One more week.
We are officially less than seven days from the real start of the 2020 season. It's been a long wait, but Ryan Day and the Buckeyes will be squaring off with Scott Frost and the Huskers next Saturday in Columbus. We've been previewing the upcoming campaign for the last week, and we'll once again be recapping the Big Ten starting next Sunday.
Nationally, yesterday's slate featured what may have been the most anticipated game of the season with No. 2 Alabama hosting No. 3 Georgia. There weren't too many other marquee matchups, however, and the LSU/Florida postponement didn't help matters. But a surprise in the ACC did spice things up a bit.
No. 1 Clemson 73, Georgia Tech 7
There was maybe a 20-second time frame when it was 14-7 and I thought the Jackets could make this somewhat interesting. But then Trevor Lawrence threw for 400 yards with five touchdowns and showed why he's the Heisman frontrunner and might play the sport professionally one day.
The Tigers scored 59 unanswered after Georgia Tech got on the board in the first quarter. Amari Rodgers was quite good with six receptions for 161 yards and two scores. Travis Etienne was mostly held in check with 44 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. 300-pound defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney even added a short rushing score. Some of Clemson's play-calling was simply masterful.
The Jackets had a couple of decent plays where they confused the Clemson secondary, but that was about it for the day. True freshman tailback Jahmyr Gibbs had a decent showing with 64 yards on 15 carries and another 23 on three receptions. Georgia Tech only threw the ball 14 times in a game where it was getting crushed. It's worth noting that it's no longer a triple-option offense, so I have no idea how that's even possible.
No. 13 Miami 31, Pittsburgh 19
The Canes bounced back from last week's loss with a win over Pittsburgh. I'd say this one went about as expected with D'Eriq King tossing four touchdown passes while really not looking all that great. King completed just 16 of 31 passes for 222 yards with two interceptions and the four scores. Tight end Will Mallory was on the receiving end of two of those touchdown passes.
Pat Narduzzi kept this one quiet, but Panther quarterback Kenny Pickett didn't travel to Miami after suffering an ankle injury last week. Joey Yellen filled in with 277 yards and a score through the air. Former Buckeye commit Todd Sibley Jr. led the Pitt ground game, but he only managed 23 yards on four carries.
South Carolina 30, No. 15 Auburn 22
I realize that Gus Malzahn has bested Nick Saban three times, but one has to think his seat is getting a little hot right now. The Tigers are 2-2 and would be 1-3 had the officials not bailed them out against Arkansas last week. Immediately following yesterday's loss, some outlets began clamoring for Malzahn to be fired despite the absurd $21 million buyout.
Bo Nix just doesn't look like a competent quarterback right now. The sophomore connected on 24 of 47 passes for 272 yards and a score. He also had three interceptions that certainly didn't help matters. I suppose the silver lining is that true freshman tailback Tank Bigsby already looks like a star in the making. He rushed 16 times for 111 and a score. Last week he put up 146 yards against the Hogs.
If you looked at the box score and saw that South Carolina didn't even reach 300 yards of offense, you'd probably expect a different score. Kevin Harris ran for 83 yards and two scores while quarterback Collin Hill found the end zone twice as well. The Nix turnovers really were the difference in this one.
Kentucky 34, No. 18 Tennessee 7
If Bo Nix was bad, then I'm not sure the word I'd use to describe Jarrett Guarantano. He was on the field for four drives before being benched. Those drives resulted in a punt, two interceptions returned for touchdowns, and a Guarantano lost fumble. It legitimately may have been the worst start I've ever seen for any quarterback ever, and I have no idea what he was seeing on the two errant passes.
Two pick-sixes in less than three minutes for the Wildcats pic.twitter.com/uQD1sgQ6wU— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 17, 2020
Guarantano was relieved by some dude name J.T. Shrout. He then proceeded to throw a pick on his first and only pass of the game. True freshman Harrison Bailey then took over under center and completed one of his four attempts for 24 yards. Just a complete disaster of a day for the Tennessee offense. But hey at least Eric Gray ran for 128 yards on 24 carries and didn't throw an interception.
Kentucky's offense wasn't much better, but a single turnover is far better than the Vols' four. The Wildcats ended up with just 294 yards, but they didn't really need to do all that much thanks to the points Guarantano handed them. Terry Wilson threw for 101 yards and a score. Christopher Rodriguez Jr. led the ground game with 73 yards and a touchdown.
You know Mark Stoops made the most of his night.
Mark Stoops on KSR Postgame Show:— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) October 17, 2020
You ask me if l am happy about this win? I am sitting on the bus with a glass of Bourbon. I am going home and will smoke a cigar. Whats that tell you?
