Rivalry Week always brings chaos, and the final regular-season Saturday of the 2023 season was no exception. Five of the six teams that played as heavy favorites on Saturday failed to cover while Louisville lost to rival Kentucky.
But with the chaos came magical moments. Alabama put together an all-time sequence to survive Auburn. Michigan blasted past Ohio State thanks to a big day from quarterback J.J. McCarthy. And just as importantly, the ones who took care of business stood apart.
Now, conference championship weekend is set. Alabama vies with Georgia with a College Football Playoff spot on the line. Oregon and Washington also have a play-in game. Texas and Florida State will try to handle Oklahoma State and Louisville, respectively. Michigan will be heavy favorites against Iowa.
Here are the biggest winners and losers of college football's rivalry week, including a rivalry loss that could prove devastating.
Winner: Tide Jesus
Ten years ago, Alabama looked down at Jordan-Hare Stadium as Auburn pulled off the Kick Six, one of the most memorable plays in college football history. On Saturday, the Tide finally got their revenge with the Nightmare at Jordan-Hare.
Facing fourth-and-goal from the 31-yard line and needing a touchdown, Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe launched an unbelievable pass to the back of the end zone that fell into the hands of receiver Isaiah Bond. The all-time catch pushed Alabama past Auburn for the third year in a row and sent the Tide to the SEC Championship Game with a shot at the College Football Playoff.
While The Game has monopolized the nation's attention for the last week, the Iron Bowl has a chaotic energy that represents the best in college football. One week after losing to New Mexico State, Auburn deserved to win this football game. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Milroe etched himself in history.
Loser: Ohio State coach Ryan Day
Buckeyes coach Ryan Day is 56-7 at Ohio State. He also has now failed to win a Big Ten title for three straight seasons, the longest stretch in a decade. After Saturday, he is also the first Ohio State coach since John Cooper to lose three straight games against Michigan. Worse, Day is 1-6 against AP top 5 opponents.
Simply put, Day is a bizarre case study of a coach who has won everything except the games that matter for three full seasons. There are few precedents. But after losing on Saturday and likely missing a second CFP in three years, Day is firmly on the hot seat in Columbus, Ohio.
To make matters worse, it was Day's signature offense that failed in key spots. Quarterback Kyle McCord, a former five-star recruit, threw two backbreaking interceptions in the loss. Now, Day will go into next season without the best wide receiving duo in the nation (Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka). Everything is suddenly on the table.
The Longhorns emphatically finished their final Big 12 regular-season slate with a dominant 57-7 win over in-state rival Texas Tech. The Longhorns picked off Red Raiders quarterback Behren Morton three times, and they scored on offense, defense and special teams to run away with their first 11-1 record since 2009.
Texas came into the year with close to unprecedented expectations after two up-and-down seasons under Steve Sarkisian. That said, Sarkisian has handled his team perfectly and allowed them to meet the moment in a pivotal final Big 12 season. Texas plays for its first Big 12 championship in 15 years against Oklahoma State next week. With a win, the Longhorns could punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff.
What the heck did Nebraska do? Is there an exorcism we can perform or a GoFundMe to donate towards? The Big Ten's longest streak of missing bowls continued in the most painful possible fashion after the Cornhuskers lost 13-10 to Iowa for a fourth straight loss. Nebraska nabbed an interception off Deacon Hill that was pushed to midfield. The Cornhuskers only needed to hang onto the ball and travel 30 yards to set up a game-winning field goal.
Instead, Nebraska quarterback Chubba Purdy threw an interception with 15 seconds remaining. Iowa running back Leshon Williams took a carry for 22 yards to set up a game-winning 38-yard field goal. Nebraska fell to 5-7. The Cornhuskers rank last place nationally with 31 lost turnovers, five more giveaways than any other team in college football.
Nebraska coach Matt Rhule showed promise in his first season. It will take more than 12 games to rid the program of whatever curse hangs over it.
During the pandemic season in 2020, Arizona State handed Arizona one of the most embarrassing results in program history, a 70-7 decimation. The result was at the front of mind for UA coach Jedd Fisch as the Wildcats handed Arizona State one of the worst results in its history, a 59-23 beat down that wasn't as close as the final score.
Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita exploded for 527 yards passing and five touchdowns in the win, while receiver Tetairoa McMillan made an All-American case with 266 yards receiving and a score. The Wildcats went up 52-7 against ASU in the third quarter and never looked back.
Fisch put together a wildly impressive 9-3 season in his third year, just two years off a 1-11 debut. The season trails only 2014 as the best since the turn of the century at Arizona. Things are trending up.
Rivalry week brought a number of close calls. Somehow, only one top-10 team lost an upset: Louisville. The Cardinals outgained rival Kentucky by more than 100 yards, including both through the air and on the ground. It didn't matter. The Wildcats took advantage of three UL turnovers for a shocking 38-31 win.
The Cardinals lived on borrowed time over the past two weeks, but a loss to Kentucky drops Louisville to 10-2 and fully out of the College Football Playoff picture. More grating, UK extended its streak to five straight victories over Louisville, dating back to the Lamar Jackson era. Cardinals coach Jeff Brohm is of this rivalry, a former Louisville quarterback from the city. Without question, this loss will eat at him all offseason.
Rice put itself behind the 8-ball to make a bowl after losing to UConn early in the season, but it managed to win back-to-back games to end the year to reach true eligibility for the first time since 2014. The Owls went to a bowl last year after earning a trip at 5-7 due to APR, but Rice didn't need any help during its first year in the AAC. Rice edged out FAU 24-21 behind a trio of touchdown passes from AJ Padgett, an exciting young freshman. Coach Mike Bloomgren has taken the long way building up his program, but outside of the pandemic season, he has increased his record every year.
Loser: Oregon State
There are few indignities worse than losing a key rivalry game and following it by losing your coach a day later. Oregon State just lived it. The Beavers lost 31-7 against Oregon as Ducks quarterback Bo Nix threw for 367 yards and two touchdowns in a win. The Beavers mustered just 53 yards rushing in a disappointing effort. One day later, . Now, Oregon State is facing a critical moment. The Beavers are set to be left out of the power conferences and there's no roadmap for evaluating the quality of this job. It's a brutal time to be a Beavers fan after so much success in recent memory.