College Football Coverage: The Narrow Escapes Of Saturday
College football Week 6 is in the books, and while there weren’t any landscape-changing upsets, there were some notable narrow escapes by top teams, and those will lead our look at the twelve most notable results from Saturday…
Stanford 31 Washington 28: The Huskies pulled to within three points at the 2:38 mark of the fourth quarter, but couldn’t quite finish it off. If I’m Stanford, what really concerns me is the mediocre performance of Kevin Hogan, who was 12/20 for 100 yards. Hogan’s emergence late last year helped elevate Stanford from the caliber of a good team worthy of respect, to a true national championship-caliber club.
Stanford still runs the ball well, and Hogan has played well against good teams, so there’s no point rushing to judgement. But in a world where the Cardinal must go through Oregon just to win a division title, there’s no point in ignorning an obvious red flag.
Georgia 34 Tennessee 31 (OT): This performance from the Bulldogs was inexcusable on so many levels. They were soft defensively, allowing the Vols to pile up 189 yards on the ground. Georgia lacked killer instinct, getting to an early 17-3 lead before having to rally and score the tying touchdown with five seconds left in regulation.
Although Aaron Murray led the last drive and played mistake-free, his 19/35 for 196 yards is a very pedestrian showing against a lousy defense, and it’s the reason the Dawgs were in the late fourth quarter mess to begin with. It’s games like these that make it tough to really buy in on Georgia to run the table the rest of the way.
Georgia is also having a hard time keeping running backs healthy. Todd Gurley has hurt his ankle, now Keith Marshall tore an ACL. But J.J. Green stepped in on Saturday and the running game didn’t miss a beat.
South Carolina 35 Kentucky 28: Georgia might be vulnerable in the SEC East, but their top competition looks the same. The vibe around this South Carolina team just seems really bad right now. Jadeveon Clowney didn’t play and his coaches are surprised. The Gamecocks have a 27-7 lead on a bad team and yet the Wildcats pull to within a touchdown with four minutes left.
The good news is that Connor Shaw is healthy and played very well, at 17/20 for 262 yards, and Mike Davis continues to run the ball very well.
UCLA 34 Utah 27: UCLA is saved by the fact that they can run the ball, stop the run and win the turnover battle. Paul Perkins and quarterback Brett Hundley led a running attack that produced 186 yards. Defensively, they held Utah to 99 on the ground. Once forced to the air, Utah quarterback Travis Wilson threw six interceptions.
A more pertinent question is, given all this–especially the six picks–did UCLA end up in a close game with an inferior team? They committed 13 penalties, and while Hundley is a solid, efficient quarterback, he’s not someone who will blow a team out.
Oklahoma 20 TCU 17: If I’m Bob Stoops, this result concerns me. OU shut down the TCU offense, dominated on the ground and yet wound up in a tight game on their home field on a night when Horned Frogs’ defensive end Devonte Fields–last year’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year–did not play.
Quarterback Blake Bell was efficient, at 20/31 and no interceptions, but only getting 152 yards isn’t the work of a national championship contender. It’s enough, in conjunction with an improved running game and defense, to make Oklahoma a nice team and put them atop the Big 12 for the first time since 2010, but anything beyond that is still a work in progress, even if they are undefeated.
Ohio State 40 Northwestern 30: This is the first of the escapes that isn’t all that surprising, as the Buckeyes scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to take a 34-30 lead and then recovered a fumble in the end zone on the game’s final play that swung a lot of money in Las Vegas, as Ohio State was a (-7.5) favorite in Saturday’s main prime-time game.
The big difference is that Ohio State ran the ball, with Carlos Hyde getting 168 yards, while Northwestern did not. Venric Mark returned from injury, but was held to 60 yards on 17 carries.
Now moving on to some noteworthy wins that weren’t so narrow…
Florida State 63 Maryland 0: The question about whether the Terps are ready to compete with FSU and Clemson at the top of their division has been definitively answered. Florida State held Maryland to 43 yards rushing ,while producing 183 of their own. Jameis Winston continues to look unstoppable, at 23/32 for 393 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Miami 45 Georgia Tech 30: Miami fell behind 17-7 early, only led 24-23 in the fourth quarter and was still up just 38-30 when they sealed the game with a pick-6 late. The Hurricanes got a big day from Duke Johnson on the ground, 22 carries for 184 yards. When you can neutralize Georgia Tech’s advantage in the rushing game, you’re going to beat them and that’s what happened here.
Virginia Tech 27 North Carolina 17: It wasn’t incredibly impressive, but Virginia Tech played clean football, forced three turnovers and got a nice day from Logan Thomas, at 19/28 for 293 yards.
The cumulative effect of the above three ACC games is that this conference is almost certainly reduced to a semi-final tournament. Clemson-Florida State for the Atlantic Division in two weeks, Miami-Virginia Tech for the Coastal in November, and the league championship game in Charlotte on December 7.
And let’s close out the review with three more games…
Auburn 30 Ole Miss 22: The Rebs are not ready for prime-time, while the Tigers are clearly back as a solid, competitive program. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall ran for 140 yards, leading an offense that produced 282 rush yards and controlled the game.
Baylor 73 West Virginia 42: Lache Seastrunk rushed for 172 yards, leading a team running game that accounted for 468 yards! This is before we add in quarterback Bryce Petty ripping off another 300-yard plus game as the Bears remain undefeated.
It might be easy to dismiss this as being the byproduct of the West Virginia defense, but remember that WVA upended Oklahoma State last week.
Ball State 48 Virginia 27: Ball State forced four turnovers to key this win. It’s not as though Ball State is a BCS-buster or that Virginia is really good. What I find noteworthy is that Ball State, along with Northern Illinois, keep knocking off this mid-to-lower-level teams from power conferences and that is certainly a new development in college football. If Northern Illinois beats Ball State to win the MAC West and goes undefeated, games like this should matter if the Huskies are fighting for BCS eligibility again.
TheSportsNotebook’s college football coverage also has updated BCS bowl projections.