While perusing Reddit over the weekend, I may have seen the most accurate nickname ever given to a college football team.
In the past three seasons, Maryland has collected a 12-1 record in September, with the lone loss coming in a one-possession game to eventual Big Ten champion Michigan in 2022. This year’s script has yet to be written, but Maryland’s record for all non-September games in 2021 and 2022? A meager 8-10.
At Big Ten Media Days in July, Maryland coach Michael Locksley didn’t shy away from putting bold expectations on his team, saying the Terrapins can win the Big Ten. Their schedule thus far has lacked stout opponents, but the proud September Terps have taken care of business, dominating all five of their opponents and winning by double digits.
Depending on who you ask, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa could be considered the best quarterback in the Big Ten this year. At worst, he’s in the top five.
Is this all set up for a potential trap game in Columbus? Well, probably not. A few historical factors will work against it.
- Ryan Day has traditionally owned opponents after off weeks in the regular season, with an average margin of victory of 41 points in six such games in his tenure at Ohio State.
- Maryland has never beaten Ohio State in the school’s eight meetings, and a game in Columbus doesn’t seem to be a recipe for a first-time win.
- Unfortunately for the Terrapins, the calendar now says October.
It also doesn’t hurt that Ohio State has more talent on the field at most positions than its Big Ten foe. But Tagovailoa and Maryland gave the Buckeyes a scare in College Park last season, and it’s not inconceivable that they will do it again this year. If nothing else, Ohio State’s secondary will get yet another chance to prove it's the real deal this year.
Ohio State spotlight of the week: The defensive backs
Taulia “Baby Tua” Tagovailoa has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses this season, throwing for 1,464 yards and 13 touchdowns. Both marks lead the Big Ten. In the season's first two games the season, Ohio State’s opponents had little interest in downfield passing. But the Buckeyes have kept two very good quarterbacks relatively in check the past two weeks in Notre Dame's Sam Hartman and Western Kentucky's Austin Reed.
Denzel Burke has been one of the country’s top cornerbacks. Davison Igbinosun has proven he’s capable of being a physical cornerback. Josh Proctor has had a late-career resurgence. Sonny Style is an actual physical freak of nature, and Lathan Ransom was a big reason for the Buckeyes’ success against Notre Dame.
Limiting Tagovailoa to a modest game would inspire even more confidence the Buckeyes’ Silver Bullets are truly back.
Notre Dame survives against Duke
After such an emotional defeat against the Buckeyes, it was fair to wonder how Notre Dame would respond in another ranked matchup, this time on the road against Duke. And well… it was ugly... for the most part. The Fighting Irish struggled offensively for most of the evening, gave away 70 free yards to Duke on penalties and were on the brink of College Football Playoff elimination late in the fourth quarter.
Then, in a complete role reversal from last week, the Fighting Irish engineered a game-winning drive. Benefiting from Blue Devils kicker Todd Pelino coming down with a severe case of “college kickers-itis” and missing field goals from 38 and 25 yards out, Notre Dame was only down by a single point when it took possession with 2:35 remaining in the contest.
Duke brought heavy blitzes throughout the drive, speeding up Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman’s internal clock and, in turn, gave the Blue Devils a chance to cement their biggest win for the program in likely decades. Alas, Mike Elko did not stay aggressive on 4th-and-16, playing deep coverage and allowing Hartman to find a wide-open lane to scramble 17 yards for a first down. After Hartman spiked the ball, Audric Estime scored on the next play.
It wasn’t a pretty win for Marcus Freeman. But after how things ended against Ohio State, he’ll take it.
The game couldn’t have ended worse for the Blue Devils, though. Not only did they blow a late lead, but star quarterback Riley Leonard suffered an ankle injury on Duke’s final possession of regulation and was put on crutches immediately. Fortunately, the injury doesn’t appear to be season-ending, but if he has to miss a few weeks, it’s fair to wonder what Duke can do without him.
On a final note, it was a pretty classy move from Hartman to check on Leonard after the conclusion of the game and before heading to the locker room.
This is as classy as it gets from Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman, not leaving the field until he wishes Dukes Riley Leonard well.— Tyler Horka (@tbhorka) October 1, 2023
Every other Notre Dame player and coach had already headed for the locker room. Hartman was the very last one out there. pic.twitter.com/S7yflnp73T
Ole Miss and LSU revolt against playing defense
Saturday had a little something for everyone.
If you’re a fan of defensive-driven, muck-it-up slugfests, Notre Dame vs. Duke was for you. LSU vs. Ole Miss was the exact opposite of that.
Big-game Brian Kelly struck again as he watched his Tigers' defense allow more than 700 yards of total offense and blow a two-possession lead with eight and a half minutes to go as LSU cemented its elimination from the College Football Playoff with a 55-49 loss to Ole Miss in a track meet in Oxford.
