College Football Recap- Week 5

September is officially over, and five weeks of college football are in the books. For this weeks’ College Football Recap- Week 5, I will focus on two games, and also give some of my overall take-a-ways for the first month.

There are so many games each week, and you never really know how each game is going to unfold. Sometimes games that are under the radar turn out to be the most exciting, or unexpected. Often, games with the most build-up or hype, end up being a let-down.

It’s the “unknown” or “unexpected” that makes football so intriguing from week to week. But when those big, “High Profile” games do live up to the hype, it is a glorious thing! And already during this young season we have been fortunate enough to enjoy some really great games.

On Saturday night, the “TTFDB”/Penn State game was “Big-Time”, filled with all kinds of drama and excitement!

“TTFDB”- 27, Penn State- 26 
In my opinion the Nittany Lions deserved to win the game, and “should have” won the game. With the exception of the opening drive of the second half, and the final 8 minutes of the game, Penn State dominated and out-played “TTFDB”. The Nittany Lions had several opportunities throughout the night to extend leads and/or put the game out-of-reach, but they just couldn’t quite get over the hump.

With only eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, “TTFDB” trailed 26-14. However, they were able to score on a 3 play, 75 yard drive that only lasted 1:18. Then they got the ball back with 4:34 remaining, and quickly drove 96 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

With one chance left, Penn State moved 30 yards down field to the “TTFDB” 43 yard line, where they faced a 4th-and-5. Following consecutive timeouts, the Nittany Lions surprised everyone in the country by running the ball. The “TTFDB” defense stuffed running back, Miles Sanders, for a loss of 2 yards, and the game was over.

Head coach, James Franklin, has taken a lot of criticism (and rightly so) for this play call. It was obviously a very poor decision by the coaching staff to run the ball on 4th down instead of putting the ball in the hands of Trace McSorley, their play-making quarterback.

The coaching staff definitely “out-thought” themselves on that one! But as I mentioned before, Penn State had several missed opportunities throughout the night to blow the game wide open!

1. The Nittany Lions completely dominated the first half of football, but they only entered the locker room with a 13-7 lead. Early on, Penn State put together some really nice drives but only had 6 points to show for it. On their 3rd possession of the first quarter Penn State drove to the “TTFDB” 28 yard line, and ended up having to attempt a field goal. However their kicker, Jake Pinegar, missed a 46 yarder.

With only 2:32 left until halftime, Penn State had the ball and a 13-0 lead. They handed off to Miles Sanders, who was hit hard at the line of scrimmage, and fumbled at the Penn State 25 yard line. “TTFDB” who had done nothing offensively up to that point, was able to score a touchdown just before the half on a screen play to J.K. Dobbins.

2. Very late in the third quarter Penn State drove to the “TTFDB” 24 yard line, where they faced a 4th-and-1. They were trailing 14-13, and James Franklin chose to go for it. I can’t necessarily fault him for this decision. I like aggressive coaches who coach to win!

But in this situation, you have have a chance to take the lead with an entire quarter left to play. Instead of taking the points, the Nittany Lion’s gambled and it didn’t work out. McSorley’s pass was knocked down by a defensive lineman, and Penn State left 3 more points on the field!

3. Penn State’s defense absolutely lost their minds in the final 8 minutes! I have know idea what they were thinking or what they were doing! Their defense had played an incredible game up until that point, and you really couldn’t have asked for a better performance!

But on the final two drives for “TTFDB”, the Penn State defense completely folded. They couldn’t execute, they couldn’t tackle, and they couldn’t make a play! It was like any evil sorcerer, who was wearing scarlet and gray, cast a spell over the defense while they were sitting on the side-line???

Everyone was talking about “TTFDB” and Dwayne Haskins, and how “clutch” they were. There was all sorts of praise being heaped upon the quarterback and his ability to lead his team to victory. But seriously…Dwayne Haskins did not do anything special in the final 8 minutes.

In fact, he did not do anything special for the entire game! Dwayne Haskins was struggling and floundering, and his team was very, very fortunate to only be down 13 points. The bottom line is that Penn State gave the game away for the second year in a row! The bottom line is that the Nittany Lion’s Defense “flat-out” choked!!!

Clemson- 27, Syracuse- 23 
Once I started watching this game, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was incredibly intriguing and exciting from start to finish!

Last season, Syracuse upset the Tigers at home 27-24. It was Clemson’s only loss of the season until they faced Alabama in the playoff semi-final. This past Saturday, Syracuse was coming in with a 4-0 record and they have looked very good in those four games.

Clemson of course was coming in as the #3 ranked team in the nation, and a likely favorite to return to the college football playoff. However, the Tigers had not looked as great (or as dominant) as many had expected. They seemed to have been a little off in their first four games.

On top of that, Clemson had a great deal of drama surrounding the program last week when former, starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant, decided to transfer. This decision occurred when Bryant found out that freshmen quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, would be the starter moving forward.

