A Pac-12 upset and Big 12 epic finish shake up Championship Weekend

Two issues have been true of the Faculty Soccer Playoff committee’s first eight years of choices.

First, the committee has nearly actually gotten the highest 4 right each time. For any debates over Ohio State in 2014 or Alabama in 2017, the eventual outcomes — a nationwide championship for each — served as the ultimate phrase in any argument.

However the second element value noting in regards to the committee’s course of is that, in the long run, the selections have nearly completely been straightforward. Even these mildly controversial decisions truly represented the best attainable resolution for the committee. For all of the griping and hand-wringing over each rankings launch main as much as the ultimate poll, the celebs have all the time aligned in the long run.

That is not the case this season.

On a championship weekend that appeared to have little likelihood of disrupting the established order, TCU and USC threw wrenches into the works. With Ohio State and Alabama relaxed on their respective couches, ft up and a bowl of chips on their laps, they someway have been pulled from the playoff scrap heap, dusted off and located to be playoff-caliber groups in any case.

On Friday, Utah demolished USC 47-24, hanging a second loss on the Trojans’ résumé — all as a result of they needed to play an additional recreation that Ohio State, Alabama and Tennessee didn’t.

On Saturday, Max Duggan’s heroics fell six inches shy of a win, and TCU’s case is now within the committee’s arms, the place it’s going to choose the Horned Frogs’ one loss in additional time to Kansas State towards Ohio State’s lone defeat vs. Michigan — a blowout from per week in the past that now looks like historical historical past.

USC has two losses — however it has misplaced to only one crew, similar as Ohio State. It misplaced in a blowout to a extremely ranked convention rival, similar as Ohio State. It has a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback, a cadre of elite receivers, a shaky protection and a powerful win over Notre Dame, similar as Ohio State.

TCU took the L, however did not that frenetic comeback provide a reminder of the joy the Frogs have given us all yr? (And if it did not, simply stare deeply into the Hypnotoad’s eyes.) A goal-line stand in additional time was the distinction in TCU’s 31-28 loss to Kansas State, however the Horned Frogs stay this season’s Cinderella, even when the committee is now trying again at Alabama’s depraved stepmother within the newest model of that Twitter meme.



Kansas State stuffs TCU on the objective line in additional time.

The committee might want to weigh placing in groups with extra expertise (Ohio State or Alabama) over groups that nearly actually are extra deserving (TCU, USC, Tennessee). They’re going to must weigh whether or not to punish groups that have been so good within the common season that they earned a spot of their convention title recreation or admit that all the things that occurred this weekend finally had no impression. They’re going to need to weigh whether or not there’s extra worth in giving upstarts entry into probably the most unique membership in sports activities or in taking part in to the TV scores to create arguably the most important battle of identify manufacturers within the playoff’s temporary historical past.

So, what’s the proper reply?

To look at Duggan drag the Horned Frogs again from the abyss and into additional time, bent over, bleeding and gulping for air like he’d simply survived Black Friday at Walmart, solely probably the most callous of voters may solid a poll ignoring TCU’s 12-1 season. The person ran for 95 yards on an 80-yard landing drive, in any case.

And but, the committee has by no means functioned on emotion. Committees, by design, are heartless entities.

To look at Caleb Williams limping by means of an unimaginably dangerous second half Friday night time, blanketed by an unrelenting Utah cross rush, however nonetheless able to real magic on the soccer area, would anybody fault the committee for punching a ticket for the nation’s most enjoyable participant and, within the course of, providing the West Coast its first style of playoff soccer in six years?

And but, there’s nearly no case to be made that USC’s protection would maintain up towards Georgia or Michigan in any playoff matchup.

Would the committee actually punish Georgia with a Peach Bowl matchup towards Ohio State simply to keep away from a first-round rematch between the Buckeyes and Wolverines?

Would the committee actually hand an invitation to 10-2 Alabama over a Tennessee crew with the identical report and a head-to-head win?

Would the committee actually be prepared for the blowback of placing Alabama into the playoff at any value? Would not that solely give affirmation to all of the conspiracy theorists who already consider Nick Saban is the puppet grasp directing the entire sordid affair to start with?

Yeah, filling out this yr’s dance card is not going to be straightforward. The committee ought to most likely ship Shane Beamer and South Carolina a pleasant thank-you card and a fruit basket for guaranteeing this debate is not much more sophisticated.



Heather Dinich breaks down what USC’s loss means for Faculty Soccer Playoff hopefuls, Ohio State and Alabama.

Then once more, if this championship weekend did little to settle the season’s prime 4 groups, Georgia’s utter annihilation of LSU may need supplied a extra vital lesson: The king remains to be the king.

