Saturday’s early slate was essentially every movie where a fearless hero has to defuse a bomb, shut his eyes and clip the blue wire, not entirely sure if it’s the right one.
It was every airline disaster film where a passenger is called to fill in for the unconscious pilot and land the plane.
It was Nic Cage, shirt unbuttoned and fluttering in the wind, screaming incoherently as explosions wreak havoc around him.
Saturday walked the college football season right to the edge of the cliff and jumped — only to grab a branch on the way down and climb back to safety.
In Waco, Texas, TCU‘s miracle season went from absurd to sublime as the Horned Frogs botched a two-point conversion, nearly ran out the clock with a curious run call, then perfectly executed a special teams scramble drill for a game-winning field goal.
At the Big House, Illinois had Michigan on the ropes, but the Wolverines inched their way down the field on a final drive, watched J.J. McCarthy throw two passes that could’ve ended in disaster, then booted a field goal to win.
The Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the country remain undefeated. Barely.
The final moments weren’t quite so dramatic for No. 1 Georgia or No. 2 Ohio State, but they, too, flirted with disaster. The Bulldogs found the end zone just once in a 16-6 win over Kentucky. The Buckeyes trailed at the half and needed a late pick-six to fend off Maryland 43-30.
Georgia’s made a habit of sleepwalking past lesser foes. It hasn’t mattered.
Ohio State was truly tested for the first time all season. We can forgive the Buckeyes falling into the trap with that team up north on deck next week.
In the end, neither game felt truly in doubt.
For TCU and Michigan, however, their place in the top four seemed about as safe as the average crypto investment.
Baylor led the Horned Frogs 28-20 with less than 7 minutes to play, but as it has seemingly done every week, TCU had an answer. Max Duggan drove the offense 90 yards on 11 plays for the score, then had Emari Demercado wide open for a game-tying two-point try but led his running back just a touch too far.
Baylor had a chance to run out the clock, but Blake Shapen decided to run on third down despite a wide open receiver beyond the sticks, giving the ball back to TCU one last time. The Horned Frogs managed nine plays and 45 yards in the final 1:34, but because Sonny Dykes is the type of person who likes to hit on 18 just to see what will happen, the final scrimmage play of the game was a run. Demercado went up the middle for 2 yards with the clock ticking down. The field-goal unit sprinted onto the field and snapped the ball just before the clock hit zeroes, and Griffin Kell drilled the 40-yarder for the win.
After the game, Dykes said there was never a doubt. The fire drill is something his team practices routinely. Whether Dykes is aware that practicing fire drills doesn’t require you to light your house on fire to make them worthwhile is irrelevant. The gamble worked.
TCU scrambles to kick a game-winning field goal in the final seconds against Baylor.
At Michigan, the Wolverines were without RB Donovan Edwards and Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum went down early in the second half with a knee injury, all of which made finding the end zone something akin to a Where’s Waldo puzzle for Jim Harbaugh’s offense. (Like Dykes’ special-teams scramble, we also assume Harbaugh practices Where’s Waldo puzzles daily.) Michigan had six second-half possessions. One resulted in a punt, one a 10-play drive thwarted by a failed fourth-down try at the Illinois 37 and four others with a field goal.
Lucky for Michigan, it has arguably the best kicker in the country.
Trailing by a touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter, Michigan got field goals of 41, 33 and a 35-yard game winner from Jake Moody. The final series involved two dangerous throws from McCarthy — one into the end zone that just missed the outstretched arms of Illinois DB Devon Witherspoon and the other batted into the air at the line of scrimmage, and Michigan survived.
That whooshing sound you might’ve heard after those last-second field goals? That was the playoff committee breathing an enormous sigh of relief. Oh, how close we came to chaos but Dykes cut the right wire, and Harbaugh landed the plane.
There were so many ways this could’ve gone wrong. Probably should have gone wrong. And yet, here we are, the playoff picture tattered and worn, but still in one piece.
Tales of the SEC via Twitter
It’s the most miserable week of the season in the SEC, as half the league tunes up for rivalry games by demolishing lower tier opponents getting paid to lose big.
But spending a bunch of money just to watch a disaster unfold isn’t unique to the SEC. That’s what’s happening at Twitter, too. So as our favorite social media network circles the drain, we figured we’d celebrate the SEC’s blowouts by remembering some of the best tweets ever sent.
It’s been a weird year for Alabama. On one hand, the Tide’s two losses are by a combined three points. On the other hand, this is the first season in recent memory that Alabama hasn’t been in the title hunt in mid-November. It’s clear there are problems at Alabama. But are they big problems or something more akin to a bowl stuck inside another bowl?
Twitter, I need your help. I stacked a ceramic bowl into another one while doing dishes and now they are stuck. How do you remove the smaller bowl without breaking both of them?
