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Top 25 takeaways College Football Playoff implications Week 13 games

The first two days of Week 13 had a little bit of everything, and Saturday hasn’t disappointed, either. The Apple Cup in a snowstorm? Check. A 59-56 Big 12 showdown? Check. An Egg Bowl brawl that featured personal fouls on everyone? Yeah, we’ve had that, too. And today we’ve seen Ohio State rout Michigan, Alabama complete a perfect regular season and more.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.


No. 1 Alabama 52, Auburn 21

If not for a blocked punt and a few trick plays, the final score might have been much worse for Auburn. But even so, Alabama won the Iron Bowl in dominating fashion while quarterback Tua Tagovailoa cemented his lead in the Heisman race. With growing buzz in favor of Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray after a shootout win over West Virginia on Friday night, Tagovailoa responded to the tune of six total touchdowns — including a pinpoint, 75-yard dime to Jerry Jeudy. With the SEC championship game against Georgia a week away, the Crimson Tide are firing on all cylinders. — Alex Scarborough


No. 2 Clemson 56, South Carolina 35

Clemson absolutely deserves to be in the College Football Playoff. But if the Tigers are going to win their second national title in four years, they must solve some big defensive problems downfield, particularly when their opponent is in hurry-up mode. South Carolina QB Jake Bentley threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns, including TD tosses of 32, 67 and 75 yards. The good news?Clemson’s front five and linebacking corps are elite, and that beleaguered secondary did tighten up in the second half. The bad news? Bentley is good, but he certainly isn’t Tua Tagovailoa/Kyler Murray-level good. Life will only get harder for the Tigers secondary as January approaches. — Ryan McGee


No. 10 Ohio State 62, No. 4 Michigan 39

Just when you thought Ohio State was finally going to be an afterthought in the College Football Playoff hunt, the Buckeyes find a way to thrust themselves right back into prime position by beating up on a familiar foe. Ohio State played its most complete game of the season in a dismantling of Michigan for the Buckeyes’ seventh straight win in the series. Up next is a Big Ten championship game with Northwestern. A win over the Wildcats could make for an interesting Selection Day for the CFP committee. — Chris Low

Michigan ran into a brick wall in Columbus once again. All the progress in the world won’t matter for Jim Harbaugh & Co. until the Wolverines figure out a way to beat Ohio State. They didn’t come close this time. The improved running game stalled against a Buckeyes defense that had been at best porous for most of the season. When it became clear they weren’t going to run through the wall, Harbaugh had no plan to try to get over or around it. They would have only needed to look at the opposite sideline for some suggestions. Dwayne Haskins torched Michigan’s vaunted pass defense for 318 yards, and the rest of the Buckeyes playmakers made their opponent look slow on Saturday. For the third time in five years, Ohio State put more than 40 points on its chief rival. The bottom line is Michigan will once again be watching from home during the Big Ten Championship Game next week and is no longer a playoff contender. — Dan Murphy


No. 5 Georgia 45, Georgia Tech 21

After losing to Alabama on the final play of the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 8, Georgia has waited nearly 11 months to find out whether it has closed the gap on the No. 1 Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs are about to find out in next week’s SEC championship game. If Georgia beats Alabama, it will return to the CFP for the second straight season. If the Bulldogs lose in a close game, they might still have an argument for grabbing one of the four spots with two losses. Georgia certainly seems to be peaking at the right time; it won its fifth straight game with one of the most lopsided results in its 113-game history with rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs shut down Tech’s vaunted triple-option offense, limiting it to 103 yards and 2.6 yards per carry through the first three quarters. Tech came into the game leading the FBS in rushing with 353.7 yards per game. Georgia’s offense continued its torrid pace, scoring touchdowns on its first five possessions to take a 38-7 lead at the half. Quarterback Jake Fromm threw for 175 yards with four touchdowns, the most in a game in his career. — Mark Schlabach


No. 6 Oklahoma 59, No. 13 West Virginia 56

Oklahoma’s defense was comically bad for the most part in Morgantown. And yet, that same woeful defense came through with a pair of touchdowns to propel the Sooners to the high-scoring win at West Virginia, clinching OU’s spot in the Big 12 championship game against Texas. The backbreaker came early in the fourth quarter, when OU’s Ronnie Perkins wrapped up Will Grier, allowing teammate Kenneth Mann to pop the ball out of the West Virginia QB’s hand. Linebacker Curtis Bolton then scooped up the fumble and raced 48 yards to give OU a 59-49 lead — and the momentum for good. Despite giving up at least 40 points in four straight games, the Sooners remain in the playoff race, with a chance to avenge their only loss of the season against their Red River rivals. OU and Texas have never faced each other twice in the same season in the modern era. — Jake Trotter

