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Why Week 7 gave us the answers we needed about the College Football Playoff’s top contenders

The issue with September soccer is that it skews our perspective. Faculty soccer remains to be figuring itself out in September. The comparability factors are all hypothetical. September lies. October, nonetheless, provides actual perception.

Was LSU’s offense actually prepared for a title run? It is simple sufficient to suppose so when Joe Burrow is torching Georgia Southern and Vanderbilt and, sure, even a shaky Texas protection. However what occurs when he is confronted with one of many nation’s finest secondaries in Florida? That is once we study one thing, once we get actual solutions.

This was true for Georgia and Clemson, Penn State and Oklahoma, Notre Dame and even Minnesota on Saturday. We have picked aside the appetizer portion of the 2019 faculty soccer season already, and Saturday provided our first style of the principle course. This was per week of turning factors, an opportunity to see almost each contender check a few of its obtrusive weaknesses, reply a few of its largest questions and begin scripting the playoff run.

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Start with Burrow, who offered an emphatic answer to any lingering doubters. Florida’s defense had run roughshod over Auburn just a week earlier, but CJ Henderson and co. were no match for the red-hot Tigers. Burrow completed 21-of-24 throws for 293 yards and three touchdowns, looking every bit the part of a Heisman favorite.

Here’s the list of players who’ve completed 70% of their throws with three touchdowns and 300 total yards against Florida in the last decade: Burrow, Joe. That’s it. That’s the list.

So yeah, this LSU offense is for real, a unit that looks poised to go toe-to-toe with Alabama and finally upset the power structure of the SEC.

Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

The LSU defense? OK, that’s a question we’ll have to answer down the road.

Around the rest of the country, turning point Saturday gave us plenty more insight into the playoff contenders. We got some surprising answers. (Minnesota’s good!) Some teams failed their tests. (Wake Forest’s defense is a problem.) And we got a few incompletes. (Alabama still hasn’t gotten a test.) Some had the rough equivalent of that dream where you show up in your underwear for an exam you haven’t studied for. (Hi, Georgia.)

But that’s the beauty of October. We’re finally learning. Here’s what we found out.

Does Georgia have the downfield passing game to win the SEC?

The Bulldogs weren’t expecting much of a test from South Carolina on Saturday, and as pop quizzes go, this one got ugly.

There were, of course, some real questions surrounding Georgia’s offense. Entering play Saturday, Georgia had just one touchdown on a pass of more than 10 yards downfield, and the Bulldogs ranked 61st out of 65 Power 5 programs in total explosive plays vs. FBS opponents. It was a warning sign.

Jake Fromm had arguably the worst game of his college career, throwing three interceptions, and the Bulldogs struggled mightily to move the ball with any consistency vs. South Carolina. Downfield, Fromm was bad, completing just 8-of-20 passes for 140 yards on throws of 10 yards or more, and on throws of 20-plus, he was a woeful 1-of-8, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The inability to stretch the field allowed South Carolina to swarm at the line of scrimmage, too, and the pressure clearly rattled the Georgia QB. Fromm was 1-of-11 for just 11 yards and a pick when pressured, including three sacks.

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Jake Fromm throws three interceptions and Rodrigo Blankenship misses a field goal in double overtime, giving the Gamecocks the game.

The Bulldogs’ playoff hopes aren’t over with the loss, but if the offense can’t find some ways to be more explosive, it’s hard to see how Fromm and Co. manage to win out the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Will Muschamp offered an emphatic answer to the biggest question looming over South Carolina. Yes, he looks damn good in a pair of reading glasses.

Is Oklahoma’s defense playoff-caliber?

It seemed obvious from the Sooners’ first five games that new coordinator Alex Grinch had made significant improvements to a defense that struggled badly last season, but the competition — Houston, South Dakota, UCLA, Texas Tech and Kansas — left a little room for the doubters.

Saturday’s performance vs. Texas removed all doubt.

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

The Sooners utterly manhandled Texas’ offensive line, sacking Sam Ehlinger nine times and finishing with 15 tackles for loss. Ehlinger was pressured on 15 of his 47 drop backs. Those 15 plays resulted in a grand total of minus-42 yards for the Longhorns. Overall, Oklahoma had eight different players record a sack, while 14 players chipped in on at least one tackle-for-loss. In two games vs. the Sooners last season, Texas totaled 938 yards of offense. The Longhorns had just 310 on Saturday.

While the Heisman buzz continues to surround Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, it might be Kenneth Murray and the Oklahoma defense that finally puts the Sooners over the top in 2019. On the other hand, Oklahoma did see its streak of 10 straight games scoring 40 or more points snapped, so perhaps we should start the “What’s wrong with Jalen Hurts?” controversy now.

Does Clemson have a second gear?

After a narrow escape at North Carolina in Week 5, Clemson took its share of heat for early-season struggles and dropped from atop the AP Poll. That was all bad news for Florida State.

