Even an ugly win is just that -- a win

On what was largely a ho-hum Saturday, many of the country's top teams didn't dominate their games against what were supposed to be overmatched opponents.

No. 1 Alabama led FCS opponent Western Carolina 17-14 early in the second quarter of a 48-14 victory.

No. 3 Florida State needed a field goal with three seconds left to beat Boston College 20-17 in the rain at home.

No. 6 Ohio State trailed Indiana deep into the third quarter of a 42-27 win.

And No. 8 Ole Miss was blown out by Arkansas in an ugly 30-0 loss.

At this point, with only two weeks left in the regular season, does it really matter how good a team looks while winning? Isn't it all about just winning?

Defending national champion Florida State has made its living by winning ugly this season. The Seminoles' victory over Boston College was their sixth this season in which they trailed or were tied in the second half. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only Northern Illinois in 2013 won more such games (seven) among the 30 FBS teams that started 11-0 in the past 10 seasons.

So will FSU's latest closer-than-expected victory bolster its playoff résumé?

"Why wouldn't it?" FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We're undefeated. We're undefeated. We finish every game. Everybody else in the country has not finished at least one game. We've finished every one of them. Isn't that the object?"

It used to be. But now the object seems to be more about how you look in winning. The Seminoles dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the rankings over the past couple of weeks, and they haven't even been ranked No. 1 by the selection committee, despite being the only remaining unbeaten team from a Power 5 conference and having won a school-record 27 consecutive games.

"Well, you know, we were downgraded every time we blew someone out last year, so think of the irony of that," FSU quarterback Jameis Winston said. "If we win the game close, we're bad. When we blow someone out, we're bad. But the thing is we're a team. We're a family at Florida State. What everyone else thinks about us, that's none of our business."

Fortunately for the Seminoles, they weren't alone in their struggles Saturday. The Buckeyes, who looked like one of the country's hottest teams in winning consecutive road games at then-No. 8 Michigan State and then-No. 25 Minnesota the past two weeks, struggled to put away Indiana at home.

After falling behind 20-14 in the third quarter, the Buckeyes scored four straight touchdowns -- all by freshman Jalin Marshall -- to pull away from the Hoosiers. Ohio State clinched the Big Ten's East Division and plays rival Michigan at home next week.

"We're conference division champions, we've won a bunch of games [nine] in a row," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "We have some work to do. Sometimes in college football, things don't go exactly as scripted."

Ask Ole Miss and Notre Dame. Just over a month ago, the Rebels were 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country. But now they have lost three of their last four games, including their ugly loss at Arkansas, which had lost 17 SEC games in a row before upsetting LSU 17-0 last week.

"I'm certain our confidence is probably not the same as it was a month ago," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

The Fighting Irish started 6-0 and narrowly lost 31-27 at Florida State on Oct. 18. But Notre Dame lost its third straight game, 31-28 to No. 24 Louisville, on Saturday, and the Irish have dropped four of their past five.

At least Saturday's rather predictable outcomes provided us with a breather before next week's action, when the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) and Egg Bowl (Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss) will decide the SEC West. Missouri will host surging Arkansas on Friday needing a victory to win the SEC East. If the No. 20 Tigers lose, No. 10 Georgia will win the division and play in the SEC championship game.

Florida State faces rival Florida in its final regular-season test, and No. 16 Wisconsin will host Minnesota on Saturday with the Big Ten West title on the line. The winner will play Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

The Badgers nearly blew a 16-point lead in the second half at Iowa on Saturday, but they held on for a 26-24 victory to win their sixth game in a row.

"It feels good because everything is on the line next week," Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon said.

And it won't matter how the winners look next week, as long as they win the games.

Four teams in

1. Alabama: The No. 1 Crimson Tide got off to a slow start against FCS foe Western Carolina but scored 31 straight points to run away with a 48-14 victory. Will it be enough to stay ahead of Oregon in the College Football Playoff rankings? The Tide can punch their ticket to the SEC championship game by beating Auburn in the Iron Bowl next weekend.

2. Oregon: The Ducks probably could have named the score in their 44-10 victory over Colorado on Saturday. Oregon piled up 597 yards of offense and led by 27 points at halftime. Oregon has one more regular-season test against rival Oregon State in next week's Civil War in Corvallis, Oregon.

3. Florida State: The defending national champions survived another big scare in a 20-17 victory over Boston College at home. It was the Seminoles' sixth win this season in which they trailed or were tied in the second half, and it was the fifth time they took their final lead in the fourth quarter or in overtime.

4. Baylor: The Bears beat Oklahoma State 49-28 in the rain Saturday night to win their 15th consecutive game at home. Baylor stayed in a three-way tie with TCU and Kansas State for first place in the Big 12 with two games remaining. The Bears play Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, next week and then close the regular season at home against Kansas State on Dec. 6.

