But the Sooners topped themselves Saturday, rallying from a school-record 25-point deficit to earn a 34-31 victory at Baylor and deal the Bears their first loss of the season.
Baylor (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) built a 28-3 lead in the second quarter and maintained a 31-10 edge at the break. But the Jalen Hurts-led Sooners (9-1, 6-1) scored in four of their first five possessions after the break — with the lone empty drive coming when Hurts fumbled into the end zone while attempting to run for a touchdown — and Nik Bonitto intercepted Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer six plays after Sooner kicker Gabe Brkic connected from 31 yards out for the go-ahead points.
For Oklahoma, it preserves the program’s chances of landing in the playoff for the third year in a row. And Hurts (297 yards, four touchdowns passing, plus 114 yards rushing) remains in the Heisman race.
For Baylor, it marks the end of a remarkable run of luck that included a pair of overtime victories and a defeat of Iowa State on a field goal in the final minute. Even in a loss, the Bears more than acquitted themselves against the team perceived to be the best in the conference.
But it’s hardly the end of things for this pairing. Given the muddled state of the Big 12, both the Sooners and Bears need only one more victory each to ensure a place in next month’s conference title game. Oklahoma must still face TCU and Oklahoma State, while Baylor still has Texas and Kansas on its schedule.
Louisiana State. There was no need to worry about a letdown for the Tigers, who didn’t punt in 14 possessions in a 58-37 victory at Ole Miss. The Tigers (10-0, 6-0 SEC) received another monster day from quarterback Joe Burrow (489 yards, five touchdowns passing) and led 31-7 at the break before the Rebels’ offense got a bit frisky in the second half.
Of all the remaining unbeatens, LSU could probably afford a loss more than the rest thanks to victories over Alabama, Auburn and Florida (the shine comes off the Texas win a little bit at a time). With Arkansas and Texas A&M at home over the next two weeks, the Tigers might have a chance to all but seal a playoff berth even before the SEC title game.
Utah. The Utes (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) did their part to keep the Pac-12’s playoff hopes alive, crushing UCLA, 49-3, as Tyler Huntley threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns.
Utah could clinch the Pac-12 South as early as next week, but winning out against Arizona (4-5 entering Saturday) and Colorado (4-6) will seal a place in the conference title game. A possible matchup of 11-1 Utah against 11-1 Oregon would at least lend some possible playoff relevancy to the Pac-12 championship, something absent from last year’s game.
Louisville. The Cardinals (6-4, 4-3 ACC) are bowl eligible after dispatching N.C. State, 34-20, as Micale Cunningham threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns. It’s quite the turnaround from a year ago, when Louisville endured a miserable 2-10 season.
One coaching change later, and Scott Satterfield has the Cardinals back in the postseason. Consider it a confluence of factors. Yes, Satterfield and his Cardinals have put in a good effort, but the relatively down ACC (outside of Clemson) has played a bit of a role. More significantly, it’s an indictment of the work of former coach Bobby Petrino and his staff, who presided over last year’s listless debacle.
Georgia. It wasn’t especially easy — things seldom turn out to be with ultraconservative decision-making — but Georgia sealed a division title and remained in the College Football Playoff hunt with a 21-14 defeat of Auburn.
The Bulldogs’ defense did its job for three quarters, shutting out Auburn while the Georgia offense interspersed three long touchdown drives with very little else. But then the Tigers stitched together a touchdown drive, followed by a Georgia three-and-out. Rinse and repeat, before Auburn got to the Georgia 34-yard-line trailing by seven.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs defense remains one of the best in the game, and it forced a turnover on downs. Then it did so again after another three-and-out to secure a victory.
With that, Georgia (9-1, 6-1) locked up the SEC East title. The Bulldogs will head back to Atlanta for the third consecutive year, the first East Division team to play in three SEC title games in a row since Florida from 1992 to 1996.
Clemson and Ohio State. A pair of undefeated powers remained on track to roll into the playoff. Clemson routed Wake Forest, 52-3, to improve to 11-0; only South Carolina and the eventual ACC Coastal Division winner stand between the Tigers and yet another semifinal appearance.
Meanwhile, Ohio State (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) shrugged off the absence of defensive end Chase Young for a second consecutive game to pummel Rutgers, 56-21. Young will be back next week as the Buckeyes face Penn State. A date with Michigan and a potential Big Ten title game also remain if Ryan Day’s team is to get to 13-0.
Penn State. Still in the playoff chase after a 34-27 defeat of Indiana, the Nittany Lions (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) bounced back from their loss at Minnesota by doing what was necessary to upend the Hoosiers. Penn State’s hopes — at both the conference and national level — will be decided next week when it visits Ohio State. Simply handling Indiana (while taking advantage of a couple short fields) was all the Nittany Lions needed to do this week.
Notre Dame. Now 8-2 after blitzing Navy, 52-20, the Fighting Irish are probably two victories from heading to the Orange Bowl. They’ll get Boston College (5-5) at home next week before closing the regular season at Stanford (4-6). In other words, getting into the barn at 10-2 is a realistic feat.
Jonathan Taylor. Just when it seemed safe to write off the Badgers running back’s award campaign, he’s uncorked back-to-back 200-yard days. The latest was a 25-carry, 204-yard showing in Wisconsin’s 37-21 defeat of Nebraska, an outing that bumps his season total to 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground.