The Rebels pulled off the come-from-behind win despite the Tigers getting the benefit of the doubt on a questionable touchdown call despite the play being reviewed, which led to Ole Miss fans hurling trash on the field afterward, though this writer can’t confirm if that was to show displeasure with the officials or either team’s attempt at defense.
Either way, Ole Miss did get stops on its final two possessions of regulation and quarterback Jaxson Dart and running back Quinshon Judkins sliced through the Tigers on the Rebels’ game-winning touchdown drive.
But let’s review just how ridiculous these offensive totals were for both teams, shall we?
Ole Miss totaled 706 offensive yards, while LSU racked up 637. Both teams averaged at least eight yards per play, but the Rebels somehow also had 121 yards in penalties. The Tigers had 34 first downs, while the Rebels had 32 (It would take Iowa at least eight games to get that many first downs if you went off the box score of its game against Penn State last week).
LSU falls to 3-2 on the year, and considering it plays Alabama, Texas A&M and a suddenly resurgent Missouri team this year, there’s no guarantee the Tigers finish the year ranked in the Top 25.
What was fun and what was wacky about Week 5
Week 5 had a lot of things that were fun
- We present another fun edition of JUST HOW THEY DREW IT UP, featuring one of the lone highlights Kansas had against Texas on Saturday in true fumblerooski fashion.
Kansas really turned a fumble into a touchdown pic.twitter.com/mABC5g0Yvc— ESPN (@espn) September 30, 2023
- Michigan’s Roman Wilson very well may have made the catch of the year.
ROMAN WILSON, HOW?!— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 30, 2023
- Georgia’s Brock Bowers single-handily prevented us from having a “does the SEC even deserve one team in the CFP” discourse for now after catching eight passes for 157 yards and a touchdown in a 27-20 win over Auburn. He also made another incredible catch that didn’t count.
Lol Brock Bowers pic.twitter.com/iXSPOnftMI— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 30, 2023
- UCF blew an embarrassingly comfortable lead (we’ll get to that later), but my god, this play to extend a potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter belongs in the College Football Hall of Fame.
UNREAL clutch play by UCF QB Timmy McClain pic.twitter.com/g5yY3PFcrt— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) September 30, 2023
- Every time I see BYU’s Cosmo Cougar mascot, I think he must have been Johnny Knoxville in a previous life. Might as well entertain a crowd by playing jump rope with a rope that’s on fire!
backflips with a normal jumprope wasnt extreme enough pic.twitter.com/S7wxxvdQFc— Cosmo Cougar (@byu_cosmo) September 30, 2023
- A game that had nearly 1,350 combined offensive total yards somehow also included the most entertaining defensive play of the weekend.
Jayden Daniels weekly on-field death pic.twitter.com/5z0qx06RBt— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) September 30, 2023
- Bowling Green gets dominated in consecutive weeks by Michigan and Ohio, then beats ACC team Georgia Tech by 11 points. Sometimes, you simply can’t predict ball, man.
Week 5 had a lot of wacky things, too
- What in the Ndamukong Suh was happening with Louisiana linebacker Brevin Randle Friday? After a play concluded, Randle gave UTEP offensive lineman Steven Hubbard, who was lying on the ground, a shove, then stomped on his neck. Nine out of 10 times when extracurricular shoving occurs after the whistle, you can just chalk it up to heat of the moment tempers and move on. Not in this situation. Randle could have seriously hurt Hubbard, and he’s lucky that an indefinite suspension from Louisiana Tech is the only penance he’ll pay for a dirty play.
Uh, wow— Bud Elliott (@BudElliott3) September 30, 2023
- What’s the only thing more embarrassing than having 10 men on the field coming out of a timeout on the final two plays of regulation in a one-score game? Having 13 (!) men on the field and still getting bullied off the line of scrimmage and allowing a touchdown. Good job, Florida.
No. 22 Florida was soundly defeated by Kentucky earlier on Saturday. What went wrong for the Gators?— The Comeback (@thecomeback) October 1, 2023
Having 13 men in formation on defense and still getting outmuscled on a TD run tells a pretty good story about what happened. pic.twitter.com/fwVRIaHaNG
- That’s uh, one way to tell your team to milk the clock, Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith.
The Beavs are milking the clock! pic.twitter.com/r7zavPiAzx— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) September 30, 2023
- Somehow, someway, leading 35-7 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter, UCF allowed 29 unanswered points and lost to Baylor. I know Gus Malzahn has blown some leads in his day, but man.
