As talks of the College Football rankings looming on the horizons, some top 25 teams battled to solidify their rankings while others may have blown their chance to make it into the playoff race.
Thursday saw #20 Stanford travel to Oregon State in a low scoring affair. Oregon State’s defense almost held up an upset that would have probably knocked Stanford out of the top 25. Both teams were held scoreless in the first quarter, and Stanford’s lone touchdown would come in the fourth quarter with 20 seconds left to win the game, 15-14. Stanford was playing without junior running back Bryce Love and barely escaped, as they would have lost without 2 40 yard field goals and a 33 yard field goal by sophomore kicker Jet Toner (who wins the coolest name of the day game). The 3 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Keller Chryst to junior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside was half of what saved them from the upset that would have definitely diminished their playoff hopes. Oregon State received the ball back, but the Cardinal defense would intercept senior quarterback Darell Garretson to end the game. Stanford will continue their road games at Washington State.
On Friday, #24 Memphis hosted Tulane and put on an offensive clinic, scoring a whopping 56 points to Tulane’s 26. Kicking was a rarity on both sides, with both kickers only making appearances to kick extra points. Senior quarterback Riley Ferguson passed for 298 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception, but also ran for 2 touchdowns of his own. The Tigers made it look easy, generating 557 yards of total offense, with 7 offensive touchdowns scored by 6 different offensive players. However, the Tigers are looking to amp up their execution as they scored no point in the third quarter. They will travel to Tulsa next Friday to continue conference play.
#2 Penn State could not finish against #6 Ohio State after leading them 38-27 late in the fourth quarter. The game looked like it promised to be all about junior running back Saquon Barkley and senior quarterback Trace McSorely for the Nittany Lions, with Barkley opening the game with a 97 yard kickoff return, and McSorely passing to senior receiver Daesean Hamilton for a 13 yard touchdown after recovering an Ohio State fumble. Later in the quarter, the Buckeyes were able to generate enough offense to put a field goal on the board. The second quarter who turn into a slug fest. Barkley ran for a 36 yard touchdown, only for Ohio State to answer back with a 14 yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback JT Barrett to junior receiver Terry McLaurin. McSorely would rush for a 6 yard touchdown 2 plays later after a huge kickoff return, but sophomore running back Mike Weber would answer that touchdown with a 2 yard run of his own, making the score 28-17. Fighting for a chance at a better ranking, Ohio State’s defense came out and held Penn State to a touchdown midway through the third quarter, and a field goal midway through the fourth. They held Barkley to a total of 44 yards in the entire game. The offense came out a bit slow, but rallied to score 3 straight touchdowns, all on passes from Barrett, to win the game 39-38. Barrett ended the game with tremendous stats, completing 33 of his 39 passes for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns, as well as 95 yards on 17 rushes, truly looking like the Heisman contender everyone expected to see. Penn State will need major outside help in order to make the playoffs and will try to do their part at Michigan State, while Ohio State will look to strengthen their bid at Iowa.
#4 TCU was also part of an upset, losing to #25 Iowa State 14-7. Both sides struggled to make drives last and hold on to the football, with 4 turnovers occurring between both sides. Defensively, both teams showed moments of brilliance. Offensively, both sides have a lot of work to be done. TCU senior quarterback Kenny Hill completed 12 of his 25 passes for 135 yards, but had 2 interceptions and no touchdowns. On the other side, Iowa State senior quarterback Kyle Kempt completed 21 of his 35 attempts for 202 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Iowa State came up with critical red zone interceptions. TCU’s only score came from a 94 yard kickoff return to begin the third quarter by junior receiver KaVontae Turpin. Offensive efficiency will be a focus of practices this upcoming week for both teams as both teams will continue Big 12 play, tied with each other for 1st place. TCU will host Texas, and Iowa State will travel to West Virginia.
#5 Wisconsin started out a little slow at Illinois, but managed to finish an 8 minute drive at the end of the first quarter to create the first score of the game and establish a lead they would never relinquish to stay undefeated. Wisconsin’s defense would hold off the Illini to a field goal at the end of the first half, and would answer with one of their own, and their lone touchdown with 49 seconds left in the game for a final score of 24-10. Freshman running back for the Badgers Jonathan Taylor exited the game in the second quarter, and the impact was felt although many others stepped up to contribute to the offense. Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook didn’t have a phenomenal game, completing 10 out of his 19 pass attempts with an interception, but was part of a trick play that would let offensive lineman Michael Deiter score a touchdown to put the game away. The Badgers will keep an eye on Taylor’s injury as they travel to Indiana.
#8 Miami battled it out at North Carolina, allowing North Carolina to score 2 field goals after missing a field goal of their own before answering with a 51 yard touchdown pass right before the end of the first half from junior quarterback Malik Rosier to senior Christopher Herndon IV. But the Hurricanes came out strong after halftime, with a 71 yard touchdown pass from Rosier to freshman Jeff Thomas that would be followed by a field goal. UNC busted out a few trick plays, including a lateral pass to sophomore wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams for an 18 yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Beau Corrales. Back to back interceptions from sophomore quarterback Nathan Williams, who would be thrown in the game after freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt would leave the game in the first quarter, would be the first of his 3 total interceptions. Miami would finally capitalize on a 5 yard touchdown pass from Rosier to senior receiver Braxton Berrios to lead 24-13. On back to back plays, Elliot and Rosier would both be intercepted, and eventually Elliot would throw a touchdown to Corrales, but would fail the two-point conversion and be unable to convert on a fumble, with a fumble of their own. That would be the last score of the game for a final score of 24-19. Miami will host Virginia Tech next weekend as they battle for the Coastal title of the ACC.
#9 Notre Dame hosted #14 NC State and let them score early. The Wolfpack would block a punt and recover it in the endzone for the first score of the game, but the Fighting Irish answered right back with a 25 yard touchdown from junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush to senior tight end Durham Smythe to tie the game. Junior quarterback Ryan Finley would soon find sophomore receiver Kelvin Harmon for a 15 yard touchdown. This would be their last score of the game, and their defense would be unable to stop the Irish. Wimbush would run for a 3 yard touchdown of his own, then follow that with an 11 yard pass to sophomore receiver Kevin Stepherson to end the half. The Irish defense would come up big too, intercepting Finley for a 69 yard touchdown return by sophomore corner Julian Love, which was his second interception returned for a score this season. Junior running back Josh Adams would end the scoring with a 77 yard run late in the third quarter, making the score 35-14. Adams had a great night, rushing for 202 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Wimbush also had a good night, with 10 completions on 19 attempts for 104 yards and 2 passing touchdowns, with 21 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown as well. The Irish continue to get better each week, stopping a NC State team that leads the ACC Atlantic division. The Wolfpack will be tested as Clemson comes to town next week, while Notre Dame will host Wake Forest.
#10 Oklahoma hosted Texas Tech, and looked to be a shootout. Both teams scored on their first 3 possession, with both senior quarterback Nic Shimonek for the Red Raiders and senior quarterback Baker Mayfield marching their teams right down the field into the endzone. Shimonek threw 3 passes for scores to 3 different receivers, one to senior receiver Cameron Batson for 9 yards, one to junior receiver Keke Coutee for 70 yards, and one to senior receiver Dylan Cantrell for 42 yards, but the extra point would be missed on the first touchdown. On the other side, Mayfield threw a 24 yard touchdown to freshman CeeDee Lamb, senior fullback Dimitri Flowers ran for a 1 yard touchdown, and a 3 yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Marquise Brown from Baker would have the Sooners up 21-20. An interception by Shimonek would lead to another touchdown, this time a 5 yard run from sophomore running back Rodney Anderson. Although Mayfield would throw an interception in the third quarter, Texas Tech would be unable to take advantage of it, and another pass from Baker to Lamb would close out the scoring for the game at 49-27. The Sooners were able to hold possession of the ball for almost the entire 4th quarter to prevent the Red Raiders from a potential comeback, gaining 65 yards in 11 minutes and 16 seconds to end the game. Although Mayfield and Shimonek had similar stats, with Shimonek completing 22 of his 36 passes for 322 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception and Mayfield completing 22 of his 34 attempts for 281 yard, 4 touchdowns and an interception, Mayfield made the crucial plays when his team needed them. Anderson also stepped up for the Sooners on his first ever start, with 181 yards gained on 24 carries. The rushing corp for the Sooners gained 336 of the Sooner’s 617 yards. The Sooners will travel to in state and Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, with whom they currently split a 4-way for first place.
