Best of College Football: Week 11

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Clemson Answers Biggest Test Yet

Since 2015, Clemson only lost four games to three different teams: Pitt, Syracuse, and Alabama. In that same span, they are now 17-2 in matchups against ranked teams after defeating Boston College 27-7. They let the Eagles hang around for a bit, going into the half with a slim 13-7 lead, but the Tigers elite defense stepped up in the second half and Trevor Lawrence made enough plays to keep Clemson in control all the way.

This entire Clemson defensive front seven could be picked in the first round of April’s NFL Draft. They showed why in dominating the Boston College offense from the start, knocking starting QB Anthony Brown out of the game in the first series of the game, then holding the Eagles to just 8 first downs and 113 total yards, as their only score came from a punt return touchdown. Clemson has now given up 16 points or fewer in their last five games and haven’t given up more than 26 all season. The defense ranks in the top three in the country for points allowed, yards allowed and sacks per game. The only other team in the country that’s top 10 in all three categories? Alabama.

The biggest question for Clemson in this game was how freshman QB Trevor Lawrence would perform in the cold weather; it was widely publicized that he had never played north of Virginia in his life, and it was also his first primetime game. Boston College doesn’t have a bad defense either, as they were ranked in 20th in yards per attempt and had the fourth-most interceptions going into the game. Lawrence had some mixed results in this one, considering he did throw for 295 yards and had 2 touchdowns (one rushing), but he also couldn’t get Clemson into the end zone on a number of occasions, including his late interception. He also made some brilliant throws throughout and showed smart decision-making on a few different plays. Perhaps Lawrence won’t need to be as talented as Deshaun Watson to get Clemson back into the playoff for a fourth straight season, but he can be enough to possibly get them back to the National Championship.

The Tigers will need to keep up their stellar defensive streak over the next three games, all of them against solid quarterbacks. They face Daniel Jones and Duke next, followed by Jake Bentley and South Carolina. In the ACC Championship, it looks as if it’ll be Kenny Pickett and Pitt, a team that beat Clemson 43-42 in Death Valley the last time the two faced-off; although those were two completely different teams.

UCF Strengthens Hold on G5 New Years Six Bid

Although the Knights remain undefeated and the frontrunner for the Group of Five bid to a New Years Six bowl, there were a few teams that were breathing down their necks, just waiting for them to slip up. UAB, just two years removed from disbanding their football team entirely, is still one of them after escaping with a 26-23 win over Southern Miss to bring their record to 9-1. Utah State is also still hanging around at 9-1, with what is quietly the top-ranked scoring offense in the country.

Out of the Mountain West, Fresno State and San Diego State were two teams that also had a chance should the Knights go down. The Bulldogs gave up a 17-3 lead against Boise State to lose 24-17, which puts both teams at 8-2. They are still in the hunt, but would likely need UCF to either lose twice or lose their conference championship game. The Aztecs also blew a second-half lead, giving up 14 points to a 3-7 UNLV team in the fourth quarter in a game they lost 27-24, which marked the first time UNLV had won at San Diego State in 18 years.

Boise State and Utah State face off on Boise’s blue turf in the final week of the season for what may be a play-in game to the Mountain West conference championship game, likely to face Fresno State. UAB clinched the C-USA West division with their win this week, but still have to face Texas A&M and East division challenger Middle Tennessee State before their conference championship game.

It’s easy on paper for UCF to make it to their second straight NY6 game, but Cincinnati will be a tough game for them next week. Although ESPN’s FPI gives them an 81% chance to win against rivals USF on Black Friday, you never know what will happen in rivalry games. Even if the Knights win both of those games, there’s still the American Championship where there are still four teams (SMU, Houston, Tulane, Memphis) in contention for the West. While UCF should be considered favorites to make another big bowl game, likely the Peach or Fiesta, there are still a few other teams worth keeping an eye on.

Bedlam Lives Up to its Name

When a game is called Bedlam, usually there’s a good reason for it. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State showed us why this season, putting up a combined 96 points and 1,342 yards, over 800 in the first half alone, in the Sooners 48-47 victory. Both teams traded scores, as the largest lead of the game was a 13-point margin for Oklahoma that didn’t even last for a full minute before Oklahoma State scored once again.

Although the whole game was a thriller, the plays that made the difference occurred in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys tied the game at 41 with a touchdown run from Chuba Hubbard, but kicker Matt Ammendola missed the PAT to leave the game tied. With Oklahoma State driving and about to score again, Hubbard fumbled it on the Oklahoma 36-yard line and the ball was recovered by linebacker Kenneth Murray, the only turnover of the game for either team and only the eighth turnover forced by the Sooner defense all season.

