College Football Corner: The best team you’re not watching

WASHINGTON — This past weekend was won by Penn State in their 24–21 upset of No. 2 Ohio State. There’s nothing quite like a fourth quarter Buckeye collapse that includes a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown.

While the Nittany Lions team that almost lost to Minnesota a few weeks ago is back in the East Division race, the major beneficiary might just be the Pac-12 and their new bully, Washington.

The Huskies have had one game this fall decided by fewer than 24 points (a 35–28 win at Arizona), and, under coach Chris Peterson, are reminding fans of the Don James era, when they regularly went to the Rose Bowl (six times in 16 years from 1978 to 93, with more than a few near-misses). They plucked Peterson from nearby Boise State to replace Steve Sarkisian (who imploded at USC), and he proved that his success with the Broncos wasn’t a fluke.

After going .500 over his first 24 games in Seattle, the Huskies have now won 10 straight dating back to 2015. This October they’re No. 4 in the newest rankings with a big game against No. 16 Utah on the horizon.

Prolific offense?  Sophomore Jake Browning is completing 68 percent of his passes (with more than 14 yards per completion), while throwing for 26 touchdowns and two interceptions. Devastating defense?  In an offensive era, they’re allowing just under 15 points per game. Blame the 10:30 p.m. starts and Friday game with No. 7 Stanford that should have been a 3:30 p.m. Saturday showcase, but be on notice that Washington is for real.

Maryland (5–2, 2–2 Big Ten) bounced back from two straight losses to beat Michigan State 28–17. It seemed as though the turnover and penalty bug that infected the Terps last week was alive and well on the other sideline. The Spartans were flagged seven times (five in the first quarter), had a player ejected, turned the ball over twice in the red zone and ran a misguided fake field goal that took more points off the board.

  • Terrapin Triumphs: Perry Hills comes back from a shoulder injury to throw for 200 yards and two touchdowns. The tailback tandem of Ty Johnson (115 yards) and Lorenzo Harrison (105 yards) gets it done on the ground. Shane Cockerille tallies 15 tackles while the defense notches two takeaways inside their own 10 yard line.
  • Terrapin Troubles: The defense did cough up 270 yards on the ground to the tune of 6.1 yards per carry. With Will Likely definitely out for the season thanks to a torn ACL, the return game managed minimal punch. And the Darth Vader “black helmets, black jerseys and black pants” uniforms were the same ones worn against Minnesota. I find your lack of variety disturbing.

Next: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Indiana (3–4, 1–3)

Virginia (2–5, 1–2 ACC) had a rough week on and off the field. A federal lawsuit alleging hazing and bullying from this summer took the headlines away from its showdown with the Tar Heels before UNC ran roughshod at Scott Stadium in a 35–14 rout. Fans might put up with bullying or a loss to the Heels — but not both.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Taquan Mizzell tallies 106 yards rushing and seven catches. Safety Quin Blanding led the defense with 13 tackles. Nicholas Conte averaged 45.6 yards per punt, landing four inside the 20-yard line.
  • Cavalier Concerns: The team converted just three of 19 third downs, and after stretching the field in the passing game previous weeks, averaged under seven yards per completion. The defense was buried by the big play, allowing touchdown passes of 40 and 46 yards. Although, one was to a guy named “Bug Howard.” Being allowed to say Bug Howard takes a little of the pain away …

Next: 12 p.m. Saturday vs. No. 7 Louisville (6-1, 4-1)

Virginia Tech (5–2, 3–1 ACC) routed Miami 37–16 to reassert its place in the Coastal Division race and show how awesome Blacksburg on Thursday night remains. Fire up the smoked turkey legs to the sounds of Metallica.

  • Hokie Highlights: Travon McMillan gained 131 of the team’s 251 yards rushing. Jerod Evans threw for two touchdowns while running for another score. Woody Baron tallied 2.5 of the team’s eight sacks, as VT held Miami to 3–15 on third down.
  • Hokie Humblings: One week after getting ripped for 405 yards passing by Syracuse, the defense allowed 323 yards through the air (at 14 yards per completed pass). The offense had issues (1 for 7 on third down in the first half) early, as well.

Next: 7 p.m. Thursday at Pitt (5–2, 2–1)

No. 24 Navy (5-1, 4-0 AAC) shooed away West Division contender Memphis with a 42-28 victory. Halfway through their conference slate, the Mids are the only team in either division unblemished.

  • Midshipmen Medals:  Will Worth runs for 201 yards and three touchdowns…while passing for two more scores. The quarterback takes over for the injured Maryland Terrapin Will Likely as “most headline-friendly name in college football.” The offense converts 8 of 13 third down attempts. DJ Palmer leads the Mids defense with two sacks.
  • Midshipmen Miscues: The kicking game was less than ideal, with a missed 32-yard field goal, a kickoff returned for a touchdown and 34 yards per punt the red flags. One also wonders how often the “bend but don’t break” defense can continue to bend…allowing 32 points per game the last three weeks.

Next: Friday at South Florida (6-2, 3-1)

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

© 2016 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up