Week 9 wrap

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No. 17 Penn State finds a way to win a close one at home by holding off No. 18 Iowa

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No. 17 Penn State (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) lost their last two games at home despite having a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. As Penn State took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter against No. 18 Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) in Beaver Stadium on Saturday, the Nittany Lions once again had to avoid a fourth-quarter collapse to get a win. Perhaps the third time was the charm for Penn State.

Penn State held on for a 30-24 win, holding Iowa off the scoreboard on their final two possessions of the game, including the last possession of the game as the clock expired.

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley left the game for a couple of possessions in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury, but he returned in the second quarter for a quick series and was back for the remainder of the game after halftime. A 51-yard touchdown run by McSorley early in the third quarter let everyone know he was feeling just fine.

Tommy Stevens filled in for McSorley in his absence and scored a game-tying touchdown for the Nittany Lions in a messy first half immediately following a big interception return by John Reid.

It was quite a messy first half of football too. Iowa scored 17 points in the most Iowa way imaginable; two safeties as Penn State sailed snaps over the punter’s head, two field goals, and a touchdown thrown by a punter to a defensive lineman on a fake field goal. Iowa also had some luck with fumbles with three forced fumbles by Penn State all recovered by the Hawkeyes. Penn State’s defense did a good job of not letting Iowa do much on offense, but the Hawkeyes finally got tight end Noah Fant involved in the fourth quarter after never finding a way to get him open before that.

As Fant settled in and Nate Stanley got a bit more comfortable, Iowa applied pressure on Penn State with a chance to grab the lead. But confusion at the line of scrimmage with Stanley and Fant led to an interception just outside the goal line with Iowa trailing by six. Penn State was unable to wrap up the game even though Iowa ran out of timeouts on the ensuing possession, but the Hawkeyes had one more chance. It appeared Iowa could have moved into Penn State territory in the final minute, but a catch on the field was overturned by video review.

Penn State will be on the road next week against Michigan. The Wolverines have not lost since their season-opening loss at Notre Dame and Michigan is the only unbeaten team left within Big Ten play, putting them in first place in the Big Ten East. The home team has won in blowout fashion each of the last two years in this series, and Penn State will have a lot to clean up if they are going to avoid allowing that trend to continue.

Iowa falls into a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten West with Wisconsin and Purdue. All three lost on Saturday, and Northwestern now sits alone atop the Big Ten West Division after their home win against the Badgers. But Iowa still has the opportunity to seize some control of the division’s fate with their next two games. Iowa visits Purdue next week and then hosts Northwestern. If Iowa can win each of those two games and avoid a head-to-head tie with Wisconsin at the end of the season, they will play for the Big Ten championship. In short, the next few weeks in the Big Ten West should be very interesting.

Clemson remains perfect after clobbering Florida State in most lopsided win in series history

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No. 2 Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC) is starting to have that look again. The Tigers were challenged early against Florida State (4-4, 2-4 ACC) in a scoreless first quarter, but Clemson woke up after that and left no doubt about how good they are. Clemson’s 59-10 victory over Florida State was the biggest margin for victory by the Tigers in the history of the series. It was so lopsided, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had the luxury of inserting backup players in the third quarter.

Trevor Lawrence passed for 314 yards and four touchdowns before getting the entire fourth quarter off. Lawrence had a rough start to the game as it took time for he and the rest of the Clemson offense to get comfortable against a feisty start by the Florida State defense, but once the big plays started coming together, there was no looking back. Tee Higgins caught two touchdown passes inside the red zone to help get the Tigers on their roll, and Amari Rodgers pulled in two touchdown catches to go with his 156 receiving yards.

Clemson’s defense made life difficult for Florida State all afternoon. The Seminoles had a team total of -21 rushing yards and the team combined for 253 yards of offense in the game. Meanwhile, Clemson racked up more than double that with 523 yards, including 404 through the air. Florida State was also penalized 16 times for 140 yards, and two turnovers led to Clemson points when the game was still relatively up for grabs. For as uch progress as Florida State seemed to be making in recent weeks, all of that went out the window against Clemson.

Clemson’s 49-point victory is the largest margin for victory by Clemson in the all-time series against Florida State, and the second-most lopsided victory by either team in the series. Florida State defeated Clemson 57-0 in 1993 and 48-0 in 1998. Florida State also had a 47-point victory over the Tigers in 2000.

