Correction: Utah is ranked No. 24 in the AP and Coaches poll.
Defense Overcomes Turnovers To Win Conference Championships
Clemson did not play a clean game against Louisville, throwing three interceptions and fumbling twice. But, what may be the nation’s best defense held the line. The Tigers restricted Lamar Jackson to a relatively pedestrian 457 total yards and three touchdowns on 75 touches. Linebacker Ben Boulware had 18 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and at least one chokehold. Clemson held on for a 42-36 win.
This may have been a playoff eliminator. It’s hard finding another loss for Clemson during the regular season, much less the two it would take to get Louisville back in the ACC title mix. Not a damning loss for the Cardinals, but, with a clear preference toward conference champions, it’s tough to foresee a non-chaos situation where they reach the playoff.
Michigan Is Still Standing
Michigan hosted Wisconsin in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines won 14-7, for Jim Harbaugh’s first “big” regular season victory. Michigan’s defense steamrolled for four quarters. The Badgers’ opening 37-yard drive was their longest of the game. The Wolverines’ offense got a ground game going against a good Badger front. Michigan would have earned a comfortable win, but for that pesky field goal kicking.
The Wolverines early Colorado scuffle looks less embarrassing with each passing week. While it’s too soon to write off road trips to MSU and Iowa, it looks like the B1G East may be decided in Columbus at the end of November. Michigan will need more tuning to be ready for that game. The Buckeyes kept nothing in the can against former coordinator Chris Ash.
Washington Looks Like Playoff Material
Vegas was trying to tell us Stanford was not Stanford this year. Washington showed us, with an emphatic 44-6 win. The Huskies dominated both lines of scrimmage. Their passing game (210 yards on 21 attempts), was efficient. Washington converted third downs. They stopped Stanford from converting. Christian McCaffrey managed just 79 yards from scrimmage on 17 touches. We’d say Washington “out-Stanforded” the Cardinal but they didn’t sprinkle in the customary ludicrous conservatism.
Chris Petersen remains one of college football’s best coaches. He has a lot of well-drilled talent at Washington. It is the Pac 12. Someone will give the Huskies another shootout. But, right now, there are zero Top 20 teams left on Washington’s schedule. Colorado, No. 21, is the only potential title game opponent ranked. The Huskies have to be in one’s playoff projection at this point.
Florida State May Have The Worst Power 5 Defense
The Tar Heels hit a 54-yard field goal, nixing a late Florida State comeback. The Seminoles fell 37-35, all but ending latent hopes of re-entering the conference title or playoff discussion. One could opt for advanced metrics. But, standard ones will do just fine. Florida State’s defense, which had four and five-star guys returning in all three phases, is a comprehensive disaster.
Florida State ranks 125th so far in yards/play defense (10th in 2015). They are 100th in opponent 3rd down conversion percentage. They rank 125th in opponent red zone touchdown percentages. They have conceded 20 plays of 30 yards or longer through five games, ranking 127th nationally. They are 115th against the pass by rating, 125th by yards/attempt.
Some of that is playing North Carolina and Louisville so far. Not all of it. Time for Jimbo to sidle off to LSU?
The Longhorns Ain’t Right
We thought Oklahoma State would be a turning point game for Charlie Strong. After Texas’ 49-31 defeat, things definitely took a turn. Strong received a dreaded vote of confidence, and only until season’s end. After reformating the offense (with some success), the defense is malfunctioning. Strong has revoked playcalling duty from DC Vance Bedford. That’s before we check in on how Texas’ special teams fared.
It’s year three. Strong is 13-16 as Texas coach, 9-10 in the Big 12. The team he inherited won 26 games the previous three seasons. Strong can still rebound, beat Oklahoma, and make a run through the lighter portion of the schedule. But, right now, it’s fair to ask what the heck is going on here. Texas bigwigs appear to be doing just that.
The Playoff Is Putting a Damper On The Big 12
Oklahoma held off TCU in a 52-46 shootout that produced more than 1,000 yards of total offense. Had we told you that before the season, you would presume it’s something people would be excited about. But, the Sooners are out of the playoff. The conference’s best bets are Baylor and West Virginia running the table. Those teams won by a combined four points against Iowa State and Kansas State this past weekend.
As national eyes fixate on the playoffs, how many people will be jazzed about a Sugar Bowl berth in Trump Country?
Michigan State Needs Improvement
The Spartans hit the road after a hellish loss to Wisconsin, and then lost to Indiana in overtime. MSU found R.J. Shelton for an 86-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. That was about the only positive takeaway. Michigan State’s offense was unremarkable. The vaunted Spartan D could not stop Indiana from passing or converting third downs. “Disrespekt” will be plentiful this week and warranted.
Michigan State may be out of the B1G race. That doesn’t mean they won’t fight to the death at home to take the Maize and Blue down with them.
LSU Won’t Miss Cam Cameron
The Coach O era in Baton Rouge got off to a much more prolific start. LSU throttled Missouri 42-7. The Tigers averaged 7.73 yards/play. That was their best yards/play showing in the regular season against a Power 5 team since winning 52-3 over Ole Miss in 2011. They did that without Leonard Fournette.
Missouri is no juggernaut. Their defense is not what it was last season. But, winning in that manner highlights the depth of talent on LSU’s offense and how limiting the previous coaching staff was.
That North Carolina Quarterback Is Pretty Good
Tar Heel junior Mitch Trubisky has been the quarterback no one has talked about. This week, everyone will be talking about how no one has been talking about him. Trubisky ranks 6th nationally in passer rating and 8th in yards/attempt. He has not thrown an interception in 175 attempts. Four of the top 12 FBS passers so far play in the ACC. That group does not include Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson.
Pitt Produced The Bad Beat of the Week
Our picks have been murdered by bad beats and missed field goals. The worst last week was Pitt. Marshall came roaring back, cutting the lead to 30-27 in the fourth quarter. Pitt completed a 54-yard touchdown pass with 1:04 remaining to make it 37-27. Avonte Maddox returned an interception for a touchdown with no time left to make it 43-27. The spread was Pitt -15.5.
This Iowa GIF is Pretty Great
Iowa signed Kirk Ferentz to a lengthy extension. They have followed that up with a profound, but predictable regression to the mean. The Hawkeyes lost to FCS North Dakota State. They did not outclass Rutgers. They lost, at home, to a not very good Northwestern team. The myriad of reactions above depict the steady coast back to reality.