Week 12 wrap

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No. 13 USC wins seventh in a row, pummels crosstown rival UCLA


A decade after a lackluster UCLA team upended USC’s national title hopes, there was some hope among the Bruins’ faithful that a repeat performance could play out at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night (albeit with slightly lower stakes).

While there were some initial flashes of an upset early, the Trojans surged ahead in the second quarter and then ended any doubt with yet another impressive performance by beating their crosstown rivals 36-14.

The Trojans punted just twice all night, blocked a kick and ran nearly double the number of plays (for well over double the yardage) of their opponent. Quarterback Sam Darnold did throw two bad interceptions but made up for it with 267 yards and two scores. Tailback Ronald Jones chipped in 121 yards and two more touchdowns (one from 60 yards out).

UCLA struggled much of the night to sustain drives and never seemed to have much energy despite scoring on their first drive thanks to a 56 yard touchdown catch from Jordan Lasley. Mike Fafaul had two scores through the air but couldn’t get much else done with another terrible performance from the Bruins ground game.

The win was USC’s seventh in a row, continuing to underscore their status as the hottest team in the country. The Trojans rose to 13th in the latest College Football Rankings and need just a loss by Colorado next week to win the Pac-12 South.

Even if that scenario doesn’t play out, a potential Rose Bowl berth is still in the cards for Clay Helton’s squad a few months after claiming victory at the same stadium on Saturday.

No. 6 Washington bounces back from first loss to beat up Arizona State

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Washington looked like the best team in the Pac-12 for most of the season but suffered their first loss of the year last week to USC. As a result, the team had quite a bit of frustration built up over the week.

Arizona State just happened to be next on the schedule and the end result wasn’t pretty for the Sun Devils on Saturday night, as the Huskies battered and bruised their Pac-12 South rivals 44-18 in a game that could have been far worse than that score line indicated.

Quarterback Jake Browning started slow for Washington, throwing two interceptions, but started to click with his receivers in the second quarter and never looked back. He finished with 338 yards and two touchdowns after righting the ship and got the offense going with some big pass plays down the field. Tailback Myles Gaskin had an under the radar game and finished with 127 yards and a score.

The Huskies defense made this one a laugher by bottling up ASU’s offense, forcing eight punts, capturing two turnovers and recording six sacks on the night. The Sun Devils only got only over the 100 yard mark late in the second half and put their only points on the board well after the game was decided.

A dominating, blowout win like that should help Washington recover a little bit of their reputation after last week in the eyes of the selection committee. The Huskies will head to Pullman for the Apple Cup against Washington State next week looking to clinch the Pac-12 North and continue to press their case for one of the four semifinal spots.

Clemson shakes off Pitt loss, eases past Wake to claim ACC Atlantic

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Pardon Louisville if they’re a little salty in the coming days as they had the mother of all lost weeks.

The Cardinals entered Week 12 still entertaining hopes of both an ACC Atlantic title and a berth in the College Football Playoff.  The latter hopes were dashed courtesy of an embarrassing woodshedding at the hands of Houston Thursday night.  No worries, though, as “all” they needed was for Clemson to be upset a second week in a row, this time on the road at Wake Forest, to claim the division title and a spot in the conference championship game.

Yeah, lost week indeed.

Coming off the loss to Pittsburgh, its first of the season, Clemson initially looked to make sure there was no hangover as they jumped out to a 28-0 lead on Wake just a couple of minutes into the second quarter.  After a sizable lull that saw Wake score 13 straight, a Wayne Gallman one-yard touchdown run with just under 10 minutes left essentially put the game out of reach in a 35-13 win.

The road win earned the Tigers their second consecutive Atlantic title and fourth outright crown in nine seasons under Dabo Swinney.  Technically, they shared the 2012 title with Florida State as well.

It also kept Clemson, No. 4 coming in, very firmly and comfortably on the inside when it comes to the College Football Playoffs.  If Clemson handles South Carolina in the regular season finale as expected, and takes care of business against whoever the Coastal offers up in the ACC championship game as well, the Tigers will make it back to the CFP for the second consecutive year.

WATCH: Agitated Nick Saban ’embarrassed’ over 11-point halftime lead on FCS team

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There are teachable moments and come-to-Jesus moments for college football head coaches.  I’m thinking the Alabama football team got a healthy dose of both in the halftime locker room not long ago.

Expected to feast on an FCS cupcake ahead of the Iron Bowl, Alabama has instead found itself in a bit of a fight with Chattanooga.  At the end of the first quarter, the top-ranked Tide was trailing 3-0.  Through two quarters, the Tide held just a 145-135 lead in total offense on the Mocs.

While they righted the ship and took a 14-3 lead into halftime, Nick Saban seemed far from pleased with how his charges seemed to float and skate on its lofty laurels through the first half.

First, I’m hoping the sideline reporter survived the dagger Saban’s eyes tossed her way as he was trotting off and is in good condition at whatever local hospital to which she was transported.  Secondly, what’s left of his players’ collective asses after the halftime chewing they undoubtedly received will be on full display, much to the detriment of the Mocs no doubt.

What I wouldn’t give for audio of that chewing, though…

Notre Dame assured of first losing season in nearly a decade

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The subject of a 5-7 Notre Dame team going to be a bowl game was broached earlier this past week with Brian Kelly.  Thanks to the events that transpired in Week 12, that’s still a theoretical possibility even as it’s an unrealistic probability.

Up 31-21 on Virginia Tech heading into the fourth quarter, it looked as if the 4-6 Golden Domers would keep their flickering bowl hopes alive.  15 minutes and 13 Hokies points later, the Irish were assured of, at best, APR playing a role in backdooring its way into a postseason bid.

The loss was Notre Dame’s seventh of the season, assuring the football program of its first losing record since Charlie Weis‘ third season in 2007 (3-9).

Entering Saturday, there were 60 teams that had reached the six-win threshold toward filling up the 80 bowl openings.  As of this posting, four other teams were added to that pool, with five more a possibility by day’s end.

If the requisite 80 teams don’t reach six wins, that would open the door for 5-7 teams to be added to the postseason.  While it seems unlikely with the way their opponent is rolling, Notre Dame could get to 5-7 with a win at USC in the regular season finale.  Kelly seemingly indicated that, if they were extended a bid as a 5-7 team, they’d accept it, if for nothing more than the dozen practices it would afford his squad.

“[I]f you look at what our options are, we’re going to practice for about 12 days, you know, and then that’s it. And then we’re going to play one game,” Kelly said Tuesday. “So they’re not going to be inactive very long, one way or the other.

“So I’d like to practice. I want to go to a bowl game. I want to win our last two games. But I’m not losing sleep over it.”

Even if they were to upset the Trojans and get to the five wins, a bowl bid might be a pipe dream because of the APR scores of the teams that could be around them.  From the Indianapolis Star:

Eligibility is determined by the highest, most recent multiyear APR score and Notre Dame’s is 975, which is among the top 60 in the country. However, should it be 5-7 at the end of the regular season, there’s an unlikely chance the Irish will be a viable candidate because of their score. There are currently seven schools that enter Week 12 with four or five wins with better APR scores: Duke (995), Northwestern (992), Vanderbilt (990), Army (989), North Texas (984), Boston College (981), Indiana (979) and Maryland (977).

Last year, three 5-7 teams “earned” bowl berths.