Here’s what makes college football the best game in the world: Just when you think you’ve got the rest of the season figured out, we get yet another crazy Saturday.
Four of the top nine teams (Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, Oregon) in the College Football Playoff rankings lost on Saturday. It was crazy.
But it seems pretty obvious that that the top four teams in Tuesday night’s new CFP rankings will be:
And if Saturday’s conference championship games involving these teams go chalk, that top four, as the referee says “will stand.”
But the biggest question going into Tuesday is “Who’s No. 5?”
No. 5 is important because that would be the team that has the best chance to move into the Top Four if someone stumbles on Championship Saturday. The candidates for No. 5 would be:
Ohio State (11-1) Only loss to No. 2 Michigan.
Alabama (10-2). Two losses to LSU and Tennessee at the buzzer.
Tennessee (10-2). Beat LSU and Alabama.
Tune in Tuesday night (ESPN, 7 p.m.) Where those three teams are positioned will be critical.
And now, here are Five Things We Learned on the 13th Saturday of the 2022 college football season:
1—LSU is out: No. 5 LSU had a chance to make history if it could have found a way to beat 4-7 Texas A&M in College Station. Instead, the Aggies rose up and played their best game of the year, winning 38-23.
Had LSU won and then beaten Georgia in the SEC championship game, the Tigers would have become the first two-loss team to make the CFP. LSU (9-3) can still win the SEC championship, but will not get in the final four with three losses.
Still, it has been a very good first season at LSU for Coach Brian Kelly.
“This is not a step back,” said Kelly after the game. “This was a bump in the road and they are going to learn from it.
2—Win or lose vs. LSU, Georgia is in playoffs but the stake are still huge:
Georgia beat Georgia Tech 37-14 to post its second consecutive 12-0 regular season. That’s a first in school history.
Aside from the SEC championship, which Georgia last won in 2017, the No. 1 Bulldogs playing to become the No. 1 seed in the CFP The top seed, and the top seed only, gets to choose its site for the semifinals on Dec. 31. The two choices are Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Obviously Georgia would choose Atlanta, which is only an hour away from its campus.
If Georgia loses to LSU and Michigan becomes the No. 1 seed I it is expected that the Wolverines would choose Atlanta. Then Georgia would be in Glendale unless the Bulldogs dropped all the way to the No. 4 seed.
3—Caleb Williams of USC is probably going to win the Heisman Trophy, but let me make the case that Bryce Young,, who won it last season, should win it again.
Williams caught a break in his Heisman pursuit with two huge nationally-televised games with UCLA and Notre Dame the past two weeks. Williams completed 18 of 22 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame. He also ran for three touchdowns. It was a true Heisman moment. He’ll get to play in another nationally-televised game that will be in prime time on the East Coast when the Trojans play Utah in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night.
But Young, a native of Pasadena and the 2021 Heisman winner, has just been brilliant and at times literally carried this team. Saturday against Auburn he was 20 of 30 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-27 win.
On the season Young, who has played in a lot of pain (shoulder) this season, has thrown for 3,007 yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“I can’t say enough about what the has meant to our program and our university,” Coach Nick Saban said.
4—You have to be impressed with what South Carolina and Shane Beamer did in the final two weeks of the regular season.
On Nov. 12 South Carolina got embarrassed 38-6 by what turned out to a 6-6 Florida team. There were critics who said that Beamer, in his second season at South Carolina, was in over his head.
Beamer kept encouraging his players privately and publicly he insisted “We’ve got a good football team."
Turns out Beamer was right. On the week after stunning Tennessee 63-38, South Carolina went on the road and beat No. 8 Clemson 31-30, snapping the Tigers’ 40-game home winning streak.
South Carolina finishes 8-4 in Shane Beamer’s second year.
5—Having written all that, Georgia’s Kirby Smart is your SEC Coach of the Year:
What do you mean, Barnhart? How can Kirby Smart be the coach of the year when he’s got the best players?
Here’s how: People assume that it is easy to coach talented players. And Georgia had to replace a bunch of them, including eight draft choices (five in the first round) off a national championship defense.
Last season’s generational unit at Georgia led the nation in scoring defense giving up only 10.2 points per game. This season, with eight starters gone, Georgia is allowing 11.3 points per game, which again leads the nation.
It is hard to manage a team that that is trying to repeat. The letdowns are inevitable. And Georgia is 12-0 for the second straight season. Georgia had some rough patches. All teams do. But the only real scare was at Missouri on Oct. 1 where the Bulldogs had to rally to win 26-22.
There’s some really good coaching going on in Athens and Smart is the leader of the bunch.