For complete results from the weekend in college football, check out Sports on Earth's scoreboard.
1. Week 12 brought no unexpected changes into the playoff race.
Although college football chaos often strikes when a weekend is dismissed as boring or unimportant in advance, this Saturday appeared to have little chance of being anything but a mid-November breather between the two previous weeks featuring seven top-25 matchups each and next week's rivalry games. Wisconsin-Michigan was the only top-25 game, No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson played FCS opponents and No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 6 Auburn were among those that had obvious sure victories scheduled.
Week 12 lived up to the lack of hype: The top 12 teams all won, with only two of those games -- Notre Dame 24, Navy 17 and USC 28, UCLA 23 -- decided by single digits. Alabama (56-0 over Mercer), Clemson (61-3 over The Citadel), Oklahoma (41-3 over Kansas), Auburn (42-14) and Ohio State (52-14 over Illinois) dominated as expected. Georgia rebounded from its loss to Auburn by pounding Kentucky, 42-13. Penn State's 56-44 win over Nebraska wasn't nearly as close as the final score appeared.
Beyond Wisconsin-Michigan, the game that offered the most intrigue was Miami hosting Virginia. Coming off back-to-back dominant prime-time wins over ranked opponents, the Hurricanes had to turn around and host the bowl-bound Cavaliers in potential letdown spot with a noon ET kickoff. A slow start couldn't have been easier to predict, and Miami delivered one. Virginia connected for long scores early and built a 28-14 lead in the third quarter, and QB Kurt Benkert went 17-for-18 in the first half.
Then Miami woke up and took over.
In the final 27 minutes, Miami outscored Virginia 30-0. After falling behind by 14, Miami went on a 63-yard TD drive, then got a 30-yard pick-six from Jaquan Johnson. At 28-28, the game felt over, and that's exactly how the rest of the afternoon played out, as Virginia struggled to sustain drives. Miami won 44-28 to move to 10-0, giving the Hurricanes their first 10-win season since 2003, their last year in the Big East. Beat Pitt next week, and a playoff bid will surely be on the line in the ACC title game against Clemson.
There will be few, if any, changes in the top 10 of the playoff rankings this week. The weekend did at least have some impact on conference championships, which now have 12 of 18 spots filled:
ACC: Clemson vs. Miami
Big 12: Oklahoma vs. TBD (likely TCU, but Iowa State has a slim chance)
Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
Pac-12: USC vs. TBD (Stanford/Washington State)
SEC: Georgia vs. TBD (Alabama/Auburn)
American: Memphis vs. TBD (UCF/USF)
Conference USA: Florida Atlantic vs. North Texas
MAC: TBD (Ohio/Akron) vs. TBD (Toledo/Northern Illinois)
Mountain West: Boise State vs. Fresno State
2. Wisconsin achieved Saturday's most important victory.
The Badgers are undefeated, but they never really had a bright national spotlight to themselves in their first 10 games. Although Michigan hasn't done much this season to show it's deserving of a top-25 ranking, the Wolverines still entered Saturday with an 8-2 record, a stingy defense and a high profile. That made Michigan's trip to Madison a chance for Wisconsin to step up and try to shut the door on skepticism. It mostly did that.
A few weeks ago, after a 24-10 win over Illinois, I tweeted the following:
If you said that Wisconsin won every game 24-10 I would believe it- Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) October 28, 2017
Then Wisconsin beat Michigan by that same score, 24-10. The Badgers struggled to move the ball on offense for a while, but they got a 50-yard punt return TD by Nick Nelson, 132 rushing yards from Jonathan Taylor and a few huge third-and-long throws from Alex Hornibrook. They held Michigan to 58 rushing yards and zero points in the last quarter and a half.
In other words: It all made for exactly the type of Wisconsin win one might expect. The Badgers are a road win over Minnesota away from finishing 12-0 in the regular season. Win that, and a playoff bid will be there for the taking with a win over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.
3. Two top-25 teams lost to add some intrigue.
Few upsets happened Saturday, but the sport couldn't avoid a couple of top-25 teams losing. The first came close to being one of the biggest comebacks of the season: Kansas State held off No. 13 Oklahoma State 45-40 after building a 42-13 lead in the third quarter. That lead largely came because of Byron Pringle, who had an 89-yard punt return TD and TD catches for 47, 46 and 60 yards.
