Michigan’s running game and pass rush were powered by a decade of frustration in one of the premier rivalries in sports.
Running back Hassan Haskins scored five times, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks and Jim Harbaugh claimed his first win against Ohio State as the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes 42-27. That tosses Ohio State out of contention for the College Football Playoff and sends Michigan to the Big Ten championship game.
Over in the SEC, Alabama scored a late touchdown after struggling to move the ball against Auburn’s defense and then won the first overtime game in Iron Bowl history. The narrow win keeps the Crimson Tide alive for the playoff but raises serious questions about how the offense will fare against Georgia’s top-ranked defense.
Here are the winners and losers from the second-to-last Saturday of the regular season:
The win featured just 20 pass attempts from quarterback Cade McNamara as Michigan relied on both lines to dominate Ohio State and wrestle some momentum back from what had become a one-sided rivalry. Paced by Hutchinson, who should sweep every defensive honor after a superb senior year, the defense held Ohio State to its worst performance on the ground since 2011. The offensive front allowed the Wolverines to put up nearly 300 yards on the ground and controlled the tempo in what is easily one of the great regular-season wins in program history.
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Let’s not look ahead to next week’s SEC championship game against Georgia and wonder what the Bulldogs’ defensive front will do to an Alabama offense that couldn’t handle Auburn. Beating the Tigers 24-22 will keep Alabama in the top four of the penultimate playoff rankings and set up the possibility of securing the top overall seed with an upset of Georgia. Another positive to come out of an ugly win was the poise shown by quarterback Bryce Young, who may have sealed the Heisman Trophy by taking the Tigers’ best shot and delivering a late touchdown drive to force overtime.
Bedlam more than lived up to expectations. Oklahoma State scored the game’s final 13 points and beat Oklahoma 37-33 for a rare win in a series historically dominated by the Sooners. The win will send the Cowboys to the Big 12 championship game for a rematch with Baylor and possibly make things very interesting next Sunday should Alabama take home the SEC. If so, the choice for the playoff selection committee may come down to this: Is unbeaten Cincinnati a better choice than 12-1 Oklahoma State?
The Demon Deacons will play for the conference championship after beating Boston College 41-10 to capture the ACC Atlantic. That was the second piece of good news from the weekend, joining a contract extension with coach Dave Clawson that will keep him with the program for the foreseeable future. Quarterback Sam Hartman had his best game in weeks, with 236 yards through the air, another 51 on the ground and four combined touchdowns.
ODU is one of the success stories of the 2021 season after beating Charlotte 56-34 to reach bowl eligibility. The only conference-affiliated team to opt against playing during the pandemic, the Monarchs rallied under first-year coach Ricky Rahne and won five straight to end the regular season after a series of painful losses bridging the end of non-conference play and the start of Conference USA action.
Overachievers of note
ODU is one of several teams set for bowl play after tying up unexpected successful regular seasons. Tennessee is 7-5 under first-year coach Josh Heupel after taking care of Vanderbilt. Purdue bounced back to win eight games after handling Indiana to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket. Western Kentucky has won seven straight and will play for the Conference USA championship after beating Marshall. Kent State won the MAC East after winning an overtime shootout against Miami (Ohio).
Big rivalry winners
Michigan, first and foremost. Oklahoma State. There were more. Kentucky blitzed Louisville behind 262 yards of total offense from quarterback Will Levis and won 52-21. Clemson blanked South Carolina 30-0. Michigan State beat Penn State to claim the Land Grant Trophy. Hawaii topped Wyoming to reach bowl eligibility. Illinois dropped 47 points on Northwestern. Virginia Tech ended a down year on a high note by beating Virginia.
Losing to Michigan. Losing the Big Ten East. Losing the chance to play in the conference championship game. Losing the chance to reach the playoff. For quarterback C.J. Stroud, potentially losing a grip on the Heisman Trophy. Did we miss anything? It was a nightmare loss for Ohio State and coach Ryan Day, who for the first time in his tenure will come under a high level of scrutiny after his team ceded control of this rivalry back to the Wolverines.
The Aggies gave up the game-winning touchdown with under a minute left and lost 27-24 to LSU, as a regular season that was supposed to yield the program’s breakthrough under Jimbo Fisher instead ends with a thud against an opponent playing out the string under an interim coach. This helps define the team’s unevenness: A&M beat Alabama and still finished fifth in the SEC West.
There is zero chance UTSA makes the New Year’s Six as the top team from the Group of Five after four early fumbles and a sloppy run defense handed North Texas a 45-23 win. No longer unbeaten, the Roadrunners will fall behind Houston in this week’s playoff rankings, with that gap growing exponentially should the Cougars upset Cincinnati to win the American.
Losing to Minnesota. Losing the Big Ten West. Losing the chance to play in the conference championship game. At least the Badgers were already eliminated from playoff contention. That does little to lessen the sting of falling 23-13 to Minnesota, just the Golden Gophers’ second win in this series since 2004. The Big Ten’s top running team by yards per game heading into Saturday, the Badgers finished with just 62 yards on 22 carries and failed to offset the balance with any meaningful production from quarterback Graham Mertz.
Those with a long offseason ahead
The year is over for teams about to set off on a long, blistery, anxiety-ridden offseason. Arizona lost the Territorial Cup to Arizona State and won just once under new coach Jedd Fisch. Georgia Tech ended a three-win year by losing 45-0 to Georgia. Florida State made a really nice second-half charge under Mike Norvell but came up one win shy of bowl eligibility after falling 24-21 to Florida.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football winners, losers: Oklahoma State, Texas A&M make list