Welcome back to The Professor, a weekly guide to what we learned in college football. For more from Week 12 in college football, catch up on scores here and check out our five takeaways from Saturday night.
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The stories seem to be at odds with each other.
UCLA fired head coach Jim Mora on Sunday. This came after a 28-23 loss at rival USC that dropped the Bruins to 5-6 this season and 9-14 over the past two frustrating years. And yet, during that loss, a positive truth about UCLA's star quarterback was reinforced: Josh Rosen is making a strong case to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
With USC already locking up the Pac-12 South beforehand and UCLA hovering around .500, Saturday's rivalry game was mostly about the quarterbacks and their futures. UCLA had Rosen, the third-year starter who missed the last half of 2016 with a shoulder injury, and USC had Sam Darnold, a breakthrough sensation last year as a redshirt freshman. Neither has quite met the enormous expectations that have been created for them, but they're still on track to be highly coveted NFL prospects, both of whom could make a play to be the top overall pick in the draft if they leave early.
Although they arrived at their respective schools at the same time, as blue-chip prospects in the recruiting class of 2015, this was their first matchup as starting quarterbacks, a somewhat disappointing fact, as the potential for a great era in the crosstown rivalry hasn't been fulfilled. Their one matchup was a good one, but any quarterback rivalry will have to be saved for the NFL.
With Darnold coming off a Rose Bowl win and Rosen coming off shoulder surgery, Darnold was the more hyped player entering 2016. He's on the better team, too. But Rosen had the better game on Saturday, and Rosen is, at the moment, the more polished quarterback prospect, even if their overall numbers continue to be similar beyond the fact that Rosen has played two fewer games and averages nine more pass attempts:
- Against UCLA, Darnold completed 17 of 28 passes for 264 yards with an interception and a rushing touchdown. In 12 games, he has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 3,462 yards, 24 TDs and 12 INTs, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 147.4.
- Against USC, Rosen completed 32 of 52 passes for 421 yards with three TDs and an interception. In 10 games, he has completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,515 yards, 24 TDs and 10 INTs, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt with a passer rating of 144.
Statistically, they've been nearly equal, with Darnold committing a few more turnovers because of his fumbles. And Darnold's best throws -- particularly when he's on the move -- are as good as or better than anybody else's. His top-tier potential is clear, because he's big and mobile with a strong arm, and every game features a couple jaw-dropping passes that offset the mistakes.
Despite the similar numbers, however, Rosen is the more polished and pro-ready quarterback right now, one who hasn't had as deep of a supporting cast around him and has thus had more pressure placed on his arm.
During ABC's game broadcast, Kirk Herbstreit made several references to the freedom Rosen is given to help call the offense at the line of scrimmage. He's in a pro-ready system -- even if the supporting cast hasn't been pro-ready -- with an advanced grasp of the position, and, mechanically he's clearly ready to make the leap to the NFL now, too.
That thought is nothing new: Rosen has had plenty of ups and downs at UCLA and can be inconsistent with accuracy and decision-making, but he's always been polished in terms of mechanics and his ability to go through progressions. The pro tools are evident, as he throws a beautiful deep ball and can fit passes into tight windows.
Ignore the potential backlash to Rosen's outspokenness off the field -- which will surely be scrutinized during draft season -- and Rosen has the exact type of game that NFL teams are willing and ready to bet on early in the draft, which means possibly the No. 1 overall pick. He's advanced mechanically, and there won't be a huge learning curve for Rosen to play early in his NFL career, even if his college career hasn't gone as expected.
Beyond leading the second-biggest comeback ever in this year's opener against Texas A&M, the Rosen era at UCLA can't help but feel disappointing because the team has struggled and, now, Mora has been fired. But even if Rosen's career didn't progress to meet enormous expectations at UCLA, much of the blame rests elsewhere: Rosen often had to put his team on his back, with problems in protection and, this year, problems stopping the run, on top of that shoulder injury.
Perhaps it provides little solace to UCLA fans, but Rosen is on track to represent the Bruins well at the next level, likely in 2018. He appears to be a lock to leave, while Darnold seems to be more of a toss-up. If Darnold does leave, he'll deserve to be in the No. 1 pick conversation with his crosstown rival. But despite the result, Saturday showed that Rosen is worth the No. 1 pick hype he's been getting since high school.
Regardless of what has happened at UCLA, Rosen is ready for the NFL, and quarterback-needy teams should be lining up to get him.
