It’s the most bittersweet weekend of the year. It’s the last week of the college football regular season. The thing we’ve all been waiting nine months for is finally over. To soften the blow, the football gods bless us with the greatest week of the season: rivalry week. There were too many amazing games to cover all in one piece, so let’s jump in and look back at some of the best of the best from this past week.
Game of the Week: The game that was the most fun to watch that week. Importance could be a factor, but it isn’t necessary to qualify.
Most Important Game of the Week: The game that had the biggest impact on the playoff race or the college football landscape as a whole.
Drunkest Game of the Week: The game that scrambled your brain just watching. A drunk game is full of chaos, but not the good kind. As the name implies, it’s a game where it wouldn’t be a shock to find out everyone involved chugged a fifth of Admiral Nelson’s beforehand.
Head-Scratcher of the Week: The result that makes less and less sense the more you look at it. This is a celebration of the random, outlier games that we look back on later in the year in awe.
Sickos Game of the Week: The game that you enjoy for all of the wrong reasons. The train wreck that you can’t look away from. This is the game that makes you shake your head and say “Only in college football.”
Hype Killer of the Week: The game where one bandwagon comes to a screeching halt. The game where a team that looked like a future college football darling crashed back down to Earth.
Seat-Warmer of the Week: The game that pushed a coach’s job security into the danger zone because coach search season never ends. It’s usually about the coach of the losing team, but that’s not always the case.
Seat-Cooler of the Week: The opposite of the seat-warmer, this is the game that will let the winning coach sleep a little more soundly at night. At least for now.
Your Future Coach: A new category where I look at a game involving an up-and-coming G5 coach that probably won’t be sticking around very long. If your team is ever in the Seat Warmer section, this one is for you.
Dealer’s Choice of the Week: The game that I just feel like talking about. It could be because it was especially fun, or stupid, or just because I want to make fun of a team I don’t like. It’s more of a catch-all category than anything.
All caught up? Good, let’s go.
Game of the Week: Georgia Southern vs. Appalachian State
Games like this are what make college football great. These are two teams that hate each other so much that the name of the game is “Deeper Than Hate.” They have a relatively short, but important history. Both teams were powerhouses at the FCS level. There was a sixteen year stretch where one of these two teams won the SoCon all but once. When they both moved to the Sun Belt in 2014, Georgia State had won the most FCS national championships with six, while App State had three of their own. Just to add to the pressure, this season both teams were playing for bowl eligibility (App State played two FCS teams, meaning they actually needed seven wins to qualify). The showdown at Beautiful Eagle Creek did not disappoint. It was the kind of back-and-forth shootout that neutral fans dream of. There were ten lead changes and twice as many touchdowns as punts. App State had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but missed a chip-shot field goal, sending the game into overtime. Georgia State got the win in the second overtime, when Kyle Vantrease threw a pass so beautiful it had the GSU radio announcer singing gospel.
Most Important Game of the Week: Michigan vs. Ohio State
Every season this category is reserved for either the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn or The Game between Ohio State and Michigan. Thanks to both Alabama schools disappointing this year, The Game takes the spot. Going into the weekend, the general consensus was that both of these teams will likely make the playoff regardless of the outcome. That feeling only grew stronger when fellow contenders Clemson and LSU lost in shocking upsets. The only thing could keep one of these powerhouses out of the playoff would be a blowout loss where they looked uncompetitive.
Michigan won by doing Ohio State better than Ohio State did. JJ McCarthy was launching bombs all day, until the run game wore the Buckeyes down in the fourth quarter. OSU might still make the playoff, but their future is much murkier now than it was on Friday.
Drunkest Game of the Week: Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss
Just like the previous category, the Egg Bowl is almost guaranteed to be the drunkest game of the season. In the last decade alone, we had Bo Wallace fumbling into the end zone, Dak Prescott pooping his pants, a bench-clearing brawl that got each player on both teams a penalty on a play that didn’t even count, and the legendary Piss & Miss. None of that even touches on the insane off-field drama between the two in that time frame. It’s the only rivalry in the sport where whenever you mention the game where a player fake-peed like a dog in the end zone, you have to specify which one. This game followed a season-long trend, where the first three quarters were a bit of a snooze fest, but things ratcheted up at the end. Ole Miss had the ball down eight in the fourth quarter, when one of the most surreal plays I’ve ever seen happened.
The refs went back and forth for a bit before deciding that there was an inadvertent whistle, so they play didn’t happen. Then, they decided that Ole Miss fumbled the ball anyways, and gave it to State. You read that right, Ole Miss fumbled on a nonexistent play. It ended up not really mattering, because Will Rogers fumbled the ball back to them on the goal line. The Rebels mounted an impressive 99-yard drive to pull within two, while importantly keeping all three timeouts. Once again, Ole Miss got a little overzealous with the celebration and had to use a timeout to prevent a delay of game on the two-point conversion. They lined up again to try and tie the game and… called another timeout. Lane Kiffin called a second timeout for no apparent reason. Now Ole Miss only had one remaining, meaning that if they didn’t convert, they absolutely had to recover the onside kick. If he hadn’t wasted those timeouts, they would’ve at least had a chance to get the ball back and win the game. He used two timeouts just to call the hottest play of 2016, a shovel pass that was knocked away. Mississippi State won, ending yet another drunken nightmare of an Egg Bowl.
