3 Up 3 Down (College Week 14)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
College Football Review – Week 14

A review of the week that was with a look at three college football teams that stood out for good reasons and three whose weekends did not turn out as successfully as anticipated.

Three Up

Michigan State Spartans
2015 Record: Straight-Up 12-1, Against-the-Spread 5-8

It took 9:04 and a 22-play drive, the longest by any team in the 2015 season, for Michigan State to seal the Big Ten Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. Before the game-winning drive, the Spartans were less than 20 percent likely to win but the team never gave up.

That included running back L.J. Scott who bulled his way into the end zone with 27 seconds left to defeat Iowa 16-13.

This is Michigan State's second Big Ten crown in three years. Sparty now has a chance to win the school's first outright national title since 1952.

Alabama Crimson Tide
2015 Record: Straight-Up 12-1, Against-the-Spread 7-6

It was close early, but in the end Bama came out on top just as everyone predicted (Nick Saban's team was more than two touchdown favorites). The Crimson Tide won the SEC title with a 29-15 victory over Florida. Alabama became the first team since Tennessee in 1998 to win two straight Southeastern Conference Championships.

Derrick Henry rushed for 189 yards on 44 carries. The Heisman hopeful scored from two yards out to give Bama the lead for good at the end of the first half. Henry tied the SEC record for touchdowns in a season (23) and broke Herschel Walker's SEC record for rushing yards in a season. Henry has 1,986 yards thus far with at least one more game to go.

Henry's performance was nothing new, he has been doing it all season.

Houston Cougars
2015 Record: Straight-Up 12-1, Against-the-Spread 8-5

Houston capitalized on two early turnovers by Temple to win the American Athletic Conference championship game 24-13. The Cougars forced an interception and a fumble in the first quarter that were the two biggest plays in terms of expected win probability.

Greg Ward Jr. led the way once again.

Houston's quarterback rushed for a game-high 148 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. The win all but guarantees the Cougars a spot in a New Year's Six Bowl, which goes to the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion.

Three Down

North Carolina Tar Heels
2015 Record: Straight-Up 11-2, Against-the-Spread 8-5

Clemson improved to 13-0 with a 45-37 win over North Carolina in the ACC Championship game. The Tigers are going to the College Football Playoff and the Tar Heels are left wondering what might have been.

With 1:13 to play UNC scored to make it a one possession game. On the ensuing kickoff the Tar Heels recovered the onside kick but were flagged for being offside.

Replay showed that the penalty never should have been called. North Carolina was forced to kick again but couldn't recover the ball a second time. Had UNC not been flagged on the first onside kick, the Tar Heels would have had a three percent chance to win, needing a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.

The penalty didn't decide the game but it sure would have been fun to see what North Carolina could have done with one more chance.

Stanford Cardinal
2015 Record: Straight-Up 11-2, Against-the-Spread 9-4

Christian McCaffrey can do it all. The Heisman candidate ran for 207 yards and a score, caught another and threw a touchdown pass.

McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders' record for single season all-purpose yards in Stanford's 41-22 win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship. The Cardinal will be heading to the Rose Bowl for the third time in four years but it's not the destination David Shaw had in mind for his team. A narrow loss to Oregon four weeks ago derailed Stanford's chances at the College Football Playoff.

Baylor Bears
2015 Record: Straight-Up 9-3, Against-the-Spread 6-7

Just a month ago Baylor still had Big 12 title and College Football Playoff hopes but quarterback injuries doomed the team. Third stringer Chris Johnson was knocked out of the Bears 23-17 loss to Texas in the first quarter. Baylor was forced to start receiver Lynx Hawthorne with the Bears' other two starters, Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham, already sidelined.

Baylor has now lost back-to-back games at home after a 20 game home winning streak. This is the first time that the Bears have lost two games in a row since the 2012 season.

The upset has cost Baylor a spot in the Sugar Bowl. The Bears would have got the bid, assuming Oklahoma gets in the four-team playoff, but the loss opens the door for Oklahoma State to go instead.