NCAA Football Top 25 Week 12 Recap
Week 12 didn’t seem like it’d produce many exciting matchups on paper. Harvard-Yale at Fenway Park and the Notre Dame Yank…errrr Fighting Irish at Yankee Stadium certainly presented some interesting venues, and UCF finally landing College GameDay added a layer of excitement, but the rankings were expected to remain intact and, for the most part, they did. The week’s results may not change much, with most top teams taking care of business. However, a look back on the week shows a historic half, a validation of dominance and much more. Here are some quick breakdowns of the top games from across the nation and their potential implications.
Well, that was odd: Citadel-Alabama
The final score of 50-17 wasn’t indicative of the inexplicable craziness of this game. Some oddsmakers wouldn’t even put a line on this game; that’s how much Alabama was supposed to dominate.
Instead, the Tide entered the half tied at 10 with the Citadel. It marked the first time in three years that Alabama entered the half tied or trailing.
Alabama quickly erased any inklings of an upset, putting up 27 points in the third quarter and outscoring the Citadel 40-7 in the second half.
Tua Tagovailoa kept pace in the Heisman race throwing for 340 yards on 18-of-22 passing.
Alabama finishes the regular season in the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa and already has an SEC Championship matchup booked with Georgia.
If only…: Syracuse-ND
Syracuse’s unexpected 8-2 start to the season came from the combination of multiple factors, but chief among them was the play of Eric Dungey. The senior quarterback, who led the Orange into the strange road environment of Yankee Stadium for a matchup with Notre Dame Saturday afternoon, sustained an upper-body injury early in the game.
Syracuse, already facing its toughest challenge of the season, couldn’t overcome the loss of Dungey and fell 36-3. This game played out a lot like the Boston College-Clemson game from last week: an exciting upstart loses its quarterback early and can’t muster any offense against a potential playoff team.
Notre Dame’s stout defensive front sacked backup QB Tommy DeVito six times and limited the freshman to 14-of-31 passing. Syracuse’s first 11 drives all ended in either a punt or an interception and none lasted longer than 7 plays.
The Orange defense did an admirable job slowing down the Irish offense, despite being on the field for much of the game, sometimes in short-yardage situations.
Ian Book, still recovering from a rib injury, had statistically his worst game as Notre Dame’s starter, posting his lowest passer rating of the season (140.9). Calling 23-of-37 for 292 yards and 2 touchdowns Book’s worst game speaks to the incredible jolt of offense he’s given the Irish since taking over for Brandon Wimbush.
Notre Dame finishes the regular season in a road contest against USC. For the Irish, a win should lock up one of the four spots in the College Football Playoffs.
Phew!: Ohio State-Maryland
Maryland gave Ohio State all it could handle, but a failed 2-point conversion in overtime kept Ohio State’s playoff hopes alive in anticipation of the GameDay matchup against Michigan next week.
Anthony McFarland ran for 81 and 75-yard touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to open the game and put the Terrapins on top. The Buckeyes wouldn’t pull even until Dwayne Haskins touchdown run capped off an 11 play, 75-yard drive to knot the game at 38.
Maryland regained the lead two minutes later. Demario McCall returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to give the Buckeyes a chance to tie the game. Ohio State ran 7 plays in just over a minute and punched in another touchdown to once again tie the game.
The game was headed for an overtime chess match, but when Maryland scored in the bottom of the first, the Terrapins attempted a 2-point conversion. Tyrrell Pigrome had Jeshaun Jones open as he rolled out to the right, but the pass was off-line and the Buckeyes escaped.
A Michigan win puts both teams at 10-1 and sets up a de-facto Big Ten East championship game Saturday in Ann Arbor.
The highest of highs and the lowest of lows: BC-FSU
Coming off the high of a huge College GameDay tilt, albeit a losing effort, against Clemson, Boston College experienced a letdown against the scuffling Seminoles.
The Eagles got a boost pregame when it was announced that Anthony Brown and AJ Dillon would both start after exiting the Clemson game with injuries. Brown’s news came as a bit of a surprise, given that the QB went to the hospital last Saturday night with an internal injury.
Aside from two interceptions, Brown played well throwing for just shy of 300 yards. Dillon powered through a lingering hamstring injury to rush for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns on 37 carries.
BC led 21-16 heading into the game’s final minutes. Facing a 4th down and 1 with 2:52 left, Steve Addazio elected to punt from the FSU 40 and put the game in the hands of his defense.
Unfortunately for BC, Tamorrion Terry got past Brandon Sebastian and coasted into the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good, but FSU was still on top 22-21. The Eagles couldn’t execute the two-minute drill, and the Seminoles prevailed.
This was a game BC needed to have, but for now, the Eagles are stuck at 7 wins, a total they haven’t been able to eclipse in the Addazio era.
Chaos? Or clarity?: WVU-Ok. State
West Virginia-Oklahoma parts one and two were going to be so exciting. Will Grier and Kyler Murray battling for a shot at the College Football Playoffs in back-to-back weeks would’ve been must-see TV. Alas, it may not happen, and, if it does, it won’t have the same momentous implications as there could have been.
It’s not often that Will Grier gets out-dueled, but it happened Saturday in Stillwater. Grier’s final line of 364 yards and 2 touchdowns isn’t shabby, but it falls flat against the 5 touchdown performance of Taylor Cornelius.
Cornelius had a hand in all three of the Cowboys 4th quarter touchdowns, as Oklahoma State outscored West Virginia 21-10 in the final frame to pull off the 45-41 upset.
The loss muddles the Big 12 picture, but here’s my best attempt at a simple explanation. West Virginia and Oklahoma face off on Black Friday in Norman. Assuming Texas defeats Kansas, the Longhorns would face the winner of that matchup in the Big 12 title game. Trust me, it can get a lot more chaotic than this, but this is the most likely scenario.
GameDay proven: Cincinnati-UCF
Central Florida finally got its shot under the brightest of lights, and the Knights delivered a 38-13 victory over its toughest opponent to date in No. 24 Cincinnati.
Aside from returning a McKenzie Milton fumble 7 yards for a touchdown on UCF’s first offensive play, Cincinnati was outmatched for much of the game.
The Bearcats actually dominated the time of possession battle 37 minutes to 22, but the Knights defense didn’t break. They were the beneficiaries of two missed field goals early and they forced three Cincinnati fumbles.
College GameDay finally gave UCF the chance to prove its worth on the national stage. The domination gives way to the waiting game: how high can UCF climb in the rankings?
With a win in the final week against USF, the Knights would certainly deserve a top-10 ranking and another New Year’s Six bowl game. Admittedly, chaos can still happen and give the Knights a chance at securing a College Football Playoff berth, but it’s a long shot. Who knows, maybe they can finally get a game with Alabama like they’ve been asking for.