Let’s take a deep breath and appreciate one of the wildest final weekends of the college football regular season in recent memory.
Conference championship spots were on the line to say nothing about the pecking order in the College Football Playoff rankings that were at stake in Week 13. Eight games involving teams in the CFB rankings were decided by seven points or less. It was probably a stressful day for those who bet online but for the college football fan, it had to be a day to remember.
If the conference championship games provide half the entertainment value as what just transpired, college football lovers are in for quite the treat.
Haskins, Wolverines Run to Glory
It’s been a long time coming for the beleaguered Michigan Wolverines.
Since former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh returned to coach his alma mater, Michigan didn’t have an answer for rival Ohio State. A major issue has been the Wolverines’ inability to run the ball. In three of the losses, the Wolverines were held under 100 rushing yards and one other time they landed right on the 100-yard mark.
The Wolverines vowed to be the more physical team and rode the back of running back Hassan Haskins to the 42-27 win to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Buckeyes. The college football spreads listed Ohio State as more than a touchdown favorite but it was Michigan that was celebrating at the game’s end.
Haskins carried the ball 28 times for 169 yards including touchdowns of 1, 13, 1, 2 and 4 yards to tie the program record for touchdown runs in a game as Michigan outrushed Ohio State 297-64 to clinch the Big Ten’s East Division title and the program’s first Big Ten Championship Game appearance.
Ohio State’s passing game was as prolific as usual with Heisman Trophy candidate C.J. Stroud throwing for 394 yards. Receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave combined for 28 of Stroud’s 34 completions but while Michigan opened the second half with four straight touchdown-scoring drives, Ohio State had to punt on its first two possessions after halftime.
The teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of offense but at least one defensive player did his best to steal the show. Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks to set a Michigan program single-season record with 13 sacks.
Time to study the tape of the Hutchinson/Ojabo show… pic.twitter.com/JYgC41ryaO
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 28, 2021
With Wisconsin’s loss to Minnesota, Iowa clinched the Big Ten’s West Division title and will face Michigan in the championship game.
Crimson Tide Working Overtime
For more than 59 minutes it looked like Alabama would be heading from Auburn on the wrong end of the Iron Bowl score for the third straight time when visiting the Tigers.
However, Bryce Young’s touchdown pass with 24 seconds left helped the Crimson Tide erase a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and force overtime.
The teams traded touchdowns and then field goals to set the stage for the third overtime. By rule, the teams had to attempt only two-point conversions. Both teams were successful but when Auburn failed on its two-point conversion pass in the fourth OT, Alabama won the game 24-22 on Young’s pass to John Metchie ending the first overtime game in the history of the Iron Bowl.
Fans from Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame likely became Auburn supporters since a loss would probably have knocked Alabama from the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The game featured 13 sacks including three each from Alabama’s Will Anderson and Derick Hall of Auburn as defenses dominated throughout.
Bulldogs, Bearcats Remain Perfect
Georgia, listed by the college football odds as a 35-point favorite against Georgia, wasn’t expected to have any problems in their regular-season finale and they did not.
Stetson Bennett threw four touchdown passes, three in the first half, as Georgia rolled to a 45-0 win to finish the regular season undefeated.
It was Georgia’s third shutout and now the top-ranked Bulldogs prepare to face Alabama, which has won the SEC Championship Game a record nine times, in the conference title game.
The Cincinnati Bearcats, playing their first game since moving into the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings, took another step toward joining Notre Dame as the only program outside of the Power-5 conferences to secure a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.
Cincinnati scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives in the second quarter and cruised to a 35-13 win over East Carolina to wrap up a 12-0 regular season. Ten different Cincinnati players had either tackles for loss or pass breakups as the Bearcats now prepare to meet Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
This will be the third different opponent for Cincinnati in its three consecutive AAC championship game appearances as the Bearcats lost to Memphis in 2019 and defeated Tulsa in the 2020 contest. A win would allow Cincinnati to join the UCF Knights as the only two-time winners of the AAC title game. Speaking of the Knights, junior linebacker Tatum Bethune deserves a mention for his 18-tackle game in a 17-13 win over South Florida. It was the fifth time in the last eight games that Bethune had at least 10 tackles.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
When the next College Football Playoff rankings are released on Tuesday, Georgia, Alabama, Michigan and Cincinnati should be holding down the top four spots. However, there is some drama surrounding the next couple of places in the rankings.
How far will Ohio State drop after its loss to Michigan? What happens with Notre Dame? While other playoff contenders have finished the regular season with a couple of challenging games, the Fighting Irish got to cruise by three-win Georgia Tech and Stanford teams.
It didn’t help Notre Dame’s cause that six of the teams that the Fighting Irish beat this year lost this weekend. None of the teams that Notre Dame owns wins over will be playing in conference championship games so how will that impact their slot in the rankings?
