College Football on Sling: It's Championship Week, and the Last Chance for Teams Jockeying for Playoff Spots
And now it’s Championship Week, with a number of conference titles on on the line, including the Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC, and given that it’s the final week of the regular season, it’s the last chance for teams to make their case for inclusion in the playoffs, with the number of teams that have a shot at making the playoffs has been whittled down to 10 – you can catch seven of them in action on Sling this weekend.
#17 Western MIchigan (12-0) vs Ohio (8-4)
7pm ET on ESPN2
#8 Colorado (10-2) vs #4 Washington (11-1)
9pm ET on FOX
The Colorado Buffaloes’ only two losses this season both came against teams currently ranked in the top 10, and last week they won their sixth game in a row, surviving a 4th-quarter push from then #21 Utah, coming out on top 27-22. Senior QB Sefo Liufau was not at his best, connecting on 23 of 45 for 270 yards and a TD, while also rushing 21 times for 59 yards and another TD, but the Colorado D picked him up, forcing 4 turnovers and allowing the Utes’ offense into the end zone just once.
Pac-12 Player of the Year Jake Browning got his mojo back last week, completing 21 of 29 for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns, as the Washington Huskies put a hurt on Washington State, 45-17. The Huskies had six different guys with 50+ yards from scrimmage, led by receiver John Ross, who hauled in 8 passes for 80 yards and a TD, and rushed twice for another 37 yards, while fellow receivers Lavon Coleman and Dante Pettis each had 86 yards and 2 TDs, in a game that saw the Huskies jump out to a 28-3 lead in the 1st quarter. The Washington D was tough, as well, pulling down 3 interceptions and recovering a fumble. You may dismiss them as the Ken Bone of college football, but they’re 3rd in scoring (44.8), and 11th in points allowed (17.8), they went 3-0 against ranked teams and they have the QB with the 4th-best passer rating in the country.
Temple (9-3) vs #19 Navy (9-2)
Noon ET on ABC
#10 Oklahoma State (9-2) vs #9 Oklahoma (9-2)
12:30pm ET on FOX
Baylor (6-5) vs #16 West Virginia (9-2)
3:30pm ET on FS1
#3 Clemson (11-1) vs #23 Virginia Tech (9-3)
8pm ET on ABC
The Clemson Tigers put a 56-7 beatdown of the South Carolina Gamecocks last week, behind a brilliant performance from quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Heisman hopeful completed 27 of 33 passes for 347 yards and 6 touchdowns, finding 11 different targets throughout the day. In a show of mercy Clemson coach Dabo Swinney inserted backup QB Nick Schuessler for the team’s final possession of the game, but he completed all 3 of his passes for 25 yards while engineering a 15-play touchdown drive that ate up half of the 4th quarter. The Clemson D was almost as tough, holding South Carolina to just 218 yards.
Jerod Evans has been a one-man wrecking crew for Virginia Tech this season, passing for 3,045 yards, 26 TDs and just 5 interceptions, and rushing for another 713 yards and 8 TDs. He delivered a more modest showing last week, passing for 253 yards and 2 TDs, and rushing 11 times for 38 yards and 1 touchdown, but the end result was was V-Tech’s second-biggest win of the year, 52-10 over Virginia. Tech did it with a season-high 289 yards rushing of 51 carries, with a little help from Andrew Motuapuaka’s 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Backup Brenden Motley entered the game with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, completed 2 of 3 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown, which proved to be Virginia Tech’s last pass attempt of the game.
#6 Wisconsin (10-2) vs #7 Penn State (10-2)
8pm ET on FOX
At the start of the season, Wisconsin failed to crack the top 25, and Penn State couldn’t even get a vote. Three months on, however, both are in the top 7, facing off in the Big Ten championship game and each has a puncher’s chance of sneaking into the playoffs – but to get there they must win this game.
Wisconsin needed three 4th-quarter touchdowns last week to beat Minnesota 31-17, overcoming the loss of starting QB Alex Hornibrook late in the 2nd quarter, who got his bell rung following an incompletion, banging his head as he fell to the ground. Backup Bart Houston took over in the second half, completing 9 of 14 for 123 yards. While the Badgers’ offense ramped it up, their defense clamped down in the second half, picking off Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner 4 times, and forcing them to punt 4 times. The Badgers now have 11 interceptions in their last 3 games, and 21 on the season.
After trailing Michigan State 9-3 halfway through the 2nd quarter, the Penn State Nittany Lions went on a tear, at one point scoring touchdowns on 5 of 7 possessions to win 45-12. Penn State QB Trace McSorley had the game of his life, completing 17 of 23 for 376 yards and 4 touchdowns. It was all the more remarkable given that he did it largely without the help of running back Saquon Barkley (228 carries, 1,219, 15 TDs on the season), who was forced from the game after just 14 yards on 12 carries. Barkley is expected to play, but one still has to wonder about the Nittany Lions, whose 36.6 points per game, and 22.8 points against are good but not great, and compiled while playing just two ranked teams.