Even before Saturday’s huge slate of games had begun to commence, we knew college football Week 7 was offering something unique.
It started Friday night when both Syracuse and Cal knocked off Clemson and Washington State, respectively. That’s the No. 2 and No. 7 teams in the nation saying goodbye to their undefeated records. And let’s be honest, nobody saw either of these upsets coming.
Saturday was just as crazy. LSU upset Auburn. Boise State upset San Diego State. Arizona State put Washington down in a stunner almost as big as the Syracuse win over Clemson. Michigan, Miami, Oklahoma, USC and Wisconsin all had close shaves, while teams like Auburn, Navy, Texas Tech lost in painful ways.
In total, four top-10 teams lost in the span of just over 24 hours. It was as if everyone watching and playing college football went through an invisible portal without realizing it and landed in Bizarro World.
These were the biggest takeaways from a wacky, wild and landscape-altering weekend of college football.
Dino Babers and the Orange had Clemson’s number from the opening snap
Clemson was supposed to have no trouble beating Syracuse. After all, the Orange fell last year 54-0, entered Friday night’s game with a .500 record and were 24-point underdogs. Meanwhile, the Tigers have been mowing opponents down and were so impressive in recent weeks that Alabama’s hold on the No. 1 ranking wasn’t necessarily secure heading into the second half of the season.
Then the game happened. Clemson’s vaunted defense was not the same unit we’ve seen pulverizing opposing offensive lines all year. From the opening drive of the contest, it was bullied into submission by Syracuse’s offense, which scored the game’s first points when Dontae Strickland took a screen pass 23 yards to pay dirt (watch here). Instead of signaling a valiant effort that proved insufficient against the overwhelming favorite, this first drive proved the rule on this fated night, rather than the exception.
Kelly Bryant, who was already dealing with an ankle injury that clearly hobbled him, was forced from the game due to a concussion in the second quarter. With or without him, however, Clemson’s offense was incapable of doing enough consistent damage to Syracuse’s scrappy defense. Instead, it was the Orange who dictated the flow of the game, dominating the time of possession battle by 10 minutes and out-gaining their opponents by over 100 yards.
In the end, the Orange pulled off a 27-24 upset win at home. The significance of this win for their program cannot be overstated. If you’ve seen head coach Dino Babers’ spectacular, emotional post-game speech to his team in the locker room, then you know how much it meant to this team. If not, then you need to see it (watch here).
On the other side, we cannot commend head coach Dabo Swinney enough for the way he comported himself following the devastating loss. He embraced Babers afterwards and was seen telling him, “I’m so happy for you,” which is just stunning. The Tigers have their work cut out now to stay in the playoff hunt the rest of the way.
Cal Bears take a bite out of Luke Falk and the Cougars
Cal was so good at home late Friday night. Playing inspired ball in front of a half-packed house in which fans and volunteers were wearing respiratory masks due to smoke from raging fires on the Northern California coast, they jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and never looked back, winning in blowout fashion, 37-3.
It all started, and ended, with Cal’s defense. The Bears forced Luke Falk — a quarterback who had thrown just two interceptions in his first six games — into six turnovers (five interceptions and one lost fumble). The defensive line was a wrecking ball, and Washington State’s offensive line was repeatedly destroyed.
Cal has 9 sacks, 7 turnovers. Per @collegefb_ref no team has done that since at least 2000
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) October 14, 2017
That’s complete domination.
Washington State’s defense, which has been really impressive this year, was unable to do anything to stem the tide. Cal quarterback Ross Bowers played a clean game, the Bears ran the ball consistently and then at the end of the game Bowers sealed the victory with one of the most awe-inspiring rushing scores we’ve seen in years (watch here).
Michigan continues to underwhelm in OT win over Indiana
Michigan has a quarterback problem. Before he was injured, Wilton Speight was clearly demonstrating he was a liability. Now his replacement, John O’Korn, is proving he’s no better. O’Korn went 10-20 for just 58 yards Saturday against Indiana. If not for the effort of Karan Higdon, who rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, Michigan would have dropped its second straight game.
Hoosiers quarterback Peyton Ramsey didn’t have a good game. He threw two interceptions, the second of which ended the game in overtime after Higdon began the extra period with a brilliant touchdown run. In total, Indiana’s offense generated just 278 yards, including just 80 on the ground. Yet due to the offensive deficiencies Michigan is dealing with, this game did need overtime to decide the victor.
All year long we’ve been harping on the Wolverines. They just aren’t as strong as they need to be defensively — especially on the back end — and are truly mediocre on the offensive side of the ball. Last weekend’s loss to Michigan State was a huge wake-up call for anyone who needed to be convinced this team isn’t a championship contender. Saturday’s effort only further bolstered that as gospel truth.
