College football rankings and Heisman watch after Week 12: Ohio State, C.J. Stroud make statement

It was Statement Saturday in college football in Week 12 and no team made a bigger statement than Ohio State with their 56-7 win over No. 7 Michigan State.

Week 12 was billed as Statement Saturday with convincing wins from Georgia, albeit against Charleston Southern, Ohio State, Cincinnati, MIchigan and Notre Dame.

No. 2 Alabama needed to recover an onside kick from Arkansas in the last minute to hold off the Razorbacks and clinch the SEC West and a meeting with Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

The statement wins were one thing but there were some lopsided losses from top-10 teams. No. 3 Oregon lost 38-7 to Utah, No. 7 Michigan State lost 56-7 to Ohio State and No. 10 Wake Forest lost 48-21 to Clemson. The three top-10 teams lost by a combined 99 points.

With three upsets inside the top 10 and Ohio State’s dominating showing combined with Alabama sweating out a win over Arkansas, the college football power rankings after Week 12 sees the Buckeyes leap the Crimson Tide to sit at the No. 2 spot behind Georgia.

college football rankings

College football rankings after Week 12: Ohio State leaps Alabama

1. Georgia – The Bulldogs have been the most impressive team from their opening week win vs. Clemson to their domination against Charleston Southern. Look, they aren’t getting any style points for beating them, but this is a team that has shown zero weaknesses all year. And they’re only getting stronger with wide receiver George Pickens nearing a return from an ACL tear suffered in March. Adding Pickens to this team is pretty unfair. The Dawgs wrap up against Georgia Tech before playing Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC title. Georgia will secure the No. 1 seed in the playoff if they win out. They will likely still make it even with a loss to Alabama.

2. Ohio State – Was there a more impressive win in the sport this year than what Ohio State did to Michigan State? It was 21-0 after the first and 49-0 at halftime. C.J. Stroud had six touchdowns at halftime. Michigan State had the worst pass defense in the nation and Stroud and the Buckeyes receivers exploited it. Ohio State’s lone blemish was at Oregon at home but this win has me convinced they are the second-best team right now. A potential championship game between the Buckeyes No. 1 offense against the Dawgs No. 1 defense would be a spectacular matchup. As long as Ohio State doesn’t lose to Michigan for the first time since 2011 next week when they take on their rivals in Ann Arbor next week, they’ll be in the Big Ten Championship Game.

3. Alabama – Nick Saban’s team hasn’t been a death squad like they’ve been in the past, including last year when they ran through the SEC then Notre Dame and Ohio State to win it all. The offense is scary-good with quarterback Bryce Young setting a single-game record for yards passing with 559 vs. Arkansas, but the defense hasn’t been suffocating. The offense has been the calling card for Alabama teams the last few years but linebacker Will Anderson is capable of taking games over and getting stops when the team needs it the most. Can I interest anyone in an Ohio State-Alabama semifinal matchup?

4. Cincinnati – Desmond Ridder threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Bearcats had no trouble getting past SMU. It was thought SMU could be a challenge for Cincinnati, but the Mustangs fell off a bit in recent weeks and couldn’t pull off the upset that teams behind them in the playoff pecking order needed. Cincinnati has Houston in the American Championship Game they’ll need to win to secure the first playoff berth by a Group of Five team. The loss by Oregon to Utah may be the opening Luke Fickell’s team needed to make history. Could the committee find a way to screw them by putting a 2-loss Big Ten East runner-up in ahead of them? Possibly. No one said making history wouldn’t come without a little anxiety.

5. Michigan – Jim Harbaugh’s team had a perfect tune-up ahead of The Game next Saturday in Ann Arbor. Michigan led 24-3 at halftime and scored 28 in the third quarter to put away Maryland who stood no chance. Cade McNamara threw for a pair of scores on 21-of-28 passing and J.J. McCarthy was a perfect 5-for-5 for 58 yards and a touchdown. The freshman quarterback also added a rushing touchdown. Donovan Edwards had 170 yards receiving, including a 77-yard touchdown and Hassan Haskins ran for a game-high 78 yards and had two touchdowns. Can Michigan get their first win over Ohio State in a decade when they host the Buckeyes on Saturday? If — and it’s a big if considering the track record — they do, they’ll play for the Big Ten Championship and be a win away from making their first College Football Playoff. It’s the biggest game of the year. Let’s hope it delivers.

6. Notre Dame – Jack Coan threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns as Notre Dame routed Georgia Tech, 55-0 to improve to 10-1. Many have left Notre Dame for dead after their home loss to Cincinnati but Brian Kelly’s team has quietly stayed alive for a return trip to the playoff. The Irish need some help to get there, but a win vs. a down Stanford next week and a pair of upsets of teams ranked ahead of them will see Notre Dame sneak in the back door. Notre Dame had six sacks in the shutout win over Georgia Tech.

