With about six minutes left in the first half against Penn State, J.J. McCarthy completed a pass for no gain to tight end Colston Loveland. He wouldn’t make another official attempt.
Playing without coach Jim Harbaugh, suspended by the Big Ten on Friday for his part in the program’s sign-stealing scandal, Michigan went run-heavy and.
McCarthy finished with eight attempts, completing seven for 60 yards. The Wolverines ran the ball 46 times for 227 yards, led by Blake Corum’s 145 yards and two touchdowns, and leaned on one of the nation’s top-ranked defenses in a throwback win against the first legitimate contender on this year’s schedule.
The Nittany Lions had allowed only 545 rushing yards all season before meeting the Wolverines, with just one opponent cracking the 100-yard mark and no Big Ten opponent going for more than 80 yards. Michigan ran for 418 yards on 7.6 yards per carry in last year’s 41-17 win.
Penn State finished with just 238 yards of offense on 4.2 yards per play and converted just four times on third down. Quarterback Drew Allar hit on 10 of 22 throws for 70 yards, an average of 3.2 yards per pass, with a garbage-time touchdown with two minutes left.
Michigan held the Nittany Lions at arm’s length from the start, frustrating an opponent that entered the weekend with a shot at winning the Big Ten East and playing for the conference championship despite an earlier loss to Ohio State.
So while the 24-15 final represents Michigan’s smallest margin of victory on the season — the closest score before Saturday was 24 points against Rutgers on Sept. 23 — the level of game control remained the same: Penn State had multiple chances to tie the game in the second half but never really threatened the Wolverines, who had answers for everything the Nittany Lions brought to the table.
That’s going to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee. But how will this group? Going off the on-field performance, the win at Penn State continues to paint the Wolverines as one of the best teams in the Bowl Subdivision and a uniquely constructed contender for the national championship.
Michigan and the Nittany Lions lead Saturday’s biggest winners and losers:
All-America tight end Brock Bowers was back for Georgia after missing only two games with an injured ankle and, to almost zero surprise, made an immediate impact with 34 receiving yards and a touchdown. Whether coincidence or not, Bowers’ return came in top-ranked Georgia’s most convincing result of the season,that saw the Bulldogs look the part of a team chasing college football history. The defense started slow, giving up a pair of 75-yard touchdown drives in the first quarter and early second, before holding Jaxson Dart and the Rebels scoreless the rest of the way. Offensively, Carson Beck threw for 306 yards, Kendall Milton ran for 127 yards and two scores and the Bulldogs had at least 200 yards through the air and on the ground for the second time this year and the 13th time since the start of the 2021 season.
Florida State and Washington
The two top playoff contenders escaped upsets to remain unbeaten. Jordan Travis threw for 265 yards and a touchdown to help Florida State beat Miami 27-20 and secure back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 2016-17. While Travis made another Heisman Trophy statement, Miami freshman Emory Williams completed 8 of 23 throws for 175 yards and two scores before being injured on the Hurricanes’ final drive; former starter Tyler Van Dyke replaced Williams and was intercepted to end the game. Washington survived another close call, this time with a 35-28 win against Utah that saw the defense clamp down and hold the Utes scoreless in the second half. The win will improve the Huskies’ reputation with the selection committee but won’t be enough to move them into Tuesday’s top four.
Missouri was seen as a borderline bowl team in August, maybe as a seven-win team coming out of September and now,, is probably headed for a New Year’s Six bowl barring a collapse in its last two games against Florida and Arkansas. The win against the Volunteers featured another terrific game from running back Cody Schrader, a deserving all-SEC pick and All-America contender who had 205 rushing yards, 116 receiving yards and a touchdown. At 8-2 with losses to LSU and Georgia, the Tigers have very nice wins against Kansas State and Tennessee to help compile the résumé needed to finish around the top 10 of the final playoff rankings.
Marvin Harrison Jr.
Ohio State’s superstar wide receiver had a Heisman-worthy game in the Buckeyes’ 38-3 blowout of overmatched Michigan State, pulling down seven passes for 149 yards with three touchdowns, one coming on a 19-yard run for the game’s first score. Harrison gave up some ground in the Heisman amid OSU’s slow start on offense in September, allowing Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and others to move to the front of the race. But that’s changed since October: Harrison has at least 100 receiving yards in six of his past seven games and has at least one score in each of his last six. This run matches up with increased production from quarterback Kyle McCord, who had 335 yards and three touchdowns against the Spartans.
Virginia Tech has made major in-season strides in coach Brent Pry’s second year and is on the doorstep of a bowl bid after a 48-22 takedown of Boston College that stands as one of the top performances in recent program history. The Hokies had 600 yards of offense, the program’s most in a game since 2009 and the most on the road against a Power Five opponent since gaining 675 yards against Pittsburgh in 1993, and the 48 points were Tech’s second-most in an ACC road game. Winners of three of four and four of six, the Hokies need to win one of two against North Carolina State and Virginia to get back to bowl play for the first time in two years; taking two of three, including the bowl game, would lock down the program’s first winning finish since 2019.
