We've made it to the final week of the regular season.
Ohio State and Michigan are en route to a head-on collision in Columbus, but both had to survive scares to remain unbeaten before the coming weekend's clash. TCU and USC stayed alive in the College Football Playoff race with razor-close wins of their own, but not every top program – ahem, Tennessee – was as fortunate.
Eleven Warriors recounts the biggest developments in the sport over the past weekend as we gear up for rivalry week in college football.
With Miyan Williams out and TreVeyon Henderson too banged up to take a carry in the second half, Ohio State handed the ball to a true freshman 27 times in Saturday’s game. Dallan Hayden finished with 146 yards and three touchdowns. The Memphis native had all but three of those yards, not to mention all three scores, in the second half alone to bring the Buckeyes back from the brink of defeat. With running back health questions still prominent for Ohio State entering The Game, Hayden might just be Ohio State’s best bet at the position down the stretch.
Dallan Hayden is (and will be) special. pic.twitter.com/nMtfvMSjl7— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 19, 2022
Another week, another massive blocked punt by Lathan Ransom. The Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist changed the momentum of Saturday’s game significantly with his second huge special teams play in as many weeks, giving Ohio State the ball on the Maryland 14-yard line early in the third quarter. The Buckeyes only needed two plays to score the go-ahead touchdown after that, and they didn’t relinquish the lead. Oh, and Ransom said he broke his thumb on the first play of the game, which makes his seven-tackle effort and punt block all the more admirable.
Maryland got the ball back with 36 seconds to play and a very real chance to win the game. Down six points, the Terps needed 84 yards and an extra point to upset the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes. Zach Harrison ensured Maryland didn’t even sniff Buckeye territory. The senior defensive end recorded back-to-back sacks during the last two plays of the final meaningful drive of the game. The second one caused a Taulia Tagovailoa fumble that landed right into the hands of Steele Chambers, who ran it into the end zone to seal the deal. Harrison’s been huge for the Buckeyes this season and proved it again on Saturday.
Hype for The Game
For long stretches on Saturday, both Michigan and Ohio State appeared hellbent on sucking some air out of next weekend’s rivalry matchup. Everyone had already penciled it in as the first contest between undefeated Buckeye and Wolverine teams since 2006. Still, that claim was under serious duress Saturday trailed in the second half and needed late-game heroics to escape the jaws of defeat. In the end, though, Ohio State and Michigan both came out on top over Maryland and Illinois, and even if neither looked like juggernauts, they’ll both carry unbeaten records into Columbus next weekend.
Top teams surviving close calls
Georgia eked out a 10-point win over Kentucky. Ohio State was only up three points on Maryland with 45 seconds remaining. Michigan needed a field goal with nine seconds left to beat Illinois by two points at home. TCU had to kick a buzzer-beater field goal to claim a one-point win over Baylor and remain undefeated. All four of the CFP committee’s top four teams struggled on Saturday, but each one got the job done by the time the final buzzer sounded.
TCU BEATS THE BUZZER TO KEEP THEIR UNDEFEATED SEASON ALIVE!!!— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 19, 2022
What a mess in the Big Ten West. It’s been that way just about all season, but the race to Lucas Oil Stadium got a lot clearer in the conference’s other division on Saturday. Iowa must beat Nebraska, a team it's beaten seven straight times, to earn a trip to Indianapolis. Despite possessing one of the worst offenses in the nation, the Hawkeyes are one win away from a West Division title and a date with the winner of Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan matchup.
Caleb Williams for Heisman
We could just as easily have included USC among the CFP contenders that cheated death on Saturday, as the Trojans edged UCLA in a 48-45 shootout that went down to the wire. Still, with just one loss entering the final week of the regular season, USC still has a shot at earning a CFP berth, and its quarterback is quickly picking up steam in the Heisman race.
With Tennessee losing a second game and C.J. Stroud having another ho-hum performance against Maryland, Williams’ 503 total yards and three scores against the Bruins add to a season statline that’s becoming increasingly impressive. Still, Stroud can potentially shut the door on that conversation with a big performance in a win against No. 3 Michigan next week.
Henderson returned from his two-game injury absence Saturday, but it was clear after the first drive that he was still not healthy. Besides his 31-yard receiving score on the opening Buckeye possession, Henderson couldn’t get anything going against Maryland. He finished with 19 yards on 11 carries, didn’t take a handoff in the second half and was put in a walking boot on his left foot before the end of the game.
Day said Henderson had a great week of practice in the leadup to the Terps matchup, but after seeing him on Saturday, it seems hard to imagine Henderson having a drastic turnaround health-wise in just one week. Especially given how banged up Henderson’s been for much of the season.
Here is TreVeyon Henderson in a walking boot on his left leg. pic.twitter.com/x72akXtG7z— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) November 20, 2022
Michigan RB health
Ohio State won’t be the only team heading into next week’s rivalry game with question marks at running back. Backup Donovan Edwards didn’t play for Michigan against Illinois, and Blake Corum – perhaps the top back in the nation – went down with what looked like a serious injury in the first half on Saturday. Corum came back in the second half but may be far from 100%, even if he does suit up against the Buckeyes.
UMs Blake Corum using his NIL money to donate turkeys for Thanksgiving in Ypsilanti a second straight year— angelique (@chengelis) November 20, 2022
Regarding his knee: Its good. Ill be fine. Ill be back pic.twitter.com/AeC5T7OzKB
Entering the weekend, the Vols still had a solid chance at a CFP berth, as long as they won out. They would’ve been a one-loss team without a conference championship, but their only loss was to the No. 1 team in the country. Well, now you can throw any such discussions out the window. Tennessee got molly-whopped by South Carolina, 63-38, on Saturday to officially remove itself from any CFP conversations. Hendon Hooker also suffered an ACL tear late in the game, a development that won’t help the Vols moving forward, not to mention Hooker’s own Heisman Trophy odds.
What a trainwreck of a season for Mel Tucker and company. Still not bowl-eligible heading into the final game of the regular season, the Spartans lost in overtime to lowly Indiana at home on Saturday to drop their sixth game of the season. Following the 39-31 loss, Michigan State must close its regular-season slate with Penn State, which will be heavily (and rightfully) favored to end the Spartans’ season with their most losses since 2016.