A quick note for those looking for the Slate: the only item that would have been in it is K-State’s sweep of Loyola (IL) in volleyball. The win sealed the Wildcat Classic title, was their fifth straight, and improves the squad to 7-2. Next up, Creighton at Ahearn on Tuesday night.
So in lieu of the Slate, we present this week’s college football roundup as a two-for-one. Another Sunday, another wrap-up of what this weekend’s results actually mean in the bigger picture. Let’s dive right in, with our conferences listed in order from worst weekend to best.
This week's big loser is, to be fair, here largely because they played an insane schedule this weekend. Of the eight losses suffered by C-USA teams, three were to ranked teams and another two to Power 5 outfits. That said, Western Kentucky lost by four touchdowns at Alabama, and that may actually be ignorable for the Hilltoppers come December. In four games against MEAC teams, C-USA did exactly what an FBS team is supposed to do: win blowouts.
But the other losses... woof. UTSA was never out of it against Colorado State, but they weren't really IN it either, and the Rams got gibbeted by Colorado last week. Old Dominion got rolled by Appalachian State, and Rice got routed by Army.
Speaking of Army, since they're not in a conference: the Black Knights may be good again. When they beat Temple last week, everyone sort of forgot Temple was really good last year. They may still be (we'll get to them in a bit), so at this point Army's got a resume which doesn't scream greatness but does bear further observation.
It was not a great week for the darlings of week one. Troy hung in with #2 Clemson, although the game wasn't quite as close as the 30-24 final indicates; Troy scored a TD with 44 seconds left. It was, however, the narrowest win Clemson has ever earned as a top-5 team at home. Appalachian State had a big win, albeit against a soft opponent. And New Mexico State beat New Mexico, going ahead for the first time with 5:46 to play and then hanging on for the victory. It's the first win for the Aggies over either of their two main rivals since 2011.
Georgia Southern handled South Alabama in a conference tilt, but otherwise everything was bad. Louisiana-Lafayette did win, but it was a one-score affair against FCS McNeese State. Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana-Monroe, and Idaho all suffered blowout defeats. There's not much time left for the Fun Belt to make impressions.
Yes, the Big 12 pulls in as the eighth-place conference this week. All four wins were no-brainers; there was no way Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor, or West Virginia were losing against this week's opponents. Doing what you're supposed to isn't worth brownie points, though.
Doing what you're not supposed to? Those are huge black marks when they're losses. After finally winning a game last week, Kansas got humiliated by Frank Solich, which is at least something they're used to. Remember last week when we chortled at Texas Tech fans gloating about their defense? The Red Raiders got 68 hung on them by Arizona State. Iowa State is godawful. TCU fell behind early to Arkansas, but did come back to tie the game. They couldn't stop the Hogs in overtime, though, and just like that they're probably out of playoff contention.
And then there's Oklahoma State. The Pokes never should have been in the situation they were in anyway. Once they were -- fourth down, four seconds left, clinging to a three-point lead -- they should have just run backwards for four seconds and taken a knee.
But that's not what happened, and a bad rules interpretation gave Central Michigan the ball on an untimed down at which point the Chips did what the Chips do. A crazy hail-mary-and-lateral won the game for the MAC squad. There's a lot of anger over the blown call, which is justified in a vacuum. But we must raise two important points.
One, the rule itself is actually sort of stupid. A team should not be able to get off the field at the end of the game on a penalty. Mason Rudolph committed intentional grounding in order to prevent a potential turnover which might have led to the game ending with a touchdown return, right? If he could have run out the clock legally by just taking a knee, he would have. Just as a penalty on the defense deprives the offense of a chance to score on the final play, this seems like a no-brainer.
But the rule is the rule, so we have to go with it. That's fine, but then we run into the Oklahoma State reaction post-game, which is that they're naively arguing that the result should be overturned -- something which has happened precisely never, ever, ever, in the entire history of the sport. Even the famous Cornell fifth-down forfeit in 1940 was only a unilateral act by the winning team, and whether it's actually recognized as a real forfeit is questionable to this day.
And if you think Mike Holder would offer to forfeit the game to Central Michigan if the shoes were on the other feet, I have a bridge to sell you. Shut up, Mike Holder. Just shut up.
The MAC went 5-6 this weekend, but it was so, so close to 3-9. We just covered Central Michigan, and Bowling Green only beat FCS North Dakota by stopping a two-point conversion in the final minute. Had UND just kicked the PAT, they'd have gone to overtime. The other three wins involved MAC teams blasting soft FCS teams (and Kansas).
Of the losses, Ball State's 10-point setback at Indiana was the most respectable. Akron's blowout at the hands of Wisconsin was entirely expected, as was Eastern Michigan's dismantling by Mizzou. But the MAC suffered three losses which are particularly troubling.
