By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
Goodness gracious. What a week.
I picked Auburn to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl and I’m still in awe of what football fans witnessed on Saturday night. Both teams produced electrifying plays throughout the afternoon. Two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Auburn, Jaylen Waddle with a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown that preceded his three touchdown receptions, a controversial second added to the clock at the end of the first half to give Auburn a 52-yard field goal, a missed 30-yard kick by Alabama with a chance to tie and Auburn drawing Alabama offsides on fourth down to effectively end the game.
Seems like a typical dinner affair when these two teams meet.
Auburn’s win added more chaos to the playoff race. Alabama is obviously out with two regular season losses for the first time since 2010 and no SEC Championship game to pad its resume. LSU and Georgia will compete in Atlanta next Saturday.
An LSU win and the Tigers wrap up a spot in the four-team playoff and send Georgia to another offseason of wondering what could’ve been, but what if the Bulldogs emerge victorious? Do the Tigers still get in? One of many scenarios we’ll dissect later this week.
Elsewhere, Wisconsin ended Minnesota’s hopes for a playoff spot and the Big Ten West division after beating the Gophers on the road. The Badgers will face Ohio State in the Big Ten title bout. The Buckeyes beat Michigan for the eighth year in a row, but you probably would’ve known that even if I hadn’t mentioned it and you had been living under a rock for the past three weeks.
With one final week until the College Football Playoff is set, here’s the past weekend’s good, bad and ugly.
Good: Auburn. The Iron Bowl featured heavyweight punches being traded throughout the course of the game. The second quarter alone featured 48 points. Auburn only scored three offensive touchdowns, gave up 45 points and somehow won the game. Complimentary football will do that for a team. Two defensive scores and four Anders Carlson field goals gave the Tigers enough to get past Alabama at home. The controversial second put back on the clock at the end of the first half proved to be huge and a missed chip shot field goal at the end of the game ended Alabama’s playoff hopes.
Honorable Mention: Wisconsin. The Badgers fell behind quickly in the annual rivalry game with Minnesota, but Wisconsin shook off the slow start, got a balanced attack out of its offense and broke away from the Golden Gophers in the second half en route to a 38-17 victory for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Wisconsin had three touchdown drives of 80 yards or more. I’m still curious to see what would happen if Wisconsin were to win the Big Ten title game and enough chaos ensued around the rest of the country (but that won’t happen, right?).
Bad: Alabama. How does this program struggle to get placekickers? It’s not as if special teams as a whole is a problem for Alabama. It has playmakers in the return game and has produced some quality punters, but placekicking has been a thorn in Nick Saban’s side for years. There was the Kick-Six, then there was the missed field goal at the end of regulation in the national title game a couple years that sent the game to overtime and now this. A 30-yard field goal off the upright did the Crimson Tide in on Saturday. To top it off, Alabama handed Auburn 14 free points with a pair of pick sixes from Mac Jones.
Honorable Mention: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers weren’t expected to beat Iowa, but they were expected to win the Big Ten West back in August. Not only did Nebraska fail to top the supposedly weaker division of the Big Ten, but it failed to make a bowl game after Friday’s loss left the Huskers with a 5-7 finish. Just one game better from the 4-8 record it had a year ago. Nebraska blew a big lead to Colorado, lost to Indiana at home and fell to a Purdue team that finished 4-8. The West division ended up being tougher than most of us thought, but 5-7 isn’t good enough for Scott Frost’s second season in Lincoln.
Ugly: Michigan. Every year this rivalry becomes highly anticipated with playoff implications potentially on the line and it fells like every year we as viewers are set up for disappointment. Ohio State scored two touchdowns in each quarter and remained undefeated with Saturday’s 56-27 win. Michigan was outgained 577-396 as Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins each scored four touchdowns. In other words, two different Buckeyes outscored Michigan on their own. Ouch.
Honorable Mention: Texas A&M. It’s an incredibly tough draw for the Aggies. Saturday’s loss dropped Texas A&M to 7-5, but look at those five losses: Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and LSU. There are a lot of teams that would go 0-5 against that schedule, but Saturday’s loss to the Tigers in a rematch of last year’s seven-overtime marathon failed to live up to any sort of billing at all. A week after showing some fight against the Bulldogs, Texas A&M failed to show much of anything against LSU. Those five opponents are tough, but how good can Texas A&M really be under Jimbo Fisher if it can’t steal one of those games?