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It seemed like we would get a relatively upset-free penultimate weekend of the 2019 college football regular season, but Herm Edwards and Arizona State had other plans, shaking up the rankings by stunning the Oregon Ducks.
(Also, Miami inexplicably lost to Florida International, but that wasn’t relevant as far as Top 25 polls are concerned.)
Aside from College Football Playoff No. 8 Penn State’s loss to No. 2 Ohio State, the only other Top 25 loss this week came when Navy beat No. 25 SMU. But the Mustangs weren’t even favored in that one, so please don’t call it an upset.
By taking care of the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes also move to No. 2 in our rankings, sliding past idle Clemson. Utah was the next-most noteworthy upward climber, jumping three spots to No. 6 thanks to the losses by Penn State and Oregon as well as Oklahoma’s less than awe-inspiring home win over TCU.
But one could argue Utah was still one of the biggest losers of the weekend, as that projected Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon is no longer as much of a marquee opportunity as it seemed to be. It was always likely the Utes were going to need help to finish in the Top Four of the CFP rankings, but they might need a small miracle to reach the playoff at this point.
B/R Week 13 Top 25
1. LSU (Last Week: 1)
2. Ohio State (3)
3. Clemson (2)
4. Georgia (4)
5. Alabama (5)
6. Utah (9)
7. Oklahoma (8)
8. Minnesota (11)
9. Florida (10)
10. Baylor (12)
11. Penn State (7)
12. Wisconsin (13)
13. Oregon (6)
14. Michigan (14)
15. Notre Dame (15)
16. Auburn (17)
17. Memphis (16)
18. Boise State (20)
19. Iowa (18)
20. Cincinnati (19)
21. Appalachian State (23)
22. Oklahoma State (22)
23. Virginia Tech (NR)
24. USC (NR)
25. Navy (NR)
Others Receiving Votes: Iowa State, North Dakota State, SMU
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Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Odds are you’ve sort of forgotten that these two blue bloods are still playing. Such is the plight of our CFP-centric frame of mind every November. Michigan suffered its second loss October 19, and then the Wolverines turned around and stomped Notre Dame for its second L seven days later.
Since then, out of sight, out of mind.
But both squads have been dominant during their last few games to at least remain in the hunt for a coveted New Year’s Six Bowl appearance.
Notre Dame’s mini-renaissance began with a 38-7 demolition of Duke on Nov. 9, and it continued this week with a 40-7 shellacking of Boston College. Neither ACC offense could muster even 200 yards of total offense against the Fighting Irish defense, while Ian Book and Co. averaged 485 yards in those games. In between, they also put a 52-20 hurting on Navy—their third-largest margin of victory against the Midshipmen in the past quarter-century.
In Saturday’s win over Boston College, Book eclipsed both 2,500 passing yards and 500 rushing yards for the season and has now accounted for 33 combined touchdowns. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts left all those marks in the dust a while ago, but not enough people are talking about what a fine job Book has done.
Meanwhile, Michigan’s reign of terror stretched to four games. The Wolverines have beaten Notre Dame, Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana by a combined score of 166-45, each of which was decided by at least a 25-point margin.
Indiana held a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter before Shea Patterson put together his second consecutive “Oh hey, there’s that dude who was awesome at Ole Miss” type of performance, leading the Wolverines to a 39-14 victory.
In his first 22 games with Michigan, Patterson’s high-water marks were 282 passing yards and three touchdowns. Last week, he went for 384 yards and four touchdowns in a statement rivalry win over Michigan State. This week, he upped the ante with 366 yards and five touchdowns against the Hoosiers.
Next week for Patterson? Just a small game against some team from Ohio. No biggie.
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A bunch of CFP contenders flirted with disaster before getting a much-needed W. Ohio State and Oklahoma almost blew 21-0 leads. Georgia had to make a fourth-quarter defensive stand in its own territory to survive against Texas A&M. Wisconsin and Baylor both started slowly before cruising to victory.
Plenty of drama that didn’t actually produce any upsets.
But Oregon didn’t just flirt with disaster. It gave disaster a bear hug and a great big kiss on the lips en route to a playoff-dream-killing loss to Arizona State.
Things looked good for the Ducks early on. They gained 25 yards on the first play of the game. They went 80 yards for a touchdown on their second drive. And though the third possession stalled out inside the ASU 10, they marched 69 yards down the field before eschewing a field-goal attempt. It was a 7-7 game at the end of the first quarter, but it felt like just a matter of time before Oregon pulled away.
That offense went AWOL for the next 35 minutes of game time. Four consecutive punts led Justin Herbert to start forcing things and throwing interceptions on back-to-back pass attempts early in the fourth quarter. The Ducks defense fared well for most of the night, but those short fields were enough for the Sun Devils to take a 24-7 lead from which Oregon could not recover.
There were some significant fireworks down the stretch, but ASU never relinquished the lead and went on to win 31-28.
The Ducks will still get to play for the Pac-12 championship. They locked up the division by defeating Arizona last week. But at this point, their best-case scenario is playing for the Rose Bowl.
The list of legitimate candidates to reach the playoff shrunk by one on this night in Tempe.
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Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Don’t let the final margin fool you. Penn State was manhandled by Ohio State in that 28-17 battle for the Big Ten East Division crown.
