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College Football 2022: Week 13 Recap and Playoff Preview
Monday, 2022 November 28 - 3:56 pm
It's O-H-N-O Part II as Michigan whomps Ohio State with big plays. Penn State dispatches Michigan State, and NCSU wins an overtime thriller against UNC. A great weekend all around!

Michigan 45, Ohio State 23
There was some dread among Michigan fans when Ohio State marched down the field easily on its opening possession, going 81 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown. On Michigan's subsequent drive, Blake Corum ran twice for six yards but then took himself out of the game; his banged-up knee apparently wasn't holding up. Michigan's other play calls were all passes, and the drive stalled at the OSU 31. Michigan settled for a Jake Moody field goal. The questions were mounting: what would Michigan do without Corum, and would OSU race out to a big lead early and take Michigan completely out of its game?

Michigan's defense improved on the next three drives, holding OSU to three more points. Then something remarkable happened. With Michigan facing 3rd and 9 on their own 31, Ohio State DC Jim Knowles made perhaps the coaching mistake of the game by dialing up a cover-0 blitz. JJ McCarthy, under pressure, flung a ball off his back foot and found Cornelius Johnson, who shook off his defender and found no safeties between him and the end zone. Just like that, it was a 10-10 tie and the OSU crowd sat in stunned silence.

On the first play Michigan's next drive following an OSU field goal, OSU tried to single-cover Cornelius Johnson with a safety. Johnson burned him crispy and was wide open, and McCarthy dropped a dime to him for a 75-yard TD. Michigan led for the first time, 17-13. OSU responded with a strong TD drive of its own on the next possession to end the first half scoring, and the teams went to the locker room with OSU up 20-17.

At halftime, Fox commentator Reggie Bush said "OSU just took Michigan's best shot", and asserted that they'd improve in the second half. Meanwhile, I was texting my friends just the opposite: Michigan, a second-half team all year long, had just taken OSU's best shot, and was in good position to make a comeback. The Michigan coaching staff saw the OSU gameplan: it was an Indiana-like strategy to play heavily to stop the run, bringing safeties into the box on almost every play. It was kind of working, as Michigan only had 20 yards rushing at halftime. But with weaknesses at DB for OSU, it was a boom or bust strategy, and the big plays made that apparent. So the question was: would they stick with that plan, or drop back into coverage?

On Michigan's opening second-half possession, that question was answered. Michigan TE Colston Loveland handily discarded single coverage downfield and scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass, and would never relinquish the lead after that. Michigan's running game started to find traction as Donovan Edwards, in despite a heavy cast on one hand, reminded us of why he was a star: his speed. With Michigan already up 31-23, Edwards broke through the OSU front seven and found no safeties deep, and sprinted his way to a 75-yard touchdown.

On the next Michigan possession, he scored an 85-yard touchdown in almost identical fashion. It was 45-23 and soon afterwards the game was over. Michigan planted their flag on the Buckeye field in celebration, and all the commentators were left scratching their heads wondering what had just happened.

Almost no one had predicted Michigan to win this game, myself included, and certainly no one predicted a blowout to this degree. (Of the ESPN and Fox Sports crews, only Desmond Howard picked Michigan, but he'd do that almost every time even in a down year for Michigan.) Someone in Las Vegas lost $750,000 on a money line bet for OSU.

I loved so many things about this game. A lot of people were down on JJ McCarthy after some not-so-stellar outings in the last few games; they seem to have forgotten what made him a highly prized recruit to begin with. Cornelius Johnson, who has been plagued with drops at times this season, made two of the biggest plays of his life. Donovan Edwards, after watching Blake Corum carry the load for many games, finally got his chance to shine and made the most of it. The Michigan OL never lost confidence after a poor first half, and dominated the second half, with Olu Oluwatimi playing like a monster. The Michigan DL, playing most of the day without star rusher Mike Morris, began to get pressure on CJ Stroud in the second half and clearly rattled him. DT Braiden McGregor looks like a future all-American. The Michigan secondary held up against the vaunted Ohio State receiving corps, with Mike Sanristil making a key touchdown PBU and Rod Moore and Makari Paige making a number of critical stops. It was an incredible team effort.