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Lessons Learned in Week 12
Bill Snyder finds some more magic
There was hope going into this season that Snyder would have perhaps one more magical Kansas State run in him. The Wildcats brought back a lot of experience from a 9-4 team, and they opened this season ranked No. 20 in the AP poll. However, the season hasn't gone as planned: Heading into Saturday, they were 5-5, needing a win either at Oklahoma State or vs. an improved Iowa State to get to bowl eligibility.
The Wildcats pulled it off, holding off a furious rally by the Cowboys' explosive offense to win 45-40, even though they were down to a fourth-string walk-on quarterback by the end of the game. Kansas State built a shocking 42-13 lead in the third quarter behind the play of QB Skylar Thompson and, especially, WR Byron Pringle, who had three long touchdown catches and an 89-yard kick return TD.
But Oklahoma State woke up and scored four touchdowns in the final 20 minutes. As the Wildcats struggled to put the game away, Oklahoma State got the ball back at its own 46 with more than two minutes left for one of the nation's most explosive offenses to work with. Shockingly, the Cowboys went nowhere. Four straight Mason Rudolph passes fell incomplete, and Kansas State pulled off its first win over a ranked opponent since 2014, knocking the Cowboys out of Big 12 title game contention in the process in the only truly surprising top-25 result of the day.
Oregon's defense makes an underappreciated turnaround
Brett McMurphy reported last week that there have been discussions about current Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt eventually replacing Snyder at Kansas State. A former Kansas State assistant, Leavitt spent over a decade as head coach at USF but was ousted after alleged mistreatment of a player. Now, Leavitt is resurfacing as a head coaching candidate because of the remarkable work he's done with the Colorado defense the past two years and the Oregon defense now.
The 2016 Ducks ranked 115th in yards per play allowed. The 2017 Ducks, in the first year under Leavitt as coordinator, have vaulted to 33rd. Their most impressive accomplishment occurred this week.
With the help of the return of injured QB Justin Herbert, who threw for 235 yards, Oregon beat Arizona 48-28. The defense held Arizona QB Khalil Tate to 159 yards, one TD and two INTs as a passer and 14 rushes for 32 yards. Since taking over as Arizona's primary QB at the start of October, Tate had not been held under 137 rushing yards. But the Ducks have improved from 11th to second in the Pac-12 in yards per rush allowed, and they became the first team to truly contain Arizona's breakout star.
TCU is helping Baker Mayfield's Heisman push
One of my takeaways published late Saturday night dealt with the Baker Mayfield controversy from Saturday's 41-3 win at Kansas. My advice was to accept Mayfield's apology and move on, so that's what I'll do here.
Mayfield's Heisman campaign didn't receive any sort of boost from what he did in Lawrence -- in the game itself, he was a solid 20 of 30 for 257 yards and three TDs -- but it did get help from what happened in Lubbock. TCU bounced back from its 38-20 loss to Oklahoma by shutting down Texas Tech's explosive passing attack in a 27-3 road win. Nic Shimonek, who averages 314 yards per game, threw for only 137 yards against the TCU defense. The Red Raiders' 153 passing yards as a team were their fewest in the 21st century, according to Sports-Reference.
In five of its past six games, TCU has held opponents to 6, 0, 14, 7 and 3 points. In the other game, Oklahoma scored 38 points in the first half and Mayfield threw for nearly 300 yards in the first half. Sure, there are a handful of subpar Big 12 defenses on Mayfield's schedule, but he went 27-for-35 for 386 yards and three TDs at Ohio State and 18-for-27 for 333 yards and three TDs vs. TCU. Both of those defenses rank in the top 15 nationally in yards per play allowed. Mayfield has proved himself worthy of being the Heisman frontrunner, regardless of opponent.
There is still no reason to panic about the Harbaugh era.
Back between Michigan's losses to Michigan State and Penn State, I wrote that the Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan was still on schedule.
It's still true after Michigan lost 24-10 at Wisconsin this weekend, even if it's also true that this hasn't been a fun or watchable year for Michigan football. The Wolverines scored a total of 33 points in those three losses, and all eight of their wins have come against teams that currently have losing records. Michigan will be a significant underdog on its home field against rival Ohio State next week, which means that 8-4 is the likely finish to this regular season.
For Harbaugh's third season, it's frustrating, but it's also not unexpected. Again, Michigan brought back five starters this season after losing 11 players who were picked in the NFL Draft. Quarterback Wilton Speight got hurt, backup John O'Korn was ineffective and Brandon Peters, who began the year as the third-stringer, was knocked out of Saturday's game with an injury in the third quarter. Injuries and youth have combined to plague this Wolverines team and make it feel like a disappointment, even if eight or nine wins is what should have been expected.