Next up for Clemson is a home game against Louisville. The Cardinals have been struggling mightily this season, which seems to suggest there should be another comfortable Clemson win on the horizon. Three of the final four games Clemson plays will come at home, with the only road trip remaining coming up in two weeks at Boston College. The fate of the division could come down to that game.

Florida State plays their next two games on the road, first at NC State next week and then at Notre Dame after that. The margin for error to get to a bowl game is beginning to get razor thin for the Seminoles. Florida State needs two wins in their final four games in order to go bowling. The two home games remaining will be played against Boston College and Florida.

Northwestern enters November in first place in Big Ten West after win over Wisconsin

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Following a 31-17 victory at home over Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), Northwestern (5-3, 5-1 Big Ten) will turn the calendars to the final month of the regular season with a chance to win the Big Ten West Division for the first time. The division is now officially in their control with just three Big Ten games remaining on the schedule.

Clayton Thorson struggled in the passing game at times but managed to do enough damage on the ground with two rushing touchdowns and a 27-yard run to help set up a score in the third quarter as he escaped from under pressure closing in on him to take advantage of a wide open right side of the field. It was the kind of gritty performance that bodes well for Northwestern, especially against a Wisconsin team playing without starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook and on a day where the fumble issues of Jonathan Taylor led to some self-inflicted wounds for the Badgers.

With Hornibrook out of the game due to not being medically cleared out of concussion protocol, Jack Coan made his first career start for the Badgers and was rarely asked to make too much happen through the air. Wisconsin relied on their running game with Taylor, Garrett Groshek and Alec Ingold leading the attack. But northwestern’s defense was ready for the challenge and played well at home to preventing Wisconsin from gaining an edge. If anything, Northwestern’s own running game leveled the playing field with  Isaiah Bowser continuing to fuel the Wildcat’ running game, with Thorson complimenting the effort.

Northwestern took a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter and essentially put the finishing touch on the win shortly after Coan fumbled the football deep in the Wisconsin end early in the fourth quarter. The fumble recovery by Northwestern, the third of the day, was followed by a touchdown run by Bowser to build a 21-point lead.

The win moves Northwestern to 5-1 in the Big Ten West, which now includes head-to-head wins against Purdue and Wisconsin. Having played one more conference game than the rest of the division, the Wildcats will own no less than a half-game lead in the division after all games have been played on Saturday (Purdue was playing at Michigan State at the same time and Iowa was kicking off against Penn State later in the afternoon). Northwestern will host Notre Dame next week (looking to play spoiler against the Irish?) but the next Big Ten test for the Wildcats will come in two weeks on the road at Iowa. That game should be of much significance, as a win could potentially put Northwestern one giant step closer to playing in the Big Ten championship game at the end of the season. Northwestern has the road game at Iowa and then a road trip to Minnesota and a home game against Illinois to wrap up the regular season and the Big Ten schedule. It may all come down to what happens in that Iowa game for Northwestern.

Wisconsin, the runaway favorite in the Big Ten West and picked to win the Big Ten and play in the playoff by some in the preseason, now needs a good amount of help if the Badgers are going to make a third straight trip to the Big Ten championship game. At 3-2 in the Big Ten, Wisconsin will look for a rebound win next week at home against Rutgers before two straight road games at Penn State and Purdue. But Wisconsin now needs to finish ahead of Northwestern in the standings to avoid losing out on a head-to-head tiebreaker. That may be wishful thinking at this point.

AJ Dillon returns to power Boston College past Miami

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With Doug Flutie in attendance for some ACC action, Boston College (6-2, 3-1 ACC) didn’t need a Hail Mary to knock off  Miami (5-3, 2-2 ACC) on Friday night. AJ Dillon rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown in his return after missing two games and the Boston College defense forced a pair of turnovers that led to 10 points in the second half as Boston College topped Miami 27-14. The win helps keep Boston College in contention for the ACC Atlantic Division and muddies the waters a bit for Miami’s bid for a return trip to the ACC Championship Game.

Once Boston College took a 27-14 lead in the third quarter, the Eagles certainly gave Miami opportunities to get back in the game. But Miami turned the football over on downs after picking off a Boston College pass, and another turnover on downs followed a missed Boston College field goal. Two empty possessions after Boston College failed to tack on to their lead ultimately assured a defeat for Miami, making for a longer trip home than the Hurricanes would have preferred.

