10. Playoff Buster?
It started well enough for Ole Miss against an unbeaten Memphis squad; two drives, two touchdowns, and a 14-point lead. Just before the half, quarterback Paxton Lynch and the Tigers caught fire and held off a second-half comeback by the Rebels to upset the nation’s No. 13 team 37-24. Memphis moved to 6-0 on the season with a signature win over one of the SEC’s best. Memphis should be favored in every remaining game with a showdown at Houston on November 24th looming large. If both teams are unbeaten heading into the game, it could end up being a de facto playoff game depending on how the rest of the season plays out with the winner being a playoff buster.
9. What Quarterback Controversy?
With Ezekiel Elliot running the way he has this year, Ohio State hasn’t needed much production from the quarterback position. Cardale Jones was ineffective throwing the ball against Penn State, but J.T. Barrett and Elliot took over the second quarter with three touchdowns between them. Barrett finished the game with two touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns. Ohio State has looked rather lackluster for much of the season, but the Buckeyes have gotten the benefit of the doubt in the polls as they’ve kept winning. Against the Nittany Lions, Ohio State looked like the team that was favored to repeat as National Champion at the beginning of the season. It’s not a coincidence that it started when Barrett started taking more snaps.
8. Cook’n with Gas:
Florida State was bogged down with a mediocre Louisville team before Dalvin Cook took over. Cook has been banged up this year, but no one has been more important to his team’s success thank Cook. With Jameis Winston off to the NFL, this is Dalvin Cook’s team, and he has almost single-handedly carried to Seminoles to wins over USF, Miami, and Louisville this year. He’s up to 792 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing significant time with injury this year. He’s averaging a whopping 9.0 yards per carry. Florida State goes on the road this week to face Georgia Tech; then the Seminoles are at home against Syracuse before their showdown at Clemson on November 7th. If Cook stays healthy, he should find himself in the thick of the Heisman race as the season continues.
7. The Utes keep on Winning:
Utah will be a trendy upset pick up until they lose, if they lose. That was the case again this week with Arizona State headed to Salt Lake City. The popular pick looked good headed to the fourth quarter with the Sun Devils leading Utah 18-14, but in the year of the running back, Utah’s took over. Devontae Booker had touchdown runs of 25 and 62 yards as Utah finished off Arizona 34-18. Utah had trouble moving the ball on the ground until the fourth quarter as they wore down Arizona State. Booker’s two fourth-quarter touchdown runs accounted for 87 of his 118 yards. He averaged 1.6 yards per carry on his remaining 19 carries. Utah’s defense was even better holding the Sun Devils to just 15 yards on the ground. Utah moves to 3-0 in the Pac-12 South, every other team in the division already has two conference losses.
6. Iowa just keeps getting better:
Despite being 6-0 headed into the game against Wisconsin, Iowa found themselves ranked just 17th, last among Power 5 conference unbeaten. It was warranted to an extent; the Hawkeyes were unbeaten, but they hadn’t beaten anyone of significance or anyone insignificant with authority. That changed on Saturday when they crushed Northwestern 40-10 with a second-half onslaught that saw the Hawkeyes outscore the Wildcats 24-0, blowing open what was a close game. It wasn’t all good news for Iowa though, leading rusher Jordan Canzeri left the game after just one carry; he had 43 for 256 yards last week against Illinois. Sophomore Akrum Wadley filled in nicely with 26 carries for 204 yards and four touchdowns. In a quirk of scheduling, Iowa will miss Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State from the Big Ten – East and took one step closer to the Big Ten Championship Game.
5. It’s a Team Game:
The big news in Florida this week should have been the anticipated matchup between LSU and the Gators, but instead Will Grier’s suspension dominated the headlines. How would the Gators respond with their quarterback gone for the season? Turns out, Florida responded just fine. The Gators didn’t miss Grier as much as they missed their normally stout defense as LSU scored 35 points. Leonard Fournette provided the hammer while it was quarterback Brandon Harris who had the breakout game of his career. Fournette was actually held below his season average rushing with “only” 180 yards. Harris was nearly flawless, going 13 for 22 for 202 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. The loss of Grier was felt most in clutch time. Down seven in the fourth quarter with five minutes to play, Treon Harris and Florida couldn’t gain a yard. LSU has a surprising Western Kentucky team next week, then a week off before traveling to Alabama on November 7th.
4. It’s a four-quarter game:
But maybe Notre Dame only needs two of them. Notre Dame jumped on USC early for a 24-10 lead. USC, who became team turmoil during the week, could have folded up shop on the road and gotten blown out. Instead, they fought on scoring 21 unanswered to take a 31-24 lead. Unfortunately for the Trojans, who held Notre Dame to only seven points during the second and third quarter, the Irish exploded for 17 unanswered in the fourth. Notre Dame scored 38 points in the first and fourth quarters; who needs all four? Notre Dame must now hit the road for games against Temple and Pittsburgh. If the Irish keep winning, their November 28th game at Stanford could have playoff implications… for both teams.
3. They are who we thought they were.
Stanford started the season with an upset loss at Northwestern. That loss has looked less egregious after the first month of the season as Northwestern kept winning games in September. Since then Stanford has gone unbeaten including wins at USC, at Oregon State and then hammering Arizona and UCLA the last two weeks. Stanford has done it with a strong offensive line and a powerful running game. The Cardinal scored 56 points while only throwing the ball 16 times against UCLA. The loss to Northwestern is beginning to look like an anomaly much like Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech last year. Just like the Buckeyes, if Stanford can continue to win, they could play themselves back into the Top 4.
2. You’re gonna do what?
Incredibly Alabama was ranked 46th in both passing and rushing offense coming into the game against Texas A&M. The prevailing thought to beating Alabama has involved shutting down the running game and making the Tide beat you through the air. So Texas A&M comes out in a base nickel defense? Predictably, Derrick Henry rushed 10 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. Henry finished with 236 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. The quick start by the Tide helped force Texas A&M to become one-dimensional. A one-dimensional offense is a bad way to be against Alabama, and the Tide forced Aggie quarterbacks into four interceptions, three from Kyle Allen including two returned for touchdowns. Alabama gets Tennessee at home before hosting LSU which looks like it could be an early elimination game for a spot in the four-team playoff.
1. That didn’t just happen:
On Scout Battleground last week I said, “I can’t see a logical way that Michigan State wins this game, so you have to look for the illogical.” The play that won it for the Spartans (Link) was as improbable as any play can be. Michigan State played their best game of the season to that point including relying on Connor Cook, who put the ball in the air for 39 times for 328 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He only completed 18 passes, but he made the most of those completions, and no turnovers were key. Michigan played good enough to win, but sometimes the football Gods have other ideas. Michigan State had slowly fallen the last couple of weeks with lackluster wins, but that will change this week.