Although the College Football Playoff race is always around, the talk is typically quiet until a big weekend in October.
Week 7 on College Football saw the arrival of that spark.
Four unblemished Top 10 teams suffered their first loss of the season on a showdown-filled Saturday that included Top 25 games in all five major conferences. Several more ranking teams were defeated. While some of the losing teams are still in contention for the title, the victors made one important step toward the CFP.
No. 5 Michigan started the day with a commanding and briefly perplexing victory against Big Ten rival Penn State, who came in ranked 10th in the country.
The Wolverines dominated the first half, but Penn State only got one big run, a pick-six, and restricted U-M to three field goals, thus the Wolverines only led 16-14 at the half. The Big House victory for Michigan, 41-17, was the consequence of the last 30 minutes of the game mirroring the whole contest.
The Maize and Blue amassed 418 yards and four rushing touchdowns as a unit. Both Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards ran for more than 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Last year, Michigan made it to the CFP, but Ohio State started 2022 as the Big Ten favorite and remained in that position the whole year. The Wolverines put on their most convincing performance of the season on Saturday, even though that sentiment hasn’t altered.
Michigan supplied the fire. It turned into a conflagration in Tennessee.
On Rocky Top, the sixth-ranked Volunteers eventually defeated Nick Saban in a nail-biting contest. They defeated No. 3 Alabama 52-49 with to Chase McGrath’s deflected but still accurate 40-yard field goal with seconds remaining, ending the program’s 15-game losing streak to Saban.
Bryce Young, the quarterback for Alabama, had a productive game in his comeback from a shoulder injury. It’s logical to assume that the Crimson Tide is still around based on recent history.
But Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt owned the game.
Hyatt was the recipient of all five of Hooker’s touchdown passes, which totaled 385 yards. The rising star caught six catches for 204 yards and five touchdowns, which is a Tennessee record. Hooker also threw two crucial completions that helped McGrath prepare for his incredibly original kick.
The Tennessee Volunteers have abruptly changed from a fun breakout story to a genuine danger, their goalposts having traveled outside of Neyland Stadium and into the Knoxville night. To win the SEC East, they still have to beat Kentucky and the defending champion Georgia, but Tennessee has already declared itself a contender.
A comparable possibility is being pursued by two more Top 25 clubs.
A few minutes after No. 13 TCU finished an outstanding victory, there was a field-storming at Neyland. No. 8 Oklahoma State quickly took a 24-7 advantage, but TCU gradually closed the gap and tied the game with a 94-yard drive in the final seconds of regulation.
The Horned Frogs limited OSU to a field goal in the second overtime period after trading touchdowns to start the extra session. On Kendre Miller’s quick touchdown run, TCU won the game 43-40 to go to 6-0.
For Sonny Dykes’ Horned Frogs, the last undefeated team in the Big 12, the joy won’t last long. They play Kansas State the next week in what may be a game-changing victory for TCU’s postseason and the Big 12’s CFP hopes. The only other pristine team in league play is K-State, albeit the visitors aren’t on the same level as Alabama’s opponents.
Next weekend in the ACC, Syracuse and Clemson will compete to maintain that position.
Even though the game’s excitement was dampened by the announcement that North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary had suffered a shoulder injury that would terminate his season, No. 18 Syracuse defeated the 15th-ranked Wolfpack. Currently, Syracuse has a 6-0 record, which is a 35-year first.
The team with the best home record, Clemson, will undoubtedly be the favorite. However, the Orange put themselves in a position to either pull off a major upset or give Clemson a respectable victory.
An emergency call was necessary for the fourth Top 10 defeat because the fire got out of hand.
Utah, a two-loss team, defeated seventh-ranked USC in thrilling manner with a last-second touchdown. Although UCLA is now undefeated, the Bruins play at Oregon the following weekend and USC the following week. Once more, the Pac-12’s chances of making the playoffs might end much too soon.
This particular fire’s smoke will shortly disappear. It will be replaced by another weekend filled with memorable games.
However, Week 7 will take center stage on the list of events that helped define the College Football Playoff in 2022.