This photo is from ESPN.com. Please don’t sue me.
Plenty of drama in Week 12. But do you think any of that drama produced a clearer playoff picture? Ha! You fool! If anything, the waters are muddier today than they were before Saturday. With two remaining undefeated teams and 12 one-loss teams left this season, no tickets have been punched. Only four will make the playoff. I wouldn’t place bets on any of them yet…although we can probably count out Toledo, Houston and Navy.
The Big Story: OSU (both of them) Down
There are two, really, but Oklahoma State losing at home to Baylor was a much bigger deal to me than Ohio State losing at home to Michigan State. I never expected Baylor to have so much fire power with backup QB Jarrett Stidham filling the big shoes of injured Seth Russell. And then HE went down! Baylor had to rely on a third-string QB, Chris Johnson, to carry the load. I seriously thought this was Okie State’s year. I really did. I was wrong. Leave it to the Cowboys to blow it in spectacular fashion. They were never in it. Baylor had OSU chasing all night long.
On the surface, I was never surprised that Michigan State would beat Ohio State. It didn’t matter to me that it was a home game for the Buckeyes. To me, this was the first true test for Ohio State and, much like last year’s defending champs, they were vulnerable and ripe for a loss. Now, had I known the best QB in the B1G, Connor Cook, would be sitting it out, I might’ve felt differently.
Another sad pizza day for Urban Meyer. At least his players lost with class…oh, wait.
Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was Sparty’s defense, perhaps it was backup QBs Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry doing just enough to manage the offense, perhaps it was Michigan State’s experience in winning ugly and winning late.
A clearly overjoyed Mark Dantonio flashes his familiar smile after his Spartans defeated Ohio State…and then he ripped out the heart of a deer with his bare hands and devoured it in the postgame presser.
No matter how you cut it, State was the better team in an otherwise dismal game where neither team looked exceptionally great. But who knew the loss would send Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott into the postgame presser, announcing his intention to go to the NFL…and throwing his coaches under the bus on his way to draft day.
The usually unflappable Ohio State suddenly looked and sounded frustrated. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond next weekend. I do not expect a hangover of any sort, heading into The Game.
Cupcakes – 1; SEC – 0
I said last week to ignore the SEC entirely this week, thanks to their tradition of Cupcake Week. But we have to pause and give praise to The Citadel for knocking off South Carolina 23-22. On top of that, a down-and-out Florida Atlantic nearly took out championship contender Florida to OT. Did NOT see that coming! If that’s not enough, Georgia also needed overtime to secure a win over that powerhouse Georgia Southern.
It’s time for the SEC to keep the cupcakes early in the season, like everyone else.
Big Boy Pants! The Volunteers are putting ’em on, thanks to head coach Butch Jones.
Big Boy Pants!
The Tennessee Volunteers are currently 7-4, heading into their final game of the season vs. Vanderbilt. That’s an impressive record; especially considering it clinches the Vols’ first winning season heading into the bowl season since 2009.
Thanks to third-year head coach Butch Jones, the Vols are putting on their Big Boy Pants! This season is even more impressive when you consider only 17 points separate Tennessee from an 11-0 season.
Volunteers junior QB Joshua Dobbs has a total QBR of 74.1, good for No. 22 in the nation. Sophomore running back Jalen Hurd is 113 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season. Don’t be surprised if Tennessee moves its way back into the upper level of the SEC East division next season.
Current Rankings…According to Me
Fact: none of this matters until the regular season and championship games have been played. But in the meantime, I took a look at the remaining undefeated and one-loss teams and ranked them according to my super-duper scientific method.
You may agree or disagree. I’m not even sure I agree with myself right now. Truth is, it’s likely to change after Thanksgiving weekend and once again after Championship weekend. But, for now, here’s where I see things.
Strictly Personal: The Old Oaken Bucket
Indiana (5–6 / 1–6) at Purdue (2–9 / 1–6)
No one will pay any attention to this game. There is nothing really on the line (but for bowl eligibility for one team)…and a bucket. A win for IU means a 6–6 season; just good enough to get an invitation to a bowl game. For Purdue, it means…who cares?! I’m an IU grad and carved out 5+ years of my professional career with IU. I’m cream and crimson, through and through!
While Purdue owns the overall series at 72-39-6, the Hoosiers have won the past two Bucket games. IU has the better offense by a county mile. IU was within a touchdown in games against the top teams in the conference: Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan.
Prediction: Purdue? Pur-DON’T! Win it for Coach Corso! Win it for Hep! Win it because…Christ, we need SOMETHING to cheer about this season with IU football! HAIL TO OLD IU!!
The Final Weekend
I’m already sad we’ve reached the end of the line for the 2015 season. But the playoff drama will not be decided until the conference championship games the following weekend. In the meantime, there are several rivalry games that have more than pride on the line.
Oklahoma (10–1 / 7–1) at Oklahoma State (10–1 / 7–1)
Bedlam. This game will undoubtedly live up to the hype. In a conference without a championship game, this rivalry matchup will likely serve as the de facto championship. It also represents that last, best hope for the Big XII to have a representative in the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: Boomer Sooner.
Florida State (9–2 / 6–2) at Florida (10–1 / 7–1)
This out-of-conference matchup could prove devastating for the Gators. They’re already set to take on Alabama in the SEC championship game. A loss to the Seminoles would take Florida out of the national championship picture. Florida hasn’t had an impressive win since taking out Ole Miss back in October. For Florida State, it’s all about pride. Sure, FSU is going to a bowl game, but their schedule boasts very few quality wins. A win in Gainesville would go a long way in this bitter rivalry.
Prediction: Gators chomp the Seminoles.
Notre Dame (10–1) at Stanford (9–2 / 8–1)
Saving the best for last. The Irish still have a great shot at making the playoff, but need to get past the best team in the Pac-12. Were it not for a two-point loss vs. Oregon last week, The Cardinal might be in CFP contention as well. Instead, this game is all about bragging rights. And The Legends Trophy. While national media will likely be paying attention elsewhere, this game is one to watch.
Prediction: Irish prevail.
Ohio State (10–1 / 6–1) at Michigan (9–2 / 6–1)
It’s been a long time since The Game has had meaning for both schools. This year, the stakes are much higher for Ohio State. A win in Ann Arbor keeps OSU’s conference (and national) championship hopes alive. For the Wolverines, a win (coupled with a Michigan State loss) would put them in the conference championship game and serve as an exclamation point in the beginning of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Prediction: Too close to call, but…