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Week 7 College Football Awards: Clemson and Other Top Programs Take a Tumble

Plus: Miami runs the same play seven times on one drive, Florida breaks out horrific uniforms, and the Stanford Jackrabbit scores two touchdowns

Getty Images/Ringer Illustration

Week 7 was supposed to be a bad week of college football. The worst. Not one of the best 25 teams in football played any of the 24 other best teams in football. According to ESPN, this hadn’t happened so late in the season since 2009. The last four times it had happened all occurred during one of college football’s two cupcake weeks, either the second week of the year (after teams play their marquee season openers and before conference play begins) or the week before Thanksgiving (when the entire SEC schedules FCS opponents in advance of rivalry week). It was stunning to see a week filled with such apparent mismatches in the heart of the conference schedule.

But any college football fan should have known that the week would not be so predictable. Games between the best teams in the nation and apparent nobodies might seem inedible, but don’t throw these bones out: They’re the only thing you can use to create the base for a true Upset Soup, the only college football dish tastier than anything you can cook up in your stadium’s parking lot. Let’s look at this week’s bowl:

• Clemson spent the first few weeks of the season running over teams with high hopes—Auburn, Virginia Tech, Louisville—and earned the no. 2 ranking in the country. In the meantime, Syracuse lost to Middle Tennessee. But on Friday, the defending national champs stalled out in Syracuse’s big basketball dome, losing 27-24 to the Orange. Clemson had a passing touchdown in every single game during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but Deshaun Watson is gone now, and this season the Tigers have failed to notch a passing touchdown in three of their last six games. It was a tough outing for the Tigers, but anything that lets us listen to Syracuse coach Dino Babers happily holler at his team is good for us. Get that man a podcast.

• Fifth-ranked Washington shouldn’t have had any trouble scoring against Arizona State, which hadn’t held an opponent under 10 points since 2013. (And that team was FCS program Sacramento State.) Coming into the matchup, the Sun Devils had allowed 30 points in 11 straight games, and were ranked 120th in scoring defense. But somehow ASU smothered Washington, holding Jake Browning to 139 yards passing and keeping the Huskies to 2.9 yards per rushing attempt. Washington coach Chris Petersen had recently complained that his team’s late kickoff times were preventing the world from seeing how good the Huskies were. But maybe it’s good not a lot of people saw this game.

• It was a bad weekend for the state of Washington. Eighth-ranked Washington State didn’t just lose its first game of the year: It lost 37-3. Before Week 7, the Cougars had scored at least one touchdown in every game since the 2012 season, Mike Leach’s first as the team’s head coach, but on Friday night they managed just a field goal while committing a touchdown’s worth of turnovers—five interceptions by usually excellent quarterback Luke Falk, plus two fumbles.

• Maybe it was our mistake for thinking a team in the SEC West besides Alabama was good. But 10th-ranked Auburn blew a 23-0 lead against LSU, losing the Tiger-off 27-23.

• San Diego State was undefeated and looking like one of the best non-power-conference teams in the country, especially with a win over Stanford on its résumé. But Boise State doesn’t appreciate it when we say that some other school might be the best non-power team. The unranked Broncos took down the 19th-ranked Aztecs, 31-14.

• 24th-ranked Texas Tech went up 35-17 on West Virginia, but Air Raid battles can turn quickly. The Mountaineers scored the last 29 points of the game to pull off a 46-35 win.

• It might not be fair to call 4-1 Memphis beating 5-0 Navy 30-27 an upset—it was just a really good game between two non-power-conference teams. But I’m trying to pad stats here, and the Midshipmen were ranked 25th, so there we go.

There were also some thrilling near upsets, with undefeated 11th-ranked Miami scraping by with a 25-24 win against Georgia Tech, and 13th-ranked USC needing a late rally and a two-point-conversion stop to pull out a 28-27 win over Utah. All in all, seven ranked teams lost to unranked teams, including four top-10 teams. In 48 hours, college football went from having 13 undefeated teams to having eight.

But don’t scoff at ugly-looking games. Chaos is what make college football great, and chaos is caused by upsets, and upsets happen only when a good team plays a bad team. There’s no such thing as a bad college football weekend.

