College Football Playoff back door opens for Ohio State football with Utah win over USC

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State looks like it’s going to the College Football Playoff, after all.

The Buckeyes can thank the team it beat in last year’s Rose Bowl.

No. 11 Utah beat No. 4 Southern California 47-24 in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday in Las Vegas, opening the back door Ohio State needed to reach the CFP.

"Coach (Ryan) Day, you're welcome," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said postgame.

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It was the second loss for USC, both to Utah. The Utes won 43-42 at home in October. Ohio State rallied to beat Utah 48-45 in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

No two-loss team has ever been selected for the playoff.

Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Money Parks (10) runs the ball for a touchdown against the Southern California Trojans during the second half of the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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USC (11-2) overtook Ohio State (11-1) in the rankings after the Buckeyes’ 45-23 loss to Michigan (12-0) in their regular-season finale. That left the OSU ranked No. 5 and needing help from either a USC loss or, less likely, a big enough loss by No. 3 TCU (12-0) against Kansas State in the Big 12 championship Saturday to cause the CFP selection committee to bump OSU into the four-team field.

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No. 1 Georgia (12-0) and No. 2 Michigan are considered locks to make the CFP even with losses in their conference games Saturday. Georgia plays No. 4 LSU (9-3) for the SEC title. Michigan plays unranked Purdue for the Big Ten championship.

Utah's Ja'Quinden Jackson (3) scores a touchdown against Southern California during the first half of the Pac-12 championship game.

Utah defeats Southern California 47-24

USC looked like it might cruise to victory Friday. Its Heisman Trophy-favorite quarterback Caleb Williams made several highlight-worthy plays in leading the Trojans to a 17-3 lead.

But after USC failed on a fourth-and-8 from the Utah 37, the momentum shifted. Utah scored two touchdowns, the second with 2 seconds left in the second quarter, to tie the game at halftime.

Utah took the lead with a touchdown in the third quarter on a 57-yard pass from Cameron Rising to Money Parks on third-and-19.

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Williams, who suffered a gash on his right pinky finger early, became hobbled with what appeared to be a knee injury, and the Trojans’ offense stumbled.

Utah added a field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 27-17.

The Trojans came alive to score a touchdown to pull within 3 points, but Utah answered with a 60-yard touchdown pass and added two late touchdowns.

Utah wide receiver Money Parks (10) runs the ball for a touchdown against Southern California during the second half of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

When will CFP rankings be released?

The CFP selections will be announced Sunday. Alabama is No. 6, but the Crimson Tide, like the Buckeyes, don't play this weekend.

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