No. 7 Georgia heard the question for two weeks: is the team capable of making another run at the SEC title? On Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, the Bulldogs went a long ways to answering in the affirmative.
Kirby Smart’s squad got back to clicking on offense and forcing turnovers on defense as the Dawgs beat rival No. 9 Florida 36-17 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and secured their status as East Division front-runner in the process.
In perhaps the most encouraging part of the game for many fans in red and black, Jake Fromm looked much more like the signal-caller who took his team to the final game of the season last year as a true freshman. The quarterback threw for 240 yards but saved his best passes for the end zone, tossing a trio of beautiful touchdowns while not turning the ball over. Jeremiah Holloman was one of the breakout stars in the game for the Georgia receiving corps, scoring twice to finish with four catches and 48 yards while leaving a few nightmares for Gators defensive backs to get over once they watch the tape next week. Tight end Isaac Nauta was also a big part of the passing game with 73 yards and several huge first downs.
While the Bulldogs had their struggles at times running the ball — including getting stuffed five times three yards away from the goal line — the two lead tailbacks still got their numbers in the end. Elijah Holyfield finished with 71 on the ground while D’Andre Swift busted out for 104 yards and iced the victory with a fourth quarter touchdown that saw him burst through the line and out run everybody on the field.
It wasn’t all bad for Florida as the team did lead in one category: unique penalties. They had one player flagged for a delay of game for not wearing pads covering his knees (which extended a UGA scoring drive) and head coach Dan Mullen wound up with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as well.
Though the final margin was rough, the Gators did have some chances but continually had to play from behind in the game thanks to turnovers. Tailback Jordan Scarlett (56 yards rushing) fumbled early in the first half and QB Feleipe Franks threw an interception on the very next series. It was all together a bit of a reversion to the mean for the UF offense overall as there was little consistency throughout the game and Franks seemed to get hit on every drop back. It was impressive that he even managed to score twice (one passing, one rushing) but that was otherwise it as the entire unit got stuck in neutral.
When all was said and done from Jacksonville though, it was Georgia that can finally claim (improbably) just their second winning streak in the series in the past two decades. While the Bulldogs still have to play at Kentucky and against Auburn, the victory should all but lock up another division title and trip to Atlanta in the process.
Whether it will all be enough when they face Alabama or LSU in December is a separate issue entirely but, at least this weekend, the Dawgs took a step in the right direction and lived up to their preseason billing by moving toward another title in the SEC East.
The playoff field is set for the FCS Playoffs. Defending national champion and No. 1 North Dakota State took the top seed overall but will face a challenging bracket if the Bison are to claim another national title this year.
As the top seed, North Dakota State will own home-field advantage in the Fargo Dome for as long as they are in the playoffs, with the exception of a possible national title game appearance, which will be played in Frisco, Texas on January 5. North Dakota State’s portion of the bracket includes No. 4 seed Kennesaw State (who was the No. 2 team in the FCS top 25) and last year’s national title runners-up from James Madison. The Dukes were not seeded in this year’s tournament with a record of 8-3, but they are always to be considered a dangerous opponent this time of year.
A handful of teams ended playoff droughts with this year’s bracket. East Tennessee State is making its first playoff appearance since 1996, ending the longest drought among this year’s playoff teams. Delaware and Southeast Missouri State are each back in the playoff for the first time since 2010. The field also includes three first-time playoff teams; Incarnate Word, Lamar, and UC Davis.
The FCS Playoffs begin next weekend.
Michigan running back and special teams player Berkley Edwards was carted off the field on a stretcher in the fourth quarter at Michigan Stadium on Saturday in a scary scene that paused the game for roughly 10 minutes. The morning after the Wolverines beat Indiana, however, there is good news to report on Edwards. Edwards shared an update on his Twitter account to tell his followers and Michigan fans he has been released from the hospital and he is OK.
“Just got out the hospital,” Edwards said. “[E]verything is good!”
Edwards followed that up to say he did not see the Indiana player who hit him (Cam Jones, who was ejected for the hit) and his head is still hurting a bit.
It is unknown at this time what the status of Edwards will be for Michigan’s regular-season finale at Ohio State this week. The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will play in the Big Ten Championship Game as the East Division champion.
Send another coach through the coaching carousel. Multiple reports on Sunday say Texas State will move on from Everett Withers after this season. Football Scoop and The Athletic each reported news of the coaching change for the program.
According to Football Scoop, as reported by College Football Talk contributor Zach Barnett, Withers will not coach for Texas State this week in the regular season finale against Arkansas State.
Withers was hired by Texas State prior to the 2016 season to replace Dennis Franchione. Texas State had back-to-back 2-10 seasons in his first two years on the job and the Bobcats are just 3-8 this season with one game remaining. This will be the fourth straight season Texas State has had no more than four wins (and it could be a fourth straight year with no more than three wins).
The former James Madison head coach will likely manage to find a job somewhere on a coaching staff, even if not as a head coach. Texas State is now looking for its third head coach since jumping up from the FCS to the FBS in 2012.
After arguably the biggest weekend in UCF football history, the Knights are now enjoying their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 of the season and second-highest ranking in program history. UCF moved up to No. 8 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll as they finally managed to jump ahead fo a couple of power conference programs that have been standing in the way the past few weeks.
Alabama claimed all 61 first-place votes from the AP voters this week. The top-ranked Crimson Tide are followed by Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, and Oklahoma as there were no changes in the top six. No. 7 Washington State, UCF, and LSU all took advantage of No. 12 West Virginia falling five spots after a loss at Oklahoma State.
UCF moved into a tie with LSU for the No. 8 spot in the ranking this week, but the Knights have officially moved ahead of Ohio State. The Buckeyes slipped to No. 10, dropping one spot.
Army is also making some headlines in the AP Top 25 by appearing in the ranking for the first time since 1996. Army cracked the Ap Top 25 at No. 23 to be in the AP Top 25 for just the third time since 1985.
Here is this week’s AP Top 25:
1. Alabama (61)
3. Notre Dame
7. Washington State
8. (tie) UCF
8. (tie) LSU
10. Ohio State
12. West Virginia
14. Utah State
15. Penn State
21. Boise State
22. Mississippi State
25. Iowa State