Key games of the final week of the college football regular season
The end of college football’s regular season rarely brings out the best in all of us, so when’s the best time to consider conflicting opinions and revisionist history than at Thanksgiving?
It’s largely up to you to figure out the other arguments of the holidays – the mashed potatoes, however, are definitely better than the sweet – but here’s a cheat sheet for the top teams in the college football playoff standings.
Add a few free jabs to the Atlantic Coast and Pac-12 conferences, neither of which have a team in the playoff hunt, and that should be enough to get you to dessert.
All Eastern hours.
No.1 Georgia (11-0)
At Georgia Tech (3-8) on Saturday. (noon on ABC)
During the early years of coach Kirby Smart’s tenure in Athens, loyal Georgians sometimes questioned whether the school had chosen the right person to lead the Bulldogs. Alabama fans, who had followed Smart’s long apprenticeship under Nick Saban, advised patience.
These concerns have faded sharply this season. With the best defense in the country – Georgia allowed an average of 7.5 points and about 236 yards per game – any offensive shortcomings were easy to ignore. Again this week, Nakobe Dean, a junior who has recorded seven tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks this season, was named a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the game’s top linebacker.
The Bulldogs haven’t won a national title since the 1980 season. But the team had back-to-back shutouts in the Southeastern Conference game this season, a feat they haven’t achieved since that race. in the championship.
Ohio State # 2 (10-1)
At Michigan’s No.5 (10-1) on Saturday. (noon on Fox)
The game is back in style.
A year after the pandemic forced the cancellation of one of the sport’s most legendary rivalries, the Ohio State grudge match against Michigan, a trip to the Big Ten Conference championship game will be in. Saturday game in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Buckeyes have moved past early worries this season: Although Ohio State lost by a home touchdown to Oregon, which Utah destroyed on Saturday night to drop the Ducks to No.11 from No.3 , Coach Ryan Day’s team humiliated Purdue and, over the weekend, a then-No. 7 State of Michigan.
Quarterback CJ Stroud is a Heisman Trophy contender, largely because he completed over 71% of his passes and threw 36 touchdowns while leading the best offense in the country.
The Buckeyes are averaging nearly 560 yards per game, 30.6 yards ahead of second-place Pittsburgh.
# 3 Alabama (10-1)
At Auburn (6-5) on Saturday. (3:30 p.m. on CBS)
It usually doesn’t make sense to count Crimson Tide out of any national title conversation. Still, Alabama, which routed Ohio state last season to win the championship, has looked uncomfortable at times this fall.
There were some big wins – it’s Alabama, after all – but also a loss at Texas A&M and one touchdown fumble against better-than-usual Arkansas and absolutely catastrophic Louisiana. And an Iron Bowl date in Auburn is no picnic.
But sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, also seen as a contender for Heisman, has Alabama’s offense averaging nearly 502 yards and Saban’s defense, including linebacker Will Anderson Jr. , is the second best in the SEC.
No.4 Cincinnati (11-0)
At East Carolina (7-4) on Friday. (3:30 p.m. on ABC)
No team in a Group of 5 league has ever reached the playoffs. Cincinnati, a member of the American Athletic Conference, might just do it. An iconic 24-13 victory at Notre Dame, which is now ranked sixth, certainly helped.
On Friday in East Carolina, Desmond Ridder will struggle to replicate his performance against Southern Methodist over the weekend, when he completed 17 of his 23 passes, registering 274 yards and three touchdowns.
He also ran for a score and caught a touchdown pass. Yes really.
No.5 Michigan (10-1)
Hosts Ohio State No.2 (10-1) on Saturday. (noon on Fox)
Outside of Cincinnati, there might not have been a bigger debate around this season’s playoff standings than what to do with Michigan.
The Wolverines barely lost at Michigan State on Oct. 30, but quickly found themselves ranked ahead of the Spartans because the playoff committee deemed Michigan “a more complete team.”
And Michigan is indeed very good: No. 9 in the country in all-out defense, No. 23 in all-out offense and fueled by an offensive line that has been the stingiest in the country to allow tackles for loss. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who share the Big Ten lead in sack count with 10 apiece, are Michigan’s first-ever duo to rack up double-digit sack counts in a season.
Ohio State, however, is by far the biggest test of the season for the Wolverines, who have earned just one win this season against a team that is still in the playoff standings. Michigan has only beaten Ohio State twice since 2001, most recently in 2011.
