The No. 1 Clemson Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) took one giant step closer to a possible spot in the College Football Playoff. The path to the playoff will have to take a quick stop in Charlotte, because Clemson will stopping there to play in the ACC Championship Game at the end of the season regardless of what happens in the next three weeks. Clemson wrapped up possession of the ACC Atlantic Division with a 23-13 victory Saturday over nemesis and rival Florida State.
Clemson took its second lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter when Greg Huegel kicked his third field goal of the game, this latest one from 34 yards out for a 16-13 lead. The only touchdown of the game for Clemson came in the third quarter, with Deon Cain taking a short pass from Deshaun Watson 38 yards to the house for a 13-10 lead on the first drive of the second half. The defense then was asked to come up with a huge stop after a good special teams return by Florida State’s Kermit Whitfield gave the Seminoles possession at the Clemson 49-yard line. Clemson’s defense answered the call, stuffing Florida State’s Dalvin Cook for no gain on fourth down at the Clemson 40-yard line, one years shy of the first down marker. That set up Clemson for the knockout blow, which was delivered by Wayne Gallman by way of a 25-yard rushing touchdown up the middle of the field on Florida State’s defense. The touchdown run came one play after Watson completed a seven-yard pass to Charone Peake to pick up a third down conversion. The final nail in the coffin for the Seminoles came on the ensuing possession when Ben Boulware forced the ball out of the hands of Travis Rudolph, which Clemson recovered.
Clemson had to battle back to get the win, as the Tigers got off to a sluggish start against Florida State. The Seminoles took an early lead on the second play fo the game when Cook rattled off a 75-yard touchdown run, and eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the second possession of the game just minutes later. But Clemson managed to tighten up as the game played out, and Cook was without a big run for most of the night after the first five minutes of the game. Cook ended his day with 194 yards and the one touchdown.
This was the first time Clemson won a football game as the number one team in the country since the 1981 season. That season the Tigers were ranked number one in the AP top 25 after playing the final game of the regular season and defeated Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl. That makes this the first time Clemson won a game in the regular season as the top-ranked team in program history.
Florida State has one remaining ACC contest to play before closing out the regular season with two non-conference games. Next week the Seminoles host North Carolina State. Clemson will hit the road next week to visit Syracuse. The Tigers wrap up ACC regular season play the next week at home against Wake Forest.
Well, that didn’t take very long at all. Or, for some Arkansas fans, maybe it took too long.
Arkansas has officially parted ways with Bret Bielema as head coach of the Razorbacks. The official announcement was made minutes after Arkansas ended their regular season with a home loss to Missouri, with a press conference scheduled for Friday evening.
Bielema came to Arkansas with as solid reputation as you could find at the time at the end of the 2012 season. After guiding Wisconsin to a third-straight Rose Bowl appearance (Bielema left Wisconsin prior to coaching the third Rose Bowl in that run), Bielema was expected to be able to bring a model of consistent winning to the Arkansas program. Bielema claimed he made the decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas because he would have a better chance to compete for a national championship with the Razorbacks, but the wins never piled up the way he and Arkansas leaders and fans envisioned.
In five years at Arkansas, Bielema was 29-24 with an even more lopsided result in SEC play over the years. In 2017, Arkansas finished the year with a second losing season under Bielema, and late in the season the school also fired the man who originally hired Bielema, former athletics director Jeff Long.
Arkansas joins Florida, Tennessee, and Ole Miss among SEC schools now looking for a new head coach.
The Bret Bielema era at Arkansas has officially come to an end, but at least Arkansas went down fighting. Arkansas (4-8, 1-7 SEC) came up just short at home against Missouri (7-5, 4-4 SEC) in the regular season finale as a late go-ahead field goal lifted the Tigers to a 48-45 victory. Arkansas announced a press conference for later in the evening to officially address the dismissal of Bielema.
The win clinched a winning season for Missouri, which is an incredible feat given how this season started out. The Tigers were really struggling in the first half of the season after suffering blowout losses at home to South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn and on the road against Georgia. During that rough stretch, head coach Barry Odom came off sounding like he was under extreme pressure when he passionately defending himself as being the right coach for the job. Turns out, he was right. Missouri ended the season on a six-game winning streak as they now prepare to go to a bowl game few would have seen coming back in October.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock passed for 448 yards and five touchdowns in the game as the Tigers managed to dig out of an early hole and then come up with just a few more plays than the Razorbacks. Missouri racked up 696 yards of offense and 35 first downs. And it didn’t hurt when Bielema made some bizarre coaching decisions in the fourth quarter.
As Missouri goes on to prepare for whatever bowl game may be coming their way, Arkansas has some work to do with its football program. This is the second losing season under Bielema for Arkansas, with the first being in his first season on the job since leaving Wisconsin and the Big Ten. In five seasons at Arkansas, Bielema was 29-34.
San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny became the 22nd player in FBS history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season when he rattled off a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a game against New Mexico.
Penny eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark a season after former Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey accomplished the same feat. That also made some history, with San Diego State becoming the first school in FBS history to have two different players run for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
We may not be quite done with the 2,000-yard rushers this season either. Stanford running back Bryce Love begins the week with 1,723 rushing yards this season. This week, Stanford faces a Notre Dame team that has allowed 200+ rushing yards each of the past three weeks. There is also the possibility Love gets to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game for another opportunity to tack on the yardage. Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor is also in striking distance with 1,657 yards this season, and he is guaranteed a chance in the Big Ten championship game.
Penny had been on the Heisman Trophy radar earlier in the season, and some will argue he is worthy of a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation as much as any other players who may be heading there. Penny was not named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back. Love, Taylor and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley were named finalists for the award earlier this week.
The preseason favorite to win the MAC is now one step closer to coming through on that expectation. Toledo (10-2, 7-1 MAC) clinched the MAC West Division on Friday afternoon by defeating the defending MAC champ, Western Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC), by a score of 37-10.
Toledo will play Akron, the East Division champion, in the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit. Toledo will be playing in the MAC Championship Game for the fifth time, but this will be their first trip since 2004. Akron is also ending a championship game drought by making their second appearance and their first since 2005. The two schools have not faced each other in the MAC Championship Game until this season.
Western Michigan represented the MAC in the New Years Six bowl lineup a year ago after going undefeated in the regular season and being the highest-ranked conference champion among the Group of Five conferences. The stakes will not be that high this season for Toledo or Akron. With two ranked teams in the American Athletic Conference expected to play for the AAC championship (UCF and Memphis are currently ranked, but USF would likely be ranked with a win over UCF), and Boise state floating in the bottom of the top 25 from the selection committee, even a Toledo blowout of the Zips would not likely be enough to make a push in the final week.
Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Rockets were 7-of-14 on third down conversions in the game. The Rockets are expected to be a sizable favorite against Akron next week.
At 6-6, Western Michigan is bowl eligible.