Welcome to December. Champions are crowned in December: Division Champs. Conference Champs. Bowl Champs. And in Butch Jones' case, Champions of Life. And while we're all champions of life, not all of our teams can be championship programs. And that's okay! But it does set us up quite favorably to honor some early returns on this December's group of champions, starting first and foremost with Conference Championship Weekend. You know what time it is. Welcome to Studs & Duds.
STUD - The CFB Playoff Committee
Georgia is one of the four most talented teams in the country. And Georgia did not deserve a spot in the CFB Playoff. These are not mutually exclusive ideas and I, for one, am thrilled to see the Committee put their foot down. The Tide and Tigers are overwhelming favorites to meet again for yet another national championship. Notre Dame, for their flaws, went undefeated and had a handful of quality wins. So it came down to Oklahoma, Ohio State and the Bulldogs. (Sorry, UCF!)
Two one-loss conference champions vs. a two-loss non-conference champion? Hmmmmm. Resume matters. The Committee has preached it for years now and even in the years in which they've forsaken it (taking 1-loss Ohio State over 2-loss conference champs Penn State...who had a head to head win over OSU), they've done so in favor of teams with less losses.
At the end of the day, Georgia had a playoff game. It was Saturday...and they lost. Thanks for playing.
DUD - Georgia head coach Kirby Smart
More like Kirby Not-So-Smart...am I right?! I regret this pun already. Listen, I don't give a hoot about how Georgia tackled this game down the stretch...until the fake punt. Calling a fake punt on 4th and 11 from mid-field of a tie ballgame against Alabama with one minute left and the Tide playing punt safe is the dumbest coaching decision I've seen all year.
It's inexcusable. You don't have any opportunity to run the play because Alabama isn't playing to set up a return or block the punt. So to stare that alignment in the face and decide to snap the ball away? Yikes, man. Coach Smart went to the podium after the game and firmly said he's coaching to win the game.
I beg to differ, with a call like that.
STUD - The Houston Texans
The Texans didn't clinch any championships against the Browns this weekend, but they're certainly playing championship caliber football. Everything is complimentary! The offense has awoken the ground game. The defense is suffocating and generating turnovers.
This team is red-hot. Nine straight wins after starting 0-3? This team, health willing, is a legitimate contender in the AFC. They play tough defense and have enough fire power to trade punches with Kansas City. They have a 7-point loss to New England in the books already this season...but they also had Deshaun Watson fresh off an ACL tear and clearly wasn't himself.
It's been a fun ride, especially considering Coach Bill O'Brien has never had more than 9 wins in a single season as a coach. He's won 9 straight. And the Texans have the Colts (lost 6-0 to Jacksonville), the Jaguars (just broke a 7 game losing streak), the Jets (who are 3-9 and just choked away a big lead against the Texans) and the 5-6 Eagles left on the slate.
Division Championship and Divisional Round inbound?
DUD - Texas QB Sam Ehlinger
...you had them. Texas won the Red River Rivalry the first time around this season and they were poised to close the deal yet again. Texas had possession of a tied Big 12 Championship game, midway through the 4th quarter. At 27-27, Texas had outscored the Sooners in the second half and, although pinned inside their own 10-yard line, looked to push the ball.
The Sooners had other plans, with a corner blitz that Ehlinger somehow missed...ending with a sack in the end zone for a safety AND possession of the ball. Oklahoma, now up 29-27, would hold the ball for 11 plays and nearly 7 minutes of clock before Kyler Murray iced the game with a touchdown pass.
Ehlinger took some great strides as a college player (not as a prospect) this season. But missing a tipped off corner blitz and showing no awareness of the rusher is a cruel finish to a great game.
STUD - Clemson RB Travis Etienne
Yo. YO! This guy is unbelievable. Etienne is a player I've seen live twice in the last four weeks: in Boston for a win over Boston College and again on Saturday night in an ACC Championship Game victory over Pittsburgh. Etienne is an absolute unicorn and he's quickly becoming one of my favorite players to watch...regardless of position...in all of college football.
Given the state of this year's RB class, I'm eager to hit the "sim to end" button on my efforts and dig into this stacked 2020 RB class.
Etienne sits at the top, now that I've seen what he's all about.
DUD - The PAC-12 Conference
What's that smell? Oh, just the rotten display of football the PAC-12 showcased this weekend in their championship showcase between Utah and Washington, that's all. This 10-3 victory by Washington was offensive...in a bad way. As in it was terrible.
Watching these two teams trade barbs highlighted some nice defensive performances, most notably by Huskies rSoph CB Byron Murphy. But more than anything else? These offenses stunk out loud. And it wasn't just the Championship game that left you with a bad taste.
How about the announcement that AT&T is dropping the PAC-12 Network. Or the fact that Washington State's bid for a top-12 ranking came up short, shunning them from the spotlight of a New Year's Day bowl? Or this conference's 5 losing teams, which is tied for the most of the Power-5 Conferences (the Big Ten)...never mind the fact that the Big Ten has 2 more teams.
Commissioner Scott...time to put that $4.8M salary to good use and earn your keep as the highest paid commission in the NCAA.
Threads of the Week: Army
Well well well...what do we have here? Army has locked in their third straight victory over Navy about a week in advance after unleashing these magnificent kits for the world to see.
First and foremost: Thank you to those who made the sacrifices needed to help end the first Great War (and every service member like...ever). Getting these sick jerseys is icing on the cake...we should be thankful for much more than the uniforms, considering the gravity of what they're meant to commemorate.
But as a football website, I feel morally obligated to discuss just how amazing these are. And you know the first rule of Studs & Duds: You've got to look good to play good. Army will look good against Navy...so do the math.