Saturday Snaps: Breaking down the best of Week 12 in college football

College football Week 12: Breaking down Saturday's best games.
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Oregon State 35, No. 6 Arizona State 27

Even when Oregon State has a down year, beating the Beavers in Corvallis is difficult. Oregon State didn’t care that Arizona State was ranked No. 6 or that the Sun Devils controlled their own destiny in the Pac-12. The Beavers were just trying to get a win and move one step closer to bowl eligibility. 

Oregon State shocked the Sun Devils, 35-27, capped by a late pick-six by Michael Doctor with Arizona State trailing 28-27 and trying to drive down into field goal range. Suddenly, all that talk of the Sun Devils as a dark horse playoff contender is up in smoke. 

Taylor Kelly was off all night, completing just 50 percent of his passes (22-of-44) for 264 yards. He threw two touchdown passes, but also had two costly interceptions (including the one late) that were crushing for the Sun Devils. To make matters worse, Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong (nine catches, 103 yards) landed awkwardly trying to go up to make a catch before Kelly’s final interception and had his helmet taken away, presumably with concussion-like symptoms. 

This blows the Pac-12 South wide open, and UCLA (which holds the tiebreaker over Arizona State) now is in the driver’s seat for that side of the division if it can win out. -- Martin Rickman

No. 3 Florida State 30, Miami 26

There has to be a hole deep enough that not even Florida State can climb out of it. Even the Seminoles seem to want to see how close they can get. It wasn’t overtime against Clemson. It wasn’t a 24-7 deficit at North Carolina State. It wasn’t the pick play against Notre Dame. It wasn’t 21-0 at Louisville on a Thursday night.

And it wasn’t going to happen Saturday night in Miami, as Florida State rallied from a 23-7 first-quarter hole to stay undefeated and keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive. 

There’s a scene in the seventh Halloween movie (H20) in which Michael Myers is loaded into a van in a body bag, seemingly done for good. He’s survived six-plus movies, some stabbings, being thrown over railings, hit with a variety of objects, and this has to be it. He can’t come back again. But he gets out of the body bag, left to terrorize Jamie Lee Curtis for a bit longer.

Eventually she wins out. But the resiliency from one of the horror genre’s best villains is astounding. It takes a full-on decapitation to finish him off. 

After the Seminoles went up 30-26 on a Dalvin Cook 26-yard run with 3:05 to play, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit called Florida State the playoff’s “Darth Vader.” 

Vader was eventually beaten. The ‘Noles, this year, anyway, just like last year, might not let themselves be. -- MR

• RICKMAN: Three playoff takeaways after Florida State's win over Miami

No. 15 Georgia 34, No. 9 Auburn 7

The return of Todd Gurley turned into another big night for Georgia. The No. 15 Bulldogs took control early on both sides of the ball and cruised to a 34-7 win over No. 9 Auburn in Athens.

Georgia didn’t miss a beat on offense while Gurley missed four games for an NCAA-mandated punishment, and much of that was due to Nick Chubb. The freshman back reeled off 671 yards, or 6.6 per carry, during Gurley’s absence. The Dawgs’ showed Saturday why they have the best one-two rushing punch in the SEC now that Gurley’s back.

Chubb and Gurley combined for 282 yards on 48 carries with three scores. After Georgia punted on its first two series, the duo carried the offense to points on six of its next seven possessions. In all Chubb and Gurley accounted for over two-thirds of the Bulldogs' 412 yards of offense.

Thanks to Gurley’s suspension, we didn’t get to see this duo together for an entire season. But now they’re clicking when it really matters for Georgia.

Gurley left the win in the fourth quarter with an apparent left knee injury. His status looking ahead is unclear, putting half of the Bulldogs’ running duo back into jeopardy. -- Zac Ellis

• ELLIS: Todd Gurley's return highlights Georgia's rout of Auburn

No. 23 Utah 21, Stanford 17 (2OT)

Perhaps it wasn’t redemption for his epic gaffe last week, but Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay likely felt the pressure ease during the Utes’ 21-17 double-overtime victory over Stanford on Saturday afternoon.

