2015 NCAA Championship Weekend
Championship Weekend is here…
December 5, 2015
It was a Saturday filled with conference championships, and Buckeye fans were hoping that a few minor miracles would help Urban Meyer make his way into the College Football Playoff yet again.
The Spartans and Hawkeyes engaged in a typical Big Ten battle Saturday night in Indy. With only nine points scored in the first half, both teams were able to find paydirt in the fourth quarter, but it was a familiar Ohioan who gave Michigan State the conference crown.
The true freshman rushed for 73 yards and the game-winner that capped of a 22-play, 82-yard drive that consumed nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Scott carried the ball fourteen times on Sparty’s final drive. Connor Cook completed 16 of 32 passes for 191 yards and one interception. The senior missed a few open wide receivers and still didn’t look anywhere near 100%.
The Hawkeye ground game struggled throughout the night, managing just 55 yards with no scores. Quarterback C.J. Beathard connected on 18 of 26 passes for 216 yards with a touchdown and an interception. On the first play of the third quarter—on a 2nd down and 20—the junior tossed one of the prettier passes of the season, connecting with Tevaun Smith for an 85-yard touchdown that put the Hawkeyes on top 13-9.
Alabama 29, Florida 15
Florida only having lost one conference game in the regular season probably tells you everything you need to know about the SEC this year. I guess the positive for the Gators may be that high school quarterbacks have to see that early playing time is a real possibility in 2016.
The Gator offense was tough to watch on Saturday. The running game ended with 15 yards on 21 carries. They actually had negative yards rushing until quarterback Treon Harris scrambled for 23 yards late in the fourth quarter. Speaking of Harris, it wasn’t pretty for the 5-foot-11 sophomore. He ended the day 9 of 24 for 165 yards with one score and an interception. Jordan Kronkrite and Kelvin Taylor led the way on the ground as both finished with a whopping eight yards.
Derrick Henry all but secured the Heisman Trophy, rushing for 189 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries. He now holds the SEC record for rushing yards in a season (1,986) and his touchdown tied the SEC single-season record (23). Jake Coker threw for 204 yards and a pair of scores. True freshman wideout Calvin Ridley made a few ridiculous plays while hauling in 8 passes for 102 yards.
Clemson 45, North Carolina 37
Lately, poor officiating has been a hot topic at both the college and professional levels. That trend continued Saturday in Charlotte, and for Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels, it may have cost them a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. With a little over a minute left in the game, UNC recovered an onside kick near the 50-yard line, but the officials flagged the Heels for supposedly being offsides.
Deshaun Watson had himself a day for the Tigers. The sophomore signal-caller accounted for over 400 yards and scored five total touchdowns. Tailback Wayne Gallman rushed for 187 yards and a score as the Clemson ground game tallied 319 yards on the day. Artavis Scott led all receivers with seven receptions for 96 yards and a score. Gallman added 68 yards receiving and a touchdown reception.
Quarterback Marquise Williams once again led the way for the Heels. The senior threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 81 and a score on the ground. Elijah Hood rushed for 65 yards and a score. North Carolina put up 382 yards of total offense while Clemson managed just over 600.
Stanford 41, Southern California 22
If Derrick Henry all but solidified his Heisman status on Saturday, then I’m not sure what Christian McCaffrey did. The Reggie Bush comparisons have been out there throughout the season, but Stanford’s do-it-all sophomore truly did just about everything for the Cardinal.
McCaffrey tossed a touchdown pass, rushed for a score, and was on the receiving end of a touchdown from quarterback Kevin Hogan. He ended the day with 207 yards rushing, 105 yard receiving, 149 return yards, and the 11-yard touchdown pass. McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders’ single-season all-purpose yards record as the Trojans simply had no answer.
For the Trojans, Cody Kessler threw for 187 yards and a score. JuJu Smith-Schuster hauled in 11 passes for 87 yards while junior tailback Justin Davis added 99 yards on the ground. The Trojans fought back from a 13-0 second-quarter deficit and actually had the lead with five minutes left in the third quarter. The turning point came late in the third when Cardinal defensive lineman—and former Ohio State target—Solomon Thomas scooped up a Kessler fumble and returned it 34 yards for a score.
Houston 24, Temple 13
Tom Herman is good at coaching football, and for the second straight season, he is a conference champion. The Cougars got off to a 17-0 first-half lead and their ground game and defense were able to hold off the Owls after the half.
Houston’s running game accounted for 233 of its 339 total yards. Junior quarterback Greg Ward led the way with 148 rushing yards and two scores. Ward chipped in another 88 yards through the air. Brandon Wilson added 70 yards rushing while sophomore Javin Webb was also able to find the endzone.
Temple quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 287 yards and a score. Senior wideout Robby Anderson was his favorite target on the day, hauling in 12 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown.
On Friday, Herman signed a 5-year extension with the Cougs; spurning a number of larger programs, including Georgia and South Carolina.
So things definitely did not go as we had hoped. Florida provided Buckeye fans about a quarter’s worth of hope as their defense kept them in the game early on. Stanford is simply a better team than the Trojans. And North Carolina had no answer for Deshaun Watson.
Obviously we don’t know if UNC would have scored and converted the two-point conversion to tie the game, but I have no idea what the officials were looking at to make that offsides call. Targeting calls are constantly being reviewed, so it seems a little strange that something so important is not a reviewable call. Perhaps there will be another rule change? Who knows.
It will be interesting to see where the Buckeyes end up. Personally, I will be content—or at least as content a possible without going to the CFP—with playing Stanford in the Rose Bowl or Notre Dame in the Fiesta. But will the committee have Iowa ranked higher than Ohio State? The Rose Bowl management committee suggested that the “strong presumption” is that they take the next highest-rated team.
We shall learn our fate Sunday afternoon as the College Football Playoff show will reveal the final rankings between 12PM and 4PM EST on ESPN.
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