Happy Monday folks, anyone else feel like a weight has been lifted this weekend, a tiny bit of hope on what’s been a stinker of a year? Part of that was due to a couple of absolute blockbusters in the college football world – leaving Rob in particular as a very happy man.
And, weirdly it feels like we’re approaching the business end of the season in some conferences, whilst the PAC-12 saw its first action of the season on Saturday. A sure fire sign of the times.
Whilst most of us slept in the early hours of Sunday morning, Ian Book and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dealt Clemson’s Championship hopes a huge blow in double overtime. Earlier, in the age old Florida – Georgia rivalry game, Kyle Trask set out his Heisman stall by taking apart the Bulldogs defense in Jacksonville.
On the West Coast, two of the teams that we highlighted on the pod last week came up against each other. Arizona State seemed in control of their game with USC, but then in the space of 95 seconds the Trojans scored twice to come back and put them in control of the PAC-12 South. Plenty to go round then!
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The big game of the weekend saw the Fighting Irish overcome the favourites for the National Championship in double overtime. In what was a ding dong battle between two very good teams, it was Ian Book and Kyren Williams that stood up to be counted when it mattered most. Williams rumbled for 140 yards and 3 TDs, including the game winner, as he showed off a skill set which will surely see him near the top of the 2021 running back class. Book has had his detractors but on Saturday night he looked calm and composed as he kept the offense on time, often taking off and picking up the first down with his legs in critical situations.
On defense, the Fighting Irish adopted a ‘bend, don’t break’ strategy in order to stay in the game against the high powered Clemson offense. Crucially, they took advantage of the few mistakes that Clemson did make as well, with 5:58 left in the 2nd quarter, Travis Etienne coughed the ball up behind the line of scrimmage and future NFL linebacker Jeremiah Owuso-Koramoah took the ball to the house. The win saw Notre Dame bumped up to 2nd in the AP25 and with four winnable games left on the schedule, it’s their spot to lose.
- Liberty Flames
Coming into this weekend, the Liberty Flames were 6-0 and ranked 25th in the nation. On Saturday night they faced off against ACC opposition in Virginia Tech, and they were more than up to the challenge. In another back and forth match (there were lots of these this weekend), Liberty were down at the break but rallied to set themselves up in field goal range with a few seconds left on the clock. Alex Barbir’s kick was blocked and Virginia Tech returned it for touchdown, only to find out that their coaching staff had called a timeout to ice the kicker. He made the kick at the second attempt.
Malik Willis moved to 6-0 as the starting QB for the Flames, as he accounted for more than 300 yards and 4 TDs in the game. He’ll have to be on top of his game in the coming weeks as teams like NC State and 15th ranked Coastal Carolina stand in the way of an unbeaten season. But for now Head Coach, Hugh Freeze, summed up the win perfectly, saying, “You don’t get a lot of wins like this in team sports”.
- Zach Wilson
A few weeks ago on the podcast we talked about a QB that was starting to receive attention in mock draft circles, and concluded that he could be the real deal. Since then Zach Wilson has continued to dominate any defense that comes up against the BYU offense. On Friday night the Cougars delivered a hammer blow to Boise State in a 51-17 mauling, with Wilson the key component throughout. The 6ft 3” junior threw for 359 yards and 2 TDs in the win, showing his ability in and out of the pocket and accurately pushing the ball downfield. He’s got a 21-2 touchdown to interception ratio this season, with a passer rating of 199.7 – and it’s really not hard to see why he’s now in the first round conversation ahead of the 2021 draft.
- Penn State Nittany Lions
I don’t think many people were expecting Penn State to pull up roots this season, but they were certainly expected to be better than 0-3 to start the season. Ahead of Saturday’s game, the Nittany Lions had outscored Maryland 163-6 in their last three meetings, and I’m sure some of their fan base was hoping for an easy dub to get their season rolling. Instead, Taulia Tagovailoa and the Terrapins offense rolled in and left James Franklin and co looking at their worst start since 2001. On defense the Nittany Lions gave up yards on the ground, couldn’t get off the field on third down and had no answer to Tagovailoa in the passing game.
- Michigan Wolverines
Listening to Josh Pate’s preview podcast on Friday night, the Wolverines were made out to be huge value at -3 in betting markets against an unbeaten Indiana side. Instead, we saw why Jim Harbaugh could soon be out of a job. The Wolverines were poor across the board on Saturday, but it’s worth pointing out how bad the run game was in the defeat, totalling a huge 13 yards in the whole game. On defense, Michigan was taken apart time and again by Michael Penix Jr, who threw the ball 50 times, completing on 30 of those for 342 yards and 3 TDs. After the game Harbaugh declined to admit that a losing record was unacceptable for his team, and you can’t help but think his time in Ann Arbor is slowly coming to an end.
- Clemson Tigers
I tried and failed to find a suitable candidate to include here instead of Clemson, because after all it is hard to criticise a previously 7-0 team which loses in double overtime in a game where they don’t have their starting Quarterback. But it really feels like, in these difficult times, the teams that will go into the CFB playoffs will have unbeaten runs in their conference. And with the PAC-12 having two strong contenders in Oregon and USC, as well as Cincinnati & BYU, there is now surely a chance that Clemson misses out on that top 4 spot…?