By John Camera
Down goes Clemson!…and Michigan…and Washington. Hell even Texas A&M, Auburn, UNC, and Virginia Tech were thrashed for good measure. If you’re keeping score at home those are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 14, and 17th teams respectively. And all of them lost within a few hours of each other. Each loss shook up an exciting college football season that features only one mega-team, Alabama, who blew through Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa, 51-3.
Clemson let ACC rival and underachiever Pittsburgh hang around until cancer survivor/all-world RB James Conner helped down them. The Tigers couldn’t find a running game and forced Deshaun Watson to put the ball in the air a staggering 70 times. 580 yards, 3 TDs, but 3 INTs later and the Tigers couldn’t put the game away with a 2 point lead late in the fourth. 52 seconds and 34 yards was all Pitt needed to get into field goal range, including a 21 yard strike to Scott Orndoff, who finished with 128 yards and 2 TDs in his Panthers’ 43-42 win. Clemson still finds themselves ahead of Louisville, who had their own problems in a victory over pesky Wake Forest, by virtue of a head to head win.
Michigan went on the road to an Iowa team that was sniffing an upset all night behind a ferocious defense. The Wolverines scored a FG on their second drive, set up by an Iowa 4th down failure, and then followed that with a 72 yard touchdown drive. But the home-stoked defense said “no more” and mostly silenced the Wolverines the rest of the night. The Hawkeyes D did allow a 60 yard drive but only gave away 3 points. Besides those three possessions, Michigan didn’t have another drive that went more than 25 yards. Iowa did just enough to give their home fans a massive upset, 14-13. Michigan’s duel with Ohio State in two weeks will mean everything for both teams’ playoff chances.
Washington battled no. 20 USC, with the Trojans jumping on the Huskies after a slow first quarter. Washington traded field goals with the Trojans touchdowns and the first half ended as a 17-6 game, advantage Southern California. But it still felt winnable for a Washington team that was at home, with a quick strike offense, and had been dominant all year. It seemed that narrative would write itself as Jake Browning found explosive Junior WR John Ross for a 70 yard TD that left USC CB Adoree Jackson needing new ankles. USC would answer with its own touchdown and Washington just couldn’t find its offensive rhythm despite flashes. The Huskies’ playoff chances lay dashed in the wake of a bad defeat, 26-13.
Those were the big ones, the teams in prime playoff position, but as mentioned lots of other big name squads lost as well. A&M picked up their second straight loss, this week to an Ole Miss team that found themselves on the right side of a comeback this season, 29-28. Auburn’s offense stalled against a hot and cold Georgia squad that established a running attack in a 13-7 triumph. UNC was shocked in Durham by the never-say-die Dukies, 28-27, and Virginia Tech looked overrated against a suddenly-rebounding Georgia Tech outfit, 30-20.
Playoff-wise, this may not shake up too much despite three of the top four losing. Alabama remains at one of course. Michigan may move out of the top 4 but ought to stay in the top 6; Ohio State will likely take its place. The same interesting question applies to one loss Clemson and Louisville, the ‘Ville’s only loss to Clemson. I expect Clemson should hold on to a playoff spot with Louisville breathing down its neck should the Tigers, or another team, slip up and UL wins out. And who leaps into the top 6 with Washington likely dropping a few spots? My money is on an Oklahoma team that has come back to playing pretty good football after early upsets. The committee could look to a third Big 10 team in Wisconsin but I think they’re overrated; their best win was against a criminally-overrated LSU team in Week 1. Also watch out for darkhorses Nebraska and Western Michigan. The latter has a lot of spots needed to jump but they are one of only two undefeateds left, albeit not playing in a “Power 5” conference.