After a Trey Sermon touchdown run with 3:29 left ended the longest scoring drought in the game (almost 9 minutes), Cowboys QB Taylor Cornelius, who threw for a career-high 501 yards, found Tylan Wallace in the end zone with just 1:03 remaining. Coach Mike Gundy decided to go for the two-point conversion and the win, but Cornelius just couldn’t complete the pass.

The decision by Gundy to go for two wasn’t ill-minded, and neither was the play call. Oklahoma State was a 21.5-point underdog going into the game, and Gundy’s record in Bedlam games is just 2-12, so why not? If the Cowboys had a QB like West Virginia star Will Grier, maybe we’re talking about this as one of the largest upsets of the season instead of just another Big 12 shootout where Oklahoma wins. Cornelius, despite his excellent stats, skipped a few balls to his receivers throughout the game; with none of them costing him more than the one on his teams final offensive play.

Top Games of Week 12

AP Poll Rankings Shown

(19) Cincinnati at (11) UCF

USC at UCLA

(12) Syracuse at (3) Notre Dame

The Citadel at (1) Alabama

(18) Iowa State at (13) Texas

UAB at Texas A&M

(7) West Virginia at Oklahoma State

Three Stars of Week 11

Barron Northrup/The Daily Tar Heel

1. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

31/54, 361 Yds, 3 TD; 15 Att, 186 Yds, TD

Although it’s not basketball, the winner of the Duke-North Carolina annual football game still gets to take home the Victory Bell trophy. The performance from Daniel Jones made sure it stayed in Durham, as he accounted for a program record 547 total yards and made big plays for the Blue Devils all day. He had a hand in four Duke scores, along with rushes of 61 and 68 yards, as well as touchdown passes of 26 and 52 yards. There won’t be a lot of time to celebrate the rivalry win, as Duke faces Clemson next week.

Tim Warner/Getty Images

2. Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple

30 Att, 210 Yds, 6 TD

Temple as a team rushed for 312 yards and 8 touchdowns in their 59-49 win over Houston, and Armstead was the one who contributed the most. Five of his six touchdowns were within 10 yards, and his 7 yards per carry helped the Owls control possession and helped keep a dynamic Houston offense off the field. Temple was ranked 99th in rushing yards per game heading into this one, and their improved offense gets to face off against two bottom 10 rushing defenses (USF and UConn) to end the season. It’s doubtful that Armstead will score six times in either of those games, but he could potentially be on one of these lists again.

Keith Srakocic/AP Photo

3. Qadree Ollison, RB, Pitt

16 Att, 235 Yds, 3 TD

A week after teammate Darrin Hall found himself on our list, Ollison responded with his own big game against Virginia Tech. Another impressive team rushing performance, Pitt ran the ball 36 times for 492 yards and 6 touchdowns (similar to Clemson’s numbers last week against Louisville), with Ollison and Hall leading the way with 235 and 186 yards, respectively. Ollison scored on rushes of 31 and 97 yards in the fourth quarter, capping it with a flip into the end zone to give us one of the best plays of the day.

Honorable Mentions

Donald Hammond III, QB, Air Force: 5/6, 145 Yds, 2 TD; 19 Att, 136 Yds, TD

Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: 32/42, 491 Yds, 5 TD

Ty Gangi, QB, Nevada: 28/35, 404 Yds, 4 TD

Taylor Cornelius, QB, Oklahoma State: 34/53, 501 Yds, 3 TD

Caleb Evans, QB, Louisiana-Monroe: 27/32, 367 Yds, 4 TD (2 Rush)

David Pindell, QB, UConn: 25/38, 215 Yds, 4 TD; 21 Att, 184 Yds, 2 TD

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia: 17 Att, 186 Yds, TD

Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame: 20 Att, 202 Yds, 2 TD

Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M: 31 Att, 228 Yds, TD

Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State: 10 Rec, 220 Yds, 2 TD

Tre Walker, WR, San Jose State: 7 Rec, 209 Yds, 2 TD

Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas: 8 Rec, 159 Yds, 2 TD

Antoine Wesley, WR, Texas Tech: 8 Rec, 171 Yds, 2 TD

Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford: 6 Rec, 166 Yds, 4 TD

Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA: 11 Rec, 164 Yds, 2 TD

 

Featured Image: Carl Ackerman & David Platt/Clemson Athletics

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