The SEC Championship Game was a nail-biter. The Heisman Trophy race has been impacted by the controversies, and Alabama is back in the National Championship discussion. Here are some takeaways from college football this week:
The “top 25 college football” is a ranking of the top 25 teams in college football. It’s updated every Thursday during the season.
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What a weekend of intense rivalry.
Jim Harbaugh not only defeated Ohio State, but he also assisted Michigan in reaching the Big Ten championship game. Alabama needed last-minute heroics and four overtimes to win the Iron Bowl after being held scoreless for three quarters. Despite dropping six consecutive games against Oklahoma State, the Cowboys sacked Caleb Williams six times en route to a wild 37-33 victory.
The regular season has come to a conclusion, and conference championship weekend is approaching. From playoff prospects to Heisman candidates, our correspondents break down the college football scene.
Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox
Alabama is made public.
Alabama was a shambles for 58 minutes and 25 seconds.
Nothing was going right offensively on the road against Auburn. Bryce Young’s Heisman Trophy prospects were fading, and running back Brian Robinson Jr. was having trouble moving the chains.
The defense did a good job, but the offense was on the verge of scoring three or less points for the first time in Nick Saban’s tenure.
And although Young rallied the troops in the final 1:35, tossing the game-tying touchdown with 24 seconds remaining and then won the game on a 2-point convert in the fourth overtime, Auburn revealed a weak Alabama squad one week before the SEC championship game against Georgia.
The offensive line, which allowed seven sacks and 17 plays for zero or negative yards, was the true problem.
It followed a pattern that has been seen throughout the season. Alabama’s offensive line, which generally finds its stride in the second half of the season, has struggled down the stretch, allowing pressure on 28.3% of dropbacks, which ranks ninth in the SEC.
During the second half of Saturday’s game, Saban was forced to replace right tackle Dameion George with Chris Owens and yank center Darrian Dalcourt for Seth McLaughlin, who wasn’t even on the two-deep depth chart before the game. It was just enough to win the game, but what does it signify for the next game against Georgia? The Tigers’ defensive front is solid, but not as good as Georgia’s, which has six more sacks and 58 fewer missed tackles this season.
It’s reasonable to ask how they’ll handle 340-pound potential All-American nose guard Jordan Davis, whether it’s Dalcourt, who is playing on a bad ankle, or McLaughlin, who has played little in his two years on school.
There may not be enough time in the world to defeat Georgia, win the SEC, and make the playoffs if they can’t protect Young and create some running lanes for Robinson. Alex Scarborough’s remark
Icon Sportswire/Jeffrey Vest
How is it possible to defeat someone? Georgia
There’s a strong case to be made that if you have to go into sophisticated analytics to make a case against Georgia, it’s probably not worth doing. There will be no slandering of the Bulldogs here. Kirby Smart has assembled the greatest squad in the country.
However, suppose we get a message from the future stating that Georgia will not win the national title. What might have gone wrong in that universe?
The common belief for the most of this season was that some offensive juggernaut would go toe-to-toe with Georgia’s dominating defense, and that juggernaut’s name was more often than not Ohio State. Not so fast, my buddy, as the great Lee Corso would say.
Michigan’s pass rush revealed Ohio State’s flaws, and Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo’s combo rendered the Buckeyes’ brilliant offense vulnerable. It’s easy to see Georgia doing the same thing.
And all of this shows that we were completely incorrect about the blueprint for defeating the Dawgs, which should have been evident in hindsight.
The Bulldogs have faced four above-average offensive units: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky, according to offensive and defensive expected points added (EPA) for each of Georgia’s 10 Power 5 opponents. All three games were won by Georgia.
However, the Dawgs have only had one above-average defense. That was Clemson in the first game. Georgia failed to score a touchdown on offense. Consider yards per dropback, which is a considerably more accessible measure. Clemson, Florida, and South Carolina were the three greatest defenses Georgia faced in this test. Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky had the greatest offenses. Georgia’s defensive EPA against elite offenses declined by nearly 10 points from its Power 5 average. Its offensive dropped by roughly 14 points against the best defenses.
To put it another way, Georgia is more likely to suffer against a strong defense than a strong offense.
Given where Georgia’s top talent lives, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. On defense, the Dawgs have a plethora of blue-chippers at every position. Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, and Derion Kendrick are just a few of the defensive MVP candidates. Georgia, on the other hand, seems to be human on offense. Stetson Bennett has been fantastic, but he isn’t going to be an NFL standout in the near future. Zamir White, James Cook, Kendall Milton, and the rest of the backfield are all talented, but none have ever been All-Americans. There isn’t a real five-star superstar on that side of the ball other from tight end Brock Bowers. So, which unit had a higher chance of having a horrible game: Is it the blue-chip D or the improvised O?
