College football winners losers for Week 14: Ohio State, Michigan

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New heroes emerge for Ohio State in each meeting with rival Michigan, which invariably begins with some optimism surrounding the Wolverines’ chances before a deluge of OSU touchdowns reveals the expansive and expanding gap separating the two programs.

This time it was junior running back J.K. Dobbins, who ran for 211 yards on 31 carries to go with four scores, and sophomore quarterback Justin Fields, who may have secured his seat as a Heisman Trophy finalist after throwing for 302 yards and four touchdowns.

The end result was strikingly similar to last season’s outburst: Ohio State’s 56-27 win came on 577 yards on offense on 7.5 yards per play, one year after the Buckeyes’ 62-39 rout shook Michigan’s defense to its foundation.

Across the past two seasons, OSU has scored touchdowns on 15 of its 24 possessions against Michigan. The Buckeyes have gained 1,144 yards of offense in these two meetings and scored a combined 118 points, helping to paint the rivalry not as just a contrast of styles but of eras: Ohio State as emblematic of college football’s offensive boom against a Michigan program that despite schematic changes seems rooted in the not-so-recent past.

The Buckeyes move to the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin, which beat Minnesota 38-17 on Saturday to claim the West Division. Michigan’s regular season is over, with a bowl date to be announced — but it won’t be the Rose Bowl, which was a possibility with a win. (Wisconsin would have a case for the Rose Bowl even with a loss to the Buckeyes.) 

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The Buckeyes have won eight in a row in this series, the longest by either team in the modern era and one off the rivalry record of nine wins in a row, set by Michigan from 1901-9. In its own way, each loss has been worse than the last for the Wolverines. This had been a different team since halftime against Penn State in October, greatly improved on offense and stingy on defense, with high confidence and home-field advantage in its corner against one of the most talented teams in the country.

Michigan just has no idea how to handle Ohio State, whether the Buckeyes are led by Urban Meyer or first-year coach Ryan Day. The Wolverines’ defense has allowed a combined 224 points in the 16 games against Big Ten opponents other than OSU across the past two seasons — the program has answers for everyone but the Buckeyes, which only adds insult to injury.

OSU moves another step closer to clinching the top spot in the College Football Playoff. Michigan prepares for another soul-searching offseason. Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers in college football:

WINNERS

Auburn

Gus Malzahn and Auburn pulled off a 48-45 Iron Bowl win against Tua Tagovailoa-less Alabama to claim yearlong bragging rights and complete a nine-win regular season against a very daunting schedule. Here’s something impressive: Malzahn owns half of the six regular-season wins against Alabama since 2013. While every Auburn win in this series is treated as a wild upset, the truth is that Auburn has played like the better team for much of this season, albeit with fewer offensive fireworks against a far more difficult schedule. 

IRON BOWL: Auburn takes down No. 5 Alabama, ending Tide’s playoff hopes

Wisconsin

There are good wins, great wins and wins that clinch a division championship at your bitter rival’s expense. (Double points for bullying and battering your rival, as Wisconsin did Saturday.) The 38-17 win at Minnesota will pit the Badgers against the Buckeyes to decide the Big Ten and bring Paul Bunyan’s Axe back to Madison after a one-year stay in Minneapolis. While the Golden Gophers’ transformation into a New Year’s Six contender is the story of the season in the Big Ten West, the Badgers’ division title speaks to the program’s staying power under coach Paul Chryst after a disappointing 2018 season.

AXE IS BACK: Wisconsin defeats Minnesota to reach Big Ten title game

Kentucky

Kentucky whipped rival Louisville 45-13 behind a box score worthy of our undying respect: two pass attempts (one completion) against 40 carries for 517 yards (12.9 yards per carry) and six rushing touchdowns. Junior superstar Lynn Bowden, the Wildcats’ emergency quarterback during the team’s push for a bowl, set a single-game record for an SEC quarterback with 284 rushing yards on 22 carries to cement his All-America status. To win seven games during the regular season might be Mark Stoops’ best coaching job since being hired in 2013, even better than last year’s 10-win breakthrough in the SEC East.

Indiana

Indiana took back the Old Oaken Bucket with a 44-41 double-overtime victory against Purdue to put an exclamation mark on the Hoosiers’ best regular season in 26 years. Indiana now has eight wins and a winning record in Big Ten play for the first time since 1993, and with a bowl game to go has a chance to win nine games and match the program’s single-season record.

Baylor

The Bears had no trouble in beating Kansas 61-6 to advance to next week’s Big 12 championship game with just one loss. Baylor led 21-0 after the first quarter and 34-0 at halftime to erase any chance of a historic upset. That one blemish, a 34-31 loss to Oklahoma, adds another layer of intrigue to the championship rematch against the Sooners. Avenging that one setback would give a huge boost to Baylor’s playoff hopes, though it may be tough to pull off a leap from No. 9 into the top four.

Air Force

The Falcons completed one of the top turnarounds in the Bowl Subdivision with a 20-6 win against Wyoming to move to 10-2, doubling the program’s combined win total across the past two seasons. This is coach Troy Calhoun’s third season with double-digit wins and potentially the Falcons’ best season overall since 1998, when the Falcons went 12-1 and finished No. 10 in the Amway Coaches Poll.

LOSERS

Alabama

The final two minutes were a comedy of errors, from the missed field goal — that happens to Alabama in this series — to the illegal-substitution penalty that gave Auburn a first down and the ability to kneel out of the clock. The Tide will miss out on the playoff for the first time in the format’s existence but land softly in a New Year’s Six bowl, hoping to avoid winning fewer than 11 games in a season for the first time since 2010. Has this been a disappointing season? The annual standard set by Nick Saban says anything less than a semifinal berth is below expectations.

Minnesota

It’s still a wildly successful regular season for P.J. Fleck and the Gophers. The 10 wins match the program’s single-season record during the modern era, set in 2003, with a chance to add another in the postseason. Not in more than 50 years has Minnesota actually been a factor in the race for the national championship, as the team was for most of November. Yet there’s a sense of a missed opportunity down the stretch, as losses to Iowa and Wisconsin — losing to the Badgers is especially painful — cost the Gophers a shot at the division, let alone the playoff or the New Year’s Six.

Georgia Tech and South Carolina

Better luck next year to Georgia Tech, which lost 52-7 to Georgia, and South Carolina, which fell 38-3 to Clemson. Neither result was surprising: Georgia’s headed to the SEC championship game and Tech is just getting started under coach Geoff Collins, while the Gamecocks have had a rough November under Will Muschamp and Clemson has steamrolled every opponent since North Carolina. Take what you will from the Tigers’ demolition of South Carolina, which upset Georgia earlier this season.

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