This yr has been so full of chaos, it is arduous to note every new twist or flip. Our collective lack of shock is definitely the one factor that has saved us bonded all through a yr during which our connections have been stretched and examined like no different time in latest reminiscence. Even amid the chaos, we might all share in the identical joke: “2020, am I proper?”
Homicide hornets? Carole Baskin? That week when the whole lot was cake? Hey, it is 2020!
Then comes school soccer’s Week 12, which, in a standard season, would signify our penultimate week of video games earlier than rivalry weekend, a small second to catch our breath earlier than the ultimate playoff push. However this is not a standard season — hey, Utah just played its first game! — and our College Football Playoff countdown is trying each bit as chaotic and surprising as, properly, the whole lot else in 2020.
However Saturday was crucial as a result of when probably the most unlikely of outcomes appears completely affordable, we would have liked a day that decided simply how loopy this playoff push will get. In a world during which we should legitimately contemplate the chance that Coastal Carolina is a top-10 group and Northwestern might win a playoff recreation on the power of three safeties and a blocked punt, we would have liked a Separation Saturday. And that is what we received.
Northwestern is a playoff contender. An offense that hasn’t topped 317 yards since its opener is now 5-0 after beating No. 10 Wisconsin 17-7. Coach Pat Fitzgerald is successful with an old-school Massive Ten mannequin — a ridiculous protection and an offense that someway lulls everybody to sleep simply lengthy sufficient to attain a pair touchdowns. How wild is that this? Coming into Saturday, groups with fewer than 300 yards of offense have been 24-116. Northwestern moved to 3-0 in such video games with the win in opposition to Wisconsin. Who wants offense in 2020?
Cincinnati is a playoff contender, too. The Bearcats are saddled with the “they are not within the Energy 5” excuse, however that appears significantly silly this season. Cincinnati just went to the Bounce House and won. Its protection proved deserving of all of the hype, holding UCF to fewer than 400 yards of offense for the primary time because the 2019 Fiesta Bowl in opposition to LSU. And what is the case that the American Athletic Convention is any worse, high to backside, than the Massive 12, Massive Ten or Pac-12 this season? If Cincinnati runs the desk, its path to the playoff — at SMU, Memphis, at UCF, at Tulsa — may have been as powerful as, say, Notre Dame’s or Ohio State’s. It is 2020, so after all that is the yr a group outdoors the Energy 5 deserves a playoff bid.
Heck, Cincinnati is not alone in that quest. How about BYU? The Cougars had an easy win over North Alabama, their seventh victory by a minimum of 30 factors this season. Within the playoff period, solely 5 different groups have carried out that within the common season, and three made the playoff.
Or how about Coastal Carolina? The Chanticleers handed one other massive check, beating Appalachian State behind three touchdowns from freshman quarterback Grayson McCall. It is 2020, so after all Coastal Carolina is undefeated with a freshman QB. Who could not have seen that coming?
Clemson is a playoff contender, and the Tigers deliberate so as to add to their credentials with a win at Florida State on Saturday. Solely, that didn’t happen. Why? Relies upon whom you ask. The Tigers had a participant check constructive for COVID-19 after touring to Tallahassee, Florida, which satisfied Florida State the sport ought not be performed. The tip consequence was two fan bases bickering over who was at fault as a result of, in 2020, no storyline is clear-cut.
How about Indiana? The Hoosiers noticed their playoff hopes disappear Saturday, however within the aftermath of a 42-35 loss to Ohio State, it positive felt like Indiana was a winner. Justin Fields threw as many interceptions in a single recreation as he had thrown in his profession at Ohio State. The Hoosiers trailed 35-7 initially of the third quarter and 42-21 to begin the fourth, and but they nonetheless had an opportunity to win on their ultimate drive. Michael Penix Jr. threw for 491 yards and 5 touchdowns, or offensive manufacturing Jim Harbaugh would name “a pleasant decade in Columbus.”
