WASHINGTON — Some Saturdays everything goes by the script. But every so often, the dominoes fall in such a manner that the National Championship picture has to be completely redrawn.
When it happens in September there are shrugs because it’s still early and perhaps a team or two was over-valued. When it occurs in November it’s seismic. This past weekend the second, third and fourth ranked teams all fell, two to last-second field goals and two at home.
As fate would have it, the last time that this trifecta occurred it was 1985 and then-#2 Michigan (quarterbacked by Jim Harbaugh) fell at Iowa on a last-second field goal. This year’s Wolverines appeared to have the game won thanks to a late interception, only to go three-and-out and give the Hawkeyes one more chance. Perhaps Harbaugh wishes he could have used some of the 59 points put on the board last week against Maryland in their 14-13 loss.
Meanwhile, after prevailing previously in five one-possession games, Clemson saw its luck run out as Pittsburgh stunned the Tigers with a kick at the gun in a 43-42 shocker. Washington saw sophomore Jake Browning throw two interceptions after being picked off a total of three times the previous eight games in a 26-13 loss to #20 USC. Still unbeaten? Alabama and — wait for it –Western Michigan. With three weeks remaining before the playoff field is set, just enough chaos has been added to the recipe.
Maryland (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) continued its November Nightmare with a 62-3 loss to #6 Ohio State. It was evident from the first five minutes of this game that the Buckeyes were not just on a different planet but different solar system.
Terrapin Triumphs: Teldrick Morgan tallied 7 catches. Darnell Savage led the bludgeoned and battered defense with 10 tackles. Adam Greene made his only field goal attempt.
Terrapin Troubles: The offense converted just 1-of-15 third downs as they were held to zero net yards or fewer on six of their first eight possessions. The defense allowed Ohio State to score swiftly, as three of OSU’s eight touchdown drives needed just four plays to reach the end zone. And what was the deal with the all-red Swedish Fish uniforms? Can we blame the red-on-red-on-red-on-red (helmets-jerseys-pants-shoes)?
Next: Noon Saturday at #19 Nebraska (8-2, 5-2). Please don’t wear all-red in Lincoln.
Virginia Tech (7-3, 5-2 ACC) missed a chance to wrap up its first Coastal Division title in five years, starting slow in a 30-20 loss to Georgia Tech. The Hokies can still advance to the ACC Championship Game with a season-ending victory over Virginia. Along those lines, the Hokies have beaten the Cavaliers every year since they joined the conference…not that anyone in Blacksburg or Charlottesville notices.
Hokie Highlights: Jerod Evans threw for 316 yards and a touchdown while running for two more scores. Cam Phillips provided the security blanket with 10 catches. Andrew Motuapuaka led the defense with 14 tackles and a sack…while the D held the Yellow Jackets to 4-of-14 on third down.
Hokie Humblings: A turnover filled day began when they fumbled the opening kickoff, and Georgia Tech would score 17 points off Virginia Tech turnovers. The Yellow Jackets also blocked a Joey Slye field goal attempt. The offensive line allowed five sacks…and didn’t get in gear until they trailed 30-7.
Next: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Notre Dame (4-6).
Virginia (2-8, 1-5 ACC) was in position to celebrate Senior Day in Charlottesville, locked in a one-possession game at the half with Miami. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers came up short 34-14 to clinch a losing ACC record for the fifth straight year.
Cavalier Congrats: Taquan Mizzell rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown while catching three passes. Micah Kiser notched 12 tackles with an interception. Credit the offense for converting the short field into a TD…and Kurt Benkert directed a 14 play, 73 yard drive late in the first half for another score.
Cavalier Concerns: The offense went south in the second half, converting just 2-of-7 third downs while losing two fumbles. Five sacks allowed on the day did not help QB Kurt Benkert in the slightest. The defense coughed up 5.3 yards per carry. Ten penalties for 110 yards? You try winning when you’re giving up an entire football field.
Next: Noon Saturday at Georgia Tech (6-4, 3-4).
Navy (7-2, 5-1 AAC) once again played in the most exciting game of the day, holding off Tulsa 42-40 to cement its hold on the AAC West lead. Barring a collapse, the Mids will play in the AAC Championship Game the week before they face Army at M&T Bank Stadium.
Midshipmen Mettle: Will Worth proved his again, rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns while completing 6-of-8 passes for 111 yards and another score. All told, the Mids rolled up 390 yards on the ground. Micah Thomas paced the defense with nine tackles. Punter Alex Barta actually got on the field…after not being needed the previous weekend.
Midshipmen Miscues: The defense allowed 40 points at home for the second time this fall, as the Golden Hurricane converted 8-of-14 third downs and averaged 8.9 yards per play. The fact that the Mids committed two more penalties than the most-flagged team in the conference was a bit of a surprise.
Next: 4 p.m. Saturday at East Carolina (3-7, 1-5).