Survival of the Fittest: Rivalry Week Rewind

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By Ron Johnson

Rivalry week is in the books

Rivalry week is in the books, and almost instantly, everyone started playing 21 questions with regards to the future of Ohio State football. Unfortunately for them, I’m not going to sweat bullets on where Ohio State lands. I’m focused on the here and now. 

And the here and now involves four undefeated teams that earned their spot.

Oregon, Washington set for historic collision for Pac-12 Championship

Rivalry Week

This has been a season of unknowns for the Pac-12 Conference. With the future of the conference in doubt, it was a great feeling to see the Civil War play out on Friday. Here is also hoping that this will not be the last time we see the Ducks and Beavers go head-to-head either. 

Bo Nix updated his stats on his Heisman resume and increased Oregon’s chances of playing in the College Football Playoff semifinals on Friday by defeating their in-state rival 31-7 to secure their spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Ducks got their sixth straight win of the season following its three-point loss to Washington last month and now set up a huge rematch with the Huskies for what could be the final conference championship for the Pac-12. Since they played on Friday, they got to watch all the madness that comes with Rivalry Week on Saturday. 

For Washington, it has been all about survival. On Saturday, it was no different. After Kalen DeBoer made one of the riskiest calls of his coaching career, a fourth-and-1 deep in their own territory, it was up to Grady Gross to make sure that his coach’s decision would be a fruitful one. And keeping up with that fruitful theme, Gross launched a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the game as Washington capped off its perfect regular season with a 24-21 win in the Apple Cup.

Now the stage is set for what could be about more than who hoists up what possibly could be the last Pac-12 Championship. When the Ducks and Huskies meet in Las Vegas this upcoming week, it could also be for a spot in the CFP Semifinals. To make this as clear as possible, the winner of this game could be one of the four teams selected to collide for the National Championship.

Florida State survives Gators, Kentucky stuns Louisville.

Rivalry Week

To say that the Seminoles understood the assignment is an understatement. Last week, they lost their starting quarterback for the remainder of the season, and in true holiday fashion, the Grinch stole their backup quarterback…only to return him a short time later. I’m guessing his heart grew three sizes at the snap of Thanos’ finger. 

In any event, the Seminoles were able to outlast the Gators and send them on yet another losing season. The Gators were up early, 12-0 in the second quarter, but that lead vanished as quickly as any thoughts of Florida being relevant in the SEC the last few years. The Seminoles survived the early onslaught, held Florida to just 48 yards in the second half and managed to dominate on defense with six sacks.

Florida State has punched its ticket to the ACC Championship game with impact, however their opponents got a reality check of their own. 

Rivalry Week

In the annual Governor’s Cup Game, Kentucky managed not only to survive the barrage of Louisville for three quarters, but they also came back in epic fashion. Ray Davis became the star of the show as he snagged two second-half touchdowns and capped it off with the go-ahead 37-yard touchdown run to help the Wildcats overcome a massive onslaught of their own to defeat the Cardinals 38-31. For Kentucky, they await the bowl invitations, but for Louisville, they will have to lick their wounds a little quicker as they prepare for a showdown in Charlotte against Florida State for the ACC Championship, their first appearance in it since 2014.

Alabama gets biblical on Auburn, Mizzou silences Razorbacks.

Rivalry Week

When I say that Alabama went biblical on Auburn, I can also say that it was sports karma as well. A decade after the infamous Kick Six that sent Auburn to the National Championship Game, the Tigers were introduced to what is now being known as The Gravedigger. As for the biblical part, it comes from the fact that Alabama had too many mistakes first, second and third-and-goal. 

Yes, Alabama is the first team in the series to convert on fourth-and-a mile out of 90 teams. Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe was able to stand in the pocket for the longest of times and unleash a Hail Mary (or as Alabama calls it, the Gravedigger) to Isaiah Bond for the game winning touchdown to send the Tide to victory and keep their slim hopes of a slot in the CFP Four alive.

Arkansas may have been feeling spicy, but Mizzou was feeling like fire as they stomped into Fayetteville, Arkansas and proceeded to stomp out the Hogs 48-14 to punch their ticket to the New Years Six Series. 

Cody Shrader was a madman in The Natural State as he showed his natural ability by running for 217 yards and a touchdown (194 of those yards were in the first half, by the way). The defense did its part throughout the game as it limited Arkansas to just 87 yards in the first three quarters of the game.

Georgia stings Jackets, Liberty stays perfect.

Despite being outnumbered on offense, Georgia did not waver. Kendall Milton made sure of this by running for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help the Bulldogs win their 29th straight game, its sixth straight win over Georgia Tech, and cap off its third consecutive perfect regular season in a 31-23 win. With three receivers and an offensive lineman out for the game, the Bulldogs survived any and every onslaught from the Yellow Jackets to stay flawless, capture the Governor’s Cup Trophy and set up a high stakes SEC Championship Game against Alabama next weekend in Atlanta. 

It may have taken 50 years, but Liberty can finally say the one word to describe them this season: Perfect. Quinton Cooley went ham on Saturday, running for three touchdowns as the Liberty Flames handed UTEP their ninth loss of the season with a 42-28 drubbing. This is also Liberty’s debut in Conference USA, and now, they have become the third team in the conference’s history to go 12-0 as they join ’98 Tulane and ‘11 Houston. They also became the first Division I team from the state of Virginia to win 12 games. To say the least, this team has earned the right to play in the New Year’s Six Series if nothing else. But expect them to be included in The List of Collision’s Rivalry Week Poll this Wednesday night.

Michigan outlasts Ohio State, secures Big Ten Championship Berth

For the past month, the Michigan Wolverines have lived for one simple phrase. It is three simple words that speak volumes to the Committee, the Big Ten Conference and most of all, the Ohio State Buckeyes. On Saturday, they expressed this phrase the only way they know how: Physical, smashmouth football. 

One simple rule to remember is this: In The Big House, it is all about Michigan vs. Everybody.

JJ McCarthy and Blake Corum made sure to leave zero doubt in anyone’s mind that they belong in the CFP Semifinals as they took advantage of two Kyle McCord interceptions, the last one being the game sealer, to help Michigan defeat Ohio State 30-24. The win was yet another one that Michigan got without Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, and barring any BS from the Conference, Harbaugh should be back on the sidelines next weekend when they face Iowa for the Big Ten Championship. 

College Football Playoff: Who goes to the Final Four?

Now comes the fun part for everyone paying attention. Georgia, Michigan, Washington and Florida State did their parts by staying perfect heading into Championship Week. On the outside, Oregon, Texas and Alabama did their parts in staying in step with the last four undefeated considerations. With Ohio State’s loss on Saturday, this opens the door for a ton of options.

Rivalry Week

In theory, it should go just as we expected with the Bulldogs, Huskies, Wolverines and Noles going to the Semifinals. But this also depends on the outcomes of the Pac-12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 Championship Games this upcoming weekend. If all four teams manage to get out of Championship Week intact and with championships, there is zero reason to keep them out of the Final Four. But as we have seen in the past, do not be surprised if Ohio State gets snuck into the top four because someone couldn’t accept that the Buckeyes lost to Michigan again. 

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