First off, apologies to all of y’all. A bad flurry of finishing finals, being in a wedding, and traveling around to the in-laws (whose Wi-Fi was nonexistent) all in the last week have put me seriously behind schedule. However, I know y’all are dying to find out how the second round of the College and Magnolia Playoffs wound up! Let’s get right to it.
First, here’s the whole bracket.
As crazy as the first round was in this region, things really settled down in the Round of 32.
(1) Ohio State vs (9) Ohio: The in-state matchup was always going to be a longshot for the Bobcats, but give Frank Solich’s team credit, they weren’t a pushover. The Buckeyes and Bobcats went back and forth early, with Nathan Rourke dropping an absolute dime over the top of the Ohio State defense for a 57 yard touchdown just before halftime. Ohio State held firm in the second half though, and J.T. Barrett, while not having his best game, was more than capable, going 18-25 for 210 yards and three total touchdowns. Ohio added a late touchdown to put a scare into Ohio State, but it proved too little too late.
Final Score: 31-23 Ohio State
(12) Iowa vs (13) Arizona: Despite being tied for the lowest seeded game for this round, this game was supposed to be a toss up. Instead, Arizona dominated the Hawkeyes on both sides of the ball. Iowa actually got the ball moving a few times early, but two redzone fumbles in succession with two big homerun Khalil Tate runs helped this game get ugly fast. It’s surprising when you can get your backups reps in a tournament game, but Rich Rodriguez was able to do it. Also, shout out to freshman CB Lorenzo Burns for Arizona. Once the Hawkeyes got pass happy early in the third quarter, Burns was able to pick up an interception, a sack on a corner blitz, and broke up several deep passes from Nate Stanley.
Final Score: 45-10 Arizona
(3) UCF vs (11) Purdue: Jeff Brohm did amazing work in his first year in West Lafayette, but it had to come to an end eventually. The Boilermakers were able to make a few stops early, and even took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. They just didn’t have the guns to keep up with Mckenzie Milton and UCF, though. The Knights were able to put up three straight touchdowns after halftime, and they’ll move on to the Sweet 16.
Final Score: 38-17 UCF
(2) Oklahoma vs (10) Oregon: Perhaps a few years ago, this could’ve been a game for the ages, but these two programs simply exist on different planes right now. Baker Mayfield did Baker Mayfield things against a porous Oregon defense, and the Sooner defense even put together a decent game against the Royce Freeman-less Ducks.
Final Score: 40-14 Oklahoma
This region continues to be one of the most entertaining. At this point, it’s got to be Penn State’s to lose.
(16) Texas A&M vs (9) Wake Forest: I think we all had our doubts that the Aggies would be able to carry their momentum forwards after beating the Huskies, but man this one hurt. Texas A&M did in fact come out firing again, and the early results were there. Starkel was making throws, and the defense put up a 3-and-out against the Deacs three out of their first four series. It wasn’t meant to be, though, as the Aggies appeared to sit on their early 24-3 lead. Wake was able to claw back into the game, and late in the fourth quarter, tied at 30, a questionable holding call caused Texas A&M to have to re-punt after a great punt by Shane Tripucka. Greg Dortch was able to take the second punt attempt sixty four yards to the house, essentially untouched after a breakdown in coverage by the Aggies. With only two minutes left in the game, this proved to be the difference maker. Better luck next year, Aggies.
Final Score: 37-30 Wake Forest
(5) LSU vs (13) UTSA: Finally, a defensive battle! LSU controlled this one pretty easily, although both defenses came to play in this game. The Roadrunners couldn’t do anything, though, only bringing the ball into LSU territory once and even then settling for a field goal. Credit to Coach O, the Tigers weren’t overlooking anything here.
Final Score: 20-3 LSU
(3) FAU vs (11) Iowa State: I had questions about FAU being seeded this high, but they had been on a tear since the beginning of October. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell had the perfect gameplan against Kiffin’s Owls, though, and the giant-slayers of the Big 12 took out another big favorite in Florida Atlantic. The Cyclones absolutely shut down running back Devin Singleterry to just 45 yards on 28 carries, while their special teams play put Iowa State in great field position all afternoon. Advantage, Iowa State.
Final Score: 27-10 Iowa State
(2) Penn State vs (7) Boise State: Poor Boise. They spend the better part of fifteen years trying to get into a playoff/tournament, and when they finally do, they get knocked out in the second round. Saquon Barkley turned it on again in this game, and he was pretty much back to early season Heisman levels. Barkley put up 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 16 carries, bolstered mainly by a 38 yard touchdown, a 54 yard run, and an 83 yard touchdown that looked like Techmo-Bo incarnated. Boise just never got off the mat.
Final Score: 41-13 Penn State
In light of all of the craziness elsewhere in this tournament, this region has been eerily consistent, with no underdogs winning.
