College News & Analysis

College Football Week 12 Takeaways: Notable grades, advanced stats and more

Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) directs his offense against the Tennessee Volunteers in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

TCU continues its Cinderella run: The No. 4 Horned Frogs are now two wins away from a College Football Playoff berth following a heart-pounding 29-28 win over Baylor.

Tennessee’s playoff hopes die: The No. 5 Volunteers suffered their second loss of the season to South Carolina, ending their College Football Playoff aspirations.

A Big Ten heavyweight showdown highlights next week: With both No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan surviving, next week’s game between the two promises to be the biggest of the regular season.

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The penultimate week of the college football regular season did not disappoint.

Four playoff contenders in No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 TCU and No. 7 USC barely survived, moving one step closer to securing a spot in the final four. Two others, No. 5 Tennessee and No. 13 North Carolina, weren’t so lucky and now are out of the running for the College Football Playoff.

Here are the biggest takeaways from a wild Week 12 of the 2022 college football season.

Style points be damned, TCU just keeps winning

Fourth-ranked TCU continued its undefeated season with a dramatic 29-28 win on the road over Baylor.

The Horned Frogs had to rush kicker Griffin Kell onto the field to kick the game-winning 40-yarder as time expired. Now, TCU sits at 11-0 and is two wins away from locking up a spot in the College Football Playoff. While many will doubt how good the Horned Frogs actually are, nobody can dispute the fact that if they win out, they deserve a spot in the final four. 

Ohio State and Michigan survive, setting up the game of the year

It wasn’t pretty, but both No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan survived nail-biters in Week 12.

The Buckeyes took down Maryland, 43-30, behind a stellar performance from running back Dallan Hayden. The true freshman rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, picking up nine first downs along the way. He finished with a 78.4 grade on first review, the highest of his young career so far.

The Wolverines needed a game-winning field goal with nine seconds left to put away Illinois, 19-17. The victory came at a price, however. Superstar running back Blake Corum suffered an apparent knee injury in the second quarter and received just one carry afterward. Corum is currently the highest-graded player in the country this season, sporting a 96.1 mark.

Both teams emerging victorious sets up the biggest game of the season next week in Columbus. 

Rocky Bottom

The loser of the Ohio State-Michigan game still has a very good shot at the College Football Playoff, thanks to fifth-ranked Tennessee’s collapse on Saturday.

South Carolina handled the Volunteers, 63-38. Tennessee seemingly couldn’t get a stop on defense. Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler finished with a 93.1 grade, his highest since his redshirt freshman season at Oklahoma in 2020. Overall, Tennessee allowed 0.478 expected points added per play, the worst mark among all FBS teams in Week 12.

Tennessee now has two losses on the season, effectively ending its hopes of making the College Football Playoff. Making matters worse is the fact that Heisman candidate quarterback Hendon Hooker suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the fourth quarter. 

USC survives, but it only gets harder from here

One team that benefited from Tennessee’s loss was No. 7 USC, which endured a battle of its own on Saturday. In what was an absolute shootout, the Trojans survived No. 16 UCLA, 48-45. In that game, USC quarterback Caleb Williams finished with an 88.1 grade to go along with over 500 total yards and three touchdowns.

With just one loss, the Trojans are still very much in the thick of the playoff picture. However, they’ll have to get through Notre Dame and likely Oregon first. Both were among the top 10 teams in PFF’s power rankings entering the week.

Drake Maye’s Heisman chances drop … literally

Hendon Hooker wasn’t the only Heisman candidate to see his stock significantly worsen on Saturday. Drake Maye and No. 13 North Carolina suffered a brutal 21-17 loss to Georgia Tech, a game that the Tar Heels led 17-0 at one point.

For the first time all season, Maye didn’t have a single passing touchdown. That could’ve all changed late in the fourth quarter, however. On a fourth-and-11 with four minutes left, Maye hit star receiver Josh Downs in the chest for what should’ve been the go-ahead touchdown. The only problem is, Downs couldn’t squeeze it.

That drop was only Downs’ third of the season on 91 targets. It not only cost North Carolina the game and a chance at the playoff, it also could’ve cost North Carolina its first Heisman Trophy winner, as Maye entered the day as the Power Five’s highest-graded quarterback and the most valuable player in the country, according to PFF’s wins above average metric.

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