Week 7 wrap

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Déjà vu all over again for No. 8 Penn State as Michigan State stuns Nittany Lions with late score

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Michigan State did it again. For the second year in a row, the Spartans (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) stunned No. 8 Penn State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) with a fourth-quarter rally and late go-ahead score to hand the Nittany Lions a bitter loss in the first game Penn State played after losing to Ohio State by one point.

Brian Lewerke underthrew a pass to Felton Davis on a third-and-two, but Davis was ready for it, broke a tackle and then broke the hearts of Penn State fans gathering in Beaver Stadium for homecoming. Davis’ touchdown grab came with 19 seconds to play, giving Michigan State a stunning 21-17 lead on the Nittany Lions. All that was left was for the Michigan State special teams unit to prevent KJ Hamler from a big kickoff return (they did) and for the defense to hold on for the final 13 seconds of the game. They did.

Penn State didn’t play their best game of the year, and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio going into his bag of tricks caught the Nittany Lions off guard a few times. But a fourth-quarter decision to attempt a fake field goal came up empty for the Spartans and their hopes of celebrating a big win in Big Ten East play. Brian Lewerke‘s pass over the middle to Raequan Williams appeared to be there for the taking, but the pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Earlier in the game, Michigan State had successfully executed a fake punt and followed it up with a running back pass to lead to a touchdown. A few trick plays were needed to light a spark for the Spartans, who were a bit short-handed on offense. Penn State’s offense was not much better. The Nittany Lions struggled on third-down conversions and had a missed field goal and Penn State was flagged for six penalties for 41 yards. Outside of a couple of big runs by Miles Sanders, the Spartans defense fared well enough to keep the pressure on Penn State all afternoon.

Trace McSorley and Lewerke each had a rough game in terms of completing passes. McSorley, in particular, did not look like himself after a career game against the Buckeyes, from the ball slipping out of his hand on a pass to making an odd decision to run out of bounds late in the fourth quarter to stop the clock without forcing Michigan State to use a timeout. That inability for Penn State to kill off more than 11 seconds on their last offensive possession with the lead proved to be critical, as was a missed field goal earlier.  Michigan State’s game-winning drive started at their 24-yard line with 1:10 to play, and the Spartans scored with fewer than 20 seconds remaining.

The win helps keep Michigan State in the discussion for the Big Ten championship with games still to play against Michigan (next week) and Ohio State down the line. The loss knocks Penn State out of the running for the Big Ten East once again, and the fight just to get back to a New Years Six bowl game may have taken a tough blow as well, although that could still be a possibility if Penn State can turn things around.

Penn State will take to the road for the second time in Big Ten play next week when they visit Indiana. Michigan State will return home next week for a big game against in-state rival Michigan.

Tennessee upsets No. 21 Auburn for first road win vs SEC West team since 2007

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It’s been a long time coming, but Tennessee (3-3, 1-2 SEC) finally got a chance to celebrate a win in SEC play with a road 30-24 win against No. 21 Auburn (4-3, 1-3). Auburn had three turnovers, including one fumble returned for a touchdown by Tennessee, and a missed field goal in a disappointing showing at home that will drop Auburn out of the rankings and pretty much eliminates Auburn from the SEC title hunt already.

Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano passed for over 300 yards and two touchdowns to fuel the Tennessee offense on the road. It was the first time this season Guarantano had more than 172 yards in a game and came one game after throwing two touchdowns without an interception against Georgia on the road.

The Tennessee win brought an end to a handful of streaks within conference play as well. The win was Tennessee’s first in SEC play since beating Vanderbilt on November 19, 2016, snapping a 11-game losing streak in SEC play. It was the first road SEC win since October 1, 2016 at Georgia. It had been even longer since Tennessee enjoyed beating a team from the SEC West, and even longer since doing so on the road. Before today, Tennessee’s last win against the SEC came against Ole Miss on November 13, 2010, and the last road win against the SEC West was on October 13, 2007 against Mississippi State.

The win was Tennessee’s first over Auburn since October 2, 1999. The last time Tennessee won a road game at Auburn was the previous season on October 3, 1998. Tennessee had lost six consecutive games against Auburn before their win today.

The loss sinks Auburn to their third loss in the SEC. In a division that also includes Alabama (and LSU), the chances the Tigers make a return trip to the SEC Championship Game are just about gone for good. Auburn still gets a crack at Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but Auburn will also have to play at Georgia and hope Alabama stumbles twice before their Iron Bowl meeting just for the scenario to present itself for Auburn. And that’s very unlikely to happen. The loss could also have an impact on Washington, who lost to Auburn in the season opener. If the Tigers don’t turn things around, that loss loses some of its quality argument for the Pac-12 favorite Huskies down the line, if it hasn’t already.

