NCAA Football

College football winners, losers, overreactions: Playoff contenders survive, test Week 12

College football winners, losers, overreactions: Playoff contenders survive, test Week 12

All the drama usually centers around rivalry week when it comes to deciding the final phase of the regular season. This year, however, the College Football Playoff’s top contenders found themselves on thin ice against tough competition in Week 12. No. 3 Michigan and number 4 TCU need miracle shots from the clinch game Illinois and Baylor, respectively. No. 2 Ohio State had to endure late recovery from Marylandand #1 Georgia walked through the fourth quarter vs Kentucky. No. 7 USC also stayed alive in the title race, surviving a dismal 16th-place bid UCLA to take control of the Pac-12 title race.

So when Week 12 action concluded, the Trojans joined the Bulldogs, Horned Frogs and the winner of next week’s matchup between the Buckeyes and Wolverines as overwhelming favorites to make up the tally Student football Playoff field. USC has a slightly more difficult path than the others from No. 18 Mother of God and probably #12 Oregon in the Pac-12 title game on the schedule, but win both and the Trojans are locked up.

Clemson, meanwhile, remains on the fringes, but his best wins keep coming like flies. No. 13 North Carolina became the last upcoming opponent for the Tigers to face Tech. Barring absolute chaos, which is becoming less and less as the final week of the regular season approaches, there are five teams fighting for four spots.

The only team that didn’t get the survival and promotion memo was #5 Tennesseewhich was demolished on the way by non-combatants South Carolina as the Vols watched their CFP hopes fade in the process.

Here are more winners, losers and overreactions from around the college football world for Week 12.


USC linebacker Caleb Williams: Williams has been one of the tightest players in college football over the past two seasons, but his ability was on display in the biggest performance of his career. The sophomore threw for 470 yards, rushed for 32 yards and posted three touchdowns in a massive 48-45 win over UCLA to effectively clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Williams had to be perfect against a tough UCLA offense and throw a pair of touchdown passes in the final two periods. The performance could earn him a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony if USC can find a way to win the Pac-12 for the first time since 2017. Regardless, it was a special season for the former five-star prospect.

Oklahoma Coach Brent Venables: Perhaps no one in college football needed a win more than Venables. The Sooners already had their first losing streak in conference play since 1998 and most regular season losses since 2009, but the Bedlams’ winning streak returned after the Sooners were routed Oklahoma State 28-13. Oklahoma let out some demons in the first quarter, jumping out to a 28-0 lead it never relinquished. Things got a little hairy down the stretch as the Sooners offense completely fell apart, but the margin was big enough for the Sooners Venables to clinch the win and a bowl appearance. There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, but Oklahoma will happily take home the state championship trophy in what has been a miserable season.

The losers

Tennessee: After beating Alabama and LSU, the Vols have established themselves as the surefire next in the CFP rankings should things go haywire. After Oregon lost Washington, Tennessee became a landslide favorite when underdog Ohio State-Michigan fell. Unfortunately, no one told Shane Beamer “South Carolina Roosters.” Gamecox defender Spencer Rattler threw for five touchdowns in perhaps the best game of his career as South Carolina routed Tennessee 63-38 to drop the Vols to 10-2. Even worse, the quarterback Hendon Hooker is out with an apparent knee injury. It’s hard to see him entering the Heisman conversation now that Tennessee’s back-to-back College Football Playoff race has come to an end.

North Carolina QB Drake May: The redshirt freshman had a great opportunity to put his stamp on the Heisman Trophy race with a great performance against Georgia Tech. Instead, Maye had the worst game of his young career as the Tar Heels lost 21-17 against Georgia Tech. Maye completed just 53.3% of his passes for 202 yards and an interception, well below his season numbers of nearly 400 yards of total offense and four touchdowns per game. UNC had one last chance to survive the game, but the lead was on the receiving end Josh Downs dropped a wide open pass in the end zone. North Carolina could still win the ACC Championship over Clemson, but any chance of a Heisman dark horse or a College Football Playoff affair likely remains moot.

Excessive reactions

The Heisman Trophy will be decided next week: All eyes will be on the game as No. 2 Ohio State hosts No. 3 Michigan with a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game, and while a College Football Playoff spot is also up for grabs, there may be more equipment a player with side of victory.

It remains one of the murkiest Heisman races in recent memory, but the decision will be decided on the field at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud remains the betting favorite — according to Caesars Sportsbook — to win despite an inconsistent season. If the Buckeyes bounce back and avenge last season’s loss, Stroud will clinch the coveted trophy. However, when the Michigan running back Blake’s Choir healthy and the Wolverines win, the award will be his.

The game has had huge stakes in the past, even last season, but the 2022 iteration will go down in history as one of the biggest games in college football — for several reasons.

Mass contracts continue to cause regret: A new era of obscure college football contracts began last season when Jimbo Fisher, Mel Tucker and Mario Cristobal signed contracts worth $250 million. A year later, these three coaches look like FTX’s worst investments with a combined record of 14-19. Miami and State of Michigan lost in embarrassing fashion to Clemson and Indianarespectively, on Saturday. Texas A&M defeated UMass (the team is currently at the bottom of the CBS Sports 131 rankings), but has scored the fewest points of any of the Minutemen’s FBS opponents.

However, massive guaranteed contracts raise a more existential question: What happens when a coach needs be fired? Under any normal circumstances, Fisher’s 4-8 record in Year 5 would spell the end of his tenure. Will Texas A&M eat the $85 million buyout? Does the athletic department have any leverage at all?

There are few truly unprecedented situations in college football history, but the amount of guaranteed coaching money flying around the sport will put it to the test. All eyes will be on College Station to see how Texas A&M handles the Fisher situation — and it could be a warning to slow the bucks, at least momentarily.

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