week 13 wrap

Sun Belt Conference

Three teams left in chase for Sun Belt crown

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And then there were three.  Still.

Entering Week 13, there were three one-loss teams in the Sun Belt Conference.  Exiting, that number remains static as the trio of Appalachian State (31-10 over Georgia State), Arkansas State (67-50 over Louisiana-Monroe) and Troy (62-9 over Texas State) all held serve.

That means the only FBS conference without a championship game will be decided next Saturday in two separate games — Arkansas State plays host to Troy, while Louisiana (4-3 in SBC play) travels to Appalachian State, with all three holding title hopes currently sitting at 6-1.

The scenarios are relatively obvious:

The Arkansas State-Troy winner claims a share of the SBC title if Appalachian State wins
The Arkansas State-Troy winner claims the SBC title if Appalachian State loses
Appalachian State claims a share of the SBS title with a win

Arkansas State has won or shared six championships since the league was formed in 2001, while Troy has won five and Appalachian State one.  That lone for the latter came last season when they shared it with Arkansas State.

With Tennessee loss, Ohio State only school to never have season with eight or more losses

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This is, well, something I suppose.

Tennessee came into Week 13’s season finale against Vanderbilt still searching for a head coach while carrying the baggage of a 4-7 record.  As they exit into the offseason, a 42-24 loss to the Commodores — fourth UT loss to Vandy in six years, incidentally — leaves the Volunteers with its eighth loss of the season.

Those eight losses represent the most in a single season for a storied program that played its first football game way back in 1891.  The previous high of seven had been accomplished six times, the first in 1977 and most recently in 2013.  In fact, five of the six seven-loss seasons came in a six-year stretch from 2008-13 — Phillip Fulmer (2008), Derek Dooley (2010-12) and Butch Jones (2013).

What it means, thanks to the esteemed Wes Rucker‘s tweeted reminder, is it leaves Ohio State as the only football program in the country that hasn’t had a season in which it’s lost eight or more games.  The Buckeyes’ single-season record for losses still stands at seven, set in the 2011 season that sandwiched the Urban Meyer/Jim Tressel reigns in Columbus.

OSU has also only had four six-loss years in 128 seasons — 1943, 1947, 1988, 1999.

No. 21 Stanford beats No. 8 Notre Dame, advances to Pac-12 Championship

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A trio of fourth quarter touchdowns turned an already good night into a great one for Stanford, as the No. 21 Cardinal blew past No. 8 Notre Dame 38-20 to claim Stanford’s third straight win and seventh in the last nine meetings of private school powers.

Meanwhile in Seattle, No. 17 Washington’s blowout of No. 13 Washington State handed Stanford its fourth Pac-12 North championship and sent the Cardinal into a Pac-12 Championship rematch with No. 11 USC on Friday in Santa Clara.

Stanford entered the fourth quarter trailing 20-17, but a 19-yard pass from K.J. Costello to Kaden Smith handed the Cardinal the lead with 13:46 to play. Curtis Robinson intercepted Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush inside Irish territory on the first play of the ensuing possession, and Costello’s fourth touchdown pass, this one a 12-yarder to Dalton Schultz gave Stanford control of the game with 12:21 remaining.

Disaster struck Notre Dame again after C.J. Sanders fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 18-yard line, and Jordan Scarlett put the game away for Stanford with a 3-yard touchdown plunge with 10:10 remaining.

A Wimbush interception inside the Stanford end zone ended any hopes of a last-gasp comeback.

Notre Dame opened the scoring with an 83-yard snatch-and-dash connection from Wimbush to Kevin Stepherson, handing the Irish a 7-0 lead at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter. Stanford pulled even on the next drive, knifing 72 yards in five plays, the last 29 on a Trenton Irwin pass from Costello.

The Cardinal forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame’s next possession, then took the lead with a 6-play, 55-yard march, mostly on Costello’s arm. He hit J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to give Stanford a 14-7 lead with 11:29 left in the first half.

Notre Dame cut into the deficit with a 38-yard Justin Yoon field goal with 2:36 left in the half. The Irish grabbed their second lead of the night with another long throw, this one a 75-yard toss from Wimbush to Equanimeous St. Brown. After Stanford tied the game with a 24-yard Jet Toner field goal, Yoon nudged Notre Dame back in front for its final lead of the night with a 38-yard boot at the 1:23 mark of the third quarter.

