Friday night we saw West Virginia and Oklahoma play a classic shootout in Morgantown. Sooners QB and Heisman finalist Kyler Murray went 20 for 27, 364 yards and three TDs through the air while adding 114 on the ground and a rushing TD on only nine carries in the Sooners 59-56 victory. That win propelled the Sooners to the Big XII championship game, where they will face off with hated rival Texas for a chance to claim their fourth straight Big XII championship (no team has won four straight titles in Big XII history).
Last Saturday at noon, we had the game everyone has been waiting for: Ohio State vs Michigan. As a neutral in the rivalry, I have to say I was disappointed in Michigan’s Coach Harbaugh and the team’s vaunted defense. The Wolverines were completely outclassed by Ohio State in every facet of the game last Saturday. Ohio State looked faster, more aggressive, and more confident than a Michigan team that had, for most of the season, appeared to be motivated to not just win the BigTen, but to dominate this game specifically. The 62-39 Buckeye route was the most points scored against Michigan by an Ohio State team in the series and put an exclamation point on a troubled season for the Buckeyes. At 11-1, the Buckeyes will represent the BigTen East in the BigTen championship game this Saturday vs Northwestern. The consolation prize for Michigan is likely the Rose Bowl (as long as Ohio State wins vs Northwestern).
Lastly, if you didn’t catch the seven-overtime marathon between LSU and Texas A&M, you missed one heck of a game. Whether it was the premature Gatorade bath for LSU’s HC Ed Orgeron, the 19-yard TD pass with no time remaining to tie the game for the Aggies, the multiple fourth down conversions in OT by both teams when it seemed the result was assured, this game didn’t disappoint. This was a hard-fought victory for the Aggies in the highest scoring game in FBS history — pretty awesome.
Friday, November 30th
#17 Utah vs #16 Washington (FOX) at Santa Clara, CA – This is the first appearance for Utah in the Pac-12 title game since joining the conference in 2011, and coming out of a dreadful Pac-12 South that only has two bowl-eligible teams (Utah and Arizona State)! Washington is in their second Pac-12 championship game after they upset in-state rival Washington State in a snow-covered Apple Cup game in Pullman, WA last week. A disappointing season for UDub, their playoff hopes nearly dashed after a week one loss to Auburn in Atlanta and a disappointing rivalry game loss at Oregon. A trip to the Rose Bowl is on the line here.
Saturday December 1st
Noon: Big XII
#14 Texas vs Oklahoma (ABC) at Arlington, TX – “Must Watch” – This is what the Big XII has dreamed of – their two traditional, preeminent powers duking it out for the conference title. The Golden Hat is not officially up for grabs in this game (only when they play during the year in the Cotton Bowl), but a trip to the playoff seems to be on the line for Oklahoma. Can QB Kyler Murray avenge their only loss of the season? Also, the Big XII released a statement that officials will flag any player who participates in the “horns down” hand gesture. I cannot oppose this ruling enough – is there not an adult in the Big XII office that can put their foot down and stop this nonsense? If Texas is so offended by the “horns down” hand gesture, then win and give them the “horns up”! I am definitely giving a “horns down” to this ‘snowflake’ ruling.
Memphis at #9 UCF (ABC) – Last year’s game between these two was a classic, double-OT win for the Knights of Central Florida. These two also played this year in a tight contest (31-30 win for UCF) which was the smallest margin of victory for UCF in their 24-game winning streak. The Knights will unfortunately be without star QB McKenzie Milton, who suffered a gruesome knee injury in their game this past weekend against USF. It’s tough to see any player suffer such a horrible injury, but especially a player of Milton’s stature who has defined this program for the past two seasons. Memphis has a RB in junior Darrell Henderson, who is second in the nation in rushing with 1,699 yards and 19 TDs. Henderson has led an offense that has been near the top of the FBS in total offense (#6), just behind UCF. I’m expecting a competitive game that could see the end of UCF’s winning streak.
#1 Alabama vs #4 Georgia (CBS) at Atlanta, GA – “Must Watch” – This is a rematch of last year’s College Football Playoff Final, and without a doubt a match-up of the two best teams in the SEC. If there is a defense that can potentially slow down this juggernaut of an offense that Alabama has, it’s Georgia. Georgia is the highest ranked team in total defense that Alabama has played thus far this season (12th nationally). The last time these two squared off in the SEC Championship was in 2012, which was a classic game between the #3 Bulldogs and the #2 Crimson Tide that came down to the last play of the game. A shot at the national title was on the line then, as it is now. These two conference rivals have only played 13 times since 1980, which, when you think of it, is pretty light for big-time programs in neighboring states that are in the same conference. The Athletic had a nice piece as to why this has been the case. Recent history, top talent on both rosters and the enthusiastic SEC crowd should provide an electric game in Atlanta for this titanic clash. I’m not going to miss a second of this.
#2 Clemson vs Pittsburgh (ABC) at Charlotte, NC – While this game wasn’t on the radar for many, it was made even less interesting with #24 Pitt losing at Miami 24-3 last week. Clemson should have no problem in this game, however, if there is an upset, we could have some serious drama in the final rankings.
#21 Northwestern vs #6 Ohio State (FOX) at Indianapolis, IN – This game will really matter IF: #1 Alabama takes care of Georgia and the Texas-Oklahoma game ends in a Texas victory. I suspect even a close Oklahoma win over Texas could open the door for Ohio State to sneak into the playoff. Ohio State needs to make another statement victory to have a chance to make the playoff regardless. Analysts and commentators have talked endlessly about Ohio State’s 49-20 loss at Purdue and how bad of a loss that is for the Buckeyes. Smashing Michigan as the Buckeyes did has turned down the heat from that loss, but another emphatic win certianly couldn’t hurt either. Northwestern has surprised many by reaching their first BigTen championship game. The Wildcats have won 15 of their last 18 BigTen games, and would have had no losses in the BigTen if not for squandering a 17-0 lead over Michigan this year at home. Ohio State needs to make a statement — could they press too much and give the Wildcats a chance at the upset?