Next four in contention

1. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs bounced back from their first loss of the season by dismantling struggling Vanderbilt 51-0 on Saturday night. It was Mississippi State's second shutout of the season and its first against an SEC opponent since beating South Carolina 17-0 on Sept. 25, 1999.

2. TCU: The Horned Frogs were off before making a tricky road trip to surging Texas on Thanksgiving night. If TCU can get past the Longhorns and beat Iowa State at home on Dec. 6, it might be in prime position to break into the top four.

3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes looked pretty mediocre against Indiana on Saturday before scoring 28 straight points to beat the Hoosiers 42-27. The Buckeyes led 14-13 at halftime and trailed deep into the third quarter against the Hoosiers, who are winless in Big Ten play and 3-8 overall. It wasn't the kind of performance Ohio State wanted this late in the season.

4. UCLA: The Bruins moved a step closer to the top four by trouncing crosstown rival USC 38-20 on Saturday night. UCLA figures to at least jump No. 8 Ole Miss, which was upset by Arkansas 30-0 on Saturday. The Bruins close the regular season against Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Friday and can win the Pac-12 South with a victory.

Heisman Trophy candidates

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: Mariota padded his stats in the Ducks' rout of Colorado, completing 24 of 32 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns and running eight times for 73 yards with one score. He now has 42 touchdowns this season, breaking former USC quarterback Matt Barkley's Pac-12 single-season record of 41 set in 2011.

2. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: Gordon's FBS single-game rushing record fell Saturday, but he set another mark by becoming the fastest player to reach 2,000 yards in a season by doing it on his 241st carry. He finished with 200 yards in the Badgers' 26-24 win at Iowa, and his 2,109 yards through 11 games is tied with Ron Dayne for most in a season in Wisconsin and Big Ten history.

3. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Barrett completed 25 of 35 passes for 302 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions against the Hoosiers. He set Ohio State single-season records for total offense (3,507 yards) and passing touchdowns (33).

4. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU: The Horned Frogs had the weekend off before playing at Texas on Thanksgiving night. Boykin has passed for 3,021 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions this season while running for 548 yards with seven scores.

By the numbers

1. 427: Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine ran for 427 yards in a 44-7 rout of Kansas on Saturday, breaking Wisconsin senior Gordon's NCAA single-game record of 408 set a week ago. Perine became the first FBS player to run for more than 200 yards in both halves of a game.

2. 0: Combined points scored by Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in regulation Saturday. It was the first FBS game to head into overtime with a scoreless tie since Oct. 22, 2005. The Demon Deacons won 6-3 in double overtime.

3. 6: Colorado State tailback Dee Hart tied a school record with six touchdowns in the Rams' 58-20 victory over New Mexico. Hart ran 20 times for 230 yards with five touchdowns and caught two passes for 42 yards with one score.

4. 7: The number of SEC West teams that are bowl eligible after Arkansas upset No. 8 Ole Miss 30-0 on Saturday. It's the first time in history every team from the division will play in the postseason.

Best quotes

1. "If this is my last game at Autzen, it was truly special and something I'll keep close to my heart for the rest of my life." -- Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, after playing what is expected to be his final home game at Autzen Stadium

2. "Honestly, I didn't feel the butterflies. It was just kick whatever of my career, kick 100 and whatever. Yeah, it was to win the game, but you can't think of it like that because that's when things will start going through your head, like, 'Oh, this is a game winner. I have to make it.'" -- Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo

3. "I mean, we won two games, but everybody forgets, one was ranked 17 and the other was ranked 8. These are good teams we're beating. We're not just beating people." -- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema

4. "I'm not going to tell you that winning in Lincoln, Nebraska, doesn't rank up there. That's not an easy thing to do." -- Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, after the Gophers beat Nebraska 28-24, their first victory in Lincoln since 1960

Best plays

1. Minnesota's Briean Boddy-Calhoun stripped Nebraska wideout De'Mornay Pierson-El of the ball as he was falling into the end zone to save the No. 25 Gophers' 28-24 victory with about 1:19 to go.

2. East Carolina's Justin Hardy made his 350th catch in the Pirates' win over Tulane, breaking former Oklahoma star Ryan Broyles' career FBS receptions record.

3. Indiana's Tevin Coleman had a 90-yard touchdown run in the loss to Ohio State, which was the longest run by a Hoosier since 1912 and the longest allowed by the Buckeyes since 1960.

4. Virginia's Canaan Severin made a fabulous one-handed catch for a 23-yard touchdown against Miami.

Worst plays

1. A couple of Tennessee fans took a tumble while celebrating with a Volunteers player during Saturday night's game against Missouri.

2. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was in a hurry -- and not even an official was going to get in his way.

3. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya barely had time to set his feet before he was sacked by Virginia's Kwontie Moore. He ended up throwing the ball backward.

4. This fumbled lateral on a screen pass pretty much encapsulates the offensive implosion by Virginia Tech and Wake Forest on Saturday.

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