Be patient. Harbaugh's excellent recruiting classes are starting to mature, and this is going to be a team on the rise the next couple seasons.
Saquon Barkley reminded us why he spent much of the season as the Heisman frontrunner
Penn State's superstar tailback has had several frustrating games in which he took frequent hits in the backfield before he could find any room to run. That changed on Saturday against Nebraska, which has become the type of defense for opponents to take out their frustrations on.
Penn State won 56-44 because Nebraska racked up garbage-time yards and points with three TDs in the final seven minutes. (The Nittany Lions led 42-10 at halftime.) The story of much of the game was Barkley, who broke off a 65-yard touchdown run on the third play of the game and finished with 17 carries for 158 yards and three TDs and six catches for 66 yards, despite not playing in the final quarter and a half. In what was presumed to be Barkley's final home game at Beaver Stadium, he broke Penn State's career rushing touchdowns record, previously owned by Lydell Mitchell.
Despite posting underwhelming rushing numbers in some games, Barkley ranks fifth in yards from scrimmage per game at 149.7, as he has 1,057 rushing yards and 590 receiving yards. He has scored 17 touchdowns on offense, in addition to throwing a TD pass and returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. He's probably not going to win the Heisman, but he'll absolutely deserve a trip to New York as a finalist.
Lamar Jackson continues to do astonishing things
Jackson's breakthrough game came in Week 2 last year, when he had 610 yards of total offense in a 62-28 win at Syracuse. In this year's game against Syracuse, Jackson had 291 yards of total offense within 24 minutes. Jackson wasn't needed in the fourth quarter of a 56-10 win, but he still threw for 270 yards and two TDs and rushed for 111 yards and two TDs.
Via Sports-Reference's Play Index, here's how Jackson's first 11 games stack up with last year's first 11 games in a Heisman season:
Jackson is highly unlikely to repeat, but, like Barkley, hopefully he'll appear on enough ballots to get an invitation to New York. He belongs there, again.
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All-America Team of the Week
QB: Jake Browning, Washington. Trailing by seven with under five minutes left, Washington went for it on fourth-and-eight from the Utah 15-yard line. Browning took off running and tried to get to the first-down marker near the sideline, but he went airborne and took a hard hit -- from both a defender and the ground -- that could have easily ended his game. The Huskies' chances of winning appeared slim. But Washington ended up getting the ball back twice, and there was a stretch when Browning completed seven straight passes for 99 yards to set up a tying touchdown and game-winning field goal. Browning completed 26 of 35 for 354 yards and two TDs in the 33-30 victory.
RB: Saquon Barkley, Penn State. Welcome back to the big time. Barkley touched the ball only four times in the second half against Nebraska but finished with 17 carries for 158 yards and three TDs and six catches for 66 yards. Barkley had 224 yards from scrimmage in 40 minutes.
RB: Justin Jackson, Northwestern. Jackson had a stellar day in a 39-0 win over Minnesota, running 31 times for 166 yards. The bigger story was what it meant for his career: four straight 1,000-yard seasons, adding up to 5,139 yards. Jackson is only the ninth FBS player to crack the 1,000-yard mark four times.
WR: Byron Pringle, Kansas State. Pringle was the primary reason for Kansas State's upset win over Oklahoma State: He caught four passes for 166 yards, with touchdowns of 47, 46 and 60 yards. He also returned a kickoff 89 yards for a TD.
WR: Trevon Brown, East Carolina. ECU took out a season's worth of frustration in a 48-20 win over Cincinnati. Brown had nine catches for 270 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown that broke the game open early in the third quarter.
WR: Tabari Hines, Wake Forest. Hines propelled Wake Forest to its 30-24 win over N.C. State with eight catches for 139 yards and three TDs, including the winning 18-yard score with 8:03 left.
OL: Texas. It's been a tough year for the Longhorns' line, but All-America left tackle Connor Williams returned from an injury that has kept him out since Week 3. In their win at West Virginia the Longhorns allowed zero sacks and had 233 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per play, both of which were the team's best in any game except for the San Jose State blowout.
DL: Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois. The national leader in sacks and tackles for loss continued his dominant season with 5 ½ tackles for loss, 2 ½ sacks and a 58-yard fumble return touchdown in a 35-31 win over Western Michigan that kept the Huskies in the MAC West title hunt.
DL: Dontavius Russell, Auburn. After a stellar game against Georgia, too, Russell had 3 ½ tackles for loss in the Tigers' 42-14 win over UL Monroe.
