Week 12 in college football featured a Shamrock Series showdown at Yankee Stadium, a monumental upset in Stillwater and much more.
Technically, Ohio State remains alive in the hunt for the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes' tenuous grasp on a place in the conversation survived Maryland's best shot, with a 52-51 overtime win not sealed until the Terrapins' Tyrrell Pigrome missed an open teammate in the end zone on what would've been the deciding two-point conversion.
Wins are wins in college football, as in any sport, and the Buckeyes will take what they can get in what has been the rockiest season of the Urban Meyer era. With the victory, OSU proceeds into next Saturday's winner-take-all matchup with rival Michigan – a game that will decide the Big Ten East Division and send the winner one step closer to a national semifinal.
It's hard to imagine Ohio State locating the sort of performance needed to defeat what is clearly the best Michigan team since Jim Harbaugh's return to the program in 2015. The Wolverines' defense, stingy as always, has been joined by a rare addition: Shea Patterson , a legitimate NFL-level quarterback. It's a first for Michigan under Harbaugh, at least.
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It'll be the game of the week in college football, and for good reason. The question: Which team should feel the pressure?
It's easy to say Ohio State, which has cobbled together 10 wins around a failed defense and an offense that alternates explosiveness with inconsistency. In what would be a stunning twist based on the recent history of this rivalry, the Buckeyes might be underdogs on their home field against the hated Wolverines.
But the pressure is really on Michigan, which remained unbeaten in Big Ten play with Saturday's 31-20 win against Indiana. Harbaugh has yet to beat Ohio State since taking over at his alma mater; when push has come to shove, the Buckeyes have had more in the tank.
The pressure is on Harbaugh and the Wolverines because if not now – if not against this specific Ohio State team, with this specific Michigan team – then when? And the pressure is only increased by the fact that Michigan, unlike OSU, is almost certainly in a national semifinal with a win against the Buckeyes and a victory against Northwestern in the Big Ten title game.
Here are the rest of Saturday's winners and losers:
UCF just keeps on winning, the latest a breeze past Cincinnati in a game billed as a showdown between two of the best teams from the Group of Five. Well, the pregame billing was half right. Cincinnati's not a bad team, if not quite as good as the Bearcats' 9-2 record suggests. UCF is simply a very good team, not only the best from the American Athletic Conference but likely again the top team from the non-major conferences.
Topping Iowa State 24-10 gives Texas eight wins in the regular season for the first time since the Mack Brown era and, in conjunction with West Virginia's loss to Oklahoma State, has the Longhorns right on the precipice of reaching the Big 12 championship game. The win total alone has made Tom Herman's second season a success. Reaching the title game is another major milestone.
This is not the season Florida State's fan base was hoping for from Willie Taggart's debut, but a 22-21 win against Boston College may provide the sort of boost Taggart and the Seminoles need to build toward 2019. Topping the Eagles also brings FSU one step closer to maintaining college football's longest bowl streak, though that demands a win against Florida in next week's rivalry meeting.
The Panthers clinched the ACC Coastal Division with a 34-13 win at Wake Forest. Now 7-4 overall and 6-1 in league play, Pittsburgh has been one of the success stories of the season's second half. And as a reward? Congratulations, Pittsburgh: Clemson will be waiting in early December. Regardless of what happens in the ACC title game, this has been a terrific season for the Panthers and coach Pat Narduzzi, who has erased any doubt over his ability to lift this program into New Year's Six bowl contention.
The 9-6 slugfest with Michigan State marked Nebraska's fourth win in five tries after an 0-6 start, with the one setback a 36-31 loss at Ohio State. The progress has been clear and undeniable: Scott Frost has the Cornhuskers storming into the offseason behind a younger cast of contributors. Look for Nebraska to be one of the trendy teams of the offseason.
The Aggies won a thriller at Colorado State 29-24 to move to 10-1 heading into next week's key divisional matchup with Boise State. Utah State's 10-game winning streak on the heels of a loss to Michigan State to open the year has this program in the midst of the most successful regular season in its history.
The Bulldogs were tied 10-10 with mighty Alabama at halftime. The final score was 50-17. But who cares? The Citadel scored 10 more points in 30 minutes against Alabama than LSU and Mississippi State combined. The Bulldogs should have taken a team photo on the field at halftime.
The neutral-site matchup with Notre Dame provided Syracuse with an opportunity to make national noise and secure a spot in a New Year's Six bowl. Instead, the Orange's potent offense managed just three points and never put any fear into what is shaping up to be an outstanding Notre Dame defense.
You'd laugh if it were not so painfully sad. Illinois paid coach Lovie Smith an ungodly sum of money – six years at $ 21 million – in March of 2016, at a time when no other program in the country even had Smith on its shortlist of candidates for a potential opening. The results have been uninspiring since the start, but Saturday was something off-the-charts horrific: Iowa beat the Illini 63-0 to match the program's worst margin of defeat in its history. The last time Illinois lost by 63 points was to University of Chicago in 1906.
Another week, another ugly showing from the Cardinals. This week's story: North Carolina State dropped 52 points and 518 yards of offense in a 42-point win. The first piece of good news is that Louisville lost without Bobby Petrino, who was fired last week, and it's better to lose without Petrino than with. And the best news? Louisville is one game closer to closing a miserable season.
The Mountaineers' playoff hopes ended in a 45-41 loss to Oklahoma State, and if you think that's painful consider the halftime score: 31-14 in West Virginia's favor. Ouch. To make matters worse, the Mountaineers are now in a tough spot in terms of reaching the Big 12 championship game. A win next week against Oklahoma should secure a major bowl, but that's the best West Virginia can hope for in 2018.
The Hokies dropped to 4-6 after a 38-14 loss to Miami (Fla.), Which scored 21 points in the third quarter to pull away from a game that seemed as if it could've gone either way at halftime. What to say about the Hokies? The national perspective of this team was built on the back of a win against Florida State in the opener, which was quickly revealed as meaningless. With so many losses to personnel in the offseason and a series of injuries on both sides of the ball, maybe a losing finish should not be too surprising.
The Huskies lost 55-21 to East Carolina. Not much to add here.
The clock is ticking on USC coach Clay Helton, whose team sits 5-6 after a horrendous loss to a UCLA team still rebuilding under first-year coach Chip Kelly. Both fan bases have the same thought: If Kelly is beating USC now, in his first season, will the Trojans ever beat the Bruins again? That there's doubt surrounding Helton's ability to keep USC as the dominant team in Los Angeles, let alone a team capable of winning a national championship, is why he may be coaching for his job in next week's meeting with unbeaten Notre Dame.