Michigan beats Ohio State with style and brazenness, Gamecocks ice the ACC

Michigan beats Ohio State with style and brazenness, Gamecocks ice the ACC

9: 54 PM ET

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    David M. HaleESPN Staff Writer

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    • ACC reporter.
    • Joined ESPN in 2012.
    • Graduate of the University of Delaware.

The beauty of the showdown Saturday between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan is that it was not simply a matchup of playoff contenders in a heated rivalry game, but such a stark contrast in styles. Ohio State’s sports car is flashy and fast with more skill position talent that the average Big Ten team in a decade.

Michigan’s Jeep is a rugged machine built for brute force. The Wolverines won’t sprint past their opponents, but rather by running over them.

If that was the scenario that played out Saturday, and it was for most of the first half, then the Buckeyes might have been heading to the Big Ten title match.

Instead Jim Harbaugh’s team proved it’s not a one-trick pony. Meryl Streep was Michigan on Saturday. She effortlessly slipped into a new role and played the part perfectly.

In the end, of course, Michigan still ran the ball for 252 yards, forced two Ohio State turnovers and held the Buckeyes to 5-of-17 on third and fourth downs, but that was simply the denouement. Through style, pizzazz, and a level of brazenness that Harbaugh has never displayed in his coaching career, Michigan won the air.

Blake Corum suited up, but he touched the ball just twice in the game. Instead, Michigan relied on quarterback J.J. McCarthy to deliver the big plays.

Back in September, Harbaugh gambled on McCarthy as his starter, benching the QB who took the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff in 2021, Cade McNamara, in favor of the more versatile sophomore. The gamble paid little dividends for McCarthy, who waited to see if his run game would turn out in a series a formulaic wins against lesser opponents.

Saturday, McCarthy was dealt one ace after another.

Entering the game, Michigan had just 12 completions of 30 yards or more all year. Against Ohio State, McCarthy delivered four of them, including touchdown throws of 69, 75 and 45.

And if McCarthy’s shredding of an overmatched Ohio State secondary wasn’t enough, Michigan used its linebacker-turned-running back to throw a 15-yard jump pass on third down in what was less a play call and more akin to slipping a whoopee cushion onto Ryan Day’s seat just as he sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. It was intended to embarrass as well as succeed. This is the beauty and charm of a rivalry such as this.

Indeed. It was enough that even Michigan’s punter was booing the Buckeyes. Perhaps as shocking as Michigan’s offensive reversal was Ohio State’s decision to cash in its chips down on the stretch. The Buckeyes mustered just three points in the second half, turned the ball over twice and watched as Michigan’s Donovan Edwards reeled off touchdown runs of 75 and 85 yards on consecutive drives. If Ohio State had kept the game close, fought until the end, and taken Michigan to the brink, perhaps there would still be a case for the Buckeyes to make it into the College Football Playoff.

Instead, the epitaph on their season will read, “Lost by 22 at home to that teaX up north. It’s difficult to see the larger picture of Michigan. Last year, the Wolverines made the playoff, but their fate always felt all but assured, a sacrificial lamb just happy to live long enough to get a free trip to South Beach before getting whipped by Georgia.

Saturday showed something more to the 2022 incarnation though. While Day punted away chances to close the gap in the second half, Harbaugh seemed like a hedge fund manager on a heater at a Vegas craps table — all gas, no brakes, tipping the waitress with $100 bills on every fresh glass of 2% milk she brings (which is what we assume Harbaugh would be drinking in Vegas). Ohio State couldn’t maneuver the foothills with its modified sports car, but Michigan proved it could sling it around and then run it down your throat. While the Buckeyes lost their top spot on the list of contenders to Georgia’s throne in the end, Michigan may have made a statement that resonates beyond Big Ten country. This team is real.

– Weather was nice
– We were taken seriously
– They didn’t have the flu

Any more excuses?

— Brad Robbins (@__BR91) November 26, 2022


Gamecocks ice the ACC

There was a time, two whole weeks ago, when the South Carolina offense was a mess. This was a different era, of course, back before our long national nightmare waiting for Taylor Swift tickets and well before Matt Rhule could locate Nebraska on a map. Many people had seen “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” only twice. There has been so much change since then.

