This was supposed to be the easy Saturday, the warm-up for rivalry week, the appetizer before college football's main course. For Oregon, however, the check came early with a 31-28 loss to Arizona State.
Whether Oregon ever truly deserved playoff-contender status is up for debate. The Pac-12 was written off early, but the Ducks and Utah both worked their way back into the conversation. The résumé, however, was far from deep, and Saturday's showdown against the Sun Devils figured to be less a challenge to the Ducks' status than simply a test to see whether Justin Herbert's team could sell the committee on some style points.
Arizona State had other ideas.
The Sun Devils' defense held Herbert in check, QB Jayden Daniels had a career game, and while the rest of the playoff contenders feasted on appetizers or cupcakes, Oregon made the committee's job a little easier in stunning fashion.
As appetizers go, Georgia's 19-13 win over Texas A&M was like a plate of nachos -- perfect for picking at until there's nothing left. What to make of the performance? Georgia's defense looked dominant, as has been the case most of the season. But like Notre Dame, South Carolina, Florida and Auburn, the Bulldogs couldn't quite put an overmatched opponent away because the offense just didn't have a second gear. Yes, Jake Fromm made some incredible throws, but there were too many missed opportunities along the way, too.
Burrow, Edwards-Helaire lead LSU to another dominating win
No. 1 LSU is led by a big game from Joe Burrow and three touchdowns from Clyde Edwards-Helaire in a 56-20 rout of Arkansas.
The Bulldogs have played nine Power 5 teams this season, and Tennessee is the only one that failed to hold Fromm & Co. to 30 points or fewer. That hardly seems like a recipe to beat LSU in the SEC championship game, even if it has largely been enough to ensure Georgia stays at the head of the line waiting for the final playoff bid.
Ohio State-Penn State might have been a prelude to the Buckeyes' bigger concern with that Team Up North next week, but Chase Young showed up ready to eat. The nation's most fearsome defender was back from a two-game suspension, and he utterly devoured Penn State's O-line. Young might genuinely be the most impactful player in college football, and he's as big a reason to like the Buckeyes as the playoff favorite as anything.
Still, there might be some room to nitpick. We haven't seen Ohio State play a truly good offense this season, and while the Buckeyes largely dominated Penn State, there were enough self-inflicted wounds to keep things close. Is the power ground game really there for Ohio State? Can Justin Fields hold up against an elite defense like Georgia or Clemson? There were just enough hiccups throughout Ohio State's appetizer to offer some room for doubt.
Brewer leads Baylor to Big 12 championship game
Charlie Brewer goes for over 290 yards with two touchdowns as the Bears punch their ticket to the Big 12 championship game.
LSU's Week 13 appetizer involved Heisman front-runner Joe Burrow demolishing Arkansas. The Tigers were favored by 41 and, despite pulling Burrow early in the second half, almost covered. Perhaps Texas A&M offers a challenge next week, but that would be a shocker. More likely, the unstoppable forces on LSU's offense will keep chomping away until they get a taste of the Georgia defense in Atlanta.
For Auburn and Alabama, the Iron Bowl appetizers were the typical fare of Jell-O molds and stale pretzels. The SEC might be the best conference in college football, but the scheduling for the penultimate game of the regular season is routinely awful. So Auburn walloped Samford 52-0, and Alabama was able to let Mac Jones paddle around the kiddie pool with swimmies in a 66-3 win over Western Carolina, before Nick Saban throws his new QB into the deep end. Did we learn anything from the two blowouts? Only that Tua Tagovailoa isn't the key to beating a 3-9 FCS team.
Hometown favorite Skyline Chili doesn't really do appetizers (chili fries?), but Cincinnati nearly spoiled its main course against Temple. Only a pair of special-teams debacles by the Owls kept Cincy's New Year's Six hopes alive. Now the Bearcats will head to Memphis in Week 14 for what amounts to an elimination contest in the American Athletic Conference.
Clemson got its toughest test in weeks, but the Tigers still had little chance of losing during their off week. Utah, Oklahoma, Baylor, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin all saved room for a hefty entree next week, too. That is how Week 13 is supposed to go.
For Oregon, though, the party's over. The Ducks' playoff hopes got packed up and put in a doggy bag, courtesy of Herm Edwards' crew. Funny thing is, it turned out to be the perfect way for college football fans to whet their appetites for what's next -- a hint of the drama to come without spoiling the whole meal.
Last year at this time, it looked as if Tagovailoa would run away with the trophy -- but instead Kyler Murray snuck up over the final few games to stake his claim. Could a similar process play out between Burrow and Fields this year? As good as Burrow has been, Fields continues to post some spectacular numbers, and he'll wrap the season with three straight games vs. ranked foes, including Saturday's win over Penn State. The vote might just end up a bit tougher than we all assumed.
1. Joe Burrow, LSU
Burrow turned in his seventh game of 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns against Arkansas. Robert Griffin III is the last Heisman winner to do that.