#11 Oklahoma State dominated possession at #22 West Virginia. The high scoring affair, ending in a 50-39 victory for Oklahoma State, came at the hand of four interceptions by junior quarterback Will Grier to make West Virginia’s race for the Big 12 title a little bit harder. Senior Mason Rudolph for the Cowboys ended the game with 20 completions of 34 attempts for 216 yards and 3 touchdowns, with an interception, while Grier completed 20 passes of his 42 attempts for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns, but his 4 interceptions would help make the victory easier for Oklahoma State. The game saw 9 total turnovers, 5 from West Virginia and almost every single one of them would result in points for Oklahoma State. West Virginia would not capitalize on any of Oklahoma State’s 3 fumbles, but return the interception in the 3rd quarter for a touchdown immediately after a blocked punt would be recovered for a touchdown by the Mountaineers in an attempt at making a comeback, but their offense would not be up to the challenge. The Cowboys defense would hold junior receiver David Sills V to just 44 yards and no touchdowns. Oklahoma State will continue Big 12 play against in state rival Oklahoma, and West Virginia will play Big 12 leader Iowa State.
#12 Washington and #13 Virginia Tech had few problems, hosting UCLA and Duke respectively. Washington generated 442 yards of total offense, with 333 yards coming from their running backs. Junior Myles Gaskin led the Huskies with 169 yards and a touchdown for a 44-23 victory, but senior running back Lavon Coleman would be the highlight of the day with 3 touchdowns on 94 yards on 14 touches. For the Virginia Tech Hokies, freshman quarterback Josh Jackson led his team to a 24-3 victory with 200 yards and a touchdown on 13 completions of 27 attempts. The Hokies will look to take out Miami in attempts to claim the title to the Coastal division of the ACC.
#15 Washington State went down 10-0 early at Arizona, and were never able to reclaim a lead. Sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate led the Wildcats to a decisive Pac-12 victory, winning 58-37. Tate completely dominated the game, completing 10 passes on 17 attempts for a whopping 275 yards and 2 touchdowns with an interception, and rushed for 146 yards on 16 carries with another touchdown, accounting for 421 yards of the Wildcats’ 585 total yards. Most of the rest of it belonged to freshman JJ Taylor, who rushed for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 touches, including a 79 yard rush that lead to a touchdown to put the Wildcats up 37-27 late in the third quarter. The Cougars replaced senior quarterback Luke Faulk with sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who completed 45 of 61 passes for 509 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 rushing touchdowns as well, but Hilinski was intercepted four separate times, one of which led to a score by the Wildcats and another returned for a touchdown. Washington State will host Stanford in a fight to remain in the Pac-12 North title race, while Arizona travels to Southern California to fight for 1st place in the Pac-12 South.
#16 Michigan State and #17 South Florida were also upsets that may have knocked them out of conference titles as well. Michigan State could not finish out on the road against Big Ten foe Northwestern, losing in 3 overtimes 39-31. USF also couldn’t hold out, hosting Houston. After being tied midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulls scored a field goal with just under 2 minutes left, but Houston would storm down the field, and a 20 yard touchdown run from sophomore quarterback D’Eriq King would seal the upset, 28-24.
#18 Central Florida would easily put away Austin Peay, 73-33. Although Austin Peay would tie the game in the first quarter, UCF would pull away and never look back. Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton for the Knights would be highly efficient, completing 24 of 26 attempts for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown of his own. The Knights were almost unstoppable on offense, setting a new school scoring record. They scored on their first 4 drives, although a fumble would snap the scoring. Overall, they scored on 10 of their 12 possessions, with 7 different players scoring 9 touchdowns including a 91 yard kick return for a touchdown by junior defensive back Mike Hughes. UCF looks to boost their ranking against SMU on the road next week.
#21 Southern California limited Arizona State to just 17 points on the night, beating them on the road 48-17. Sophomore quarterback for the Trojans Sam Darnold and junior running back Ronald Jones II accounted for 5 touchdowns and 482 yards out of the total 607 the Trojans gained as a unit. USC, attempting to forget the loss against Notre Dame, laid on the points against Arizona State to claim the 1st position in the Pac-12 South. The Trojans were up 31-3 before the Sun Devils would score their first of two touchdowns. The Trojans overall picked Arizona State apart, and ran them into the ground. USC will host Arizona in a game that could have big implications on the Pac-12 South title.
Georgia Tech tried to hang on at #7 Clemson, but could not generate the offense needed to keep up with the Tigers. A 38 yard pass from junior quarterback Kelly Bryant to junior receiver Deon Cain would be the first of Bryant’s 2 touchdown passes. After a Tech field goal, Bryant would complete a 20 yarder for a touchdown to junior tight end Milan Richard. A 2 yard touchdown run from freshman running back Travis Etienne would have the Tigers up 21-3 going into the half. The Tigers would score the lone points of the third quarter, a 29 yard field goal, and tech would score their only touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 22 yard yard run from junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall. Marshall, still struggling with his passing game, only completed 3 passes on 13 attempts for 32 yards. His run game would not be much better, gaining only 23 yards on 15 carries. Tech could not stop Bryant, who had 22 completions on 33 attempts for 207 yards on 2 touchdowns, rushing for 67 yards as well. The Tigers would gain 428 yards of total offense, evenly distributed through the run and pass game, and forced the Yellow Jackets to punt 9 times. Tech will have to determine how to give the offense the spark they need on offense before traveling to Virginia, while Clemson will travel to NC State in a game that will more than likely decide the ACC Atlantic division.
#3 Georgia got up big against Florida at Jacksonville and never looked back. The Dawgs came out read to play, scoring on their first 3 possessions. After forcing a Florida punt, senior running back Nick Chubb ran for a 6 yard touchdown which would be followed by a 13 yard interception return by senior safety Dominick Sanders. That would be followed by a 17 yard touchdown pass from freshman Jake Fromm to senior receiver Javon Wims. Senior running back Sony Michel would take the first play of the first possession 74 yards for a touchdown to lead 21-0 just in the first quarter. From there on, the Dawgs coasted to victory following another touchdown from Michel, a defensive touchdown off a fumble recovery, and a 39 yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Elijah Holyfield. The Dawgs didn’t ask much of Jake Fromm, who completed only 4 of 7 attempts with an interception, but the completions totaled 101 yards by only Wims and freshman running back D’Andre Swift alone. The running backs were again the main story, with 6 rushers amassing 292 yards and 4 touchdowns. Michel and Chubb continue to have impressive impacts for the Dawgs, splitting 214 yards between them with Michel carrying 137 of the yards on 6 carries. UGA continues their impressive season and amplifies their bid for a spot in the national playoff race. Their highly impressive running game relieves all pressure for the freshman quarterback Fromm, who still continues to make the necessary passes to sustain drives and create points. With a big Penn State loss, expect the Dawgs to move up to at least second in polls.
The first set of playoff rankings will be released on Tuesday, expect to see a local team making the top 4.