Ohio State and Michigan live up to the hype and deliver a high-pressure, down-to-the-wire matchup between two of the best teams in the bowl division.
Michigan’s 30-24 victory was the program’s third straight in the series, the first since 1995-97, and in bold and italicized text we already knew: The Big Ten and this rivalry belonged to the Wolverines.
The win sends Michigan to the Big Ten Championship Game and joins Iowa. A win there would put the Wolverines in worse than the second seed in the semifinals, depending on what happens in the SEC championship game.
The upset over the Buckeyes draws the attention of coach Jim Harbaugh, who served his three-game conference suspension as part of the program’s identity-theft scandal and will return to action against the Hawkeyes. A loss made it impossible to ignore an NCAA investigation into corruption and Harbaugh was suspended for half of Michigan’s regular-season schedule.
Instead, Saturday’s fall has been reserved for Ohio State coach Ryan Day and the Buckeyes, who spent months trying to match the best wits with the Wolverines, only to fall away in the second half.
A year ago, Ohio State lost to Michigan but still reached the College Football Playoff. Given the depth of the Power Five contenders in this year’s race, the Buckeyes’ chances of finishing in the top four this season are slim to none.
The scrutiny he faces after the loss will be a moment to evaluate other prospects, such as Texas A&M, though, as the program heads into Day at the Controls next season. Day or not, it will be another season of intense self-reflection.
The Wolverines and Buckeyes lead Saturday’s winners and losers:
Some luck, clutch kicking and some head-scratching play calls in the final minute overcame that. That makes next Friday’s Pac-12 championship game against Oregon a play-in game; The Huskies won 36-33 when the rivals met during the regular season. Despite another mediocre game from quarterback Michael Benix Jr., Washington completed 18 of 33 throws for just 6.2 yards. But he delivered a 65-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes that was capped by a 42-yard field goal as time expired. The Huskies have been living on borrowed time for months with a series of close and close wins.
With Alabama trailing 24-20, facing fourth-and-goal from the Auburn 31-yard line, Jalen Milroe took a shotgun snap, stood in the middle of a clean pocket with seven seconds left, then found wide receiver Isaiah. Bond steals a 27-24 Iron Bowl victory in the back left corner of the end zone and keeps the Crimson Tide’s playoff hopes alive entering the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. Milrow made another late Heisman statement with 366 yards of total offense, including a team-best 107 yards on the ground, and two touchdowns passing without an interception. The miraculous win sends the Tide into December with a non-conference loss to Texas, making this season one of the most impressive of coach Nick Saban’s career.
Iron Bowl Miracle: God can’t win that he’s an Alabama fan
Down 24-6 at halftime to Brigham Young, the Cowboys scored three touchdowns from Ollie Gordon to force overtime, and then the Cougars topped 40-34 in two extra frames to earn a spot against Texas in the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma State, relegated to being a contender after September losses to South Alabama and Iowa State, finished with seven wins in eight games to claim its second conference crown of the Mike Gundy era. The comeback win is heartbreaking for rival Oklahoma, who lost to the Cowboys earlier this season and needed a BYU win to get back into a matchup with the Longhorns. Gordon’s 166 rushing yards and five touchdowns would be enough to take Gordon to Manhattan as a Heisman finalist.
State of Florida
It’s not a perfect day: Louisville’s loss to Kentucky doesn’t bode well for Florida State, which wants the Cardinals to come within one loss of the ACC Championship Game and Alabama to beat Auburn to stay alive in the playoffs. The Seminoles are looking over their shoulders when the team releases its final rankings next Sunday. Ultimately, all they can and should do is focus on taking care of business and finishing the regular season undefeated, hoping that no undefeated Power Five team misses the top four. So far so good. Backup quarterback Tate Roedmaker had 134 passing yards in his first start in place of Jordan Travis, and the Seminoles won 24-15 at Florida and went into a perfect game with Louisville 12-0. Defensively, FSU held the Gators to just 232 yards and did a good job containing young quarterback Max Brown, who had just 86 yards on 16 attempts with an interception.
State of Michigan
The Spartans ended the regular season with a 42-0 loss to Penn State on Friday, marking one of the most miserable years in program history. A day later, some good news: Michigan State officially hired former Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith, a brilliant rebuilder who turned the Beavers into one of the Pac-12’s best teams and a New Year’s Six contender. This experience will come in handy when he takes over a team and program that needs to be overhauled from the bottom up.
