It is officially Autumn.
And with that subtle change of the calendar and weather, it is officially conference play.
We are in the sweet spot right now, in both weather and college football. I don’t think I had a single window shut in my apartment yesterday as I took in 13+ hours of college football; there is a nice chill in the morning accompanied by a warm and inviting sunshine that makes the shade twenty degrees cooler than the sunlight. The leaves are getting crunchier, the lattes are getting pumpkinier, and I can comfortably leave the house in anything from a hoodie and jeans (which I did to take out the trash) to gym shorts and a t-shirt (which I also did to go to the grocery store). The sweet spot.
We are also in the sweet spot of college football. The “football is back” excitement has worn off and the “every Saturday is beautiful” mentality is here, which will soon give way to “wait we only have how many weeks left?” The best teams are starting to distance themselves from the pack, the conference races are beginning to take shape, and each game is beginning to carry a little bit more weight in terms of postseason implications, but we aren’t quite yet in the annoying Final Four discussions yet. The trash talk is flying (it’s college football, when is it not), but it’s still early enough that we don’t have to put up with Georgia and Clemson fans yelling at each other that the other ain’t played nobody.
Our Wolverines took care of business in dominant fashion yesterday, defeating Nebraska 56-10. We got to see almost every player on the depth chart and then some as Coach Harbaugh moves to 4-0 in conference openers. Before we move on, two of the best tweets I’ve ever seen also took place during the game:
Might need a Scott Frosty to ice down the beating Nebraska is taking.#FreshFanReaction
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) September 22, 2018
Michigans Ben mason is pitching a perfect game for a fullback. 3 tds avergaing exactly 3 yds and cloud of dust per carry. Heisman watch pic.twitter.com/mGrafa0Hdu
— PFTCommenter (@PFTCommenter) September 22, 2018
to which the official account of the Michigan football team responded: “big football guy!” My favorite worlds of Pardon My Take and Michigan football have collided once again (do yourself a favor and listen to Harbaugh’s interview with them from last summer).
Now that every game is carrying just a little bit more weight in terms of bragging rights, conference standing, and potential future personnel changes, we always expect college football to start getting weird. Week 4 didn’t waste any time getting weird.
Ranked teams that lost yesterday:
No. 23 Boston College
No. 22 Texas A&M
No. 20 Oregon
No. 17 TCU
No. 15 Oklahoma State
No. 14 Mississippi State
No. 13 Virginia Tech
Ranked teams that won in OT:
No. 5 Oklahoma over Army
No. 7 Stanford over No. 20 Oregon
A shakeup in the polls
— David Noe (@DavidRNoe) September 23, 2018
Let’s get weird! Here’s what happened in Week 4 while you were cheering.
- Purdue: Still Weird
- After laying an egg against Eastern Michigan and then putting up a great fight against Missouri, Purdue dominated Boston College, winning 30-13 in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers picked off four BC passes and held Heisman darkhorse and every Michigan fan’s “The One Who Got Away” AJ Dillon to 59 yards on 19 carries and were up 30-7 until Boston College scored a Very Sad Garbage Time Touchdown (TM) and missed the extra point. They visit Nebraska next week to kick off their conference slate. That is shaping up to be quite the game.
- Minnesota’s Other Shoe Fell
- I think PJ Fleck is a great person and a wonderful leader of young men, but I think his ceiling at Minnesota can only be 8 or 9 wins, barring a miracle. The Gophers started 3-0, but two of those wins were non-competitive against bad teams, so I figured it was only a matter of time until they fell short. This week, they traveled to Maryland and got crushed, 42-13 (it was 21-10 at halftime). Minnesota’s true freshman quarterback Zach Annexstad completed 14 of 32 passes and had 7 passes defended, a good testament to Maryland’s constantly improving defense even amidst the off-field issues. Maryland, like Purdue, continues to be weird, but they have a bye week and will travel to the Big House on October 6 to continue conference play.
- Virginia Tech Gets Old Dominionated (that’s a play on words on dominated, nailed it)
- Old Dominion entered the week 111th in S&P+. Virginia Tech entered the week 41st. This game wasn’t supposed to be close; the Hokies were a 28.5 point favorite, but they surrendered 28 points in the 4th quarter alone as ODU backup QB Brett LaRussa threw for 495 yards and 4 TDs in a huge upset. Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson left the game with a leg injury, which no doubt hampered the offensive effort, but that doesn’t mean that the defense didn’t have to allow 632 total yards. Out of the AP Poll they go.
Look no further, I have found the toughest TD celebration of all time. pic.twitter.com/ZHjYMMTqvY
— Jordan Mann (@FCCoachMann) September 22, 2018
- Louisville Makes Me Look Bad
- After praising Malik Cunningham last week, Bobby Petrino went and started Jawon Pass and the offense could only muster 3 points on 214 yards and 3-11 on 3rd down conversions. Bronco Mendenhall has his team looking better and better each week, but we’ll see how they handle a very good NC State team next week.
- Bearcats vs. Bobcats in the Battle of Southern Ohio
- Ohio, the favorites to win the MAC, and Cincinnati, rising among the American ranks under Jim Tressel disciple Luke Fickell, met in Cincinnati for one of the best games of the weekend that no one saw. Ohio went to the locker room at halftime with a 24-7 lead, but Cincinnati stormed back and took the lead on a 13-play, 92-yard drive with 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Ohio put together a drive themselves, but after some annoyingly predictable playcalling on the goal line, Nathan Rourke threw an interception to seal the game with 52 seconds remaining.