With Oklahoma and Ohio State losing in Week 13 (and Alabama struggling against Auburn), it’s possible that the best offenses in the country won’t make the playoffs this year, but some truly impressive defenses (Oklahoma State, Michigan, and Cincinnati all rank in the top 10 in adjusted defensive EPA) might.
All of this isn’t to say that Georgia shouldn’t be the overwhelming favorite if the Dawgs enter the playoffs. If they do, though, the road to a national title may be a little more difficult without Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio State in the way. ‘David Hale’
The near-impossible process of creating the ideal overtime structure
The 86th Iron Bowl went to its first overtime (four total) on Saturday, reigniting discussion about college football’s new overtime structure after Penn State and Illinois went to nine additional frames in October.
For those unfamiliar with the new rules, teams must attempt a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown in the second overtime period rather than the third OT period. If the game goes to a third overtime, the sides will merely take turns going for two possessions instead of the whole possessions they had in the previous two overtimes.
The earlier version of the overtime rules in college football was entertaining. It seemed like a fair method to close a game to trade possessions from the 25-yard line until someone came out on top. However, as Texas A&M’s 74-72 win over LSU in a seven-overtime game in 2018 demonstrated, there were times when these things might go on too long, no matter how much we liked the game.
Along with the length of the game, playing approximately 200 plays, like the Aggies and Tigers did in 2018, increases the likelihood of poor play due to exhaustion, which leads to more injuries. Any time we can help safeguard athletes who are still underpaid, it’s a win-win situation.
Many fans’ traditionalists will have a difficult time embracing this new model, regardless of who it benefits or does not help. People, on the whole, prefer their familiar surroundings and despise change.
Regardless of how anybody feels about it, the new overtime is operating as planned, thanks to a game between Texas A&M and LSU in 2018. Despite the fact that the Penn State-Illinois game went to nine overtimes and is remembered as the first of its type, the overtimes from that game and the Texas A&M-LSU game in 2018 are not the same. In the first two overtimes of Penn State-Illinois, 23 plays were run, with a total of 14 in overtimes 3-9. That cannot be said of the 2018 marathon.
Aside from the original structure, I’m not sure what overtime regulations will appeal to the majority of fans. This structure, for the time being, keeps the spirit of the previous one; once they reach the third overtime, it becomes a bit more gimmicky.
At the very least, the present collegiate overtime model is still superior than the NFL’s, which allows the coin toss winner to win in a sudden-death situation. In college, guaranteeing both teams a possession makes more sense than giving a coin toss far more weight.
However, the NFL should be commended for its willingness to tie games during the regular season. We’ve seldom reached the conclusion of a regular-season NFL overtime and said to ourselves, “I’d love just one more serving of this deadlock.” Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
With 14.5 sacks, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. leads the FBS. Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox
The Heisman Trophy should go to a defensive player.
At the end of the college football season, one thing stays constant: the Heisman Trophy, the sport’s prestigious trophy, is presented. During the second part of the season, two or three hopefuls generally distinguish themselves, clinching their spots in New York. However, over the previous two decades, the honor has been largely a quarterback award.
Since 2000, 17 of the 20 winners (excluding Reggie Bush’s 2005 award, which was vacated) have been under center. Mark Ingram II (2009), Derrick Henry (2015), and DeVonta Smith have been the only non-signal callers (2020).
No athlete has made a compelling case to win this year’s prize, in what has been an unusual turn of events. Bryce Young of Alabama and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State were thought to be the front-runners, but both had disappointing regular-season finales, leaving the top spot on votes wide open.
Given the lack of genuinely dominant offensive performers, it may be argued that this year’s prize should go to a defensive player. Charles Woodson was the lone defensive player to win the award in 1997. Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is a solid possibility if you want to stay in Ann Arbor. He decimated the Buckeyes’ offensive line from start to finish in Michigan’s 42-27 victory against Ohio State. Seven tackles and three sacks were recorded by the 6-foot-6, 265-pound edge rusher.
If I had to choose a winner for the Heisman Trophy today, it would be Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. Anderson was unstoppable in a 24-22 four-overtime Iron Bowl triumph. No one could remain in front of No. 31 for Auburn, which has been the case against every offensive line he’s faced this season. Anderson is the finest defensive player Nick Saban has ever had in his defense, leading the country in sacks (14.5). Anderson has a knack for finishing at the quarterback.
Ndamukong Suh, a front-seven playmaker, came the closest to winning the Heisman Trophy in 2009, finishing fourth. It’s difficult to see a player at the position winning the award, but Hutchinson and Anderson both have impressive resumes, and both made their claims during Rivalry Week. The Heisman Trophy is given to the most valuable player in a given season, and Anderson and Hutchinson, regardless of position, were the two greatest players in the nation in 2021. Jordan Reid, author
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