Why am I so invested? I’ve tried to fix this for 2 days, and I cannot give up now. pic.twitter.com/ONfuw7L9dH
— Chi Nguyễn (@whatchidid) June 6, 2022
Things Nick Saban has tried:
-warm soapy water
-oil on edges
-Scheduling Austin Peay
That last one seemed to offer some hope, as Jermaine Burton caught seven balls for 128 yards and two touchdowns while Jase McClellan ran for 156 and two scores in the win.
Well, the Aggies finally snapped their six-game losing streak after paying UMass $1.7 million to come play at a mostly empty Kyle Field.
— Kristie Rieken (@kristieAP) November 19, 2022
And while a win is a win, this was hardly a turning point for Jimbo Fisher’s team. The offense largely sputtered yet again, and has not topped 28 points against an FBS opponent all season (and has gone 13 straight FBS games without topping 28).
For reference, here’s a list of teams that scored less than Texas A&M did Saturday against UMass in the last four years: Stony Brook this year UConn in 2021 UConn in 2018
That’s the whole list.
And that brings us to our Twitter memory to celebrate all that A&M has accomplished this year.
someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this. my family is dying
— wint (@dril) September 29, 2013
Allow us to paraphrase for the folks in College Station …
Coaching buyout $86 million
Someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this. My NIL collective is dying.
The eastern part of Tennessee gave us Dolly Parton, and ETSU must surely be thinking Mississippi State could’ve had its choice of cupcakes, but now ETSU may never score again. Regardless, the Buccaneers will be talking about Will Rogers and his five TD passes in their sleep.
MY MAN: (comes home)
ME: (nervous) how was the store
MY MAN: fine
ME: oh thank g –
MY MAN: ran into jolene
ME: oh no
MY MAN: she mentioned you left kind of an intense voicemail
— Rob Dubbin (@robdubbin) July 28, 2019
But here’s the real question: Do you think Mike Leach has ever been to Dollywood?
Cadillac Williams has Auburn’s ground game working, with both Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter each rushing for more than 100 yards Saturday. The win gets Auburn to 5-6 and now all the Tigers need to do is win the Iron Bowl to get bowl eligible.
What my girlfriend thought, first 4 dates:
1. Nice shirt.
2. Wow. A second nice shirt.
3. Okay, first shirt again.
4. He has two shirts.
— ristolable (@ristolable) August 13, 2014
What we’ve thought of the Tigers:
Hey, nice national championship in 2010.
Wow, a second national championship appearance in 2013.
Oh, they had two good seasons.
Texas vanquishes arch nemesis
In Austin, they can finally breathe easy. Those plucky upstart Longhorns have finally felled the monster.
Texas toppled Big 12 power Kansas Jayhawks 55-14 Saturday in a stunning upset that has, at long last, delivered a message that the big, bad Jayhawks aren’t invincible.
Oh, sure, the rivalry had been entirely one-sided of late. Texas hadn’t tasted victory over the Jayhawks since 2019 — ancient history, really. It was a time when a legend named Tom Herman roamed the sidelines, the only Texas coach in the past decade without an L against Kansas. Those were the glory days for the Longhorns.
But Saturday, Bijan Robinson unearthed a bit of that same glory once again. He ran for 243 yards and four touchdowns against the mighty Kansas defense, a sizable fraction of Texas’ 427 rushing yards on the day.
Quinn Ewers got his first taste of the rivalry, and completed just 12 of 21 passes for 107 yards. Still, he earned the win — something no Texas QB had accomplished this decade. Ewers then celebrated by unrolling a pack of cigarettes from his t-shirt sleeve and relaxing on the hood of a 1982 Trans Am.
It was an emphatic win for the Longhorns, their biggest margin against the Jayhawks since 2011. It was a statement, really. No longer would Texas be the Big 12’s laughing stock while Kansas basked in the spotlight of true supremacy. The tide has turned. Texas finally has the monkey off its back. And yes, we assume the monkey then attacked a bunch of kids.
Heels tripped up
For the second straight season, a ranked UNC team fell to the Yellow Jackets. This one, however, stings much worse.
The Tar Heels saw their long shot playoff hopes disappear along with a 17-0 lead thanks to myriad red-zone failures and a defense that couldn’t get off the field on Georgia Tech’s final drive.
For the first time this season, Drake Maye failed to throw a touchdown. He might’ve had one — and a game-winner — when he hit a wide open Josh Downs at the 1 on a fourth-and-11 with 4 minutes to play. But Downs dropped the pass, UNC turned the ball over on downs and Georgia Tech converted a third-and-4, third-and-9 and third-and-1 to drain the clock to zeroes.
Josh Downs drops a wide-open touchdown pass that would have restored North Carolina’s lead.
The Tar Heels had four trips inside the Georgia Tech red zone and came away with just 13 points from them.
