Another fantastic regular season of college football is in the books.
Now the drama really heats up as championship Saturday looms.
Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers of last week’s action.
The Badgers haven’t garnered much respect this year due to a subpar schedule, but undefeated is undefeated, and the Badgers were the only Power 5 team to make it through the regular season unscathed. Wisconsin topped off their perfect regular season with a 31-0 victory over Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s axe. The Badgers will assuredly break into the selection committee’s top four for the first time this season but will have to defeat Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game to stay among the final four.
The Bruins capped a disappointing season with a rather uneventful 30-27 victory over Cal to become bowl-eligible, a stark contrast to the wild 34-point comeback win in the opener against Texas A&M. However, the Bruins are winners for claiming the most coveted prize in the coaching carousel, Chip Kelly. UCLA wrestled Kelly away from Florida, who seemingly had him sewn up. Despite flaming out in the NFL, Kelly’s college résumé is impeccable. As the head coach of the Oregon Ducks, Kelly won 46 games in four years and played for a national championship. With more talent at his disposal, expectations for Kelly are sky high in Westwood.
Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn came into the season on the hot seat but ended the season on a hot streak. The fact Malzahn’s job was even in jeopardy shows just how cutthroat the SEC can be; Malzahn won a national championship as Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2010 and led the Tigers to the title game in his first year as head coach in 2013. A few modest seasons had Auburn fans growing impatient, but a convincing 26-14 win over hated Alabama in the Iron Bowl has restored faith in the regime. With the Crimson Tide out of their way, Auburn now has their sights higher. If the Tigers can beat Georgia again in the SEC championship game, they will secure a spot in the playoffs.
We’re going to the @SEC Championship.” #WarEagle https://t.co/zJojKHvoXa
Things are not going according to plan in Ann Arbor. Head coach Jim Harbaugh came to his alma mater billed as the savior, and with good reason. Harbaugh won big at each of his three stops: University of San Diego, Stanford, and the San Francisco 49ers. The Harbaugh regime got off to an auspicious start with back-to-back 10-win seasons, but the team has also been plagued with poor performances in rivalry games; Harbaugh is 1-5 against Michigan State and Ohio State. The latest big-game loss came in an embarrassing defeat against the Buckeyes in The Big House. The Wolverines jumped out to a 14-0 lead but were outscored 31-6 the rest of the way. The loss ensures Michigan will not secure a double-digit win season. If Harbaugh doesn’t find answers next season, he and his alma mater could be on course for an awkward uncoupling.
The Gators bizarrely fired head coach Jim McElwain mid-season in part due to unsubstantiated claims the coach made about receiving death threats. Interim head coach Randy Shannon fared no better as the Gators fizzled down the stretch, finishing 4-7. The final blow came at the hands of the hated Florida State Seminoles at home in a harrowing 38-22 loss. To make matters worse, the Gators thought they’d locked up Chip Kelly to replace McElwain, but Kelly chose the allure of Westwood over Gainesville. The Gators were rebuffed by their second choice, UCF head coach Scott Frost, and settled for Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen. While Mullen may not have been their first choice, he’s no consolation prize; Mullen oversaw the offense under Urban Meyer’s national championship teams.
The Volunteers have officially hit rock bottom. The team relieved embattled coach Butch Jones of his duties, and things have only gotten worse from there. Tennessee fans believed they were hiring former coach and current Monday Night Football broadcaster Jon Gruden, the white whale of coaching searches. Gruden rebuffed the Volunteers’ advances, as he always does, and left the program scrambling. Tennessee turned to Ohio State defensive coordinator and former head coach Greg Schiano, but an unprecedented amount of fan backlash ended the Schiano regime before he could even be introduced. The Volunteers now have possibly the most radioactive coaching vacancy in sports. And if that weren’t enough bad news, the Volunteers got blown out at home in their season finale 42-24 by Vanderbilt. The humiliating defeat gave the Volunteers their first 8-loss season ever, and their first winless conference season since joining the SEC in 1933.
But there’s always a silver lining:
Single-season record ✔️ Career record ✔️ Congrats @TrevorDaniel93 ✊