Central Florida’s big nationally televised victory over Cincinnati Saturday night caught the attention of pollsters. The Knights who have now won 23 consecutive games beat the Bearcats 38-13 and jumped three spots to No.8 in the AP Poll. The significance of this is very important as the Knights seek an invitation to the CFP party. In my mind it’s now conceivable that with some help they can make it to No.4. The key here is they jumped ahead of Ohio State and LSU. In order for the Knights to take the next step Michigan, Washington State, Oklahoma and Georgia would all have to lose. All four of those schools face a very difficult schedule going forward. I would think it would be difficult for the committee to keep a 13-0 Central Florida team out, over any two loss squad.
There wasn’t a whole lot of movement in the polls over the weekend. Northwestern made the biggest move. They defeated Minnesota on the road 24-14 and moved up four spots. Syracuse and Iowa State both suffered losses and moved down seven spots each. Pittsburgh and Army are the only two new additions to the top 25. Army moved into the poll for the first time since 1996. Cincinnati and Boston College tumbled out of the poll.
I was ecstatic to finally see Les Miles get back into the head coaching ranks. Miles signed a five-year deal to become head coach at Kansas. This is a great hire for the Jayhawks, who will undoubtedly benefit from Miles and his recruiting prowess. I was in Baton Rouge when the announcement was made and I can tell you LSU fans are fearful that Miles will dip into the talent rich high school ranks from the state of Louisiana. I was disappointed that Colorado chose not to retain Mike MacIntyre. MacIntyre had done a great job building the program leading the Buffaloes to a 10-4 record last season and their first bowl since 2007. I have heard Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford is high on the wish list for the Buffaloes. Tedford has a history in the PAC-12 where he served as head coach for California.
Pittsburgh clinched a date with Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a resounding 34-14 win over Wake forest. The Panthers will be the 6th different team in the last six seasons to represent the Coastal in the ACC Championship Game. The Demon Deacons were focused on shutting down the Panthers running game, which they did, but forgot about defending the pass. Quarterback Kenny Pickett made them pay with a career best three touchdown passes. Coach Pat Narduzzi wasn’t worried about a jinx. The Pitt coach had his equipment staff bring the commemorative ACC caps and T-shirts all the way from Pittsburgh. “I said, Get them. It’s going to happen,” Narduzzi said. Notre Dame played a complete game in all facets of the game, dominating Syracuse 36-3. Ian Book returned for the Irish and looked very sharp in helping deliver a big Irish win. Quarterback Eric Dungey was injured early in the first half and did not return for the Orange. The Irish moved to 11-0 and will close the season this weekend at USC. A win over the Trojans will guarantee a CFP playoff spot for the Irish. Miami finally got bowl eligible with an easy 38-14 win on the road at Virginia Tech. N’Kosi Perry threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, helping the Hurricanes snap a four game losing streak. The loss was the fourth in a row for the struggling Hokies. With the 4-6 Hokies chasing bowl eligibility, Virginia Tech has scheduled a conditional game against Marshall. If Virginia Tech defeats Virginia this Friday, the Hokies will host the Thundering Herd on December 1st in a matchup of two teams that had games canceled due to Hurricane Florence in September. If Virginia beats Virginia Tech and the Hokies fall to 4-7, the following game will be called off. The Hokies have played a bowl game in every season since the 1993 Independence Bowl.
Both Michigan and Ohio State struggled mightily on Saturday. Both were clearly caught looking ahead to this weeks matchup. Michigan trailed most of the game to Indiana, but ultimately rallied past the Hoosiers 31-20. Michigan kicker Jake Moody set a school record with six field goals during the win. Moody connected on field goals of 32, 30 31,33, 23 and 29 yards. Ohio State’s 52-51 win over Maryland in overtime was particularly troubling for me. It was the fourth time this year that the Buckeyes have given up over 500 total yards. Maryland seeking a victory went for a two-point conversion on the final play, but the pass to a wide open receiver fell to the ground ending the game. The Buckeyes will host the Wolverines in “The Game” on Saturday. It was fun to watch the energy back in Nebraska. Head coach Scott Frost has finally righted the ship in Lincoln. Saturdays game played in miserable conditions, saw the Cornhuskers battle back and beat Michigan State 9-6. A sellout crowd braved the wintry conditions and clearly played a big impact in the victory.
FEEL GOOD STORY OF THE WEEK
The Big 12 race has become my favorite to watch. We went from four teams to three over the weekend for a chance at a BIG 12 title. Iowa Stat was eliminated from the race, when they fell to Texas 24-10. The Cyclones offense clearly sputtered without the presence of star tailback David Montgomery who was suspended for the first half. The Longhorn defense played their best game of the season, limiting the Clones to just 210 total yards. The Longhorns will become big Oklahoma fans this weekend. A Sooner win combined with a Texas win, will put Texas in the BIG 12 Championship game with Oklahoma. Taylor Cornelius passed for 338 yards and five touchdown passes and added an additional 106 rushing yards in leading Oklahoma State past West Virginia 45-41. Cornelius hit Tylan Wallace with an 11 yard scoring strike with 41 seconds left for the winning score. The win moved the Cowboys to 6-5 on the season and guaranteed a bowl invitation. The Mountaineers still have a shot to play in the BIG 12 Championship game, but will have to defeat Oklahoma on Saturday. Wins by TCU and Kansas State moved them into a four-way tie with Baylor and Texas Tech all at 5-6. Each team needs one more victory to become bowl eligible. Baylor plays Texas Tech assuring the winner gets to six wins.
Washington State avoided looking ahead to Washington and crushed Arizona 69-28. The cougars were simply unstoppable as Gardner Minshew threw for 473 yards and seven touchdowns. Minshew had thrown for over 300 yards in every game this season. Eleven different Cougar receivers caught passes and six different receivers hauled in a touchdown catch. “We’re not that good and they’re not that bad”, said Cougar head coach Mike Leach after the game. Utah claimed the PAC-12 South despite the fact they are playing without Tyler Huntley and Zach Moss who were lost for the season with injuries. The Utes disposed of Colorado 30-7 limiting the Buffaloes to just 196 total yards. Quarterback Jason Shelley and tailback Ahmand Shyne have filled in admirably in the past two weeks. The Utes will play for their first ever PAC-12 Championship. The firing line for USC coach Clay Helton is getting longer. The embattled head coach suffered another loss, this time to rival UCLA. The Bruins overcame a halftime deficit to beat the Trojans 34-27. Bruin tailback Joshua Kelley carried the rock 40 times for 289 yards. I strongly believe Helton will have to deliver a win over Notre Dame Saturday to keep his job. The Fires in California forced the PAC-12 to move the Stanford-California game to December 1st.
TOP 10 PLAYS OF THE WEEK
It was cupcake week in the SEC. Only three conference games were scheduled as most teams took on inferior competition. Vanderbilt defeated Ole Miss 36-29 in overtime when Kyle Shurmur hit Kalija Lipscomb with a five yard scoring strike. The game featured three lead changes in the second half. The Commodores found a way to win despite being outgained by 200 total yards. The win moved the Commodores to 5-6 and sets up a huge game with state rival Tennessee on Saturday. The winner will go bowling. The Volunteers were hammered at home by Missouri 50-17. The Tigers have now won three in a row and can finish with an eight win season if they are able to beat Arkansas at home this weekend.