Talking of Harbaugh, he delivered Saturday’s most quintessentially 2020 second. After a day of dazzling highlights, a bleary-eyed nation turned its consideration to Piscataway, New Jersey, for an absolute prepare wreck of a recreation between two 1-3 Massive Ten groups. Simply greater than a yr in the past, again in additional understandable instances, Michigan beat Rutgers 52-0. On Saturday, issues went a bit otherwise, because the Wolverines fell behind early, benched their QB, blew an eight-point lead with lower than a minute to play and missed a kick in OT earlier than lastly prevailing 48-42 in triple overtime.
Justin Fields tallies 300 passing yards and three complete touchdowns, whereas Michael Penix Jr. tops him with 491 yards and 5 scores, however Ohio State outlasts Indiana.
The place will all of this lead us? The Faculty Soccer Playoff committee will launch its first rankings this week, and we may be comforted by some sense of normalcy if it contains some mixture of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
However normalcy is not our consolation zone this yr. The previous actuality seems like historic historical past, and whether or not we’re residing in some unusual pc simulation or the universe’s model of a cosmic sensible joke, it is truly the unlikely twists which have turn out to be out widespread floor.
So, this is to 2020 staying bizarre — a minimum of on the faculty soccer subject — and let’s have our previous couple of steps towards the playoff take us in a number of more bizarre and surprising instructions.
This week, Twitter introduced a brand new function known as “Fleets,” that are supposed to be meandering ideas that disappear rapidly, which, sure, sounds rather a lot like a tweet. However in honor of this new and utterly pointless function, we’ll supply a number of “Fleets” of our personal from Saturday’s school soccer motion …
Spencer Rattler‘s Heisman Trophy case took a giant hit early when Oklahoma dropped two of its first three video games, however the Sooners QB has rebounded fairly properly. In actual fact, after Rattler accounted for 5 touchdowns in his first Bedlam begin, a 41-13 win over Oklahoma State, he is now finishing 68% of his throws, averaging 10 yards per go, with 26 complete touchdowns and 7 turnovers. Evaluate that to Jalen Hurts‘ ultimate eight video games of final season: 68% completions, 10.3 yards per go, 27 TDs and eight turnovers. Hurts completed second within the Heisman race.
Has Georgia lastly discovered its quarterback? The win against Mississippi State wasn’t precisely one to be ok with for the bottom recreation or the protection, however JT Daniels saved the day with 401 passing yards and 4 touchdowns — the primary Bulldogs QB to put up a 400-4 recreation since Aaron Murray within the 2012 Capital One Bowl in opposition to Nebraska.
In his debut for the Georgia Bulldogs, JT Daniels goes off for 4 touchdowns and 401 yards in a 31-24 win vs. Mississippi State.
Virginia Tech misplaced its third straight recreation Saturday, and it was ugly. Pitt won 47-14 regardless of being down 16 gamers attributable to COVID-19, racking up 556 yards within the course of — its most since 2018 (additionally in opposition to Virginia Tech). Justin Fuente’s seat is getting awfully scorching, and with Clemson arising subsequent weekend, life is not going to get any simpler. The Virginia recreation could possibly be make-or-break for the Virginia Tech coach.
The Heisman is getting fascinating, however do not forget the Doak Walker Award, for which UNC’s Javonte Williams, Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams and Clemson’s Travis Etienne appear to be robust candidates. However Week 12 noticed Iowa State’s Breece Hall (135 yards, 2 TDs), Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim (102 yards, 3 TDs) and Alabama’s Najee Harris (110 complete yards, 2 TDs) all make massive statements.
Liberty got here oh-so-close to ending 3-0 in opposition to the ACC this season, with a blocked subject objective with 1:18 to play in opposition to NC State on Saturday proving the distinction. It is a disgrace, too. Primarily based on ACC guidelines, a 3-0 nonconference marketing campaign in opposition to the ACC would have earned the Flames the identical settlement Notre Dame will get, with entry to 5 ACC video games a yr. As a substitute, they’re going to accept a comfort package deal that features a field of Bojangles rooster, and Malik Willis can put on the Demon Deacon’s high hat for every week.