But the Cowboys' prolific offense found a spark and went on three long TD drives, and their defense forced a fumble on a play in which Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson was injured. The Cowboys quickly scored again to pull within five, and they quickly got the ball back. Everything pointed to one last touchdown drive for the win; instead, Kansas State's defense rose to the occasion, forcing four straight incompletions to hold onto the road upset win in Stillwater and get to bowl eligibility. In doing so, the Wildcats eliminated Oklahoma State from the Big 12 title chase.
The other top-25 loss wasn't actually an upset, according to Vegas: Wake Forest beat No. 19 N.C. State 30-24. Once again, John Wolford had a stellar day for the vastly improved Demon Deacons offense, throwing for 247 yards and three TDs. That included an 18-yard pass to Tabari Hines for the lead with 8:03 left. After that, the defense came up with the big plays to win: N.C. State Emeka Emezie lost a fumble just short of the goal line, and Ryan Finley was intercepted with 41 seconds left. N.C. State has lost three of four after a six-game winning streak pushed it as high as No. 14 in the AP poll. Wake Forest has won three of four, reaching seven wins for the first time since 2008.
One other top-25 team nearly lost at the end of the night: No. 18 Washington escaped Utah 33-30 despite trailing by seven with a couple minutes left. Jake Browning was stopped on a brutal hit on a fourth-and-eight with 4:31 left. Washington got the ball back, as Browning responded with a masterful drive that ended in a tying Myles Gaskin touchdown with 58 seconds to play. A quick Utah three-and-out gave the ball back to Washington, which decided to play for the win in regulation after a Utah timeout. Browning hit passes of 18 and 31 yards, setting up Tristan Vizcaino's 38-yard field goal for the win. It provided an excellent ending to a day for Washington that was otherwise disappointing, because it was eliminated from Pac-12 North title contention.
4. Favorites prevail in an early version of Pac-12 rivalry week.
USC has off next week, and Stanford plays its nonconference rivalry against Notre Dame. That left two Pac-12 rivalry showdowns played a week earlier than the rest on Saturday.
In the marquee quarterback matchup of Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, No. 11 USC prevailed against UCLA, 28-23, for its third straight win in the series. Both quarterbacks made mistakes in somewhat uneven performances, but both also made the types of throws that show why they're viewed as potential No. 1 picks. Rosen threw for 421 yards, three TDs and a pick; Darnold threw for 264 yards and a pick. The real highlight of the night actually came on special teams, when USC pulled off an impressive fake out on a punt return that fooled UCLA's coverage team and left an open lane down the sideline for Michael Pittman to take it 72 yards for a touchdown.
USC had already clinched the Pac-12 South, so the other rivalry game proved to be more important in the conference standings. No. 22 Stanford edged California 17-14, keeping the Cardinal in the Pac-12 North race while eliminating Washington. Stanford is finished conference play at 7-2. If Washington State wins the Apple Cup, the Cougars will win the North because of their head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinal. If Washington wins the Apple Cup, Stanford will win the North because of its head-to-head tiebreaker over the Huskies.
On an ankle that still isn't 100 percent, Heisman contender Bryce Love was contained most of the night, but he still broke what proved to be the winning touchdown run of 57 yards in the third quarter, giving him 101 yards on 14 carries in the game.
5. Baker Mayfield apologized. Let's move on.
Baker Mayfield picked the worst weekend of the season to draw negative attention to himself. The past couple weeks were loaded with big games to write and talk about. This week, hardly anything could overshadow the antics of the day in Lawrence, Kansas, which included:
Mayfield apologized after the game:
Did Mayfield go too far? Sure. But both sides were at fault here, and the postgame apology -- along with whatever in-house punishment coach Lincoln Riley might come up with -- should be enough. Mayfield threw for 257 yards and three TDs in Oklahoma's 41-3 victory over the Jayhawks.
He's still the Heisman favorite, because his performance on the field continues to warrant that status.