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BYU snaps No. 6 Wisconsin’s home winning streak in non-conference play with 24-21 upset

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It has been a rough day of college football for a handful of Big Ten teams. None will suffer a loss as damaging as the one No. 6 Wisconsin (2-1) took at home against BYU (2-1). The Cougars pulled off an upset of Wisconsin, 24-21, that was essentially sealed in the final minute when Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone pushed his game-tying field goal attempt wide left.

The loss by Wisconsin was the first by the Badgers at home against a non-conference opponent since losing at home against UNLV on September 13, 2003. Wisconsin had won 41 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake chose to use two timeouts before Gaglianone’s late field goal try despite having 41 seconds remaining on the clock, potentially giving BYU’s offense chance to do something with the football in the event the game had been tied. But Sitake’s decision to play for no worse than overtime paid off in a big way.

BYU also did a good job of not letting Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor hurt them. Taylor rushed for 117 yards on 26 carries, but Taylor was held out of the end zone all day long and there was never a run that really hurt BYU. Wisconsin running backs Taiwan Deal and Alec Ingold did account for three rushing touchdowns.

It was BYU’s Squally Canada who led all players with 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Tanner Mangum completed just 12 of 22 pass attempts for 89 yards, and wide receiver Aleva Hifo threw the game’s only touchdown pass of the day with a 31-yard pass.

BYU’s special teams pinned Wisconsin inside their own 10-yard line for the final offensive possession by the Badgers in the fourth quarter, which seemed to play into BYU’

s favor with the game thrown into the hands of Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook did use safe passes and a couple of runs to his advantage to move Wisconsin into position for the game-tying field goal try. But that was a tradeoff that BYU likely would have taken every time.

The loss by Wisconsin will drop the Badgers off the playoff radar for now, but Wisconsin will have opportunities to hop right back into the discussion as the season progresses. With the games still to play for Wisconsin, the Badgers have a chance to not stay off the radar for too long, but this loss does do some damage to their profile well ahead of the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings. Meanwhile, BYU should be getting some consideration for the top 25 in the polls on Sunday.

Wisconsin opens Big Ten play with their first road game of the season next week. The Badgers travel to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in primetime. BYU will return home next week for a matchup against FCS McNeese State.

No. 6 Wisconsin tied with BYU at halftime in Madison

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After getting run over at home by Wisconsin last season, BYU is looking to return the favor. If they are going to pull off the win, they’ll have to go back to work after seeing Wisconsin tie the game late in the first half. Wisconsin tied BYU at 14-14 with a touchdown run by Alec Ingold on the goal line.

After the two teams exchanged punt son the first two offensive possessions of the game, Wisconsin opened the scoring with Taiwan Deal scoring his first career touchdown from two yards out. BYU answered with a Squally Canada short touchdown run at the end of a 75-yard drive. Canada had given BYU’s offense a jolt earlier in the drive with a 44-yard run to get the ball to the Wisconsin 28-yard line.

BYU took a 14-7 lead on their next series, after Wisconsin punted. Aleva Hifo completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Moroni Laulu-Pututau early in the second quarter. A chance to take a bigger lead later in the quarter was taken away when an instant replay correctly overturned a completed catch that would have put the Cougars inside the Wisconsin five-yard line. Skyler Southam’s 52-yard try flew wide right to keep the score 14-7.

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has rushed for 73 yards on 15 carries.

No. 12 Notre Dame tops No. 14 Michigan to renew rivalry with a win

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The echoes were awoken Saturday night in South Bend… in a big way.

No. 12 Notre Dame jumped out to a lead and never seemed to look back as they made a season-opening statement by topping No. 14 Michigan 24-17 in a game they generally controlled throughout. It was an impressive outing by any measure and especially so as the two college football blue bloods renewed their rivalry series with high hopes for the year but only one walking away happy.

Perhaps the most pleasing development for head coach Brian Kelly’s Irish squad was the play of quarterback Brandon Wimbush. After a full offseason’s worth of work on his passing, the senior looked much sharper and in command of the offense despite the bright lights and feisty defense on the other side. Though he had a few throws that were off target and near interceptions, he finished the night with 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception (he also led the team in rushing with 59 yards). The numbers weren’t eye-popping by any measure but he certainly performed well against a Don Brown-led defense that returned the bulk of last year’s group that was among the best in the nation.

Wimbush wasn’t the only one to get involved in moving the ball as tailback Jafar Armstrong scored twice and ran for 35 yards in a game where every inch was earned. His speed, especially on sweeps, was evident and it looks like he’ll fit in well with Notre Dame’s other skill position talent. That group certainly includes senior Chris Finke, who delivered the early highlight of the year with a leaping touchdown catch and seems like he’ll factor heavily in the rotation out of the slot in 2018.

The Irish defense also came to play and started the year off on the right foot by allowing under four yards per play. That included holding Michigan’s rushing attack to well under 100 yards for the game, keeping lead back Karan Higdan in check particularly well with just 72 yards on 21 carries (3.4 ypc). Te’von Coney led the way with 10 tackles — and the game-sealing fumble recovery — while safety Alohi Gilman made the most of his debut for the team by stuffing the stat sheet with seven tackles, a TFL and two pass breakups.

As a result, the Wolverines couldn’t really muster much consistency at all despite a few nice plays from Shea Patterson throughout the game. The transfer from Ole Miss does look like a good fit in Jim Harbaugh’s system but every yard was tough to come by and he finished 20-of-30 for 227 yards and an interception. Patterson had to exit late with what appeared to be cramps in the fourth quarter, leading to backup Dylan McCaffrey taking a few snaps down the stretch instead of one of last year’s starters in Brandon Peters.

