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College Football Roundup: Week 12 Upsets, Big Wins Shake Up The Postseason

Week 12 was wild as several teams saw their championship hopes go up in flames, others bolstered their postseason resumes, and there were some huge upsets

I never have been – nor will I ever go – bungee-jumping. While I know it’s thrilling and am sure it would be fun, the risk isn’t worth the return. Hurtling faster and faster toward the ground, heart in your throat, wondering if the cord is going to hold…it’s starting to sound like the Week 12 experience for many top-ranked teams.

Stretched to their limit this weekend, some contenders displayed their mettle, executed down the stretch, and eagerly await the next thrill. However, others saw the cord of their 2022 season snap in a chorus of turnovers, penalties, and missed tackles as Playoff or New Years Six dreams faded into oblivion.

Now, onto the wild Week 12 action, starting first with a rivalry in a city where the stars shine brightest, perhaps the game of the year.

USC 48, UCLA 45

USC outlasted rival UCLA under the lights in the Rose Bowl Saturday night following the same formula that had vaulted the Trojans into the top-10 – a brilliant performance from QB Caleb Williams, heroics from a deep and talented receiving corps, and timely turnovers forced by a defense that otherwise couldn’t stop the Bruins.

USC went scoreless on its first 3 possessions, turning the ball over on downs, missing a field goal, and throwing an interception, as UCLA raced out to a 14-0 advantage. However, the Trojans would score on 8 of their next 9 possessions behind 503 total yards and 3 touchdowns from Williams, 120 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns from Austin Jones, and 11 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown from Jordan Addison.

Still, though, a resilient UCLA team led by QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson went blow-for-blow with the favored Trojans and had the ball with a chance to win at the end of the game. However, Robinson – who accounted for 6 touchdowns and 390 total yards while playing with an injured throwing hand – was intercepted for the third time with 1:26 remaining, giving the Trojans the victory.

With the win, USC moves to 10-1 and clinches a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game with archrival Notre Dame coming to the Coliseum next weekend. Beat the Irish and win the conference title and it will be hard to keep USC out of the College Football Playoff. The Trojans need to regroup on the defensive side of the ball though, as an absurd +20 turnover margin is masking a defense surrendering over 6 yards per play.

WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS

Though Week 12 featured 2 two ranked-versus-ranked matchups and figured to be the calm before the Rivalry Weekend storm, wow was this week wild. With so much going on, here is a recap of some of the biggest games from the weekend that was:

~ #1 Georgia scored only a single offensive touchdown and couldn’t breathe easily until a missed Kentucky field goal with 4:17 remaining in 16-6 win in Lexington. Stetson Bennett threw for just 116 yards, but RB Kenny McIntosh had a career day with 143 yards rushing and a touchdown.

~ #2 Ohio State trailed 13-10 at halftime and despite outscoring Maryland 17-0 in the third quarter, saw the Terrapins with the ball in the final minute and a chance to win the game. However, Steele Chambers returned a fumble for a touchdown on the final meaningful play of the game to give the Buckeyes a 42-30 win. The Buckeyes leaned on freshman RB Dallan Hayden, who put up 146 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27 carries.

~ #3 Michigan deserved to lose to Illinois, but K Jake Moody made 4 second half field goals, including the game-winner with 9 seconds remaining. The Wolverines were the beneficiary of a number of questionable calls but remain undefeated heading into The Game at Ohio State next weekend. Michigan is hoping that RB Blake Corum will be full-go because the Michigan offense was inconsistent after he left the game late in the second quarter with a knee injury (he did return for 1 carry in the second half).

~ #4 TCU trailed 28-20 at Baylor when they got the ball with 6:38 remaining, but QB Max Duggan led an 11-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 28-26. After the Horned Frog defense forced a Bear three-and-out, Duggan and the offense maneuvered into field goal territory for Griffin Kell’s game-winning 40-yarder as time expired. TCU hosts Iowa State next weekend before the Big 12 Championship Game – win both, and the Frogs are in the CFP.

~ #5 Tennessee rolled into Columbia to face a South Carolina team that was coming off a 38-6 loss to Florida the week before (yes, the same Florida who just lost to Vanderbilt). The Volunteers must have left their defense in Knoxville, because South Carolina rolled up 63 points, 606 yards of offense, and 35 first downs. Gamecock QB Spencer Rattler played the game of his life, throwing for 438 yards and 6 touchdowns. To add insult to injury, Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker limped off the field in the fourth quarter with a knee injury.

~ #12 Oregon avenged last season’s blowout losses to #10 Utah with a gritty 20-17 win in Eugene that few east of the Rockies stayed up to watch. Oregon led 17-3 at halftime but the Utes tied the game up at 17-17 heading into the fourth quarter before a Camden Lewis field goal with 11:17 remaining proved to be the game winner. Utah will rue the missed opportunities in this game – QB Cameron Rising threw 3 interceptions, the Utes missed a 38-yard field goal, and they turned the ball over on downs three times – twice inside the Oregon 30-yard-line.

