Week 7 in college football was supposed to be a snooze-fest without a single matchup between ranked teams. But in what turned out to be a wacky weekend, we were quickly reminded that college football has a habit of being at its best when we least expect it.
Several top teams were upset. Several other top teams were nearly knocked off in surprisingly good games. A popular team wore eyebrow-raising uniforms. And college football’s most-maligned coach may have saved his job.
Below we will take a look at the ten biggest developments out of this week’s college football action.
Second-ranked Clemson lost to Syracuse, but are still OK
Prior to Clemson’s game on Friday, it looked like the Tigers were cruising to their third straight College Football Playoff. But then they went 3-12 on third downs, attempted a terrible fake punt, and lost to 3-3 Syracuse. Maybe more importantly, Clemson lost quarterback Kelly Bryant to an ugly concussion that appeared to leave him unconscious on the field. Clemson does have a bye week before facing Georgia Tech, but it is unclear if Bryant will be ready to play in that game.
As for the Tigers’ chances to repeat as national champions, keep in mind that they lost at home to Pitt in mid-November a year ago. We have seen over and over that one loss does not eliminate a team from playoff contention, but Clemson does need to get back to the ACC title game and right now Syracuse holds the tiebreaker, assuming Clemson can get past North Carolina State who is currently atop the ACC Atlantic division.
3 other top-10 teams also lost, but only 1 has been eliminated from the College Football Playoff hunt.
No. 5 Washington lost to Arizona State on the road, No. 8 Washington State lost on the road to Cal on Friday night, and No. 10 Auburn lost on the road to LSU.
Of those, Auburn’s loss was the most damaging. Not only did they blow a 20-0 first-half lead to a reeling LSU squad, but it was Auburn’s second loss. Even if they could run the table – something that would require wins over No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Georgia, Texas A&M on the road, and possibly Georgia again in the SEC title game – Auburn is not getting into the College Football Playoff with two losses.
Ed Orgeron may have saved his job on the same day LSU celebrated his predecessor.
After LSU lost at home to FCS school Troy, head coach Ed Orgeron was very much on the hot seat. But since then, the Tigers have beaten a pair of ranked teams in Florida and Auburn. In addition, Orgeron pulled off Saturday’s big come-from-behind upset over Auburn on the same day the school honored Orgeron’s predecessor, Les Miles, and his 2007 championship team. Miles danced around at halftime with the crystal ball trophy and even ate some grass. Any nostalgia fans felt for the Miles era was quickly washed away in the second half and probably saved Orgeron’s job… for now.
The Pac-12 is in danger of being left out of the College Football Playoff for the second time in 4 years.
With both Washington and Washington State losing in embarrassing fashion to unranked teams this weekend – WSU lost 37-3 to 3-3 Cal and U-Dub trailed 13-0 in the fourth quarter to 2-3 Arizona State – the Pac-12 no longer has any undefeated teams. Both teams can still get to the playoff if they run the table in the Pac-12 North and win the Pac-12 championship game. The same is true for USC in the Pac-12 South who needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat unranked Utah 28-27.
The problem for the Pac-12 is that they can’t afford too many more upset losses. The best-case scenario for the Pac-12 would be for USC to win their remaining regular-season games and the winner of Washington-Washington State to do the same. That would pit two 1-loss teams against each other in the title game with the winner likely getting into the playoff.
Several other ranked teams had close calls.
- Leon Halip/Getty Images
This weekend’s slate of games were abhorred because there no matchups of ranked teams. But in the end, not only did seven ranked teams lose, several others had close calls in surprisingly good games. No. 7 Wisconsin held on to beat Purdue 17-9, No. 11 Miami overcame an 8-point second-half deficit to beat Georgia Tech 25-24, No. 12 Oklahoma held on to beat Texas after blowing a 20-point lead, No. 13 USC needed two fourth quarter touchdowns to beat Utah, and No. 17 Michigan gave up ten points in the final 3.5 minutes before beating Indiana in overtime, narrowly avoiding a second loss in the Big Ten.
Despite close call, Miami is now in good position to make the College Football Playoff.
The U is back… maybe. Miami overcame an 8-point fourth-quarter deficit and beat Georgia Tech 25-24 with a field goal with just four seconds to go. With the win, the Hurricanes remain undefeated and have the inside track to the ACC title game if they can get past Coastal Division rivals Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, Clemson’s loss opens the door for either NC State or – *gulp* – Syracuse to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Either of those opponents would make Miami’s path to the College Football Playoff game much easier. But there is still a lot of work to do and plenty of time for Clemson to rebound.
Wisconsin is going to play in the Big Ten title game, but their opponent is still a mystery.
- Dylan Buell/Getty Images
No. 7 Wisconsin couldn’t score in the second half against Purdue and held on for a 17-9 win. Still, the Badgers are now 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the B1G West. Every other team in the division has at least two losses which means Wisconsin will be in the conference championship game.
Meanwhile, Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan State are all still undefeated in the B1G East, with Michigan still just one game back. In other words, we still have no idea who Wisconsin will face with a shot at the College Football Playoff likely on the line.
The Florida Gators wore their alligator uniforms and they weren’t as terrible as expected.
- Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Just a few days before Florida played Texas A&M, they announced they would be wearing new alligator-themed uniforms. The duds were almost universally vilified and when the game started they were certainly jarring. But after a while, the uniforms no longer seemed so bad. Nobody is saying the Gators should wear these all the time, but for one game, they were fun. Of course, they blew a fourth-quarter lead to A&M and lost 19-17 on a last-minute field goal, so it will probably be a while before we see the uniforms again.
Previously undefeated San Diego State lost to Boise State.
San Diego State wasn’t on the radar of most college football fans, but they were the team from outside the Power-5 conference that had the best chance of running the table, going undefeated, and playing in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. Now the team with the best shot to represent the Group of 5 conferences would seem to be the winner of the South Florida-Central Florida game in the AAC in late November.
Several Pac-12 games didn’t end until well after midnight on the east coast.
No. 8 Washington State was embarrassed 37-3 by Cal on Friday night. But the good news for the Cougars is that not many people saw it outside of the west coast. The game started at 10:30 and didn’t get over until 2:07 a.m. on the east coast.
Things were worse on Saturday night, Washington’s loss to Arizona State didn’t kick off until 10:45 p.m. and didn’t end until 3:07 a.m. on the east coast. Stanford’s win over Oregon started even later, at 11:00 p.m. on the east coast and didn’t end until 3:18 a.m..
Of course, the reason these games are so late is so networks can fill late night time-slots on the west coast. But that is not helping these schools get the national attention they deserve.
Now check out Clemson’s swanky new football facility.