Rivalry weekend lived up to it’s billing. The Iron Bowl was one of the best games I have watched all season. Auburn was able to out score Alabama 48-45. Both teams went toe-to-toe throughout the contest, before the Tigers landed the final body blow on a Shaun Shivers 11 yard run. Another big takeaway from rivalry week action is the true hatred displayed in these games. Several games featured brawls and ejections and dumb antics from over amped players.
Here is my top four, as we await the final committee rankings tomorrow.
1. Clemson 2. Ohio State 3. LSU 4. Georgia
Virginia ended a fifteen game losing streak to Virginia Tech, sending the Cavaliers to the ACC Championship game. Brian Delaney kicked a 43 yard field goal with just under two minutes left, breaking a 30-30 tie. The Hoos’ then added a defensive score to cement the victory. Quarterback Bryce Perkins had a banner day, throwing for 311 yards, while adding 164 yards rushing. North Carolina rolled into Raleigh needing a victory for a bowl game. Quarterback Sam Howell passed for 401 yards and three scores, leading his team to a 41-10 win over the Wolfpack. “We’d lost to Duke four out of the last five and we got over that hump,” Brown said. “And we’d lost to State four of the last five and we got over that hump. And they get another game together and this gives us a chance to have a winning season by winning the bowl game. So they’re really happy in that dressing room.” The Tar Heels will go back to a bowl for the first time since 2016. Boston College also got bowl eligible by beating Pittsburgh 26-19. A.J. Dillon carried the ball 32 times for 178 yards and a touchdown. Sunday Boston College fired head coach Steve Addazio. Addazio was 44-44 for the Eagles. I’ve heard that Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell is the top priority for the Eagles.
Ohio State once again blasted Michigan in the “Big House”. Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins, combined for eight touchdowns. Fields passed for 302 yards, while Dobbins added 211 yards rushing. It was the eighth straight win for the Buckeyes. “I’ll answer your questions, but not your insults,” Harbaugh said to a reporter, after the game. The Buckeyes will now play Wisconsin in the Big-10 Championship game. Wisconsin took back “Paul Bunyan’s Axe”, and in the process won the BIG-10 West. The Badgers were led by tailback Jonathan Taylor who scored three touchdowns. Michigan State struggled mightily, but managed to escape with a 19-16 over Maryland. Matt Coghlin booted two fourth quarter field goals, the final with just over two minutes left to secure the win. Quarterback Brian Lewerke passed for 342 yards for the Spartans. Rutgers made a big splash with the hiring of Rich Schiano to be head coach. Schiano a New Jersey native had a lot of success at the school, before he left for the NFL.
The Baylor Bears sent perhaps the biggest message to the CFP committee this weekend. The Bears blasted Kansas 61-6. The Bears piled up 507 total yards, while the defense forced six turnovers. The Bears will play Oklahoma in the BIG 12 Championship game. The Sooners were able to hold off an inspired Oklahoma State squad 34-16. Both Baylor and Oklahoma still have a shot to represent the BIG 12 in the playoff. Texas ended their season by beating Texas Tech 49-24. It was a disappointing season for the Longhorns who finished just 7-5. Head coach Tom Herman, shook things up on Sunday when he fired defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and reshuffled his coaching staff.
Utah tuned up for the Pac-12 Championship game, with a convincing 45-15 win over Colorado. The “Sack Lake City”, defense limited the Buffaloes, to just 217 total yards. Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss led the Utes offense accounting for three touchdowns. The two seniors were playing their last home game for the Utes. Utah needs a win over Oregon to hopefully qualify for the playoff. “We came back to win a PAC-12 Championship” said Moss. “This is the reason a lot these seniors came back. There are four or five of them that could have exited and turned professional but they had some unfinished business. Now they’re back and in position to finish it,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. Oregon was sluggish in their “Civil War” victory over Oregon State. The Beavers actually outgained the Ducks 380-365. The Beavers were looking for a victory to get bowl eligible. Washington defeated Washington State 31-13. It was the seventh straight win for the Huskies in the series. “The game is meaningful to us and as we do that we get out over our skis, we overcorrect, we try to do too much and all of the sudden it’s a frantic effort which it’s hard to execute when you do it that way,” Leach said.
The biggest news for me from the SEC this weekend was by far the firing of Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke. I think this is a huge mistake for “Rebel Nation”. Unless, the administration can somehow lure Mike Norvell from Memphis, this has the potential to be a real train wreck. I have heard that at least two current recruits have backed off their pledges. Missouri coach Barry Odom was also relieved of his head coaching duties. On the field, LSU continued their quest for the top spot in the polls, blasting Texas A&M 50-7.
Heisman hopeful Joe Burrow changed his jersey, but still managed to throw for 352 yards and three touchdowns. The tigers held a 553 to 169 total offense edge. Mississippi State held off a late Ole Miss rally, when the Rebels missed an extra point to preserve a 21-20 win. The victory in Stark Vegas got the Bulldogs bowl eligible. Lynn Bowden rushed for 284 yards, an SEC single-game record by a quarterback and a career-high four touchdowns to lead Kentucky’s school-record 517-yard ground performance that blew out rival Louisville 45-13 on Saturday in the Governor’s Cup showdown. Bowden attempted only two passes in the game.
GROUP OF FIVE SPOTLIGHT
Memphis defeated Cincinnati 34-24 on Friday. The win eliminated the Bearcats from representing the Group of Five on New Years day. The Tigers are now the clear cut favorite to play in the Cotton Bowl. A win in the AAC Championship will be the clincher for the Tigers. Boise State and Appalachian State still have a shot. Both teams will play in their respective conference championships.