Two kicks: one with nine seconds remaining, and one with zeros on the clock. This year’s predictable college game picture could not be rewritten; If both of them veered off course, the playoff race could have devolved into chaos just steps from the regular season finish line.
No team in the Bowl Subdivision is more adept at winning close games than No. 4 TCU, who smashed a playoff game out of nowhere with unwavering confidence in Sonny Dykes’ offensive scheme and seemingly unstoppable process of late-game heroics.
Down 28-20 against Baylor with less than seven minutes left, the Horned Frogs drove 90 yards to tie the game at 28-26 but missed the two-point conversion. After stopping on the Bears’ ensuing possession, TCU marched 45 yards to set up the game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
TCU has spent this entire season on the brink — seven of its eight Big 12 wins and eight of its 10 wins against FBS competition have come by 10 points or less, including memorable victories against Oklahoma State, No. 17 Kansas State and the Bears.
But every win brings the Horned Frogs one step closer to the playoffs. TCU could complete the most unlikely berth in format history with a win over Iowa State next Saturday and a possible rematch with Kansas State in the conference championship game.
Follow every match: Live NCAA College Football Scores
Another team currently in the top four in the playoff standings, No. 3 Michigan, has been pushed to the limit for the first time this season.
Illinois extended a Big Ten West lead with two straight losses but rose as underdogs against the Wolverines, taking a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter before Michigan kicker Jake Moody earned All-America honors for the second straight season with three field goals in the last 15 minutes. , the last of which has nine seconds remaining.
big loss:Michigan RB star Blake Corum is leaving early with an injury
Main matches:Results and analysis from all of the top 25 matches in Week 12
This is new for Michigan, and perhaps a reflection of the interest already being paid to next week’s rivalry game against No. 2 Ohio State. Only Maryland remains within range of No. 1 Wolverines, who entered Saturday with a mediocre margin of victory in the Big Ten game of 21.9 points per game.
How matches were won doesn’t matter. Their all-time win keeps the Horned Frogs and Wolverines in the thick of the playoff picture and continues a postseason race that was stale and uncontroversial.
No. 5 Tennessee, No. 9 Clemson, No. 19 Notre Dame and others join Michigan and TCU on this week’s list of winners and losers:
The #6 Trojans are the big winner of the weekend. For starters, the Trojans recovered a memorable shootout 45-42 against No. 16 UCLA to earn at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season crown and a spot in the conference championship game. At quarterback, Caleb Williams threw for 470 yards with two touchdowns and may have taken the lead in the Heisman Trophy run. Then there was No. 5 Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina, which opens a much clearer door for USC to enter and stay in the top four in the playoff standings. With two more wins and a 12-1 finish, it will be impossible to keep the Trojans out of the National Semifinals.
With all due respect to the RedHawks, who have had as many wins as the Hurricanes since the start of last season, Clemson routinely makes Miami (FL) look like Miami (Ohio). Including a 40-10 win on Saturday, the pair’s past four meetings have gone 196-30 in favor of the Tigers, illustrating the huge gap that separates the best program in the ACC from somewhere in the bottom half of the pack. In addition to keeping Clemson in the playoff mix, the win represented another strong start for DJ Uiagalelei, who threw for 227 yards, ran for a team-high 89 yards and was responsible for three scores.
Ohio and Georgia
It has not been easy for any team in the top four. Georgia’s #1 offense broke into the red zone and gained a season-low 361 yards in a 16-6 win against Kentucky. No. 2 Ohio State was emphasized by Maryland, which led 13-10 at halftime and came up within a 33-30 field goal five minutes into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes managed to win 43-30 thanks to 146 rushing yards from freshman Dallan Hayden and a late defensive touchdown after the Terrapins took over with 42 seconds left in the game.
SURVIVE BUCKEYES:Ohio State edged Maryland to remain undefeated
Even though all the laughs were charged by Iowa’s offense, which over the weekend ranked 128th in the FBS in yards per game and 130 yards per game, the Hawkeyes now stand within one win of another Big Ten West crown after beating Minnesota 13 – 10 on a late field goal. The crime is terrible. The defense is still the best in the country. With next Saturday’s competition victory over a woeful Nebraska, Iowa will qualify to take on either Ohio State or Michigan in the conference championship game.
