Top teams teetered but didn’t tumble in Week 10’s Saturday slate of the NCAA football world.
Just a few days after the College Football Playoff committee came out with its first edition of the 2023 rankings, there were plenty of anxious moments for the most powerful programs on that list.
The newly anointed No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0) looked nothing like the CFP’s best bunch despite a 35-16 beat of the host Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-3).
They started slow, trailed their ho-hum Big Ten brothers 9-7 at halftime and looked like they could fall. In fact, it took a crazy bounce early in the second half to get them going, when a Rutgers’ pass ricocheted off a receiver right into the hands of defender Jordan Hancock, who then reversed direction for a wild 93-yard pick-six by Ohio State.
The interception return for a touchdown jump-started the Buckeyes to finish with a flourish — four second-half majors — even though Rutgers outgained them 361-328 on the game.
“We said we wanted to play better in the second half this year,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day told reporters. “That was a huge part of our off-season.”
The No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs (9-0) survived a 30-21 fight with the No. 12 Missouri Tigers (7-2), with the two-time defending champs only sealing it late in the fourth quarter.
Two field goals by Peyton Woodring in the final nine minutes ensured what had been a back-and-forth game between the SEC rivals until Carson Beck’s five-yard TD pass to tight end Oscar Delp late in the third quarter put Georgia up for good. The final keeps UGA in line for the conference title and eliminates Mizzou from the CFP pursuit.
“Tempo,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart told reporters of Missouri’s strong running attack that amassed 151 yards on the day. “They didn’t do anything they didn’t do all year. They didn’t scheme us up. They whipped our (butt).”
The No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (9-0) were slow to go, too, needing second-half scoring — as well — to shoot them past the host Pittsburgh Panthers (2-7) 24-7.
QB Jordan Travis’ touchdown sneak late in the first half finally put the ’Noles on the board to spark a run of 24 unanswered points.
Even if it didn’t show up on the scoreboard, Travis threw for a solid 360 yards as part of the visiting team’s whopping 501-yard day, pushing FLA ST into the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2014.
“Really proud of our team for coming on the road and having to face some adversity (and winning),” ’Noles head coach Mike Norvell told reporters. “We did a lot of good things, but there were some plays we’d like to have back.”
The No. 7 Texas Longhorns (8-1) surrendered a massive lead but held off the No. 23 Kansas State Wildcats (6-3) 33-30 after K-State’s fourth-down gamble in overtime was spoiled by the home side in Austin.
Texas took a 27-7 advantage deep into the third quarter before their Big 12 brothers stormed back with 23 points over the final 20 minutes of the game and forced OT. But after Bert Auburn’s 42-yard field goal for the hosts, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at the Longhorns’ four-yard line to end their chance for the upset.
The escape keeps Texas alive for the conference title and in the final-four picture.
“We were close to playing our best football,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian told reporters. “But then blocked punt, interception, another interception, fumble … next thing you know we’re in a dogfight. And the game really didn’t need to be a dogfight, but we made it that way.”
Michigan’s off-field issues continued this weekend, with Conor Stalions — the guy at the centre of the sign-stealing scam — resigning from his post, saying he doesn’t want to be a distraction. Too late for that. The Michigan analyst also relayed through his attorney that he video’d other teams without any other coaches or staffers, including head coach Jim Harbaugh, knowing what he was doing. Doesn’t sound like anybody’s buying it, though … The buzz is Harbaugh could be suspended by the Big Ten very soon after a meeting happened Thursday between athletic directors and conference commissioner Tony Petitti … On the field, No. 3 Michigan (8-0) hosted Purdue (2-6) late Saturday in a bid to remain perfect … In other top-five action: No. 5 Washington (8-0) also aimed to stay unbeaten with a challenging road game versus No. 20 USC (7-2) Saturday evening.
Bedlam ended after being played almost annually since 1904, and so did the CFP hopes for No. 9 Oklahoma (7-2). The rivalry ends 91-20-7 in favour of OK, but No. 22 Oklahoma State (7-2) takes away bragging rights with the 27-24 victory. OK State now jumps the queue ahead of OK for a spot in the conference finale. With OK leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next year, the thriller is a great way for Bedlam to go out … No. 10 Ole Miss (8-1) remains in the hunt for the SEC West title after a last-second field-goal try by visiting Texas A&M (5-4) was no good in a 38-35 contest … No. 11 Penn State (8-1) had no troubles with visiting Maryland (5-4) in a 51-15 no-doubter … How do you like No. 13 Louisville (8-1)? The Slugger school lit up visiting Virginia Tech (4-5) 34-4, holding VaTech to just 140 total yards … Senior QB Sam Hartman, who’s been a disappointment for No. 15 Notre Dame (7-3), threw two picks — including a 28-yard pick-six to star linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. — in the 31-23 win by host Clemson (5-4). “If you guys want to blame, put anything on anyone, put it on me,” Hartman told reporters. “I played very poor — didn’t play well enough to be a winning quarterback to be a winning football team. All the different situations, scenarios that we were in was a part of my doing and really all my doing. I just didn’t execute well enough.” … No. 17 Tennessee (7-2) trounced visiting UConn (1-8) 59-3 … No. 18 Utah (7-2) stuffed visiting Arizona State (2-7) 55-3 by allowing just 83 total yards … No. 24 Tulane (8-1) topped East Carolina (1-8) 13-10 in a snoozer.
No. 25 Air Force (8-1) had its unbeaten year shot down by Army (3-6) in surprising 23-3 fashion. The decision kept Air Force from securing the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which is awarded to the team with the best record in the season meetings between the three U.S. military academies. The result puts that honour in Army’s control with an end-of-season win over Navy (3-5), who earlier in the season lost to Air Force … The SEC West lead was up for grabs between No. 14 LSU (6-2) and No. 8 Alabama (7-1) in a huge evening game for the home side in Tuscaloosa … Other late games involving ranked teams pitted: No. 21 Kansas (6-2) at Iowa State (5-3); No. 16 Oregon State (6-2) at ‘Coach Prime’s’ Colorado (4-4); and No. 19 UCLA (6-2) taking on suddenly surging Arizona (5-3) in the desert … The upset of the day saw visiting Arkansas (3-6) snap its six-game skid with a 39-36 OT victory over host Florida (5-4) … No. 6 Oregon (8-1) handled visiting California (3-5) 42-19.