Photo courtesy of Notre Dame athletics
Wow. What a crazy weekend of college football!
With the Pac-12 returning, and arguably the greatest slate of games this year, this past weekend made for quite the college football Saturday. It’ll certainly be a weekend the College Football Playoff Committee will point back to as it identifies its top four teams.
So let’s identify who really stood out on this crazy weekend. As we continue our weekly series of the “Five Top Performing Teams.”
The Pac-12 is back and whoa, it couldn’t have gotten off to a more thrilling start. The 20th-ranked USC Trojans knocked off Herm Edwards and the Arizona State Sun Devils 28-27 in a contest that ended just around 12:30 p.m. local time in Los Angeles. That’s right; the two teams battled it out during the 9 a.m. youth soccer game time slot.
To the game itself, this was quite the comeback for the Trojans. In what should be the Pac-12 South championship game, this one sure did not disappoint. USC used two scores and an onside kick recovery to complete the comeback in the waning moments of the contest.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis absolutely annihilated the Sun Devil defense. The Arizona native went 40-for-55 passing with 381 yards and two touchdowns. USC is a team that likes to throw the ball.
With the win on Saturday, Clay Helton and the Trojans are in prime position to run the table in the regular season.
The BYU Cougars made a statement on Friday night in prime time. Kalani Sitake and the ninth-ranked ‘Cougs went to Boise and dominated the 21st-ranked Boise State Broncos 51-17 on the blue turf. That’s not something you hear very often. BYU was the highest ranked team to ever travel to Boise, and boy, it sure played like it.
It was all Cougars from the get go, as Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Zach Wilson put the country on notice with his performance Friday night. Wilson went 21-for-27 passing for 359 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson also added a touchdown on the ground.
Running back Tyler Allgeier also caused fits for the Bronco defense all night, rushing for 123 yards and two touchdowns. That included an 86-yard burst that set the tone early.
Now with only two games left in the 2020 season, the Cougars will do their best to win out to make a case for a playoff berth. They already have their biggest test behind them.
The Liberty Flames turned up the heat on Saturday against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The 25th-ranked Flames pulled off a stunner in Blacksburg, defeating the Hokies at the buzzer, 38-35.
Former Virginia Tech commit Malik Willis torched the Hokies under center, dominating them through the air, going 20-for-30 with 217 yards and three touchdowns. Willis didn’t stop there either; the Atlanta native additionally ran for 108 yards and a touchdown.
The game wasn’t decided until the final seconds. With under a minute to play and tied at 35, Liberty drove down to the Hokie 41-yard-line before the drive stalled.
On 4th-and-6 with eight seconds left, Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze then called on Alex Barbir to attempt a 59-yard field goal, only for it to be blocked and returned for a touchdown by Jermaine Waller to give the Hokies the 41-35 victory.
Or so it seemed.
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente called timeout before the snap. After a fourth down conversion where Willis found star receiver CJ Yarborough, Barbir didn’t waste his second chance, drilling a 51-yard field goal with a second left as the Liberty Flames stunned the Hokies in Blacksburg.
The streak is over. After three straight losses in the series, the eighth-ranked Florida downed the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs, 44-28 in Jacksonville. This also was the first win for Florida in the series under third-year head coach Dan Mullen.
After Zamir White took a 75-yard run to the house on the first play from scrimmage, and another Bulldog score less than three minutes later, Georgia found itself up 14-0 quickly in this one. After that, it was all Florida.
Ironically enough, it was actually the Georgia defense that let Kirby Smart down on Saturday against this high-powered Florida offense. Offense had been the main problem earlier in the season for the ‘Dawgs.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask threw for nearly 500 yards and four touchdowns in this one, solidifying his spot, for many, as a Heisman contender. The Gator defense locked down Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, allowing Florida to cruise to a 16-point victory over the Bulldogs. Florida seemingly has a stranglehold on the SEC East title.
1. Notre Dame
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are on the top of the college football world. The fourth-ranked Irish showed the nation they’re for real, taking down the top-ranked Clemson Tigers 47-40 in double overtime. We could talk about how Trevor Lawrence didn’t play; we could talk about how many defenders Clemson was missing, but no that’s no fun. Let’s focus on the Irish.
Running back Kyren Williams went for 140 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Ian Book led the Irish to victory, going 22-for-39 with 310 yards and a touchdown.
This game was truly a classic, and one they’ll be talking about in South Bend for quite some time. Notre Dame was left for dead when the Irish turned the ball over on downs with two and a half minutes left, but a quick Clemson 3-and-out gave the Irish the ball back. Book then drove Notre Dame 91 yards right down the field before finding Avery Davis in the end zone to send it overtime.
The rest was history. Williams scored two touchdowns in overtime and the defense came up with a timely stop to give the Fighting Irish an historic upset.
Assuming Notre Dame wins out, we’ll most likely see the Irish and Tigers again in Charlotte for the ACC Championship. Both sides appear poised for another trip to the College Football Playoff.
Maryland (35-19 vs. Penn State)
Colorado (48-42 vs. UCLA)
San Jose State (28-17 vs. San Diego State)