Clay, the senior receiver who dropped a sure touchdown for a fumble just before the goal line during Utah’s 51-27 loss to Oregon, caught a pivotal 25-yard touchdown on the first play of the first overtime. He had been held to one catch for six yards through four quarters before the score.

While Clay finished with a season-low two catches for 31 yards, he provided a spark at a critical moment for a Utah offense that struggled against Stanford’s stout defense. After the Utes held the Cardinal to a field goal in the second overtime, quarterback Travis Wilson found junior wide receiver Kenneth Scott for a three-yard touchdown pass to clinch the game and Utah’s third consecutive win over Stanford.

It was an unsightly affair. The game was tied 7-7 at the end of four quarters, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for a meager 94 yards, both quarterbacks were sacked four times each, and both squads combined for 16 points. There were more touchdowns in two overtimes than in four quarters.

The Cardinal now sit at 5-5 and, after appearing in four consecutive BCS games, still haven’t clinched bowl eligibility with two games remaining in the season. Next week is a rivalry tilt against Cal before finishing the regular season at UCLA. It’s unlikely David Shaw’s squad loses both games, but Stanford, which began the season with hopes of a Pac-12 title, remains one of the most disappointing teams this season. -- Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 5 Alabama 25, No. 1 Mississippi State 20

Alabama appears to be peaking at the proper time to make the College Football Playoff, as it showed in a 25-20 win against No. 1 Mississippi State on Saturday. Alabama entered the game No. 5 in the playoff rankings, and it’ll certainly vault into the top four this week. This victory assures the Crimson Tide a playoff spot if they can win three more games -- Western Carolina and No. 9 Auburn at home followed by the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Alabama won this game thanks to another clutch fourth-quarter drive led by quarterback Blake Sims, who appears to be coming of age down the stretch and evolving from a caretaker to a playmaker. After the Crimson Tide were shut out in the third quarter Saturday, a nervous vibe reverberated through a hushed Bryant-Denny Stadium as Alabama clung to a 19-13 lead early into the fourth quarter. One week after Sims drove Alabama 55 yards in the final 50 seconds to force overtime against LSU, he sealed this game with another clutch drive. 

Sims led Alabama on a 15-play, 76-yard drive that came straight out Nick Saban’s smashmouth playbook. The quarterback converted three third downs on that drive, a nifty pass to T.J. Yeldon and a pair of scrambles -- 10 yards on a third-and-eight and 11 yards on a third-and-10 -- that kept eating yardage and clock. When Yeldon finally capped the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run with 8:09 remaining, Alabama had salted 6:07 off the clock and essentially the game away. Dak Prescott officially cemented the win again when Landon Collins intercepted him at the Alabama 17-yard line with 5:01 remaining.

But this was a game in which Sims was exactly what he needed to be for Alabama, efficient and effective. He finished with 211 yards on 19-of-31 passing and, most importantly, led an offense that didn’t throw an interception or turn the ball over.

Sims was the steady quarterback that Alabama needed as its playmakers shined all around him. Yeldon finished the game with 72 rushing yards and a touchdown. Star receiver Amari Cooper caught eight balls for 88 yards and a touchdown.

But on that game’s defining, soul-crushing drive, Sims again executed deftly when he needed to. That drive led to what proved to be the winning score, as Mississippi State scored on a Prescott touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to pull Mississippi State within five. -- Pete Thamel

• THAMEL: Alabama showcases playoff worth in win over Mississippi State

No. 20 Wisconsin 59, No. 16 Nebraska 24

The Big Ten West picture got a little bit clearer on Saturday. And Wisconsin has Melvin Gordon to thank for that. The Badgers’ Heisman Trophy hopeful ran for an FBS single-game record 408 yards in three quarters as No. 20 Wisconsin took sole possession of first place in the division with a 59-24 win over No. 16 Nebraska.

