The Milwaukee Bucks lost five straight games in February and three straight in both March and April. The Atlanta Braves lost their first four games and didn't creep over the .500 mark for good until the 113th game of the season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost three of four last November. The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their last three games of the 2020-21 regular season. The Baylor men's basketball team lost its last game before the NCAA tournament. The Stanford women's team lost at a mediocre Colorado squad midway through conference play.
Each of these teams still won its respective league championship or national title. Aside from Atlanta, none of these defeats or poor runs appeared to spell doom or wreck title chances; they were just losses. Losses happen.
Only in college football does a loss -- particularly one early in the season -- get treated with such gravitas, such finality, for such a long period of time. For many, this is one of the unique and glorious aspects of the sport: "Every game matters" and whatnot. But when Ohio State lost to Oregon on Sept. 11, it led us to lying to ourselves about two teams for more than two months.
No matter how the teams had looked since Week 2 -- Ohio State dominated enough to briefly move to first in SP+ a few weeks ago, while Oregon cratered at 39th following a dismal loss to Stanford -- it appeared to be a legal requirement that the Ducks be ranked one spot ahead of the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff rankings. (This law didn't apply to Michigan State's win over Michigan for some reason, but that's another story entirely.)
Week 12 was the week we got to stop lying to ourselves. It was also the week when college football's powers officially got tired of the chaos. Most of the sport's heavyweights rolled, while some teams with inflated rankings -- Oregon (vs. Utah), Michigan State (vs. Ohio State), Wake Forest (vs. Clemson) -- got crushed.
Ohio State scored on its first seven drives and led the No. 7 team in the country 49-0 at halftime. Cincinnati went up 48-0 against the best team it has played since beating Notre Dame. Notre Dame scored on every first-half drive against Georgia Tech and threw in a pick-six for good measure on its way to a 55-0 win. Michigan let four different quarterbacks throw passes and shifted down to second gear, but it still scored 59 points in a six-touchdown romp over Maryland. Hell, even Clemson indeed remembered its place in the world on Saturday, walloping Wake by three touchdowns and keeping hopes for a seventh straight ACC Atlantic title alive for a little while longer.
Week 12 was a useful one. It separated wheat from chaff, eliminated some pretenders from the contenders list and clarified the national title picture in some key ways. With only one week to go before Championship Weekend and only two until the postseason pairings are announced, let's talk both about some of the statements that were made and about where the sport's top teams stand.