Andy Normile reacts to a huge week 12 of college football.
Wow, what an incredible weekend.
Week 12, was supposed to be a straightforward week, not many special games, and a gentle warm-up before the big challenges of Thanksgiving rivalry week.
Except nobody read the script, chaos ensued and we had the most dramatic and crazy day of this season. Even better, I’m actually in the USA, thanks to network TV and my family for indulging me, I was able to watch 18 hours of college football, including at one point 6 games simultaneously.
The Fab Four Still Exist (Just)
At 3.10 pm EST both No.3 Michigan and No.4 TCU were losing and in great danger of having their perfect seasons ended.
There was suddenly playoff hope for Tennessee, USC, Clemson, UNC, and hey even Alabama.
There are many good teams that win multiple games, but then full short, only great teams win games when the chips are down and they have to come back from injury and hardship. Of course, it helps, when the opposition sees the victory line, ignores their successful game plan and goes ultra-conservative.
TCU were without their leading receiver Quentin Johnston and were simply 1st down pass from Baylor QB Blake Shapen away from defeat. But their luck held out, and they kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. This was despite bizarrely having to rush their field goal team onto the field as the game clock ran down, and were within 3 seconds of not getting the playoff.
Similarly, Michigan lost star RB Blake Corum and had to watch as Illinois RB Chase Brown did to them, exactly what Corum has been doing to other teams this season. Yet despite blowing a couple of TD-winning plays, and with the help of a disputed pass interference call (no drama would be complete without one of them), they were also able to win with a last-second field goal.
So surely No.1 Georgia and No.2 Ohio State would stick to script with easy wins over average teams – but no not a bit of it.
Georgia struggled on offence, scoring only 16 points, and relied on the defence and missed opportunities by Kentucky in preserving their unbeaten record.
Ohio State trailed Maryland at halftime and had to withstand a spirited fight from the Terrapins, before winning out.
USC put themselves in prime contention for the playoffs by beating their cross-town rival UCLA in a spectacular and riveting game. The Trojans came back from an early 14-point deficit, using an explosive offence, QB Caleb Williams threw for 470 yards, finding open receivers at will. The opportunistic defence proved the old adage that turnovers win matches, recording 4, in a category in which they lead the nation.
Oregon played some defence, and in a sloppy encounter, held on to beat Utah, a win over Oregon State next week, will see the Ducks play the Trojans for the conference title.
So, where does this leave us?
Clear if the Fab Four win out, they will be in the playoffs, except Michigan and Ohio State still have to meet. Based on their narrow wins this week, and lack of wins over ranked opposition means the loser of that game isn’t guaranteed to be the best one-loss team.
That honour was looking like it belonged to Tennessee, except that somehow Tennesse managed to lose to S Carolina, largely because their defence didn’t show up and gave up a staggering 63, which effectively eliminates them from the playoffs. Potential divisional champs Clemson and USC now have a legitimate claim. USC still has to play a ranked and improving Notre Dame, and then presumably a ranked Oregon in the conference title game. If they win both those, the strength of schedule should make them favourites to claim the coveted 4th spot.
Other scenarios, could see LSU win the SEC title game, resulting in both the Tigers and one loss Georgia claiming playoff places. If TCU were to be defeated then Clemson has a great chance to sneak in.
BIG 10 West
Talking of chaos, the Big 10 West continues to deliver.
With Illinois’ loss, the divisional title is now remarkably open for Iowa, who in true Iowa fashion, beat Minnesota while only scoring 13 points. A win over Nebraska next week means they will be playing in the title game despite being unranked, and 12 other teams in the Big 10 having scored more points.
North Carolina, who has specialised in winning close games, lost by 4 points to Georgia Tech, which by implication hurts Clemson’s resume (assuming they beat the Tar Heels in the ACC title game)
Vanderbilt beat Florida, to win their 2nd consecutive SEC, they wish the season could start from week 11.
Oklahoma State continued their unenviable talent of losing to their in-State rival Oklahoma, despite this being one of the worst Sooner teams in recent memory.
And Navy beat UCF, sinking their New Year’s Bowl hopes (apologies for the pun, but 18 hours of football has taken its toll).
So, this was supposed to be a simple week, just imagine what is going to happen next week in the rivalry games, when the real chaos happens.
Thanks to Andy for producing week 12’s College Football Review. You can see more of his work here in the future!
You can also check out our full list of 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports here