No. 11 Oregon beats No. 3 Ohio State in upset, shaking up College Football Playoff race

Erick Smith
USA TODAY

No. 11 Oregon scored the first major upset that will shake up the College Football Playoff picture Saturday by going on the road and stunning two-touchdown favorite No.  3 Ohio State 35-28.

Taking advantage of a shaky Buckeyes run defense, CJ Verdell pilled up 161 yards and two touchdowns rushing and added a touchdown reception to lead the way. The Ducks finished with 269 yards on the ground and 505 yards overall. Senior quarterback Anthony Brown was 17-of-35 for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

The victory was a major boost to Oregon and the Pac-12 as the Ducks seek their first playoff appearance since 2014 and the conference looks to end an absence in the field that dates to Washington's selection in 2016.

Making it more impressive was the effort came with All-America defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Justin Flowe sidelined. The defense allowed 612 yards, but came up big with three stops of fourth downs in its territory and then a late interception of Ohio State freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Oregon running back CJ Verdell (7) gets past Ohio State cornerback Cameron Brown on his way to a 77-yard touchdown during the third quarter at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

The Buckeyes who lost for the first time at home since a defeat to Oklahoma on Sept. 9, 2017, faces a difficult path to the playoff. A second loss in the Big Ten, even with a conference championship, would likely mean Ohio State misses the field after consecutive appearances in Ryan Day's first two seasons. 

While this was the first loss after 24 consecutive victories outside of the playoff, there were warning signs for the Buckeyes after their opening win against Minnesota. Though Stroud played well as the successor to Justin Fields, the Buckeyes allowed 205 yards rushing in the defeat of the Golden Gophers.

Stroud again had a good statistical day, throwing for 484 yards and three touchdowns. However, after hitting Jaxon Smith-Njigba on fourth-and-6 for a 15-yard touchdown to bring the Buckeyes within 35-28, Stroud couldn't engineer a game-tying scoring drive his final three opportunities.

Oregon opened the scoring in the first half with a 99-yard touchdown drive on 10 plays. The Ducks mixed run and pass effectively until Verdell went around left end for a 14-yard score.

Oregon ended the half with a 14-7 lead when Verdell again scored, this time on 14-yard pass from Brown. It was the first time Ohio State trailed at home since it played Nebraska on Nov. 3, 2018.