South Florida flat destroyed Northern Illinois, marking a probable figurative end to the Huskies' long reign of terror. For years, NIU has been one of the MAC's jewels, but now they're 0-2 and just plain look bad. Miami lost to FCS Eastern Illinois, which your fearless narrator fingered as a potential FCS upset Saturday morning. And Kent State did a thing which is nigh-unforgivable for an FBS team: they lost to a MEAC school. It took four overtimes, but North Carolina A&T gets to hang an FBS trophy on the wall down in Greensboro.
There's an argument to be made that this week was more disastrous for the MAC than for any other conference, despite posting a better record than three of their rivals.
Finally, we get to conferences which actually had winning records. Of the Mountain West's five losses, four were blowouts against Power 5 schools (including Nevada's destruction by a rebounding Notre Dame, our second independent interjection). The fifth was New Mexico's in-state loss to NMSU. None of these things tells us anything.
Also in the not-instructive column: Air Force blasting Georgia State, Colorado State handling UTSA, Fresno drilling FCS Sacramento, and Hawai'i squeaking past FCS Tennessee-Martin (although maybe that's a mild surprise). San José State whipped Portland State, an actually decent FCS team, so we'll give them credit for dominating a game that could have been close.
That leaves us with the two teams which appear most likely to contend (along with Air Force) for the conference title. San Diego State, behind 281 yards rushing from Donnel Pumphrey, held off California for a big win. Boise State also knocked off a Pac-12 squad, but it was a three-point win over Washington State in which the Broncos very nearly squandered a 24-7 lead.
It wasn't a bad week for the Mountain, but it also contained nothing that jumps out at you. Passing grade, no extra credit.
Connecticut probably beat themselves more than Navy beating them. Trailing by 21 at one point, Connecticut had fought back. With 17 seconds left, Bryant Shirreffs completed a pass to Hergy Mayala, who was pushed out of bounds at the Navy one-yard line, stopping the clock.
But UConn couldn't get the right play in, and had to call their final timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. Navy stuffed Ron Johnson at the line of scrimmage, and time ran out, leaving Connecticut shattered and the service academies with a combined 6-0 record.
Of course, that was a conference game, so doesn't really help us get our September bearings on the conference. The three losses suffered by the MURICANS in non-conference play were all bad. Tulsa shot themselves in both feet, a hand, and probably the groin; turnover after turnover destroyed any chance they had of competing with Ohio State. It was doubly tragic for the Hurricane, because up until the middle of the second quarter they were actually sort of winning the battle, despite being down 10-3. They appeared to be winning at the line of scrimmage, and they were keeping the Buckeyes in check. But you can't give the ball up that often without killing your defense, and that's what ended up happening.
Central Florida was also manhandled by Michigan, and SMU got smoked by Baylor. No surprises there. Also not really surprising were South Florida's win over Northern Illinois, Cincinnati beating Purdue, or Tulane getting a win over a SWAC team. Temple shutting out FCS Stony Brook was a nice feather, as after last week one wondered if Bad Temple had returned, but the win itself wasn't unexpected. And of course Houston completely routed FCS Lamar, even without the injured Greg Ward.
Which leaves us with East Carolina, who now holds the second-longest current winning streak against ACC teams, behind only Clemson. Once again, the Pirates pillaged an in-state rival as they got past North Carolina State. It is ECU's sixth straight win over ACC competition. On September 14, 2013, the Pirates lost to Virginia Tech. Since then, they've gotten revenge for that loss twice, beaten North Carolina twice, and now the Wolfpack twice. (It's actually their third straight win over NCSU, too.)
We've already mentioned six of the Big 10's nine wins. We skipped over Maryland's win over FIU in the C-USA section because why bother, and both Rutgers and Minnesota pounded FCS competition. So all we have left is the four losses. Hold your nose, because this is bad.
Penn State fought back from a huge deficit against arch-rival Pitt, but couldn't get over the hump. That wasn't too bad in a larger sense. Purdue, as mentioned, got plowed by Cincy. Illinois was absolutely humiliated by North Carolina, and even that isn't the nadir of the week.
No, for that we turn to Evanston, Illinois, home of the team that once lost 44 games in a row before actually becoming good at football. Illinois State broke a scoreless tie on a six-yard George Moreira run with 32 seconds left in the first half. That's ugly enough, right? After another ugly scoreless 20 minutes, Northwestern finally took the lead as Austin Carr hauled in a 10-yard TD pass. Now all Northwestern had to do was stop the Redbirds.
And they did, for about nine minutes. Unfortunately, with zeroes on the clock, Sean Slattery hit a 33-yard field goal, and suddenly Illinois State (10th-ranked in FCS) is the best football team in Illinois. And that, in and of itself, is a huge black mark for the entire Big 10.
It was a mixed bag for the ACC this weekend. The three non-conference losses were all icky. Both Virginia schools got pummeled by ranked teams, and we've already discussed North Carolina State. In addition, Clemson had the previously-mentioned scare against Troy, which will ding the conference's rep some until Clemson does something to erase it.
