Somehow, it is already November. How is it that the college football offseason seems so much longer than eight months and the season seems shorter than four months?
But, with the calendar turning to November, games are becoming even more important. Week 10 was no exception, and it produced one of the great college football Saturdays in recent memory.
After a brief hiatus due to attending two big college football games in person the past two Saturdays, and fourteen consecutive hours of college football, the weekly wrap-up is back.
And it’s as spicy as ever.
They Got That ‘Dawg In ‘Em
Let’s think back to Week 1. The defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs looked unreal as they beat Oregon 49-3. It was a complete physical beatdown, and the two teams looked like they did not belong on the field together.
At the time, we didn’t know how good Oregon was. After all, they play in the PAC 12, a league not known for the physical style of play of the SEC. And, they were breaking in a new head coach in former Bulldogs defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. And, Georgia struggled mightily in back-to-back weeks against lowly Kent State and Missouri. All of a sudden, the national title talk started to move away from Georgia and started to focus on some other teams.
So, heading into Saturday’s matchup of the top two teams in the AP Poll and No.'s 1 and 3 in the first College Football PLayoff rankings, Georgia had a chance to make a statement as they welcomed Tennessee between the hedges at Sanford Stadium.
It was not a warm welcome for the Volunteers as Georgia took a page out of Nick Saban’s playbook and played joyless murderball for four quarters. They beat Tennessee 27-13 in a game not as close as the score. The offense was pretty good, and quarterback Stetson Bennett looked like the same guy who I told many of you to bet on for the Heisman in the early weeks of the season. But, the story was that defense.
The Vols came in as arguably the top offense in all of college football and were averaging over 550 yards a game and nearly 50 points a game. Kirby Smart’s defense kept them to under 300 yards and without a touchdown until the closing stages of the fourth quarter in a dominant display. Heisman favorite Hendon Hooker had nowhere to throw the ball and Georgia’s secondary locked down arguably the nation’s best receiving corps to under 200 passing yards, despite Tennessee trailing basically the entire football game. And, while people using focus on the Vols’ passing attack, they’ve ran the ball as well as anyone in the country this year. That changed against the Bulldog defense, as Tennessee could only muster 94 yards on 42 carries, just 2.2 per attempt.
The statistics tell some of the story, no doubt. But, watching the game was even more impressive. Georgia just looked so fast, so strong, so quick to react. Smart has mostly eschewed the trend of going small and fast on defense, and it showed Saturday afternoon in Athens. Jalen Carter, who may be the best prospect in the entire draft, dominated the interior of the Volunteer offensive line all night, and Georgia’s linebackers flew around the field. They sacked Hooker six times, by far the most Tennessee has given up all season. Some of that was pass rush, but some of that was the excellent coverage downfield by the Georgia secondary. This was a team prepared to deal with the unique spacing and route combinations Josh Heupel uses. True freshman Malachi Starks is the best freshman football player in America, and sophomore cornerback Kelee Ringo may be the nation’s best corner. It’s a defense that lost five first-round picks to the draft, and they’re playing at a very similar level.
Offensively, it wasn’t an all-time performance by any means. But, it didn't have to be. This team is built in the mold of those early Saban Alabama teams. Their physicality, execution, and athleticism will win out in the end. The offense made plays when they needed to, and Bennett was in complete control of the offense from start to finish. It’s concerning they can’t run the ball consistently, and they only had 130 yards on 37 attempts. But, again, a lot of times all the offense has to do is not screw up. Outside a fumble on the game’s first possession, that’s what they did. Sprinkle in a few big pass plays to Ladd McConkey and a lot of good field position and it’s plenty enough offense against a Vols defense that is better than many people think.
It’s hard to see anyone really within ten points of this team based on how they played on Saturday and how they played against a very good Oregon team in week one. Ohio State does not match up well with the Bulldogs, and that’s the only team really in the playoff hunt that has anywhere close to enough talent to stay with them. The Bulldogs leave week 10 as a pretty solid national title favorite as they look to turn into the preeminent dynasty in the sport.