Whether it was the slight by the pollsters, an off week to get things right or just the horrendous play of the Seminoles, everything finally clicked for the defending champs on Saturday. There’s no need for further late night texts to Dabo Swinney to inquire about Trevor Lawrence’s health. He had his best game of the year, completing 17-of-25 passing with four total touchdowns. Two of those TD throws went to Justyn Ross, the star of last year’s playoff who’d been off to a dismal start in 2019. Travis Etienne went over 100 yards on the ground for the first time since the season opener. The defense demolished James Blackman and the FSU O-line. Everything worked.

Somewhere, we assume FSU Book Guy was flipping through the final page of “Pass Blocking For Dummies” in the second half. Someone needs to find answers for the Seminoles.

Can Jonathan Taylor be stopped?

Since the start of 2018, no defense in the Power 5 has been tougher against the run than Michigan State, so it seemed reasonable to assume if anyone was going to slow down Wisconsin’s superstar tailback, it’d be the Spartans.

Turns out, they kind of did. At least by Taylor standards. He ran for just 80 yards on 26 carries, snapping a streak of 10 straight 100-yard games. So that’s the good news for anyone facing Wisconsin the rest of the way.

The bad news? Taylor’s two touchdowns Saturday are just two fewer than the Badgers’ defense has allowed all season.

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Wisconsin dominates on both sides of the ball in a 38-0 win over Michigan State, the Badgers fourth shutout in six games.

Wisconsin’s D was dominant once again, pitching its fourth shutout of the season in a 38-0 victory over Michigan State. Here’s how impressive it has been: It’s the first time a team has recorded four shutouts in its first six games since Minnesota in 1962. The 29 points Wisconsin has surrendered are the fewest by a Big Ten team since Ohio State and Michigan each allowed just 23 in 1973. And it’s the fewest points allowed by any FBS defense through six games since 1993 Florida State gave up just 23, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Those Seminoles won the national championship.

On the other hand, Taylor was stopped four yards shy of 5,000 for his career. So it wasn’t all good.

Is Penn State’s offense good enough to make a run?

The 17-12 final score probably won’t add many new fans to the Penn State bandwagon, and there will be days — Ohio State on Nov. 23, perhaps — when the offense needs to do more than it did Saturday, when Sean Clifford was fine but the Lions managed just 294 total yards. But Penn State didn’t turn the ball over, ran the ball 53 times to control the game and turned in another stellar defensive effort to move to 6-0. They’re not as flashy as Ohio State or as dominant as Wisconsin, but don’t be shocked if it’s Penn State that comes away with a Big Ten title.

Heisman Five

1. Joe Burrow, LSU

Of all the gaudy numbers posted by the Heisman contenders vs. lackluster defenses, Burrow’s Saturday stands alone as a truly epic performance against a team that simply doesn’t allow those types of games. Burrow was an astonishing 21-of-24 passing, finished with 336 total yards and three touchdowns. Until someone else tops that against a real contender, he’s your Heisman frontrunner.

2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Tagovailoa’s interception in the end zone near the end of the first half snapped a streak of 166 consecutive throws without a pick. His stat line for the season now is 27 TD passes and one pick. Slacker.

3. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

Anyone who can pull off a Harlem Globetrotters routine, spinning the ball behind his back while avoiding a sack, warrants some serious Heisman love.

4. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Since Nov. 1 of final 12 months, Taylor has 1,844 speeding yards, 26 complete touchdowns and nil misplaced fumbles. Not too shabby.

5. Justin Fields, Ohio State

The Buckeyes had the week off. Fields nonetheless threw for 320 yards and a couple of TDs vs. the bye week.

Rating the SEC’s most embarrassing losses

The SEC might have three or 4 of the nation’s finest groups, but it surely’s additionally suffered some brutal losses in 2019. And because the wins simply imply extra, so too do the losses, so let’s take a more in-depth have a look at the worst of the worst.

5. South Carolina 20, Georgia 17 2 OT, Week 7: This was brutal and severely dented Georgia’s playoff hopes, so it makes the record. However no less than the loss got here in opposition to a fellow SEC member.

4. Wyoming 37, Missouri 30, Week 1: This was an unpleasant rating, but it surely got here on the highway and Missouri truly had 12 extra first downs and 150 extra yards of offense, and since this opening week embarrassment, the Tigers have truly performed fairly nicely.

3. San Jose State 31, Arkansas 24, Week 4: The Trojans had been 1-11 final 12 months, had been 0-19 within the earlier decade vs. Energy 5 colleges (shedding by a mean of 4 touchdowns) and hadn’t received a highway sport of any variety because the ultimate week of 2016. And below regular circumstances this may be as embarrassing because it will get. However it’s been worse within the SEC this 12 months.

2. UNLV 34, Vanderbilt 10, Week 7: UNLV is dangerous. It hadn’t overwhelmed an FBS crew but this 12 months. It hadn’t received on the highway since 2017. That very same season, it misplaced to Howard. And but, the Rebels dominated Vandy on Saturday, working for 206 yards and profitable by 24.

1. Georgia State 38, Tennessee 30, Week 1: For sheer nationwide embarrassment, this takes the cake. The excellent news, nonetheless, is Tennessee truly received an SEC sport on Saturday, so perhaps the Vols actually are on the verge of one thing particular.