Losses to Marshall and Stanford threatened to engulf Notre Dame’s season and cast a negative light on coach Marcus Freeman after just six games into his tenure. With little fanfare, the Fighting Irish spent over a month among the hottest teams in the Bowl Subdivision and entered the regular season final against No. 6 Southern California in the New Year’s Six Bowl berth range. Saturday’s 44-0 shutout of Boston College continues a streak of solid play that really began with a 45-32 win over No. 11 North Carolina on Sept. 24.
Texas put in a dominant performance on both sides and pummeled Kansas in a 55-14 win that might mark the Longhorns’ best effort of the year. At various points this season, including losses to Alabama and TCU, the Longhorns looked like part of a near-breakout program under second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian. While it will take some help getting into the Big 12 championship game—the Jayhawks will have to beat Kansas State and Texas have to overtake Baylor—this season is beginning to be a notable step forward for the Longhorns.
This is turning into a great rebounding season for Boise State, which failed to win at least eight games last year for the first time since 1998, barring a COVID-19-shortened season. After making a late interception in the end zone to hang on to beat Wyoming 20-17, the Broncos were 8-3 overall and undefeated going into the season finale’s Mountain West game against Utah State.
Tennessee was set to join the top four in the penultimate ranking, replacing underdogs Ohio State and Michigan, and would have been tough to shake off even without making it to the SEC Championship game. But only if the Volunteers end up with only one loss—and South Carolina made sure that didn’t happen. The Gamecocks scored 35 points in the first half and won 63-38 to knock Tennessee out of playoff contention, which could open the way for the Big Ten runner-up or one-time ACC champion. After playing better lately, the Volunteers defense gave up 606 yards of offense while Spencer Rattler had his best game since moving from Oklahoma with 438 passing yards and six touchdowns. And it gets worse: Hendon Hooker suffered an apparent lower-body injury late in the game as the Gamecocks held a 25-point lead.
bad night:Tennessee’s playoff hopes end with a loss to South Carolina
If it was still a long shot, UNC had a real shot at reaching the playoffs with a very tight streak: win, beating Clemson along the way, while adding Tennessee and Pac-12 champs a second loss. Despite leading 17-0 at halftime, the Tar Heels lost 21-17 to Georgia Tech and fell out of the playoff conversation, even though the New Year’s Six bowl was still a possibility. To get into a major league, UNC needs to beat Clemson or lose while the Tigers enter the National Semifinals, giving the Tar Heels an ACC slot in the Orange Bowl.
A 17-14 loss to Navy is bad news for the 18th-ranked Knights and possibly even worse news for the Americans, who were slated to send another champ to the New Year’s Six tournament, but could now lose in this attempt to reach a one- or two-loss loss from Team Sun. Bilt. The loss isn’t necessarily fatal: UCF could still get into the American Championship game depending on the outcome of next weekend’s game between No. 22 Tulane and No. 21 Cincinnati. But the triple-lost Knights could take down South Florida next Saturday, take on one of the Green Wave or Bearkats and still be locked into the New Year’s Six from, say, No. 23 Coastal Carolina if the Chanticleers finish with just one loss.
The inconsistency was not unexpected in the debut of coach Billy Napier. Since upsetting No. 10 Utah in the season opener, Florida has alternated between hot streaks and losing streaks, seemingly landing somewhere in the middle of the SEC after eliminating South Carolina last week. So what should we take away from the Gators’ 31-24 loss to Vanderbilt? No matter how you might try to write it off—that this is the first year at Napier, that the Commodores are getting better, that every week is so unpredictable given the first phase of this rebuilding project, that the Gators basically gave the win with several careless errors— There is simply no excuse for Florida to lose in this game, even if Vanderbilt cornered under head coach Clark Lea.
This time last year, Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker was being touted as one of the most recognizable names in the business and just days away from striking one of the most lucrative deals in coaching history. One year later, the Spartans would very likely be short of bowl eligibility after losing 39-31 in double overtime to Indiana. The Hoosiers crawled out of the 17-point hole in the first half and won despite there being no business in it: MSU edged IU by more than 250 yards, gave up just 33 yards, had 17 catches, and had the ball for over 36 minutes. Now 5-6, the Spartans will need to score a huge upset against No. 12 Penn State to reach the postseason.
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