LSU’s comeback win against Arkansas prevented a very embarrassing twist: A yr in the past, the Bayou Bengals have been favored by 39.5 factors over Arkansas (and received by 36). On Saturday, they wanted a late TD and a blocked 44-yard subject objective attempt to win.
East Carolina entered Saturday permitting 40 factors per recreation, among the many worst in school soccer. Temple scored a grand total of three. The Owls are actually 1-6 and have misplaced their previous three by a median of 28.
This weekend did not a lot shake up the Heisman race as inject a small dose of actuality for a few of the high contenders.
His streak of six straight video games to open the season with a minimum of 4 TD passes got here to an finish in opposition to Vanderbilt, however Trask nonetheless tossed three scores and completed with 383 yards by way of the air. He is the primary Energy 5 QB since Oregon State’s Sean Mannion in 2013 to throw a minimum of three TDs in every of his first seven video games.
Kyle Trask throws for 383 yards and three touchdowns as Florida defeats Vanderbilt 38-17.
2. Alabama QB Mac Jones
The Crimson Tide’s destruction of Kentucky on Saturday was extra concerning the supporting forged than it was the QB. Whereas Najee Harris had greater than 100 yards and two TDs and DeVonta Smith set an SEC file along with his thirty second profession receiving TD, Jones was comparatively pedestrian with 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that shall be remembered for preserving Alabama from scoring 70.
3. BYU QB Zach Wilson
Positive, Wilson wasn’t going to be challenged in opposition to North Alabama, however nonetheless, he did what he needed to do to pad the résumé: 212 yards and 4 TDs.
4. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence has tumbled down our rankings as a result of he merely cannot get on the sector. Clemson’s recreation in opposition to Florida State was nixed on the final minute Saturday, and it has now been a month since we have seen him play. Irrespective of. If Lawrence returns with massive video games down the stretch and stars in a rematch win over Notre Dame, his odds to win the Heisman stay robust.
5. North Carolina RB Javonte Williams
What, no Justin Fields? Three picks in opposition to Indiana diminished his case, and sooner or later, we have to reward the fellows who’ve truly been taking part in. Maybe nobody has seen his numbers float beneath the radar fairly like Williams has, who entered Saturday main the nation with 18 touchdowns.
Checking in with the Class of 2018
Saturday’s showdown between Oregon and UCLA wasn’t only a homecoming for Chip Kelly, but additionally a matchup of two of 2018’s greatest teaching hires.
Mario Cristobal and the Geese held on for a 38-35 win, however Kelly received over a number of doubters with a powerful displaying regardless of being with out his beginning quarterback. If we’re rating these 2018 hires, Cristobal is clearly close to the highest of the checklist, and Kelly — properly, the jury remains to be out.
Oregon’s protection takes benefit of 4 UCLA turnovers and quarterback Tyler Shough throws three landing passes of their slender 38-35 win over the Bruins.
Saturday was additionally an excellent reminder of simply how unusual that class of coaches turned out to be.
Of the 21 coaches employed in 2018, simply eight have a successful file, together with Cristobal and Florida’s Dan Mullen, who additionally received Saturday. 4 have already been fired, and two extra — Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin and Nebraska’s Scott Frost — took one other step towards the exit Saturday with losses.
A couple of look to be on the verge of one thing a lot better. Jonathan Smith led Oregon State to a 31-27 win over Cal. Kent State is pink scorching with Sean Lewis on the helm, and whereas Louisiana’s Billy Napier introduced a constructive COVID-19 check Saturday, he stays one of many hottest names to fill a giant emptiness this offseason.
Josh Heupel’s UCF misplaced for the third time this season, which actually will not put him on the new seat, however the Knights are a good distance from their most up-to-date signature win. Jeremy Pruitt was driving excessive only a month in the past, however Tennessee dropped its fifth straight game in ugly style at Auburn. After which there’s Kelly, whose 8-19 mark at UCLA places the Bruins forward of simply UTEP, Rice and South Alabama amongst groups nonetheless hanging on to their 2018 rent.