Tennessee now returns home with a win in SEC play in their pocket. The only problem is next week’s opponent just so happens to be No. 1 Alabama so the good vibes may not be rolling for too long. Nick Saban has yet to lose a game against one of his former assistants, which means it will be up to Jeremy Pruitt to find a way to break that streak. Daniel Bituli, who was ejected for targeting in the second half, will miss the first half of next week’s game against the Crimson Tide.

Auburn, now already three games back in the loss column in the SEC West, will look to break a two-game losing streak in conference play with a road trip to Ole Miss next week.

Dwayne Haskins leads No. 3 Ohio State past upset effort from Minnesota

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Minnesota (3-3, 0-3 Big Ten) had their chances but the Gophers were unable to pull off a major upset on the road in the Big Ten. No. 3 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) walked away with a hard-fought 30-14 win to remain undefeated and in charge of the path to a Big Ten championship.

Dwayne Haskins, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week each of the past two weeks, should be on his way to a third straight weekly award from the Big Ten after passing for 412 yards and three touchdowns in the win. It was the second-straight week Haskins passed for at least 400 yards to help Ohio State pull away from a potential upset bid at home. Minnesota did well in not allowing the Buckeyes to gain an advantage in the running game, but KJ Hill was a receiver the Gophers just had no answer for. Hill caught two of the touchdown passes from Haskins and led all players with 187 receiving yards.

Minnesota freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim was finding running lanes for much of the afternoon against Ohio State, as he rushed for a career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns, but Minnesota couldn’t find enough in the tank to cash in on a few opportunities. Zack Annexstad was intercepted twice and has now been intercepted seven times in the last three games after starting the season without a pass picked off in the first four games of the year.

Minnesota trailed Ohio State 17-14 at halftime but missed two field goals in the second half. Ohio State scored 10 points following those two missed field goals.

Ohio State will now prepare for a road game next week at Purdue. It will be another primetime game for the Buckeyes away from home, with games against TCU and Penn State also having been played under the lights already this season.

Minnesota will be back on the road again next week when they visit Nebraska.

No. 5 Washington becomes fourth Top 10 team to go down in Week 7

Associated Press
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One of the bigger storylines heading into Week 7 was the fact that there were no ranked vs. ranked matchups, the subliminal implication being that this would be an uneventful weekend.  As is ofttimes the case, the sport of college football scoffed in the general direction of conventional wisdom.

Friday night begat No. 2 Clemson falling to Syracuse and No. 8 Washington State embarrassing itself against Cal; Saturday afternoon begat No. 10 Auburn coughing up a second-half lead in a loss to LSU.

Early Sunday morning brought additional Top 10 carnage.

Ranked fifth nationally and winners of nine straight in the regular season, Washington entered the weekend comfortable favorites over 2-3 Arizona State.  In a game that didn’t feel as close as the final score indicated, however, UW fell from the ranks of the unbeaten as Arizona State laid a stunning 13-7 loss on the Huskies.

UW’s loss means that four of the teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 coming into Week 7 went down in defeat ahead of Week 8 in the biggest top-shelf shakeup of the 2017 season thus far.  The teams that avoided being caught up in the upset maelstrom?  No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Penn State, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 TCU, No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 9 Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions were on a bye this weekend, while the other five Top 10 teams left unscathed won by an average of 25.4 points; take away UW’s eight-point win over Purdue, and that average jumps to nearly 30.  Add it all up and it was, on all fronts, a seismic shift when it comes to the Power Five balance of power.

Then there’s this: when you add in No. 19 San Diego State getting beat by Boise State — a significant development in the Group of Five —  five undefeated teams suffered their first losses of the 2017 season this weekend.

And, again, this great sport scoffs in the general direction of what you think may or may not happen any particular weekend.

Arizona QB (QB!!!) Khalil Tate has rushed for 557 yards last two games

Associated Press
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I’m thinking even video game freaks would dismiss this as implausible, even as it’s as real — and impressive — as it gets.

In Week 6, Khalil Tate rushed for 327 yards in a win over Colorado, setting the FBS single-game record for a quarterback.  A week later, the sophomore added to this impressive October run as he ran for 230 yards in a 47-30 win over UCLA, becoming the first FBS quarterback in two decades to put together back-to-back 200-yard games.

The 557 rushing yards combined in the two games are more than all but 19 players had in the first six weeks entering this weekend. Hell, it’s more than 10 teams had coming into Saturday as well.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this historic run?  Tate has accomplished this ground-game carnage on just 29 carries.  For those scoring at home without a calculator or a pad and paper or the mental acumen to do it in your head, that averages out to 19.2 yards per carry.

In other words, Tate has just been flat ridiculous.

Somewhat lost in the statistical flurry is what the player has meant to his team’s bottom line.

Tate didn’t start the season as UA’s starter under center, and the Wildcats began the year a middling 2-2.  The past two weeks, however, the Tate-led ‘Cats have gone 2-0 and are now behind only USC in the Pac-12 South.