Taylor isn’t going to win the Heisman Trophy, but he’s certainly in the mix to be a first-team all-American — just as the Badgers (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) at least have some hope to claim the Big Ten West. He’ll close the regular season against Purdue and Minnesota in what could be the sort of cold-weather games Wisconsin is built to win (and Taylor’s rugged skill set is well-suited for).
It’s a wrenching development for one of the sport’s most exciting players, who has proven to be every bit as good as anticipated (34 touchdowns, three interceptions) throughout the fall.
Minnesota. That was fun while it lasted. The wholly unexpected playoff talk in Minneapolis will be muted after the Golden Gophers took their first loss, 23-19 at Iowa.
Credit the Hawkeyes for scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions — a far different look than anticipated from a team that hadn’t topped 26 points since September.
That Iowa (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) still hasn’t doesn’t matter as much as the fact Minnesota (9-1, 6-1) couldn’t muster enough to fully erase its early 20-3 hole. A 368-yard passing day by Tanner Morgan wasn’t enough. Nor was a defense that yielded just 69 total yards in the second half.
It wasn’t the first time the Hawkeyes have won a slugfest under Kirk Ferentz. And it definitely wasn’t the first time Iowa spoiled a national title contender’s season in Iowa City. So what’s left for the Gophers? Win out against Northwestern and Wisconsin, make the Big Ten title game and see what happens from there.
Auburn. The most interesting two-loss team in the field is now just another three-loss team. The Tigers (7-3, 4-3 SEC) don’t have a bad loss on their ledger — Florida, LSU and now Georgia — but they were going to need to add to their opening victory over Oregon if they were to have a chance at a New Year’s Six berth, let alone a long-shot playoff hope.
Instead, Auburn is probably going to wrap up the regular season at 8-4 or 9-3 (it gets Samford next week before the Iron Bowl against Alabama). Hello, Outback Bowl.
Navy. Whatever the script is for the Midshipmen to upset Notre Dame, they followed the exact opposite plan. Navy lost four fumbles, each of which led to Fighting Irish touchdowns, in a 52-20 loss in South Bend.
The good news for the Mids (7-2): Their bigger priorities remain intact, which is probably had something to do with why Coach Ken Niumatalolo prudently lifted quarterback Malcolm Perry in the middle of the third quarter. They remain in contention in the American’s West Division, and a victory Dec. 14 against Army would return the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to Annapolis.
Michigan State. The Spartans’ brutal slog through the best of the Big Ten is over, and they have a five-game losing streak to show for it after a 44-10 loss at Michigan. That goes down as Michigan State’s most lopsided loss to its in-state rival since a 49-3 drubbing in 2002. Before that, you have to go back to a 42-0 loss in 1983 to find a more one-sided loss for the Spartans against Michigan.
Mike Hart’s old “little brother” quote is sure to be resurrected in the wake of this loss, but more pressing is the inability for Michigan State (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) to do much against anyone. Since the start of October, the Spartans have lost to Ohio State (34-10), Wisconsin (38-0), Penn State (28-7), Illinois (37-34) and now Michigan.
Rankings the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy by factoring historical voting trends (in favor of quarterbacks, players on top-five teams, against receivers and defensive players) as much as on-field performance. Statistics updated through Saturday’s games.
1. QB Joe Burrow, LSU (3,687 yards, 38 TDs, 6 INTs passing; 215 yards, 3 TDs rushing). (Last week: 1)
2. QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (3,039 yards, 28 TDs, 5 INTs passing; 983 yards, 15 TDs rushing). (LW: 2)
3. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (2,840 yards, 33 TDs, 3 INTs passing; 17 yards, 2 TDs rushing). Sadly, these will be his season-ending numbers after his injury at Mississippi State. He’ll fall from this list next week. (LW: 4)
4. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (2,164 yards, 31 TDs, 1 INT passing; 377 yards, 10 TDs rushing). (LW: 3)
5. RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (1,726 yards, 20 TDs rushing; 11 receptions for 82 yards). (LW: 6)
6. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (2,662 yards, 28 TDs, 3 INTs passing). (LW: 7)
7. DE Chase Young, Ohio State (29 tackles, 15.5 tackles for losses, 13.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles). (LW: 5)
Takeaways from Week 12′s weeknight appetizers:
Pittsburgh finally got the best of North Carolina to stay in the ACC Coastal race. North Carolina and Pittsburgh have met in each of the seven seasons since the Panthers entered the ACC. The Tar Heels had won six in a row by a combined 26 points. None were decided by more than seven points.
For a moment Thursday, as North Carolina got into the red zone late in regulation while trailing by three, it looked like the script would repeat itself. But the Tar Heels had to settle for a field goal, Kenny Pickett rushed for a touchdown in Pitt’s overtime possession and the Panthers defense made a stop to secure a 34-27 victory.
Pitt (7-3, 4-2) is far removed from a 1-2 start punctuated by regrettable kick-or-don’t-kick decisions. Instead, the Panthers have a three-step process for returning to the ACC title game: Beat Virginia Tech and Boston College the next two weeks and have Virginia lose its regular season finale to Virginia Tech.