After a crazy week seven goes into the books, some big turnover in the top 25 reshuffles the playoff picture and leaves us reeling. Eight teams in the top 25 lost, with four top 10 teams finding their way into the loss column. No. 2 Clemson, No. 5 Washington, No. 8 Washington State and No. 10 Auburn all fell in stunning upsets.
Time to dive into top performances, games, players and highlights from the weekend. But first, your Minnesota Golden Gophers highlights.
Gophers Recap – The Gophers were downed by the Michigan State Spartans 30-27 in a late game following a 37 minute rain delay. Spartans running back L.J. Scott ran for a season high 194 yards along with two scores. While the loss forced a quarterback change at the 6:38 mark in the second quarter, the move from Conor Rhoda to Demry Croft helped lead to a 21 point fourth quarter. Croft finished with 163 passing yards and three touchdowns to make a case for next week’s starting job.
Everyone is talking about the upsets, which is why this will be about, perhaps, the most exciting group of four to make a case for the playoffs.
The nation’s top four teams going into this week: Alabama, Penn State, Georgia and TCU. As of right now, only one team from last year’s playoffs – the Crimson Tide – would return this year, making for a potential exciting change of pace. While the race is far from over, here is the best thing every team does and why they could keep their spot:
Tide – Yes, the constant No. 1 Crimson Tide is still dominant defensively, so good it must be discussed. They are letting up only 10.1 points per game and 254 total yards per game. They have returning stars back in a front seven that has produced 19 sacks and 45 tackles for loss. However, sophomore defensive linemen Raekwon Davis leads the group with 4.5 sacks and second with five tackles for loss. The Tide continually churn out fresh NFL talent on defense, meaning no matter what happens on offense – we will get to that later – they will always be a high level contender.
Nittany Lions – Penn State has shown that they have an offense to bail them out in a Big Ten race that involves Michigan and Ohio State, both teams that have seen their share of offensive struggles. The defense has let up an impressive 9 points per game up this season. But as they come down the final stretch of conference games, the duo of quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. See the Iowa win to drive 65-yards in 1:30 to win the game.
Bulldogs – The combination of great front seven play – 10 sacks and five forced fumbles – a sound running back duo, and a skilled quarterback keep the Bulldogs in every game. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has been tremendous stepping in for Jacob Eason. Fromm has 1,162 yards and 12 touchdowns with only three interceptions, doing enough to win games without doing too much. But the running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be the players that carry the Bulldogs the distance. They already have 1,180 combined yards, finding the endzone 14 times. This is the backbone of the Bulldogs squad and it has been productive all season.
Horned Frogs – Maybe the surprise of the year, the Horned Frogs have had an electric defense. They’ve embraced the bend-but-not-break mindset to perfection, giving up 336 yards per game but only 17.3 points. After some down years, head coach Gary Patterson has gotten back to his system of developing defenders and letting the youth sit in the program before playing. The stingy defense has racked up 15 sacks and 12 turnovers as a result. The defense looks great, but second year transfer quarterback Kenny Hill – aka Kenny Trill – is they key. To be blunt, he has not had the game yet were he really fell apart, a trend all too familiar in past performances. With 1,552 total yards and 12 total scores, his constant play will be the difference between TCU becoming the first Big 12 playoff team or another disappointing finish.
Players To Watch
Nick Orr, TCU – Speaking of TCU, cornerback Nick Orr leads the team with two interceptions. He’s also second on the team with 35 tackles and has two tackles for loss. The Horned Frogs’ corners do a great job setting the edge and getting involved in the running game, forcing everything back inside. It is a big reason they only let up 98.3 yards per game to running backs. Orr is a great corner against both phases of the offense and should be a player to watch going forward.
Jalen Hurts, Alabama – Quarterback Jalen Hurts is the other standout, but not for the right reasons. The sophomore signal caller has only 1,025 passing yards and eight touchdowns this season, leaving the air attack less than impressive. While his 558 rushing yards and six touchdowns has bailed out his season thus far, the day will come when the running game falters. Against FSU in week one, the defense bailed out Hurts and the Tide when the offense was stalled. Hurts needs to get back to picking teams apart and fast, as the hardest games are approaching quickly.
Game Of The Week
The Syracuse Orange upset the Clemson Tigers 27-24 over the weekend, earning them the game of the week. Orange quarterback Eric Dungey was the star of the game, passing for 278 yards and three touchdowns, adding 61 yards on the ground. The Tigers pass rush consistently failed to bring down the 222 pound Dungey as he led the orange to a major upset victory, with the Tigers 22.5 point favorites heading into the game. The Orange led or tied the entire way and outgunned the Tigers in total yards 440 to 317.
Play Of The Week
The USC Trojans capped off a 21-point second half with a touchdown from running back Ronald Jones II. The score lifted the Trojans over Utah after going 21-7 in the first half and gave them the 28-27 victory.