Week 15 Recap

December 3, 2017 by Dave Congrove

Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, UCF, Boise State, FAU, Toledo each won their respective conference championships this weekend. Appalachian State and Troy are co-champions in the Sun Belt.

Conference Championship Games

Conference Matchup
AAC UCF 62, Memphis 55, 2 OT (at Orlando)
ACC Clemson 38, Miami (Fla.) 3 (at Charlotte)
Big Ten Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 21 (at Indianapolis)
Big 12 Oklahoma 41, TCU 17 (at Arlington)
CUSA FAU 41, North Texas 17 (at Boca Raton)
MAC Toledo 45, Akron 28 (at Detroit)
MWC Boise State 17, Fresno State 14 (at Boise)
PAC-12 USC 31, Stanford  28 (at Santa Clara, Friday)
SEC Georgia 28, Auburn 7 (at Atlanta)

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And the Final Four are -

The Playoff committee rankings have the following:
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama

The FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll from the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation (of which I am a voter) have the exact same top 4. My ballot had Clemson at No. 1, followed by Oklahoma, Georgia and Ohio State.

My Congrove Computer Rankings have Clemson first, followed by Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma.

Ohio State knocked Wisconsin out of the College Football Playoff with a 27-21 win in the Big Ten Championship game. The question was whether or not the Buckeyes did enough to impress the selection committee. With the Badgers and Auburn both losing - and Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia definitely in - the final spot came down to Ohio State or Alabama. Last year, the Buckeyes got in without even playing in their championship game. The same thing happened to 'Bama this year, but I thought the committee would reward Ohio State for the win over the previously undefeated Badgers.

The Clemson-Alabama semifinal is, of course, a rematch of the last two National Championship games.

Kirby Smart returned Georgia to prominence in the SEC in just his second season as head coach. The Bulldogs avenged a 40-17 defeat at Auburn that occurred just three weeks ago by whipping the Tigers 28-7 in Atlanta on Saturday. Smart was the school's running backs coach under Mark Richt the last time Georgia won the title in 2005.

Speaking of Richt, there wasn't much he or his Miami Hurricanes could do against Clemson as the Tigers rolled to a 38-3 win. Miami's lone points came with 3:29 to play in the game. The 'Canes had just 10 first downs and 3 turnovers. Kelly Bryant completed his first 15 passes and finished 23-of-29 for 252 yards and a touchdown. Bryant also added a rushing touchdown to help propel the Tigers to a third straight ACC title and a chance to repeat as national champions.

Oklahoma rolled 41-17 over TCU, breaking the game open by scoring the last 17 points unanswered. It's not automatic as the committee still has to make it official on Sunday, but the win undoubtedly made the Sooners the first team on Saturday to secure a spot in the Final Four.

Friday night recap

USC gave the South division its first win in the 7-year history of the PAC-12 Championship game, edging Stanford 31-28 in Santa Clara on Friday night. It's the first conference title for USC since 2008.

The turning point came when Stanford head coach David Shaw decided to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the USC 1-yard line with 8 minutes to go in the game when a field goal would've tied it at 24. USC stuffed Cameron Starlett's rush for no gain, then marched 99 yards in 8 plays to take a 31-21 lead on Ronald Jones' 8-yard run with 4:22 remaining.

Stanford answered with K.J. Costello's 28-yard pass to Kaden Smith at the 2:09 mark, but the ensuing onside kick attempt went out-of-bounds. Still, it appeared the Cardinal would get the ball back with under 35 seconds to play, but USC head Clay Helton gambled on 4th-and-2 from the Stanford 32 and Sam Darnold 's 15-yard pass to Josh Falo sealed the win.

The Cardinal have appeared in 4 of the 7 conference title games and won the previous three, including a 41-22 victory over USC two years ago.

USC will go into the bowl season with an 11-2 record, it's best mark through 13 games since Pete Carroll's 12-1 squad in 2008. Stanford falls to 9-4 with its second loss of the season to USC. The Trojans won the regular season encounter 42-24 to halt a 3-game losing skid to the Cardinal.