N ° 6 Notre-Dame (10-1)
At Stanford (3-8) on Saturday. (8 p.m. on Fox)
Three of Notre Dame’s wins were 3 points, so it was surprising that the Fighting Irish set a 10-1 record. Thank a strong defense that allowed just 9 points in three November games.
Isaiah Foskey, a defensive lineman, is responsible for 10 of Notre Dame’s 38 sacks, and the team have 21 takeaways this season. And there have been a lot of goals from the defense, who have managed several touchdowns in two games this season. (Notre Dame’s defense actually outscored entire opposing teams, 12-9, this month.)
Michael Mayer, a tight end, stays busy when the offense is on the field and caught 55 passes for 663 yards, while fullback Kyren Williams ran for 928 more.
# 7 Oklahoma State (10-1)
Oklahoma (10-1) hosts Saturday. (7:30 p.m. on ABC)
The Cowboys just posted the best defensive performance of coach Mike Gundy in 17 seasons at the helm – Oklahoma State conceded just 108 total yards at Texas Tech on Saturday – but they are close to meeting Oklahoma, the Big 12’s most significant offensive.
Not that Oklahoma State’s offense is lackluster: In their last four games, the Cowboys have averaged about 482 yards and 41 points. Their offense is among the most balanced in the Big 12, but Tay Martin has collected at least 100 receiving yards in four games this season.
Saturday’s slate will decide Oklahoma State’s opponent in the Big 12 title tilt next weekend. If Oklahoma wins, the Sooners and Cowboys will meet in Arlington, Texas. If Oklahoma loses and No. 8 Baylor overtakes Texas Tech, the Cowboys will face the Baylor team they beat by 10 points in October.
No. 8 Baylor (9-2)
Hosts Texas Tech (6-5) on Saturday. (noon on FS1)
While Dave Aranda is a defensive-minded coach – he was Louisiana State’s defensive coordinator when the Tigers won the 2019 national championship – Baylor’s offense is gaining more yards per game than any. another Big 12 team. The Bears favor the scramble, running over 400 rushing plays this season and picking up nearly six yards per attempt.
The rushing attack star was not in Baylor’s backfield in 2020; he was nowhere on the offensive side of the ball, in fact. But Abram Smith, who made four linebacker starts last season, leads the team this year with 1,249 rushing yards.
The Bears haven’t won a Big 12 title since 2014. However, they could play one next weekend.
No. 9 Mississippi (9-2)
At Mississippi State (7-4) Thursday. (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Ten-win seasons don’t happen very often in Oxford: Mississippi is aiming for its third since 1972 and its first 10-win regular season.
The first college football team known to have been 100% vaccinated against the coronavirus fell in Alabama and Auburn, but Mississippi also beat Arkansas and Texas A&M with the SEC’s most prolific violation in terms of distance.
Matt Corral, the Mississippi junior pushing to win the Heisman, is one of three quarterbacks in the Football Bowl division who threw at least 15 touchdowns and rushed for 10 or more. Braylon Sanders was a favorite target, averaging 22.1 yards per reception, the SEC’s best.
Thursday’s Egg Bowl will test the Mississippi defense, as Mississippi State and coach Mike Leach execute an airstrike attack that leads the SEC through the passing yards.
# 10 Oklahoma (10-1)
At Oklahoma State No.7 (10-1) on Saturday. (7:30 p.m. on ABC)
The only Big 12 program to ever make it to the playoffs, Oklahoma will head to their rival clash in Stillwater focused on simply winning the conference championship game.
It has been a strange road to 10 wins. The Sooners outlasted Tulane, 40-35, to open the season. The following week, Oklahoma scored 76 and held West Carolina at zero. Then came some close wins over teams like Kansas State and West Virginia. But Oklahoma didn’t lose until Nov. 13 at Baylor.
Spencer Rattler, a preseason American, lost his starting quarterback in mid-October. His replacement, Caleb Williams, threw for 1,418 yards and 15 touchdowns. Despite the turmoil, Oklahoma mustered the Big 12’s most points-rich offense, unsurprisingly under coach Lincoln Riley, who is considered one of the best offensive players in the country.
The Sooners will visit Oklahoma state with some confidence as they are on a six-game winning streak against the Cowboys.