Week 14 winners & losers: Strong finish for Texas; wrong finish for Baylor
Winner: Texas Longhorns (and Charlie Strong)
Little has gone right for Strong and company this year, and the 'Horns will still be sitting out the postseason. But there were some flashes of promise and progress, including Saturday's win over Baylor. True, the Bears were hardly at full strength, and they still put up 479 yards of total offense against Texas — a number that officially makes this Longhorns D historically awful. But there's something to be said for surviving adversity and finishing strong. If nothing else, high-profile wins over both Oklahoma and Baylor will be good for Texas' motivation, and perhaps its recruiting. The margin for error next season, though, is much smaller.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
Loser: Baylor football
To be fair, the Bears have been plagued by injury, and on Saturday they were forced to put wide receiver Lynx Hawthorne under center after third-string QB Chris Johnson (pictured) was injured early in the game. But the loss continued Baylor's late-season swoon, its third defeat in its past four games. It also cost Art Briles' squad a Sugar Bowl berth. For a team this stockpiled with talent, there's no way to classify this finish as anything other than disappointing.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
Winner: Houston football
Let's see: Winners of the inaugural AAC title game Saturday vs. Temple? Check. Becoming the official Group of Five representative this postseason and booking a trip to either the Peach or the Fiesta? Check. Losing just one game all season, and signing a deal that retains hot-shot coach Tom Herman? Check and check. Aside from that one blemish on their record, courtesy of UConn, it's tough to imagine how the season could have gone any better for the Cougars.
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Winner: Brandon Doughty (and Western Kentucky football)
The Hilltoppers won their Conference USA championship game vs. Southern Miss — elevating their record to 11-2 on the season — and senior QB Doughty accounted for four touchdowns and 401 passing yards in his final home game. 'Winning a conference championship, I would have never thought we would have done it five or six years ago,' Doughty said. 'But we did it today and it's just the start.'
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
Loser: Florida Gators
First, let's give the Gators a little credit. They hung in there for a little while vs. Alabama on Saturday, despite being clearly overmatched. They even briefly had the lead and were down only 12-7 at halftime. But Florida was held to a measly 3 yards of offense in the second and third quarters. You read that right: 3 yards. The Gators' struggles on that side of the ball continue unabated. Still, few would have predicted the Gators to have even been in contention for a conference title at the outset of this season, much less a berth in the Citrus Bowl (which is their likely destination now). We're guessing that'll be a nice consolation.
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Winner: Derrick Henry (and Alabama football)
Alabama's running back just might have locked up the Heisman Trophy on his way to helping the Tide lock up a playoff berth in Saturday's victory over Florida in the SEC title game. Henry carried the ball 44 times en route to 189 rushing yards and a TD, and in the process he broke Herschel Walker's single-season SEC record for rushing yards. It wasn't a pretty game for much of the first half, but those are some beautiful numbers.
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Winner: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
The Cardinal probably aren't headed to the playoff, but the Rose Bowl looks likely, and they can thank this guy for helping them get there. In Saturday's win vs. USC, McCaffrey rushed for 207 yards and a touchdown. He caught a TD pass AND threw one. He notched 105 receiving yards and 149 return yards, too, for a mind-boggling 461 all-purpose yards — good enough for the Stanford record books. Oh, AND he broke the single-season all-purpose yards record, previously held by some guy named Barry Sanders. Unclear whether that'll be enough to win the Heisman outright — but a performance like this one certainly will have voters thinking about it.
Loser: Iowa football
Give credit to Iowa for playing like it belonged in the Big Ten title game, no doubt. But there's also no doubt that the Hawkeyes blew their shot at the playoff Saturday — and with the Big Ten more loaded than it's ever been, it's unclear when or whether they'll get another crack at it anytime soon. The Hawkeyes avoided having to play Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State during the regular season, which is a big reason they got to the championship game at all. They really needed this win. Plus, leading rusher Jordan Canzeri was knocked out of the game with an injury, which could affect Iowa in bowl play.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY SportsAaron Doster
Winner: Clemson football
Dabo Swinney's squad has had to listen all season long to the doubters, who've been waiting for a prime 'Clemsoning' moment. Those skeptics have gotten no such satisfaction this year, as Clemson proved itself worthy of its No. 1 ranking Saturday, clinching the ACC title and a playoff berth in the process. Oh, and be on the lookout for QB Deshaun Watson in the Heisman voting. He threw for 420 yards and accounted for five touchdowns vs. North Carolina.