College football Week 12 takeaways, including Ohio State getting exposed in a win vs. Indiana, College Football Playoff predictions and the latest Heisman watch.
Clemson-FSU postponement fallout
I was so excited to see Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence make his return after missing the previous two games after a COVID diagnosis. Before I even woke up on Saturday, Clemson’s game vs. Florida State had already been postponed after a Tigers player tested positive, practiced and traveled with the team to Tallahassee. There’s a lot of frustration on both sides about the game not being played, but accusing Florida State of ducking Clemson doesn’t jive with me. That’s just insulting to every single Florida State football player and coach to throw out an accusation that they were dodging Clemson to avoid a loss.
Playing college football is a finite opportunity and willingly not play a game when you’re already there and ready to play is something that will play on the Clemson message boards and social media but it doesn’t hold any weight in the real world. Hopefully, the two programs will find a way to make the game up on Dec. 12 when both have an open week, but I’d understand why Clemson would be unhappy about playing that week with the ACC Championship Game one week later.
Whether it’s Nov. 22 or Dec. 12, Clemson is the better team, however, that doesn’t mean FSU isn’t ready to strap up their chinstrap and go to battle against Lawrence, Travis Etienne and the team that wrestled the ACC away from their grips.
Ohio State wins but gets exposed by Indiana
Ohio State survived the upset bid from the previously-undefeated Indiana Hoosiers but it may have exposed them down the road in the College Football Playoff. Indiana quarterback thoroughly outplayed Justin Fields who likely lost his chance to win the Heisman, throwing for 491 yards and five touchdowns in the seven-point loss and had three different receivers haul in passes for more than 50 yards.
Ohio State got the win, yes, but that’s going to result in a loss against more talented teams like Alabama with Mac Jones or Clemson with Trevor Lawrence in the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes typically have some of the best cornerbacks and safeties in the nation, and cornerback Shaun Wade may be a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft but he got burned like a piece of chicken left on the grill too long. Ohio State is fortunate they won’t play any quarterbacks in the Big Ten like Penix the rest of the season that could trip them up, but it’s imperative the secondary get right before the playoff.
Credit Indiana football coach Tom Allen for having his team fighting for all 60 minutes when the Buckeyes started to pull away in the second quarter. This team is on the rise and Allen should be the Coach of the Year. His postgame speech to his team will result in a lot of masonry work being done because there were many brick walls that were run through.
Even LeBron James gave credit to Indiana for the fight they showed and the coaching from Allen to have the Hoosiers within one play of going to overtime with arguably one of the best Ohio State teams in program history.
Tom Herman loses even when Texas doesn’t play
Texas was off this week after their game with Kansas was rescheduled due to COVID issues with the Jayhawks, but Tom Herman still found a way to take a loss. Texas lost the commitment from 2022 top recruit Quinn Ewers earlier this month in large part because of the quality of play by the Longhorns and the uncertainty involving Herman’s job security. He then had to watch as Ewers committed to Ohio State, the school he won a national title at under Urban Meyer in 2015, as the Buckeyes continue to clean up on the recruiting trail.
Texas has struggled to recruit in the state and Ohio State has been one of the beneficiaries of Herman’s inability to put a fence around the state. Besides the disappointing on-field product, Herman’s inability to keep Ewers is one of the reasons why the Longhorns faithful are running out of patience with him leading the program. Ewers is the type of recruit that can change the direction of a program and compete for national titles. He’ll be doing that for Ohio State, not Texas, who will watch other schools getting better why they wonder when they’ll ever be back.
Oklahoma most improved team
Oklahoma won’t make the College Football Playoff for the first time, but they may be one of the four teams no one wants to face right now. After dropping games to Kansas State and Iowa State in their second and third games of the year, the Sooners have rattled off five straight wins, including Saturday night’s win over rival Oklahoma State. They entered Bedlam having scored 62 points in each of their previous two games as Spencer Rattler has overcome his early growing pains.
The biggest reason for Lincoln Riley’s team looking like the most improved team over the last six weeks, however, is the returns of Rhamondre Stevenson and Ronnie Perkins from suspensions dating back to last year when they were popped for a marijuana test. They are arguably the two best players, or at least, the two most important players on the team. Their impact has been vital on both sides of the ball.
Stevenson led the team in rushing in the three games since his return, including 141 in Bedlam and has taken the pressure off Rattler to be perfect when teams knew there wasn’t a legit running threat. The offense is so much more balanced and as a result, Rattler has looked as good as he has all year.