Boston College didn’t waste much time getting running back Dillon in action. Dillon took off for a 25-yard run on his first carry of the game and he would create some plays out of nothing a few more times in the game. Boston College also relied on some trick plays to make some big plays in the first half. But in the second half, Boston College didn’t have to dig into the bag of tricks much to put the game out of reach. It was the Boston College defense that helped create opportunities, with an interception of Malik Rosier giving the Eagles just 14 yards to go for a touchdown to create a double-digit lead. One play after Taj-Amir Torres picked off Rosier, Dillon took off to the right side of the field for a 14-yard score.

Rosier started off having a somewhat effective game for Miami as he returned to the starting role, but he ended the night with two interceptions while completing 18 of 35 passes for 149 yards. Rosier also rushed for s team-high 72 yards. Similarly, Boston College’s Anthony Brown completed 15-of-28 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Brown also rushed seven times for 44 yards and caught a 27-yard pass from Jeff Smith.

The win moves Boston College to 3-1 in the ACC, nudging the Eagles just past NC State for second place in the Atlantic Division behind unbeaten Clemson ahead of Saturday’s games. Already having clinched a third straight bowl-eligible season under Steve Addazio, the Eagles will now look to take the next step forward. After two straight years with seven wins, Boston College is in a spot where they can begin focusing on a larger goal. The seventh win could come next week on the road at Virginia Tech, with the Hokies really struggling at home the past few weeks. After that is a big home game against Clemson, the team everyone in the ACC is chasing at the moment. First place in the ACC Atlantic Division could very well be on the line in two weeks in Chestnut Hill. (It’s worth mentioning Boston College has already lost to NC State, so a win by the Wolfpack at Syracuse on Saturday would keep Boston College in third place in the division at the end of the weekend).

Meanwhile, Miami still has a lot of football to be played and is still in the running for the Coastal Division for a second straight season. Two straight losses in ACC play puts the Hurricanes behind the curve and one of the teams they are chasing for the top spot, Virginia, owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with them. It will be all division games from now until the end of the regular season for the Hurricanes though, and they figure to play a significant role in how the Coastal Division is settled. Miami will look to snap out of their losing skid next week at home against Duke.

Georgia Tech needed zero passing yards to beat Virginia Tech by 21 in Blacksburg

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This one was not one of Virginia Tech’s finer moments on defense. The Hokies (4-3, 3-1 ACC) were run over at home Thursday night by Georgia Tech (4-4, 2-3 ACC), 49-28, and the Yellow Jackets did all of their damage on the ground.

Every one of Georgia Tech’s 465 yards of offense came on the ground, with Tobias Oliver leading the attack with 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Jordan Mason (82 yards) also scored three touchdowns and Jerry Howard (76 yards) added one more. The 465 rushing yards is the most allowed in a game by Virginia Tech since 1973, and this was the first time the Hokies had given up more than 300 rushing yards in a game since giving up 309 rushing yards on November 12, 2016 against… you guessed it, Georgia Tech.

Adding to that dominant rushing performance, Oliver attempted just one pass in the entire game for Georgia Tech. It fell incomplete, giving the visiting team zero passing yards. Georgia Tech also became the first team to win in three consecutive trips to Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium since 1992.

It took a while for Georgia Tech to gain control of the game with its running game, as Virginia Tech held a 21-14 lead in the second quarter before things spiraled out of control for the Hokies. A muffed punt by Sean Savoy gave Georgia Tech a short 12-yard field to work with for a game-tying touchdown midway through the second quarter, and a three-and-out by Virginia Tech on the ensuing possession was followed by a go-ahead touchdown drive by Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech also ran a 10-play touchdown drive covering 75 yards to open the second half and take a 35-21 lead, and the Hokies offense was nowhere to be seen for much of the remainder of the night until it was too late.

The loss by Virginia Tech, their second in a row at home, drops the Hokies into a tie for first place in the ACC Coastal Division with in-state rival Virginia with identical 3-1 ACC records. Miami and Pittsburgh are each 2-1 in the conference and will have opportunities to move into a first-place tie this weekend. Miami is at Boston College and Pitt is home against Duke. Virginia is hosting North Carolina this weekend as well.

Virginia Tech can take solace in knowing they will get three of their final four games at home, but they have just suffered two straight home losses by a combined 43 points against Notre Dame and now Georgia Tech. The home-field advantage of playing in Lane Stadium has not helped them in big spots midway through the season. Virginia Tech will look to bounce back next week at home against Boston College. Georgia Tech can continue to play spoiler in the Coastal Division in a couple of weeks, but will remain on the road next week for a game at North Carolina.