As for Tennessee, all is not lost. But, they still have a ways to go to get on the level Georgia is on right now. It’s a level very few programs ever get to.
Every single writer that covers college football, or any sport for that matter, has some biases towards certain teams or athletes, or coaches. It’s human nature, and while most of us do a good job of hiding them, I like to be upfront about mine. And, shocker, I do not like Clemson, and I especially don’t like Dabo Swinney. So, watching Clemson get punked off the field by Notre Dame was the highlight of my day, as it was for many college football fans.
When I say punked, I mean it. Notre Dame led 28-0 and ran all over the Tiger defense. The Clemson offense was even worse than a defense that gave up 263 rushing yards. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei was downright horrific and had to be benched late in the third quarter for freshman Cade Klubnik. I’ve been on the Klubnik train all year, and admittedly thought it was good move by Swinney, even if he should’ve just named the five-star freshman the starter af he led them back from the dead against Syracuse two weeks ago.
Naturally, Klubnik threw a bad pick on his first passing attempt that set up the Irish with first and goal.
But, here’s where things get ridiculous. After watching DJ be completely ineffective for three quarters and watching Klubnik throw one pass, Swinney went back to Uiagelelei. And, when he threw an absolutely horrific pick-six on the ensuing drive, Dabo had effectively ruined both of his quarterbacks’ confidence.
It reeked of desperation and shows Swinney has no trust in either quarterback to get the job done. Turns out, college football isn’t as easy when you don’t have Trevor Lawrence or Deshaun Watson to make up for an offensive scheme stuck in 2007.
Yes, it’s just one loss. But, it’s a bad loss. This is a Notre Dame team that got beat by Marshall at home early in the year. And, they just lost to a horrific Stanford team at home last month. The Irish are improving and first-year coach Marcus Freeman is building momentum, but this is not a football team. And they manhandled Clemson. They made Clemson look like one of the undersized, slow, poorly coached ACC teams that the Tigers get to pound their chest and storm their field after beating every week.
Notre Dame, which famously pioneered the forward pass a century ago, scarcely needed it to dominate Clemson. Irish wideouts only had three catches for fifteen yards and Drew Pyne only threw for 85 yards in total. It didn’t matter, as they owned the Tigers on both lines and looked very much like the more athletic team. That’s telling, as no one is writing home about the collection of athletes in the Notre Dame program right now.
In a just world, this would eliminate Clemson from playoff consideration entirely. They may finish the season with zero ranked wins, and they won’t have any regular season conference wins against teams in the top 35 of the 247Sports team talent ranking. They struggled mightily against Syracuse and Wake Forest, both of whom would die for even half of the talent Swinney has at his disposal. And, there could be more losses to come. There’s absolutely no guarantee they beat a physical South Carolina team to end the season, and they’ll see a dangerous UNC in the ACC title game.
Bigger than all that, it asks big questions about Swinney. This is two seasons in a row where, quite frankly, the Tigers have not played like a top-20 football team. He hasn’t quite adapted to the transfer portal and NIL era, and ace defensive coordinator Brent Venables is no longer there. The offensive scheme at Clemson hasn’t been great since Chad Morris was the offensive coordinator. But these last two years have shown just how bad it is. Again, football is a lot easier with a stud quarterback.
Swinney is going to have to adapt. Yes, the ACC is going to keep giving him wildly easy paths to the playoff. But, they haven’t been a top-12 team each of the past two years, and he always lost at least twice in a season when he didn’t have Watson or Lawrence. He should roll with Klubnik the rest of the year, as the Uiagalelei experiment should be over. But, he’s historically stubborn, and DJ will probably still play, to the program’s detriment.
All in all, a great day to be a Clemson Hater.
There are a lot of opinions on Brian Kelly the person. A lot of people do not like his personality or demeanor, and we all can agree the fake southern accent stuff he was doing upon taking the LSU job in the offseason was very cringe-worthy. But, one of my friends put it best in a text after the Alabama-LSU game that saw LSU take control of the SEC West with a 32-31 overtime win.
“Brian Kelly is a(n) ( expletive). But damn, can he coach a football team.”