Back in those dark days of mid-November, South Carolina was embarrassed by Florida 38-6 and its offense was in shambles.

But now, the Gamecocks have the hottest offense in the country and Spencer Rattler suddenly looks like … well, 2020 Spencer Rattler. After throttling No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 last week, the Gamecocks put on an encore performance by toppling No. 8 Clemson for the first time since 2013, 31-30, and effectively ending the ACC’s playoff hopes in the process.

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South Carolina’s special teams recover the fumble to regain control in final minutes.

Rattler was dazzling again, completing 25 of 39 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns while adding a third on the ground.

Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei, on the other hand, was a mess, completing 8 of 29 throws, as the Tigers turned the ball over three times while wasting a 14-0 lead.

Will Shipley ran for 132 yards on the ground, but had just two carries on Clemson’s final four drives.

Now, the ACC championship game will feature two teams that both lost their rivalry games to close out the year, with North Carolina losing to NC State 30-27 Friday night in double overtime.

South Carolina, on the other hand, will wrap the regular season with a likely top-25 ranking and enough cachet to warrant some serious buzz heading into their bowl and beyond. The Gamecocks won eight regular-season games for the first time since 2017 and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tigers — handing Dabo Swinney his first home loss in 41 games to boot.


TCU makes playoff statement

The playoff committee has spent the past few weeks pointing out all the flaws in TCU’s game. The Horned Frogs have not won well enough to impress anyone. On Saturday, however, Sonny Dykes held Cy the Cardinal’s severed head aloft and shouted, “Are You Not Entertained?” “

TCU destroyed Iowa State 62-14 behind three touchdown passes from Max Duggan and a defense that forced three turnovers and scored twice.

It was TCU’s first win by more than 10 points since beating Oklahoma by 31 on Oct. 1, and it sealed a perfect regular season for the Horned Frogs, who’ll move on to the Big 12 title game with a chance to force their way into the College Football Playoff — unless of course the committee finds that a 48-point win over the last-place Big 12 team isn’t as impressive as a 22-point loss to Michigan. It’s hard to appreciate the quality losses and that TCU doesn’t have many of them.

Indeed, here’s the very definition of irony: What if TCU loses the Big 12 title game next week, then is passed by Ohio State in the committee’s final rankings?

That would mean that the Horned Frogs lost out on a playoff berth to Ohio State in 2014 because the Big 12 didn’t play a title game … then lost out on a playoff berth to Ohio State in 2022 because it did.


Rivalry roundup

It’s rivalry weekend. How did some of the less competitive rivalry matches go? We have the details.

Iron Bowl: Alabama 49, Auburn 27

Scene: Clenching a glass of scotch and sweating nervously, Boo Corrigan stares out the window of his room at the Gaylord Hotel, where the playoff committee is set to meet one final time. Below, a low fog hangs above a graveyard. Lightning flashes. A thunder crash booms.

Suddenly, the ground begins to move. A clenched fist emerges from the new dirt with championship rings on each finger.

“My God,” Corrigan gasps. “It can’t be. “

In the moonlight, the face is clear. It’s him. He lives.

Who beat up Saban? pic.twitter.com/yUaJLl8c1J

— Anita (@neetsark) November 26, 2022

OK, so it’s still a long shot, but we’re not writing off Nick Saban. The man is unstoppable.

As a side note: Bryce Young belongs in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. He will not win it, but he has been an incredible player.

The rivalry formerly known as the Civil War: Oregon State Beavers 38, Oregon Ducks 34

Oregon led this game 34-17 with 13 minutes to play.

Oregon State was leading by four with eight minutes left to play.

How is that possible? It was a comedy of errors. There was the 43-yard run Oregon allowed that set up a critical third-quarter TD. There was the Ducks settling for a field goal after having the ball with first-and-goal at the 10. Another touchdown was scored by the Beavers thanks to the kick return and face-mask penalty. Oregon State recovered the fumble at the 2. The fourth-and-1 conversion failed by Oregon State gave the ball back to the Ducks deep in Ducks territory.