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State
Through 11 games last year, Murray was completing 70.3% of his throws and had 44 total touchdowns, seven turnovers and a 95.0 Total QBR. How does Fields stack up? He has a 69.4% completion rate, 43 touchdowns, five turnovers (just one interception) and a 93.2 Total QBR. Pretty close.
Yale rallies for wild 2OT win over Harvard
After climate protests delayed "The Game" for nearly an hour, Yale rallied for a 50-43 double-overtime win over Harvard and a share of the Ivy League title.
3. Chase Young, Ohio State
Entering Saturday's return from a two-game suspension, Young was getting pressure on 23.8% of his pass rushes -- more than three percentage points better than the next-best mark. He added to those freaky numbers Saturday, finishing with nine tackles, including four for a loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles. For the year, he now has 16.5 sacks -- fourth most in Big Ten history, and he didn't even get to play Maryland and Rutgers.
4. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
There are three players in FBS history with 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards through 11 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Hurts is one. The other two are Lamar Jackson and Johnny Manziel, and they both won the Heisman.
5. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Another ho-hum 106 yards on the ground, the ninth straight 100-yard game for Hubbard, in a win over West Virginia. For good measure, he led the Cowboys in receiving, too, with seven catches for 88 yards.
Injured Youngstown State QB takes final snap of his career
Nathan Mays, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury earlier in the year, limps on the field with help from his teammates and takes a knee to end the game.
The playoff hopes for Baylor and Minnesota took a nosedive in a disappointing Week 12, so it wouldn't have been a surprise if both teams came out flat in their respective follow-ups Saturday.
Turns out, those playoff hopes are still flickering.
Minnesota dominated Northwestern, with Tanner Morgan delivering another four-TD performance and receivers Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman going over 1,000 yards for the season. According to ESPN Stats & Info research, that's the first time teammates have each had 1,000 yards receiving in the same season in Big Ten history.
Baylor's second-half collapse against Oklahoma after going up 28-3 was the stuff of nightmares (specifically, the Atlanta Falcons' nightmares) but the agony didn't linger into Saturday. Charlie Brewer, famously not recruited by Texas despite a family pedigree there, accounted for 296 yards and two touchdowns, and the Bears' D looked back to normal in a 24-10 win over the Longhorns.
While neither team looks to be a likely playoff candidate today, they both probably control their own destiny, with Minnesota needing a win next week vs. Wisconsin to clinch a date with Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and Baylor officially locking up a rematch with the Sooners thanks to Saturday's win.
Clean air, full recycling bins, can't lose
Students held a sit-in protest at halftime of the Yale-Harvard game, hoping to bring attention to environmental concerns. The police were called, arrests were made and the second-half kickoff was delayed.
Then things really got crazy.
Yale (9-1) kept alive its hopes for a share of the Ivy League title when Kurt Rawlings tossed two touchdown passes in the final 1:28 of play -- with a recovered onside kick in between -- to force overtime. Yale trailed 22-3 early in the second half and 36-19 with 13:03 to play, but the Bulldogs stuffed the Crimson on their second possession in OT to win it 50-43 in the highest-scoring affair in the rivalry's history.
Then, of course, the fans sprinted back onto the field again, this time in celebration of a historic come-from-behind win. Ivy League degrees are a dime a dozen, after all. Wins like this are once in a lifetime.
Obviously you're not a bowler
We're down to the wire for a bunch of teams hoping to play in the postseason.
For Nebraska, hope remains alive after a drubbing of Maryland. The Huskers are now 5-6, with Iowa on deck to wrap the season. An upset of the Hawkeyes might be a long shot, however. Iowa hasn't lost to Nebraska since 2014. A loss for Nebraska would mean missing a bowl for the third year in a row for a program that played in a bowl game in all but two seasons from 1962 to 2016.
On the flip side of the bowl spectrum is Charlotte, which pulled the upset at home over Marshall (and former coach Brad Lambert, now the Thundering Herd's defensive coordinator). The win gets the 49ers to 6-5 and bowl eligible for the first time in program history.
Celebrations were in store in Knoxville, too, as Tennessee clinched a bowl bid with a 24-20 win over Missouri. Given where the Vols started -- losses to Georgia State and BYU -- this turnaround is a minor miracle. And with Vandy on deck, this is shaping up as a solid season for Jeremy Pruitt.
Perhaps the most intriguing bowl possibility, however, is Kent State. With a come-from-behind win over Ball State on Saturday, the Golden Flashes are now 5-6 and simply need to beat Eastern Michigan next week to become eligible. That's a long way from where the program had been. From 2013 to 2018, Kent State had the second-worst record in FBS and never won more than four games.
Among the other teams hoping to secure a bowl bid next week: Boston College (at Pitt), North Carolina (at NC State), Michigan State (vs. Maryland), Mississippi State (vs. Ole Miss), Ohio (at Akron) and TCU (vs. West Virginia).
You hate to see it
To truly appreciate Saturday's greatness, it helps to also wallow in the worst the day provided -- a bit of a palate cleanser.
