College football winners and losers in Week 11: USC headed in right direction
The Trojans won their sixth straight as three of the top four teams lost
The moment you think you know everything, college football shows that you know nothing. And it often does so in dramatic, unforgiving style.
These are rare times, but a little chaos now and then is good for college football. You know why? Because it keeps things on edge. And because it's fair.
"Upset Saturday" might have been the headlining story in Week 11 but it's not the only thing that happened. With so much action going on around the country, we here at CBS Sports want to get you caught up on all the noteworthy things that went down -- both the good and not so good. What were the highlights from Week 11? What were the moments some programs want to forget? We hash out the best and worst below.
Winner -- Kirk Ferentz's agent: Many jokes have been made -- on here and elsewhere -- about Ferentz's seemingly lifetime extension with Iowa. It was more entertaining when the Hawkeyes lost some head-scratching games earlier in the season. However, the longtime coach more than made up for it with a hard-fought and emotional 14-13 win over Michigan. This hasn't been the season Iowa wanted ... not after going to the Big Ten Championship Game last year ... but beating the Wolverines salvaged something positive.
Loser -- Alabama's so-called LSU hangover: So much for the Crimson Tide having a letdown after a physical win over LSU. Alabama's noon kickoff against Mississippi State was a trendy upset pick, but Nick Saban's team was focused in a 51-3 rout of Mississippi State. Alabama was in control from the start and quarterback Jalen Hurts didn't have a "freshman moment" with 447 yards (347 passing, 100 rushing) and five total touchdowns. And now Alabama knows it is going to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game no matter what.
Winner -- Southern California: Has there been a better turnaround in college football than USC? The Trojans were written off -- completely forgotten about -- after a dreadful September. Hell, they were written off after Week 1's blowout loss to Alabama. But ever so quietly, coach Clay Helton made some depth chart changes and regrouped his team. The result: USC has won six in a row, including an impressive, dominating 26-13 victory on the road at Washington. This team hasn't even secured the Pac-12 South, but there might not be a team playing better football in that conference at the moment.
Loser -- Washington: The Huskies could have bought themselves some goodwill during an upset weekend by knocking off a much-improved USC. Instead, they dropped a tough home game 26-13 against a team that flat-out beat 'em up in the trenches. Remember: This is Washington we're talking about, one of the most physical teams in the nation. The loss doesn't necessarily knock the Huskies out of the playoff, but the margin for error just went way down if the selection committee drops them like a rock.
Winner -- Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson: The five-star true freshman was thrust into starting duty against Texas A&M after it was announced last week that Chad Kelly would miss the remainder of the year with a knee injury. All Patterson did was lead Ole Miss in a 29-28 come-from-behind victory over the Aggies. Patterson didn't get off to the best start throwing the ball -- how many freshmen would? -- but he finished with 338 yards and a couple of touchdown passes. It's only one game, but the future looks bright for the former Elite 11 MVP.
Loser -- Texas A&M's meltdown: Is A&M on track for another November meltdown? That's for you to decide, but here are the facts: The Aggies lost 35-28 to a sub-.500 Mississippi State team in Week 10 and then blew a 21-6 first-half lead to drop a second straight game to Ole Miss. UTSA should provide a welcome relief, but with LSU still on the schedule, Texas A&M could be facing three straight SEC losses to end the year.
Winner -- Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong: A week ago, Armstrong was being carted off the field after a terrifying fall against Ohio State that knocked him unconscious. In a 24-17 win over Minnesota, Armstrong not only played but racked up 278 yards and three touchdowns. Armstrong is a tough kid, there's no doubt about that, and he has rebounded from an inconsistent career to lead Nebraska in a divisional title-contending season.
Loser -- The great Auburn offense: We could go on about Auburn losing out on a chance to play for the SEC West against Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but you know this already. The 13-7 loss to Georgia sealed that divisional fate. Rather, it's more pertinent to examine why Auburn lost. Look no further than the Tigers' second-half offense, which yielded a grand total of 32 yards. CBS Sports analyst Gary Danielson called the Tigers' second-half performance "one of the worst" he has ever seen, and you would be hard-pressed to find many examples to refute that statement. When Auburn is clicking on offense, it looks nearly impossible to stop. But there have been instances recently in which Auburn can't move at all.
Brutal 2nd half for Auburn: 22 plays for 32 yards. Big win for Kirby Smart, but rough performance by Auburn with SEC West hopes alive.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) November 12, 2016
Winner -- Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt: The name jokes are obvious, but that's the blessing and the curse you live with when you're a kicker. Luckily for Blewitt, he hit the winning 48-yard field goal in Pitt's stunning 43-42 upset over Clemson. It was a redemption kick for Blewitt, who missed an extra point earlier in the game. Then again, without that missed PAT, Pitt never would have had to try a two-point conversion. And without that failed attempt, Blewitt wouldn't have had the opportunity to win the game by one point. Things went full circle like that.
Loser -- Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson: There were many reasons Clemson lost to Pitt. Coaching is one. Playing an inspired opponent that's used to close games is another, as is Clemson not playing its best game. Still, it's hard to peruse all of those reasons and not focus on Watson's three interceptions. There are multiple factors that contribute to the difference between a completion and a pick, but Watson's decision-making was subpar against the Panthers. He has had an enigmatic season to be sure. On one hand, he is clearly still a top-tier quarterback with his arm strength and athleticism. On the other, he hasn't had the Heisman-like year many thought he would.
Winner -- Penn State punter Blake Gillikin: Most of our Penn State affection has been directed toward Joey Julius, the most metal kicker in all of the land. However, Gillikin got off the best, worst punt in a good long while during Saturday's win over Indiana. After mishandling a bad snap, Gillikin chased down the ball deep in his own territory and still got off a respectable punt, which was called for a fair catch. That could have been disastrous for the Nittany Lions -- and in a close game, a possibly important play -- but instead it looks perfectly normal on the box score.
