Sober Monday: Recapping One of the Craziest Weekends of College Football You Will Ever See

What's going on fellas? I hope everyone's Monday is off to a fantastic start, but we really can't start this week until we debrief the absolute whirlwind of a 48 hours of College Football this weekend. From the Michigan win over Ohio State (jeez, that still feels dystopian to type) to the Iron Bowl 4 OT thriller to Bedlam in Stillwater, Saturday had literally all you could ask for as a fan of the sport. Then, out of absolute left field on Sunday, USC dropped the hammer on the CFB world, as news broke that they successfully plucked Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley to be their next head coach. BANG! CFB truly never fails. Beyond offering my thoughts on all these major headlines from the weekend, I have some things that I need to discuss regarding the outlook of the CFP this season and the 4-team playoff system as a whole moving forward.


The Game Recap:


Congrats, Michigan. Obviously, as an Ohio State fan, this is pretty unfamiliar territory. The last time I had to come to grips with a Buckeyes loss in The Game, I was a 6th grader with bigger fish to fry, notably winning a championship for my team, the Glenville Mavericks, in the youth league Junior Division. Not to mention, Ohio State's 2011 season was effectively a bridge year between Tressell and Meyer. My point being, the sting of this loss in 2021 is gonna linger for quite some time.


With that being said, anyone with an eye for the game can recognize that the better team (at least on the field on Saturday) won the game. The more physical, disciplined, and consistent team for four quarters, as is often the case in football, came out on top. When one team so clearly prevails in those categories, most things you expected to see in a matchup go out the window and it no longer matters who "should" win. That's exactly what happened in the snowy Big House on Saturday. Props to Aidan Hutchinson and the new look Michigan defense, which certainly did a better job than any team this season of applying pressure on CJ Stroud and controlling the OSU offensive line. Still, with Stroud's 35-50, 400 yard performance (with no turnovers) and the heroic efforts of Earth, Wind & Fire to try and keep the Bucks within striking distance, the analysis of this game needs to focus on Michigan's offensive performance.


Ohio State's defense was bullied for four quarters by a Wolverine rushing attack that quite honestly hadn't done enough to warrant an expectation for such a dominant performance. This is where the true tragedy lies for the Buckeyes. To start a second half in which the Buckeyes defense would allow touchdowns on four out of four Michigan offensive drives, Ohio State, trailing 14-13, got stopped, let up a score, got stopped again, and then let up another score. Those possessions, littered with questionable offensive play calling by Ryan Day but mostly a piss-poor defensive effort, cost Ohio State yet another triumph over their rivals, a "win and you're in" game vs. Iowa in the BIG 10 Championship (OSU won last four BIG 10 title games), a third straight playoff berth, and (in my opinion most tragically) CJ Stroud's Heisman trophy.


So, unless championship weekend is somehow even crazier than this past weekend, this is the effective end of Ohio State's 2021 football season, and the end of the careers for some Ohio State legends. However, as guys like Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson move on to their next chapters, guys like Stroud, Henderson, and Smith-Njigba will be responsible for leading the next wave of Buckeye greats and reclaiming the most important game of the season. See you next season, boys.


Late Day Madness:


Auburn is NOT gonna win the football game. Despite the fact that Alabama picked themselves up by the bootstraps to salvage this Iron Bowl victory in four overtimes, the Crimson Tide cannot be feeling too good about their offensive production as they head to Atlanta to battle Georgia's number one ranked defense. It's not just about Alabama's inability to score a point until the 4th Quarter. It's also about defenses, especially one as strong as Georgia's, being able to key on what Bama is trying to do offensively. If a defense focuses on star wide receiver Jameson Williams or he is out of the game (as was the case Saturday when he was ejected for targeting) then Alabama's offense loses its most dynamic dimension. Contrary to past teams with electrifying offenses like LSU in 2019, Alabama themselves in 2020, and Ohio State to a certain extent this season, Alabama doesn't have a supporting cast of gamebreaking skill players. For example, they lack a Justin Jefferson to compliment their Jamarr Chase. As it relates to Auburn choking the game away, I can't say I was surprised. However, the Iron Bowl as usual was just such an entertaining game to watch, and I left the game feeling good for Auburn in that quarterback TJ Finley showed some flashes and played extremely tough.


"Caleb Williams is a magical athlete." I sent a text along those lines to a group chat of my friends on Saturday night after Caleb Williams glided down the field on one of the most graceful yet clutch

scrambles you will ever see. In a game where Oklahoma played such an explosive offensive first half, Oklahoma State responded as they have all season in second halves, ratcheting up their defensive pressure and just finding a way to win offensively (including a little luck on plays like Oklahoma's fumbled punt return). For Ohio State's sake, I guess I need to root against the Cowboys in their BIG 12 title game vs. Baylor. Still, I think it's cool to see a new team in the mix at the end of the season and at least they have a solid defense unlike BIG 12 playoff contestants of the past. On the Oklahoma side, I left this game thinking "ah shit, here we go again" in the context of Caleb Williams' future and Oklahoma and Lincoln Riley having yet another stud at the QB position. The way he plays with such control and grace reminds me a lot of Kyler Murray, and he surely has that sky-is-the-limit kind of potential and skillset as a thrower, runner, and creator. The biggest thing now becomes, with the departure of Lincoln Riley to USC, what will Caleb Williams do? Will he (or potentially Spencer Rattler, although I doubt Riley would rather have Rattler over Williams) follow his coach out west and help bring USC back to glory, stay put at Oklahoma, or none of the above? Only time will tell.


