USC’s brutal home loss to Washington on Thursday could go one of two ways. Maybe the Trojans use it — and the extra day of preparation — as motivation to roll into South Bend and as well as their across-the-board skill would indicate they can.
Or maybe Steve Sarkisian just isn’t a good coach who’s on his way to being out the door at the end of the season (UPDATE: Sarkisian has been put on an indefinite leave of absence in a situation that doesn't sound good). Either way, the Trojans’ five-point loss to Washington was a worst-case scenario for Notre Dame, which very well may only have one more opportunity to beat a ranked opponent this year (Nov. 28 at Stanford).
Opponent power rankings:
1. Clemson (5-0)
2. Stanford (4-1
3. Pitt (4-1)
4. Temple (5-0)
5. Navy (4-1)
6. USC (3-2)
7. Texas (2-4)
8. Wake Forest (3-3)
9. Boston College (3-3)
10. Georgia Tech (2-4)
11. Virginia (1-4)
12. UMass (1-4)
Texas (2-4): Won, 24-17, vs. Oklahoma
The Red River Shootout seems to always produce strange results, so even though Texas was reeling and Oklahoma looked like a legitimate playoff contender, Charlie Strong’s Longhorns pulled off a massive upset at the Cotton Bowl. Quarterback Jerrod Heard completed eight of 10 passes and rushed 21 times for 115 yards while star Sooners running back Samaje Perine only carried 10 times for 36 yards. All of a sudden, all Texas has to do to be bowl eligible is not lose to the dregs of the Big 12 and win two games against Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor. That’s not impossible.
Virginia (1-4) Lost, 26-19, at Pitt
Matt Johns returned after being benched against Boise State and was ineffective, completing 17 of 33 passes for 209 yards with a touchdown and an interception. And yet, the Hoos weren’t out of this game, taking over on their own 28 down seven with about four minutes left. But that drive came up short, and Virginia’s long, grueling march toward firing Mike London at the end of the season continues.
Georgia Tech (2-4): Lost, 43-24, at Clemson
Georgia Tech managed just 71 yards on 42 carries (1.69 yards per carry) in losing its fourth consecutive game. This team’s only wins are against Alcorn State (FCS) and Tulane (a bad FBS program). Paul Johnson’s side limps into a tough home date with Pitt this weekend and is in grave danger of missing a bowl this year.
UMass (1-4): Lost, 62-38, at Bowling Green
UMass has a decent enough offense — quarterbacks Blake Frohnapfel and Ross Comis combined to throw for 486 yards and four touchdowns (on 37/61 passing, though) — but doesn’t have a defense. They allowed 48 points against Colorado, 62 against Notre Dame and now 62 against Bowling Green. Their last year in the MAC doesn’t look promising.
Clemson (5-0): Won, 43-24, vs. Georgia Tech
After throttling the sinking Yellow Jackets, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked about the term “Clemsoninghttp://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Clemsoning.” He went on a rant that should put an end to that term:
Clemson has a couple of tricky tests at home against Boston College and on the road at Miami and N.C. State before welcoming Florida State to South Carolina Nov. 7 in a game that’ll likely decide the ACC Atlantic (and both team’s College Football Playoff hopes).
USC (3-2): Lost, 17-12, to Washington
Despite being arguably the most talented team in the Pac-12, Steve Sarkisian’s Trojans managed just 12 points against a rebuilding Washington side. This is the kind of loss that can’t happen for a USC program that hasn’t been a player in the championship/playoff race since Pete Carroll bolted for Seattle after the 2009 season. USC, by virtue of playing on Thursday, has an extra day to prepare for Notre Dame, but as long as Sarkisian continues to tread water in Los Angeles, it may not matter. So maybe Chip Kelly will meet Notre Dame in Los Angeles next year?
Temple (5-0): Won, 49-10, vs. Tulane
Temple limited Tulane to 110 yards — 102 passing yards on 30 attempts; eight rushing yards on 27 attempts. If Matt Rhule’s Owls can get past UCF at home and a tricky Thursday night game at East Carolina Oct. 22, they’ll welcome Notre Dame to Philadelphia on Halloween with not only a 7-0 record, but a chance of making a New Year’s Six bowl with a win over the Irish.
Pitt (4-1): Won, 26-19, vs. Virginia
Give Pat Narduzzi plenty of credit — he’s revitalized the Pitt defense and the Panthers are a walk-off Iowa field goal away from being 5-0. In a wide-open ACC Coastal division, there’s a very real possibility Pitt — even without its best player, injured running back James Conner — makes a run at a trip to the conference championship game.
Wake Forest (3-3): Won, 3-0, at Boston College
Demon Deacons kicker Mike Weaver connected on a 25-yard field goal with 10:18 left in the third quarter to account for this game’s only scoring. This wasn’t an epic defensive battle; it was what happens when two wholly inept offenses share the same field. Credit to second-year coach Dave Clawson for making Wake at least competitive this year, but they’ll need to pull off a number of upsets to sniff bowl eligibility.
Boston College (3-3): Lost, 3-0, vs. Wake Forest
Poor Steve Addazio. He doesn’t have an offense without injured quarterback Darius Wade and running back Jon Hillman, but that’s no excuse for Boston College’s brutal late-game management. Wake Forest fumbled on a third-and-three with just over a minute left, giving the Eagles the ball on the Wake 11-yard line. Boston College moved to the Wake Forest one-yard line without a time out and the clock running, and inexplicably huddled, again with the clock running. Running back Tyler Rouse was stuffed at the one-yard line and BC couldn’t get another play off. It was a fitting end to one of the worst football games of the year.
Stanford (4-1): Bye
The Cardinal took the weekend off with a home date UCLA looming this Thursday. If Stanford wins that, it likely will be in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North by the time Cal goes southeast across the bay to Palo Alto Nov. 21.