Wimbush finished the night hitting hitting 11-of-27 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, with two throws accounting for 158 yards and the other 25 going for 91.

Though his numbers did not pop off the page, Bryce Love was perhaps Stanford’s MVP with a game-high 20 carries for 125 yards. Playing on a high ankle sprain, Love’s 20 totes were sprinkled in between hobbles to and from the Stanford sideline; Love would carry the ball, wait for the pain to subside and then run back on the field to carry the ball again and again and again.

While Stanford (9-3) will prepare for its rematch with the Trojans — USC won the first meeting, 42-24 Sept. 9 in Los Angeles — Notre Dame (9-3) will look to hold on its New Year’s Six bowl positioning.

Myles Gaskin, No. 17 Washington runs away with Apple Cup to deny No. 13 Washington State the Pac-12 North title

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No. 13 Washington State had everything to play for, including a division title, a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game and the slim hopes of sneaking into the College Football Playoff on a chaos-filled weekend. Predictably, for fans on both sides of this rivalry, the Cougars barely showed up to play on a rainy Saturday night in Seattle and lost the Apple Cup 41-14 in a runaway for No. 17 Washington.

The result gave the Huskies double-digit wins on the year for the first time since the dawn of the 1990’s and was perhaps the team’s most complete effort of the season, especially when considering the stage, the opponent and the weather. Quarterback Jake Browning didn’t need to throw the ball much given the sub-par conditions, managing just 93 yards though the air and finding the end zone only off a short keeper past the goal line.

Of course it’s not like he needed to do much when he could just turn around and hand it off to Myles Gaskin. The junior, who very well could have played his final game at Husky Stadium, was terrific from the opening whistle and finished with 192 yards and four scores to pace an offense that wasn’t quite hitting on every cylinder but was fairly efficient once it found its legs. Backup Salvon Ahmed added another 82 yards as two of the team’s biggest weapons (tailback Lavon Coleman and wideout/return man Dante Pettis) both left in the first half with leg injuries.

Such offensive numbers weren’t bad but they were overshadowed quite a bit by the phenomenal performance from UW’s defense. They recorded four turnovers in the game, five sacks and didn’t allow a third down conversion until late in the fourth quarter. Defensive linemen Vita Vea was a constant presence in the backfield all night despite double-teams and the secondary seemed to have no issues with Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.

That played a big role in record-setting quarterback Luke Falk looking even less than pedestrian against his rival to go 0-fer in his Apple Cup career against the Huskies. He wound up throwing for 369 yards and a touchdown but had three interceptions and a fumble on a night where not much could go right for the Cougs. Even worse, the team’s best defender — defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa — was called for targeting in the third quarter and will miss the first half of their bowl game next month.

He will not miss the Pac-12 Championship game next week though because the team will be sitting at home in Pullman watching on. By virtue of Stanford’s win over Washington a few weeks ago, the Cardinal got the result they needed on Saturday to book their ticket to face USC at Levi’s Stadium on Friday for the league title.

That wasn’t how Wazzu wanted things to play out of course after controlling their own destiny in the conference but it was one that their rivals at Washington were happy to give them in order to keep the Apple Cup in Seattle yet again.

Oregon hands Oregon State its worst Civil War beating ever

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In a lost season, it’s appropriate Oregon State’s year ends this way.

Oregon jumped out to a 52-7 halftime (!) lead and never looked back, cruising to a 69-10 win over OSU in Eugene in the 121st playing of the Civil War rivalry Saturday night.  And that 121st edition was historic, ignominious even for the Beavers.

The 59-point margin of victory is the largest for either team since the series was first played in 1894.  The previous high?  A pair of 44-0 Ducks wins, the first back in 1895, the second year of the rivalry, and the second coming in 1987.

The Ducks (7-5) more than doubled up the Beavers on offense, holding a 577-211 advantage in yards that are more reminiscent of a matchup with an FCS opponent.  UO ran for 311 yards as part of that, averaging 6.3 yards on its 49 carries.

Individually, UO running back Royce Freeman set the Pac-12 record for career rushing touchdowns (60) and, with 122 yards on the ground, moved into sixth place in NCAA history for 100-yard rushing games with 31.

Percentage-wise, OSU’s 1-11 record is the worst year in the football program’s history, trumping the 1-10 1975/1979/1981/1990/1992/1995 campaigns.