7. Oklahoma State – The Big 12 is known for their offense and an aversion to playing defense. The latter doesn’t apply to Oklahoma State. The Pokes entered their Week 12 game vs. Texas Tech ranked eighth in scoring defense, allowing 16.4 points and third in total defense, allowing 282.2 yards per game. Those numbers are going to go way down after a suffocating effort against the Red Raiders. The Pokes only allowed 41 yards of offense entering the fourth quarter. That’s unheard of in this offensive era of college football. The defense faces its toughest test when they host freshman quarterback Caleb Williams and the Oklahoma Sooners. OKST seeks its first Bedlam win in six tries.

8. Baylor – Outside of a 65-yard touchdown run from Deuce Vaughn, the Baylor defense didn’t give up much in the 20-10 win against Kansas State. The Bears need a win next week vs. Texas Tech and an Oklahoma loss to get to the Big 12 Championship Game. What’s concerning is the injury to quarterback Gerry Bohanon who was replaced by Blake Shapen. No Bohanon takes the threat of the quarterback run out of the offense. If Baylor is going to win the Big 12, they’ll need their quarterback out there.

9. Ole Miss – Quarterback Matt Corral announced this would be his last home game as a member of the Ole Miss football team prior to the game. His last game in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium was a win. The potential top quarterback prospect for the 2022 NFL Draft topped 300 yards passing and threw a pair of touchdowns in the win over Vanderbilt. Now, he looks to get a win in the Egg Bowl against rival Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night to really close out his career on a high note.

10. Oklahoma – The Sooners are really being disrespected as a one-loss team by the playoff committee. The 28-21 win over Iowa State didn’t come with any style points, but it’s a win that has them one away from making the Big 12 Championship Game. That win will have to come in Bedlam against rival Oklahoma State that’s lost six straight in the rivalry, hasn’t won in Stillwater since 2011 and has just 18 wins in 115 all-time meetings.

Heisman watch after Week 12: Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud?

For the first 10-11 weeks, the Heisman chase felt like there was no one that wanted to run away with the award. Now, we’ve got some players that have had their Heisman moments and the Heisman ceremony is coming into focus. Kenneth Walker III is out of the running after getting stuffed by the Ohio State defense and held to 25 yards on six carries in the loss. He wasn’t even the leading carrier on his own team, nor was he the leading rusher on his own team.

So with Walker out, and Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral probably on the outside looking in, that opens the door for a pair of defensive players to earn a trip to New York as Heisman finalists. But, neither defender is likely to join Charles Woodson and win. It’s still a quarterback award and Alabama may have the quarterback to give the Tide a second straight Heisman.

Young’s 559 yards and five touchdowns extend his lead as the Heisman favorite. Stroud threw for 432 yards and six touchdowns on 32-of-35 passing but he’s going to need two similar showings with Young easing up for him to pass the Alabama signal-caller. It’s not out of reach but it’s Young’s Heisman to lose at this point.

Young’s teammate, Anderson, entered Week 12 as the nation’s leader in sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (23) and is Kirk Herbstreit’s pick to win the Heisman as the most dominant player. He’s deserving of an invite. Georgia’s 340-pound defensive lineman Jordan Davis has been just as dominant at a position that doesn’t get any attention, but he got a chance to step in the spotlight when he had a one-yard rushing touchdown vs. Charleston Southern.

  1. Bryce Young – Alabama, QB
  2. C.J. Stroud – Ohio State, QB
  3. Will Anderson, Alabama, OLB
  4. Jordan Davis, Georgia, DT

Thankful for Rivalry Week

It’s Thanksgiving week. It’s one of my two favorite days of the year with Christmas and I’m blessed to be thankful for so much. I’m thankful for my health, my family, my friends and this job that lets me write about college football. This season has been so much fun and rewarding after last year’s COVID season that was a daily struggle with truncated schedules, players and coaches testing positive, games getting canceled and the real-world impact of thousands and thousands of people dying. I’m thankful this season has brought back the fun and spirit that makes college football the best sport in the world. The upsets, the chaos, the stories and the rivalries are so special.

Rivalry week this year gives us The Game with Michigan looking to snap their losing streak vs. Ohio State that dates back to 2011. Playoff bids are on the line.

The Iron Bowl sees Bryan Harsin thrown into the Auburn-Alabama rivalry for the first time. His predecessor, Gus Malzahn, beat Nick Saban three times in this rivalry. Saban is 9-5 against Auburn since he took the Alabama job and he needs to improve to 10-5 to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive. They’ve already locked up the SEC West but Auburn will be looking to play spoiler and give them their second loss.

The Palmetto Bowl between Clemson and South Carolina, the Civil War between Oregon and Ohio State, Tennessee vs. Kentucky, Notre Dame vs. Stanford, Iowa vs. Nebraska and Bedlam between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State where playoff hopes are on the line are just some of the rivalry games I can’t wait to see this weekend.

May you all have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State which should be an offensive explosion with Corral and Will Rogers quarterbacking Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach offenses. And then skip the Black Friday shopping to watch a full day of games before you do it all again on Saturday for the final full day of the college football schedule.

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