Will Grier indomitable in barn burner against Texas Tech
With all the talk about offensive powerhouses like UCF, Ohio State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, not a lot has been said about the potent offense Will Grier is piloting for West Virginia. Let’s amend that, shall we?
Grier piled up 352 yards and five touchdowns passing Saturday at home against the Red Raiders, out-dueling Nic Shimonek in the 46-35 win. The Mountaineers struggled to run the ball, gaining just 1.5 yards per carry on the ground. It mattered not. When his team needed him to come through, down by 18 points in the third quarter, Grier rose up and threw four touchdowns in the game’s final 20-plus minutes of the game to claim the victory.
In particular, Grier’s connection with David Sills V is something to behold. The dynamic receiver had hauled in nine touchdown scores heading into Week 7 and had three more touchdowns in this one. The Big 12 is a hot mess in terms of any playoff consideration, with TCU being the only unbeaten team in the conference. But boy is it fun to watch. We cannot wait to see how things unfold the rest of the season.
Tennessee really does need to fire Butch Jones
It’s time. Really. Finally. It’s time.
Since the Volunteers won their first two games against cupcake opponents by large margins, they’ve been outscored 99-42 and have lost three of four games. We figured the shutout loss to Georgia might have been the final straw last weekend, but Tennessee didn’t make the move to fire Jones. Perhaps after watching the Vols flounder at home Saturday against a South Carolina squad that could only manage 15 points will finally prompt the school to make the necessary change.
Heck, some South Carolina fans trolled the Vols by weariung “Keep Butch Jones” shirts to Saturday’s game.
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 14, 2017
In four-plus seasons, Jones has consistently underwhelmed. He is great at bringing in recruits but hasn’t been able to do anything of substance with them, falling short of expectations while failing to capitalize on a weak SEC East.
And now that things are truly falling apart for this program, at least one recruit is jumping ship. One of the top running backs in the nation reopened his recruitment after watching Tennessee lose Saturday, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see more of the same in the coming weeks.
Red River Showdown continues to be a wild ride
For the fourth year in a row, the Red River Showdown between Oklahoma and Texas came down to one score. In the end, Baker Mayfield and Co. proved to have just a bit too much offensive firepower and won the heated rivalry game for the second year in a row, 29-24.
We can’t blame Sam Ehlinger for Texas’ loss. He battled like a champ, totaling 384 yards and two touchdowns. Instead, Texas simply couldn’t contain Oklahoma’s potent rushing attack or stop Mayfield when it mattered most. The Sooners racked up 174 yards and a touchdown on the ground, averaging a tidy 4.5 yards per carry. Mayflield did what he’s been doing all year, dealing strikes when needed to the tune of 302 yards and two touchdowns and making a bit of a scene at the end of it all.
Texas had two chances to score at the end of the game but came up empty on both of them. Oklahoma’s defensive line produced pressure, forcing errant throws by Ehlinger, who got banged up pretty good at one point and had to be replaced for a short while by Shane Buechele. The game ended when Texas’ offense failed to lateral its way to a desperation score as time expired.
The U has a new hero in Darrell Langham
Until last week when he hauled in the game-winning catch against Florida State, junior receiver Darrell Langham was likely not a guy many fans knew about. Prior to that game-winning catch, he had only three receptions to his credit for his entire tenure at the University. The catch he made to win that game was magnificent, but as we’re learning, it wasn’t an aberration.
Miami found itself down by two points, facing a fourth-and-10 from the Georgia Tech 43-yard line and just 42 seconds left on the clock. The Yellow Jackets had led since early in the game when they took a 7-3 lead, and the Hurricanes needed a miracle.
That’s when Langham stepped up for the second weekend in a row. He got just behind his defender, streaking down the right sideline. Quarterback Malik Rosier found him, getting the ball just over the outstretched hands of the Yellow Jackets cornerback, and just before the safety came crashing in to break up the play. Somehow, the ball got through. It was up for grabs, and Langham hauled it in off the bounce (watch here).
A few plays later, Miami won the game on a 24-yard field goal off the foot of Michael Badgley, who was a perfect 4-for-4 on the game.
LSU finds a way to shut down second-straight ranked SEC foe
After Troy took down the Tigers, it seemed like the program might be imploding. Athletic director Joe Alleva had a “gut check meeting” with head coach Ed Orgeron and his top assistants after that traumatic loss, and it seemed clear jobs were on the line. LSU responded by taking down Florida last weekend and then matched that tremendous effort with another huge win Saturday at home against Auburn, 27-23.
Gus Malzahn had his team humming heading into this game. It was on a four-game winning streak, having beaten its last four opponents by a combined score of 168-57. It was fair to wonder if LSU had enough offensive firepower to hang.