Yes, that guy can really coach.
No team in America has improved more than LSU, who lost in embarrassing fashion to Florida State in Week 1. They took another loss to Tennessee in October, but the progress has been steady all year and it all came together Saturday night in Death Valley. Yes, the Tigers got outgained by just under 100 yards as Bryce Young threw for 328 yards. But, they made Young and Alabama earn every yard they got all night long. Nothing was easy for the Tide on that side of the ball.
Offensively, Jayden Daniels just keeps making plays. The passing stats don’t necessarily jump out, but he’s playing with serious poise and leadership right now, the same way Kelly had Ian Book playing for Notre Dame when they made the playoff in 2018 and 2020.
But, the moment everyone will remember from this game will be Brian Kelly rolling the dice and going for two and the win in the first overtime period. In shades of Ed Orgeron, Kelly gambled, and it paid off, as Daniels found freshman tight end Mason Taylor in the flat to win the football game.
LSU now is in the driver’s seat in the SEC West, as they hold the tiebreaker over Ole Miss and Alabama, and have one conference loss compared to Alabama’s two and the Rebels’ one (Alabama and Ole Miss will play next week). It would be quite the story for Brian Kelly to go in there and win the division his first year. And they may control their destiny for a spot in the College Football Playoff as well. 538’s computer model gives the Tigers an 84 percent chance of making the playoff if they win out through the SEC title game. That’s a tall task, given Georgia awaits. But the fact they may very well be playing in a de facto playoff game in Atlanta a month from now is quite the accomplishment.
As for the Crimson Tide, they’re just not very good. Both coordinators are completely clueless, the team is undisciplined, and they’re soft up front. The entire Tide offense against defenses with a pulse is to hope Bryce Young makes plays. No one is schemed open, and the playmakers outside of Jahmir Gibbs are well below recent Tide standards.
I don’t expect either offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien or defensive coordinator Pete Golding to be back next year. And, they may be the whole problem. But, this does not look like a vintage Alabama team, and if you put the film on you would have no clue it’s a Nick Saban-coached team. Even coming out of a timeout on the game-deciding play, the Tide were out of alignment and running guys on and off up to the point the ball was snapped. Something is off, and I think it’s probably the coordinators. But, what if it’s not? What if this is the start of the slow and steady decline of the Alabama dynasty? It’s hard to tell right now, but the answer will surely be clear a year from now.
A Special Moment At Rutgers
Wow, Rutgers football makes the wrap-up. Yes, the Scarlet Knights lost 52-17 to Michigan at home Saturday night after leading 17-14 at halftime. And, the program appears to still be well below the level needed to be a consistent bowl team in the Big Ten. But, when I tell you this story, nothing else will matter.
Rutgers’ first touchdown was scored on a blocked punt and ensuing scoop-and-score. It’s the type of play that happens every week across college football. But, the player who scored the touchdown is no ordinary college football player.
That’s because that player is Rutgers’ redshirt freshman defensive back Timmy Ward. Ward is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with cancer right after his junior football season in 2018 at tiny Canton High School in rural Pennsylvania. Ward, who made the all-state team that year, beat Hodgkins’ Lymphoma, but the diagnosis caused him to miss what would be his senior high school season in 2019. High school officials granted Ward an extra year of eligibility, as he had missed a lot of school while undergoing treatment. And, hopes were high for Ward and a Canton team expected to compete for a state title. But, Ward tore his ACL in the first scrimmage of his redshirt senior year, ruining not only his season but his college recruiting prospects.
He never gave up, though. He asked around and eventually got a spot as an equipment manager at Rutgers, with the opportunity to try out for the team after his freshman year. There was no guarantee he would make the team, but he did. And, just months later, he’s making big-time plays in the Big Ten.
Full disclosure, Ward is from the area I grew up in and I know him well. There is no better or more deserving kid to play big-time college football. I know he is an inspiration to all of his teammates at Rutgers, and as his story grows, he will soon be an inspiration to all of us.
Job well done, Timmy.
