely in the name of some nebulous concept of "swag", of which this team has none. Kevin Sumlin is teetering precariously on the edge of the "candidate for other openings cliff" about to fall into the abyss of the "hot seat." I can't wait to see if the Aggies give him another raise. 

1. The playoff committee
If you are opting to be on a committee for something as subjective as playoff selection in college football, you inherently seek relevance, so I feel sorry for the twelve members of the playoff committee, in that there is no arguing over the four playoff spots as of right now — Clemson and Alabama are both double digit favorites to win their conference titles, Oklahoma is finished for the season, and Iowa and Michigan State face off for the other spot. In some ways, the committee has done too clean a job of ranking these teams. Barring a massive curveball on Tuesday night, there will be zero arguments over the rankings this week.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.                 


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