After the final whistle blew on the last night game in the second week of November, everyone looked around the college football landscape after the dust settled and it was apparent that we got a lot more November Chaos than we had realistically imagined. The Trojans may have knocked the Huskies out of the pack, a scrappy Hawkeyes team upset Michigan in a classic Big Ten style of way, and a kicker named Blewitt didn’t blow it down in Death Valley.
There were a lot of upsets that happened, and plenty of new scenarios that now present themselves before us to go over as we try and find our way to that special fourth spot in these last two weeks of the season.
University of Southern Cal 26, Washington 13
We’ll start off with the upset that I thought would be the only one we’d get this week with these two PAC-12 foes. It was primed as the marquee game of the week with College Gameday heading out to Washington for this top-20 showdown. The Trojans have really caught fire after stumbling out to a 1-3 record to start the season as they now have won six in a row after last night’s victory over the Huskies. Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold really didn’t light up the score board, but he did throw two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions while throwing for 287 yards. The Trojans were very successful in rattling Washington’s Jake Browning and taking away his supporting ground game. Southern Cal was able to sack Browning 3 times and intercept him twice while only allowing him to complete 47% of his passes. Browning had a 30.4 QBR on the night. Browning did not have the luxury of a ground game to help carry the load as the Huskies had 17 rushing attempts for a net of 17 yards.
Iowa 14, Michigan 13
Michigan travelled out to Iowa City to take on a Hawkeyes team that hasn’t been enjoying the same type of success that they had last year. This was one of those “classic” Big Ten games where the main focus for both teams was run the ball and play tough defense. Between Michigan’s Wilton Speight and Iowa’s C.J. Beathard, the two threw for 169 yards, two interceptions, and one touchdown (the lone touchdown belonged to Beathard). The Hawkeyes proved to be the more stout defense by preventing Michigan to rush for over 100 yards (they stifled the Wolverines to just 98 yards rushing).
Despite the Hawkeyes tough style of play, the Wolverines were able to take a 13-11 lead with 9:35 left to go in the 4th. There would be some ensuing back and forth between the two teams, but the Hawkeyes were able to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired to win 14-13 in one of the most old-fashioned Big Ten type of games.
Pitt 43, Clemson 42
The game that deals out the most interesting types of scenarios for how the Cards can get in to the playoffs happened down in Death Valley between Pitt and Clemson. It was a battle of quarterbacks as DeShaun Watson completed 52 passes on 70 attempts for 580 yards (breaking the ACC single game passing record) and 3 touchdowns. Pitt’s Nathan Peterman more than held his own as he completed 22 of 37 pass attempts for 308 yards and five passing touchdowns of his own to no interceptions.
Clemson was able to take a 42-34 lead heading in to the 4th quarter after running back Wayne Gallman was able to plow his way in to the end zone. However, this would be the last time that the Tigers would score any points as they would get shutout in the 4th quarter. Pitt was able to claw its way back in the game with 5 minutes left in the game on a James Conner 20 yard touchdown run. They would go for 2 to tie the game up, but Clemson’s defense would hold strong on the 2-point conversion. The Panthers defense would give its offense one last shot at winning the game by turning the ball over on downs. Facing a 4th and 1, the Tigers decided to go for it, but Pitt would stop Gallman for no gain and got its offense the ball back. With less than a minute to go, Nathan Peterman would lead the offense down the field for a game winning field goal. With six seconds left on the clock, Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt knocked in a 48 yard field goal to knock off Clemson from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Only if Kyle Bambard hit that chip shot...
All of these upsets have to be taken with a grain of salt as we won’t know how the committee will view and rank everyone until Tuesday night. Washington could still win the PAC-12 and get in as a conference champ, but with the way the committee is viewing the PAC-12, they still might not get in. Michigan could still win the Big Ten with victories over Ohio State and likely West Division representative Wisconsin. If Ohio State beats Michigan and goes on to win the conference, that may be enough to knock Michigan out of the playoffs and pave a path for the Cards to get in.
The most interesting scenario to me, though, is how far Clemson falls. Might this be the year where a team that doesn’t win its conference gets in over a team that does? Losing to an unranked team at home in November isn’t something you want on your resume in the final weeks of the season. Even if Clemson goes on to beat Wake Forest and play in the ACC title game, that really doesn’t give them a marquee win as Virginia Tech (the likely team to win the Coastal) just lost by 10 to Georgia Tech.
Clemson at Wake Forest: I know I’m really reaching on this one, but we also didn’t imagine Clemson losing to Pitt in Death Valley. If Wake Forest can find it in their hearts and look past last night’s 4th quarter and help us out with a victory over the Tigers, that’d assuredly put the Cards in the playoffs as an ACC champ.
Here’s to hoping we have more chaos to talk about next Sunday...