BY PAUL MYERBERG
USA TODAY SPORTS
There's no book on the coaching decision in this setting: trailing 41-40 on the road with 16 seconds left, having just scored a touchdown and set up at your opponent’s 2-yard line with a crucial choice looming — to go for the extra point and the tie or to put your offense back onto the field to attempt the potential go-ahead 2-point conversion.
Needless to say, the decision in most cases would be to kick, tie the game and head overtime.
That West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen opted for the 2-point try was the difference in a 42-41 win at Texas that will vault the Mountaineers in the College Football Playoff rankings while setting up the potential for a winner-take-all matchup in the Big 12 with Oklahoma to end the regular season.
The win was also a reminder: WVU quarterback Will Grier is very much a factor in the Heisman Trophy race. He threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns, none prettier than his lofting, over-the-shoulder toss into the end zone for the game’s final score.
The Mountaineers, 7-1, were ranked 13th in the debut playoff rankings, last among one-loss teams from the Power Five conferences. Look for WVU to threaten for this week’s top 10, moving ahead of No. 12 Central Florida, No. 11 Florida and No. 9 Kentucky, if not No. 10 Ohio State.
This makes West Virginia’s one of the day’s biggest winners. But the loser will eventually be the Big 12 Conference. The league has added a title game and, this season, rejiggered its schedule to have more marquee games in November.
It’s a good idea in theory, but it’s led to this scenario: Oklahoma and WVU meeting in the season finale and again one week later to decide the Big 12 title, meaning one of the two must be the other twice in seven days to conceivably reach the playoff.
Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers:
Teamed with Ohio State’s narrow win against Nebraska, Saturday’s 42-7 destruction of Penn State makes the following official: Michigan is the front-runner in the Big Ten Conference.
Consider how the Wolverines’ owned the Nittany Lions: PSU accounted for just 186 yards of total offense while Michigan ran for 259 yards on 5.2 yards per carry. This team is a real contender.
Even if what has been perceived as an uneven season, Georgia are repeat winners of the SEC East Division and at the very least play for a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.
And at best, Saturday’s 34-17 win against upstart Kentucky will propel the Bulldogs through a perfect rest of November and into the SEC title game needing just one more win to return to the playoff.
Is this what uneven looks like?
COACH JEFF BROHM
Purdue's second-year coach did it again, with this week's 38-36 win against No. 18 Iowa joining last month's knockout of Ohio State to leave the Boilermakers one win short of bowl eligibility with three games left to play.
We're beginning to see why Brohm’s name is destined to be tied to nearly every major job opening this coming winter, notably at his alma mater, Louisville.
The Miners' 34-26 win at Rice was the program’s first victory in nearly two years — ending a 20-game losing streak that begin with the first game of the 2017 season. The longest active losing stretch in the FBS now belongs to Rutgers, which lost its eighth in a row in falling 31-17 to Wisconsin.
Every win from this point forward is gravy for Dan Mullen, who inherited a four-win team and already has the Gators at six wins and in bowl play. That doesn’t mean it's a good look to be down 21-3 and 35-10 before losing 38-17 to a Missouri team previously winless in SEC play.
Nebraska can point to this 36-31 loss as another measurement of the progress made in Scott Frost’s first season.
The Cornhuskers' growth in the past month has been obvious. Ohio State can point to the win, meanwhile, and not see answers to any of the questions that have plagued the Buckeyes for much of the season. In other words, it’s nice to be back in the win column — but this team still has questions to answer.
Georgia Tech's 38-28 win dropped North Carolina to 1-7, the worst record of any team in the Power Five, and makes the Tar Heels just 4-16 overall since the start of last season.
What’s most striking about the rapid slide has been where the program stood heading out of 2016: UNC was 19-8 in the previous two seasons, including a top-15 finish in 2015.
What’s happening in Bobby Petrino’s fifth season is an evolving series of embarrassments, the latest a 77-16 drubbing to Clemson that made Louisville look like an opponent from one of college football’s lower levels of competition.
That this season is unfolding as Brohm finds continued success at Purdue has ignited frantic debate regarding Petrino’s future, creating the sort of spicy scenario that could fracture an already fragile fan base.
Maintaining the longest bowl streak in FBS history has gone from improbable to outright unlikely for the Seminoles, now sitting at 4-5 after a 47-28 loss at North Carolina State.
That’s because of what comes next: FSU takes on Notre Dame, Boston College and Florida to end the regular season, needing to win two of three to get to bowl eligibility. That seems like an unsafe bet, though the Seminoles do get the Eagles and rival Gators at home.