Rather than light up the scoreboard, however, LSU’s defense came alive in the second half. Auburn led by the score 20-0 at one point and took a 23-14 lead into halftime. It would not score a single point afterwards. The home team forced five straight punts (including one that was returned for a touchdown) and then closed out the game with two forced turnovers on failed fourth down attempts by Auburn.
COMEBACK COMPLETE! TIGERS WIN! TIGERS WIN! LSU defeats Auburn, 27-23, marking the largest come back in Tiger Stadium since 1949! pic.twitter.com/j6ECYgSN84
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 14, 2017
Clearly, Orgeron and his staff have figured some things out, including how to motivate their young players.
Sam Darnold has the kind of memory loss you want from a top QB
Mistakes happen. For some quarterbacks, they happen more often than you like. But it’s not making mistakes that defines great quarterbacks. It’s how they respond afterwards. Sam Darnold has not been sharp this year. He wasn’t sharp at all early on Saturday night against Utah, accounting for three fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown and one that turned into a touchdown on Utah’s next offensive possession.
USC went into the half down 21-7. History tells us the Trojans were doomed, because you have to go back to 2005 to find the last time they won a game they were losing by 14 points or more at halftime, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Of course, that’s all ancient history now.
Darnold had a magnificent second half. He threw two touchdown passes to get the game back to scratch, 21-21. Then he led an 11-play drive midway through the fourth quarter that culminated with a Reggie Bush-esque end zone flip over a would-be tackler by Ronald Jones II (watch here).
Utah did bounce back to score a touchdown on its next drive. However, the Utes flubbed their two-point attempt as they looked to win the game outright before the end of regulation. So, for a number of reasons the No. 13 Trojans will remain a one-loss team. But most notably, they remain a one-loss team because they have a quarterback who doesn’t know when to quit and has a bad memory about mistakes. And that’s a good thing.
Washington engineers comedy of errors in first loss of season
Arizona State had given up 30 or more points in 11 straight games heading into Saturday night’s contest against Washington, which averaged 43 points per game. A blowout was what we expected, and on paper it’s what should have happened. But because it’s Week 7 and everything was upside down for many of the teams around the nation, the Huskies were absolutely awful.
They had five straight punts in the first half, and the offense was as stagnant as it’s ever been in the Jake Browning era.
Then when Washington finally got into scoring range in the third quarter, kicker Van Soderberg shanked two attempts inside 27 yards. Heck, sure-handed Dante Pettis finally got a chance to make a big play on a punt return in the fourth quarter and nearly turned it over, dropping it before ultimately hauling it in.
It was just wild.
Every time you thought that maybe, now might be the time the Huskies will finally wake up, they did something else that just made you shake your head.
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 15, 2017
In the end, Washington gained just 230 total yards, converted just 3-of-14 third downs (2-of-2 on fourth down) and didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter by a team that ranked in the bottom 100 in pretty much every valid stat in terms of passing defense.
On the flip side, ASU won, 13-7, against a top-5 team for the first time in 11 tries. It was a pretty remarkable game all around.
Adding insult to injury, Washington’s starting cornerback, Jordan Miller, had to be carted of the field with an air cast applied to his left leg, which appeared to be broken on the big play on fourth down with under two minutes remaining that sealed the win for Arizona State.
Boise State turns back the clock in big win over San Diego State
San Diego State is trying to be the new Boise State as the dominant force in the Mountain West. They had the best record last year and came into Week 7 undefeated, thanks in large part to the exceptional play of running back Rashaad Penny.
Saturday night in San Diego it was Boise State that owned the field, putting an end to the idea of an undefeated season for the Aztecs with a convincing 31-14 win.
Penny was bottled up in a major way. Aside from his 21-yard run and 11-yard touchdown run, he went for just 21 yards on his remaining 19 carries.
The Broncos controlled the outcome almost from the start. A special teams touchdown was followed up by a defensive touchdown to give them an early 14-0 lead. From there, Boise State’s defensive front controlled the trenches and dominated throughout.
As great as the Aztecs have been so far this season, they were awful Saturday night and will likely drop outside the top 25 when the latest rankings come out.
Lamar Jackson won’t give up Heisman without a fight
For a while, it sure looked like Week 7 would mark the beginning of the end of Lamar Jackson’s repeat Heisman bid. Near the end of the third quarter, the Cardinals were down by a touchdown when Jackson threw a bad interception to Boston College linebacker Wyatt Ray, who returned it deep into Louisville territory. Four plays later, the Eagles had a two-touchdown lead with less than a quarter left to play. At this point in the game, Jackson’s stats were…not good.
