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|College Football 2021: Week 6 Recap and Week 7 Preview||Wednesday, 2021 October 13 - 12:02 pm|
|It was a crazy and exciting day. Michigan wins a nail-biter; Penn State loses its starting QB before the half and falls to Iowa. Also lots of other crazy games, including #1 Alabama going down.|
Michigan 32, Nebraska 29
Maybe you look at this game and think "well, Michigan beat a 3-4 team so who cares". But Nebraska easily could have been undefeated to this point, had a few plays gone differently. All their losses have been by one possession. Nebraska statistically dominated Michigan State, and mostly lost that game because of one bad punt play. So for Michigan, I see a good character-building win here, on the road, at night, against a motivated team playing in front of a rowdy crowd.
Michigan jumped out to a 13-0 first half lead, and for that half, it looked like Nebraska couldn't do anything on offense. Nebraska's first five possessions went: turnover on downs (at the Michigan 3 yard line), punt, interception, punt, punt. The first possession was interesting: when Nebraska head coach Scott Frost declined to kick a field goal and failed on the 4th-and-goal attempt, I said out loud, "well now I hope he loses by three points". And whaddaya know.
Nebraska stormed to life in the second half, though, with some excellent offensive play-calling that fooled the Michigan secondary repeatedly. Their second touchdown was a 41-yard pass play, one of the biggest plays Michigan has given up all year. (That play should have been called back for an illegal formation penalty, but <shrug> the refs blew a lot of calls both ways. More on that shortly.)
But unlike in years past when the Michigan offense disappeared in the second half, Michigan continued to grind away and score touchdowns. Though Cade McNamara threw an untimely interception (his first of the season) that led to a Nebraska touchdown, Michigan responded on the next drive with a 10-play 75-yard touchdown drive of its own, culminating in -- yes -- an outside run by Blake Corum for a touchdown.
With the game tied at 29, Michigan stripped Adrian Martinez of the ball after a short run play. That led to what turned out to be a game-winning field goal by kicker Jake Moody, who was brilliant all night. Now, Martinez claims his momentum was stopped and the whistle should have blown the play dead before the fumble. But if anything, he was stopped for no more than a second and was still fighting for yardage. And seriously Nebraska fans, you got a free game-changing touchdown that should have been called back, and you got away with a lot of holding, so you can't really complain about a 50-50 call that didn't go your way.
Michigan did a lot of good things. McNamara wasn't terribly accurate but for the most part he made good decisions with the ball, and converted a number of key third downs. Defensively, we can see that Mike Macdonald's scheme can be boom-or-bust risky, but the busts that led to big plays are correctable (unlike last year under Don Brown, where everything was dependent on talent, and you can't fix what you don't have). Michigan is also not likely to face another offense of Nebraska's caliber until Ohio State.
Michigan has a bye next week, then faces an awful Northwestern team before a showdown against what should be an unbeaten Michigan State team. I'm still not a believer in MSU, but that game will likely be another thriller.
Penn State 20, Iowa 23
Let's be clear here: Penn State was absolutely dominating Iowa at the start, even after throwing an interception on its first offensive play of the game (and another a few possessions later). Penn State came out firing through the air, beating the talented Iowa secondary on play after play. But then quarterback Sean Clifford was hit in the ribcage on a legal but thunderous tackle as he released the ball, knocking him out of the game. His replacement, touted but inexperienced sophomore Ta'Quan Roberson, seemed woefully unprepared for a game of this caliber. His first five plays: fumble (loss of four yards), incomplete pass, false start, false start, false start. Yikes. He ended the day passing just 7 of 21 for 34 yards and two interceptions.
Roberson did find some minor success later in the game as Penn State went to an uptempo zone-read running game, but against a fierce Iowa defense, that was only good enough for three more points the rest of the way. Meanwhile the Iowa offense cobbled together enough drives and a couple of big completions to come away with the close win. The real heroes for Iowa: the crowd, whose noise made it very difficult for the Penn State offense to operate, and punter Tory Taylor, who put four punts inside the Penn State ten yard line.
I very much think Penn State would have won this game with Clifford healthy, and I think the poll voters recognize that. With Penn State only falling to #7 in the rankings, a CFP berth is definitely still in the cards if PSU wins out, and since Iowa is not in the East division, Penn State still controls its own destiny for the Big Ten championship. Granted, none of the big four East teams have played each other yet, and that's going to be a brutal stretch for everyone. I've not heard word about the status of Clifford's injury, but if he can come back after next week's bye, PSU get a lousy Illinois team as a tune-up before facing Ohio State. October 30th is going to be a consequential week in the Big Ten East, to say the least.