Several teams had bowl eligibility under the wire. In this, Central Florida beat Houston 27-13. Virginia Tech is back in the postseason for the first time under coach Brent Pry after a 55-17 Commonwealth Cup victory over Virginia. South Florida, Rice, Marshall, Syracuse, Old Dominion, Louisiana-Lafayette and Northern Illinois earned their sixth straight win Saturday.
Dave’s tenure was in danger of being swallowed up by his team’s losses against Michigan, just as the John Cooper era at Ohio State came close to two national championships in 1996 and 1998, but was remembered for his poor record against. Wolverines. Day is now 56-7 overall with the Buckeyes, but three of those losses have come in this contest, and all but one have come against teams in the top five of the playoff rankings. So these games against Michigan may be representative of a bigger problem for the program: Ohio State has feasted on lesser opponents, but begins with this bitter rivalry against other members of college football’s upper crust.
A 38-31 loss to Kentucky didn’t dramatically alter Louisville’s playoff hopes — the Cardinals certainly weren’t going to make it anyway, so whatever. That’s not to say it doesn’t hurt. The Cardinals outgained the Wildcats by more than 100 yards, but turned the ball over three times, allowed a special-teams touchdown and couldn’t stop Ray Davis. The bottom line doesn’t change much: Louisville can lock up a New Year’s Six bid by beating Florida State in the ACC Championship Game or becoming the next best team in the conference if the Seminoles finish in the top four. Unfortunately, the loss soured a remarkable debut regular season for coach Jeff Brohm.
UNC won six in a row to open the year, but lost four of six in an ugly 39-20 loss at rival North Carolina State to falter in the postseason. The Wolfpack and coach Dave Doran deserve a lot of credit for the nine-win season, especially at quarterback and no one saw the team’s problems on offense. But it’s about the Tar Heels and the feeling that it’s a wasted season: wasted on not making the most of a hot start, a ripe-for-the-pick ACC and what will be the final season of quarterback Drake Maye, who could be the top pick in next year’s NFL draft. NC State did a nice job in May, limiting the potential All-America selection to 22 on 38 attempts for 254 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Maye had 106 yards and a score on the ground.
Florida is a disorganized, inconsistent mess that can’t even find a way to beat the Travis-less Seminoles at home when they need a win to become bowl eligible. The loss dropped the Gators to 5-7 and Billy Napier became the program’s first coach since Raymond Wolf in 1946-47 to suffer back-to-back losing seasons. Napier joins Wolff and Josh Cody (1936-37) as coaches who lost in each of their first two seasons. Oh yeah, in case it wasn’t clear: Napier is turning out to be a historically disastrous hire for Florida.
Two months ago, Colorado was hailed as the biggest story in college football after opening the Deion Sanders era with wins over TCU, Nebraska and Colorado State. The Buffaloes would win just once from there, a 23-17 loss to Utah by quarterback Shadeure Sanders in the regular season. Playing fourth-string quarterback Luke Bottari, the Utes would attempt just 10 passes against 53 carries for 268 yards.
The five-win club
Many teams went into the weekend needing a win to get into bowl play, but came up short. BYU and Washington State missed the upsets. So is Navy, which trailed SMU 52-7 at halftime in a blowout loss. Minnesota couldn’t bounce back after losing to Wisconsin for the first time in three years. Illinois lost to Northwestern in a shootout 45-43. South Carolina lost to Clemson 16-7. Earlier this week, Mississippi State dropped the Egg Bowl to Mississippi, Central Michigan lost to Toledo, TCU was obliterated by Oklahoma, and worst of all, Nebraska lost 13-10 to Iowa to end Matt Rule’s first season.
Well, at least it’s over. Mercifully, we won’t have to revisit cities like Baylor, Cincinnati, Nevada, Indiana, Pittsburgh, and Houston. The Bears couldn’t get a late defensive stop and lost to West Virginia 34-31, raising the odds of the program moving on from Dave Aranda. Cincinnati had won more than 50 games under Luke Fickell the previous five years, but was 3-9 under Scott Satterfield in a 49-16 loss to Kansas. Pittsburgh finished 3-9, and the less said about the Panthers, the better.
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