Stock Up/Stock Down: USC Loss Restores OSU's Chance At a Natty, Jaxon Smith-Njigba Erases Any Hope For A CFP Return And A Rematch of The Game Will Have to Wait

By Griffin Strom on December 6, 2022 at 8:35 am
Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Kyle Robertson / USA TODAY NETWOR

A second straight loss to Michigan, no chance at a Big Ten title and then a back-door berth into the College Football Playoff. Just how everybody drew it up, right?

Not exactly, but the Buckeyes will have a shot to win it all just the same following the mayhem that ensued over conference championship weekend. Georgia, Michigan, TCU and USC all controlled their own destiny entering title games, but only two came out victorious, and one dropped out of the playoff picture altogether.

Ohio State received a boost it may or may not have deserved, TCU got its first-ever CPF berth, the Big Ten put two teams in the playoff and the Heisman Trophy race is murkier than any in recent memory. All that and more as Eleven Warriors documents the biggest winners, losers, movers and shakers from Week 14 of college football. 

Stock Up

Ohio State’s national title hopes

After flatlining against Michigan, a wild weekend in college football shocked the Buckeyes’ postseason aspirations back to life as Ohio State is playoff bound after all. Utah’s in the Pac-12 Championship Game allowed the scarlet and gray to shift ahead by one all-important spot in the CFP rankings, which puts the Buckeyes in their fourth CFP in nine years – the third-most behind only Alabama and Clemson.

Unfortunately for Ohio State, it now must take down the nation’s No. 1 team in what is essentially the defending national champ’s own backyard at the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31. 

Big Ten

For the first time in the CFP era, two Big Ten teams will have a chance at winning the national championship. The conference placed both Michigan and Ohio State in the field of four, with the Wolverines making their second consecutive appearance and the Buckeyes returning to the tournament after missing out last season. In only three previous seasons had one conference placed more than one team in the CFP, with the SEC doing so in both 2017 and 2021 and the ACC – given Notre Dame joined the conference due to COVID-19 – in 2020.

The Big Ten has now received CFP representation in each of the past four years, and in all but two years of the CFP era.

Jim Harbaugh

As painful as it may be to admit, the stock of Ohio State’s archnemesis continues to soar after winning a second straight Big Ten Championship Game. The Wolverines are playoff bound once again in 2022, and they have a 13-0 for the first time in school history. With the No. 2 rank in the CFP, Michigan also has the consensus easiest semifinal matchup against No. 3 TCU, and NFL teams are reportedly taking interest in Jim Harbaugh for his two-year stretch of excellence in Ann Arbor.

Max Duggan

He was hardly a household name before this weekend, but TCU quarterback Max Duggan won the hearts of new fans all across the country for his gutsy performance and emotional postgame interview in a Big 12 Championship Game loss in overtime. Duggan finished with 361 total yards and two scores in the three-point loss to Kansas State, and the toughness he showed to grit through a clearly limiting injury late might have even been a Heisman moment for the Horned Frog passer in a win.

Duggan wore his emotions on his sleeve after the loss, but he’ll still have a shot to win it all as TCU received the No. 3 spot in the CFP even after dropping its conference title game.

Heisman uncertainty

Two weekends ago, the Heisman Trophy was C.J. Stroud’s to lose. Then he lost it. Caleb Williams catapulted to the top of most Heisman odds following Ohio State’s loss to Michigan, but USC’s own underwhelming performance in the Pac-12 Championship Game made it less of a foregone conclusion. Duggan might have emerged as a frontrunner had TCU pulled out a win on Saturday, but alas, the Heisman race ended in something of a whimper. Williams, Stroud, Duggan and Georgia QB Stetson Bennett were all named finalists for the honor on Monday, and Williams may end up the winner by default.

CFP expansion

Given that half of this year’s CFP field got into the top four coming off losses, due in part to a lack of deserving alternatives, it’s hardly been a season in which an objective observer could feel all too confidently about a national title run for more than a couple of programs. But beginning after next season, eight more teams will get a crack at taking home the sport’s most coveted prize come playoff time. The CFP is officially expanding to 12 teams come 2024, which means an increase in inclusivity for all conferences and the potential for even more mayhem late in the season.

Stock Down 


It was win-and-you’re-in for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans on Friday. With Caleb Williams and the USC offense cooking early in the Pac-12 Championship Game, a CFP berth was well within grasp. But after going up 17-3 in the second quarter, USC gave up 24 unanswered points to Utah and never stopped the bleeding. The Utes captured a second straight Pac-12 title, a third straight win over USC – which it effectively eliminated from playoff contention – and helped Ohio State waltz in the CFP all in one fell swoop.

Chance of immediate rivalry rematch

Ohio State could still get its rematch with Michigan this season, but it will have to come in the national championship game. Some thought TCU’s loss might see Ohio State jump the Horned Frogs for the No. 3 rank in the CFP, pitting the Buckeyes against the Wolverines in the first-ever postseason iteration of The Game.

But given the close nature of the Horned Frogs’ loss, the fact that it came in a conference title game and that TCU had already beaten Kansas State earlier in the season, it ended up staying put at No. 3. That means Ohio State will have to get another win to have another shot at Michigan, but that’s far from outside the realm of possibility.

Georgia pass defense

With its 50-30 win over LSU in the SEC Championship Game, Georgia cemented itself as the consensus No. 1 team in the country, and Sunday’s CFP rankings reflected as much. The Bulldogs will enter the tournament as the favorite to repeat as national champions.

But LSU did find a flaw in the vaunted Bulldog defense, though, as the Tigers recorded an SEC title game record 502 passing yards and three touchdowns over the weekend. It’s also noteworthy that most of that production came from LSU’s backup QB after an early injury to regular starter Jayden Daniels. Tape from that contest might be handy for Ryan Day and company as they game plan for their Peach Bowl matchup against Georgia.


You might say Alabama’s stock couldn’t have dropped very far on a weekend in which it didn’t even play a game, but I’d rebuttal that any year the Crimson Tide doesn’t play in the CFP is a big deal. Nick Saban had only ever missed the party one other time (2019) since the CFP’s inception, but now he’ll add 2022 to that list following a two-loss regular season. Meanwhile, Georgia has another chance to steal the Tide’s shine as the premier program both in the SEC and all of college football.

Hope for JSN’s return

You won’t have to wait all month to find out if Jaxon Smith-Njigba will return from his hamstring injury for Ohio State’s CFP run. The star wideout announced Monday he won’t be back for the postseason and won’t suit up in scarlet and gray in general. Smith-Njigba is headed to the NFL draft, where he’s still widely projected to be a first-round pick despite appearing in just three games this season. Smith-Njigba’s record-setting Rose Bowl appearance last January was his launching point into college football superstardom, but as it turns out, it’ll double as his swan song following the disappointment of his junior season.

Pac-12 and ACC

Two berths for the Big Ten means only three Power-Five conferences are represented in the CFP this season, which leaves both the Pac-12 and ACC at the alter. That fact is particularly stinging for the Pac-12, which will soon look very different once USC and UCLA join the Big Ten, as the conference hasn’t had a team in the playoff since 2016. The ACC won’t have a CFP representative for the second straight season, as Clemson has now suffered five regular-season losses in the past two years despite winning the conference championship game this past weekend.

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