Weekly Heisman Winner

Is Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate the best player in football history? Through eight quarters as the team’s chosen starter, I genuinely believe he might be.

Last week Tate came off the bench and ended up setting an FBS record for rushing by a quarterback with 327 yards on just 14 carries while also completing 12 of 13 passes. After that, coach Rich Rodriguez had the bright idea to start Tate instead of leaving him on the bench, allowing us to witness this extremely Usain Bolt Qualifying Heat Against Runners From Eastern Europe And Small Pacific Islands touchdown run:

Tate ran for only 230 yards rushing and had four incompletions this time in Arizona’s 47-30 win over UCLA. Make sure to lower the volume before hitting play on these highlights, because the sonic boom is real and will ruin your speakers:

I guess this is going to happen every week now. We shouldn’t blame Rodriguez too much for sitting Tate earlier in the year—he had a shoulder injury! But now that Tate is healthy, it’s hard to imagine any Pac-12 defense stopping him unless the league forces him to wear restrictor plates.

Tate isn’t going to win the actual Heisman because he was on the bench until Week 6. Luckily, we also have the Weekly Heisman.

Biggest Disappointment

Somehow, I’m not going to give this to one of the seven ranked teams that lost. I’m gonna give it to Louisville.

Lamar Jackson threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns while adding 180 yards and three more scores on the ground. Those are appropriate stats for a reigning Heisman winner. Jackson’s five touchdowns, plus a sixth from running back Reggie Bonnafon, who also ran for 107 yards, gave Louisville 42 points.

You shouldn’t lose a game in which you score 40 points against Boston College. BC is not exactly designed to win a shootout, seeing as it’s coached by a man whose offensive strategy consists of yelling the word dude in different tones. You wanna know the last time BC gave up 40 points and still won? The Doug Flutie Hail Mary game. Really! Boston College shootout victories are so rare that they become historical legends.

Before Saturday, the Eagles had four rushing touchdowns on the season. They had five on Saturday. AJ Dillon, a true freshman running back who flipped his commitment from Michigan to BC, had 272 yards, four touchdowns, and one defender completely ruined.

Stiff-arms aren’t cool anymore. They’re too impersonal. You have to let a defender drape his body over you, and then hurl him off like it’s Black Friday and he’s a rival shopper in between you and the last heavily discounted Xbox One in a Walmart.

The Eagles scored 45 points to beat Louisville, and even after that performance, they’re ranked 114th out of 130 FBS teams in scoring offense. It’s one thing to lose; it’s another to squander a brilliant performance by the best player your school has and will ever have by failing to stop one of the most stoppable teams in the sport.

The Heisanimal Trophy Power Rankings

Remember the Louisville Squirrel from a few weeks ago? He’s in second place now. The Stanford Jackrabbit is the new leader here, after scoring multiple touchdowns against Oregon:

This bunny’s better than Bryce Love. Note that the stadium played the touchdown horn for the rabbit’s second score.

Look, I love football. But the squirrel and rabbit running around the football field have convinced me that football is vastly inferior to just watching a single excited woodland creature frolic. (Also, fewer concussions.) Let’s just gather together in enormous stadiums and let a different mammal loose at the 50-yard line, let the little guy tire himself out, and go home. It’ll be great.

Game of the Week

For the second straight week, we got a game played in a damn monsoon. I love monsoon football. Let’s start building enormous 100-yard showerheads and placing them over every stadium in the country. Move the championship game to the fancy fountains outside of the Bellagio. Just make every game as wet and stupid as possible.

I knew Georgia Tech–Miami would be good when the Hurricanes botched an onside kick attempt and just stared at the live ball:

The Canes all remembered that they’d be flagged for touching the ball before it went 10 yards, so they made sure not to touch it. Of course, that allowed Georgia Tech to return the kick for a touchdown with no resistance, but hey—no flags!

Then the rain came. Normally, rain destroys passing offenses, so you’d think Georgia Tech would be fine, because the Yellow Jackets never pass. But their triple option offense depends on really precise ballhandling, and any slip or mistake can lead to a game-changing fumble. The Yellow Jackets were useless in the storm, scoring just three points in the second half and none in the final 20 minutes.

