Well it happened again. The Pac-12, without a team in the college football playoffs since 2016, cannibalized again, ending their playoff hopes. This might be the most heartbreaking instance of this trend given how close the conference came to breaking it.
USC No. 4 entered Friday night’s Pac-12 championship game with a simple scenario: win and move in. The 11-1 Trojans would have cemented their place in the playoffs with a win and avenged their only loss of the season to No. 11 Utah. Given how well USC had been playing lately, this looked like the perfect chance to return to the national stage.
Instead, the Trojans showed their worst performance of the season with a crushing 47:24 defeat. Caleb Williams did everything he could, but injuries prevented him from being as effective as usual. Utah, however, fully exposed the Trojans’ already suspect defense, amassing 533 total yards and several long touchdowns.
With its second loss of the season and no conference championship, USC is certainly out of the college football playoff race. While the Trojans’ hopes might have ended, their defeat gave renewed hope to other teams vying for a spot. Let’s go through the teams that benefited the most from losing USC’s Pac-12 championship game.
3. Oklahoma Formerly
Admittedly, Oklahoma sees no tangible benefit from the USC loss. The Sooners struggled in Brent Venables’ first season as head coach, posting their worst record of this century at 6-6. It’s been a difficult season at Norman, but Friday night’s game provided some much-needed catharsis.
When USC collapsed on the biggest stage, Oklahoma fans flocked out to express their satisfaction. Seeing the coach and quarterback flee to supposedly greener pastures at the most crucial moment was all too familiar to Sooners fans, but this time they could laugh at another team’s misfortune. The defense collapse, a running theme in Lincoln Riley’s greatest losses, only made the moment sweeter.
Predictably, Stinkin’ Lincoln gave Riley’s no-tackling USC D another 47 to Utah. It’s Oklahoma again. All offense, awkward defense. What did the Trojans miss tonight, 30 tackles??? As an Oklahoma fan, I don’t miss THIS.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) December 3, 2022
The Sooners may not have won new playoff hope like some other teams, but their fan base may be happier with this game than any in the country.
2. Crimson Tide of Alabama
Entering the championship weekend at No. 6, 10-2 Alabama takes a lot to make its way to any chance of making the college football playoffs. The Crimson Tide needs two of the current Top 4 to make it, and with Georgia and Michigan being virtual floodgates, that scenario seemed unlikely. While they still need more help, losing the Trojans at least gives them a chance.
USC’s loss was the first domino to fall in the unlikely scenario of Alabama making the CFP. The next piece would be a TCU loss in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game. However, the tide could still be behind a 12-1 TCU team, so the Horned Frogs will need to lose heavily to have a chance.
Unlike the top team on this list, Alabama didn’t earn a playoff spot just because of that result. However, the tide still has a chance, and it’s all thanks to this game.
1. Ohio State Horse Chestnuts
About a week ago, Ohio State’s season looked like it was in tatters. The Buckeyes had just lost badly at home to Michigan, knocking them out of the Big Ten Championship Game. They then dropped to fifth in the latest rankings and needed some help to have a chance at the CFP.
Luckily for the Buckeyes, they got that help Friday night. The Trojans were one spot ahead of the Buckeyes, and now that they’re out, the Buckeyes will slip to fourth place. Now Ohio State is firmly back in the College Football Playoffs picture and will likely be the fourth team in the dance.
Even though the Buckeyes made their way to the playoffs through the back door, getting there is really important. Ohio State owes its likely place in the playoffs to Utah’s win over USC on Friday.