The penultimate week of college football's regular season has come and gone, and it brought a few surprises. Why, a certain playoff contender even left us all a "present" on the FieldTurf!
Hi, everyone. As always, I'm Holly, your intrepid canine commentator, here to offer my completely unqualified analysis in exchange for belly runs and table scraps. You know, like most bloggers.
This is: 4th & Short: Week 12.
TIME AND CHANGE SURELY SHOWED YOU SOMETHING
There's no sense in dancing around the biggest story of the weekend: undefeated defending champion Ohio State, riding a 23-game win streak, dropped their first regular-season Big Ten game of Urban Meyer's tenure Saturday evening, 17-14 to Michigan State. The Buckeyes' once-vaunted offense was stifled by both the Spartan D and by questionable play-calling, with all-world tailback Ezekiel Elliot expressing frustration after the loss at a near-season-low 12 touches.
There'll be perhaps a Citrus Bowl and a long offseason to ponder what went wrong in Buckeyeland, but they've learned what Florida State learned last year, and many before them:
Once you've made the climb, everyone's going to be trying to get you down.
ONE TRUE (ONE-LOSS) CHAMPION
Meanwhile, in Big XII country, the conference's parity has been offering some truly exciting games, but it could well present a legitimate roadblock to the playoffs for all involved. Oklahoma State, the conference's lone remaining unbeaten, fell to Baylor 45-35 - Baylor having suffered their first loss the previous week to one-loss Oklahoma, who doesn't want to talk about who they lost to. The games have been thrilling, but when it comes time to set the final playoff field in a few shorts weeks, we may find that the round-robin schedule leaves the whole conference looking up at the Final Four.
I'm used to looking up at people, but I'll be damned if I let them leave me out. I'm an inside dog. Check my strength of schedule again.
DOGS > CATS, IT'S JUST MATH, PEOPLE
Speaking of undefeated teams stumbling, the Houston Cougars took a damaging shot to their hopes of a New Year's Six Bowl with a shocking 20-17 road loss to Connecticut. The Huskies reached bowl eligibility with the win, their first non-losing season since their 2010 run to the Fiesta Bowl under former coach Randy Edsall.
It's like I say: always bet on dog.
SO THEN WE'RE LEFT WITH EXACTLY WHAT WE EXPECTED
Just like we drew it up.
HOW'D OTHER CONFERENCES MANAGE TO AVOID LATE-SEASON TRIP-UPS?
Well, there's always the SEC's November Strategy, spearheaded by standard-bearer Alabama, who totally proved that they're deserving of a playoff spot by dominating FCS Charleston Southern in a 56-6 rout.
We see you, Bama. We see you.
BUT WAIT, SOME OF THOSE TEAMS ARE REALLY GOOD!
Oh, hello, SEC East. Yes, you went a long way toward vindicating the quality of your November scheduling, with East division champion Florida needing overtime to put away Florida Atlantic, and tumbling South Carolina falling 23-22 to The Citadel.
So yeah, some of these teams are pretty good. And South Carolina really isn't.
BACK TO THE AMERICAN CONFERENCE FOR A SECOND, THOUGH
With losses by Houston and Temple, suddenly the American West division leader is 9-1 (7-0 AAC) Navy. The Midshipmen put away Tulsa 44-21 Saturday and are positioned, should they hold off Houston next weekend, to take the Group of Five bid to a New Year's Bowl.
Delight in that for a moment: some Power 5 team is likely to just miss out on the playoff, and be rewarded with a Peach Bowl date with Navy's bruising, maddening triple-option. It's like when I think we're going to the park, and we end up going to the vet for shots. What I'm saying is: whoever has to play Navy, look real sad in the car on the way home and maybe they'll give you some cheese later.
Gimme that dang pizza.
HE'S NOT SHORT BUT LET'S THROW HIM A BONE
Normally, I take the time to celebrate the best or most notable performance by a player under six feet of stature, as a show of solidarity for my friends in low places. I'm going to do that this week too, but I'd be remiss if I didn't stop and celebrate someone who's just a bit over that threshold.
Audaciously-six-foot-one sophomore back Christian McCaffrey continued his amazing season with 389 all-purpose yards in #11 Stanford's 35-22 win over Cal, clinching the Pac-12 North for the Cardinal and potentially keeping them on the fringes of longshot playoff contention.
You're a bit to tall to be my brother, Christian, but you're all right. Because you can get the biscuits off the top of the fridge for me.
BUT NO, SERIOUSLY
Let's shift our focus back to someone who did the dang thing Saturday without making a whole big show of the "height" thing. Michigan State's 5'8 sophomore placekicker Michael Geiger nailed a 41-yard field goal in a cold wind to knock off the Buckeyes and put his Spartans in the driver's seat in the Big Ten East - and keep them on the fringe of playoff competition. Don't take it from me, though: let's hear what he has to say:
Geiger postgame on Spartan Radio: "It was the biggest kick of my life, and I fucking nailed it."
— Tony Garcia (@RealTonyGarcia) November 22, 2015
Fantastic. Just fantastic. Let 'em know how you feel, kid.
AND NOW, THE MAIN COURSE
The week ahead of us is going to overshadow everything that's come so far. Massive games with major implications lie ahead, including a Big 12-deciding Bedlam matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, a still-very-relevant Ohio State-Michigan, Notre Dame-Stanford, Florida attempting to keep their narrow playoff hopes alive through the Florida State roadblock, the aforementioned Houston-Navy showdown for the American West, and a whole host of games high on the hate quotient. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it.
And oh, but, the table scraps. Thanksgiving is upon us. You're going to drop a lot of food on the floor, and I'll be right there waiting for it. This is my rivalry week. This is my bowl game. This is my national championship.
Heck, I'd better get some workouts in to get ready for four days of sloth, football and carbs.
Let's do this damn thing.