For all of the sound and fury over TCU and USC, Tennessee and Alabama, Ohio State or nearly another crew within the nation, the true monster looming on the horizon is a 5-11 former walk-on who simply hung 50 on the 14th-ranked crew within the nation. To assume, LSU coach Brian Kelly has spent the previous yr chugging candy tea, pretending to love jazz and utilizing “Bless his coronary heart” in informal dialog, and that is all he has to indicate for it. Unhappy, actually. Would not it simply be less complicated to let Stetson Bennett select his subsequent sufferer, like choosing a lobster from the tank at some chain seafood restaurant? “Sure, I am going to take TCU … and hold the biscuits coming.”

Michigan, too, completed in dominant trend. After a back-and-forth first half towards Purdue, the Wolverines put up 29 factors within the second half behind an enormous night time from Donovan Edwards, who rushed for 185 yards rather than injured starter Blake Corum. J.J. McCarthy threw three landing passes for the second straight recreation, too.

It is notable, too, that as a result of the Large 12 and the Pac-12 play with out divisions, TCU was pressured to twin with Kansas State for a second time and USC was pressured to fend off Utah for a second time, and neither ended properly for the playoff contenders. In the meantime, Michigan drew the winner of the moribund Large Ten West, a four-loss Purdue, reasonably than going through a rematch with Ohio State. The Wolverines reward? It is likely to be getting that rematch within the playoff as a substitute. Poor Ryan Day. Even the excellent news comes tinged with khaki.

We’re approaching a 12-team playoff in two years, however as we wrap 2022, it is onerous to be enthusiastic about greater than two groups.

Georgia stays the elephant within the room (until Alabama will get into the playoff, too, during which case there’d be two elephants, which might be awkward).

It was only a yr in the past, in any case, that Georgia completely thwarted Michigan’s offense within the Faculty Soccer Playoff. It wasn’t till McCarthy took over in reduction of Cade McNamara late within the fourth quarter that the Wolverines discovered the tip zone. Will beginning McCarthy this season make that a lot of a distinction?

However why look to date forward? Maybe the true takeaway is: Spending Saturday worrying about Sunday was to overlook the great things.

Duggan may need earned his share of Heisman votes in a loss. It was as gutty a efficiency as we have seen all yr. It was school soccer at its most interesting.

Lincoln Riley’s rebuild at USC was no much less spectacular as a result of it ended on a bitter observe. The Trojans — and the Pac-12 — have been related into December for the primary time in years. And nonetheless, the old-school portion of faculty soccer bought the final giggle, as throwback Kyle Whittingham and his built-from-scratch Utes staved off the way forward for NIL-bought championships for at the least one other yr.

Georgia dominated as we have come to anticipate, however it was nonetheless Bennett’s first SEC championship. His storybook profession would’ve been no much less astonishing with out it, however it nonetheless would’ve felt like studying a novel figuring out a chapter was lacking, “Battle and Peace” with out the peace.

The committee will determine the place the chips fall. It’s going to require extra powerful decisions than it ever has, and days or even weeks or, maybe, years of righteous outrage will observe.

However Saturday was nonetheless the enjoyable half. It all the time is.

Diabolical Dabo

Dabo Swinney bought the final giggle.

For the previous yr, he is been keeping off a close to fixed refrain of calls for to vary QBs, and at every step he is sworn DJ Uiagalelei was his man.

After Clemson signed star recruit Cade Klubnik, Swinney was sticking with Uiagalelei. After Klubnik seemed nice late in a Week 1 win towards Georgia Tech, no modifications have been so as. When Uiagalelei torched Wake Forest in a 2OT win, Swinney demanded an accounting of all these critics who doubted Uiagalelei. Then after he benched Uiagalelei towards Syracuse and Notre Dame … properly, that was only a take a look at drive. Nothing to see right here. Keep it up with your online business. Even after Uiagalelei accomplished simply 8-of-29 passes in a loss to South Carolina final week, Swinney promised he wasn’t making a change at QB.

All a part of the plan to lure North Carolina right into a false sense of safety within the ACC championship recreation.

“The best trick the satan ever performed was convincing the world he did not exist.” — Kaiser Soze

“The best trick Dabo ever performed was convincing the world his backup QB did not exist.” — Mack Brown

True to his phrase, Uiagalelei bought the beginning Saturday, however on the third sequence of the sport, Klubnik took over and Clemson seemed extra explosive than it has since Trevor Lawrence’s hair was glistening underneath the South Carolina solar.



