Michigan, Alabama and Oklahoma State star in a blockbuster rivalry week

Michigan, Alabama and Oklahoma State all meet each other in a blockbuster rivalry week. The Wolverines are looking to defend their SEC championship with an undefeated record; the Crimson Tide want to win their first national title since 2009; the Cowboys hope for back-to-back Cotton Bowl berths.

Michigan, Alabama and Oklahoma State star in a blockbuster rivalry week

Rivalry weeks are reminiscent of the “Fast and Furious” films. Among the stars, there is often a great deal of hostility. The storylines are very illogical. Most importantly, there are no terrible ones; instead, there are varied degrees of slaughter and fireworks.

The 2020 edition was effectively the “Tokyo Drift” of rivalry weeks, with many prominent players missing out and a pretty dismal showing, however the 2021 edition was different. There was a lot of drama and a lot of heartache. It was an act of heroism. It was the underdog who eventually triumphed. It was the villain, who had risen from the grave. Oscar bait, to be sure. It was complete.

And, like with all great rivalry weeks, this one’s twists and turns were completely unexpected.

In The Game, Michigan’s defense kept Ohio State to a season low in points and yards, while the Wolverines’ ground game ran for miles, finally removing the monkey from Jim Harbaugh’s back.

Auburn came close to pulling off the impossible in the Iron Bowl, only to have Bryce Young claw his way down the field for a game-tying score and then win in overtime.

The Oklahoma State defense delivered the final stake through the heart of an Oklahoma team that had miraculously survived one nail-biter after another this season, from defensive touchdowns to special teams disasters to two late stands by the Oklahoma State defense, which delivered the final stake through the heart of an Oklahoma team that had miraculously survived one nail-biter after another this season.

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Every rivalry week began with us tossing the records out the window, as agreed upon in the 1978 Camp David Accords, but it still seemed like a bizarre fantasy.

Only one thing has been guaranteed this season: Georgia’s defense. The Bulldogs pounded on Georgia Tech, as predicted, and finished the regular season with just eight offensive touchdowns allowed. FBS defenses have given up that many points in a single game 30 times this season. There was, however, a glimmer of hope for stopping Georgia’s Death Star. Behind C.J. Stroud and TreVeyon Henderson, as well as a pair of extremely skilled receivers, it was the Ohio State offense. The narrative was formed when Ohio State humiliated Michigan State a week ago. It’s simply that Harbaugh didn’t bother to read the story. (On tape, he solely listens to Nicholas Sparks novels.)

Michigan supporters were ready to throw Harbaugh out a year ago because he was a big-name coach who couldn’t win a big game. Now, the Wolverines have ended an eight-game losing run against that club from the south, and they’re only one victory away from a College Football Playoff spot if they beat Iowa. They accomplished it without a big-play passing game or an up-tempo approach, instead relying on a traditional ground-and-pound assault that piled up 297 yards and six touchdowns against an outmanned Buckeyes defense. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, the country’s most fearsome pass rushing combo, hounded Stroud throughout the game, tallying up four sacks between them. They did it with a coach who believes that sunglasses and khakis are fashionable, that chickens are frightened birds, and that the sixth time is the charm. Harbaugh stated this week that the Wolverines will win Ohio State “or die trying,” and both he and the Wolverines survived to fight another day. Michigan is a throwback to a bygone period of exaggerated thrills, even down to singing “Mr. Brightside” at the end.

Mr. Brightside is being sung from the field of Michigan Stadium after the Wolverines defeated Ohio State. twitter.com/RzrrS7cOoa

November 27, 2021 — Alejandro Ziga (@ByAZuniga)

Nick Saban made news this week when he chastised his “self-absorbed” supporters for rejecting the Tide’s string of tight victories as evidence of the team’s predicted excellence. No Alabama supporters will be moaning after Young marched the Tide 97 yards in 12 plays and floated a precise pass over Ja’Corey Brooks’ shoulder in the closing minute of the Iron Bowl. It was enchanted. While it’s easy to point fingers at Auburn’s Tank Bigsby for blowing a chance to run down the clock on the Tigers’ last drive, or Bryan Harsin for never considering going for two in the first overtime, Young’s position in Iron Bowl legend was predetermined. It’s unclear if the latest close victory served as fuel for detractors or genuine ammo for the committee, but it didn’t matter for one glorious Saturday afternoon.

What are your thoughts about Bedlam? Oklahoma State scored on a 100-yard kick return, surrendered a safety, gave up a scoop-and-score touchdown, missed a field goal, then scored when Oklahoma muffed a punt within the 5-yard line. Mike Gundy seldom wears a turtleneck beneath a sweater, yet that’s far from the most obnoxious aspect of an Oklahoma State game. Nonetheless, it all came together in the end. The Sooners had defeated the Pokes 16 times in the previous 18 meetings, including six in a row, but this year was different. Oklahoma State’s defense has been a surprise all season, possibly the best in the nation after Georgia’s defense, and despite being left for dead a half-dozen times this season, including halfway through the third quarter Saturday, Oklahoma State has a legitimate chance at the playoffs. Another domino dropped as Collin Oliver, sprawled on the ground, grabbed Caleb Williams’ ankles and terminated the Sooners’ final comeback effort.

The College Football Playoff has been characterized by four teams over the last seven seasons: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oklahoma. At least three teams will not be in the playoffs this year, and Alabama is holding on by a thread. Who’d have guessed?

It’s only right that this insane season started with Clemson and Georgia fighting it out in a game without an offensive score. It was a foreshadowing of what this season would become: a year marked by brilliant quarterbacks, offensive pyrotechnics, and the same blue bloods who had dominated the sport for the previous decade. It’s been a year for the old-school, for physically punishing ground games and heavyweight defenses, from Georgia to Oklahoma State, Michigan to Cincinnati. It’s been brutal at times, but maybe that’s just the price we pay when destiny calls, and when we open our eyes, a whole new college football world awaits, as a mid-2000s alt-rock band once sung.


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