On Ohio State's side, there are so many questions. Why did OSU's talented defense feel like they needed to gamble so heavily to stop the Michigan running game? It was probably an overreaction to last year's paving. Maybe they were right and Michigan would have run roughshod over them if they hadn't, but still, it seems like a terrible strategic error. Why didn't OSU employ the successful strategy run by several opponents, which is to throw the ball up to your unstoppable NFL-level receiver and let him make plays? Why did a converted linebacker get the bulk of the rushing carries, over the thunderous Miyan Williams and the talented Dallan Hayden? (Injuries, maybe.) In the end, it seemed to be a catastrophic coaching fiasco by OSU. I have sympathy for the OSU fans, who now are experiencing a lot of what Michigan did in years past. Many are calling for Ryan Day's firing, which is ridiculous, of course: that guy is 45-5 at OSU and won every regular season Big Ten game except the last two against Michigan. And besides, Luke Fickell just got hired by Wisconsin, so who are you gonna get? Urban Meyer out of retirement? C'mon man.

Ohio State might still get a rematch if they can sneak their way into the playoffs; more on this in a moment.

Michigan vs Purdue, Big Ten Championship, 8:00 PM Fox
Michigan opens as a 16 point favorite against Purdue. Purdue isn't terrible; they played Penn State close, and they've got decent wins against Maryland, Minnesota, and Illinois. But they were also crushed by the one elite defense they faced in a 24-3 loss to Iowa, a game in which they only managed 255 of offense and turned the ball over twice. They're mostly a dink-and-dunk passing team that lives and dies on QB Aidan O'Connell's playmaking abilities. They've got a good RB in Devin "Crazy Legs" Mockobee, and a talented wideout in senior Charlie Jones.

Where Purdue will likely struggle is up front, as both the OL and DL will likely struggle against Michigan's monster fronts. While Purdue was able to slow some of the better rushing attacks they've seen in Illinois and Minnesota, they just haven't faced the same level of talent that Michigan will employ. They've squeaked into the championship game in the Big Ten West division, and really, that should tell you all you need to know. I think they'll gamble like Indiana did and roll out every trick they can think of, because they won't be able to beat Michigan straight up. Michigan's real enemy is an emotional letdown after Ohio State.

It might not be the mauling that Michigan put on Iowa last year, but I just don't think Purdue can keep up.

Prediction: Michigan 45, Purdue 25.

Penn State 35, Michigan State 16
This was largely a ho-hum victory for Penn State against a mediocre Michigan State team. After a somewhat sloppy start by both offenses, PSU put it in gear and scored two touchdown drives in nine minutes, thanks to strong running by Nick Singleton and a trick double-pass play from KeAndre Lambert-Smith to Theo Johnson.

MSU pulled to within 5 in the fourth quarter on a drive that featured a big play to Keon Coleman, but on the ensuing possession, Sean Clifford led PSU on a masterful 75-yard TD drive that ended with 12 yard bubble screen to Singleton on 4th-and-2. That effectively sealed the game.

With the win, Penn State ends the season at 10-2 and a top-ten ranking. Depending on how the playoffs shake out, Penn State has a chance of going to the Rose Bowl, but might be more likely to be destined for the Cotton or Citrus Bowl. It's a good-to-great season, and it's fair to say that Penn State has over-performed against expectations. But much like Michigan and Ohio State in the past, at some point James Franklin will be questioned for his lack of success in the biggest rivalry games.

P.S.: MSU ends the season at 5-7 and out of the postseason, so thanks for that.

NC State 30, UNC 27 - 2OT
Ben Finley had the game of his life against UNC, where he clearly outplayed a one-time Heisman candidate in UNC QB Drake Maye. The second play of the game was a 52 yard pass to Devin Carter, leading to a touchdown.

State looked to have the game nearly wrapped up after picking off Maye and scoring on a 29-yard touchdown drive with four minutes to go. But Maye led UNC on a 75-yard drive in which they completed three fourth down conversions (one on a penalty, hug) and scoring the tying touchdown with no time left.

In overtime, neither team could find the end zone. The teams traded field goals in the first overtime. NCSU got the ball first in the second overtime and got to the UNC 4 yard line, but after two incompletions had to settle for another field goal. On the ensuing UNC possession, UNC only gained 7 yards and lined up for a 35-yard attempt. Kicker Noah Burnette, who had already missed a 27-yarder in regulation, shanked the attempt and NCSU walked away with the hard-earned (but somewhat lucky) victory.

