Something was in the air yesterday in college football. We saw undefeated teams fall. We saw undefeated teams struggle in games that should have been easy wins. We saw undefeated teams lose their game and still have their playoff chances get boosted. It was a day for underdogs, undercats, and underleprechauns.
These were the games and moments that sent ripples, waves and gasps through the NCAA in Week 10.
Ohio State at Northwestern
For the Buckeyes, something was quite literally in the air – winds so bad they grounded flights out of O’Hare. However, I doubt the playoff selection committee would deem that a valid excuse to lose to a 1-win team, so thankfully the Buckeyes pulled it together despite Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern team putting up an excellent fight.
Northwestern managed to fluster the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball, with CJ Stroud throwing for just 76 yards. Yes, you read that number correctly. The man who has been the Heisman favorite for so much of the season managed to throw for just 76 yards against a team whose only win came in the first week of the season. And don’t get me started on the defense, who looked like the JV version of whatever the 2021 defense was. Northwestern looked hungry.
We can certainly blame the wind for part of it. It became clear at one point that it was impacting the players’ ability to hear play calls or communicate, not to mention its actual impact on the ball itself. But the Buckeyes looked shaken in a way they haven’t really, even in Week 9, which wasn’t an easy win for them. That they remain undefeated feels like a bit of a miracle considering how some of the other games went down, but they will certainly need to work these kinks out before they face Michigan in a few weeks, or their playoff chances could be kaput.
Tennessee at Georgia
If you’d told Tennessee fans a New Year’s Six bowl was on the table at the beginning of this season, they’d have told you to lay off the drugs. If you’d told them they could lose to Georgia and still have a playoff chance? They might have had you committed.
And yet, that’s where the Vols found themselves yesterday. Georgia looked like the dominant force that terrified people at the end of last season and the start of this one. Despite a few early season struggles, the undefeated Bulldogs seemed to find their stride right when it counts, as they woofed in the faces of these Vols.
But the chaotic part of this game wasn’t the end result (a 27-13 Georgia win). It was the fact that even though this loss most likely bumps Tennessee from the SEC title game (Georgia would have to absolutely collapse in the next 3 weeks), their playoff dream is still alive, thanks to LSU and Notre Dame. A TCU loss would be helpful as well, but their strength of schedule and impressive performances through now could be just enough to edge them into that No. 4 spot at season’s end.
Alabama at LSU
We love free football! We love free football that results in a Nick Saban loss! We love free football that upends the SEC Championship game everyone expected to see. We love free football that seems to be putting the final nail in Alabama’s playoff coffin.
Alabama and LSU hung neck-and-neck the whole game, and honestly, this is the kind of football game you want to watch. The great thing about the Tide is that win or lose, they require their opponents to play 60 (or in this case more) minutes of football. Ultimately, it was a delightful overtime 2-point conversion that sealed the deal for the Tigers, giving Brian Kelly some annoying bragging rights and control of their own fate in the SEC West.
Clemson at Notre Dame
If you saw me talking smack about Notre Dame at any point this season, no you didn’t (OK fine, yes you did and I still hate their fans). But for one day only, I was glad they had the luck of the Irish on their side in their win against the previously undefeated Clemson. It’s a beautiful thing to see an overrated team come crumbling down, especially when that team has made the playoffs so many times in the last few years that we’re getting bored with them.
This wasn’t just a small upset. Notre Dame CRUSHED them. It looked like amateur hour. They absolutely demolished Clemson’s O-line. They forced major turnovers. It exposed every hole the Clemson naysayers had complained about. Since the modern playoff era began, there has never been a season in which neither Clemson nor Alabama made the playoffs. In many cases, both teams made it. And yet, this year is for new beginnings and new playoff teams (let’s just hope the Buckeyes are the exception there).
Michigan at Rutgers
The Buckeyes’ last real challenge of the season (barring any bananas outcomes against Indiana or Maryland) will be when the Wolverines come to the ‘Shoe in three weeks, and yesterday, the Buckeyes exposed some holes in their game.
Thankfully, they weren’t the only ones to do so. The 52-17 final score of the Michigan-Rutgers game was an impressive victory for TTUN, but it doesn’t indicate that Rutgers was leading 17-14 at the half. Now, they didn’t score again, but for two quarters of football, Michigan wasn’t the impressive force they’ve been til now, leaving some windows open for the Buckeyes to peer in at their weaknesses ahead of The Game.