So the stage was perfectly set for drama!

At the end of the first quarter, Clemson led 7-6. Syracuse regained the lead on a 1 yard touchdown run by Eric Dungey with about 7:30 left in the second quarter to go up 13-7. After adding another field goal, Syracuse found themselves leading 16-7 late in the second quarter.

Clemson was struggling to get into an offensive rhythm, and you could feel the pressure starting to mount inside Tiger Stadium. And then, all of a sudden, things took a turn for the worse! Clemson’s world got turned upside down in an instant!

Trevor Lawrence was flushed out of the pocket and was chased to the sideline. Instead of throwing the ball away or getting out of bounds, he tried to make something happen by scrambling up-field. Lawrence was hit hard (and awkwardly)…and you guessed it…he was knocked out of the game!

So Clemson went from having two, capable 5-Star quarterbacks just a few days earlier, to watching their 3rd-string quarterback, Chase Brice, trot out onto the field. The half ended, and the Tigers found themselves trailing 16-7.

In the second half, the Clemson defense stepped up their intensity and kept the Syracuse offense at bay. The Tigers were able to chip away at the lead by adding a couple of field goals.

However, at the very end of the third quarter return man, Amari Rodgers, fumbled a punt. Syracuse recovered the ball at the Clemson 10 yard line to set-up a very short field. Four plays later, the Orange punched it into the end-zone for a 23-13 advantage.

In the final quarter, Clemson was able to put together two, long touchdown drives to survive another big upset by Syracuse. The final scoring drive went for 13 plays and 94 yards. Chase Brice even had to convert a heroic 4th-and-6 pass from the Clemson 48 to keep Clemson’s hopes alive!

Travis Etienne ran in the go-ahead score from the 2 yard line with 41 seconds remaining. It was his 3rd rushing touchdown of the afternoon. The Tigers pulled-out a narrow victory while everyone in the stadium let out a huge, sigh-of-relief!

September Take-a-Ways 
1. The biggest take-a-way that I have from the month of September is that were 3, “really big” games in which the team that won, did “Not” deserve to win. Ironically in each of those games, the winning team happened to be the “Road” team.

We had “TTFDB” defeating Penn State 27-26 this past Saturday (which was discussed above). In week #4 we had Stanford making an unbelievable comeback to win against Oregon, 38-31 in overtime. And finally, in week #2 Clemson hung on for dear life as they escaped College Station with a 28-26 win over Texas A&M.

My thoughts on the latter two games can be seen at College Football Recap- Week 2 and College Football Recap- Week 4.

But consider how different the Football landscape would be if these three games had turned-out differently!

Clemson would already have one loss, which would be a heavy blow for their playoff hopes. As we know now, they will also be playing the rest of the way with a freshman quarterback, and a 3rd-stringer as the back-up. Texas A&M on the other hand would only have 1 loss (Alabama), and they would have a “signature”, non-conference win.

The Ducks would be sitting at 5-0, leading the Pac-12 North, and ranked in the Top 10. At this point, they would be serious playoff contenders! Meanwhile Stanford would have already suffered two loses, and would be scrambling just to get back into the Pac-12 race.

Everyone would be crowning Penn State as the second best team in the nation (Behind Alabama of Course). They would be the clear-cut favorites to win the Big 10, and they would be almost assured one of the four spots in the playoff. Now, “TTFDB” gets those honors!

2. The second take-away that I have from the month of September is that it looks like things are going to be “same old, same old” when it comes to the playoff race: Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Oklahoma, “TTFDB”, and possibly Notre Dame.

This is the pessimistic side of me talking of course…and man I hope I’m wrong!!! I want parity, I want chaos, I want pandemonium, and I want to see new teams and fresh faces! I would love to see the playoff committee be under duress during each week of the CFP Rankings, and I would love to see them “sweat bullets” on Selection Sunday!!!

3. The third take-away that I have from the month of September (The optimistic side) is that there is a lot of football left to be played…which is true! And technically there are a whole bunch of teams that still have a chance to make a playoff run. As I have mentioned a couple times before, “It does not matter how you start the season, only how you finish!”

So let’s list the teams that are still alive entering the month of October.

ACC: Clemson, North Carolina State, Boston College, Syracuse, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Duke (7 Teams)

Big 12: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma State (4 Teams)

Big 10: “TTFDB”, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, and Iowa (7 Teams)

Pac-12: Washington, Stanford, Oregon, Washington State, California, and Colorado (6 Teams)

SEC: Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Kentucky, Auburn, Florida, and Missouri (7 Teams)

Other: Notre Dame, UCF, USF, and Cincinnati (4 Teams)

As it stands right now, we have 35 Teams that are technically still alive for the playoffs (There are also 5 teams in the Mountain West Conference with only 1 loss, but that would require a miracle), and each week this list will become smaller and smaller.

But as I stated earlier, I am rooting for complete chaos moving forward! So let the “Cluster” begin!