But there was good stuff too. We've mentioned Pitt and UNC already, and Miami and Boston College did their jobs against admittedly weak FBS competition (the latter against independent UMass). Georgia Tech and Florida State did their jobs against FCS schools as well. All-in-all, the ACC had two good wins which they might not have been expected to earn, and two bad losses they might have expected to win. They'll take it, considering everyone else's disaster routines.
(Oh, and Louisville thrashed Syracuse, and Wake Forest beat Duke, but that's just the ACC Wheel of Destiny at work.)
If they'd done this last week, the media would have been salivating over "Pac-12 is back" hot takes. Washington, Oregon, USC, and UCLA all blasted FBS opponents. Colorado crushed Idaho State, which is less awesome. Arizona... well, Arizona escaped Grambling State after being down 21-3 at the half, so we should probably mock them. But 28 unanswered points sort of takes the shine off that endeavor. Arizona State scored 68 points, but it was against Texas Tech (who scored 55 themselves), so we can't really give them too much credit. And Utah won the Holy War in exactly the same fashion as Bowling Green escaped North Dakota (q.v.), giving the Pac-12 eight wins on the day and leaving the independents 2-2.
That's more than enough to counteract the two losses, both of which we mentioned up in the Mountain West section. From the Pac-12 perspective, there's really not a ton of shame in losing a three-pointer to Boise, and the Cal-San Diego State game wasn't a terribly unexpected result either. It was a perfectly cromulent week for the left-coasters. But it wasn’t perfect. No, the closest thing to perfect this week was the...
Hey, remember last week when we were all tearing the SEC to pieces? Yeah, we may wanna step back off that ledge.
Two SEC teams lost this week. The problem for the other conferences: they lost to other SEC teams, as Florida wrecked Kentucky and Mississippi State exposed South Carolina. Alabama crushed a decent Western Kentucky team and completely neutered its high-octane offense. Arkansas got a big win over #15 TCU. LSU struggled a bit early before finding their feet and soundly beating a pretty good Jacksonville State squad. Auburn and Mizzou and even Vanderbilt crushed lower-end FBS schools. A&M and Ole Miss did the same to FCS programs. Even Tennessee finally looked like a real football team, blasting Virginia Tech for 24 points in the second quarter on their way to a rout.
Oh, did I forget to mention Georgia?
Nicholls State was 0-12 in 2014. They improved to 3-8 last year, but were expected to regress a bit this season. And had it not been for a pair of third-down conversions in the final three minutes -- one with the ball at their own ten-yard line -- to help Georgia run out the clock, Nicholls might have won this one. The week was almost perfect for the SEC; only Georgia's near miss marred the picture.
But it's a really bad blemish. There's not enough concealer on the planet to hide it.
As an aside, this is why actually paying attention to FCS has some importance. Beating Nicholls State by two points is not the same thing as beating, say, North Dakota State by two points. Yet for most folks, "FCS" is just a convenient tag meaning "gimme win".
And in most cases, that's not inaccurate. As great as the Bison are, even we K-State fans still bristle at having lost to them, even though the actual differences between a power FCS program and an average FBS program are very slight. But the important thing isn't "we should win", but in properly assessing the result when your team barely escapes. For Georgia, Saturday was an abject embarrassment of epic proportions, and needs to be recognized as such. For Bowling Green, beating a relatively competent North Dakota squad on a stuffed two-point conversion is, while not optimal, still not completely humiliating. And while the difference between Georgia and Bowling Green itself has a lot to do with that distinction, the difference between North Dakota and Nicholls State is also extremely relevant. There are good losses to FCS teams... and there are also very, very bad wins. Georgia suffered the latter.
Speaking of FCS
North Dakota State, for the second game in a row, played a top-10 team at home, faced a tie game with the other team in possession of the ball as time ran out, watched the other team miss a potential game-winning field goal as time expired, kept the other team from scoring on the first possession of overtime, and -- as if the similarities weren't already bizarre enough -- promptly won the game by scoring on a 25-yard run on the first play of their own possession.
What I'm saying is that when I tell you to get on ESPN3 and watch an FCS play, I really mean it. I may be an inveterate pimp, but I don’t actually tell you to watch a football game unless it’s good. (Unlike all those people yesterday screaming “turn on Wyoming-Nebraska”...)
Another great FCS game I kept an eye on was Montana at Northern Iowa. The Griz won 20-14, and this one came down to the wire as well. Montana's defense passed the test on UNI's final possession, but the Panthers completed a deep pass on the final play of the game, followed by a whole bunch of laterals. All it took was one bad one, and when the ball landed in a Montana player's lap, #StittHappens escaped with their second win over a top-3 program in two years.
In another game between ranked FCS teams, The Citadel held off Furman for a 19-14 win, giving the Bulldogs firm control over the SoCon race early. (They're already 2-0 in conference play.)
Oh, and one last result of note for K-State fans: Missouri State improved to 2-0 with a 28-22 win over Murray State, and will be off next weekend. That’s important, because it means in two weeks the Wildcats will be welcoming an undefeated FCS team who’s had an extra week to prepare. Uh-oh.