#22 N.C. State at Boston College, 7:30 PM ACCN
After a bye this week, N.C. State travels to Chestnut Hill for what could be a rowdy night game against a dangerous BC squad. The Eagles have beaten a pretty good Missouri team, and they played Clemson close. The spread is just 3 points in favor of NCSU.
BC quarterback Dennis Grosel, who replaced injured starter Phil Jurkovec in week 2 and has played since, isn't quite the dynamic playmaker that Devin Leary is. BC is more of a run-oriented team than NCSU, but NCSU is #13 in the country against the run at 92 YPG, so this looks like a strength-on-strength matchup. I'd expect Grosel to have to air it out, but he's thrown four picks on the year so that could be something for State to exploit.
As usual, BC boasts a pretty stout front seven, led by thumping linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley, who was a graduate transfer from Temple. Leary will probably also need to get it done through the air, but State boasts five wideouts that have long receptions on the year, so big plays are definitely possible.
On the intangibles front, this is often the type of game that gives State trouble. Playing on the road in a hostile environment, after a bye week, is often a recipe for mental mistakes. I think State wins this one based on big plays and turnovers, but it might look ugly at times.
Prediction: N.C. State 37, Boston College 24.
#1 Alabama lost to Texas A&M 38-41 in a thriller. A&M led for most of the game; at the half, they were up 24-10. But Alabama came storming back and took the lead 38-31 with five minutes left. Undaunted, A&M scored a touchdown on its next possession, forced a three-and-out, then kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. The best part about all of this: A&M coach Jimbo Fisher had boasted he would "beat Saban's ass" in a speech last summer, to which Saban replied "in golf?" Now Saban is being roasted for this comment, and rightfully so. Alabama could still make it to the CFP, but they'd have to get by Georgia in the SEC title game, and the way Georgia is playing now, that doesn't seem likely.
And that wasn't even the best game of the day. That honor goes to #6 Oklahoma vs #21 Texas. Oklahoma won 55-48 in a wild game where they battled back from an 18-point deficit after benching star quarterback Spencer Rattler in favor of touted freshman Caleb Williams. Williams exploded for 212 yards and two touchdown passes in 36 minutes of game time, while OU tailback Kennedy Brooks piled on 217 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Texas QB Casey Thompson had a huge day, throwing for 388 yards and five touchdowns, but that wasn't enough in this shootout. OU remains unbeaten and keeps its CFP hopes alive; Texas, meanwhile, is left searching for answers and will have to regroup against #12 Oklahoma State this week.
Then there was #17 Ole Miss beating #13 Arkansas 52-51 in another shootout, Notre Dame coming from behind in the fourth quarter to beat Virginia Tech 32-29, #19 Wake Forest beating Syracuse 40-37 in overtime to remain undefeated... whew. It was a day.
#2 Georgia crushed #18 Auburn 34-10, leaving no doubt as to who is the new #1 team in the country. #7 Ohio State pasted Maryland 66-17; OSU's offense is very, very scary. #10 BYU was handed their first loss in an upset by Boise State 26-17. #11 Michigan State beat Rutgers 31-13, racking up 588 yards of offense in the process. #16 Kentucky is still undefeated as they beat LSU 42-21, and I believe LSU coach Ed Orgeron's job may be in jeopardy.
Games to Watch on TV
Michigan and Penn State are on bye, so I might take a football break this Saturday, but there are some games that could be interesting out there. At noon, #10 Michigan State takes on Indiana on FS1. Indiana is definitely down this year but is always dangerous. #12 Oklahoma State plays #25 Texas on Fox. #20 Florida looks to add to LSU's woes on ESPN.
At 3:30 PM, your Game of the Week is #11 Kentucky at #1 Georgia. Georgia is heavily favored here (the spread is 22 points right now) but Kentucky is better than people think, with PSU transfer quarterback Will Levis playing very well right now. (Boy, PSU could have used him last Saturday.) Miami plays UNC on ACCN in what I'll call "the disappointment bowl". Pitt plays Virginia Tech on ESPN2 in what will be an important ACC Coastal matchup.
At 7:00, #1 Alabama plays Mississippi State; they're favored by 17, but you know, Mississippi State beat Texas A&M, and Texas A&M just beat Alabama, so anything is possible here. At 7:30, the #22 NCSU vs BC game is on ACCN. #4 Oklahoma needs to be on upset alert against TCU; that game is on ABC. #13 Ole Miss plays an improving Tennessee team on SECN. At 8:30, UCLA plays Washington on Fox.
Posted by Ken in: sports
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