Head-Scratcher of the Week: Texas A&M vs. LSU
We are all winners with this result. Jimbo has all the internal justification to not make any changes for next season, which means they will probably be bad again, and Brian Kelly lost, which is always fun. Plus, now we don’t have to spend the next week hearing terrible arguments that LSU should make the playoff. Yay!
Sickos Game of the Week: New Mexico State vs. Liberty
Here’s some advice for any college coaches out there trying to get a better job: don’t leak that you’re leaving before the season is over. However, Hugh Freeze is a man physically incapable of keeping quiet. Liberty’s players reportedly heard the news that Freeze was likely leaving before the game, and they certainly played like it. Coming into the game, New Mexico State’s offense was ranked 130 out of 131 teams according to SP+. The Aggies went on the road as 24-point underdogs and nearly dropped a fifty-burger on them. They also hit an insane number of big plays, with four of their touchdowns coming on plays over thirty yards. I’m in the camp that we should never use the word “quit” when talking about college players (there are way too many outside factors we don’t know about), but Liberty’s players were clearly, and understandably, not motivated. Now John Cohen gets to try and tell Auburn fans that the guy who got blown out by New Mexico State can beat Alabama and Georgia. Good luck with that.
Hype Killer of the Week: South Carolina vs. Clemson
I know I said last week that I don’t like to write about South Carolina because I’m too emotional, but screw that. South Carolina beat Clemson for the first time in seven years, ending the Tigers’ 40 game home winning streak and ruining any chance they had of making the playoff. The game was incredible, Pete Lembo’s special teams dominated, and the Gamecocks came out on top after forcing multiple fumbles on returns, including one of the funniest turnovers of the year.
Dabo really thought he was doing something with that Little Giants-ass trick play. Carolina overcame some incredibly bad officiating to win the game, breaking Clemson fans’ hearts and driving Dabo even further into the hole as he continues to double down on his increasingly unsuccessful system. Go Cocks.
Seat-Warmer of the Week: Tulsa vs. Houston
This is a tough category to write about. Coaches are almost constantly being fired in the days after rivalry week, so it’s always a risk that whatever I write will immediately be outdated. Dana Holgorsen at Houston feels like a safe candidate, because I don’t think he will be fired this year. His seat going into 2023 will be very hot. Houston came into year with high expectations, hoping to win the conference and potentially make the playoff. Instead, they end the year 7-5 after a loss to a very bad Tulsa team. Holgorsen had a rough start at Houston after his odd roster management strategy misfired, but he at least bounced back last year. One good season out of four is not good enough for a team with the aspirations of Houston, especially as they move into the Big 12.
Seat-Cooler of the Week: Syracuse vs. Boston College
Syracuse had the strangest character arc this season. They started the year 6-0 and rose all the way to 14th in the AP poll. Dino Babers wasn’t just off the hot seat; he was trending towards another major extension. The streak ended when the Orange lost a close game on the road at Clemson, and then the wheels fell off. Babers lost the next five games and was close to ending the year on a losing streak so bad that Babers could’ve lost his job anyways. Syracuse managed to beat Boston College, definitely saving Babers for now. He’ll most likely enter next season on the hot seat again.
Your Future Coach: Tulane vs. Cincinnati
Willie Fritz almost was Georgia Tech’s new head coach, but now seems likely to stay in NOLA after that strange situation. Either way, Fritz is proof that good coaches win no matter where they are. He’s won ten games and a conference title at the Division 2, FCS, and FBS level. He even did the impossible and won the Sun Belt in Georgia Southern’s first season as an FBS team. Georgia Tech fans seemed skeptical of Fritz because of his 41-45 record at Tulane, but that requires some context. The Green Wave had one winning season in the thirteen years before Fritz arrived. They are a small private school competing in the best G5 conference, going up against massive schools like Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati. Football is certainly not a priority for Tulane either. They were one of two schools who actually left the SEC because they didn’t want to spend money on football (funnily enough, the other was Georgia Tech). Fritz has already taken the team to three bowl games and has them playing in the conference championship game this Saturday. He’s done an incredible job winning at a place where that’s not easy.
Dealer’s Choice: Oregon State vs. Oregon
The Game Formerly Known as the Civil War was wild this year. Oregon had a spot in the Pac-12 championship on the line, and they started out hot. They went on a 24-0 run to take a big lead in the third quarter, before things went off the rails. The Beavers hit a few big plays to set up a couple of touchdowns to cut the lead to ten, and then Oregon gave them the biggest gift of the day.
The Ducks almost literally handed OSU the ball at two-yard line, where they’d quickly score again. The very next drive, Oregon coach Dan Lanning decided to be incredibly aggressive and go for it on fourth and one at their own 29-yard line. Just like they did against Washington, the Ducks failed, giving the Beavers another short field and setting up the eventual game winning touchdown. Oregon had a big lead with everything to play for, and they collapsed in a way that made it feel like Mario Cristobal never left.
(Header courtesy of Gamecock Football)