College football’s penultimate regular season Saturday often serves as a setup for Thanksgiving weekend when you have rivalry games like Michigan-Ohio State, Alabama-Auburn, and of course Maryland-Rutgers. It’s also chance for some SEC schools to help fund athletic programs at Austin Peay, UMass, and New Mexico State. But it’s also a Saturday filled with shockers and near-upsets.
The thrills and chills began with a couple of near-spills in the early window: No. 3 Michigan bent but did not break the Illinois defense on consecutive drives before kicking a game-winning field goal to stay unbeaten while No. 4 TCU, after missing on a two-point conversion that would have tied Baylor, was able to get a last-second field goal to remain unscathed.
No. 1 Georgia wasn’t able to knock out pesky Kentucky in a ten-point win and No. 2 Ohio State needed a blocked punt and a fumble-sack to dispose of Maryland. And wouldn’t you know the late games would include No. 7 USC holding off UCLA in a 48-45 shootout.
I’m not saying that there’s a transitive property of upsets, but it felt as if all of those near-misses were somehow saved and folded into South Carolina’s game with No. 5 Tennessee. After rallying from a double-digit deficit to move within four points early in the third quarter, the Volunteer defense collapsed. Or, depending on your viewpoint, the Gamecocks offense just went off. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back touchdown drives extinguished any faint playoff hopes for the Vols in the 63-38 loss. Perhaps they should have scheduled South Carolina-Upstate?
Navy (4-7, 4-4 AAC) took the opening 11 a.m. kickoff at No. 17 UCF and drove the ball 75 yards on 11 plays with Xavier Arline scoring on a one-yard run. That set the tone for the day as the Mids would never trail in their 17-14 upset of the Knights. Now, they get two weeks off with positive vibes for their biggest game of the year.
Midshipmen Medals: they held the ball for over 39 minutes and rushed for 248 yards, with Daba Fofana finding his groove again by gaining 114 yards (second straight 100-yard game for the sophomore). The defense held the Knights to 3-12 on third down as John Marshall had four of the team’s six sacks and led the unit with 10 tackles. Riley Riethman averaged 50.2 yards on six punts.
Midshipmen Miscues: the offense was stuck in neutral after halftime, gaining 13 yards on 12 plays in their first four possessions after intermission. The passing game was nonexistent with just one attempt. But there’s very little to disparage on the first road win over a ranked team since 2015 when they outscored No. 15 Memphis 45-20.
Next: Saturday December 10 at 3 p.m. against 4-6 Army. Navy won last year but the Black Knights are 4-2 in the series since 2016.
Virginia Tech (3-8) stopped a seven-game losing streak during a season where they’ve been haunted by second half collapses by scoring last in their 23-22 win at Liberty. But even with Jalen Holston’s touchdown, there was 7:46 left on the clock and the Flames only needed a field goal to pull ahead. The defense answered by turning them over on downs out of field goal range and then recovering a fumble on Liberty’s final possession to seal the victory.
Hokie Highlights: Holston rushed for 99 yards and scored all three of the team’s touchdowns. Tech rushed for 176 yards on the afternoon and while Grant Wells wasn’t dynamic, the offense didn’t turn the ball over. TyJuan Garbutt had two sacks amid his six tackles, while forcing the game-sealing fumble in the fourth quarter. The defense recovered a pair of Liberty fumbles in the fourth quarter and held the Flames to 4-12 on third down.
Hokie Humblings: the offensive line allowed six sacks, including one for a safety early in the second half that gave Liberty their first lead of the day. Special teams allowed a 97-yard kickoff return that sparked a second quarter rally that saw Tech go from up 10 to tied at the half.
Next: no word on if Saturday’s game with 3-7 Virginia will be played or if so what time they’ll kick off.
James Madison (7-3, 5-2 Sun Belt) certainly is making its case for being on a channel above ESPN3 or ESPN+, right? One week after dominating Old Dominion the Dukes showed they can rally, coming back from twenty points down to outscore Georgia State 42-40. They’re not eligible for postseason play per the terms of their transition from FCS, but man they’ve given us some fun football to watch this fall.
Duke Do’s: Todd Centeio threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns while Percy Agyei-Obese ran for 89 yards and two scores. The defense notched five sacks and held Georgia State to 3-13 on third down. Sam Clark averaged 47.8 yards per punt.
Duke Don’ts: turnovers almost cooked them as two of their four fumbles were returned for Panther touchdowns and Georgia State was able to generate a touchdown and a field goal from the other two miscues. I’m thinking there may be more than a few ball-security drills this week.
Next: Saturday at noon against 9-1 Coastal Carolina. Hoping they get an ESPN2 game.
Maryland (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten) after taking a halftime lead over No. 2 Ohio State, a blocked punt sparked a 17-0 surge that had the Buckeyes outgaining the Terps 125-45 in the third quarter. But Maryland fought back and was actually within three points when they punted with 5:54 left in regulation. Unfortunately, OSU bled over five minutes off the clock and kicked a field goal. But there was still hope. At least until the Buckeyes recovered a sack-fumble in the end zone with nine seconds left. The 43-30 loss was disappointing, but Head Coach Mike Locksley was pleased with his team’s grit. And while that won’t show up on the stat sheet, it was a much better effort than the previous two weeks.
Terrapin Triumphs: Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns while running for another score. The offense actually outgained the Buckeyes 402-401 on the day. Beau Brade paced the defense with eight tackles as the defense held Ohio State to 10 points in the first half. Deonte Banks blocked an extra point attempt that Jakorian Bennett returned for a 2-point conversion to jump-start a late rally.
Terrapin Troubles: Tagovailoa was sacked five times, with the final one resulting in a fumble returned for a game-sealing touchdown and sending Taulia to the sidelines with a banged up knee. The defense had no answers for Dallan Hayden who gained 143 of his 146 yards rushing after halftime. A blocked punt set up a short field for OSU to take the lead for good in the third quarter. And 10 penalties for 97 yards is the last thing you need when facing the No. 2 team in the nation.
Next: Saturday at noon against 4-7 Rutgers. Should this be a trophy game and if so, what would the trophy be called?