Georgia TCU classic College Football Playoff semifinals

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Atlanta – Ohio State as a kicker Noah Ruggles Line up to attempt the game-winning 50-yard field goal, midnight on the East Coast. As millions waited for the ball to drop and a new year to begin, a rollicking day of college football raced toward a crescendo.

Georgia leads Ohio State by one point. 42-41, and Kirby Smart called a time out to try to ice Ruggles. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium filled with fear, loathing and anticipation, the perfect emotional cocktail for a semi-final day the game had waited almost a decade to unfold like this.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, stood uncharacteristically near the goal line where Ohio State was attempting to kick. He declared victory before deciding a winner. “What a great day for college football,” he beamed.

The day the sport saw its first wire-to-wire riveting semi-final came just as the current system was on its way out. This is the second-to-last year of the current four-team format, as the game was expanded to a 12-team playoff beginning in the 2024 season due to too many injuries in the previous eight seasons.

The four-team system was very predictable and then came two games that no one could come up with.

Ruggles fumbled his field goal left, a knuckleball to ring in the freshman year. Georgia took a knee once, and the game ended at 12:01 p.m., a remarkable day in the recent history of the game that took two different years to complete. Fittingly, the play couldn’t quite fit into one.

The missed field goal sparked a Georgia celebration in the middle of the field, the ultimate reminder of how exciting, exciting and confusing college football can be.

On the outskirts of Phoenix, TCU opened the day as a 7.5-point underdog and unleashed one of the most painful upsets in the sport’s recent history. The No. 3 Horned Frogs never flinched, unleashing 51 points on a defense that has allowed an average of 13.4 points per game this season.

In downtown Atlanta, No. 4 Ohio State was poised to win the game until a game-changing blow by Georgia in the final minute of the third quarter. Javon Bullard A touchdown prevented and knocked out the star Ohio State wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. That hit from the game changed the course of the night for Georgia, and could be the pivot point if it wins back-to-back national titles.

The No. 1 Bulldogs will play No. 3 TCU for the national title, with Georgia looking to become the first in the sport to win back-to-back titles in a decade, since Alabama last accomplished the double in 2012.

TCU will be in the hunt for the program’s first national title since 1938, and they’ll invite anyone they’re just SEC fodder. Just ask the Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy, who cast them as Big Ten chums. Actually, you couldn’t, as he pulled out of his press conference after a question in the wake of the loss, sounding far less lofty than pre-game predictions of Michigan pushing TCU around.

A day that started the Big Ten’s dream of having a pair of teams in the national title game ended with the league empty-handed. With the league’s focus ranging from the anticipated euphoria of winning the conference’s first national title since 2014 to the leadership questions surrounding the league, Commissioner Kevin Warren interviewed Be president of the Chicago Bears. It only took a minute to bring the Big Ten’s woes to the fore in 2023

Here in Atlanta, a pall of missed opportunities hangs over the Ohio State locker room. Gene Smith walked out into the night, shaking his head in disbelief as he walked out of the locker room, hugging Ryan Day’s wife, Nina. The staff grumbled about the same hollow feeling that returned in 2019 when Ohio State squandered multiple opportunities to beat a Trevor Lawrence-led Clemson team.

Players and coaches dwelled on all the little things. The quarterback’s squandered effort CJ Stroud, who threw for 348 yards, four touchdowns and suddenly channeled his inner-Braxton Miller with a flurry of second-half scrambles. They lamented the wasted effort of the interior of Ohio State’s offensive line, which is neutral Jalen Carter.

They wondered what else might have been due to Harrison’s absence as the offense stalled in the fourth quarter. Of course, it was the missed field goal that would have won the game. The overturned targeting call on Harrison’s hit would have given Ohio State a first-and-goal. After gashing Georgia’s offensive line in the third quarter, the defense collapsed in the fourth quarter.

“There were a lot of plays that you want to come back to as a coach and a player,” OSU coach Ryan Day said. “That’s what happens in games like this.”

What would be the most concerning — and perhaps the best coaching counter of the night — came when Ohio State appeared to execute a fake punt in the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-1 at its own 34-yard line, Ohio State hid two offensive linemen on its punt team for the first time this season — guard Donovan Jackson and back up Josh Fryer.

The Buckeyes were up 11 points, and the tight end Mitch Rossi A run to first down appeared to give them the ball near midfield. A second before the snap, Georgia coach Kirby Smart called a timeout. “It looked like it was going to be a first down,” Ohio State special teams coach Parker Fleming said. “They did a great job calling timeouts there.”

In the second half of the Michigan game, Ohio State had a similar play, but missed the long snapper call and with it, a wide open lane for a first down that could have changed the game. Photos of the missed opportunity are live in Twitter lore, and Fleming can only shake his head. “Different structure, slightly different personnel,” he said. “Similar scenario, I guess.”

And that’s what happens with classic games. The stakes are so high that the momentum shifts wildly. And the loser could only count on things that could have been, as Stroud noted a “heavy heart” as he left the field. “It’s a loss for words,” Stroud said, “when it comes to a play.”

After a day of 179 total points, 2,016 total yards and infinite hairpin momentum, midnight struck, and the entire game was near speechless. “It was special,” marveled the UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett.

A day of semi-final games that left spectators bored and unsatisfied ended in dramatic fireworks. Finally, the drama was played out, and the game got a celebratory semifinal day that was long overdue.

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