With a chance to go to the Big 12 title game, West Virginia moved the ball at will against Oklahoma. But the Mountaineers were doomed by a pair of turnovers leading to OU touchdowns, and a pair of offensive penalties that essentially wiped out two touchdowns of their own. The latter penalty, called on wide receiver T.J. Simmons in the fourth quarter for blocking an OU defensive back too deep out of bounds, eradicated Kennedy McKoy‘s 73-yard run. Two plays later, OU’s Curtis Bolton recovered a Will Grier fumble for a touchdown, swinging the game in the Sooners’ favor for good. OU remains the only team that West Virginia has failed to defeat since joining the Big 12. — Trotter


No. 22 Texas A&M 74, No. 7 LSU 72, 7 OT

Jimbo Fisher’s first regular season in Aggieland is in the books and it’s clear this is an improved squad. It’s a physical bunch, as evidenced by their top-10 run defense which kept LSU’s rushing attack under wraps for much of regulation before things went haywire in overtime. The Aggies have a solid running game, spearheaded by Trayveon Williams — who rushed for 198 yards — and sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond showed a lot of promise and poise. Lost amid all the chaos of the night was a key milestone for the Aggies: This is their first win over LSU since joining the SEC. — Sam Khan Jr.

Not for a lack of effort, but the Tigers see any slight glimmer of hope they might have had for the College Football Playoff washed away and their hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl bid took a significant hit, too, with the loss to the Aggies. They’ll have to win their bowl game to get to 10 wins, a benchmark they were attempting to hit for the first time since 2013. It has been a solid season for Ed Orgeron and his crew, but they’ll certainly walk away feeling as if they let one get away in College Station. Joe Burrow had his best game as a Tiger, carrying the offense when it couldn’t get a solid running game going and making big throws, too. Dave Aranda’s defense put together a solid second-half effort but gave up the tying touchdown as time expired in regulation to allow overtime and things spiraled from there. — Khan


No. 16 Washington 28, No. 8 Washington State 15

After a disappointing three-loss regular season that started with a top-10 ranking, the Huskies will return to the Pac-12 championship game for the second time in three years. Washington went into miserable winterlike conditions in Pullman and spoiled its archrival’s big hopes of a trip to Santa Clara and maybe a shot at the playoff. Myles Gaskin powered the Huskies’ brutally efficient performance, rushing for 171 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder early in the fourth quarter that effectively put away the game. The run also helped Gaskin finish off an unprecedented accomplishment: He became the first Pac-12 player to rush for 1,000 or more yards in four seasons. Next: The Huskies will have a rematch with Utah next week, almost three months after beating the Utes 21-7 in Salt Lake City. — Joel Anderson

In the biggest game on the Paloose in about a decade, Minshew Magic — as they’ve been calling the effect quarterback Gardner Minshew has had on Pullman this fall — turned out to be the same old show for Mike Leach and Washington State. The Cougars’ prolific offense, which entered the game ranked in the top 15 nationally in points and yards, came undone in the driving snow against Washington’s defense. A week after Minshew set a school record with seven touchdown passes against Arizona, he was held scoreless and added two interceptions — and almost threw a couple more — in his final game at Martin Stadium. Now Washington State will be denied its first Pac-12 championship berth and it officially puts a close on the league’s very slim hopes of sending a team to the CFP. — Anderson


No. 9 UCF 38, USF 10

The game details hardly mattered. What mattered was what happened to quarterback McKenzie Milton, who suffered a traumatic right leg injury in the second quarter. Milton had his leg immobilized after taking a hit to his knee on a scramble, and he was carted off the field and transported to a hospital. His shaken teammates knelt beside him in a show of support, then had to find a way to keep going without their leader. Coach Josh Heupel’s message at halftime was simple: find a way to win for Milton. Darriel Mack Jr. came in at quarterback and led the offense admirably, while the running game behind Greg McCrae delivered in a big way. Meanwhile, the UCF defense — the subject of scorn throughout much of the season — put together a solid effort for the second straight game. Indeed, when UCF needed its defense to come through in the clutch, it delivered to help it win its 24th straight game. Now, the biggest question moving forward is whether UCF can beat Memphis next week in the AAC championship game to claim another spot in a New Year’s Six game without their best player and unquestioned leader. — Andrea Adelson


