SALT LAKE CITY — With the Friday Night Lights shining down on the Smurf Turf and a nation of college football fans tuning in, BYU dismantled Boise State on its home field to take a major step forward in the conversation as one of the best programs in the country.
Sure, Boise State was down to its third (and for a bit fourth) string quarterback, but it wouldn’t have mattered who was under center against the Cougars Friday night. Quarterback Zach Wilson lit up the Boise State defense and made some incredible throws en route to a 51-17 rout over the Broncos. It didn’t hurt that the Cougars got their first-ever win at Albertsons Stadium, either.
BYU’s biggest dilemma moving forward is the fact that it only has two more games left in the season. Still, there are few that can argue the talent and composure BYU showed against a talented Boise State. What it means for their postseason aspirations is really anyone’s guess, but for the time being there’s a lot of optimism surrounding the program, and for good reason.
Nationally, the game of the week was on NBC Saturday night as No. 1 Clemson traveled to South Bend, Indiana, to take on a Notre Dame team that hadn’t lost on its home field in 22-straight games.
Make it 23.
The Fighting Irish lived up to its name and battled a dominant Clemson that hadn’t lost a regular-season game in 36 tries to claim a 47-40 win in double overtime. Even with time against it and down a score at the end of regulation, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book found Avery Davis for a 4-yard equalizer to send the game into overtime.
After a first overtime period where both teams scored a touchdown, Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams scored a 3-yard rushing touchdown to give the Irish a 7-point lead in the game’s second overtime. Notre Dame’s defense then came up big with back-to-back sacks, a pass deflection on third down and a fumble recovery on fourth down to seal the victory.
The two teams were evenly matched. We’ll likely see them again in the ACC Championship for a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff. Other than the multitude of plays reviewed by the refs at the end of the game and the storming of the field which has the potential to make this a super spreader event of COVID-19, the game was well worth its bilking for a great capstone to the night.
Starting the day was the much-delayed Pac-12 opener with a 10 a.m. MT kickoff between the two supposed South Division favorites locked in a battle for division dominance. And while the game didn’t necessarily live up to the expected high level of play, it did bring some drama to the field.
For its part, Arizona State mostly controlled the game and forced four Trojans turnovers, while adding three of its own. The Sun Devils ran all over the Trojans and took what appeared to be a commanding 27-14 lead in the fourth quarter. With just over three minutes left to play, even ESPN’s in-game projections gave the Sun Devils a 99.9% chance of winning the game.
That was until USC quarterback Kedon Slovis connected with Bru McCoy for a 26-yard touchdown pass that was then followed up by a recovered onside kick to give the Trojans some hope. Slovis marched the team downfield on a six-play drive that was capped off with his best throw of the morning on a tight pass to Drake London for a 21-yard go-ahead score with just over a minute left to play.
The Sun Devils’ offense stalled as quarterback Jayden Daniels threw four straight incompletions to seal the Trojans’ improbable victory. USC may have won, but they’re far from the dominant favorite many expected going into the season. As a result, I dropped USC down to No. 20 in my ballot this week. But they live to see another day as a ranked team.
Some other notes related to my ballot this week:
- Florida-Georgia Line: Florida is playing some great football right now and gave Georgia its second loss of the season in a 44-28 win. The Gators are a borderline top 5 team and have the talent to combat SEC teams like Alabama and Texas A&M, which are both above them in my ballot. Texas A&M already beat Florida this year by 3 points, but there’s not a lot of separation between the two. Alabama is still a step above, which is why I’ve had them at No. 1 for three-straight weeks now.
- Hello Indiana: The legend of Tom Allen is becoming more mainstream after the team jumped out to a 3-0 start — wins over Penn State, Rutgers and now Michigan. The Hoosiers are talented and exploited a Michigan team in need of some self reflection. They move up to No. 9 in my ballot this week as the biggest challenger to Ohio State in the East Division (Maryland is ready to make trouble, though).
- Sorry Iowa State: When I compiled my ballot last week, I unintentionally left Iowa State off. In the shuffle of moving teams in and out, they somehow fell victim without me catching the error. This week I have the Cyclones up to No. 18, though it did take a four-touchdown performance in the second half to get past Baylor, but Iowa State made it happen. So, welcome back, even though they should have been included all along.
- Utah’s COVID-19 Problem: The virus we’ve all lived with for months has postponed or canceled several games this season, and Utah becomes one of the latest to have a game canceled due to players testing positive for COVID-19. With Saturday’s matchup canceled and its upcoming Friday night road matchup against UCLA called into question, I’ve dropped the Utes out of my rankings given the team might only get four or five games this season. Until they can play, the rankings become the least of their worries.
Dropping Out: Boise State (2-1), Michigan (1-2), Utah (0-0)
Checking In: Iowa State (5-2), Liberty (7-0), Northwestern (3-0)
In Consideration: Army (6-1), Louisiana (6-1), Maryland (2-1), Nevada (3-0), Purdue (2-0), San Jose State (3-0)