Ohio State and CJ Stroud looked dreadful on the road against lowly Northwestern in 21-7 win. Yes, it was windy, as it was across Big Ten country Saturday. But, other quarterbacks had more success than Stroud, who was an atrocious 10-26 for 76 yards. Dating back to the Iowa game two weeks ago, Stroud has now played two, maybe three, quarters of good football. I do not believe in him, and therefore I do not believe in the Buckeyes. Ryan Day is not the caliber coach Urban Meyer is, and something just doesn’t feel quite right. Do not remind me of this if they end up winning it all.
TCU keeps winning and keeps knocking out quarterbacks. They beat Texas Tech 34-24 in at least the fourth game in a row where the opposing starting quarterback had to leave the game due to injury. TCU’s own quarterback, Max Duggan, is battling injuries of his own, but the offense and special teams are doing just enough. The undefeated Horned Frogs surely control their destiny for a playoff berth. They’ll travel to Austin to take on Texas next week in a huge game.
Speaking of the Longhorns, they tried to give away their game against Kansas State, but hung on to win 34–27. Texas led 31-10 after a first half in which they were unlucky to not be up more. But, as we’ve learned this year, Texas is better at playing football games than winning them. Thankfully, they found a way to close this one out. The Longhorns control their destiny for the Big 12 title
Texas A&M’s nightmare season just keeps getting worse (or better, depending on your perspective.) After the flu swept through the team and kept dozens of Aggie players including starting quarterback Connor Weigman out of the game, A&M lost their fifth straight game, 41-24, at home against Florida. The Ags gave up 290 yards on the ground with the best run defense oil money can buy. They’ll need to win out to make a bowl game after starting the year ranked sixth in the nation
I know Mario Cristobal thinks there needs to be an entirely new culture at Miami, but their humiliating 45-3 defeat against rival Florida State shows there is more work done than previously thought. The Canes were dominated in all facets, and their offense is just abysmal. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was mocked in the first round all offseason, and yet the unit has not scored a touchdown in nine quarters. That’s a stat that makes Brian Ferentz blush. Miami is this week’s Down Bad Team Of The Week.
Credit to Michigan State for rebounding from a tough week and beating Big Ten West-leading Illinois 23-15 on the road. Eight Spartans were suspended after a melee in the tunnel after their loss to Michigan last week. But, Michigan State played tough for Mel Tucker this week and kept hopes of bowl eligibility alive.
Houston and SMU combined for an astounding 140 points in a 77-63 SMU win. Mustang quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw for seven first-half touchdowns and he and Houston quarterback Clayton Tune combined for SEVENTEEN total touchdowns.
Three schools known for having great basketball teams and terrible football teams are making some noise. Kansas rebounded from a three-game losing streak to clinch bowl eligibility with a resounding 37-16 win against Oklahoma State. On Friday, Duke beat Boston College to get to 6 wins in a remarkable turnaround for first-year head coach Mike Elko. And, Uconn beat UMass 27-10 for their 5th win. They need to beat either Liberty or Army for bowl eligibility after being the laughingstock of college football a season ago. Army is the better chance of the two.
Speaking of Liberty, they went to Arkansas and shocked the Razorbacks by winning 21-19. The score doesn’t show how in control the Flames were for most of the game. Arkansas had a putrid display, and last year may have just been lipstick on the proverbial pig in Fayetteville.
The next Power 5 coach likely to be fired is West Virginia’s Neal Brown. The Mountaineers looked lifeless in a 31-14 loss at lowly Iowa State Saturday and his time is up in Morgantown.
USC and UCLA kept finding ways to win. The Trojans held off Cal 41-35 and beat Arizona State 50-36. Both teams are flawed, but both still control their playoff destiny. They will face off in week 12.
Nobody played like they wanted to win this award this week.
1. Caleb Williams, USC
2. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee,
3. Bryce Young, Alabama
My Playoff Top Four
This is not a prediction of what the playoff will be , but is where I would currently rank the teams. In this scenario, I’d hope the committee would be smart enough to break up the conference matchups.
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 1 Georgia
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Follow Garrett Carr on Twitter - @RealGarrettCarr