Other games

UCF won 62-55 in double-overtime over Memphis in front of a sell-out crowd in Orlando to capture the American Conference Championship. Ultimately, the game was won on defense as the Knights sealed the deal with an interception on the Tigers' potential game-tying possession after UCF scored first in the second extra period. Scott Frost took the Knights from 0-12 to 12-0 in his two years with the school. He gets rewarded with his dream job by becoming the next head coach at Nebraska, the school he helped lead to a split national title in 1997 with an Orange Bowl victory over Tennessee in then-head coach Tom Osborne's retirement send-off game.

Another dramatic turnaround was turned in by Florida Atlantic in Lane Kifin's first season as head coach of the Owls. He took a program that been for 3-9 for three straight years and led them to a Conference USA title with Saturday's 41-17 win over North Texas in Boca Raton. The victory improved FAU to 10-3 with a perfect 9-0 mark against conference teams. Don't be surprised if Kiffin's name starts getting passed around more seriously for any a number of openings.

Jeff Tedford also gets kudos for Fresno State's reversal of fortune. He took over a program that went 1-11 a year ago and led them to the Mountain West Championship game. Alas, the Bulldogs fell 17-14 at Boise State, but head into bowl season with a 9-4 record. Fresno State claim close to winning the title as the Bulldogs held the Broncos to one good drive the entire second half. Unfortunately for Fresno State, that drive was a 90-yard march in the 4th quarter that ended in the winning touchdown for Boise State with 4:42 left to play. It's the first Mountain West title for the Broncos since 2014. Just last week, the Bulldogs hosted Boise State in the regular season finale and defeated the Broncos 28-17.

Toledo captured its first MAC title since 2004 with a 45-28 win over Akron in the MAC Championship game. The Rockets take an 11-2 record into the bowl season. Akron, which was vying for its first MAC Championship since 2005, fell to 7-6 with the loss.

Appalachian State and Troy are co-champions of the Sun Belt as both finish with 7-1 conference marks. The Mountaineers earned the co-title the easy by crushing Louisiana-Lafayette 63-14. But Troy needed a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 17 seconds left to upend Arkansas State 32-25 at Jonesboro.

Idaho won the last game it will play as a FBS team. The Vandals leave the Sun Belt and drop down to the FCS next season.

Florida State, the day after learning head coach Jimbo Fisher was off to Texas A&M, methodically ran over Louisiana-Monroe 42-10 to keep the nation's longest bowl streak alive at 36 seasons. The win came under interim head coach Odell Haggins.

Bowl Eligibility

There are 40 postseason games which require 78 bowl eligible teams. There are 81 qualified schools. That's three more schools than needed. The past two years saw shortages of teams that were at least 6-6, and required a call-up of teams with losing records but top APR (Academic Progress Rate) scores.

The longest bowl drought has been snapped. New Mexico State (6-6)  last went to a bowl game in 1960 and all 3 bowl games in their history have been the Sun Bowl (1935, 1959). Now, the Aggies are headed to the Arizona Bowl after a 22-17 win over South Alabama on Saturday.

Streaks

Wisconsin - Had won 13 straight overall (was FBS longest), and 9 straight conference games (was FBS longest). Lost 27-21 to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday at Indianapolis.

UCF - Won 12 straight overall (FBS longest). Won 62-55 vs. Memphis in the American Conference Championship game at UCF.

UCF and FAU - Each has 9 straight conference wins (tied for FBS longest). FAU defeated North Texas 41-17 in the CUSA Championship game at FAU.

Alabama - Won 39 straight regular season games (FBS longest). Won 19 straight home games (FBS longest). Regular season complete.

Oklahoma - Won 16 straight road games (FBS longest). Won 41-17 vs. TCU for Big 12 Championship Saturday at Arlington.

UTEP - Lost 12 straight overall (FBS longest). Season complete.

Ball State - Lost 13 straight conference games (FBS longest). Season complete.

Kansas - Lost 46 straight road games (FBS longest). Season complete.