By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
Welp. My picks were wrong. What else is new?
Utah certainly didn’t beat Oregon and the game certainly wasn’t close. Oklahoma didn’t cover a nine-point spread against Baylor with the Bears playing its third-string quarterback and Georgia didn’t sniff a win over LSU.
I usually hope for chaos during championship week. We didn’t get any, and the selection committee is thankful for that.
We’ve got LSU taking on Oklahoma in one semifinal and Clemson meeting Ohio State in the other. Hopefully the latter matchup will be more entertaining than the last time these two teams met in the playoff.
All right. Let’s recap the weekend.
Good: LSU. What else can be said about Joe Burrow and the Tigers? LSU’s quarterback torched Georgia’s vaunted defense, made plays with his legs and humiliated the Bulldogs in a virtual home game in Atlanta. Burrow has already won the Heisman Trophy. The ceremony on Saturday is simply a formality. LSU jumping to the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff is the icing on the cake. Oklahoma is a significantly lighter matchup than Clemson. LSU will be awaiting its national title opponent without much trouble.
Honorable Mention: Memphis. It’s not easy to beat an opponent twice in a week, but Memphis did just that to capture the American Athletic Conference championship. The Tigers beat Cincinnati for the second time to cap a 12-1 season that led to head coach Mike Norvell being hired as the next head coach at Florida State. He won’t coach Memphis in the Cotton Bowl, but it’s still a solid season for a team that had to settle for a pair of AAC runner-up finishes to UCF the past two years.
Bad: Wisconsin. The Badgers had everything going for them in the first half. They scored a touchdown early, then went up 14-0 after stopping Ohio State on its first two drives. Wisconsin responded to Ohio State’s first touchdown with one of its own right before halftime to go up 21-7 into the break. But Wisconsin gave up a touchdown to start the third quarter to early, fumbled on its next possession and then missed a field goal before back-to-back three and outs. By then Wisconsin saw its 14-point lead turn into a 13-point deficit and Wisconsin’s offense had no answer. Credit to the Badgers for winning a tough Big Ten West when it wasn’t expected to, but for a team that’s had its share of runner-up trophies in recent years, this one’s going to sting.
Honorable Mention: Oklahoma. I get it. Oklahoma won the Big 12 and earned its way into the playoff with losses to Georgia and Utah, but the Sooners are far from playing their best football and needed overtime to beat Baylor’s third string quarterback. The secondary kept getting gashed for big plays through the air and Jalen Hurts continues to struggle taking care of the football. Oklahoma’s best likely won’t be enough against LSU, but if the Sooners play the way they did on Saturday it’ll get laughed out of the Peach Bowl.
Ugly: Georgia. The guy rolling out the rack of Georgia’s SEC champion merchandise at the start of the fourth quarter said it all. The Bulldogs are loaded with talent and have the players to compete in the SEC. Georgia’s defense hadn’t given up 20 points in regulation all season. It gave up 17 points in the third quarter alone. A program that was once thought to be on the cusp of winning a national championship feels like its slowly moving in the opposite direction. Georgia is still very good and will continue to be, but it’s hard to see the Bulldogs getting as close to winning a national title as they were a couple years ago.
Honorable Mention: Utah. The Utes had a playoff spot on the line, but got bushwhacked by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. The Utes fell behind 20-0 at halftime before making things interesting in the third quarter, but couldn’t close the gap as Oregon pulled away with a conference title and the Pac-12’s only chance at a playoff bid this season. With Oklahoma’s less than impressive win against Baylor, the Utes might’ve had the better case for the fourth spot with a win. Imagine the conversation if Oregon had just beaten Arizona State.