- All 3 Service Academies Lose in Heartbreakers
- Navy faced off with SMU in a very Navy-esque 3-yards and a cloud of dust type of game that went to overtime at 23-23. Navy scored on a 9 play drive from the 25 (let that sink in), but SMU outdid them with a touchdown of their own and a wacky two-point conversion that Sonny Dykes found on the internet.
- Army went to Norman as huge underdogs but took Heisman-favorite Kyler Murray and the Sooners to a very low scoring overtime as well; Oklahoma missed a field goal as regulation expired to make it closer than it needed to be, but tell me if this doesn’t blow you away: Oklahoma only ran 40 plays, and Army ran 87 plays. While the Black Knights were stopped in OT, this PPV gem went unnoticed by many fans in the country.
Oklahoma and Army are tied at 21. You can’t watch it on TV. It’s 1957. https://t.co/2IbyKUKDiw
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) September 23, 2018
- Air Force made it very uncomfortable for Utah State in a late thriller. Entering the fourth quarter down 35-17, Air Force capped off a 10-play, 77-yard drive with a touchdown and two-pointer to make it 35-25, and then returned the ensuing fumbled kick-off for a touchdown to make it 35-32 with a 12 minutes remaining in the fourth. They could not complete the comeback, however, and fell to the Aggies 42-32.
- The Booty Bowls Pay Big Dividends
- Texas State (125th in S&P+) went to UTSA (127th) and almost came home with a victory, scoring a touchdown to pull within two of the roadrunners, but then…surrendered a safety on their final drive and sealed the 25-21 win for the Roadrunners. This was a classic example that bad football can still be entertaining football (hot take – I’d rather watch a close Texas State vs UTSA game than Alabama vs. Ole Miss from last week).
- New Mexico State (123rd) went to UTEP (130th) and also took home a win in one of the less enticing games of the weekend. Tied 10-10 in the 2nd quarter, the teams traded fumbles and then UTEP coughed up another fumble which NMSU took to the house to make it 17-10. UTEP tied the game up at 17-17 in the 3rd (and then went 39 yards on 13 plays only to miss a field goal), but could not hold on for the win.
- Eastern Almost Pulls Off Another One
- The Eagles were the last game of the day (before Hawaii played of course) and took San Diego State to overtime before the Aztecs kicked a game-winning field goal and celebrated into the night. This game was a textbook reason why the box score doesn’t tell the whole story – each team constructed long drives into opponent territories but more often than not, the drives resulted in field goals rather than touchdowns, hence the low scoring final score.
- This Week in “How Bad is Rutgers”
- I can understand losing to Buffalo; they have one of the best receivers in the country in Anthony Johnson and Lance Leipold will likely be a P5 head coach some day. But Rutgers went 2-18 on third down. On drives that resulted in a punt (12), they faced an average of 3rd and 7. But hey – gotta get that cable market.
- Tighten Up That (Sun) Belt
- Arkansas State (entered the week 91st in S&P+) defeated UNLV (90th) in a ground-heavy matchup. The Red Wolves held the Rebels to 18 yards on 3 drives in the fourth quarter and held on for a 27-20 win.
- Is Coastal Carolina good? One of the worst S&P+ teams entering the season, they have moved all the way up to 93rd after a 30-28 victory over Louisiana Lafayette. The second half of this game was bonkers – only 2 of 9 possessions resulted in a punt. CCU travels to Troy next week for what has turned into a very compelling matchup.
- USC is Teetering
- Even though they defeated Washington State 39-36, USC started the second half down 30-17 and had to mount a serious comeback at home to defeat a rebuilding Cougar team. This was a win in the totals, but USC did not look comfortable for the majority of this game. True freshman QB or not, Clay Helton might have a long year ahead.
- Washington – Also Teetering
- Arizona defeated Oregon State comfortably (35-14, 7 of which came in garbage time), but Khalil Tate is still, for whatever reason, not allowed to run freely. Arizona is trying to make him a pass-first quarterback (only 4 rushing attempts), which is not his strength, but I can understand it for this game – when JJ Taylor runs for 284 yards and 2 TDs, I shouldn’t be complaining about playcalling, but the fact remains – let Khalil run.
- Kentucky – BACK!
- Although I think to be determined back, that implies that you once arrived (zing!). Kentucky soundly defeated a very good Mississippi State team in a very straightforward fashion – running the ball. Kentucky RB Benny Snell ran for 165 yards (more than Mississippi State’s whole team) and 4 TDs against Joe Moorhead’s first SEC game.
Such a weird week from top to bottom. Other things to note:
- Tennessee not only got blown out against Florida, but he might be losing the locker room, too.
- This week in Turnover Props.
- Arkansas outgained Auburn, but still lost by 31.
- North Texas is 4-0 for the first time since 1966.
- Wake Forest attempted a field goal…without the kicker.
- This week in A Hipster That Could Kick Your Ass.
- Hawaii won (again).
- Colorado State is bad. Like real bad.
Next week is shaping up to be incredible. Some notable games from a week out:
- West Virginia vs Texas Tech
- FSU vs Louisville (Booty Bowl!)
- Nevada vs Air Force
- Utah vs Washington State
- Iowa State vs TCU
- Virginia Tech vs Duke
- Ohio State vs Penn State
- Toledo vs Fresno State
Check in next week for another episode of (almost) everything that went unnoticed in college football! Thanks for reading and thanks for cheering!
Photo Credit: L. Todd Spencer/The Virginia Pilot