No. 11 Florida 41, Florida State 14

The Gators ended their five-game losing streak to Florida State thanks to a powerful run game and a strong performance from the defensive front, which had its way against an overmatched Florida State offensive line. Florida ended up rushing for 282 yards and held the Seminoles to 293 total. The win almost assures Florida a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game in Dan Mullen’s first year as head coach. And it also serves as a huge show of progress for a program that went downhill under Jim McElwain. Florida missed a bowl a year ago, so to see what Mullen has done in a short period of time should give his program plenty of momentum not only going into bowl season but on the recruiting trail as well, especially as Florida State and Miami have fallen backward this season. It wasn’t a perfect season, and Feleipe Franks isn’t perfect, but the regular season should be considered a successful one based on how far this program has come over such a short period of time. — Adelson


No. 12 Penn State 38, Maryland 3

Penn State’s season didn’t go the way the seniors wanted it to, but on senior day, quarterback Trace McSorley went out with a bang. McSorley threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and ran for 64 yards with two more scores. The Nittany Lions defense held the Terps to 259 total yards of offense after Maryland gained 535 yards against Ohio State in the previous week. McSorley holds nine Penn State records over the course over his career, and while the season didn’t go as planned, he finished the regular season with a win. — Tom VanHaaren


No. 14 Texas 24, Kansas 17

The Longhorns clinched their first appearance in the Big 12 championship game since 2009 — but they faced some late drama in getting there. Kansas, playing hard for coach David Beaty in his final game, scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter and got a field goal with 97 seconds to play before a failed onside kick. For Texas, the slim margin of victory didn’t mean much. Nor did Sam Ehlinger‘s two interceptions after his Big 12-record 304 consecutive throws without a pick. What’s important to the Horns is that they’re back on the big stage. “It means everything,” tight end Andrew Beck said of the upcoming trip to AT&T Stadium. Star linebacker Gary Johnson will return from a one-game suspension next week as the Longhorns aim to validate talk of their return to the elite with a fourth Big 12 title. — Mitch Sherman


No. 15 Kentucky 56, Louisville 10

A Kentucky regular season where so many things went right wouldn’t feel complete without claiming the Governor’s Cup, especially when in-state rival Louisville is reeling. Kentucky left no doubt at Cardinal Stadium, piling up 35 first-half points against a bewildered Louisville defense. Although the Wildcats’ offense ultimately held them back in the SEC East race, they had an easy time with Louisville, as they had a season-high 343 rushing yards. Lead back Benny Snell Jr. had two early touchdowns and quarterback Terry Wilson finished strong, completing 17 of 23 passes for 261 yards with three touchdowns, to go along with 79 rushing yards and a touchdown. Kentucky’s signature defense swarmed Louisville, allowing only 10 first downs and just two third-down conversions on 11 attempts. The Wildcats’ ninth win marked their most in the regular season since 1977, which also marked the team’s last 10-win campaign. Kentucky is headed to a quality bowl game and should have an excellent chance to record its first postseason ranking since 1984, when it finished 19th in the final AP poll. — Adam Rittenberg


No. 17 Utah 35, BYU 27

The Utes had to rally from 20 points down in the third quarter to hold off their hated in-state rival for the eighth straight time. Utah barely overcame its sloppy, uninspired start, which included a pair of special teams miscues that led directly to two BYU touchdowns. It’s also clear that the loss of starting quarterback Tyler Huntley is finally taking a toll as the Utes finished with only 296 yards of offense. In Jason Shelley’s third start, he completed 19 passes for only 141 yards. A repeat of Saturday night’s performance could get them blown out in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game against Washington. — Anderson


No. 18 Mississippi State 35, Ole Miss 3

The Bulldogs are going to have a shot at nine wins and a decent bowl game after all. And to think: Not that long ago, when Nick Fitzgerald was in a funk and Mississippi State lost three of four games, it looked as if neither one of those benchmarks would be attainable. But Fitzgerald bounced back and, with the exception of a shutout at Alabama, the offense recovered to support what has been one of the most underappreciated defenses in college football. Now, after dominating in-state rival Ole Miss on both sides of the ball to win the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night, an 8-4 regular season doesn’t seem all that bad for Joe Moorhead’s first season as head coach. — Scarborough


