Saturday wrapped that unpredictable college football season into one memorable day.
Three of the country’s top seven teams have won in dramatic finals by three points or less. The No. 1 team, Georgia, struggled to outlive Kentucky with five losses. Team No. 2, Ohio State, had their hands full with middling Maryland.
And then came the scoop: Tennessee, No. 5, still firmly entrenched in the playoff mix entering the day, was blasted by South Carolina and Spencer Rattler, opening the playoff door for the likes of Clemson and the loser of the State of Michigan-Ohio. If USC wins and narrowly past UCLA in a 48-45 slugfest, it’s likely the Trojans will give the Pac-12 its first playoff bidder since Washington in 2017.
In a season full of unexpected results and massive upsets, this could be high on the list. Rattler had thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (eight) and averaged 198 yards through the air. He should be a big star in Oklahoma last season before losing his job to Caleb Williams and then moving to South Carolina.
Then, in a magical display, he reminded everyone of his immense arm talent and ended Tennessee’s playoff hopes with a brilliant performance, a 438-yard, 6-touchdown masterpiece.
It was an amazing result. The 22-point underdogs Gamecocks throttled the Volunteers, 63-38. They had given no indication such a seismic result was possible after being flattened by Florida, 38-6, a week earlier. In South Carolina’s last home game, it fell to Missouri by double digits. Another team took on Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium. Rattler went out and led South Carolina to the most points from an unranked opponent against a top-five team all-time with a career-best evening and led them to nine touchdowns in 11 drives. The 63 points was the most Tennessee has given up in an SEC game, allowing South Carolina an absurd 606 yards of offense.
It was a remarkable day in a season where very little went according to plan. Alabama, everyone’s preseason favorite, bowed out of winning the SEC West last weekend. Clemson was wiped out by the rebuilding of Notre Dame. There is no clear leader in the Heisman Trophy. The only constant was unbeaten Georgia.
With two weeks to go there are only two choices when it comes to the playoffs: Georgia and the winner of next Saturday’s game between Michigan and Ohio State. A Big Ten with two bids remains in play. LSU can become the first two-loss team to make the playoffs by beating Georgia in the SEC championship game. Clemson’s dream isn’t dead, although it will take at least either TCU or USC to lose.
South Carolina’s overwhelming victory added even more uncertainty on a memorable day when Spencer Rattler somehow morphed into the LSU version of Joe Burrow.
TCU and Michigan were both on the ropes and deep in the fourth quarter, and their respective opponents, Baylor and Illinois, had the ball with a chance to end the game. But instead of being aggressive and going for the win, these teams played not to lose – and of course they lost.
Baylor coaches Dave Aranda and Illinois’ Bret Bielema attempted to run the ball to eat the clock when all spectators knew that was coming. The result was a three-and-out, giving TCU and Michigan another shot.
The heavy favorites both survived with last-second field goals, largely because opposing coaches turned conservative when aggression could have made all the difference. The players for Baylor and Illinois deserved better. Bielema had the audacity to blame the officials afterwards when his shenanigans hurt his team the most.
The game is coming
it’s the game It is the states of Michigan and Ohio. The Big Ten East and a place in the playoffs are at stake. And it’s really hard to predict that showdown. Neither team is playing very well at the moment, both pulling off less than impressive victories against overwhelming opponents.
Michigan may not have a star running back Blake Corum, who injured his left knee in the narrow win over Illinois. Ohio State could do without top playmakers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Miyan Williams, and top running back TreVeyon Henderson looked nothing like himself on Saturday after suffering a foot injury he may have aggravated. It all sets the stage for an absolutely fascinating meeting in Columbus with so much at stake.