Quick reaction to the biggest games of Week 8: Oregon at UCLA, USC at Notre Dame, Illinois at Penn State, Clemson at Pitt, Tennessee at Alabama, Oklahoma at Kansas
College Football Big Game Reaction: Week 8
Oklahoma 35, Kansas 23 Reaction
Any landing you can walk away from is a good one.
It’s a 12-point win on the road in Big 12 play. The rest is just details, but …
Obviously this game was a problem for Oklahoma.
You don’t struggle that much with Kansas and just chalk it up to a flat day at the office. The offense couldn’t score in the first against one of the worst teams in America. The defense got picked clean and needed to be saved by a Heisman-worthy few plays by the freshman quarterback to get out alive.
And yes, Caleb Williams is in the Heisman race. Find anyone who’s supposedly among the favorites who has done anything bigger than 1) tear off a 40-yard touchdown run on fourth down to help take over the game on the road, and 2) have the presence of mind to take the ball away from RB Kennedy Brooks – who was stuffed on fourth down – to grind to a desperately-needed first down.
Williams saved a shockingly disappointing defense that couldn’t handle Jason Bean – a good, veteran quarterback who put up big yards at North Texas and did everything he could to try pulling off the shocker – and he’s apparently going to have to do so as the rest of the season goes on.
Oklahoma’s 35 second half points got the job done, but Kansas outgained the Sooners 412 to 398. The Sooners committed penalty after key penalty, the secondary was seemingly outguessed on every third down, and this was way, way too close for comfort.
It’s now a problem.
OU tried to give away the Tulane game. It tried to give away the Kansas State game. It didn’t get off the bus against Texas until Williams stepped in.
It can’t put together a full 60 minutes without taking a nap during a sizable portion of the game, and that’s not going to fly with Texas Tech, at Baylor, Iowa State, at Oklahoma State, and likely the Big 12 Championship and College Football Playoff still to go.
NEXT: Illinois 20, Penn State 18 Reaction
Illinois 20, Penn State 18 Reaction
The novelty and total ineptitude of the nine overtimes it took to finally end this uggo of a game glossed over the more important narratives.
First, Bret Bielema’s bus tossing of his team’s talent during the week might have worked. He correctly said the quiet part out loud that Illinois doesn’t have any talent, but it’s got experience, lines, and a bunch of grown men who found a way to get the job done against a Penn State team that can’t find an offense.
Second, Penn State lost at home to Illinois. It’s okay to have a bad day – but good teams win anyway.
Maybe it’s because everyone in the stands wasn’t wearing white t-shirts.
The Nittany Lions were coming off a two-week break and they weren’t sharp offensively, but they had time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time to put this away, and they couldn’t get the job done.
The defense got obliterated by the Illinois offensive front, allowing 357 yards, and the offense never had the ball – the Illini had control for well over 35 minutes.
Illinois turned the ball over three times and didn’t generate a takeaway – and the Nittany Lions still couldn’t get the job done at home.
Illinois threw for 1.8 yards per pass and a grand total of 38 yards – and the Nittany Lions still couldn’t get the job done at home.
The Penn State offense managed a pathetic 2.1 yards per carry, couldn’t move the chains, and put itself in a position to let Illinois take this game.
Now there’s a problem.
At Ohio State, that’s next. At Maryland shouldn’t be a problem, but Michigan is an issue, Rutgers will be a concern if the Penn State offense keeps playing like this, and forget about whatever happens at Michigan State to close things out.
Can Illinois win three of its last four games against Rutgers, at Minnesota, at Iowa, and Northwestern to get bowl eligible? Probably not, but it rose up and took down the No. 7 team in the country.
A No. 7 team that had a whole lot more talent on its side of the field.
NEXT: Oregon 34, UCLA 31 Reaction
Oregon 34, UCLA 31 Reaction
As the man once said, just win, baby.
Oregon QB Anthony Brown threw two tough interceptions, but he ran for a team-high 85 yards and a touchdown.
The Duck defense allowed UCLA to get in the game late – and it didn’t help that Bruin QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson put together a heroic effort to keep the team alive despite getting beaten, battered, eventually knocked out of the game – but it got the game-sealing pick it needed.
There were three turnovers in all, too many struggles considering the offense converted just about every third down try – 7-of-9, actually – and …
It was a win.
Oregon is 6-1, it got the nasty victory over a good UCLA team, and now it should be smooth sailing for a while as long as it keeps its head on straight.
The defense showed what it could do for stretches when Kayvon Thibodeaux and Noah Sewell are humming, but it has to be better on third downs.
Brown has to be more consistent and be far more careful with the ball – he’s too experienced to make so many mistakes – and it would be nice if the offense could put together an even overall effort at some point this season.
It passed the big test, and now it has to study for the easy ones.