Wisconsin overcame a couple of early Gordon fumbles -- and a 17-3 second-quarter deficit -- to rattle off 56 unanswered points, thanks to solid defensive play and Gordon’s historic afternoon. The junior had no trouble getting to the edge and consistently breaking big runs, including seven of 25 yards or more. 

Gordon set a single-game program record, snapping a mark previously set by Ron Dayne (339), with his 68-yard scamper that set up a six-yard touchdown with 5:46 left in the third quarter. He then broke ex-TCU star LaDainian Tomlinson’s FBS record of 406 yards with his 26-yard score on the final play of the third. -- MR

• RICKMAN: Ohio State downs Minnesota to keep playoff hopes alive

Northwestern 43, No. 18 Notre Dame 40 (OT)

Entering Week 12, the narrative of Notre Dame’s season was that the Fighting Irish had taken care of business against the lesser teams on its schedule but failed to shine in its marquee games. Half of that narrative changed Saturday, but not the half Notre Dame wanted.

Northwestern stunned the Fighting Irish in South Bend with a comeback 43-40 win in overtime. The Wildcats rallied from a 40-29 fourth-quarter deficit, tying the score at 40 with a 45-yard field goal from Jack Mitchell with 19 seconds remaining. Mitchell entered Saturday with a season long of 29 yards before hitting from 46 and 45 against the Irish.

Notre Dame went three-and-out to begin overtime and then backed its defense against a wall when kicker Kyle Brindza missed a 42-yarder. Needing any score to win, the Wildcats failed to move the ball, but Mitchell delivered again, sending a 41-yard field goal through the uprights and the Northwestern sideline into jubilation.

In a sloppy shootout, Northwestern and Notre Dame each turned the ball over four times while combining for 1,045 yards of offense.  No turnover was more costly than Cam McDaniel’s fumble at the Northwestern 28-yard line with 1:28 remaining and the Irish needing only one more first down to ice the game.

Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 30 of 48 passes for 284 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed for a key six-yard score to pull the Wildcats within three with 4:10 remaining. The victory snaps a four-game losing streak for Northwestern and keeps its hopes of postseason eligibility alive. The Wildcats need to win at Purdue and against Illinois to get to a bowl game for the sixth time in seven years. -- Colin Becht

No. 14 Arizona 27, Washington 26

The first time wasn’t the charm for Arizona kicker Casey Skowron. He was luckier the second time around. Skowron knocked in a game-winning 47-yard field goal, moments after missing an attempt negated by a timeout, as time expired to give the No. 14 Wildcats a 27-26 win over Washington on Saturday.

Arizona almost didn’t have to kick a field goal at all. Wildcats’ receiver Cayleb Jones appeared to grab a go-ahead touchdown pass in the final minute, but Jones’ foot landed on the out-of-bounds line at the back of the end zone. With Washington holding a 26-24 lead, Arizona settled on a field goal from Skowron, which sealed the win.

The Wildcats nearly gave this game away with second-half turnovers. They held a 21-17 lead at halftime despite being outgained by Washington (347 yards to 193) thanks to two Huskies turnovers. But Arizona coughed the ball up three times in the final two quarters, including twice on interceptions from quarterback Anu Solomon.

Washington, with its 245 rushing yards (4.1 per attempt), almost took advantage. Huskies’ running back Dwayne Washington punched in a one-yard run late in the third quarter to give his team a 26-21 lead. But the tailback, who finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, didn't get much help from the rest of the offense.

Arizona’s escape keeps it alive in the race for the Pac-12 South title. But the rest of its slate isn’t easy: Coach Rich Rodriguez’s squad must face Utah and Arizona State in the final two weeks of the year. -- ZE

No. 8 Ohio State 31, No. 25 Minnesota 24

A week after accounting for five total touchdowns in Ohio State’s 49-37 win over Michigan State, quarterback J.T. Barrett dazzled again. The Buckeyes redshirt freshman star showcased his running ability with an 86-yard touchdown scamper to put Ohio State up 7-0 early in the first quarter. He also took advantage of some blown coverages and Minnesota's attempts to play a Cover 1 defense. 

