Everything you need to know in college football following Week 12
From playoff contenders to hot-seat coaches, Steve Palazzolo rounds up the most important news and analysis in CFB.
Everything you need to know in college football following Week 12
While the games may not have been as exciting as last week’s slate, an influx of snow and wind made things interesting in a number of games. There was still plenty of drama as Ohio State’s season came down to one two-point conversion, Oklahoma teased blowing a monster lead, and Alabama slept-walked through an FCS game to draw the ire of head coach Nick Saban. And who could forget Houston’s thrashing of Louisville to kick things off Thursday night, all but eliminating the Cardinals from playoff contention?
Here are the rest of the top takeaways from Week 12 in college football.
- Louisville lays a dud in primetime
With a playoff berth well within reach, Louisville played their worst game of the season as they lost 36-10 to Houston in a game that was never even close. Houston sacked QB Lamar Jackson 11 times in the rout, dominating at the line of scrimmage and containing the potential Heisman winner as well as any team this season. Just two days removed from being named No. 5 in the nation by the College Football Playoff committee, Louisville dropped from having a clear path into the playoff to battling with a plethora of two-loss teams comparing resumes. There’s still a lot to be sorted when it comes to the playoff, but Louisville has only one remaining game against Kentucky and no conference championship game to play so it looks like they squandered their playoff opportunity with the primetime loss to Houston.
- Ohio State and Michigan take care of business, playoff game next week
It was Big Ten football at its finest on Saturday as snow and wind were prominently featured in Ohio State’s game at Michigan State and Michigan’s game at home against Indiana. Both top teams came out on top, though the conditions leveled the playing field against their respective overmatched opponents. With the wins, The Game officially becomes a playoff game as an Ohio State win all but ensures their inclusion in the final four while a Michigan win puts them in the Big Ten Championship game with a chance to secure a playoff spot with a win. While the conditions were certainly a factor Saturday, both passing games struggled as Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett posted a 55.9 passing grade and Michigan QB John O’Korn graded at 54.4 in his first start since QB Wilton Speight went down to injury. Barrett was able to make up for it with a 92.6 grade on the ground and his ability to create in the running game will be something to watch in what should be a defensive battle next week.
- Oklahoma makes national statement
Showing why the playoff committee had two-loss Oklahoma over one-loss West Virginia in the latest rankings, the Sooners controlled the majority of their 56-28 victory despite a late push by the Mountaineers. Snow flurries made the game more interesting, but also sloppy, as dropped passes and fumbles littered the game. For Oklahoma, it was a loud statement as they crawl back into national consciousness and try to make the committee forget about their early-season losses to Houston and Ohio State. The offense is littered with playmakers, from our highest-graded quarterback Baker Mayfield, to our No. 2-graded wide receiver Dede Westbrook to the two-headed monster at running back in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. The question for the Sooners is the defense that quietly gave up 331 rushing yards to RB Justin Crawford but two fumbles inside the five-yard line was too much to overcome for West Virginia. They will play for the Big 12 championship in the season finale against Oklahoma State on December 3rd, and if teams continue to fall, a win in Bedlam could allow Oklahoma to sneak in the playoff backdoor.
- Clemson wins the ACC Atlantic
As expected, Clemson locked up the ACC Atlantic division with a 35-13 win over Wake Forest and they now have a non-conference game with South Carolina next week before playing the championship game the following week. The Tigers fell to No. 4 in the latest rankings after losing to Pittsburgh at home last Saturday, but they still control their own destiny with the two remaining games. Despite the slip-up against Pittsburgh and multiple close calls throughout the season, the Tigers may have the best potential offense in the playoff with QB Deshaun Watson at the helm and a number of playmakers at the skill positions. The offense has disappointed given their high expectations this season, but the firepower is there to make a run, so don’t sleep on Clemson if they make it through the next two weeks – they may just have enough to win it all.
- The Pac-12 has multiple playoff candidates
Washington looked like the best team in the Pac-12 for much of the season, but they’re one week removed from losing to USC which is now one of the hottest teams in the country. But don’t sleep on Colorado, a team that is coming off yet another impressive win against Washington State and now one win away from the Pac-12 Championship game. It’s down to these three teams and with the upheaval at the top, there are legitimate cases to be made for each team’s playoff chances if they can win out:
- Washington should control their own destiny as with only one loss, they can beat Washington State and the Pac-12 South champion to get into the playoff
- USC has three losses, but they’re generating plenty of buzz nationally and they’re clearly a better team with QB Sam Darnold at the helm. If Colorado loses to Utah next week, USC goes to the Pac-12 title game where a win could be enough to impress voters
- Colorado has to beat Utah and the Pac-12 North champion which would have them end their season with only two losses, one to Michigan and the other to USC. With a solid all-around team, that could be enough to sneak into the playoff, especially given the buzz USC and Washington have gotten throughout the year
The eventual Pac-12 champion could join the conversation with other multi-loss teams from the Big Ten and Big 12, though it appears Washington has the cleanest road if they can take care of business.
