Few sports offer the kind of weekly drama that college football does. With only 12 regular season matchups for each school, every game has significant importance, and much can change with just one result. One loss can devastate a team’s bowl chances, and one win can change the narrative surrounding a head coach. September 22 was a massive Saturday in the sport, with several games offering major drama and implications.
Which teams got the most significant wins this past weekend?
Let’s rank the top five.
1. Ohio State Squeaks By the Irish
The Ohio State Buckeyes football success is defined by winning national championships and beating Michigan. The Buckeyes could not beat the Wolverines on Saturday night in South Bend, and the national title would not be decided. Still, Ohio State earned a massive victory by knocking off Notre Dame with a nail-biting win over the Fighting Irish. The Buckeyes took a 3-0 lead into halftime, and TreVeyon Henderson had a 61-yard touchdown run to make it 10-0. The Fighting Irish battled back to take a 14-10 lead into the game’s final minutes and nearly put Ohio State to sleep with a late stop on a fourth and short. Notre Dame’s offense could not keep the ball, punting it back to the Buckeyes and giving them one more chance. Kyle McCord connected with Emeka Egbuka to get the ball to the one-yard line with less than ten seconds remaining. McCord attempted to find Marvin Harrison Jr. on first down, but the pass fell incomplete. On second down, McCord handed it off to Chip Trayanum, and he stretched the ball into the end zone with one second remaining to give OSU the 17-14 victory. Ryan Day let it out in the postgame interview, ripping those who doubted his program, and it was clear how much the victory meant to the Buckeyes.
2. Florida State Beats Clemson in OT
The Seminoles had lost seven straight games to Clemson and were favored in Death Valley. Dabo Swinney‘s program has owned the ACC for the past decade, and the two programs have won 12 of the past 13 conference titles. Although it may not play out this way in 2023, the game between Florida State and Clemson often goes a long way toward deciding who plays in the ACC Championship Game. Despite Clemson outgaining Florida State and the Seminoles not leading this game in regulation, Florida State emerged victorious 31-24 in overtime. The win keeps Florida State in the top four in the country and gives them two great road wins after only four weeks of football.
3. Washington State Stays Unbeaten
This game likely slipped under the radar for most, but we will not ignore the Washington State Cougars as they moved to 4-0 by beating the Oregon State Beavers in Pullman. Oregon State outscored the Cougars by a score of 21-3 in the fourth quarter, but the comeback fell short. Cam Ward threw for 404 yards with four touchdowns, and Washington State gained 528 yards against a typically stout Oregon State defense. Washington State will climb in the rankings and get an off week before playing UCLA and Arizona. They could walk into Oregon on October 21 unbeaten and in the top ten.
4. Oregon Sends a Message
“Built on Substance! This game won’t be played in Hollywood! It’s being played on grass!” Oregon head coach Dan Lanning had a fiery pregame speech for his team before his Ducks went on and completely flattened the Colorado Buffaloes, 42-6. The score could have been much worse as Oregon led 35-0 at the half before easing up and pulling starters as they coasted in the second half. Colorado had an excellent 3-0 start and has received much attention, but they are not a serious threat to contend. The Oregon Ducks are. They outgained Colorado 522 to 199 and looked like a playoff contender.
5. Utah Holds Down UCLA
It’s not pretty, but the Utah Utes are 4-0 with wins over Florida, Baylor, and UCLA. This is significant because they’ve done that without their star tight end and starting quarterback. Cam Rising is practicing again and could play shortly. If he returns and plays well, Utah has the makings of a real challenger. The Utes have an elite defense with a ferocious front seven. Utah now plays at Oregon State on Friday night before hosting Cal. If they can win both games, they will be unbeaten, traveling to USC on October 21.
- Many are dying to write off Alabama and proclaim the dynasty over. While the 2023 edition is not a vintage Crimson Tide squad, the rest of the SEC is not great, and Alabama still looks capable of winning the SEC West. They beat Ole Miss 24-10, holding the Rebels to 301 yards of offense. Lane Kiffin still cannot get a win over Nick Saban.
- Penn State shut out Iowa 31-0 in State College. The Big Ten looks like a three-team battle, with all three big dogs in the East. PSU was conservative on offense, knowing the Hawkeyes could not threaten them. Penn State continues to gear up for the October 21 showdown against Ohio State.
- Northwestern has been ridiculed for most of the past two months, and most did not expect the Wildcats to win a conference game. They outscored Minnesota 27-3 over the final quarter plus overtime and beat the Gophers 37-34.
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