COLUMBUS, Oh (AP) –The twist the playoff race has been waiting for came Saturday. The debate, for now, is Ohio State and Oklahoma.
History suggests it was inevitable. The top four had never stayed the same for three straight weeks until this past one and to expect it to hold steady for two more was unrealistic.
Still, how thoroughly No. 10 Ohio State dismantled No. 4, Michigan was startling, and it could cause the College Football Playoff selection committee to rethink a lot of what has happened so far with the Buckeyes. We could be heading toward a Big Ten vs. Big 12 in the boardroom where the committee meets. The essential questions: Which team has the worse defense, No. 6 Oklahoma or Ohio State? Does hanging 62 on No. 4 Michigan make up for allowing 49 to Purdue? The Buckeyes have done both.
How far the Buckeyes (No. 10 CFP) move up Tuesday could be telling and important. They should go past Washington State, which was sitting at eighth but lost to the Apple Cup on Friday to Washington. But can they bounce all the way to sixth, edging ahead of the Sooners, who beat West Virginia to reach the Big 12 title game? Kyler Murray and Oklahoma have won four straight games in which they have allowed at least 40 points. The Sooners’ defense is terrible. Ohio State’s has been a little better.
Ohio State gets No. 20 Northwestern (8-4) next week in Indianapolis to make one more statement. The Sooners (11-1) get a rematch with Texas (9-3), with a chance to avenge a three-point loss in October.
Aside from the ugly loss at Purdue, the Buckeyes have had close calls against Nebraska (4-8) and Maryland (5-7). The Sooners dodged upsets against Texas Tech (5-7) and Oklahoma State (6-5 going into Saturday night’s game against TCU).
Neither Ohio State nor Oklahoma looks championship caliber, but the playoff needs four teams, and those two might be the choices.
WHAT NOW HARBAUGH?
Jim Harbaugh has led Michigan out of the darkness that was the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke eras, but even those failed hires in Ann Arbor never produced an embarrassment like this: 62 points, the most ever allowed by the Wolverines in a regulation game, against rival Michigan, judges itself against.
Michigan will go to a glitzy bowl with a chance to win 11 games and finish in the top-10, but getting exposed in every way possible by this Ohio State team should make Harbaugh question everything. Harbaugh has accomplished much at his alma mater except the most important thing: The gap between the Buckeyes and Wolverines is still vast.
TUA OR KYLER
Murray’s magnificent performance against West Virginia on Friday night breathed some life into the Heisman Trophy race, but Tua Tagovailoa answered on Saturday with maybe his best performance of the season.
The Alabama quarterback was 25 for 32 for 324 yards and five touchdowns in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Tagovailoa also ran for a score.
The case for Kyler is a little weird: Oklahoma’s defense is so bad that Murray faces more pressure to deliver than Tagovailoa, whose team has yet to play a close game. It’s true, but it doesn’t seem fair to hold Alabama’s dominance against Tagovailoa.
Tua should still be considered the favorite heading into championship weekend. If he comes up big against No. 5 Georgia in the SEC championship game, Tagovailoa will become the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman.
Who else could land an invited to New York City for the Heisman presentation? Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins’ stock is up. Washington State’s Gardner Minshew’s stock is down. Will Grier of West Virginia still should be under consideration. And that’s probably about it.
PLAN B — AS IN BROHM
What to make of Purdue coach Jeff Brohm’s declaration after the Boilermakers’ became bowl eligible against Indiana?
“I want Louisville to do what’s best for them,” Brohm said. “I’m a fan. But right now I’m the coach at Purdue, and this is where I want to be, and I like it here.” After a rivalry game, what else can Brohm say?
But Brohm grew up in Louisville and was a star quarterback for the Cardinals, who are in the market for a new coach. There is no doubt Brohm is the coach Louisville fans want. If Brohm does indeed want to stay in West Lafayette, Indiana if he is too loyal to his team and the school to bolt after just two seasons, we should all know quickly.
Purdue and Louisville are both done playing and with the early signing period looming Dec. 19 there is no reason for an extended courtship. It should only take a few days for Louisville to know if it must move on to Plan B, whoever that might be.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: Kliff Kingsbury probably made the decision easier for Texas Tech by losing to Baylor to finish 5-7. Kingsbury is 35-40 overall and 19-35 in the Big 12 in six seasons with at the school where he played quarterback. It is likely to change is coming in Lubbock … Immediately after Rutgers’ finished the season 1-11, athletic director Patrick Hobbs sent a statement to local media saying coach Chris Ash will be back next season. Keep an eye on the coaching situation at Boston College. The Eagles lost three straight games to finish 7-5 in a season that began with a lot of promise for Steve Addazio’s team. Addazio is in year six at the school and has never won more than seven games. He has two years left on his contract, and there has not been much progress at BC. … Teams that finished strong with bowl eligibility on the line and grabbed the sixth victory: Wake Forest, Tulane, and Baylor.
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