Remember way back in Week 2, when Maryland was fresh off back-to-back games scoring more than 60? Seriously, the Terps even cracked the AP Top 25. We weren't very smart in September. Flash-forward to Saturday's horrific 54-7 loss to Nebraska, and the Terps are now 3-8 and have been outscored in their past four games by a combined score of 217-38.
While Mike Locksley's team continued to speed toward oblivion, his son, Kai, at least got a win Saturday. Fittingly, it came in what could arguably be the worst game of the season. New Mexico State (2-9) beat UTEP (1-10) 44-35 in what was only the second game since 2013 to feature two teams with records that bad. Fittingly, the previous two games to feature teams 1-9 or worse also included New Mexico State or UTEP, too.
Speaking of teams going off the rails -- Texas is back! Back to being awful. Way back on Oct. 5, the Longhorns were 5-1 with their only loss coming in a close game vs. LSU. Since then, they're 2-5, including Saturday's blowout loss to Baylor. The only two wins came against Kansas and Kansas State -- both on last-second field goals. It's enough to make a coach do some crazy things, apparently.
Tom Herman is AMPED. pic.twitter.com/S7EVkIwy57— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) November 23, 2019
It has been a rough year for Vanderbilt, and to say the crowd wasn't exactly excited for its lackluster matchup against FCS foe East Tennessee would be an understatement. In fact, even the band didn't appear to have all its members show up.
Haven't posted a crowd pic in a while because it seems like piling on. But today it seems newsworthy.— Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) November 23, 2019
ETSU vs Vandy at national anthem pic.twitter.com/QyWskUBPqK
Big bets and bad beats
UCF backers had to be feeling good about covering a 7-point spread when the Knights pushed their lead to 34-17 with less than 11 minutes to play. Unfortunately, Tulane wasn't giving up so easily. The Green Wave scored on a 10-play, 75-yard drive with seven minutes to go, then managed another 75-yard drive in the final 1:49 that ended with a TD on fourth down with only 26 seconds left on the clock. Of course, the book would suggest Willie Fritz should have kicked the field goal to ensure a chance to win, then get the points if they recovered an onside kick, but that wouldn't have guaranteed a cover for the Green Wave and a long afternoon for folks who had UCF.
Nobody gives UMass 40 points and gets away with it ... twice. Sure, last week's line vs. Northwestern eventually slimmed to a mere 38.5 just minutes before kickoff, and that is what helped the Minutemen cover that one. This week, however, UMass easily covered as a 41.5-point dog against BYU (it lost 56-24), and all it took were two fourth-quarter TD drives after and a perfect final frame from the defense after falling behind 56-10. Hey, when you're UMass, it's the little things.
Chase Garbers' 16-yard TD run with 1:19 left had some huge implications. For one, it put Cal up by four, and the Golden Bears would go on to win 24-20 to secure bowl eligibility. The score also gave Cal a cover (the Bears were 1-point 'dogs) and pushed the game over the total of 41.
OK, so Akron played on Wednesday, which feels like a lifetime ago, but we have to mention the 0-11 Zips here. Sure, they still haven't won a game, but thanks to a rather competitive 20-17 loss to Miami (Ohio), they have finally covered a spread. Akron was 0-10 against the number entering Week 13, but the Zips avoid the ignominy of failing to even meet some incredibly low expectations by managing at least one cover on the season.
Butch Davis presided over the creation of the last truly great Miami teams, though he departed before Larry Coker won a national title there. And while there have been plenty of low points in the post-dynasty era, Saturday's dismal performance in a 30-24 loss to Davis and Florida International ranks right up near the top. Miami was a 21-point favorite but never led in the game and saw the Panthers jump out to a 23-3 lead in the fourth quarter. FIU backers had it easy, but if bettors were wise enough to play the money line (+1000) they got a far bigger treat. Either way, it was an outcome FIU fans won't let the Miami faithful forget anytime soon. It has been a season of unforgettable losses for Miami backers, too. As ESPN Stats & Info notes, Miami has now lost three times as a favorite of 14 points or more.
Under-the-radar play of the week
Youngstown State was up 21-3 with 10 seconds to play, so in the big picture, the final snap didn't mean much. For senior Nathan Mays, however, it was something special. The QB's season ended on Nov. 2 against North Dakota State when he suffered a severe leg injury. But his teammates didn't want it to end that way, so they carried him onto the field to take one last snap Saturday in the win. Sports are pretty great, right?
Under-the-radar game of the week
Next week is when the big-time rivalries are played, but let's not forget the country's most played rivalry, which featured Lafayette topping Lehigh 17-16 on Saturday in the 155th meeting between the two teams. You might recall Lee Corso famously putting on the Leopard head when he picked Lafayette in their first meeting back in 1884, but Saturday's festivities proved equally fun, with Lafayette tailback Selwyn Simpson running for both Leopards touchdowns before being ejected following his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Lafayette kicked the winning field goal from 28 yards with 47 seconds to play to secure the win.
Dads and dogs
Twitter provided us with some priceless Saturday images, including the world's best dad and the best canine meet-cute of the year.
And the award for "Dad of the year" goes to ... 🏆 pic.twitter.com/1mXBHVjKDO— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 23, 2019