Part of the Yahoo Sports family, Rivals.com offers in-depth coverage of nearly every college program across the country. With local experts dialed into every move on campus, fans can get unparalleled coverage of their favorite teams.
Each week, we’ll talk to our reporters on the ground to get their thoughts on the biggest happenings during the college football season. This week, we look at Ohio State’s domination of Michigan and their motivation heading into the Big Ten championship, Auburn’s Iron Bowl win and what it might mean for Gus Malzahn’s future and checks in on Oklahoma’s playoff chances heading into the Big 12 championship game.
Buckeyes continue to cruise
Another Ohio State-Michigan game, another blowout win for the Buckeyes. Even with a new head coach and the game in Ann Arbor, the annual matchup provided the same results college football fans have become accustomed to seeing over the past decade. With their hated rivals in the rearview mirror, it appears as if Ohio State has punched its ticket to the College Football Playoff whether it wins or loses in the Big Ten championship game. So will complacency creep in in advance of Saturday’s rematch against Wisconsin, or are the Buckeyes focused on maintaining the No. 1 spot in the rankings and avoiding defending national champions Clemson in the first round?
Rivals.com caught up with BuckeyeGrove.com’s Kevin Noon to get his thoughts on the Buckeyes.
“It is important but this whole “everyone wants to avoid Clemson” talk is getting to be a little much. Where is the “everyone wants to avoid Ohio State” talk? Have the Buckeyes not done enough to prove that they might be the team to beat out there? I am not saying this to take a shot at Clemson. Clemson has owned Ohio State in the three previous meetings through the ages, but with that being said, the CFP committee saw fit to make Ohio State the No. 1 team most recently, not Clemson.
“But now that I am done with my little diatribe, getting the No. 1 seed and drawing a likely date with the Pac-12 or Big 12 champion is a much better draw than getting Clemson in the first round. You still may have to face them in the championship game but at that point you know that only 60 minutes stand in the way of a title.
“As for complacency, everyone told Ohio State that it did not need to beat Michigan to get into the field of four and they hung a 56-burger on the Wolverines. I don’t think this team is going to feel any sort of complacency on the state of the Big Ten championship game, playing at Lucas Oil Stadium and knowing that one more win should lock up that top spot in the playoff and what should be the easier path to the championship game.”
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Oklahoma back in the mix?
Just two weeks ago it looked like Oklahoma’s chances for the College Football Playoff were on life support. The Sooners were hovering just inside the top 10 and needed a number of teams to drop games in order to get back in the realistic discussion. But after losses in back-to-back weeks by Oregon and Alabama, the Sooners find themselves squarely back in the hunt. If LSU beats Georgia and Oregon beats Utah and the Sooners can win the Big 12 championship game against Baylor, the school could be making its third straight trip to the playoff. So how should Sooners fans feel about their chances?
We checked in with SoonerScoop.com’s Carey Murdoch to get his thoughts.
“Oklahoma should feel nothing but positive about the Iron Bowl result. There has been a lot of disappointment since the loss to Kansas State. The defense regressed a little bit, Jalen Hurts had issues with ball security and any playoff momentum was completely stalled. Now the Sooners find themselves one (really two) games away from being included in the College Football Playoff.
“Obviously if Georgia beats LSU in the SEC championship, the college football world will feel like they have been sabotaged by some sort of ESPN/SEC deep-state conspiracy. And that option still exists for everyone, including Utah, Oklahoma and Baylor.
“Here’s the rub for OU fans. They only really need one thing to happen to get it. If LSU beats Georgia, they can still get in with a win over Baylor. It’s possible the committee compares OU’s wins to Utah’s wins after all the championship games are over and decides the Sooners have the better resume and deserve that fourth spot in the playoff.
“But OU will go into the Big 12 championship knowing if Utah is still in the picture because that game will be played Friday night.
“The other thing Oklahoma fans should feel good about is that this team seems to be playing its best football since coming out of the halftime locker room at Baylor. The Sooners are creating game-ending turnovers on defense. In their last two road games, the Sooners held Baylor to 307 yards of total offense and held Oklahoma State to 335 yards of total offense while limiting Chuba Hubbard to just 104 yards rushing on 24 carries. Oh, and in between those games, they held TCU to just 204 yards of total offense at home.
“There have been some hiccups, especially with Jalen Hurts’ turnovers, but I’m sure the committee will be looking at that aspect of OU’s game in Saturday’s championship showdown with Baylor.
“Should Oklahoma get the last spot? I think Oklahoma’s resume is better. But Utah has been a more complete team from the beginning of the season to the end. Although they both have losses against 8-4 teams.
“It’s a tough call. And probably why the committee wouldn’t move the Sooners above Utah until all the games are final this weekend. And until they’ve had one more game to see if OU’s resume meets the committee’s eye test.”
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Iron Bowl win puts hot-seat talk on ice
Despite having quite a bit of success since taking over as the head coach at Auburn, including leading the Tigers within a few plays of winning the national championship in 2013, Gus Malzahn seems to come up among coaches on the hot seat on a yearly basis. But after beating Alabama for the second time in three seasons, is Malzahn finally safe for good? And is his team starting to show that the gap between the two programs is closing?
We checked in with AuburnSports.com’s Jay Tate to get his thoughts.
“Auburn’s 48-45 victory over Alabama was Gus Malzahn’s third against Nick Saban, which puts the Tigers coach in exclusive company. It also gives Malzahn a crucial bump in terms of credibility with his fan base. Losses to Florida, LSU and Georgia earlier this season once again stoked speculation that Auburn supporters had grown weary of Malzahn’s inability to beat the program’s top rivals.
“The Iron Bowl changed all that.
“The Tigers scored five touchdowns against the Tide on Saturday — though two were interception returns — and Malzahn clearly outfoxed Saban by employing an unusual personnel grouping to force a game-winning penalty. This was more than a win; it was an affirmation.
“Is the chasm between these two programs narrowing? That’s difficult to say, but the Tigers’ ability to undermine the Tide inside Jordan-Hare Stadium continues to be a thorn in Alabama’s side.”
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