Landing! Cade Klubnik scores vs. North Carolina

Klubnik completed 20-of-24 for 279 yards and accounted for 2 touchdowns in Clemson’s 39-10 win. Afterward, Brown stated the sport plan was to stuff the Tigers’ floor recreation and make Uiagalelei beat them.

Effectively, UNC stuffed the run. Clemson completed with 68 yards on the bottom. However they hadn’t counted on Klubnik coming into a cellphone sales space and popping out with a cape.

Benefit: Dabo.

Oh, positive, dropping to South Carolina means Clemson will not make the playoff. However it was a small worth to pay to drag off such a top-notch shock Saturday. As Swinney has so typically stated, the playoff was by no means a crew objective. The ACC title is. The clues have been there the entire time if any of us had bothered to look. (Gene Chizik drops his espresso cup and on the underside reads the phrase: Cade.)

The Tigers will head to the Orange Bowl now, and Klubnik figures to be the starter.

Or, perhaps that is simply what Swinney desires you to consider.

Heisman 5

So, about that Heisman race.

Nearly each contender for the award stumbled to the end line with a loss — be it Hendon Hooker in Week 12, C.J. Stroud in Week 13 or Max Duggan and Caleb Williams in convention championship video games.

Does that imply the Heisman betting needs to be fully upended? Effectively, somebody has to win, and somewhat recency bias should not overshadow some terrific seasons.

1. Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

Separating Stroud and Williams at this level is completely about splitting hairs. Stroud is only a tick higher in Complete QBR. Williams has two fewer picks. Stroud accomplished 66.2% of his passes. Williams accomplished 66.1%. Stroud averaged 9.4 yards per cross. Williams averaged 9.1 They each threw 37 touchdowns. They each have been distinctive, however what places Stroud forward right here is that this: He did all of it with Jaxson Smith-Njigba taking part in simply three video games and TreVeyon Henderson lacking 4 video games. As deep as Ohio State is on the talent positions, Stroud made each one in every of a parade of rising stars who stepped into larger roles higher. And he did all of it despite having to spend half of each recreation watching different Large Ten offenses. Are you aware how onerous it’s to remain awake by means of all that?

2. USC QB Caleb Williams

If he’d crushed Utah, would he be a clear-cut No. 1? Maybe. However Williams rolled the cube shifting to the Pac-12, figuring out that nothing ends properly there, so he should reside with the results.

3. TCU QB Max Duggan

Sure, Duggan misplaced Saturday. However the loss was hardly on him. The person ran himself into close to hypothermia, and if he’d made it six inches additional in additional time, TCU is likely to be 13-0 proper now. Duggan’s efficiency was herculean even when the reward hardly matched the hassle, like these guys who end a 64-ounce steak simply to get a free t-shirt and their photograph on the wall of the restaurant. If it wasn’t finally sufficient to win him the Heisman, it was actually sufficient to safe his spot in New York for Heisman weekend — and within the hearts of TCU followers eternally.

4. Georgia QB Stetson Bennett

There was one QB who completed the season on a excessive observe, and that is Bennett. The Heisman shouldn’t be meant to be a lifetime achievement award, even when Bennett’s life is the stuff of legend. However his numbers warrant consideration on their very own. His 86.3 Complete QBR is only a fraction shy of Williams’ 86.4. He is accounted for greater than 3,500 yards and added 27 touchdowns. He is led Georgia to a 13-0 report and he is completed it with a supporting solid that hardly seems just like the cadre of superstars at USC or Ohio State (no offense to Brock Bowers, as a result of actually, we’re fearful of Brock Bowers). To vote for Bennett could not be merely in regards to the stats or the legacy. His case is someplace within the margins, in understanding he possesses some uncommon magic that may’t be quantified or understood however that makes him simply in regards to the coolest human being since Miles Davis.

5. Alabama QB Bryce Younger

There is a cause just one participant in historical past has gained a number of Heisman trophies. Not solely is it onerous to repeat an elite efficiency, however reasonably than being judged towards the opposite contenders, he is inevitably judged towards his prior yr’s success. Such is the case for Younger, who misplaced two video games and missed a large chunk of two extra, and that is merely not sufficient to get in completed when the usual is so extremely excessive. However Alabama’s offense was not the wrecking ball we have been used to seeing, and Younger was the spark that saved the Crimson Tide’s season alive. He will not win the award, however there’s nonetheless a great case to be made he was the most effective participant within the nation in 2022.

Sanders leaves with SWAC title

Deion Sanders landed a trophy and a brand new job Saturday, main Jackson State to a SWAC title with a 43-24 win over Southern earlier than formally accepting the head-coaching job at Colorado.

Sanders’ son, Shedeur Sanders, threw for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns within the win. Sanders wrapped his Jackson State teaching profession with a report of 27-5.