LB: T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin. The Badgers held Michigan to 58 rushing yards, and Edwards had a team-high 11 tackles and 2 ½ tackles for loss with a pass breakup.
LB: Demetrius Kemp, Wake Forest. Two N.C. State drives in Wake Forest's six-point win ended because Kemp forced fumbles: One in the third quarter, and another that won the game, as he poked the ball loose from Emeke Emezie just before Emezie crossed the goal line for what would have been a touchdown with under two minutes to play.
LB: Devin White, LSU. White has been the best player on the team this season, and that continued in a 30-10 win over Tennessee in which he had 11 tackles and 2 ½ tackles for loss and the Vols finished with 38 rushing yards.
LB: Troy Dye, Oregon. Dye had 11 tackles and 1 ½ tackles for loss for an Oregon defense that did the seemingly impossible: It held Khalil Tate to 32 rushing yards.
LB: Nate Hall, Northwestern. The Wildcats shut out Minnesota, and Hall had 2 ½ sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
DB: Jaire Alexander, Louisville. One of the nation's top corners entering the season, Alexander has dealt with injuries much of the year. He was at his best Saturday, with two pass breakups, a tackle for loss and an interception as Syracuse finished with 138 passing yards and 10 points.
DB: Kelsey Douglas, Southern Miss. Douglas had returned two interceptions for touchdowns, covering 52 and 48 yards, in the first 20 minutes of the Eagles' 66-21 win over Charlotte.
DB: Derrick Tucker, Texas A&M. The Aggies contained Ole Miss' passing attack, and Tucker had 14 tackles, two pass breakups, a tackle for loss and a 19-yard pick-six in a 31-24 road win.
DB: Jaquan Johnson, Miami. The Hurricanes' secondary had a rough first half, but Johnson changed the game with a 30-yard pick-six that tied the score at 28 in the third quarter. He also had a team-high nine tackles with a sack.
AP: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State. Penny had one of the most impressive games of the season against Nevada: 24 carries for 222 yards and two TDs, a 70-yard punt return TD and a 100-yard kick return TD. That's 429 all-purpose yards. The Aztecs led by only five in the third quarter until Penny's kick return and 67-yard run.
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Report Card: Grading The Week In College Football
A+: Florida Atlantic. The Lane Train can't be stopped. Kiffin and Florida Atlantic easily won the Shula Bowl against Butch Davis and Florida International, with another excellent offensive performance leading to a 52-24 rout. Devin Singletary rushed for 164 yards, placing him fourth nationally with 1,524 yards, plus a national-best 24 touchdown runs. After a 1-3 start, the Owls are 7-0 in Conference USA play, locking up a spot in the league title game against North Texas, whom they already beat 69-31. The Owls rank eighth in scoring, one spot behind Kiffin's former team, Alabama.
A: Georgia. Georgia didn't let Auburn beat it twice. After a disappointing blowout loss against the Tigers, Georgia's first defeat of the season, the Bulldogs bounced back and took care of business at home against Kentucky. They won 42-13, closing out SEC play with a 7-1 record. They got back to doing what they do best, too: Jake Fromm attempted only nine passes, the running game piled up 381 yards and the defense held Kentucky to only 262 total yards. That's the script Georgia has followed against inferior opponents all season.
A-: Ohio State. The Buckeyes responded to their 31-point loss at Iowa by dominating Michigan State by 45 last week. With the trip to Michigan looming, they had no difficulty against Illinois on Saturday. Ohio State won 52-14, and the Fighting Illini, who are winless in the Big Ten, passed for 16 yards and rushed for 89 yards. The Buckeyes scored four first-quarter touchdowns and leaned on their running game for 325 yards.
B: UCF. Six days before the showdown with USF, a trip to Temple looked like a trap. It wasn't the case. After falling behind 10-7 early in the second quarter, the Knights stepped on the gas and rolled to another dominant win, this time by a 45-19 final score. QB McKenzie Milton (16 of 23, 208 yards, four TDs) continues to be efficient, and UCF won the turnover battle 5-0.
B: Alabama, Clemson and Auburn. At least Auburn played an FBS team. Alabama beat Mercer 56-0. Clemson beat The Citadel 61-3. Auburn beat UL Monroe 42-14. And now they can all turn their attention to more important matters: rivalry week and the playoff chase.
B-: Washington and Stanford. Washington's day was mixed: Because Stanford beat California, 17-14, the Huskies can no longer win the Pac-12 North. When they meet Washington State in the Apple Cup, they'll merely be deciding the division title fate of the Cougars and Cardinal: A Washington win over Washington State sends Stanford on to meet USC, while Washington State advances if it beats the Huskies. After finding out that it couldn't win the conference anymore, Washington scored 10 points in the final minute to beat Utah 33-30.
