The 2014 college football season is coming to an end. In a way, though, it feels like everything is just getting started.
On Sunday, the College Football Playoff selection committee will unveil its four-team field. Some of those spots appear to be secured, while others could be more open to discussion. In any case, everything college football fans have waited months on end for is coming to fruition.
From convincing wins by Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon, to a wild Bedlam game finish, there were plenty of takeaways from the weekend.
Which players and teams were winners? Which ones ended the season on a sour note? The answers are in the following slides.
The No. 6 Baylor Bears won 38-27 over the ninth-ranked Kansas State Wildcats Saturday night, grabbing a share of the Big 12 championship and leaving their national title hopes up to the College Football Playoff committee.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty's status was unknown for much of the week following a concussion suffered last week, but he was back to his usual self Saturday. The senior finished with a sterling stat line of 34-of-40 passing with 412 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his McLane Stadium send-off.
The Bears added 172 more yards on the ground, including 91 yards on 18 carries from Shock Linwood. The balanced attack thwarted a Kansas State defense that had allowed more than 30 points only once all season.
Here was the box score from the Waco, Texas contest:
Baylor jumped out to an early lead that it wouldn't relinquish on the game's opening drive. Despite the Wildcats trimming the deficit to one possession early in the third quarter, Petty and the Bears offense rediscovered their offensive success in the second half for a couple of game-sealing scores.
After the win, Bears head coach Art Briles resurfaced the case for Baylor over TCU in the playoff that he echoed earlier in the week, per Andrew Perloff of Sports Illustrated:
Despite Saturday's game being a matchup of two Top 10 teams, the focus on remained whether Baylor could do enough to supplant the likes of TCU, Florida State or Ohio State and sneak into the CFP.
But after the Bears killed Kansas State's hopes in a similar scenario back in 2012, Briles wanted to keep things centered on the matchup at hand in the days leading up to the game, per ESPN.com's Max Olson.
"When you ride up there at a certain level for so long and every week there’s people shooting at you, as Kansas State was that year, it’s hard to dodge for 12 weeks," Briles said. "It’s just hard to do."
On the very first drive, Baylor looked just as focused as it needed to be to avoid that sort of slip-up.
Petty led the Bears on a quick 81-yard drive to open the game, scampering in from one yard out to give Baylor a 7-0 lead less than two minutes in. Baylor kept its foot on the gas pedal and nearly scored on its next drive, before Petty threw a costly interception in the end zone.
With the Bears' defense holding firm and forcing quick K-State punts, Baylor got another chance to punch it in but nearly suffered another terrible goal-line mistake. After review, though, a forced fumble was overturned and Linwood broke through for a one-yard score, per Sports Illustrated.
But in the typical fashion of head coach Bill Snyder and Kansas State, the Wildcats rolled down the field in a long drive to get back in it. Running back Charles Jones found the end zone from one yard out, making it a 14-7 game.
Baylor had no trouble responding, but once again it came in controversial fashion after nearly fumbling. But as Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel showed, those near-gaffes didn't overshadow Baylor's offensive dominance:
Petty and the Baylor offense had it going early, but the defense couldn't continue shutting Kansas State down. The Wildcats rolled out another methodical drive and used a splash play to get back in the game.
Jake Waters found Zach Trujillo for a big 36-yard touchdown, bringing the game to 21-14 and resurfacing some of Baylor's secondary woes, as Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noticed:
Baylor added a last-second field goal before halftime after Petty led them 48 yards in just 44 seconds, but the Wildcats were still very much in it with the score at 24-14 as the teams headed in to the break.
K-State threatened to grab a crucial touchdown coming out for the second half but was held to a 24-yard Matthew McCrane field goal that made it a one-score game again.
Right when the Wildcats were within striking distance, Petty struck back.
The senior found Antwan Goodley for a 58-yard touchdown that mimicked so many of Baylor's long scores this season, putting the Bears up 31-17 and spurring USA Today's George Schroeder to note how short the touchdown drive was:
K-State kicker McCrane answered with another field goal, but the Wildcats needed seven points on those drives, not threes. That was clear when Baylor next got the ball and rattled off a 10-play, 72-yard drive capped by Johnny Jefferson's three-yard score. That drive extended the Bears' lead to 38-20.
At the end of the third quarter, just about the only critique you could give Baylor was that the likes of Ohio State and TCU were winning in similar fashion, per Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton:
The Baylor victory looked more than guaranteed at that point, but it just isn't in Kansas State's DNA to keel over in such a situation. The Wildcats had to scratch and claw on a 90-yard drive that took up more than seven minutes, but made it a 38-27 game on Waters' eight-yard touchdown toss to Tyler Lockett.
Waters got a chance with 9:48 left to lead the Wildcats down the field and make it a one-score game, but threw a game-sealing interception at the Baylor 34 to essentially end the contest.
Everyone will have their own opinions on whether TCU has done enough to stay ahead of Baylor despite the head-to-head loss, or whether one of them even deserves to be in the playoff after Ohio State's convincing win over Wisconsin. But no matter what happens, Baylor can crown themselves the Big 12 champions after holding the tiebreaker over fellow one-loss TCU.