No. 4 Notre Dame 12, Louisville 7
I have to thank my beautiful cousin for this one. I thank her for allowing me to attend her fall wedding – one that did not interfere with Ohio State football – which caused me to miss this disaster of a game.
Ian Book scored Notre Dame's lone touchdown on 13-yard scamper late in the third. A short little one-yard pass to tight end Marshon Ford was the Cardinals' only score of the day. Irish running back Kyren Williams had a big game with 127 yards on 25 carries. The Irish defense was the real star of the show, however, allowing just 233 total yards to the Cards.
Florida State 31, No. 5 North Carolina 28
Mack Brown's stint in the top five was extremely short-lived. And quite frankly, losing to Florida State in the year 2020 is pretty embarrassing. The Heels were trailing 24-0 at one point but managed to storm back as FSU failed to score in the second half. UNC had the ball in Nole territory with under a minute left, but Sam Howell's receivers failed him when it meant the most and the Heels failed to get into field goal range.
Howell threw for 374 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Javonte Williams rumbled for 119 and a score. Beau Corrales was the game's leading receiving as he hauled in four for 141 yards and a touchdown. The Heels dropped three-straight passes on the final drive or else this one was likely headed to overtime or potentially even another UNC victory.
For the Noles, Jordan Travis threw for 191 and rushed for another 107 with three total touchdowns. La'Damian Webb rushed for 109 on just 12 carries while Ontaria Wilson was the leading receiver with 61 yards on two catches. Defensive end Josh Kaindoh added a pick-six, and I have no idea what Sam Howell was thinking on that one.
No. 2 Alabama 41, No. 3 Georgia 24
The week's headliner featured an elite offense going up against an elite defense. It was a weird start as Alabama was picked off on the first play and Georgia returned the favor moments later. But the biggest factor in this one was fairly simple: Kirby Smart's walk-on quarterback looked like a walk-on quarterback in the second half.
Stetson Bennett was picked off three times against the Tide, and the two second-half turnovers were especially problematic. Hitting on 18 of 40 attempts isn't a good thing either, and some folks are already clamoring for a change under center. Bennett threw for 269 with two scores and the trio of turnovers. His 82-yard scoring strike to James Cook came courtesy of a Bama defender completely misplaying the ball. Remember that time Georgia couldn't effectively use someone as talented as Justin Fields?
Nick Saban's offense was exceptional per usual. Mac Jones threw for 417 with four touchdowns and an interception. DeVonta Smith caught 11 for 167 and two scores. Jaylen Waddle added six for 161; including a 90-yard score in which he completely toasted a really good corner in Tyson Campbell. Najee Harris toted the rock 31 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. Just another day at the office for the Crimson Tide.
Georgia held a 24-20 lead at the half before Alabama took over and look like the Bama defense of old for the final two frames.
There were a couple of other games worth mentioning. Jeff Hafley fell short against the No. 23 Hokies by a score of 40-14. Shoutout to Jaelen Gill for scoring his first touchdown as an Eagle. He had a nice overall showing with six catches for 104 and the score. Boston College is now 3-2 on the season while the Hokies moved to 3-1 with the lone loss coming in Chapel Hill.
UCF and Memphis were both unranked when the two teams met yesterday, but they've had some good battles of late, and this year was no different. This one had over 1,500 yards of offense and UCF had a chance to win it with a 40-yard field goal. Daniel Obarski missed the attempt, and one of his own teammates then tried to fight him on the sideline. Memphis was victorious by a score of 50-49.
- Week's Best: Trevor Lawrence & Clemson's play-calling, Kentucky's defense, Steve Sarkisian
- Week's Worst: Jarrett Guarantano, Bo Nix, UNC pass-catchers in crunch time, and basically all aspects of the Notre Dame/Louisville game.
- Week's Weirdest: The Mississippi schools seem to be mystified by the simplest of defenses. Mike Leach was masterful against LSU in the opener (almost exclusively man coverage). Since that time, it's been ugly for the Bulldogs. Lane Kiffin torches Alabama and then his offense struggles to the tune of six interceptions in a loss to Arkansas. As Kirk Herbstreit pointed out on Twitter, defenses are rushing three and dropping eight, and apparently that's about all it takes. At least Mississippi State provided us with this gem:
Mississippi State with the most insane pick-6 you will ever see— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 17, 2020
So what about next week? The Big Ten's return is obviously what we're looking forward to the most as things get underway Friday night when Wisconsin hosts Illinois. The Buckeyes welcome Nebraska for the noon kickoff, and Michigan's trip to Minnesota is likely the weekend's top matchup. Penn State @ Indiana has some sneaky good potential as well.
Outside of the Midwest, there's not a ton to be excited about. Alabama should beat Tennessee by about 80 in Knoxville, Notre Dame heads to Pittsburgh, and the Cowboys vs. Cyclones is the top matchup in the Big 12.