Oregon was asked Washington away, one relentless run game after another, chewing the clock in the fourth quarter, heading for a seemingly inevitable touchdown. The Ducks already led by four points and were 4:26 from the Huskies’ 10-yard line.
And that’s when absolutely everything fell apart for Oregon (8-2). A series of mishaps that led to an overarching disaster that shattered their college football playoff dreams. After eight straight wins, the Ducks moved to the brink of playoff position, the whole thing resolved in a 37-34 loss. Sport can be so cruel.
Here’s how it happened: In third and fifth place on the Washington 10, quarterback Bo Nix ran over a keeper and was stopped after two yards. That was unfortunate, but Nix limping after the game was worse. Oregon settled on a field goal and a seven-point lead, keeping the Huskies alive.
The breakdowns increased. The Ducks started out of bounds and gave Washington a good field position. Then quarterback Michael Penix Jr. made a long cross-field throw that the Oregon secondary misplayed, resulting in a 62-yard touchdown.
Still, there was still time to save the game. That’s when rookie head coach Dan Lanning made an amazing decision.
Fourth and 1 of his own 34 in a tie game with less than 90 seconds remaining and with his backup QB in the game, Lanning decided to give it a shot. He didn’t sting. He didn’t call time out to think about it. He didn’t get Nix back in the game, though Nix bounced up and down the touchline, an accomplished short-mileage quarterback ready to get back in the game. He went with a handoff to Noah Whittington who slipped and fell for a loss and gifted Washington Field position for the winning field goal.
Oregon launched a final desperation drive that actually had a shot, but it ended with a battered pass into the end zone. The damage had already been done in a sudden series of unfortunate events: stalled drive, injured QB, bad kickoff, bad cover, very bad fourth down decision – phew, here comes the playoff. “This game is 100% mine,” Lanning said afterwards. In the Oregon pantheon of national championship pains, that could rival Dennis Dixon’s injury in 2007 and Michael Dyer’s run in 2010.
While Oregon was the day’s big loser, TCU was the big winner. The Horned Frogs, who became an irreverent seven-point underdog in Texas, instead secured a win that cements their spot in the top four of the next College Football Playoff rankings. But there is still work to be done.
Let’s get to SI’s top 10:
Last Game: Beat Mississippi State 45-19
Next game: In Kentucky
It took a while for that bulldogs to put the SEC East bulldogs removed by the SEC West, but this has never been seriously questioned. Georgia has never been behind and was 93 seconds behind overall (early against Tennessee) since the close duel in Missouri. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken continues to find creative ways to multitask with his experienced staff, this time getting a 70-yard run from receiver Ladd McConkey on a reverse. This remains the best team in the country and there seems to be no one left on the regular-season schedule to challenge that status. Maybe not the postseason schedule either.
2. State of Ohio
Last Game: Beat Indiana 56-14
Next game: in Maryland
Still, an emphatic Buckeyes win didn’t go smoothly. Running backs Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson both have injury problems now — Williams left that game on a cart and Henderson was already out of action. According to coach Ryan Day, Williams’ leg injury didn’t appear to be “long-term.” Still, there are always options in Ohio State: third stringer Dallan Hayden took his chance and rushed for a career-high 102 yards, and receiver Xavier Johnson had a 71-yard rush. And of course, quarterback CJ Stroud threw five touchdowns. The Buckeyes’ improved defense, meanwhile, held their seventh opponent to less than 15 points.
Last game: Beat Nebraska 34-3
Next game: Illinois at home
That wolverines (10-0) scored another artisanal win and put the defensive staples on the Cornhuskers. Nebraska only had one play surpassed 13 yards and ran just 48 offensive plays in the game. Nine of 10 Michigan opponents have been held to 17 points or fewer, and nobody but Maryland has managed to gain 300 yards on corn and blue. Blake Corum continued his low-key bid for the Heisman Trophy with a seventh straight 100-yard rushing game, despite not having rushed for more than 12 yards. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter. “It’s a happy, happy ride that we’re on,” said coach Jim Harbaugh. The season-long March 26th at the Horseshoe is a step further.