Beneath-the-radar recreation of the week
Along with his group at 1-9, Jake Spavital most likely is not successful any coach of the yr votes, however even earlier than Saturday, it was clear that Texas State had made some massive strides this season. It simply could not recover from the hump. The Bobcats had six losses by 10 factors or much less, together with a two-point heartbreak every week in the past in opposition to Georgia Southern. It may need been one other repeat efficiency Saturday in opposition to Arkansas State, however Calvin Hill‘s 6-yard TD run with 34 seconds left secured a 47-45 win. Brady McBride threw for 443 yards and 5 touchdowns within the victory. It was the Bobcats’ seventh recreation determined by 10 factors or much less this season — most within the FBS.
Calvin Hill takes the handoff and finds a gap to present Texas State the lead with lower than a minute remaining.
Beneath-the-radar play of the week
After Military flubbed an opportunity to run down the clock within the ultimate two minutes of the sport, Georgia Southern discovered itself in field-goal vary, down 1 with no timeouts and 22 seconds to go. Hoping for a number of additional yards to make life simpler for its kicker, the Eagles determined to run a play — and run on that play. QB Justin Tomlin was stuffed, Military’s defenders relaxed on high of the pile for a number of additional seconds, and the clock ticked to zero earlier than Georgia Southern might get one other play off. A replay assessment appeared to point 1 second was on the clock when Tomlin spiked the ball, however officers disagreed, and the Black Knights held on for a 28-27 win.
Whereas in vary to kick a go-ahead subject objective, Georgia Southern QB Justin Tomlin is sacked, and his ensuing spike is simply too late because the clock strikes zero.
Greatest bets and dangerous beats
Nebraska has given us a lot in 2020. First, the Huskers threatened to bolt the Massive Ten, which absolutely satisfied the league to cave and return to motion in October. Then Nebraska complained about being assigned an unfairly arduous schedule that included groups corresponding to (checks notes) Illinois. Then, after the Cornhuskers utterly understandably misplaced to Illinois 41-23, the Illini’s social media group foolishly tried to taunt the Huskers on Twitter. That went over poorly, and the tweet was deleted, so we’re right here to supply a correct and utterly severe little bit of gratitude to these unsung heroes of 2020: Nebraska’s meaningless TD with 2:12 to play within the recreation pushed the rating over the overall of 69, giving backers of the over a strong payday. So thanks, Nebraska. You are the present that retains giving (to everybody besides Nebraska followers).
It’s arduous to cowl a 51-point unfold, and BYU did not appear prone to do it when it led North Alabama 56-14 with lower than 4 minutes to play. However as they are saying, good groups win, and nice groups cowl. Make no mistake, BYU is a superb group. The Cougars booted a subject objective with 3:36 to go to push their result in 45, recovered a fumble two performs later, then scored on a 26-yard run on the subsequent play. Remaining rating: 66-14, masking the large unfold by some extent.
Cincinnati received a vital recreation to remain within the playoff hunt, nevertheless it failed to complete the job and canopy a four-point unfold. Down 11, UCF transformed a fourth-and-11 on a 12-play scoring drive, then completed with a two-point conversion to drag inside three. Nonetheless, the Bearcats have been in place to cowl, establishing with a first-and-goal on the UCF 5 with 1:34 to play. The following play received all the way down to the 1, however Cincinnati went nowhere on three straight performs and received by simply three.
Whereas the road closed at 3, it had been as excessive as 5.5 all through the week, which means nearly all of Coastal Carolina backers have been nonetheless prepared to drag their hair out of their Chanticleer Chandelier mullets as the sport drew to a detailed with the Chanticleers up simply 4 — all in a recreation during which Coastal did not convert three 2-point tries and a PAT. However all that dangerous luck circled with 1:20 to play when Appalachian State’s Zac Thomas was intercepted by D’Jordan Strong, who returned it 38 yards for the rating, guaranteeing even Chanticleers followers who received in on the motion a bit too early received to have a good time.