But this guy was more important than anything. He’s not the hero Oregon State deserves. He is not the hero Oregon State needed.

Oregon State is clearly leading Oregon by dozens of hats pic.twitter.com/LcfctJYZ9S

— Red Scott (@red_scott_fb) November 26, 2022

Governor’s Cup: Kentucky 26, Louisville 13

Will Levis threw two touchdown passes and the Wildcats won the Governor’s Cup for the fourth straight year — all by double digits. 2500 November

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate: Georgia 37, Georgia Tech 14

Georgia Tech scored on its first possession and led this game well into the second quarter. This is a huge win by any measure. (Note: Winning this game would have been an absurd metric. Meanwhile, Georgia can now fully turn its attention to the SEC championship game, where Stetson Bennett can accomplish the one thing he has yet to do in his career.

Old Oaken Bucket: Purdue 30, Indiana 16

The Boilermakers secured a trip to the Big Ten championship game with the win Saturday. Purdue is not ranked. Purdue has won nine games against top-two teams as an unranked team in its history, more than any other national program. Next week, Purdue will face a likely second-ranked Michigan. What could go wrong?

Land of Lincoln Trophy: Illinois 41, Northwestern 3

Remember when Northwestern stunned Nebraska in Week 0? The Wildcats scored 31 in that game. They didn’t top 24 in another game all season. In the month of November, Northwestern scored a grand total of 22 points. We shouldn’t have been laughing at Iowa all the time. The Hawkeyes are the 2000 St. Louis Rams compared with Northwestern.

Paul Bunyan’s Axe: Minnesota 23, Wisconsin 16

What to make of Minnesota’s season? Advanced metrics loved the Gophers throughout the year. It was hard to win games. After a 4-0 start, Minnesota topped 23 points just twice — against Rutgers and Northwestern. But the Gophers did close out the regular season on a high note Saturday, winning the ax for a second straight season after Wisconsin had dominated the rivalry for much of the previous 25 years. We appreciate any rivalry trophies that can be used to fall a tree. Home Depot should have more trophies.

Land Grant Trophy: Penn State 35, Michigan State 16

Penn State won easily, allowing the Nittany Lions to celebrate with a trophy that is actually just a bunch of things Joe Paterno once found in an old storage unit that he stuck together using a glue stick and duct tape. Anyway, the important thing here is the Nittany Lions are now 10-2 and officially count as a good win for Ohio State as it makes its case to still be invited into the playoff.


Under-the-radar game of the day

So maybe UTSA‘s comeback against UTEP didn’t carry the same significance on the national stage as the Oregon State win over Oregon, but it was still pretty wild.

UTEP scored on its first four possessions to go up 24-0. UTSA then decided to play.

The Roadrunners scored on a 65-yard Frank Harris TD pass, got a pick-six, then scored on their first three drives of the second half to tie the game at 31. This wild, or maybe even smarter, play turned a huge gain for UTEP into a drive that ended in a punt.

Game might have turned on the smartest (?)

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UTEP QB runs for 45 yards. Grabs defender’s facemask at end. No big deal, right? Still gained 30. The UTSA defender then grabs the horse collar, which is an offset penalty. The entire play is stopped.

— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) November 26, 2022

UTEP still had a shot to retake the lead, setting up shop with a first down at the UTSA 14, but Calvin Brownholtz tossed his second INT of the game to end the drive.

In the end, UTSA drilled a 28-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Roadrunners to their 10th win of the season.


Under-the-radar play of the day

Nate Cox‘s final throw of Nevada‘s 27-22 loss to UNLV had more drama than most (but notably, not all) Sigfried and Roy shows. Did you know that each year there is a rival trophy for the Nevada-UNLV winner? It seems redundant, as Las Vegas is the entertainment capital in the world. Reno is a place where you can find cheap steaks and dispose of evidence. So no trophy is really necessary to determine which campus is the best. We are here, alas.