Barrett racked up 189 rushing yards, 200 passing yards and four scores Saturday. The outing gives him 38 total touchdowns on the year, a program record. Barrett’s ability to elude tacklers and keep plays alive was critical. Ohio State owes a lot of the credit for this key road win -- which keeps its College Football Playoff dreams alive -- to his threat as a runner.

Sure, Ohio State’s competition hasn’t been terrific this season, but Barrett certainly has been. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. If he keeps playing like this, he’ll be in New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist in December. -- MR

RICKMAN: Ohio State downs Minnesota to keep playoff hopes alive

South Carolina 23, Florida 20 (OT)

The Gators and Gamecocks know how to stage a dramatic finish, even when both teams are having down years. South Carolina edged Florida in overtime behind running back Mike Davis’ last-minute game-tying touchdown and then quarterback Dylan Thompson’s game-winning rollout score.

Leading by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Florida seemed poised to secure the victory when kicker Francisco Velez lined up for a 32-yard field goal. However, Brison Williams blocked Velez’s kick, keeping the Gamecocks alive. Thompson’s fourth-down pass attempt fell incomplete a few minutes later, but South Carolina stepped up again. It stuffed Florida’s run game and blocked the subsequent punt. The Gamecocks capitalized on Davis’ score, which he bobbled, fumbled and recovered in the end zone with 12 seconds left.

After kicker Austin Hardin booted a 35-yard field goal on Florida’s first possession of overtime, Thompson ended the game with a four-yard touchdown run. The result bolsters South Carolina’s shot at bowl eligibility -- the Gamecocks should get their sixth win next week against South Alabama -- and ends Florida’s SEC East title hopes, as well as the goodwill coach Will Muschamp garnered by beating Georgia 38-20 on Nov. 1. -- CB

No. 22 Georgia Tech 28, No. 19 Clemson 6

Georgia Tech just keeps on winning. Often overlooked in the national conversation, the Yellow Jackets rattled off their fourth consecutive victory by dispatching of the Tigers on Saturday. Georgia Tech returned two interceptions for touchdowns, Jamal Golden from 85 yards out and Chris Milton from 62, and rushed for 251 yards in a game in which the outcome was rarely in doubt.

Clemson raced out to an early 3-0 lead, but true freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson -- making his first start since breaking his finger in a 23-17 win over Louisville on Oct. 11 -- went down after suffering a non-contact leg injury in the first quarter. Watson has been dynamic in limited action this fall, but backup Cole Stoudt struggled tremendously in his place. Stoudt went 3 of-11 for 19 yards with three picks. He was pulled in favor of third-stringer Nick Schuessler.

Georgia Tech suffered a brutal injury, too, as redshirt junior Broderick Snoddy was carted off the field shortly before halftime. Yet the rest of the Yellow Jackets found a way to get it done, and coach Paul Johnson’s team is now an impressive 9-2 overall and 6-2 in ACC play. -- Ben Glicksman

Virginia Tech 17, No. 21 Duke 16

Following Clemson’s loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, Duke was set to move into prime position for the ACC’s Orange Bowl berth. Virginia Tech had other ideas, though, spattering the Blue Devils’ Coastal Division lead with a 17-16 win.

Although the Hokies managed only one sustained drive -- a 12-play, 98-yard march for a touchdown -- Virginia Tech’s defense held firm. It set up the offense for the game-winning score when Derek Di Nardo intercepted quarterback Anthony Boone on a batted pass. The Hokies forced three turnovers and benefited from two missed Ross Martin field goals (his first two misses of the year), including a potential go-ahead 40-yard try with 2:26 remaining.

Saturday’s win was Virginia Tech’s second stunning upset of the season -- it beat Ohio State 35-21 on Sept. 6 -- and is crucial to the Hokies’ quest for bowl eligibility. Coach Frank Beamer’s squad needs just one win in its final two games against Wake Forest and Virginia. -- CB