— Jesse Reed (@JesseReed78) October 14, 2017
Then the dynamic quarterback put on his Superman cape and went to work. Jackson nearly brought the Cardinals back in this one, ultimately falling just short in the 45-42 loss for the Cardinals. However, he did finish with awe-inspiring numbers: 512 total yards and five touchdowns.
Jackson is the only reason Louisville has won a single game this year. The Cardinals are awful at running the ball conventionally, have a crappy offensive line and a terrible defense. If not for a fumble by junior wide receiver Jaylen Smith Saturday, however, they’d likely be 5-2 this season, and it’s all because of Action Jackson.
One final note: Through seven games, Jackson is averaging 430 yards per game and has totaled 26 touchdowns. That’s…not bad.
— Josh Rosen had an awful game after a Week 6 bye, throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns. He was upstaged in a major way by Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate, who ran for 230 yards on 15 carries with two scores (second game in a row he’s eclipsed 200 yards on the ground) and threw for 148 yards and a score in a 47-30 blowout over UCLA late Saturday night.
— Bradley Chubb is one tough hombre. The NC State defensive end suffered a gruesome finger injury during his team’s 35-17 win over Pitt that freaked him out and made fans watching dry heave (look here, if you dare). Yet he came back after a short break that involved getting his finger popped back into place and taped up. Already a player many feel will be a lock as a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Chubb scored some points with this show of toughness.
— Cam Akers kept Florida State from sinking into an even deeper hole. James Blackman is floundering badly right now. He threw two interceptions against Duke Saturday and has thrown four in his last two games. Akers’ 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the difference in an otherwise ugly game for the Seminoles, who won 17-10 to improve to 2-3 on the season.
— Army won its second game of the season in which no forward pass was completed. That’s pretty remarkable. Now at 5-2 on the season, Army has completed a grand total of eight passes in seven games.
— Maybe next time Baylor plays in Stillwater its fans shouldn’t pour green dye into the Edmon Low Library fountain during Oklahoma State’s homecoming weekend. That prank backfired in a major way, as the Cowboys romped over the Bears, 59-16, setting a school record 747 total yards along the way.
— Navy’s time among the nation’s ranked teams was short lived. After working their way into the national rankings with five wins to open the season, the No. 25-ranked Midshipmen were taken down by Memphis, 30-27. Navy turned the ball over five times in the game, leading to 13 points for the Tigers.
— Neither wind, nor rain, nor lightning, nor multiple delays could keep TCU from winning Saturday, on the road against Kansas State. Without quarterback Jesse Ertz, the Wildcats were just unable to do much at all offensively. Kenny Hill and Co. weren’t their usual explosive selves but didn’t need to be, winning comfortably, 26-6.
— Wisconsin remains unbeaten after taking down Purdue (17-9) for the 12th time in a row. It wasn’t a pretty win, but as we predicted, running back Jonathan Taylor went bonkers, rushing for 219 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries and adding another 17 yards on a reception.
— Here’s all you really need to know about Ohio State’s trip to Nebraska: The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on their first eight drives of the game, winning 56-14. Their defense was so stifling in the first half that when Nebraska finally earned its second first down of the game in the second quarter, Cornhuskers fans sarcastically celebrated by releasing around 3,000 balloons and cheering with all their might.
— Arkansas never had a chance going into Tuscaloosa against the ticked-off Nick Sabans…we mean, the Crimson Tide. After cutting it closer than it should have last weekend against Texas A&M, Alabama was going to have a big game this weekend at home. It actually wasn’t as clean a game as we thought it might be, but the Razorbacks were never close in the 41-9 shellacking.
— UCF entered Week 7 with the highest-scoring offense in the nation. It will keep that distinction entering Week 8 after putting 63 on the board against East Carolina. The Knights can score on any given play and casually put up 600 yards in Saturday’s game. Keep an eye out for this potent American Athletic squad later this year.
— We give Missouri a ton of credit for putting 28 points on the board against Georgia. Quarterback Drew Lock is a scrapper and threw all four touchdowns the Tigers scored. But the machine that is Georgia’s rushing attack just chewed up the Missouri defense and spat it out to the tune of 370 yards and four touchdowns en route to the Bulldogs running away with the game, 53-28.
— Don’t fall asleep on South Florida. Charlie Strong’s Bulls are doing all the right things these days and are on track to potentially head into the final weekend of the regular season for a head-to-head battle against UCF in which both teams could conceivably be undefeated.
— One week after taking down Michigan at The Big House, Sparty hung on to beat Minnesota, 30-27. The Golden Gophers used a furious fourth-quarter barrage of offense to make the game seem closer that it was, scoring 21 points in that final stanza. Michigan State’s rushing attack was the difference, as LJ Scott and Madre London combined for 268 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.