In any case, this year’s installment of the Wayne Newton Trophycame down to the final drive, and Nevada nearly pulled off the type of miracle 90-year-old chain-smoking women dream of while playing the nickel slots. Note: We made that up. The actual trophy is a life-sized rendition of the Blue Man Group playing rock paper scissors, mounted on Celine Dion’s original tour bus.

Note: OK, we made that one up, too. The real trophy is called The Fremont Cannon. It was once used by mafia to stop a hit outside of the Golden Nugget.

Nevada trailed 27-16 with less than seven minutes to play but engineered a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that including a fourth-and-5 conversion to pull to within 27-22. The Rebels punted

UNLV’s next drive.

Nevada got the ball back with 2: 05 remaining, managed 12 plays, and had a shot at the game-winner on a fourth-and-1 from the UNLV 5 with 7 seconds to go. Nate Cox’s pass to Jamaal Bell looked like a possible completion — with one official signaling touchdown and another waving it off — but in the end, the call was incomplete, and UNLV hung on for a 27-22 win.

Note: OK, we don’t know if the cannon was used by the mafia either. )


Freeze ends cold

Liberty opened the year 8-1, its lone loss coming on a failed 2-point try against Wake Forest.

Since then, however, the wheels have come off, and Hugh Freeze appears to still be flying down the highway, rims sparking, bumper hanging off, en route to Auburn.

If the Freeze era at Liberty is over, there might be a real argument that this departure, following a 49-14 loss to New Mexico State, is even more embarrassing than the one at Ole Miss.

Freeze is in talks to take the vacant head-coaching job at Auburn, which three weeks ago might’ve seemed a home run hire for the Tigers.

Now? It’s hard to blame Freeze for Saturday’s result. New Mexico State had only beaten one FBS team by 35 or more in the past 20 years, so clearly the Aggies were due.

Saturday was the cherry atop the embarrassment sundae Liberty had enjoyed over the past three weeks. First came a loss to UConn, getting the Huskies bowl-eligible for the first time since the Taft administration (Note: We didn’t fact-check that, but it feels right). Then came a loss to a 2-8 Virginia Tech that hadn’t won since mid-September. Then, New Mexico State’s complete demolition.

There’s more to Auburn’s final decision than three meaningless games. The important thing on The Plains is to ensure the Tigers get a coach who will happily collect a $40 million buyout in 2025.


The most college football thing to happen Saturday

New Hampshire won its first-round game in the FCS playoffs 52-42 against Fordham, and tailback Dylan Laube got to celebrating early.

Laube’s 87-yard touchdown run in the first quarter put UNH up 7-0, but he didn’t bother with the full 87 before high-fiving teammate Brian Espanet, who was trailing him down the field.

He gave his teammate a high-five before scoring the TD pic.twitter.com/noX4qP1O4C

— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 26, 2022

This is a far better way to celebrate than the now entirely derivative fake hamstring pull. You can also do a high-five as you head into the end zone. Then, tuck your arm inside the jersey to make it appear like your arm was completely off. It’s a trick we’ve used with toddlers, and it always works.


Big bets and bad beats

Clemson closed as a 14.5-point favorite against South Carolina on Saturday, which should’ve been a sure thing for the Tigers. Dabo Swinney was 62-1 straight up when favored by two touchdowns or more. The Gamecocks don’t care about history. They care only about covering spreads and melting faces. South Carolina won outright, a money line payout of 430.


One bettor dropped $753,535 on a money line bet on Ohio State at -315. This wasn’t a smart move.

Largest reported Michigan-Ohio St game: $753,535 Buckeyes moneyline (-315). Bet was placed Friday in New Jersey with @WynnBET. It would win $239,214.

— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) November 26, 2022

Michigan’s win will make for a lot of rough Sunday mornings in Ohio, and at least one in Las Vegas.


Trailing 31-10, Oregon State’s hopes of beating rival Oregon seemed slim. Vegas agreed. The live odds on the game topped out at 2500 at Caesars Sportsbook, meaning a $100 bet on the Beavers to win would’ve paid $2,500. And that’s exactly what happened, as Oregon State erased a 17-point deficit in five minutes of action in the fourth quarter and won 38-34, giving any bettors who still had faith a nice payday.

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