(1) Alabama vs (8) Washington State: How’s this for a clash of styles, from the on-field schemes to the head coaches themselves? As pretty much anyone in their right mind would’ve expected, Alabama pretty safely won this game, but not without Nick Saban pulling his hair out on more than one occasion. The Cougars couldn’t do much of anything to stop the Jalen Hurts/Calvin Ridley connection, allowing Ridley 158 yards receiving. On the other side, Luke Falk and Washington State picked up over 400 yards passing (on 58 attempts, mind you), but they just couldn’t put the ball in the endzone consistently or convert any big 3rd downs late in the game.
Final Score: 31-19 Alabama
(4) South Florida vs (5) Memphis: It was the AAC Championship game that could’ve been for USF had they beaten UCF. This was another high scoring shootout like the AAC has become known for this year. Quarterbacks Quentin Flowers and Riley Ferguson each put up four touchdown passes, including Flowers’s game-winner to sophomore Darnell Robinson with about six minutes left in the game. The difference ended up coming on special teams. Senior punter Jonathan Hernandez stuck the Tigers inside their own five on two separate occasions, while kicker Emilio Nadelman picked up a huge fourth down in the third quarter with the old toss-over-the-holder’s-shoulder play we all know and love.
Final Score: 42-35 South Florida
(3) Auburn vs (6) Arkansas State: It sure would’ve been sweet for the Red Wolves to knock off a former coach in the second round of the playoffs, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, the Tigers ran up and down the field against Arkansas State, and controlled the clock while doing it. Five different Tigers ran for at least sixty yards (Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, Eli Stove, Malik Miller, and Malik Willis) while Auburn got the backups in early in the fourth quarter, and Marlon Davidson had a career night (two sacks, four TFL, and a safety) getting after Red Wolves QB Justice Hansen.
Final Score: 36-13 Auburn
(2) Clemson vs (7) Michigan State: As often as the Spartans take down top-tier teams in the Big 10, they really seem to struggle in the postseason. This game was eerily reminiscent of the Spartans first playoff game against Alabama in 2015. Michigan State put up a fight early, forcing an interception in their own endzone and driving the ball back down to their own 15. However, once Clemson blocked the field goal attempt, the route was on. Kelly Bryant ran and threw for two touchdowns each, and Ray-Ray McCloud picked up 225 all-purpose yards in the game.
Final Score: 41-0 Clemson
In what has become an SEC-heavy region, there’s no excuse for UGA not to keep winning right now.
(1) UGA vs (9) App State: App State put forth a valiant effort, but it was pretty clear they didn’t have the athletes to keep up with UGA. The Bulldogs were able to dominate both sides of the line, leaving huge holes for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to pick up yards in chunks. Linebackers Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter dominated the Mountaineer offense, with 5 sacks and 16 tackles between the two of them. App State QB Taylor Lamb was able to take advantage of an overly aggressive Georgia secondary a few times, with a big deep ball touchdown in each half, and the Mountaineers were able to move the ball into field goal range occasionally, but UGA never lost control in this one.
Final Score: 35-20 UGA
(4) Notre Dame vs (12) Ole Miss: UPSET ALERT! The Rebel Black Bears once again knocked off a legitimate title threat in this game, this time eking out a close one against the Irish. Jordan Ta’amu is fast becoming a star this post-season, gritting out key touchdowns both on the ground and through the air. While the Irish were effectively shut down through the air, the Adams and Wimbush duo on the ground were able to pick up yardage almost at will. It all fell apart, though, when Notre Dame decided to throw on 3rd-and-8 up 24-21 while trying to ice the game in the 4th quarter. Rebel defensive end Breeland Speaks was able to strip the ball from Wimbush, setting up a short field with under two minutes to go for Ta’amu and co. Ta’amu was able to hit Jordan Wilkins on a 15-yard screen for a touchdown, sealing the game for the Rebels.
Final Score: 28-24 Ole Miss
(3) Oklahoma State vs (11) Northwestern: Another big upset in this one! How a team ranked 82nd in offensive S&P+ was able to beat a team ranked 4th is beyond me, but the Wildcats did it. Give credit to QB Clayton Thorson, who was able to nickel-and-dime the Pokes to death with only 280 yards on 54 attempts, but with four touchdowns to go with it. The Cowboys, on the other hand, were able to hit the big plays, but couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, drops, and fumbles. Northwestern played a clean game and took advantage, giving them the win.
Final Score: 28-20 Northwestern
(2) Wisconsin vs (7) Mississippi State: With this game, this region went full #TeamChaos. Despite not having Nick Fitzgerald, Keytaon Thompson and the Mississippi State offense were able to move the ball just enough against possibly the best defense in the country. Thompson wasn’t asked to do much more than protect the ball, but the Bulldog defense reeled in the rushing attack of Wisconsin to give their offense a few short fields to work with. The total yardage heavily favored the Badgers, but an almost inexplicable inability to score from inside the 20 caused problems, and it ultimately cost them the game.
Final Score: 19-14 Mississippi State
What a whirlwind of a second round that was! While several of the big names are still in, including your Auburn Tigers, a handful of upstarts are looking to make a name for themselves. We’ll see after this weekend how they fair in the Sweet 16.
What did you guys think of this round’s games? What stood out the most? Who do you think will go on a run? Let me know in the comments section!