Better late than never for Ohio State, which waited until the Saturday after Thanksgiving to put together by far most impressive win of its season — and one of the most lopsided and unforgettable wins by either team in the history of the Buckeyes' rivalry with Michigan.
Ohio State's 62 points marked the most Michigan had allowed in regulation since 1891, which feels only slightly farther in the past than the last time the Wolverines notched a win in this series. Across the country, fans of Ohio State and schadenfreude uncapped their pens to tally up the latest score: Jim Harbaugh is now 0-4 against the Buckeyes.
Yet Ohio State is a conundrum for the College Football Playoff selection committee. The Buckeyes were last among one-loss teams in the Power Five in the most recent rankings, essentially dismissed as a top playoff contender after a loss to Purdue and close calls against Nebraska and Maryland. Saturday's win alters that equation.
Now the Buckeyes are neck-and-neck with Oklahoma for the fourth spot in the field behind Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame. Sixth in the latest rankings, the Sooners would seemingly be the next Power Five champion to step into the four-team field with a win against Texas in next weekend's Big 12 championship game. It's difficult to gauge exactly how the committee will view now Ohio State, but there's no doubt a win against what was the No. 4 team in the rankings will drastically improve the Buckeyes' chances of leapfrogging past Oklahoma and to the doorstep of another playoff berth.
But the math isn't that simple. It's worth asking how the committee will now consider Michigan, just revealed as a title pretender, and also West Virginia, which now has three losses after Friday's narrow defeat against Oklahoma. What's more impressive: Beating Michigan at home by 23 points — behind the sort of performance most had expected from Ohio State all season — or winning 59-56 at West Virginia?
The question is pure college football. And that it's being asked in late November means that controversy is coming to the playoff chase. Here are the rest of Saturday's winners and losers:
The Crimson Tide wobbled slightly in the second quarter after an Auburn blocked punt and ensuing touchdown cut the score in the Iron Bowl to 17-14 at halftime. Tua Tagovailoa's play in the third quarter put the game out of reach, and might have given the sophomore an insurmountable lead in this year's Heisman Trophy race: Tagovailoa tossed three touchdowns in the third quarter and accounted for a school record-tying six scores altogether in pacing Alabama's 52-21 win. The Tide's smallest margin of victory on the year is 24 points heading into next Saturday's SEC title game matchup with Georgia.
Here's a good day: beat your rival for the first time since 2003 and secure a sixth win in one fell swoop. Saturday's 37-15 victory at Wisconsin was a long time coming for the Golden Gophers, who had found countless ways to lose this series during the 15-year losing streak, and a stunning end to the regular season for the Badgers, a team crippled by injuries after being pegged as a playoff contender in the preseason. It's also a nice moment for Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, who can now point to bowl eligibility as progress after winning five games in his debut season.
You'd think the Huskies would fall in the losers' bracket after a 57-7 loss the Temple, the latest embarrassment — and last, mercifully — in one of the most horrific seasons in recent Football Bowl Subdivision history. But there was a sort of silver lining: In allowing 57 points, UConn became just the second team in the past century to allow an average of 50 points per game on defense.
Whether Georgia can actually beat Alabama is open to debate. What's certain, however, is that the Bulldogs are ready to take on college football's best team. Saturday's 45-21 win against Georgia Tech was the Bulldogs' fifth in a row by at least 17 points after October's stunning loss to LSU. It also might've been the most impressive of the bunch: Georgia went into halftime up 38-7 and allowed a pair of meaningless Tech touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Credit Matt Rhule for calling his shot: Baylor's second-year head coach predicted at the tail end of last season, after a one-win debut, that the Bears would make a bowl game in 2018. Topping Texas Tech 35-24 evened Baylor's record at 6-6 and ensured a top-half finish in the Big 12 standings, two huge signs of progress as Rhule attempts to lead this program back into national contention.
Consider this the flip side to Minnesota's good day: Arizona, needing a win to get into a bowl game, coughed up a 19-point lead and lost 41-40 to rival Arizona State, missing a potential game-winning field goal in the waning seconds. That's absolutely brutal. But it fits into what was a brutal first year for former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who led one of college football's biggest underachievers. Meanwhile, ASU coach Herm Edwards has made believers out of those who questioned the Sun Devils' offseason coaching move.
FSU will stay home for bowl play for the first time in decades after a 41-14 loss to Florida that encapsulated a disappointing start to the Willie Taggart era. The Seminoles' seven loss are the program's most in a year since 1975 — the year before Bobby Bowden's arrival. It'll be a long December and an even longer offseason for FSU, which can only be hopeful that Taggart's successful track record yields a turnaround in 2019.
There should've been no preconceived notion that Jeremy Pruitt was going to take over from Butch Jones and immediately vault Tennessee into the top third of the SEC East. The calls just two weeks ago to name Pruitt the league's coach of the year were equally moronic. Basically, to go 5-7 in his first year doesn't give a large enough sample size to make some grand statement about the program's future under Pruitt. Having said that: Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt, again, and will stay home from bowl play.
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