Loser -- This poor television: Folks, we desperately need to start talking about crimes against TVs. They're innocent in these times of anarchy. This was a misplaced act of shooting the messenger. And by shooting, I mean throwing a remote through it.
Winner -- Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook: If you haven't seen Westbrook's ridiculous touchdown against Baylor, you can watch it below and read more about it here. It was Westbrook's 14th touchdown of the season, all of which came since the beginning of October. He probably won't win the Heisman Trophy unless Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson tanks, but there aren't many players as explosive and game-changing as Westbrook these days.
Loser -- Florida's infirmary: There are banged-up teams, and then there's Florida. The Gators lost safety Marcus Maye for the rest of the season after he sustained a broken arm in Saturday's win over South Carolina. Among the other players to get hurt against the Gamecocks were new starting center Tyler Jordan, left tackle David Sharpe and senior Bryan Cox Jr. That's not even counting quarterback Luke Del Rio, linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis, real starting center Cam Dillard and starting defensive end Cece Jefferson, all of whome were already out after being hurt last week. It looks as though the SEC East champ will be either Florida or Tennessee, both of which are rolling with their C-squad at many positions.
Winner -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen's sound bite: Before reading on, understand that no one here is advocating for a coach to lose his cool. However, Holgorsen going absolutely bananas during West Virginia's 24-20 win over Texas was high entertainment value. There was his full-on meltdown during the Longhorns' final offensive drive, in which there appeared to be confusion about a timeout called, but nothing tops this hot mic moment during a catch interference penalty called on the Mountaineers.
Holgorsen, to ref, on mic: "Our guys have bigger balls than their guys. ... Get the f*** outta here."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) November 12, 2016
In Holgorsen's defense, a number of judgement calls went Texas' way. Just about any coach short of Bill Snyder would have erupted. But those words are poetry.
Loser -- The most mesmerizing play of the season: Celebrating futility feels bad. These players are trying their best and are a lot tougher than many of us will ever be. But, lord, this pass by Rutgers against Michigan State in a 49-0 loss is ... well ... take a look. Thank goodness for Vine, because looping this play is mesmerizing.
I hope Rutgers builds a statue of this moment. It's like the reverse Heisman pic.twitter.com/KasP82WoUU— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) November 12, 2016
Winner -- John Carroll University: You're darn right Division III is football, too. Here's to John Carroll, whose 31-28 win over Mount Union -- the Alabama of D-III -- gave the Blue Streaks the Ohio Athletic Conference title. That snaps Mount Union's 24-year conference title streak. (Yes, 24 years!) That's the longest winning streak in college football history.
Loser -- ACC Coastal clinchers: We've dogged on the SEC East plenty, but the ACC Coastal has been a giant shrug emoji. No one seems to want to win it. Virginia Tech couldn't clinch the division Saturday in a surprising 30-20 loss to Georgia Tech. North Carolina lost to Duke 28-27 on Thursday, meaning the Tar Heels couldn't take advantage of the Hokies' loss even if they wanted to. Virginia Tech still holds the tiebreaker over North Carolina, but Thanksgiving weekend in the ACC Coastal suddenly has a lot more meaning.
Winner -- Georgia Tech quarterback Matthew Jordan: The other side to Virginia Tech's loss is Georgia Tech's big day. Jordan started in place of Justin Thomas, who did not play because of an "upper body injury." All Jordan did was rush for 121 yards and a pair of scores. The Yellow Jackets were also without leading rusher Dedrick Mills (suspension). Yet, through all of that, Tech got the much-needed win to get bowl eligible.
Loser -- The most mesmerizing play of the season (Part II): There are fake punts and then there are hilariously awful fake punts. And Iowa ran the most ridiculously hilarious fake punt you'll see this year. Making matters worse, a Michigan player was flagged for targeting on helmet-to-helmet contact with the punter ... who was somersaulting through the air because he was tripped up by his own feet. Punters: They're not graceful runners.
Winner -- #RankTroy: Western Michigan and Boise State tend to dominate the Group of Five conversation as it pertains to the New Year's Six. And because that's the only conversation for Group of Five teams, we've done a terrible disservice overlooking Troy. The Trojans are 8-1 thanks to a 28-24 win over Appalachian State and their only loss is by six points to Clemson. The point being: It's beyond time to rank Troy in the top 25. Who else are voters going to put in there?
Loser -- Hawaii's benches: What do you do when your team isn't playing well? Take away their opportunity to sit down, of course. Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich was so upset with his team, he took away their benches. Seriously. That's ... quite a motivational tactic.
Winner -- Central Florida coach Scott Frost: Quietly, Frost has done one of the better coaching jobs throughout college football. The first-year coach has UCF bowl eligible after a 24-3 win over Cincinnati. The Knights could even have seven or eight wins if a couple of close games went their way. All of this is even more impressive when you consider UCF was winless last season. Frost was long considered one of the up-and-coming coaches in the game and he's proving a lot of people right.
Loser -- Wyoming: One game that got lost in all the upsets nationally was Wyoming's 69-66 triple-overtime loss to UNLV. Yes, you are reading that right: 69-66. What's more is the loss opens up the possibility of Boise State reclaiming the Mountain West's Mountain division. Wyoming holds the tiebreaker over the Broncos, but the Cowboys have a tough game vs. San Diego State in Week 12. Coach Craig Bohl has done an excellent job rebuilding this Wyoming program, but dreams of a Mountain West title might end up falling short because of an astonishing overtime game.
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