Defensively, Alex Grinch has seen his unit get better each week and adding Perkins to the front has added so much strength, speed and flexibility to the front seven that’s getting after quarterbacks and into backfields. Entering Bedlam, Perkins had 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. He added three more vs. Oklahoma State. If Oklahoma had these two players all year — as they should have — the Sooners are undefeated and looking at another Big 12 title and playoff appearance. They may get the former but the latter is something they can thank the NCAA for their archaic and punitive damages.
Can the Bears poach Pat Fitzgerald from Northwestern?
For years, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has been looked at as a target of bigger college programs and some NFL clubs. And for years, Fitzgerald has rebuffed their interest to remain at his alma mater. I wonder if that could change if the Chicago Bears come calling if things continue to go south for Matt Nagy. Fitzgerald wouldn’t have to uproot his family and move out of state like he would for the other opportunities that came his way. Plus, he’s the perfect coach to change the stale culture in Halas Hall and he knows how to win ugly, which is what the Bears have done for their 101-year history.
Northwestern just finds a way to win with defense and opportunistic offense scoring just enough to eke out wins. Northwestern improved to 5-0 on the year with a 17-7 win over Wisconsin and held the Badgers scoreless after the first quarter. This was the fourth game this year Northwestern didn’t allow a point in the second half. Whether the Cats are outgained on offense, have a talent deficiency compared to the other team’s roster full of four and five-star recruits, it doesn’t matter because Fitzgerald knows how to recruit for his program and his coaching staff gets the most out of their talent. That would play well anywhere, but especially would be welcome with the Bears. Will it happen? Most likely not, but the Bears should inquire nevertheless.
BYU-Cincinnati should play on Dec. 5
BYU and Cincinnati are both undefeated but neither has much of a chance at the moment to crack the College Football Playoff with a lack of quality wins and tough opponents remaining on the schedule. However, that could change if they schedule each other on Dec. 5. Both have an open week and while it would be a great risk to both to risk their perfect season by playing each other, it’s an opportunity to showcase their team against the toughest quality of opponent at the perfect time for the playoff committee.
You can make the argument that whoever wins this hypothetical game is still fighting an uphill battle to crack the top four, but worry about that after playing the game. Do everything you can to make it a difficult decision for the committee to not rank you in the top four. If they don’t play, they have almost zero shot of making the playoff, but if they do, the winner at least gives themselves a chance should there be anarchy in the final weekend in the SEC, Big Ten and/or ACC Championship Games.
When you’re an underdog, you have to take big and bold chances and assume the risk. This is that opportunity to do it and it would be one of the most intriguing games across college football all year. It should be the primetime game on ABC with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit on the call and College GameDay should set up shop there as well for the morning. It has to happen.
College Football Playoff rankings predictions
The first batch of College Football Playoff rankings will be released on Tuesday night. There won’t be much drama at the top where Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Clemson figure to occupy the top four spots. The real drama will be where Cincinnati, BYU, Oregon and Texas A&M fall. Those teams all wish the playoff expanded to eight teams because they’d have a pretty decent chance to take at least three of those four extra spots.
Kirk Herbstreit told me he’s keeping an eye on the Ducks in the Pac-12 if they can run the table and thinks BYU and Cincinnati need to be Alabama and Notre Dame fans to bump Clemson out and keep Florida on the outside looking in. That likely also precludes Texas A&M from getting in the mix. As long as Cincinnati is ranked in the top six-seven and BYU is a spot or two below that, they will remain in the picture and won’t be outright dismissed by the committee that has unjustly disrespected teams from outside the Group of Five since the playoff’s inception.
1. Kyle Trask, Florida, QB
2. Mac Jones, Alabama, QB
3. Justin Fields, Ohio State, QB
4. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, QB
5. Zach Wilson, BYU, QB
Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. Many families will not be traveling this year and gathering to give thanks with their entire families around the dinner table and around the TV with football on. It’s been a tough year for so many people for so many reasons, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be grateful and thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives. In my family, football has been a constant on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Saturday when I grew up watching Ohio State-Michigan while with my extended family.
That’s not going to happen this year, but while I’m going to miss that, I will be thankful to have people I care about so deeply enough to miss them.
I fully recognize it’s a tough perspective to have but it’s a perspective I need to have. I hope you can manage to think about the positives in your life during a time when there have been so many negatives. That goes double if you’re a Penn State or Michigan football fan. So load up on the carb and have an extra slice of pie this year and remember that there is a rainbow at the end of this storm.