- On one hand, hats off to Colorado for fighting its ass off to get back in the game against USC after it appeared it was heading for its second straight embarrassing defeat. On the other, its final offensive drive was confusing. The Buffs took over with 5:56 remaining with no timeouts remaining and down two possessions. With that in mind, offensive coordinator Sean Lewis somehow called five running plays that not only were largely ineffective, they also wasted a considerable amount of clock. By the time they scored, there was only 1:43 left, meaning any hope of getting the ball back had to come from an onside kick, probably the lowest percentage play in football. Athletic directors will certainly want to ask Lewis about his clock management skills when he interviews for head coaching vacancies this winter.
- Speaking of USC, the Trojans’ defense was so leaky Dan Hope suggested that I need to create a mainstay section in this column called ‘Will Alex Grinch get a raise?’ USC finishes the season with a brutal slate, including games against Notre Dame, Utah, Washington, Oregon and UCLA. When we recap the Trojans’ campaign at the end of the year, we’ll likely be discussing how Lincoln Riley missed out on a College Football Playoff appearance with a generational quarterback because he couldn’t quit The Grinch who stole USC’s undefeated season.
- I will be thinking about this security guard trying his best to stop Ole Miss students from rushing the field for at least the next week.
- UConn scores what looks to be a game-tying touchdown against Utah State with 40 seconds remaining, then has the PAT blocked. The Huskies fell to 0-5 and are not having a lot of fun right now.
This may kill UConns playoff chances pic.twitter.com/tn3Y8rLSq6— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) September 30, 2023
- Not only did Michigan State lose to a team that can’t score, its official NIL collective randomly canceled most of its NIL deals with the team’s players. Things are going well in East Lansing!
- Need a clutch field goal late in the game? College kickers giveth, college kickers taketh away.
What a kick! Michael Hughes drills a career-long 54-yarder App State's longest FG since 2000 and the Mountaineers are 1-0 in the Sun Belt! pic.twitter.com/k77aAsvNaW— App State Football (@AppState_FB) October 1, 2023
- Spencer Rattler almost joined Dan Orlovsky in the exclusive club of quarterbacks that took a safety by stepping out of bounds in their own end zone.
- As a guy who is on the sidelines every Saturday taking photos, my heart goes out to this guy.
- Coastal Carolina somehow turned a would-be interception into a touchdown for Georgia Southern. (Starts at 1:18 mark).
- Probably not a good idea to publicly chew out your assistants on the sideline, Trent Dilfer.
Former NFL TV analyst Trent Dilfer is now the head coach at UAB... and he's losing his mind on the sidelines. pic.twitter.com/xMTtzMdNUQ— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 30, 2023
What a whirlwind Saturday was for our ol’ pal Brian Ferentz. Iowa’s offense took a blow when starting quarterback Cade McNamara suffered an unfortunate injury in the first half that’s prognosis doesn’t appear promising. In his absence, Hawkeye fans were so fed up with Ferentz’s anemic offense struggling to move the ball against a hapless Michigan State team they started loudly chanting “fire Brian” in unison toward the end of the third quarter. The “fire Brian” movement found its way past Iowa City and started trending nationwide on Twitter/X, whatever they’re calling it now.
very loud Fire Brian chant at the Iowa game pic.twitter.com/rm2PD6v6qx— Heavens! (@HeavensFX) October 1, 2023
And YET, Iowa still crossed the 25-point threshold, thanks to a punt-return touchdown (what, you thought it was gonna come from the offense?) and a late field goal.
Iowa is now 4-1, and the Ferentz haters are FURIOUS.
The goal: 325 points across 13 games, for an average of 25 points per game.
Last game: Iowa 26, Michigan State 16
Points tallied this season: 111
If the season ended today: Iowa would average 22.2 points per game. All of that work and Brian would still be getting a pink slip. Better make sure the defense and special teams units run extra hard in practice this week so they pick up the scoring.
Up next: Iowa faces Purdue, who allowed 19 points in a 44-19 win over Illinois.
Game of the Week
No. 12 Oklahoma (5-0) vs. No. 3 Texas (5-0), noon on ABC
Season record: 4-2
My pick: Texas -5
Breakdown: It’s still early, but the Big 12 could very well be decided by the outcome of the Red River rivalry this week. Texas has lived up to preseason expectations, so far, at least, for the first time in ages and Oklahoma has seen a small resurgence in Brent Venables’ second season in Norman after a disaster of a first year.
Both teams have won each contest they’ve played by double digits, with Texas having the best individual win of the two with a road win in Tuscaloosa. Longhorns signal caller Quinn Ewers has established himself as a prolific passer at the college level as well after an inconsistent first year as a starter in 2022. It's just hard to believe Texas won’t walk out of the “See you in the SEC Bowl" victorious with a clear path to the CFP in front of it.