Colorado, at Washington, Washington State, at Utah, Oregon State. Those last two are a problem, but if Oregon really is that good, this schedule should be a breeze.
Oregon proved that its talent can overcome errors, and when absolutely needed, it has another gear it can go to.
If the team really is College Football Playoff-worthy, it shouldn’t need that gear for the rest of the regular season.
NEXT: Pitt 27, Clemson 17 Reaction
Pitt 27, Clemson 17 Reaction
How bad is the Clemson offense? It broke the Clemson defense.
The Tiger D fought the good fight as long as it could, but the O couldn’t control the clock – Pitt had the ball for over 36 minutes – the third down conversions were rare, and the quarterback play was awful.
DJ Uiagalelei completed 12-of-25 passes for 128 yards and two picks, but he ran for 50 yards and a score. He got a decent amount of time – it wasn’t a bad day by the Tiger O line against a killer Pitt pass rush – but the offense just couldn’t click. It’s not like Taisun Phommachanh did a whole lot better when he stepped in.
But this shouldn’t be about the clunker of a year Clemson is having. This is about Pitt still being in the ACC title hunt and possibly in the mix for the College Football Playoff.
It would take some help – like one of the other Power Five conferences other than the SEC to have a two-loss champion – but at 6-1 the Panthers might have some control over their destiny.
But there’s still work to do on that with Miami, at Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, at Syracuse to go. For now, give credit to QB Kenny Pickett, who slung it around for over 300 yards and two touchdowns against a solid Tiger defense to help the team take over the game.
Give credit for the defense holding firm after an early long Tiger scoring drive that lasted until late in the first half.
The nine penalties were too many and the offense failed to get into the end zone in the second half – SirVocea Dennis came up with a pick six to all but put the game away – but it’s a double-digit win over Clemson. That’s amazing and special no matter what.
When was the last time anyone got a double-digit win over Clemson? November 15th, 2014, Georgia Tech 28, Clemson 6.
NEXT: Alabama 52, Tennessee 24 Reaction
Alabama 52, Tennessee 24 Reaction
If you watched the broadcast, you would’ve thought Alabama was sloppy, ragged, and about to fall apart as a college football program.
The stats don’t tell the whole story – it did take a while to get going and it wasn’t the sharpest of efforts – but …
The Tide only committed four penalties. Tennessee got flagged 12 times.
There was a fumble, but Bama was even on turnover margin.
The O held the ball for well over 40 minutes, and the plan of wearing down the Tennessee D worked with a whopping 33 first downs helped by converting 15-of-20 third down tries.
And yet Nick Saban looked all game long like he wanted to tear someone’s head off.
Give credit to Tennessee and banged up QB Hendon Hooker – one of the more underappreciated talents in college football. He bombed away for 282 yards and three touchdowns, but there wasn’t any running game and the Vol defense broke down late.
Yeah, it was too tight going into the fourth quarter, but Alabama cranked up the offense when it absolutely needed to, scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter. Brian Robinson ran for three scores, Bryce Young threw for 371 yards with two touchdown passes and two scoring runs, and …
It’s Alabama. It doesn’t measure blowout victories like everyone else.
NEXT: Notre Dame 31, USC 16 Reaction
Notre Dame 31, USC 16 Reaction
It’s not being talked about, but Notre Dame needs to still be considered in the mix for this College Football Playoff thing.
It stinks that Cincinnati is a hard ceiling – there’s no chance the Irish get in unless the Bearcats meltdown at least once – but the wins over brand name teams are starting to pile up.
Florida State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, USC – that’s solid no matter what.
The rest of the slate looks stronger on paper than it actually is – North Carolina, Navy, at Virginia, Georgia Tech, at Stanford – but if the team can keep pushing forward with workmanlike efforts like the one just put together against USC, it’ll be 11-1.
Jack Coan was solid – and that’s exactly what was needed against the sloppy Trojans.
The offense wasn’t spectacular, but Kyren Williams had a wonderful night – 138 carries and two scores – the defense made a slew of plays behind the line, and Coan threw for 189 yards and a score with a pick.
The Irish got up 24-3, there was a cushion when things got a little loose late, and then when it seemed like USC might have a shot to pull off something special, the offense stepped up with a terrific late answer of a long drive to put the game away.
It all might have seemed a tad ho-hum considering there’s nothing boring about beating USC by 15, but it was a sneaky-good overall performance considering the inconsistencies this season.
The O line picked a nice time to come up with one of its better days. Coan was pressured, but not enough to matter. The ground game only had a few big runs, but there was a good push.
USC made more mistakes, had more bad plays, and the Irish took advantage of all of it.
One college football Saturday with so many ragged performances, and with big upsets happening all over the place, relatively steady is good.
At this point for the Irish, 6-1 is very good.