Well, it happened again. The Pac-12, which has not had a team make the College Football Playoff since 2016, cannibalized itself once again and ended its playoff hopes. This might be the most heartbreaking instance of said trend, given how close the conference was to break it.
No. 4 USC entered Friday night’s Pac-12 Championship Game with a simple scenario: win and in. The 11-1 Trojans would have cemented their playoff spot with a win and avenged their lone loss of the season to No. 11 Utah. With how well USC had been playing recently, this looked like the perfect chance to get back on the national stage.
Instead, the Trojans turned in their worst performance of the season in a devastating 47-24 loss. Caleb Williams did all he could, but injuries prevented him from being as effective as usual. However, Utah completely exposed the Trojans’ already-suspect defense, racking up 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 may have ended, their loss gave new hope to other teams vying for a spot. Let’s go over the teams who benefitted the most from USC’s Pac-12 Championship Game loss.
3. Oklahoma Sooners
Admittedly, Oklahoma doesn’t see any concrete benefit from USC’s defeat. The Sooners have struggled in Brent Venables’ first season as head coach, finishing 6-6 for their worst record this century. It’s been a difficult season in Norman, but Friday night’s game provided some much-needed catharsis.
As USC collapsed on the biggest stage, Oklahoma fans came out in droves to voice their satisfaction. Seeing the coach and quarterback who left for supposedly greener pastures flop in the most important moment was all too familiar for Sooners fans, but this time, they could laugh at another team’s misfortune. The defense falling apart, a running theme in Lincoln Riley’s biggest losses, only made the moment sweeter.
Predictably, Stinkin' Lincoln Riley's no-tackling USC D has given up another 47 to Utah. It's Oklahoma all over again. All offense, embarrassing defense. What did the Trojans miss tonight, 30 tackles??? As an Oklahoma fan, I do not miss THIS.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) December 3, 2022
The Sooners may not have gained new playoff hope like some other teams, but their fanbase may be more satisfied by this game than any in the country.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Entering championship weekend at No. 6, 10-2 Alabama needs a lot to go its way to have a chance at the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide need two of the current top four to fall out to make it, and with Georgia and Michigan being virtual locks, that scenario seemed unlikely. While they still need more help, the Trojans’ loss at least gives them a chance.
USC’s loss was the first domino to fall in the unlikely scenario where Alabama makes the CFP. The next piece would be a TCU loss in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday. However, the Tide may still be behind a 12-1 TCU team, so they need the Horned Frogs to lose badly to have a shot.
Unlike the top team on this list, Alabama didn’t gain a playoff spot solely due to this outcome. However, the Tide do still have a chance, and that’s all thanks to this game.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
About a week ago, Ohio State’s season looked like it was in shambles. The Buckeyes had just lost badly to Michigan at home, knocking them out of the Big Ten Championship Game. They then fell to fifth in the latest rankings, and needed some help to have a chance at the CFP.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they got that help on Friday night. The Trojans were one spot ahead of the Buckeyes, and now that they’re out, the Buckeyes will slide up to fourth. Now, Ohio State is firmly back in the College Football Playoff picture and will likely be the fourth team in the dance.
While the Buckeyes’ may have back-doored their way into the playoffs, getting there is what really matters. Ohio State owes its likely playoff spot to Utah beating USC on Friday.