Miami trailed by two with 2:30 to go and its undefeated record on the line, and unleashed what might be the dumbest and most beautiful two-minute drill I’ve ever seen. The Yellow Jackets were playing well off the line of scrimmage, so the Hurricanes called a bubble screen to receiver Braxton Berrios to pick up some easy yardage. It worked, giving Miami 14 yards, so the Hurricanes tried it again, and got 9 more yards. Two plays later, they ran another bubble screen to Berrios. Then they ran three consecutive bubble screens to tight end Christopher Herndon. And again to Berrios. Georgia Tech never adjusted, so Miami ran the same play seven times in eight downs, picking up 51 yards. These are all screenshots from different plays—well, the same play, but seven different times.

Then, for the second straight week, Miami threw a critical do-or-die pass to wide receiver Darrell Langham, and Langham did something ridiculous:

That set up a chip-shot field goal for the win. The Hurricanes are 5-0, and there are already just two teams in the [insert ACC division that Miami is in] with no conference losses: Miami and Virginia. Miami is probably better than Virginia. Pencil the resurgent Canes in for their first trip to an ACC championship game.

Mascot of the Week

Live college mascots need to have exceptional personalities. My dog barks at any new person she meets, even little children trying to pet her—especially little children trying to pet her—and sprints into a closet when she hears any loud noise, from a passing fire truck to a vacuum cleaner. But mascots can’t be like my dog. They have to be comfortable in stadiums with tens of thousands of fans, they have to be OK with unfamiliar people showing up and being handsy, and they have to tolerate all sorts of unexpected sounds—pep bands, screaming fans, people stomping their feet on metal bleachers.

But on Saturday, James Madison mascot Duke Dog met Lee Corso, who was wearing an enormous Duke Dog head during filming of College GameDay on James Madison’s campus. And that, for Duke Dog, was too much to bear:

Good dog.

Comeback of the Week

LSU was ranked 12th after Week 2. Then the Tigers got walloped by Mississippi State and lost to Troy, and things seemed hopeless. Just five games into his dream job, coach Ed Orgeron was on the hot seat. Things continued to look bleak on Saturday, as LSU faced a 20-0 deficit against Auburn’s 10th-ranked Tigers.

I’m not sure what’s more impressive: The comeback to win the game 27-23, Orgeron’s return from the Cajun Spicy Seat, or the fact that LSU is once again ranked, less than a month after losing to Troy. I still don’t know whether Ed Orgeron, LSU coach is going to work out. But the experiment has been even weirder than I thought, and I expected it to be mighty weird. I like weird.

Unmitigated Disaster of the Week

I’d never seen a real uniform that looked faker than the initial images of Florida’s uniforms against Texas A&M.

You can’t tell me that doesn’t look like it’s from an SEC message board post, entitled “cool Florida concept uniforms,” by some dude who barely knows how to use Photoshop. And then I saw them on a football field, and my goodness. They were even worse:

“Algae” is not a good uniform color. But the Gators didn’t even commit to the muddy, gross color scheme, trying to include Florida’s regular blue and orange tints as well. The attempt at replicating alligator scales just made Florida players look like the Thing, but duller. My girlfriend looked at the screen for a quarter second and said she thought the team in white must be winning by a lot because the other team’s uniforms were super dirty from getting tackled so often. Burn these jerseys. Never talk about them again.

Weekly National Champion

The powers that be tried to kill UAB, but the Blazers have turned into that Game of Thrones zombie dragon with the blue eyes. The Blazers beat Louisiana Tech on a field goal block last week, and topped Middle Tennessee 25-23 on Saturday night, and now they’re 4-2.

If you’re not familiar, UAB had to shut down its football team in 2014 because of … well … long story short, the University of Alabama system runs UAB, and the Board of Trustees would really prefer that all of the state’s attention go toward the Crimson Tide. This was dumb, because UAB football and Alabama football are in different universes, and eliminating UAB football only benefited Alabama in the slightest, pettiest way.

But UAB is back, so let’s go to the transitive property board. The Blazers beat Middle Tennessee, who beat Syracuse in September. Syracuse beat Clemson on Friday night. Clemson, of course, beat Alabama in last year’s national championship game. All hail the Blazers, unkillable and fiery.