Badgers personal the Wolverine State

Wisconsin’s shutout win over Sparty on Saturday concluded the Badgers’ three-game sequence vs. the state of Michigan for 2019, and it appears a disgrace AD Barry Alvarez did not schedule Japanese and Western Michigan, too.

Wisconsin beat Central Michigan 61-0, thumped the Wolverines 35-14 and stomped Michigan State 38-Zero on Saturday. Complete rating: 134-14.

By upper-Midwest legislation, that type of dominance means Wisconsin takes possession of Bob Seger, Basic Motors and “Robocop 3.”

Memphis insanity

Temple’s upset win on a hotly debated name within the ultimate moments Saturday could be the most important controversy to hit Memphis since Elvis faked his demise (do not argue, it is true). Memphis receiver Joey Magnifico (his actual identify!) appeared to make the seize to transform a important fourth-and-10 with lower than two minutes to play, however the name was overturned upon video overview.

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Memphis appears to be like to transform on fourth down on Joey Magnifico’s catch, however the name is overturned and officers give the ball to Temple.

Afterward, Memphis coach Mike Norvell acknowledged his case in favor of a catch, however the convention launched an announcement saying there was ample video proof to overturn the decision on the sphere.

Whatever the debate, it’s going to go down as a loss for the Tigers, their first of the season. It additionally marked the primary time in Temple historical past the Owls have overwhelmed two ranked groups in the identical season, in keeping with ESPN Stats & Information, after they upended Maryland earlier this 12 months.

You play to win the shut video games

We knew when Arizona State employed Herm Edwards earlier than the 2018 season, it might be attention-grabbing, and positive sufficient, he is delivered.

Saturday’s 38-34 win over Washington State featured greater than 1,000 yards of offense, two 300-yard passers, zero turnovers and a go-ahead TD with 34 seconds to play.

  • There was case to be made for Bowling Inexperienced because the worst crew in FBS coming into Saturday. The Falcons had been 0-Four vs. FBS opponents, having misplaced by a mixed rating of 201-27. However the soccer gods smiled upon Scot Loeffler’s crew on Saturday, with Bowling Inexperienced pulling off a dominant 20-7 win over Toledo as a 20.5-point underdog.

  • Vanderbilt’s embarrassing loss to UNLV as a 15-point favourite was ugly, but it surely in all probability should not have been all that stunning. The Commodores at the moment are 0-6 in opposition to the unfold this season. They are not alone, although. Woeful Akron was blown out once more by Kent State, and likewise stays winless in opposition to the unfold. Then there’s Georgia Tech, which was blown out by Duke on Saturday, protecting the Jackets winless in opposition to the unfold, too, together with a loss to FCS The Citadel. Worse, Georgia Tech hasn’t lined a diffusion since profitable a pick-em in opposition to Miami on Nov. 10 of final 12 months — a string of 9 straight video games.

  • It was a calming night for anybody with the over within the Wake Forest-Louisville sport. The overall closed at 65, which turned out to be an absurdly low quantity. Jamie Newman’s TD go to Sage Surratt with almost 10 minutes left within the third quarter put the whole at 66, and the 2 groups did not cease there. The ultimate — a 62-59 Louisville win — was the very best scoring sport within the ACC this 12 months and the second-highest of the season in FBS after that bonkers UCLA win over Washington State. It was additionally the second-highest scoring sport in ACC historical past and simply the fourth time in ACC play each groups topped 50 factors.

Underneath-the-radar play of the day

The record of actually majestic photographs in faculty soccer is an extended one — the mountain backdrop on the Rose Bowl, the freshly trimmed hedges of Sanford Stadium, Mike Gundy’s hair — however nothing is so lovely because the celebration of a Large Man TD, and Ohio’s Austen Pleasants provided us a efficiency for the ages. The 6-foot-7, 317-pound Pleasants lined up as a blocker, peeled off, turned and hauled in a catch from QB Nathan Rourke, and rumbled untouched into the top zone, elevating his hand in triumph earlier than ever crossing the purpose line. From there, his teammates surrounded him — pure, unadulterated pleasure. Everybody loves the massive guys.

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Offensive lineman Austen Pleasants catches a go and runs into the top zone for a two-yard landing to provide Ohio a 21-10 lead.

Underneath-the-radar video games of the day

  • It in all probability comes as no shock to study North Dakota State received once more, this time 46-14 in opposition to Northern Iowa. Ho-hum. However this one did include a bit additional juice. It marked the 26th straight win for the Bison, passing 2016-17 James Madison for the second-longest win streak in FCS historical past. The longest? Nicely, that one additionally belongs to the Bison, who received 33 straight from 2012 to 2014.

  • In the meantime on the FCS degree, James Madison pulled off a 38-24 win in opposition to Villanova, sending the Wildcats to their first lack of the season. That leaves simply three undefeated FCS groups remaining: North Dakota State, Dartmouth and Princeton.

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Arihant Chopra
Arihant Chopra has been working in the Sports industry. He currently contributes for Trevino by writing about sports content. He started his career with Trevino to get started as a journalist.

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