Oklahoma State won the Big 12 regular-season title after rallying from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to knock Oklahoma out of the Big 12 title game with a 37-33 win.
Oklahoma has won 11 Big 12 championship games including all four since the game resumed in 2017 but Oklahoma State, which was seventh in the last playoff ranking, will meet Baylor in the title tilt. It will be the first Big 12 Championship Game appearance for Oklahoma State, which added to its national-leading totals with six sacks and nine tackles for loss.
The Cowboys had lost its last six games to Oklahoma with only one of those games decided by a touchdown or less. Oklahoma had won seven of the last eight games against Oklahoma State when the final score went over the total. The 50½-point total in Saturday’s game never stood a chance with the way the two offenses were going up and down the field.
Demon Deacons Take Care of Business
The scenario was pretty simple for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. If Wake Forest wins at Boston College, the Demon Deacons would win the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division title and end Clemson’s six-year reign as ACC champions.
Sam Hartman threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the 41-10 win as Wake Forest set up a rather improbable ACC championship game matchup.
ACC Coastal Division champion Pittsburgh and Wake Forest each were given +5000 odds to win the ACC title before the season, which was tied for the ninth-best odds. Now the Panthers are set to make their first trip to the ACC title game since 2018 and Wake Forest is in the game for the first time since winning the championship in 2006.
Oregon Ducks Get Another Shot at Utah
The Oklahoma Sooners and Oregon Ducks were expected to continue their dominance in the Big 12 and Pac-12 conferences when the season began. However, recent stumbles by both teams led to must-win scenarios for them to reach their respective conference championship games.
Oregon raced to a 21-point lead by halftime and topped Oregon State 38-29 to win the Pac-12 North Division title behind two touchdown passes and one touchdown run by Anthony Brown.
With the win, Oregon will get a rematch with the Utah team that knocked the Ducks out of the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings with a 38-7 win on Nov. 20. Utah had already clinched the Pac-12 South Division even before Friday’s 28-13 win over Colorado.
Oklahoma wasn’t as fortunate as the Sooners failed to score on its final six possessions to go from a team eyeing a College Football Playoff spot when the calendar flipped from October to November to one that won’t have a shot at either the conference or national title in 2021.
Hall Runs into the Record Books
Iowa State running back Breece Hall set the NCAA record with a rushing touchdown in his 24th consecutive game.
Hall ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns as Iowa State rolled to a 48-14 win over Texas Christian.
Hall has at least one touchdown run in every game over the last two seasons to establish the NCAA major-college level record. The previous mark was set by Bill Burnett at Arkansas from 1968-70.
Wild Finishes Cap Unpredictable ACC Year
This will be the first time that no Atlantic Coast Conference team will be playing in the four-team College Football Playoff as the winner of the ACC championship matchup between Wake Forest and Pittsburgh won’t be in the top 10. Still, the ACC delivered entertaining matchups on a weekly basis.
The conference might have saved their best for last.
North Carolina State trailed 30-21 with two minutes to play before Devin Leary threw a pair of touchdown passes 26 seconds apart in a 34-30 win over North Carolina while Virginia had the ball inside the Virginia Tech 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter but did not score in 29-24 Virginia Tech win. There were 27 one-score games in the ACC conference schedule which certainly made things challenging for those who bet sports online.
Roadrunners’ Perfect Season Hits Roadblock
When the final week of the regular season began, there were three undefeated teams at the FBS level.
While Georgia and Cincinnati had no issues remaining perfect, Texas-San Antonio wasn’t quite as fortunate.
UTSA allowed 340 rushing yards and North Texas scored 17 points off three turnovers by the Roadrunners. North Texas’ 45-23 win not only knocks UTSA from the undefeated ranks but makes North Texas bowl eligible.
It is not a total loss for the Roadrunners, who had already clinched a spot in the Conference USA championship game. They will play Western Kentucky, the Conference USA title game-winners in 2015 and 2016.
Falcons Pass on the Forward Pass
When we say that the Air Force Falcons ran 69 plays in a win over the UNLV Rebels, we mean they ran 69 plays.
Air Force did not attempt a pass in a game for the first time since a 2012 victory over Hawaii. Five different Air Force players had rushing touchdowns and the triple-option offense finished with 511 yards in the 48-14 victory. The win wasn’t enough to secure the Falcons a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game.
Utah State and Air Force finished tied atop the Mountain Division with the Aggies getting the championship game bid on the strength of a 49-45 win over Air Force back in September. Utah State will play West Division champion San Diego State for the title.
The pass was utilized a tad bit more as Kent State secured a spot in the Mid-American Conference title game with a 48-47 overtime win over Miami (Ohio). Kent State had more than 300 yards rushing and passing to set up the title matchup with Northern Illinois.