Things could have been much worse for Michigan had it not been for the defense bowing up as the game went on and special teams coming through. Ambry Thomas briefly gave the team life just before halftime with an electric 99-yard kick return for a touchdown but there was otherwise not much scoring on either side as the two teams slugged things out the rest of the way.

The end result will lead to ever more questions for Harbaugh as his offense seemed to once again show flashes but wind up not doing a whole lot come crunch time. There’s certainly still a path to the College Football Playoff available for the Wolverines in the tough Big Ten East but the margin for error does seem a lot smaller than it did in the offseason with the way they played. The defense remains solid and there does appear to be more playmakers available on the other side of the ball but consistency was lacking on the road to open the season.

The Irish, meanwhile, have to be thrilled at the result even if the second half wasn’t quite as convincing as they wanted it to be. They’ll likely move up into the top 10 come the release of the latest polls on Tuesday and have two more home games to work out any kinks before facing a few stout tests in Wake Forest and, especially, big rival Stanford. While it is still far too early to start talking playoff, it was an excellent start to the year for Kelly and company as team gets used to a few new faces around the football offices.

That’s all for another time however as Notre Dame can be sure to celebrate the effort on Saturday night as they vanquished a big rival and made quite the early statement to kick off the season.

No. 12 Notre Dame gets off to fast start, leads No. 14 Michigan at halftime

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It has been a long day filled with plenty of fun college football action but the main event has taken center stage on NBC and the early returns have lived up to the hype coming in as two of the sport’s blue bloods squared off and renewed their rivalry on the gridiron with quite a fun one. No. 12 Notre Dame controlled most of the game against No. 14 Michigan, taking a 21-10 lead heading into the locker room at halftime and looking for more in an impressive season opening outing.

The Irish didn’t take long at all to find the scoreboard, marching 75 yards right down the field in just seven plays on their opening drive. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush nearly threw an interception on his first pass of the evening but rebounded to lead the team into the red zone before exiting temporarily after getting hit on a keeper. Backup Ian Book came in and promptly handed the ball off to Jafar Armstrong, who took the handoff, cut it up and scored his first touchdown to set off a wild celebration at Notre Dame Stadium. The young tailback later added another score and had two of his eight touches wind up with him in the end zone by the break.

Wimbush eventually returned on the next drive and also nearly threw another interception down the field… until Chris Finke was able to wrestle the ball out of the air for an incredible touchdown catch that was the early highlight of the season. That capped off a seven-play, 96 yard drive and Wimbush eventually closed the half with 148 yards passing and that scoring strike.

It took Michigan’s offense a bit longer to get going than the home team’s. Shea Patterson looked like a veteran operating Jim Harbaugh’s offense (62 yards, 9-of-12 passing) but didn’t quite develop a rhythm until the second quarter got going and failed to find much down the field. Karan Higdon did break out for 45 yards on the ground but seemed to be met in the hole on just about every carry as the Irish front seven was active and fast throughout the first half.

The Wolverines defense, aside from that opening drive, also looked fast and physical for the most part. Almost too physical in some cases as starting safety Josh Metellus was tossed barely six minutes into the game for targeting. To make matters worse, linebacker Devin Bush was injured and limped off to the training table as well.

While Don Brown’s unit eventually settled into things as the game progressed, the group still had trouble creating pressure and containing several QB scrambles that helped extend drives. Special teams were a big factor in keeping the visitors in the game, as Ambry Thomas looked like a Big Blue blur on a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was just as impressive as it sounds.

There’s still plenty of football left to play in South Bend and after a half of play, this old rivalry is certainly shaping up to be a good one between Notre Dame and Michigan.

Alabama tops preseason Super 16 poll from FWAA and National Football Foundation

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Another day, another hour, and another top spot in a preseason poll for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama was the most popular pick for the top spot in the preseason Super 16 Poll from the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. Alabama received 36 first-place votes to stay comfortably ahead of No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers received 14 first-place votes and Georgia and Michigan State each picked up one first-place vote.

The voters certainly are leaning toward Wisconsin as the top Big Ten team. The Badgers ranked fourth overall, two spots ahead of Ohio State. If the playoff were determined by this preseason poll, Alabama would play Wisconsin and Clemson would face Georgia. Washington would be the first team out. The Huskies coming in at No. 5 likely means a good number of voters believe Washington will open the season with a win against Auburn in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game as well, and that would certainly create a playoff-or-bust season for Washington out of the gates.

One team that has received some good offseason buzz that failed to crack the Super 16 was West Virginia. A trendy pick in the Big 12 for some, the Mountaineers were the first team out of this particular preseason poll.

No Group of Five programs made the Super 16 cut, although UCF, Boise State, and San Diego State all received at least one point in the voting.

Here is how the preseason Super 16 poll breaks down:

  1. Alabama (36 first-place votes)
  2. Clemson (14)
  3. Georgia
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Washington
  6. Ohio State
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Miami
  9. Auburn
  10. Penn State
  11. Michigan State (1)
  12. Notre Dame
  13. Michigan
  14. Stanford
  15. USC
  16. TCU

In the interest of full disclosure, three College Football Talk contributors are voting members in the Super 16 Poll; myself, Bryan Fischer and Zach Barnett). The poll is made up of members of the FWAA and College Football Hall of Famers with an emphasis on geographic balance. New polls will be updated every Monday this season, with the exception of the post-Week 1 poll, which will be released on Tuesday, September 4.