Saturday rundown: Takeaways from conference championship weekend
The dust has settled on the 2021 college football season following the conference championships Saturday.
The biggest shock of the day was how easily No. 3 Alabama handled top-ranked Georgia, a result that will likely see both SEC teams in the College Football Playoff when the semifinal matchups are announced Sunday.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Saturday's results across the college football world.
Bryce Young deserves the Heisman
Georgia entered the SEC title game with one of the best defensive units in recent memory, allowing an insane 6.9 points per contest on the season. It didn't take Bryce Young long to destroy that average.
The Alabama quarterback showed he's the best in the country with an incredible performance that delivered the Crimson Tide yet another SEC title and locked them up a spot in the CFP semifinals. Alabama finished with 421 yards and three touchdowns through the air and added another 40 yards and a score on the ground in a 41-24 statement win over Georgia.
Jameson Williams' return from last week's targeting ejection was just what Young needed to exploit the Bulldogs' secondary. The duo connected seven times for 184 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.
The Crimson Tide will now wait to see if the committee names them No. 1 or No. 2 in Sunday's rankings release and where they'll play their semifinal matchup. While Alabama has to wait until tomorrow to book that ticket, it's safe for Young to plan his trip to New York next weekend, where he'll almost certainly claim the Heisman Trophy after Saturday's brilliant show.
Georgia exposed by toughest opponent
The Bulldogs didn't just enter the SEC title game at No. 1 with an undefeated record. They also went into the contest as one of the most dominant teams we've seen in the last 20 years. Kirby Smart's program beat opponents by an average of 32 points over 12 regular-season contests, eight more than the second-best team in the country. It's that type of number that saw Georgia come in as a 6.5-point favorite for Saturday's game.
Smart and Georgia deserve all the credit in the world for running roughshod over the schedule, something no other team did in the same fashion. However, a closer look at the competition shows us that the Bulldogs may have been overvalued.
Georgia only faced two top-40 offensive units in points per play in 10 games this season against Power 5 competition. The Bulldogs' opponents owned an average ranking of 69th in that category. In those same 10 contests, Georgia faced only two defensive units that placed in the top 40 in yards allowed per play, and they averaged a ranking of 66th in that category.
There's no doubt the Bulldogs are littered with NFL talent and can beat any college team on their best day, but Saturday reminded us that they're not the unstoppable juggernaut they often appeared to be this season.
Michigan storms into playoff
After the biggest win of Jim Harbaugh's tenure last week over Ohio State, it would have been easy to see a bit of a letdown from Michigan on Saturday versus Iowa. That wasn't the case in Indianapolis, though, as the Wolverines firmly controlled the Hawkeyes from start to finish to win the program's first-ever Big Ten title game.
Two massive plays in the opening half put Michigan in command, the first being a 67-yard touchdown run by Blake Corum to open a 7-0 lead. Harbaugh went for the jugular on the Wolverines' next offensive play with a perfectly executed double-pass that saw running back Donovan Edwards supply the throw on a 75-yard catch-and-run score.
That 14-0 lead is essentially insurmountable for an offensively challenged team like Iowa, and Michigan kept pounding away at its inferior opponent before claiming the conference title with an eventual 42-3 victory.
The Wolverines now play the waiting game until Sunday to see if the committee puts them at No. 1 following Georgia's loss or rewards Alabama with the top spot for upsetting the Bulldogs. Regardless, there's a good chance Michigan will face Georgia in the semifinals as the committee will likely want to avoid a rematch of the SEC title game in the opening round of the playoffs.
Cincinnati makes Group of 5 history
It won't become official until shortly after noon Sunday, but it's safe to say No. 4 Cincinnati will make history and become the first Group of 5 team to earn a CFP berth.
The Bearcats completed a perfect 13-0 season with a 35-20 victory over Houston at home in the AAC title game Saturday afternoon.
Recent close-calls for non-Power 5 programs showed just how hard it would be for one to actually win the committee over and make the semifinal, but Cincinnati checked all the boxes to make it a sure thing:
- Competitive bowl game versus a big-name school the previous year
- Play Power 5 opponents in non-conference play
- Finish the season with an undefeated record
- Win the majority of games in dominant fashion
- Have almost everyone else falter
Oklahoma State was likely the final team from outside the top four that could have knocked Cincinnati from the playoff, but the Cowboys' dramatic last-minute loss to Baylor earlier in the day took them out of the conversation.
For those who still don't think Cincinnati can compete with the heavyweights of the sport, the Bearcats' win at No. 6 Notre Dame earlier this season and last year's three-point bowl loss to Georgia show that they're more than up for the challenge.
Oklahoma State's self-imposed misery
With 1:19 to play Saturday, Oklahoma State found itself needing just two yards to reach the end zone with all four downs at its disposal. A touchdown would have all but clinched the Big 12 title and a spot in the CFP. Even more remarkable was that the Cowboys had this opportunity despite the following occurring during the game:
- Spencer Sanders threw a career-high four interceptions
- Oklahoma State had already run 14 plays inside Baylor's 10-yard line and only scored one touchdown
- The team played the entire contest without 1,134-yard rusher Jaylen Warren
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, three plays could only get them to the Baylor 1-yard line, setting up a one-play, winner-takes-all moment with 30 seconds remaining.
With a 10-2 record and a dramatic win over rival Oklahoma in the Bedlam Series, the season will eventually be viewed as a success for Mike Gundy and the Cowboys. However, they'll leave Arlington on Saturday with a sense of 'what could have been' hanging heavily in the air.