C+: Miami. Call it an "A+" for the final quarter and a half or so. Miami started poorly against Virginia, which wasn't a surprise in a prime letdown spot after back-to-back blowout prime-time wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. But after getting burned by Cavs QB Kurt Benkert in the first half and falling behind 28-14 early in the third quarter, Miami ended the game with 30 unanswered points to win 44-28. The Canes were outgained and had two turnovers, but they still came away with three takeaways and shut down Virginia late after Benkert's hot start. Miami successfully avoided the trap, won by 16 and improved to 10-0, its first 10-win season since 2003.
C: Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish should be quite happy to have escaped Navy. After a tough run of big games, including last week's blowout loss at Miami, any type of win would have felt acceptable on Saturday. The Irish needed an interception and a fourth-down stop on a trick play in their territory late in the game, but they pulled off a 24-17 win despite the fact that Navy held onto the ball for 42:42 and ran 31 more offensive plays.
C-: N.C. State. The Wolfpack can be somewhat forgiven, because even though they were one of only two top-25 teams to lose this week, they did so as a road underdog in Winston-Salem against a surging Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons won 30-24, and ultimately it came down to a matter of inches: Emeke Emezie fumbled a split second before crossing the goal line with 1:51 left, giving Wake Forest the ball.
D+: Iowa. The Hawkeyes' 55-34 win over Ohio State gets more baffling every week. Iowa followed that victory with 66 total yards in a blowout loss to Wisconsin in which it scored zero offensive points. Then, on Saturday, the Hawkeyes hosted Purdue and lost 24-15. Iowa averaged only 3.6 yards per play -- its second-worst average, better only than the Wisconsin game -- lost the turnover battle 2-0 and fell to 6-5 overall and 5-3 in Big Ten play.
D: Minnesota. A week after putting up 54 points and 409 rushing yards in a 33-point win over Nebraska, Minnesota was shut out by Northwestern, 39-0, as quarterback Demry Croft went 2-for-11 for 43 yards through the air. The 5-6 Golden Gophers will need to upset Wisconsin to go bowling in P.J. Fleck's debut season.
D-: BYU. The worst BYU season in decades hit another possible low point in a 16-10 home loss to UMass. The Cougars had four turnovers and allowed seven sacks, and their only touchdown came with under a minute left while trailing by 13.
F: South Alabama. Last year, South Alabama upset Mississippi State but went 2-6 in the Sun Belt. Earlier this year, the Jaguars upset Troy -- which had just beaten LSU -- but they fell to 4-7 overall on Saturday after a stunning 52-0 loss to Georgia Southern, which ranks 125th in yards per play and entered the game with a winless record at 0-9. The Jaguars were outgained 583-195 and lost the turnover battle 3-0. Now that Georgia Southern has a win, UTEP is the last remaining winless FBS team.
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Week 13 Syllabus
1. Alabama at Auburn. It's exactly what the Iron Bowl wants to be: a play-in game for the SEC championship game, with both teams still owning playoff aspirations.
2. Ohio State at Michigan. Michigan can turn a forgettable season into a memorable one if it can upset the Buckeyes, who are still clinging to playoff hopes.
3. Washington State at Washington. Washington is playing the role of spoiler: Wazzu goes to the Pac-12 title game with a win. A Huskies win sends Stanford.
4. South Florida at UCF. UCF will try to preserve its unbeaten season against its nearby rivals, with the AAC East on the line.
5. Notre Dame at Stanford. If Bryce Love wants to make a Heisman statement, a late-November prime time game against Notre Dame is a good time to do it.
6. Clemson at South Carolina. The Gamecocks are quietly 8-3 and opened the season with a win over Clemson's ACC Atlantic rival N.C. State.
7. Georgia at Georgia Tech. After one November rivalry road trip went poorly for Georgia, the Bulldogs hope to end the regular season on a high note in another one before returning to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.
8. West Virginia at Oklahoma. The Mountaineers will unfortunately be without injured starting quarterback Will Grier.
9. Wisconsin at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are playing to spoil Wisconsin's perfect season and get to bowl eligibility. Wisconsin hasn't lost the Paul Bunyan Axe since 2003.
10. Miami at Pittsburgh. Pitt is 4-7 and seemingly has no chance to deal a blow to the national title hopes of its opponent. Then again, we heard the same thing 10 years ago.