No. 19 Northwestern 24, Illinois 16

In a game the Wildcats simply needed to just get through against 4-7 Illinois, they did just enough. They now likely enter the Big Ten championship game as healthy as they’ve been in months. Northwestern built a 24-6 lead behind freshman running back Isaiah Bowser (166 rush yards, 18 carries), efficient quarterback Clayton Thorson (12-of-18 passing, 110 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) and a defense that gave up yards but buckled down in the red zone. Things got weird in the fourth quarter, as coach Pat Fitzgerald pulled Thorson, Bowser and many other starters, and Illinois made a charge behind quarterback A.J. Bush. Fittingly, a defense that has carried Northwestern most of the way sealed the underwhelming win as linebacker Paddy Fisher picked off Bush in the red zone. Northwestern will need its best game from Thorson to keep pace with Ohio State. The Wildcats defense also must be sharper on third down, as Illinois converted 7 of 15 opportunities and finished with more yards (435-371) and first downs (24-19). But after getting through two essentially meaningless games, Northwestern can now focus on the monumental task of beating Ohio State in Indianapolis. The Wildcats should regain several key defensive backs and top wide receiver Flynn Nagel in Indianapolis. — Rittenberg


No. 20 Syracuse 42, Boston College 21

The Orange bounced back from their disappointing loss to Notre Dame in a big way against Boston College, thanks to a career day from quarterback Eric Dungey. Dungey, who was knocked out early against the Irish, came back to score a career-high six total touchdowns (three rushing, three passing) to help Syracuse finish the regular season at 9-3 — its best showing since going 10-3 in 2001. Syracuse was picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division in the preseason, but ended up finishing second, a tribute to the job coach Dino Babers has done in three short years with the Orange. His team had shown glimpses over the past few years, with upset wins over Virginia Tech and Clemson among the most notable. But the mantra this year was to finish, and Syracuse more than did that behind veteran players like Dungey. His performance on Saturday allowed him to become just the seventh player in ACC history to reach the plateau of being responsible for 90 career touchdowns. — Adelson


No. 23 Boise State 33, No. 21 Utah State 24

The last time the Broncos had to beat Utah State in the regular-season finale to advance to the Mountain West championship game, they got 229 yards rushing from star Jay Ajayi in a 50-19 in 2014. Starring in the role of Ajayi on Saturday night was Alex Mattison, who rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in Boise State’s victory over the Aggies. It was the third straight week that Mattison set a season high in rushing yards, topping 144 yards against Fresno State and 145 against New Mexico. His emergence has been central to the Broncos’ seven-game winning streak, helping them win at least a share of the West Division of the Mountain West for the fourth time in five years. Boise State will host Fresno State for the conference championship next week, a rematch of the Broncos’ 24-17 win on Nov. 9.– Anderson

Even riding the momentum of the best start in school history, Boise State did it to the Aggies again. Utah State’s 10-game winning streak and hopes of advancing to a New Year’s Six bowl came to a crushing end at Boise State, a virtual repeat of a similar defeat with the same stakes in 2014. The Aggies’ were doomed in no small part because their prolific offense, which ranked second in the nation in scoring, didn’t even score half of its 49.3 points per game average. Boise State had a hand in that, hogging the ball for nearly 39 minutes and holding Utah State to 4-of-13 on third-down conversions. —Anderson


Miami 24, No. 24 Pitt 3

It was a disappointing way to end the regular season for Pitt, which had won four straight to clinch the Coastal Division before heading to Miami. Unlike last season, when the Panthers dominated up front to hand the Hurricanes their first loss of the season, the storyline proved to be the complete opposite on Saturday. Pitt could not block Miami up front, and the Panthers seemed to miss starting center Jimmy Morrissey, out for the season with an ankle injury. Leading rusher Qadree Ollison was a nonfactor. Meanwhile, the Pitt run defense could not find a way to slow down Miami on the ground, as the Hurricanes averaged over 9 yards per carry. The combined effort, the same week Pitt earned its first CFP ranking, does not give Pitt much momentum headed into the ACC championship game against Clemson. If the Panthers had such a difficult time in the trenches against Miami, what will happen against the more formidable Clemson offensive and defensive lines next week in Charlotte? — Adelson


No. 25 Iowa State 42, Kansas State 38

Perhaps inspired by the high-scoring antics in Morgantown on Friday night, the Cyclones and Wildcats staged their own version of the Big 12 brand — capped by a rally from a 17 down to equal the largest fourth-quarter comeback on record at ISU. The Cyclones denied bowl eligibility to K-State, beating the Wildcats for the first time in 11 years after trailing 38-21 with just over 10 minutes to play. Freshman QB Brock Purdy overcame two interceptions to throw for 337 yards to earn a seventh victory for the Cyclones, who face in-state foe Drake for the first time since 1985 in a late-scheduled season finale next week. — Sherman

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