Lovie Smith has the look of a man who has lived a full life. A man doesn’t grow a beard with that many grays unless he has had some real highs (he coached in a Super Bowl) and lows (with Rex Grossman as his QB). Smith, Illinois‘ coach, has seen some things — horrible things, such as losing by double digits to Rutgers or trying to coach Jay Cutler for four years. Not much can shock Smith anymore, but even he couldn’t have seen this coming.

Just a week ago, Wisconsin was the darling of the early-season playoff push. The Badgers were dominant in all phases, with an offense led by the nation’s best running back (Jonathan Taylor) and a defense that pitched shutouts more often than Gerrit Cole. And Illinois? Well, it was, presumably, also a football program.

As trap-game scenarios go, this one was obvious. Wisconsin won in dominant fashion against Michigan State last week and soaked in endless praise. Next week, Ohio State awaits. On Saturday, there was just the small matter of a trip to Champaign, Illinois. What could go wrong?

The Illini’s 24-23 upset as 30.5-point underdogs was the biggest by a Power 5 team in college football since 2017, the second largest in Big Ten history and utterly stunning amid a playoff conversation that has had precious few tangents through eight weeks.

The shocker in Champaign was the headline act, of course, but Saturday was full of dizzying twists.

There was the astonishing back-and-forth in Texas, where Les Miles proved he still is the Mad Hatter, going for two after a Kansas touchdown to take a 48-47 lead with 1:11 to play. Texas was among the lucky ones Saturday, though. A raucous final drive led to a 33-yard field goal and the win.

There was no similar luck for several other heavy favorites.

Woeful Georgia Tech, trying desperately to find any way to move the ball on offense, stunned 19-point favorite Miami. Sure, it took a fumble recovery in the end zone, a fake punt that went for a touchdown and overtime, but Geoff Collins got his first ACC win.

Missouri knows a thing or two about upsets. Its debacle at Wyoming in Week 1 proved one of the season’s biggest stunners. But one bad turn deserves another, and Missouri delivered, falling 21-14 as a 21-point favorite to Vanderbilt.

How ugly were those losses? Let’s count the ways.

Illinois, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt have combined to lose games this season to Eastern Michigan, The Citadel and UNLV, yet they all pulled stunners on Saturday.

Wisconsin, Miami and Missouri were each favored by at least 17 points. It was the first time since 2007 that three favorites that large all lost outright on the same day.

Missouri, which seemed to have completely righted the ship after that opening loss to Wyoming, becomes the first SEC team to lose twice as a double-digit favorite in one season since Florida in 2001.

For any bettors who backed Illinois, Georgia Tech and Vandy — this would be done only on a dare — a $100 parlay on the three would’ve paid out a whopping $207,800. That’d pay a nice chunk of some coach’s buyout.

Add Georgia’s brutal first half against Kentucky or South Carolina’s keeping things close against Florida into the fourth quarter and Saturday provided an exceptional reminder that for all we think we know about how the season will unfold, college football is chock-full of craziness.

It lives!

Remember when the Pac-12 was dead? Of course you do — it was just a few hours ago. Really, the league’s obituary was written before the season and again after Oregon lost to Auburn in Week 1, and it was revised again as Washington led the Ducks 21-14 at halftime on Saturday.

But like a good movie villain or Rolling Stones guitarist, the Pac-12 just keeps plugging along, and Oregon pulled off a 35-31 win.

Now, it wasn’t without controversy. Washington tried a bit of trickery by having a player hide in the end zone on a kickoff, only to see the huge return overturned by a flag for … hiding?

play

0:54

The Huskies are penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when a returner lies down in the end zone to fool Oregon.

In the end, the play probably wasn’t the difference. Oregon’s defense made some critical second-half adjustments, Justin Herbert was exceptional yet again and the Ducks had second-half TD drives of 79, 75 and 70 yards.

Believe it or not, the Pac-12 still is very much alive for a playoff berth. As Georgia and Wisconsin fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in stunning fashion over the past two weeks, Oregon keeps winning. Herbert has been one of the country’s best players, and the Ducks’ D is bordering on something special.

Meanwhile, No. 13 Utah knocked off No. 17 Arizona State on Saturday, moving to 6-1. The Utes are a fringe top-10 team now.

Sure, the league still is playing to an inside straight, but if the big boys out east keep falling, the door certainly could be kicked open.

Heisman Five

1. Joe Burrow, LSU

If a guy gets pantsed on national TV, then jokes afterward that “there was supposed to be a full moon in Starkville tonight,” that is your Heisman favorite 100% of the time.

2. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *