College Football Corner: Thinning the Herd

WASHINGTON — “Moving Month” is over in college football, and the pack chasing a potential playoff berth is thinned. It’s just one weekend, but there’s something to be said about entering November unbeaten.

Even if you’re a fraud (Memphis was 8-0 last year, but please) a team that enters college football’s closing month unblemished has to be noticed. Saturday, a few teams just missed the “well … we were unbeaten entering November” status. Seventh ranked Nebraska, No. 8 Baylor and 10th-rated West Virginia may not have been in the same conversation as unbeatens Alabama, Michigan and Clemson; now they’re all in a different paragraph.

Boise State? Your 8-0 start and No. 13 ranking was sooo cute. At least until you allowed a safety in the final minutes of a two-point loss to Wyoming. Even No. 2 Michigan and third-ranked Clemson survived tough road tests to remain in the running. Until the College Football Playoff awards’ automatic berths to conference champs (which, if they expand to eight schools, they should do), the tiniest mishap can send a school from a National Semifinal slot to the Bowl.

Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-1) outscored Pitt 39-36 to cement its hold on ruling Thursday night and move one step closer to returning to the ACC Championship Game (they own the tiebreaker with co-coastal leader North Carolina).

  • Hokie Highlights: Jerod Evans throws for 406 yards and two touchdowns with Bucky Hodges (six catches for 145 yards) and Isaiah Ford (10-143) doing the heavy lifting. Terrell Edmunds tallies 10 tackles as the defense holds Pitt to 3-10 on third down. Joey Slye connects on 6 of 6 field goal attempts before icing his leg for the next 48 hours.
  • Hokie Humblings: Settling for field goals when they could have gotten touchdowns, four times inside the Panthers’ 10-yard line. The defense allowed 5.6 yards per carry and had issues containing the run. Not ideal as you enter November.

Next: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Duke (3-4, 0-3).

Navy (5-2, 4-1 AAC) stumbles for the first time in AAC play, slipping on the road at South Florida 52-45. The Bulls blew things up with a 28-point first quarter, and despite a furious fourth quarter rally, the Mids returned to Annapolis with a loss.

  • Midshipmen Medals: Will Worth ran for 129 yards and four touchdowns while throwing for 299 yards and another score. Hudson Sullivan tallies 13 tackles while facing the USF onslaught.
  • Midshipmen Miscues: Botched tackles will kill you, as they did in a first quarter that saw Navy cough up scoring plays of 41, 63 and 85 yards. They better study up — because this will be their likely opponent in the AAC Championship Game. With home field advantage going to the Bulls again.

Next: 11:30 a.m. Saturday against Notre Dame (2-5) in Jacksonville.

Virginia (2-6, 1-3 ACC) weren’t supposed to stay with No. 5 Louisville for a half, let alone 59 minutes and 42 seconds. The worst ranked defense in the conference somehow contained the most electrifying player in the country (sorry, Clemson QB DeShaun Watson) and came within a whisker of pulling off a major upset. Instead, UVa falls 32-25 and reaches the precipice of postseason elimination (they’d need to run the table to become bowl eligible).

  • Cavalier Congrats: Here’s to leading the Cardinals by 10 in the second half. Kurt Benkert threw three touchdown passes on a day where the running game was handcuffed. Micah Kiser led the defense with 14 tackles while tallying two of the team’s five sacks. The D held Louisville to 3-12 on third down. Nicholas Conte averaged over 46 yards per punt.
  • Cavalier Concerns: The defense that did so well over the game’s first 30 minutes couldn’t contain the Cardinals in the second half as Louisville generated 17 points on their last three possessions. The running game was held to 84 yards on 28 carries, and UVa converted just one third down in the second half.

Next: 3 p.m. Saturday at Wake Forest (5-2, 2-2).

Maryland (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) and Indiana are brethren in the matter that both are viewed as basketball schools with occasional football success. Each needed a win Saturday to keep postseason hopes on the up and up. The Hoosiers emerge from a 42-36 shootout needing wins over Rutgers and Purdue (combined 1-9 in league play) to get that 13th game, while the Terps have a gauntlet of Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska (a combined 22-2) awaiting them before Rutgers comes to College Park Nov. 26.

  • Terrapin Triumphs: Ty Johnson tallied 142 yards on 13 carries. This is not an aberration for the sophomore — who, after 60 rushes this fall, is averaging over 10 yards per pop. Perry Hills had his most productive passing day (248 yards and two touchdowns) while also running for a pair of scores. Defensive lineman Chandler Burkett led the defense with nine tackles.
  • Terrapin Troubles: When did the Indiana of 2016 become the Oklahoma of 1971? The defense coughed up 414 yards rushing while also allowing the Hoosiers to convert 9 of 14 third downs. Hills also threw an interception while losing one of his two fumbles, and on a day where IU didn’t turn the ball over at all, two mistakes can mean a six-point loss.

Next: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at No. 2 Michigan (8-0, 5-0).

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