College Football Week 12: Two OSUs Take Center Stage

Football player in red and white uniform holding football
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud plays against Michigan State.Jay LaPrete/AP/Shutterstock

For a while, the 2021 college football season was taking on a chaotic character. It looked, at least for a few weeks, like some unusual suspects might take over the sport for a year, while standard blue-bloods would take a backseat. That’s proved true to a point, but if the second-to-last week of the regular season exemplified anything, it’s that the sport’s best teams are still pretty hard to knock off. Plus, a few coaches got fired. Here’s a selection of whose lives got better in Week 12 and whose definitely did not.

Winner: Ohio State

The Buckeyes thrashed Michigan State in Columbus, 56-7, and set up a Big Ten East winner-take-all game with Michigan next week, which tends to work out well for the team from Ohio. The Ohio State offense might be the most purely talented in the country, but it’s struggled against strong defenses. Michigan State has a strong defense, or at least appeared to before the Buckeyes tore it into a million little pieces. This game was over almost immediately. By the time it was formally done, OSU quarterback C.J. Stroud had more touchdown passes (six) than incompletions (three) on 35 passes.

Loser: Dan Mullen

Florida fired Mullen, its mostly successful head coach of almost four seasons, after a 24-23 loss at a mediocre Missouri on Saturday. Mullen took the Gators to a New Year’s Six bowl in each of his first three years and won two of them, but this year’s team was 5-6 and lost four of five games going back to Week 7 at LSU. Mullen is somewhat a victim of circumstance in that his firing is impossible to decouple from UF’s biggest rival in the SEC East, Georgia, sitting at No.1 in the polls and recruiting like a college football Death Star. But on the other hand, Mullen’s apparent lack of recruiting enthusiasm and Florida’s non-elite results have helped Kirby Smart build his machine in Athens. Florida’s next coach will be tasked with retipping the scale.

Winner: Pitt

The Panthers clinched the ACC Coastal and moved to 9-2 by beating Virginia in a 48-38 shootout. The game’s essential play came in the final two minutes, when Kenny Pickett threw a floater of a deep ball that looked like a certain UVA interception to set up a potential game-tying field goal or go-ahead touchdown. Instead, Pitt receiver Jordan Addison snatched the ball away and ran for a 62-yard score that sealed the game. It was Addison’s fourth touchdown of the night, and it made him the first Pitt receiver since Larry Fitzgerald in 2003 to cross 200 yards in a game. It also bolstered Pickett’s case to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. One of the most shockingly fun seasons in college football rolls on unabated.

Loser: Texas

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The Longhorns lost an incredible sixth game in a row and fell to 4-7. The team that got to beat them this week was West Virginia, 31-23. Steve Sarkisian wasn’t supposed to win a national championship in his first year, but he also wasn’t supposed to miss a bowl and preside over the worst half-season of Texas football in program history. There’s a 50/50ish chance the Horns lose to Kansas State next week and post an inexplicable 4-8 record. Texas has underachieved for more than a decade, so that part’s not new. But the degree of the sadness is new.

Winner: A competitive Bedlam?

The Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry is called “Bedlam.” It’s a nickname that’s equal parts cool (it sounds wild), hard to pin down (nobody really knows why it ever got that name), and extremely misleading (Oklahoma wins almost every year and has a 90-18-7 all-time record in the series). Anything can happen in Bedlam, I like to say, as long as Oklahoma wins. But 2021 might be a real game: Oklahoma State just gave up a comically small 108 yards in a shutout win over Texas Tech and carries a 10-1 record into this version of Bedlam—an equal mark to the Sooners, who’ve struggled as of late on both offense and defense. The Cowboys host this weekend’s meeting in Stillwater and are, for a change, 3.5-point favorites.

Loser: Buffalo

From 2018 to 2020, the Bulls were the most consistent, winningest team in the MAC. They went 24-10 over those years, and head coach Lance Leipold built one of the most punishing run games in the Group of 5 conferences. Leipold left before this season for Kansas, and the Bulls lost a good bit of talent around the time he departed. The result has been a tough first year for new coach Mo Linguist. Wednesday night was the toughest moment yet. On the goal line in overtime against NIU, the Bulls messed up a handoff exchange and fumbled away possession. NIU won on the next series and knocked UB to 4-7, out of bowl contention.

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