"Hold on, hold on, hold on, Kerry.I'm not going to be the next coach of LSU.

End of discussion."

-- Lincoln Riley (hours before becoming the next head coach of USC)


Trojans are back in the saddle. Make no mistake about it... College football is 1000x better when the USC Trojans have a national powerhouse program. They were never going to get back to that status without a big name, gravity shifting head coach. Clay Helton? Please. Talk about a guy who gives off the opposite of peak Southern Cal swag and vibes. Lincoln Riley on the other hand? This is an absolute grand slam homer. Taylor and I spent the early hours of Sunday morning pondering the Trojans next move. At one point Taylor asked, "should Lincoln Riley take the job?" The ensuing conversation we had was centered around the sexy appeal of the job for a guy like Riley. Compared to the soon-to-be SEC schedule Oklahoma has to run through every year, the PAC 12 for years now has been inconsistent and begging for a team to take it over and establish themselves as a national frontrunner. We both agreed Lincoln Riley was one of very few if not the only true option to achieve this in the high pressure, high stakes Hollywood atmosphere. All of that notwithstanding, the historic bag offering (reportedly in the range of 10 years $150 million) and the lure of Los Angeles, California over Norman, Oklahoma would have been hard to say no to. Now, don't get me wrong, it's gonna take some time for Riley to get his footing out west and elevate the program standards to Sooner-level. Several blue chip California recruits who were, until yesterday, committed to Oklahoma should help speed up that process for the highly touted coach. This will be a fun situation and program to track over the offseason and into next season.


The College Football Playoff Race & The Future of the CFP


In my view, this past weekend and its impact on the likely, foreseeable College Football Playoff field for this year will go down as a defining moment for the CFP and the future of the 4-team playoff system. In a non-sober, heated state on Saturday evening, while in transit back home to the northeast from Florida, I fired off a series of tweets voicing my opinion on the playoff. As I read back a few days later, I most definitely stick to what I said and want to explore the CFP landscape a little deeper here. Also, before I go any further, I should note that some things I'm projecting or assuming about the playoff are based on the CFP committee's precedent. Of course, they could go absolutely scorched-earth and tell teams like Cincinatti to fuck off and go with two loss teams. However, I don't expect that to happen.


My series of tweets read "So let me get this straight: there's a legitimate chance that Oklahoma State and Cincinatti play each other in a playoff seminal game, At the same time, there's a legit chance that Alabama and Ohio State play in a non-CFP Sugar Bowl Game. Either the best teams win all or all but one of their games and get in, shafting schools like Cincy or other non-power 5 schools, or the best programs slip up against good competition and clear a path for Cincy-types to get in, but no one truly believes those teams are better. Still, no excuses for Ohio State. They know good and well what is required to make the CFP, and they simply didn't get it done. Just saying this years CFP might be the last straw for the 4 team playoff system."


Without a doubt, the powers that be in college football would rather not have a non-CFP bowl game completely crush a semifinal (or potentially national championship) matchup in terms of appeal, ratings, and on field product. Unfortunately, the current system and criteria to be a playoff team within this system is the root this potential problem for the playoff. I'll add that the Buckeyes have been left out of the CFP before while clearly less capable teams got in, and therefore reiterate that I understand this is kinda just how it goes. This year feels unique though. Look no further than the near reality of Cincy and Notre Dame both being playoff teams. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think there's many people out there who would put together a surface level argument for those two teams being some of the four best in the nation. It's almost comical when you consider that Notre Dame's only loss this season was to Cincinatti, which also happened to be Cincy's best win. Notre Dame's best win, conversely, was against Wisconsin in a neutral field game. It's tough and frustrating when the best explanations and arguments both for and against these teams completely overlap and don't seem to add up. I don't know much, but it seems like an expanded playoff of maybe 12 teams would solve a lot of these problems and allow objective, on field results to crown the best team in the country at the end of the season. Another example of this was the conflicting results between Michigan -- Michigan State, Ohio State -- Michigan State, and Ohio State -- Michigan. To draw one last time on Lincoln Riley's infamous last press conference as Oklahoma's head coach, the only consistent this season supplanting all the madness has been the overwhelming success of home teams in these marquee, season-defining matchups.


In the end, this is why we love college football. There's much to debate, much to to love and much to hate. Onward we go to championship week and bowl season. Thanks for reading, fellas. Happy Monday!



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