Hodgepodge team classifiers after Week 5
CFP contenders: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Florida State, Georgia, Texas, USC, Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma
Better win out if you want to be in the CFP: Alabama, Notre Dame, Utah
Sorry bud, maybe you’ll get to the CFP next year: LSU, Clemson
New Year’s Six Bowl contenders: Washington State, North Carolina, Miami, Oregon State, Texas A&M, Fresno State
Fun Group of Five teams: Tulane, Toledo, Wyoming, Ohio, Texas State, James Madison, Liberty, Georgia State, Marshall
Could be a fun year for them: Colorado, Kansas, UCLA, Duke, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse, Air Force, BYU, Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia
One of these teams might win the B1G West: Iowa, Wisconsin
Could be a long year for them: Texas Tech, Baylor, Nebraska, Arizona State, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Houston, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Arkansas, UCF, Cincinnati, Florida
Might be looking for a new coach at the end of the year: Virginia, Boston College, Indiana
There’s already an interim coach: Northwestern
A former head coach is back with the team as an assistant because Mel Tucker is fired and the team gave up 26 points to Iowa: Michigan State
From the sidelines
If you’ll indulge me for a quick personal note, a third of the way through the year, I find myself appreciating this college football season more than I ever have in previous years as weeks pass.
I thought that might be the case coming into the season because I’d be sentimental about the last hurrah of the college football traditionalist before conferences implode and the playoffs expand in the 2024 season. Or that I’d be so thankful to be back on the sidelines taking photos after having to miss the Peach Bowl in January since I broke my ankle in December, which honestly gave me a new appreciation for players itching to get back out on the field after suffering a devasting injury.
But really, both of those things aren’t the main driving force here. Each week that passes, I find myself continually thinking about my late cousin, Michael Vieau.
My mom is one of seven brothers and sisters, and if I’m being honest, I don’t know off the top of my head how many cousins I have, but I know it’s a lot. Weird as it is to say, a big turning point in my life growing up was discovering I had a passion for sports and realizing I wanted to pursue a career in covering them. With how unstable and competitive the journalism industry can be, a lot of well-meaning family members raised an eyebrow when I excitedly told them of my future plans.
I cannot remember anyone who was more supportive than Michael. I think that’s probably because he understood pursuing a passion more than anyone as he tried to make it as an actor. He was damn good at it, appearing in countless productions in the Chicago theater scene and playing minor roles in Prison Break, The Dark Knight, Public Enemies, Shameless, Chicago P.D. and a couple of other productions.
When he first heard about my newfound passion, he offered to take me to my first Chicago Bears against the Green Bay Packers in 2005, a memorable 19-7 win as Chicago obliterated childhood enemy Brett Favre into the dirt. If there were two things Michael loved more than anything besides his family, it was acting and Chicago Bears football.
In the years that followed, we sometimes discussed how things were going in each of our respective industries, with the highs and the lows that followed. When I started working at Eleven Warriors in 2021, I remember how cool he thought it was I’d get to see Michigan and Ohio State play a historic rivalry yearly.
Sadly, on June 29, I received a call that Michael had died unexpectedly at 52 years old from natural causes. I remember not knowing what to think or say and just staring at my wall in disbelief. I sat down on my couch, booted up one of my favorite movies, the Dark Knight, and watched his lone scene where Aaron Eckhart decked him on a witness stand several times.
I looked at my phone to recall the last time he and I spoke, which was naturally in late April when we discussed the Bears’ draft plans. It’s hard not to remember his excitement when he learned I would appear on a Chicago radio station after Ohio State’s pro day to essentially give a scouting report on Paris Johnson, who the Bears were heavily connected to at the time.
“Hey, you kicked ass mother f—--r, insightful, entertaining, you’re good,” Michael told me in what was probably the most Michael line of all time.
Three months later, I smile every time I replay that conversation in my head. I’ve since wondered about what his thoughts would be in various topics, ranging from that all-time classic Ohio State ending against Notre Dame or what he’d say if he were still around to see how truly god-awful the Bears are this year.
When Ohio State opened its season against Indiana on Sept. 2, I found a piece of tape two hours before kickoff, wrapped it around my wrist and quickly wrote his initials, MV, on the tape. I largely kept it to myself and didn’t do it for any other reason than I felt like I wanted his support on the field with me one last time. Weirdly enough, it’s felt like it’s lingered on longer than I expected.
It’s another stark reminder to cherish your loved ones as much as you can since you never know what tomorrow brings. As long as it does arrive, it’ll probably consist of writing content about Ohio State for the site, because I couldn’t think of any better way to honor him than that.
And if you’re a forward thinker looking for a holiday gift idea down the line, his mother makes probably the best toffee (and other chocolate-ish items) I’ve ever had and runs her own small business. You won’t be disappointed.