- Florida wins SEC East
Coming into the weekend, Florida needed either a win over LSU or a loss by Tennessee in one of their last two games to win the SEC East and they did it on their own with the 16-10 win over LSU. The rescheduled game from earlier in the season was a hard-fought battle as both defenses were clearly the best units on the field but the Florida offense turned it on in the second half with a 98-yard touchdown pass from QB Austin Appleby to WR Tyrie Cleveland and a physical running game. The defense cracked down to stop LSU on 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line to seal their trip to Atlanta for the second straight year. They’ll be the clear underdog against Alabama, but head coach Jim McElwain can boast SEC East titles in each of his first two years at Florida.
- Western Michigan wins again
What a way to start the college football Saturday with College Gameday coming live from Kalamazoo, MI. Snow flurries just added to the fun as Western Michigan got the love they deserve for their undefeated season. Their 38-0 win against Buffalo puts them at 11-0 and sets up a showdown against 9-2 Toledo next Friday in a game to determine the MAC West champion. Both teams are loaded with offensive firepower and there’s more than just a MAC championship on the line as a win for Western Michigan puts them in line for New Year’s Six Bowl opportunity assuming another win in the MAC title game. It’s well-deserved as they have potential first-round wide receiver Corey Davis as well as one of the nation’s top offensive lines. While #MACtion usually rules our Tuesday and Wednesday nights, they deserve full attention on Black Friday as the Western Michigan-Toledo game should be among the best in a day full of action.
- Bleak outlook for Charlie Strong’s future at Texas
With his future already hanging by a thread, yesterday’s loss to Kansas may have sealed Charlie Strong’s fate as head coach at Texas. The season had its ups and downs as Texas was thought to be on the right track after their opening night win against Notre Dame, but they lost four out of five games in the middle of the season and even with signs of life after that stretch, back-to-back losses the last two weeks are too much to overcome. Strong is a defensive coach in both background and philosophy, but the need to keep up with the explosive offenses of the Big 12 led him to adjust to more of an uptempo spread look that all but ensured the defense would give up its fair share of points. This was never a comfortable look for Strong who would much rather win a defensive struggle than a shootout and the Longhorns’ offense simply wasn’t consistent enough to keep up this season, in part because promising true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele had his usual freshman woes at times this season. Perhaps the Big 12 was never the best fit for Strong in the first place, but he will leave Texas with a lot of young, up-and-coming talent for his successor.
- PFF Performances of Notes
- Florida State RB Dalvin Cook has had fewer big plays this season but it may be a better all-around running performance than he had last year. He had another classic big-play game with 225 yards and four scores on 28 carries, the second time he’s rushed for at least 200 yards this season.
- Another familiar running back with a strong game, it’s good to see Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey back to form as he rushed for 284 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries.
- Texas A&M edge defender Myles Garrett had five sacks and three hurries on only 31 rushes against UTSA.
- West Virginia RB Justin Crawford ran for 330 yards on 24 carries in the losing effort, including 204 yards after contact and 11 forced missed tackles.
- LSU CB Tre’Davious White was targeted six times, allowing only one catch for 15 yards while breaking up four passes
- Houston DT Ed Oliver dominated the line of scrimmage against Louisville and the true freshman is now grading at 89.5 overall on the season – fourth among interior defensive linemen – including a 91.8 grade against the run that ranks first. Since we started grading in 2014, we’ve yet to see a true freshman interior defensive lineman rank among the top 30 overall.
- PFF Stats of the Week
- Michigan State quarterbacks connected on only three passes on 15 attempts for 31 yards on throws beyond the line of scrimmage against Ohio State. They were 4-for-4 for 84 yards and a touchdown on passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage.
- Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield completed 9-of-15 passes against West Virginia but four of his incompletions were drops.
- Think it might be difficult to pass the ball in The Game next weekend? The top for cornerbacks in opposing passer rating against all reside in the Ohio State and Michigan defensive backfields (minimum 30 attempts).