Last game: Beat Texas 17-10
Next game: at Baylor
When the first CFP rankings were released on Nov. 1, selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan questioned whether the Horned Frogs were a “complete team,” alluding to the perceived weakness of their defense. On Saturday night in Austin, TCU’s defense showed up in a great way to keep an undefeated season going. The Frogs held Texas without an offensive touchdown and limited the Longhorns to just 199 yards, their lowest total in a game since the 2015 season opener. Offensively, TCU got enough big plays from running back Kendre Miller and receiver Quentin Johnston. Sonny Dykes remains on course to be named national coach of the year.
Last game: Beat Missouri 66-24
Next game: in South Carolina
That volunteers (9-1) played the Tigers to the end, hitting two long passes that resulted in touchdowns in the last five minutes to increase the score. Whether that ultimately plays a role in the playoff race, who knows. But a week after being held at 13 points by Georgia, Tennessee was looking to explode the scoreboard again. The Vols stacked 724 yards, averaging 9.7 yards per play, and got quarterback Hendon Hooker’s Heisman campaign back on track (405 total offensive yards, three touchdown passes, one TD run). Tennessee’s chances of getting into the clubhouse 11-1 and making the playoffs remain viable.
Last game: Beat Colorado 55-17
Next game: at UCLA
That Trojan (9-1) had a glorious walkover against the very poor Buffaloes on Friday night, but it came at a heavy cost. Lead rusher Travis Dye was carted off the field in the first half and later came back on crutches – and although details of the injury weren’t disclosed, coach Lincoln Riley said Dye’s season is over. That’s a big blow for the next two Saturdays games against the Bruins and Notre Dame. Leading receiver Jordan Addison returned after missing two games from injury but had just one catch for two yards against Colorado. USC had its first consecutive games of the season on revenue, but the total this year is just three — an incredibly low tally in 694 offensive snaps.
Last Game: Defeat Arkansas 13-10
Next game: UAB at home
Say hello to your surprise SEC West champions. Fueled by a dominant performance from freshman linebacker Harold Perkins Jr., the Tigers dodged the Fayetteville trap. After the emotional excitement of Alabama and an early kick-off in early temperatures, the game turned into the drudgery many expected. While LSU Offensive never really went undetectable, Perkins demolishing Arkansas’ attack with four sacks and two forced fumbles – the last one ending the game. Perkins now has six sacks in their last three games.
Last game: Beat Louisville 31-16
Next game: Miami at home
After the top 7, the warts really become visible on everyone. Clemson (9-1) has seen his victories over Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Syracuse fall in value, although on the other hand, beating Florida State is looking better by the week. It was a good win for the Tigers against a Louisville team that had won four straight games, although it came with the usual offensive laziness (three turnovers, bringing their total in their last three games to nine). Clemson got some nice runs from Will Shipley (who had an epic hurdle on a touchdown) and Phil Mafah (his first 100-yard game) as a sophomore.
Last game: Beat Mississippi 30-24
Next game: Austin Peay at home
For much of the day Saturday, the Crimson Tide (8-2) appeared to be on course for her first losing streak in the regular season under Nick Saban since 2007. But a fourth-quarter belly check led to a comeback win in a game where the Intangibles were all up against Alabama — Ole Miss came out with an open date, the Tide had been in an overtime struggle and Bama’s playoff hopes were as good as extinguished. So from that point of view, winning the game by getting a shutout in the fourth quarter and scoring the last 13 points was a nice development. But this Alabama team is what it is – good, but well below Saban-era standards.
Last game: Lost to Washington 37-34
Next game: Utah at home
See above for full, gory details on how the Ducks turned a great win into a painful loss.
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• UConn disrupts Liberty to gain eligibility for the Clinch Bowl
• Lane Kiffin reacts to losing Ole Miss to Alabama