For the Yellow Jackets, interim coach Brent Key is now 4-3 against ACC competition, staking a strong claim for the full-time job.
For North Carolina, a season’s worth of come-from-behind wins came to a screeching halt when Maye and the offense ran out of magic.
UNC will still play for an ACC championship and has a chance to knock off rival NC State next week. And, of course, basketball season is underway, so there’s still plenty for Heels fans to discuss over a nice Château Margaux sauvignon blanc and some Bitto Storico.
No New Year’s Six for UCF
UCF’s hopes for an American Conference championship are still alive, but one week after taking command in the quest for the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six bid with a win over Tulane, the Knights ran into a Navy defense that played its best game of the season.
UCF was without starting QB John Rhys Plumlee in the second half, turned the ball over twice, was just 3-of-12 on third-down tries and its defense couldn’t get off the field as Navy chewed up the final 5:54 of the game on an 11-play drive to secure the 17-14 win.
The Knights’ loss further scrambles both the AAC championship game picture and the New Year’s Six bid. Tulane and Cincinnati were both ranked in the committee’s most recent top 25, but they’ll face off against each other in Week 13. UCF wraps its season against hapless USF, and would still make the conference title game with a win. Whether a three-loss UCF could make a New Year’s Six bowl even with a conference title, however, is a big question, leaving the door open perhaps for Coastal Carolina or UTSA to make a late push, too.
The most college football thing to happen Saturday
This season has had far too few random animal entertainment during games. Last year we had the Louisville dog and the Arizona State fox. We’ve had jackrabbits and squirrels and ducks over the years, and they’re always a delightful distraction during a particularly dull football game.
So, a huge tip of the cap to this year’s first truly memorable animal act: The end zone pigeon.
— no context college football (@nocontextcfb) November 19, 2022
The pigeon appeared in the end zone in the second half of Oregon State‘s 31-7 win over the Sun Devils and spent nearly the entirety of the remainder of the game there, without fear that Arizona State’s offense might intrude on his real estate.
With the game a blowout, the pigeon became prime TV fodder, and a star was born.
The director of the ASU-Oregon St. football broadcast on ESPN is fixated with a random pigeon pic.twitter.com/O3dVYH4lBf
— Bob Adlhoch🇺🇦 (@badlhoch) November 19, 2022
Under-the-radar play of the day
On a second-and-6, QB Riley Leonard threw a back-shoulder pass toward the sideline. Moore was well covered, and the ball was thrown high. Meh. No problem.
Pitt’s Jordan Moore makes an astounding one-handed catch.
Moore finished the game with 14 grabs for 199 yards and a touchdown, but the Blue Devils came up just short in a 28-26 loss to Pitt.
Under-the-radar game of the day
Q4 :05 | Penn 20, #22 Princeton 19
— Penn Football (@PENNfb) November 19, 2022
No doubt this will result in those new money Yalies ribbing their rivals with some droll remarks between bits of crudité down at the marina. But let them have their American football. Princeton will always excel at gentlemanly club life.
Big bets and bad beats
With a total that closed at just 31.5, Iowa and Minnesota never even sniffed the over. Iowa took a 10-7 lead to the half, but after the break, the two teams opted to engage in a war of attrition that included less action than the average staring contest.
The Gophers had a prime chance to put the game away midway through the fourth quarter (though, in fairness, a second touchdown against Iowa at any point during a game usually ensures a win) when Mohamed Ibrahim carried 14 times on a 16-play drive but fumbled on a third-and-4 in the red zone. After a Minnesota interception on its next drive, Iowa scored a field goal to secure the win.
Ibrahim finished just 10 yards shy of matching Iowa’s total yardage, carrying 39 times for 263 yards (with a catch for seven more), but it wasn’t enough.
The under covered easily. Iowa won for the fourth time this season in a game in which it failed to crack 300 yards of offense.
The top four teams in the country all won Saturday, but none of them covered.
Georgia was a 22.5-point favorite against Kentucky but won by just 10. Ohio State was a 26-point favorite against Maryland but led by just three in the final minutes of the game. Michigan was a 17-point favorite and needed a last-second field goal to pull out the victory over Illinois. And TCU, favored by just two, escaped Baylor by a point.
The total closed at 46 and the under looked like an easy winner with Stanford leading 17-6 after three quarters. But Cal responded with three fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 27-17 lead with 58 seconds to play. It was enough to get bettors sweating, but at 44 points, the under remained safe.
Well, it should have anyway.
Stanford got the ball back, ran nine plays for 37 yards to the Cal 43 and then, with just five seconds remaining, lined up for a 61-yard field goal try.
Why? Our only guess is crypto is in the tank and too many Stanford boosters had the over.
In any case, Joshua Karty‘s kick was good — sealing Stanford’s 27-20 loss and a wild cover for the over.
College football Week 12 highlights
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