NCSU ends the regular season at 8-4, It's a bit below their lofty early season expectations, but the season ends on a high note, and it's probably as good as they could have expected after losing QB Devin Leary to injury. It'll probably be a decent matchup in the Duke's Mayo or the Military Bowl against someone like Cincinnati or Minnesota.

Notable Results
It was a wild rivalry week to end the season, particularly among playoff contenders.

Texas A&M, a much better team than their 5-7 record would suggest, stunned #5 LSU 38-23, all but eliminating LSU from playoff contention even if they beat Georgia in the SEC championship. #6 USC looked dominant against #15 Notre Dame, eventually winning 38-27. If they win the Pac-12, they'll be in the playoffs. #7 Alabama beat Auburn 49-27, keeping them in the fringes of the playoff conversation if something wacky happens. #8 Clemson was stunned by giant-killer South Carolina 31-30, knocking them out of the playoff picture too. #21 Oregon State upset #9 Oregon 38-34. #1 Georgia looked shaky at times against Georgia Tech, but eventually pulled away to a 37-14 victory. #4 TCU crushed a lousy Iowa State team 62-14.

#16 Florida State beat Florida 45-38, an outcome few would have likely predicted early in the season. #19 Tulane beat Cincinnati to win the AAC regular season and host the conference championship. #18 UCLA squeaked by Cal 35-28. #23 Texas beat Baylor 38-27. #14 Utah demolished Colorado 63-21 to earn a spot in the Pac-12 title game, after #13 Washington beat Washington State 51-33. #22 UCF looked unimpressive against 1-11 USF but managed to win 46-39, getting them into the AAC title game. Kentucky upset #25 Louisville 26-13.

Nebraska knocked off Iowa 24-17 to eliminate Iowa from Big Ten West contention. Minnesota beat Wisconsin 23-16. Purdue beat Indiana 30-16 to win the Big Ten West.

Championships and Playoff Picture
For the top-four teams (Georgia, Michigan, TCU, USC), it's win-and-in. It would be a tidy outcome to have four P5 conference winners in the playoffs.

Georgia will play LSU in the SEC championship but will likely be in the CFP regardless of the outcome. If LSU happens to win, at 10-3 they'd be very unlikely to be selected ahead of other contenders.

Michigan plays Purdue in the Big Ten championship and still has a pretty decent chance of making it in with a loss, as the committee could (and should) keep them ahead of OSU in the rankings. But there's a chance OSU or Alabama would sneak in ahead, as a loss to unranked Purdue would look pretty bad on the resume. Purdue of course has no chance of a playoff berth. But a Purdue win would could cause a lot of chaos, as they'd go to the Rose Bowl and knock all the other Big Ten teams down a spot in the bowl pecking order.

TCU plays Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. This was a team they beat largely thanks to two interceptions in their first go-round. KSU has a legitimate shot of winning this game, which would most likely knock TCU out of the CFP.

USC plays Utah in the Pac 12 championship. Utah beat them 43-42 in their first meeting and could well beat them again with their high-powered offense. If Utah wins, USC would be out of the CFP.

Ohio State would probably get into the playoffs with a TCU or USC loss. If both lose, the committee might be inclined to put them at #4 anyway, to avoid a first-round rematch against Michigan. A Michigan loss might actually hurt them, though, as they could get jumped by Alabama if that happens.

Alabama is still lurking at #6 and might get into the playoffs if Michigan loses, or both TCU and USC lose.

Supposing all four of Georgia, Michigan, TCU, and USC lose, I think you end up with Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, and Alabama in the playoffs, though it'd be utter chaos trying to figure out how to rank those four teams. Who knows, Alabama might even end up #1 with two losses.

And oh yeah, in the ACC championship, Clemson and UNC back their way in after both lost their regular season finale games. Blech.

Championship Schedule
The Pac 12 championship between Utah and USC is on Fox at 8:00 PM on Friday.

The Big 12 championship between Kansas State and TCU is on ABC at 12:00 PM Saturday.

The SEC championship between LSU and Georgia is on CBS at 4:00 PM Saturday.

The AAC championship between UCF and Tulane is on ABC at 4:00 PM Saturday.

The Big Ten championship between Purdue and Michigan is on Fox at 8:00 PM Saturday.

The ACC championship between Clemson and UNC is on ABC at 8:00 PM Saturday.
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