By Nathan Tucker
This past weekend of football saw some major shake ups in both the college ranks and the NFL, with the consensus best team in both losing their respective contests. Clemson and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers both lost, and made the race to the top of both NCAA football and the NFL a lot more competitive moving forward.
Clemson’s 47-40 overtime loss to #4 Notre Dame shakes up a College Football Playoff picture just in time for the stretch of the season, with potentially eight teams all vying for a shot at college football’s greatest prize.
Clemson has found football to be quite difficult without their star quarterback and Heisman Award candidate, Trevor Lawrence, in action. Lawrence missed his second game due to testing positive for COVID-19, but he was on the sidelines all game, for some reason that is still unclear.
Not chopped liver themselves, a Notre Dame team had to force Clemson to lose that football game. Despite 87 points on the board between them, Notre Dame’s defense came up big when it mattered in overtime, completely stalling Clemson’s game-saving drive to win the game.
Alabama, who had the pleasure of sitting and watching their top-tier opponents beat the hell out of each other last weekend, moves up the rankings to claim the #1 spot from the defeated Clemson. Alabama shut out a bad Mississippi State team 41-0 in their sixth game, and their convincing win over the Georgia Bulldogs has made them an early championship favorite.
In more local action, Illinois definitely played football this weekend. To what level or what ability is to be debated, but they definitely fielded a team and played the sport of football against the Minnesota Golden Gophers last weekend. That’s about the only positives the team can take from their 41-14 defeat on home turf to a not incredibly great Minnesota team.
4th string quarterback, Caron Taylor, did not replicate the good game he had against Purdue a week prior, throwing for just over one hundred yards. Mostly, he was kept off the field by Minnesota’s rushing attack led by running back Mohamed Ibrahim and the Illini’s ineptitude to stop anything on defense.
Minnesota held the ball for twice the amount of time Illinois did on Saturday. In football, a good rule of thumb is that the team that wins the possession battle, wins the game. When your team gets doubled up in possession, look out.
Illinois was also nearly doubled up in yardage, with Minnesota compiling 541 total yards to a meager 287 for head coach Lovie Smith’s Illini.
Smith is starting to have questions asked of his legitimacy and the legitimacy of the Illinois football program under his reign. Hired in March of 2016, this team is fully the product of his recruiting classes and coaching, and sits 0-3; Illinois is widely considered one of the worst teams in the Big Ten and, furthermore, one of college football’s perennial cellar dwellers.
So far, the program has put their faith in Lovie Smith, and some donors have as well, with a state-of-the-art $81 million football facility built for the team just north of Memorial Stadium last year.
Mizzou was off this past weekend, and probably needs a little time to reset after a tough loss to a very good Florida Gators team on Halloween. The road gets no easier for Eli Drinkwitz and his Tigers as they face a Georgia team who also just lost to the same, very good Florida Gators, and is looking to win big and prove they’re still a top team in the SEC.
Mizzou’s story of the season has been the surprise play of their quarterback, Connor Bazelak, who was central to their big win over LSU earlier this season. Mizzou’s offensive problem is that they are a bit one dimensional, favoring the pass over the run, which good teams (like Florida) have snuffed out.
On Tuesday, Mizzou sits as an 11.5 point underdog to the Georgia Bulldogs after this weekend. It could be a long one for Bazelak and the offensive line against an incredibly potent Georgia defensive front.
In the pro ranks, the current Super Bowl favorite, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, were absolutely stomped into the Fieldturf by the New Orleans Saints this weekend, 38-3. Touchdown Tom looked rather tame, a “vaunted” Tampa defense was mediocre at best, and in combination that spells doom for the Bucs.
The Bucs have managed to win games without one side of the ball or the other this year, and often have looked incredibly dynamic both on offense and defense. Even with Sunday’s massive loss, they’re likely still a top contender for the Super Bowl, but have one very noticeable blemish on their track record.
The defending Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs, survived another scare on Sunday, sneaking to a 33-31 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Proving his monetary value, Patrick Mahomes looked off and misfired on numerous pass attempts, but still connected for 372 yards on 30 completions and four touchdowns.
Any other quarterback in all of football who would be that off-rhythm for a game would struggle to break 200 yards, but Mahomes kept pushing and passing despite looking out of sync. What separates him from his colleagues is the ability to stick to his guns, and not shy away from what he does best.
In the end, Mahomes’s arm won them the game.
Important NCAA Football Scores from last weekend:
#4 Notre Dame 47, #1 Clemson 40
#8 Florida 44, #5 Georgia 28
#13 Indiana 38, #23 Michigan 21
#9 BYU 51, #21 Boise State 17
#3 Ohio State 49, Rutgers 27
Minnesota 41, Illinois 14
NFL Scores from last weekend:
Vikings 34, Lions 20
Chiefs 33, Panthers 31
Ravens 24, Colts 10
Bills 44, Seahawks 34
Titans 24, Bears 17
Broncos 34, Falcons 27
Texans 27, Jaguars 25
Giants 23, Washington 20
Raiders 31, Chargers 26
Dolphins 34, Cardinals 31
Steelers 24, Cowboys 19
Saints 38, Buccaneers 3
Patriots 30, Jets 27