As the college football season winds down, the rankings will inevitably shake up and unpredictable things will happen. And Week 12 proved just that.
The weekend brought Central Michigan fans creating a life-size snowman plus a last-second, nail-biter field goal that lifted TCU to a perfect 11-0 record. It also brought the USCs together, as South Carolina's upset over No. 5 Tennessee helped Southern California's playoff chances.
Let's catch up on the best moments you might have missed from the week.
The weather outside was frightful, but the football was so delightful when Central Michigan and Western Michigan faced off in their annual rivalry game. It looked as though they were playing in a snow globe, with so much snow accumulating that a cart with a plow on the front of it had to clear the field during the game.
Not even the snow could stop him on this TD ☃️ pic.twitter.com/65pKOADaPk— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 17, 2022
That didn't stop the fans in the stands from staying and cheering on their teams, though.
Student section showed out tonight pic.twitter.com/um5wo6oWmJ— Sean Chase (@_SeanChase) November 17, 2022
The fans who stayed braved the weather to watch MACtion at its finest in a back-and-forth game, with Western Michigan eventually coming out on top 12-10. There wasn't much scoring, so the fans did what they could to keep themselves occupied.
That included creating an incredible snowman with arms, legs and a Central Michigan hat.
The greatest snowman ever⁉️ ⛄ pic.twitter.com/cuFXGDJQ0Q— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 17, 2022
The elements might have stopped most of the pass attempts on the field, but they certainly didn't stop the fans from enjoying the winter wonderland that was Mount Pleasant, Michigan, that Wednesday night. -- Tom VanHaaren
All season long, TCU has brought a bit of drama to college football with Hypnotoad-inspired comebacks and the weirdest celebration videos in the biz.
On Saturday, the Horned Frogs upped the degree of difficulty in their latest come-from-behind win, kicking a walk-off field goal in cold, wet conditions at Baylor to pull out a 29-28 win to stay unblemished, becoming the nation's most unlikely 11-0 team.
With 22 seconds left, no timeouts and facing a third-and-7 at the Baylor 26-yard-line, TCU handed off to Emari Demercado, who ran it to the middle of the field, getting tackled at the 23 with 17 seconds left.
Coach Sonny Dykes called "Bazooka," which means the offense runs off the field, and the field goal unit sprints on, gets set and kicks it. Griffin Kell casually lined up, the line got set and Kell drilled a 40-yarder to win the game and keep TCU in the thick of the College Football Playoff race.
"We kicked our field goal that looked like chaos, but we practice it every Thursday. Exactly like that," Dykes said. "[Kell] hit it right down the middle. That was a great kick and it looked like Thursday practice."
TV analyst Brock Huard, who was calling the game for Fox, said he was shaking. Fans across the country marveled at Dykes nonchalantly, saying it was something they practiced every week, no big deal.
"I stayed up late last night and watched all the shows," TCU special teams coach Mark Tommerdahl told ESPN. "Some people are kind of crying BS on Sonny's statement that we practice it. We do. It's the first rep of PAT/field goal practice every Thursday."
Tommerdahl, who has coached special teams for more than three decades under several different coaches, said he's made "Bazooka" a part of his practices for as long as he can remember. He said it's important because the kicker doesn't get time to line it up, much like a golfer would walk up to a tee box and hit a shot without a practice swing.
"Griff doesn't step it off," Tommerdahl said. "So that for him to know the exact spot to line up, it takes a lot of reps."
Tommerdahl apologized for his nonchalance. But that's the way these Frogs have handled every game.
"The kids did a really nice job of it," he said. "You have to look at it like it's just another play. Because it's a special teams play, it's a little bit unique. It's just like throwing a touchdown pass."
Not to be denied, TCU's creative team dispensed with the nonchalance with its now traditional bizarro celebration video.
-- Dave Wilson
The FCS playoffs begin this week. To put that another way, it's Bison season. North Dakota State, the winner of nine of the past 11 FCS national titles, spent a good portion of the regular season seemingly stuck in third gear, losing twice (gasp!) and laboring to get past a number of Missouri Valley opponents. But against No. 23 North Dakota on Saturday, the Bison put together one of their most complete performances, racing to a 21-0 lead and averaging 7.8 yards per play on the way to a 42-21 win.
The win earned the Bison some much-needed style points, but you know what earns even more style points? Style! Like this ridiculous catch from fullback Logan Hofstedt. (Of course, he's a fullback -- this is an NDSU highlight, after all.)
OOHHHhhh the catch by Logan Hofstedt! pic.twitter.com/e5o68rwyb5— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) November 19, 2022
After the laboring and good-but-not-elite play, the Bison enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed, seemingly having just shifted into fifth gear. Life is as it should be at the FCS level.
-- Bill Connelly
Week 12 takeaways
Travis Hunter is the real deal
In cornerback Travis Hunter, Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders signed one of the top prospects in the country last winter. He didn't get to actually use him for a while, however -- the freshman from Suwanee, Georgia, missed most of the first half of the season because of injury.
He's making up for lost time. On Saturday, against rival Alcorn State in the Soul Bowl, he did a little bit of everything. First, he put JSU up 17-7 with a 44-yard pick-six midway through the second quarter.
TRAVIS HUNTER PICK-SIX 😤 pic.twitter.com/n0Hh5dWMBW— ESPN (@espn) November 19, 2022
He also broke up three passes and made four solo tackles; he's a very good corner, after all. But in an attempt to get the absolute, Charles Woodson-style most out of him, he also played on offense for a few snaps, taking a handoff, catching a 19-yard pass and, early in the fourth quarter with Alcorn within four points, putting away a rivalry win with this absolute ridiculousness:
TOE-DRAG TD FOR TRAVIS HUNTER‼️ pic.twitter.com/owGRwrArS1— ESPN (@espn) November 19, 2022
In six games, Hunter has now defensed 11 passes (two picks, nine breakups) and caught 13 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. With Hunter responsible for 14 points, JSU won 24-13, locking up an 11-0 regular-season record. The Tigers will play in the SWAC championship game Dec. 3 against either Southern or Prairie View A&M.
USC is still in the playoff hunt
It was a near-perfect weekend for USC, and not just because the Trojans were able to beat their biggest rival. Before Caleb Williams took a single snap at the Rose Bowl, Michigan and TCU (both ranked ahead of the Trojans in the College Football Playoff poll) looked like they were on the brink of upsets. Both, of course, were able to survive. But by the time the Trojans outlasted UCLA to go to 10-1, Tennessee (ranked two spots ahead of USC at No. 5) couldn't escape its own upset defeat at the hands of South Carolina.
MOOD ✌️ pic.twitter.com/stXycakcFH— USC Football ✌️ (@uscfb) November 20, 2022
The Vols' loss essentially takes them out of playoff contention and clears the path for USC. The Trojans might have still gotten in had they won out (and Tennessee had too) with a conference title, but now there's a near guarantee that they would be in if they do that. The debate that would have consumed the rankings in the lead-up to the final weeks between a one-loss Tennessee with a loss to No. 1 Georgia or a one-loss USC with a Pac-12 title will no longer be relevant.
HAVE A DAY CALEB WILLIAMS 😤 pic.twitter.com/kesykdFuzu— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 20, 2022
Of course, nothing is ever certain in the playoff race. Now, if two-loss LSU somehow beats Georgia in the SEC title game, another debate might ensue between the Tigers and the Trojans. But for now, Saturday was a net positive for USC's playoff chances. They do, however, have to keep winning.
-- Paolo Uggetti