~ #13 North Carolina raced out to a 17-0 lead against lowly Georgia Tech – at home – but were shut out the rest of the way to lose a 21-17 stunner. The Yellow Jackets held Drake Maye to just 202 yards passing and 0 touchdowns, though a wide-open Josh Downs dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown with 4:10 remaining. North Carolina will still represent the ACC Coastal in the ACC Championship Game but gone is the prospect of a dark-horse CFP berth.

~ #14 Ole Miss fell victim to the Alabama hangover. One week after the Rebels let the Crimson Tide escape with a 30-24 victory, they fell behind 42-6 at Arkansas and lost 42-27 despite racking up 703 (!) yards of offense. One has to wonder what could have been for Arkansas if not for all the injuries. With both KJ Jefferson and Raheim Sanders in the backfield, the Hogs rolled up 335 rushing yards and looked like a completely different team than the one who had lost to Liberty and LSU the past 2 games.

~ My upset pick this week made it safe to shore as Navy took down #20 UCF in Orlando. The Midshipmen built on their second-half performance against Notre Dame. As I expected, Navy was able to shut down the UCF rushing attack, holding the Knights to just 84 yards, and even Gus Malzahn’s decision to bench QB John Rhys Plumlee for Mikey Keene couldn’t save them. UCF could still win the American but would no longer be a sure bet for the Group of Five bid to the Cotton Bowl.

McDONOUGH’S MUSINGS

~ It’s fun to think about what the 12-team playoff this season would look like. We would have some really compelling matchups, whereas I feel the 4-team playoff is going to end up being anticlimactic. If the season ended today and we had a 12-team playoff, these are the matchups we could have:

  • #1 Georgia – bye
  • #2 Ohio State – bye
  • #3 Michigan – bye
  • #4 TCU – bye
  • #12 Tulane (highest ranked Group of Five) at #5 USC
  • #11 Penn State at #6 LSU
  • #10 Oregon at #7 Clemson
  • #9 Tennessee at #8 Alabama

~ And wow, what a second round we could have:

  • #8 Alabama vs. #1 Georgia
  • #7 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State
  • #6 LSU vs. #3 Michigan
  • #5 USC vs. #4 TCU

~ With the 12-team playoff, we’d have an even more massive Thanksgiving weekend of football, as teams in the #10-15 range jockey for spots in the top 12 (such as Notre Dame, Washington, Utah, Kansas State, Florida State). Instead, we are left with now just 6-7 teams alive for the CFP.

~ That being said, there’s still plenty on the line this weekend for conference titles:

  • ACC
    • North Carolina (Coastal) and Clemson (Atlantic) will meet for the ACC Championship in Charlotte.
  • American
    • Assuming UCF beats South Florida, the Knights will meet the winner this weekend’s Cincinnati vs. Tulane matchup. The Bearcats opened as a 3-point favorite at home against the Green Wave.
    • UCF would host the American Championship against Tulane or travel to Cincinnati for a matchup against the Bearcats.
  • Big Ten
    • The winner of Ohio State and Michigan will win the Big Ten East.
    • If Iowa beats Nebraska on Friday, the Hawkeyes will improbably win the Big Ten West.
    • If Iowa loses to Nebraska, Purdue will win the West with a victory over Indiana.
    • Should Purdue also lose, Illinois wins the West with a victory over Northwestern.
    • If all 3 teams lose, Iowa still wins the West.
  • Big 12
    • TCU has clinched a berth in the Big 12 Championship in Arlington.
    • The Horned Frogs will meet Kansas State if the Wildcats hold serve against Kansas or Texas loses to Baylor.
    • If Kansas State loses, Texas will meet TCU with a victory over Baylor.
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  • SEC
    • Georgia (East) will meet LSU (West) for the SEC Championship in Atlanta.
  • Pac-12
    • USC clinched a berth in the Pac-12 Championship in Las Vegas with the victory over UCLA.
    • Oregon will meet the Trojans with a victory at Oregon State.
    • If Oregon loses, Washington can make the title game with a victory at Washington State and a Cal victory over UCLA or Colorado win over Utah.
    • Utah could still make the Pac-12 title with a win over Colorado coupled with Oregon and Washington losses and a UCLA victory over Cal.

STOCK UP

~ FOX – Network executives have to be ecstatic with the outcomes of Saturday’s games. Fox has made a significant investment in college football in the past five years and in my mind has surpassed ESPN. I prefer Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff to ESPN’s College Gameday and find the Fox visual broadcast and broadcast teams (minus Tim Brando) superior to ESPN’s. Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt are the best in the business right now. With Ohio State, Michigan, and USC surviving this weekend, Fox gets the best possible Ohio State-Michigan matchup it could have for next weekend. Additionally, if USC beats Notre Dame, the Pac-12 Championship Game will have its highest stakes in years.

~ The Top 4 – It wasn’t pretty or easy, but Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, and TCU all did what they needed to do – win. With #5 Tennessee’s loss and the fact #6 LSU already has 2 losses (and still a game against Georgia), there’s some breathing room for the top 4. If USC loses to either Notre Dame or in the Pac-12 Championship, the Ohio State-Michigan loser or a one-loss TCU still has a good argument for a CFP berth.