Better late than never for Clemson, which has looked the part of a Top 25 team the past two weeks after heading into November a shocking 4-4. After running all over Notre Dame last Saturday, the Tigers racked up a season-high 465 yards of offense against FBS competition and rolled to a 42-21 win against Georgia Tech. Will Shipley was back at running back after missing the game against the Fighting Irish and had 107 yards of total offense, Phil Mafah had a team-high 96 yards on 17 carries and quarterback Cade Klubnik tossed a career-high four touchdowns, playing his best game of an uneven sophomore season that hasn’t gone as expected in ACC play. Defensively, the Tigers held the league’s second-best offense by yards per game to just 254 yards with four turnovers.
You wouldn’t call it pretty. But this has quietly been a successful year for new Auburn coach Hugh Freeze, who has the Tigers in bowl play and likely headed for a winning record after a 48-10 thrashing of Arkansas. This is Auburn’s third win in a row after going 0-4 to start SEC play and its most lopsided league win since topping LSU by 37 points, 48-11, in 2020. Now, let’s be honest about one thing: Arkansas is a pitiful mess. But the Tigers dominated on both sides, doubling up the Razorbacks in yardage (517 to 255) and averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
The what-the-hell-just-happened score of the day: UCF 45, Oklahoma State 3. The Cowboys had won five in a row after dropping to 2-2 in September and were on track for an unexpected Big 12 championship game appearance behind a major star turn from running back Ollie Gordon, who has muscled into the Heisman race after a slow start. On the other hand, UCF had not hit the ground running as first-year members of the Power Five, with its only Big 12 win coming against fellow newcomer Cincinnati. But the Knights were dominant: John Rhys Plumlee had 373 yards of total offense, RJ Harvey ran for 206 yards and three scores, four receivers had at least one catch of 37 or more yards and Gordon had just 25 yards on 12 carries with a long of 5 yards.
Florida’s defense is painful to watch and the offense isn’t nearly good enough to pick up the slack. The result is a team that’s average at best and very often worse,that served as quarterback Jayden Daniels’ latest Heisman showcase and left the Gators in very real danger of a second losing season in a row under coach Billy Napier. Most of the Tigers’ 701 yards of offense came from Daniels, who put together one of the most complete games in FBS history with 372 passing yards, 234 rushing yards and five touchdowns. (He’s the first Bowl Subdivision player to throw for at least 350 yards and run for 200 in the same game.) Daniels’ opposite number, Graham Mertz, threw for 311 yards and a score but wasn’t able to keep pace with Daniels and the Tigers. Florida is now 5-5 with only one good win (Tennessee) and faces the real possibility of missing out on bowl play altogether with games at Missouri and home for FSU to close the regular season.
After losing 24-10 to Northwestern — honestly, it wasn’t even that close — Wisconsin has dropped four of five games and lost any real chance of playing for the Big Ten championship in coach Luke Fickell’s debut season. From here, given the state of this offense, the goal should be simply securing bowl eligibility in two games against teams also clawing for that sixth win without any offensive punch in Nebraska and Minnesota. The Badgers haven’t missed the postseason since 2001 and haven’t won fewer than four league games in a non-COVID season since 2008.
Saturday’s loss drops Franklin to 4-16 against Ohio State and Michigan, once again highlighting the major flaw in his tenure: the inability to get PSU past these two Big Ten heavyweights and over the hump. Overall, the Nittany Lions are 19-0 since the start of last season against every opponent but the Buckeyes and Wolverines. That facts looms over the program even as Penn State prepares for a 10-win regular season and a possible New Year’s Six bowl depending on whether or not the Big Ten champion reaches the playoff.
Colorado led Arizona 24-17 after two quarters but slumped against one of the top second-half teams in the FBSon a 24-yard field goal as time expired, putting the Buffaloes’ already flimsy bowl hopes on serious life support. Now 4-6, CU closes the regular season with road games against Washington State and Utah — the first one pretty winnable given the Cougars’ recent swoon, the second much less so. The defense allowed more than 400 yards for the eighth time, including at least 195 rushing yards for the third game in a row. But the offensive line did a better job protecting quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who threw for 262 yards, ran for a team-best 42 yards and had three combined touchdowns.
Vanderbilt: still terrible. The Commodores gave up 487 yards and lost 47-6 to South Carolina to fall to 2-9 overall and 0-7 in the SEC heading into the season finale against Tennessee on Nov. 25. A loss there would drop coach Clark Lea to 9-27 over three seasons and mark Vanderbilt’s third winless finish in SEC play in the past four years.
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