Colorado AD Rick George confirmed Sanders’ hiring Saturday night time, which allowed Coach Prime sufficient time to lease a celebration bus for all of the gamers he is prone to take with him to highway journey out to Boulder that can even be filmed for a brand new Netflix particular. On the plus aspect for Jackson State, nevertheless, Sanders did go away a pleasant observe on his desk studying: “Thanks for the recollections. IOU 1 recruiting class. Love Coach Prime.”

Tulane wins American

In 1998, Tulane went 12-0 and gained Convention USA. For the following 23 years, the Inexperienced Wave went with no convention title, and there have been no celebrations in New Orleans so far as we’re conscious.

However that torment got here to a rollicking finish Saturday as Tulane demolished UCF within the American Athletic Convention championship recreation, securing a New Yr’s Six bowl bid within the course of.

Michael Pratt threw for 394 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Tyjae Spears rushed for 199 yards and a rating within the 45-28 win, incomes revenge after UCF gained their regular-season matchup three weeks in the past.

Tulane racked up 649 yards within the recreation, its second most since that 1998 season, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info analysis, and the bludgeoning may’ve been even worse. The Inexperienced Wave turned the ball over thrice and did not convert a fourth down deep in their very own territory that led to a UCF landing.

Tulane now enters its bowl recreation with 11 wins for simply the second time in its historical past, only one yr after a depressing 2-10 marketing campaign.

We solely hope the Inexperienced Wave will be capable of discover just a few institutions keen to host a celebration.

What may need been

Because the committee’s highest-ranked crew from the Group of 5, Tulane is about for a bid to a New Yr’s Six bowl, but when one of many yr’s most iconic performs hadn’t occurred approach again in Week 3, it is likely to be Troy celebrating this week.

The Trojans dominated Coastal Carolina within the Solar Belt championship on Saturday, 45-26, regardless of the return of Chanticleers QB Grayson McCall, who had been out since Nov. 3 with an damage.

Troy is now 11-2 on the season and has gained 10 straight, every of the previous three by at the least 21.

So, why is not Troy within the dialog for a New Yr’s Six bowl? Blame Chase Brice.

Again in Week 3, Appalachian State had simply pulled off a shocking upset of Texas A&M and hosted “Faculty GameDay,” however the Mountaineers trailed Troy 28-26 with simply 2 seconds to play. That is when Brice heaved a Hail Mary that Christian Horn caught in need of the objective line earlier than he looped round to the sideline and located the tip zone for a chaotic 32-28 win.

It was the final time Troy misplaced, however it was additionally possible sufficient to maintain the Trojans properly behind Tulane within the Group of 5 pecking order this season.

And but, Troy is not prone to even be the most important story a few Trojans crew narrowly lacking out on a prime bowl invite.

Below-the-radar play of the week

Justin Marshall hauled in a 37-yard landing cross by reaching over Akron’s Rishad Therefore’s head, serving to to spark an enormous second-half comeback for Buffalo.



Justin Marshall climbs the ladder and makes a spectacular snag for a Buffalo landing.

Marshall completed with two landing grabs within the recreation, and Quian Williams scored from 16 yards out with 1:15 to play to hold the Bulls previous Akron 23-22.

The sport was initially scheduled for Nov. 22, and Buffalo lastly completed shoveling snow off its area Friday to permit the groups to play. The win will get the Bulls to 6-6 and bowl eligible, too, and if there’s any equity on the earth, they’re going to get to go some place a lot, a lot hotter than Buffalo.

Below-the-radar recreation of the week

Six days in the past, New Mexico State hopped onto Faculty Soccer Tinder and up to date its profile: “FBS impartial, bowl eligible and able to mingle.”

Valparaiso shortly swiped proper, and on Saturday, we discovered that, maybe, the Beacons weren’t truly prepared for a relationship.

New Mexico State had already gotten a waiver from the NCAA to grow to be bowl eligible at 5-6 after its Oct. 22 recreation towards San Jose State was shelved. Nonetheless, the Aggies had a shot to get to .500 with the make-up date towards Valpo and so they did not waste the possibility.

New Mexico State gained 65-3 — a rating that certainly places Valpo head coach Landon Fox on Auburn’s radar when the Tigers are trying once more in 2025 — and secured the Aggies’ second six-win season previously 20 years.

With New Mexico State assured a bowl bid — its second since 1960 — and Buffalo knocking off Akron on Friday, 81 of the 82 bowl bids have been shall be crammed by groups 6-6 or higher. That leaves Rice — at 5-7 — as the ultimate crew to make a bowl courtesy of getting the very best APR amongst five-win groups.