It's getting close at the top. Some dominant performances, upsets and dark horses emerging. Here are my highlights of the week...
The Playoff Contenders…
Boston College 28-34 No.1 Clemson
The big story in Death Valley happened before the game. Clemson’s star quarterback Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19 and was ruled out of this game and next week’s matchup with Notre Dame. Clemson looked a little out of sorts and Boston College took advantage, taking a 28-10 lead at the half and chasing a famous victory.
19-year-old DJ Ugaleielei stepped in and impressed. The 6’4” 250 lb freshman showed real arm strength, throwing for two touchdowns and 342 yards, and decent wheels, running for another touchdown. He led Clemson back to a comeback win which saw Travis Etienne become the all-time leading rusher with 4,644 yards. Clemson moved to 7-0 and the freshman quarterback will have a big test next week at Notre Dame.
No.4 Notre Dame 31-13 Georgia Tech
Not the 73 points Clemson put on Georgia Tech, but a comfortable win for the Fighting Irish which sets them up for next week’s preview of the ACC title game vs. the Tigers. Ian Book completed 69% of his passes, throwing for 199 yards and a touchdown in another solid performance behind 227 yards rushing from Notre Dame.
Mississippi State 0-41 No.2 Alabama
The Tide can count themselves a little unlucky not to have hit the top spot in this week’s AP Top 25 poll. It’s hard to find a weakness in their play. Their defense handed Mike Leach his first career shutout and their high-octane offense is firing on all fronts. Mac Jones, who some predicted was merely keeping the quarterback seat warm for top recruit Bryce Young, is a Heisman contender. Jones threw four touchdown passes to DeVonta Smith, who had more yards receiving (203) than Mississippi State’s total offense (200). Try and stop the pass and you have running back Najee Harris to contend with. He ran for 119 yards. Alabama travel to LSU next weekend, Mississippi State need to reset against a Vanderbilt team having a better season than expected.
No.3 Ohio State 38-25 No.18 Penn State
The Buckeyes are finding their rhythm two games in. Their defense held Penn State to just 44 yards rushing. They have a strong offensive line and a balanced offense that ran for 200 yards. They also have quarterback Justin Fields, who is a likely top five draft pick in 2021. Fields completed 28 of 34 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Olave is fast becoming his favourite target, catching 7 passes for 130 yards. WR Jahan Dotson was the standout for the Nittany Lions, catching 8 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns.
Knocking on the door…
No.5 Georgia 14-3 Kentucky
Georgia’s defense returned to its stingy self after the mauling by Alabama, holding the Wildcats to a field goal. Running back Zamir White was the star of the show, running for 131 yards and his sixth straight game with a touchdown. The Bulldogs’ hope for a playoff spot seem to rest on the inexperienced shoulders of QB Stetson Bennett. He ran for a score but also threw two interceptions. If he can find his groove, Georgia could be in the mix.
Memphis 10-49 No.7 Cincinnati
How long can the Bearcats keep flying under radar? Cincinnati swept Memphis aside with three passing and two rushing touchdowns from their impressive quarterback Desmond Ridder as they moved to 6-0. Could they be dark horse for the College Football Playoff?
Arkansas 31-42 No.8 Texas A&M
The Aggies continue to be a dark horse, beating a spirited Arkansas that has exceeded expectations this season under coach Sam Pittman. Quarterback Kellen Mond broke Texas A&M’s all-time passing yards record, moving to 10,015 career yards, and passing one Johnny Manziel.
Western Kentucky 10-41 No.11 BYU
Brigham Young were dominant in this game, up 35-3 at the half. QB Zach Wilson could be a Heisman contender. He threw for three touchdowns in the first half alone against the Hilltoppers. BYU’s dominant win sets up a big matchup against Boise State this weekend. The No.25 Broncos beat Air Force 49-30.
Climbing the rankings…
Missouri 17-41 No.10 Florida
It all kicked off in the Sunshine State as Florida QB Kyle Trask took a late hit at the end of the first half. Incensed Gators coach Dan Mullen ran on to the field, sparking a mass brawl which saw three players ejected. Mullen and his team came out fired up for the second half, which saw them roll over Missouri and climb the AP rankings.
No.20 Coastal Carolina 51-0 Georgia State
The Chanticleers (apparently derived from the rooster in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”) annihilated Georgia State and are moving up the AP Top 25.
No.23 Iowa State 52-22 Kansas
The Cyclones were dominant against Kansas, RB Breece Hall has run for over a hundred yards in six games this year as Iowa State remain in contention in the Big 12.
No.24 Oklahoma 62-28 Texas Tech
A stronger defense and elimination of turnovers from QB Spencer Rattler saw the Sooners move to 4-2. They scored 21 points in the first quarter as they torched Texas Tech. Backup QB Tanner Mordecai saw some action, coming in with Oklahoma 55-14 up in the third.
Texas 41-34 No.6 Oklahoma State
The increased competition in the Big12 this year may well be their undoing for a place in the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State were outgunned by the Longhorns, despite 187 yards receiving from Tylon Wallace and 400 yards passing from QB Spencer Sanders.
Texas LB Joseph Ossai looks a shoo-in for a first-round draft pick. He had twelve tackles and three sacks, including the game-winner, flattening Sanders to end the game in overtime.
No.15 North Carolina 41-44 Virginia
The Tar Heels fell out of contention in the ACC with an upset loss to the Cavaliers. Sam Howell threw four touchdowns to try and bring UNC back, but defensive errors cost them, and they slide back down the rankings.
Michigan State 27-24 No.13 Michigan - The Paul Bunyan Trophy
I had predicted a comfortable won for the Wolverines in my piece for Ninety-Nine yards last week, saying Michigan State needed to establish a running game to have any chance of contending. Connor Heyward is a pass catching running back whose two scores and strong play opened up the passing attack for the Spartans. QB Ricky Lombardi threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a shocking upset, giving coach Mel Tucker his first win, and nullifying Michigan’s promising opening win over Minnesota.
Look out for:
The last of the Power 5 conferences, the Pac-12 kicks off this weekend, with Stanford travelling to No.12 Oregon and No.20 USC and star QB Kedon Slovis open vs. Arizona State.
Attention will be on No.1 Clemson vs. No.4 Notre Dame in the ACC and Florida-Georgia for supremacy in the ACC and SEC East, respectively.
On TV - you can see one of this season’s surprise packages, No.25 Liberty travel to Virginia Tech and the big SEC East showdown sees No.8 Florida host No.5 Georgia at 8.30pm GMT. No.7 Texas A&M travel to South Carolina, showing at midnight and North Carolina State host No.11 Miami at 6.30am, all on BT Sport ESPN.
Here’s this week’s AP Top 25:
1 (1) Clemson
2 (2) Alabama
3 (3) Ohio State
4 (4) Notre Dame
5 (5) Georgia
6 (7) Cincinnati
7 (8) Texas A&M
8 (10) Florida
9 (11) BYU
10 (9) Wisconsin
11 (12) Miami
12 (14) Oregon
13 (17) Indiana
14 (6) Oklahoma State
15 (20) Coastal Carolina
16 (19) Marshall
17 (23) Iowa State
18 (22) SMU
19 (24) Oklahoma
20 (21) USC
21 (25) Boise State
22 (-) Texas
23 (13) Michigan
24 (-) Auburn
25 (-) Liberty