It's safe to say, though, that those conference championship celebrations will turn sour come Sunday afternoon if Baylor's name isn't among the Top Four.
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Alabama fans can finally book that travel to New Orleans.
Barring some drastic shake-up in the College Football Playoff rankings on Sunday afternoon, the Crimson Tide will play as the No. 1 or 2 seed in the Superdome in the first round of the inaugural four-team tournament.
Alabama’s 42-13 win over Missouri in the SEC championship game sealed the Crimson Tide’s playoff fate. Now fans can begin to look ahead to potential opponents, for the first round and the championship game.
Let’s take a look at the remaining contenders in alphabetical order and determine how Alabama matches up with each, along with a projected Vegas spread.
The narrative for this game would be pretty straightforward: Baylor’s high-flying offense against Alabama’s stingy defense.
The Bears had the top offense in the country in yards per game coming into this weekend. Alabama’s defense was No. 11.
The good news for Baylor is that its offensive strength is Alabama’s defensive weakness.
Despite the gaudy overall defensive numbers, Alabama is just No. 55 in pass defense. Against Auburn, it gave up several long passing plays, and Saturday, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk hit a couple of deep balls to keep the Tigers in the game too.
The difference in the game would occur when Alabama has the ball.
Baylor has given up at least 300 yards in all but two of its games this year, against FCS Northwestern State and lowly SMU. The Bears just don’t have the defensive talent to keep up with Amari Cooper.
Points would be scored, but Alabama would get a couple of more stops.
Predicted spread: Alabama (-11)
Of all of these hypothetical matchups, the Seminoles are the only ones that can go pound-for-pound with Alabama talent-wise.
FSU’s recruiting classes have been ranked Nos. 4, 10, 3 and 2, whereas Alabama has had the top class every year.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher is a Saban disciple and has built a similar wear-you-out team in Tallahassee.
Quarterback Jameis Winston could pick apart the Alabama secondary better than most, while FSU’s offensive line could hold its own against Alabama’s front seven.
The Crimson Tide would likely have the weight of the college football world behind it. Florida State has, fair or unfair, been billed as college football’s villain this year.
It would be a doozy for sure.
Predicted spread: Alabama (-2)
This one is probably the biggest wild card of the group.
Cardale Jones looked fantastic in his first start after injuries to Braxton Miller and JT Barrett forced him into action, throwing three touchdowns in a blowout of Wisconsin on Saturday.
Still, the Crimson Tide’s modus operandi on defense is collapsing the pocket and forcing bad decisions by opposing quarterbacks. You have to think Nick Saban and Kirby Smart would go hard after a quarterback like Jones in that situation.
Otherwise, it would seem to be a fairly even matchup, with some interesting individual battles on the other side of the ball.
Joey Bosa vs. freshman left tackle Cam Robinson would be an intense one-on-one matchup. Ohio State safety Von Bell chose the Buckeyes over the Crimson Tide in recruiting and would play a role in slowing down Cooper and the Alabama passing game.
It’s been a while since we’ve gotten Urban Meyer vs. Nick Saban. A rejuvenation of that personal rivalry would be highly entertaining in the postseason.
Predicted spread: Alabama (-6)
It feels like college football has waited ages for this matchup, hasn’t it? Oregon’s innovative offense against Saban and Alabama’s defense.
That side of the ball would be nothing if not entertaining. The Ducks came into the weekend with the country’s third-best offense and humming under quarterback and likely Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.
The Ducks offensive line, though, could be susceptible to an aggressive pass rush. Oregon has allowed 29 sacks coming into the weekend, just No. 93 in the nation. Alabama had registered 28 sacks before that. Mariota would at least be on the run for a good part of the game.
It would seem to be a mismatch on the other side of the ball.
Oregon is giving up 413.8 yards per game, No. 82 nationally. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would be licking his chops, ready to unleash his offense on that susceptible defense.
Predicted spread: Alabama (-8)
Who will the Big 12 send to the playoff? Will it send anyone? If it does, its two options are relatively similar.
TCU, like Baylor, is very good on offense and average-to-good on defense.
The Horned Frogs are No. 46 in the country in total defense, giving up 370.7 yards per game this year. Their offense, meanwhile, sits at No. 5 (525.8).
The difference for TCU, and what would make this a little bit more competitive of a game for TCU, is under center.
Trevone Boykin and Bryce Petty are putting up similar numbers this year passing the ball. But Boykin brings an extra dimension to the position.
He is averaging 54.36 yards per game on the ground, compared to Petty's 13-plus per game.
Alabama has been susceptible to mobile quarterbacks this year. Nick Marshall went for 49 last week. Dak Prescott rushed for 82. Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs added 75 on the ground.
Boykin could be a difference-maker, but Alabama still has the edge.
Predicted spread: Alabama (-7)
Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats.
Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.
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Trevone Boykin decided to make his own statement to the playoff committee on Saturday. The TCU quarterback passed for 460 yards and four touchdowns, as the Horned Frogs destroyed the Iowa State Cyclones 55-3.
Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder explains why this performance was good enough to receive our Lexus Top Performer of Week 15.
Does TCU deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff?
Watch the video and let us know!
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