The Buckeyes rushed for more yards (229) than the Nittany Lions had total yards of offense (227). Even though it was only 14-0 at halftime, it felt like the game was over. And when Ohio State came out and marched down the field for a touchdown to start the third quarter, it seemed the rout was on.
Penn State finally put together a scoring drive, and then it benefited from back-to-back brutal fumbles by the Buckeyes, taking it from 21-0 to 21-17 in less than four minutes. But the Buckeyes regained their composure, got back into the end zone, finally got a turnover of their own and wrapped up the division.
The Nittany Lions have now sandwiched a close home win over Indiana with road losses to Minnesota and Ohio State, dropping entirely out of the College Football Playoff conversation and possibly playing their way out of a New Year’s Six bowl, too.
Perhaps worst of all, there’s now a quarterback controversy in Happy Valley.
Early in the third quarter, Sean Clifford botched a shotgun snap, recovered the fumble and somehow managed to find Nick Bowers for a 12-yard gain. It was actually one of Penn State’s biggest offensive plays to that point in the game, but Clifford took an awkward hit from OSU LB Malik Harrison and DT Davon Hamilton. He limped off the field with an apparent hip injury and did not return.
“When we got Will (Levis) involved, it opened up another element of our offense, and we were able to get back in the game,” Franklin said.
There’s no question Clifford looked rattled by the ever-present threat of Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, but does Franklin now stick with Levis next week against Rutgers and for the subsequent bowl game? And how will that decision impact the roster next season, considering both Clifford and Levis have two years of eligibility remaining and probably both deserve to start somewhere?
It has been quite the fall from grace for Penn State since debuting at No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
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Chris Jackson/Associated Press
The Heisman conversation has been all about quarterbacks or occasionally (and deservedly) Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, but can we take a moment to recognize what the nation’s two best running backs have been up to for the past three months?
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor just tore up a Big Ten defense for at least 200 rushing yards for the third consecutive week, finishing with 222 in the Badgers’ 45-24 victory over Purdue. That latest display of dominance brings his season totals to 1,685 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns—not to mention another 162 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard also extended a streak on Saturday, rushing for at least 100 yards for the ninth consecutive game*. He also had 88 receiving yards in the 20-13 victory over West Virginia, which is more than he had in the first 10 games combined (82). His season-long streak of rushing for at least one touchdown in every game was unfortunately snapped, but he already had 20 of those and now has 1,832 rushing yards.
If Wisconsin loses to Minnesota next week, it might be the last time we see Taylor in college. The Badgers would likely fall short of a New Year’s Six Bowl. At that point, perhaps he follows the recent trend of sitting out the bowl game to prepare for the draft. But if they’re able to defeat the Golden Gophers, they would face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship and likely partake in a New Year’s Six Bowl, win or lose.
As fun as it would be to watch Minnesota try to Row the Boat to the College Football Playoff, fans of rushing history should be rooting for the latter scenario.
If he plays three more games, Taylor would almost certainly get the 315 yards and two touchdowns necessary to reach 2,000 and 20, respectively. And Hubbard—already at the TD mark—may well run for 168 yards against Oklahoma’s defense next week to reach 2,000 for the year. If not, the sophomore should get there in Oklahoma State’s bowl game.
In the past decade, there have only been three instances of a player rushing for at least 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in a single season—Rashaad Penny in 2017, Derrick Henry in 2015 and Melvin Gordon in 2014. Having two players reach those plateaus in a single season would be incredible, even if the Heisman voters couldn’t care less.
*It’s kind of hilarious that the only team to hold Hubbard under 100 yards this season was McNeese State.
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Conference championship week and the subsequent final College Football Playoff rankings are fast approaching, but don’t you dare start looking ahead to Week 15 just yet.
We’ve got some serious rivalries to watch before then.
The Iron Bowl (Alabama at Auburn) will determine if we’re still arguing about the Crimson Tide getting into the playoff while they aren’t playing on championship weekend.
“The Game” (Ohio State at Michigan) could decide whether the Buckeyes jump to No. 1 in the CFP rankings and whether the Wolverines opt to kick head coach Jim Harbaugh to the curb. (My two cents: Ohio State should, Michigan shouldn’t.) If Michigan pulls off the home upset, that opens the door to a scenario in which the Big Ten gets left out of the playoff for a third consecutive year.
Speaking of which, will it be Wisconsin or Minnesota winning Paul Bunyan’s Axe and earning the right to face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship?
South Carolina already ruined Georgia’s perfect season. Could the Gamecocks do the same to Clemson in the Palmetto Bowl?
Will Oklahoma still have a faint playoff pulse after going on the road for some Bedlam against Oklahoma State?
And please, oh pretty please, are we headed for another seven-overtime classic between Texas A&M and LSU?
All that and we haven’t even mentioned the Egg Bowl (Ole Miss at Mississippi State), the Apple Cup (Washington at Washington State), the battle for the ACC Coastal Division (Virginia Tech at Virginia) and the colossal showdown in the AAC (Cincinnati at Memphis) all taking place Thursday and Friday.
Week 13 was lacking in intrigue, but Week 14 is going to be wall-to-wall awesomeness for the better part of 52 hours. Buckle up.
Kerry Miller covers college football and men’s college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.