~ LSU – In the midst of chaos, there’s something to be said for a solid, drama-free win. Jayden Daniels returned to form with 297 passing yards, 111 rushing yards, and 2 touchdowns to key a 41-10 victory over UAB. LSU’s task is straightforward – beat Texas A&M, beat Georgia, and then let the chips fall where they may.

~ Clemson – The Tigers were left for dead after getting dominated by Notre Dame, but Dabo Swinney’s experienced team regrouped with back-to-back impressive victories over Louisville and Miami. This weekend, the Tigers held Miami to just 98 total yards. Clemson is sitting with just that single loss and will be huge Irish fans next weekend against USC. This team’s playoff chances aren’t quite done yet.

~ Notre Dame – The Fighting Irish cruised to a 44-0 victory in snowy South Bend against an overmatched Boston College team, and now head to the Coliseum with a chance to deny archrival USC a shot at the CFP. Marcus Freeman his staff deserve credit for steadying the season and taking a team that started 0-2 and was sitting at 3-3 after a puzzling loss to Stanford to this point. With wins over USC and in the bowl game, Notre Dame can get to double digit wins – including 2 over top-5 teams – and with the success on the recruiting trail, the future is bright.

~ USC – Everything is in front of the Trojans. Beat Notre Dame and win the Pac-12 Championship, and USC deserves a bid to the CFP. No team in the country has a more challenging closing stretch than USC, but step 1 is now done with Saturday’s 48-45 triumph over UCLA. Caleb Williams also sealed an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony with his incredible performance.

STOCK DOWN

~ SEC Scheduling Joel Klatt said it best on the USC/UCLA telecast – “don’t you think other teams would like to be playing Austin Peay this weekend?” (Looking at you, Alabama). Many SEC teams chose to take their second bye week this weekend by playing FCS/Group of Five opponents. Here’s who we’re calling out this weekend:

  • Alabama – defeated Austin Peay 34-0
  • Mississippi State – defeated East Tennessee State 56-7
  • Texas A&M – defeated UMass 20-3 (hey, at least Jimbo Fisher got a win)
  • Auburn – defeated Western Kentucky 41-17
  • Missouri – defeated New Mexico State 45-14
  • LSU – defeated UAB 41-10

~ Tennessee – The Volunteers surrendered the most points they have ever allowed in an SEC game and lost Hendon Hooker to injury in a forgettable night in Columbia. Tennessee will likely fall behind Alabama in the next CFP rankings, meaning that in addition to being eliminated from CFP contention, the Volunteers are probably out of the New Years Six, given they will be behind Georgia, LSU, and Alabama.

~ North Carolina – If I had told you Georgia Tech would only score 21 points, how much would you have thought North Carolina would win by? The Tar Heels picked the absolute worst time to lay an egg offensively and now will need to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship Game to make a New Years Six bowl game.

~ The American – The winner of next weekend’s matchup between Cincinnati and Tulane will face UCF in the conference title game, assuming the Knights beat 1-10 South Florida. However, if UCF rebounds to win the conference, there’s no guarantee that they will be the highest ranked Group of Five team after losing this weekend to Navy. Coastal Carolina (9-1) and UTSA (9-2) are both ranked ahead of the Knights in the AP and Coaches polls released Sunday (though it is the CFP rankings that count).

~ Florida – It’s hard to believe that the same team that beat Utah to open the season just lost to Vanderbilt. It’s been an up-and-down season in Billy Napier’s first year at the helm, and next weekend’s road trip to Tallahassee will determine the tenor of the offseason. A 7-5 year having won 3 of the last 4 sounds a lot better than 6-6 with a 2-game losing streak.

~ Utah – This is a good, solid football team, but the fact is the Utes underachieved given the preseason expectations. Utah will likely finish 9-3 (only Colorado remains), but losses to Florida, UCLA, and Oregon will (likely) keep this team from playing for a Pac-12 title. What has to hurt the most is that in all 3 losses, the Utes were not the more physical team.

BEST GAMES OF WEEK 13

Note – AP rankings used as they reflect this weekend’s results

  • Mississippi State at #20 Ole Miss, 7 PM, ESPN (Thursday)
  • #19 Tulane at #21 Cincinnati, 12 PM, TV TBA (Friday)
  • Utah State at Boise State, 12 PM, CBS (Friday)
  • NC State at #18 North Carolina, 3:30 PM, ABC (Friday)
  • Nebraska at Iowa, 4 PM, BTN (Friday)
  • Florida at #16 Florida State, 7:30 PM, ABC (Friday)
  • #10 Oregon at #22 Oregon State, TBD, TBD
  • #12 Washington at Washington State, TBD, TBD
  • #3 Michigan at #2 Ohio State, 12 PM, FOX
  • South Carolina at #7 Clemson, 12 PM, ABC
  • Auburn at #8 Alabama, 3:30 PM, CBS
  • Purdue at Indiana, 3:30 PM, BTN
  • Iowa State at #4 TCU, 4 PM, FOX
  • Michigan State at #11 Penn State, 4 PM, FS1
  • #13 Notre Dame at #5 USC, 7:30 PM, ABC
  • Kansas at #15 Kansas State, 8 PM, FOX

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