Saturday was North Carolina’s first top-five game in the Associated Press poll since 1997. In November 1997, Florida won a 20-3 win and brought the Tar Heels their last defeat of Brown’s first term at Chapel Hill a. Less than a month later, he was on his way to Texas.
Brown figures who have to do with the tar heels (3-1, 3-1 ACC) for a while longer this time, and this loss for the Seminoles (2-3, 1-3) are very instructive and just as painful even if themselves the matchup didn’t feel quite as colossal as it did 23 years ago. A good part of that is thanks to Florida State’s shaky game earlier this season.
Part of that is Coach Flow (Mike Norvell is the team’s third full-time head coach in four seasons), part of that is quarterback instability, part of that is the Seminoles’ ongoing offensive line problems. One way to get around these issues is to block a few punts and return an intercept for a touchdown, which the state of Florida did on their way to a 31-7 lead at break.
What North Carolina also illustrated in the second half is why it isn’t really in the top 5 yet, and why it shouldn’t be under-sold either. The tar heels shut out Florida for the last 30 minutes (a couple of missed field goals helped), and quarterback Sam Howell finished the race 374 yards and three touchdowns to counter the pick-six.
But North Carolina was also plagued by dropped passes, and failed to bottle the Seminole attack (6.7 meters per rush) for swaths of the evening. There is a lot that can be improved.
But in an ACC where Clemson is still at its own stage and Notre Dame # 4 is a brilliant one-year-old squatter, someone has to prove to be a longer-term counterbalance. Saturday showed that North Carolina isn’t ready to be that team just yet. And maybe, as in the 1990s, the tar heels are no better than the league’s second banana. Despite a disappointing result, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on further developments.
Clemson. So much for the idea that the No. 1 Tigers could get a mediocre show in Miami a week after the Blitz. It’s true, Clemson seems to have one of them every year, sometimes losing (Pittsburgh in 2016, Syracuse in 2017) and sometimes winning (Syracuse in 2018 and North Carolina in 2019), but he sure didn’t have one against Georgia Tech.
The Tigers scored a 73-7 win in Atlanta, scored the most points in a street game since 1915, and had the most one-sided lead in a league game in ACC history. It also matched the ACC record for the largest router on an FBS team. North Carolina (2012) and Florida State (2013) knocked Idaho down by 66 in the past decade.
Oh, and there were high jinks. Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney (listed at 6-1 and 300 pounds) scored 31-7 on a 1-yard fullback fall. He was one of nine tigers to score that day. Punter Will Spiers was the No. 4 quarterback and threw three passes, the number of times he was needed in his usual position.
Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence shook off his first interception in nearly exactly a year by staging five touchdowns and a Georgia Tech primary that Clemson’s social media team didn’t miss.
In short, the Tigers (5-0, 4-0 ACC) couldn’t have done much better on a day when it would have been understandable to be a little off. That’s tough luck for the Yellow Jackets (2-3, 2-2) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Mac Jones threw for 417 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, helping Alabama score the game’s final 24 points and helping Saban improve to 22-0 against his former assistant coaches.
Freedom. The Flames insulted an ACC opponent for the first time, throttling Syracuse 38-21 in the Carrier Dome in a reversal of last year’s season opener.
This game is probably best remembered for Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, who worked from a hospital bed in the press compartment on his first game. But the Flames lost 24-0 and hurried -4 meters that day.
It was different in the second leg. Liberty (5-0) stacked 338 rushing yards and followed a total of 18 seconds as it reached mid-season without a loss. The Flames received two more shots at ACC schools: Virginia Tech on November 7th and NC State on November 21st.
Grant Morgan. The Arkansas linebacker showed one of the best individual defensive performances of the season. He made 19 tackles (three due to loss), collected a sack, and gave an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Razorbacks (2-2, 2-2 SEC) won their first home game since 2016, beating Mississippi 33-21 .
It’s another good performance for Arkansas in coach Sam Pittman’s first season. The Razorbacks swept the SEC’s Mississippi schools and nearly knocked Auburn down last week. They are arguably the most improved team in the three ongoing Power Five conferences (although 4-1 NC State is certainly entitled to this honor as well).
Memphis. The tigers have done a lot in recent years. Now they have a loss to celebrate central Florida in the 21st century.
Of course, given the tenor of the series, it wouldn’t get boring.
Central Florida had won 13 straight meetings in 2005. The final three were scored 62-55 (2017 American Athletic title game), 31-30 (2018), and 56-41 (2018 AAC title game).
So the Memphis 50:49 win fits pretty nicely – from the 1,501 total yards (which broke the Memphis and Central Florida AAC record) to rallying from a 12-point deficit in the last four minutes to Take Over Leading to get UCF almost back before Daniel Obarski’s 40-yard field goal attempt slid left 19 seconds to go.
It might be a little early to call it an AAC Eliminator, though Memphis (2-1, 1-1) are in better shape in the league than the Knights (2-2, 1-2). Brady White tossed the win for 486 yards and six touchdowns, while Central Florida Dillon Gabriel was 35 of 49 for 601 yards and five touchdowns.
Texas A&M. It wasn’t just a day to see how the teams reacted after their first loss (see: Miami and Tennessee). It was a good opportunity to gauge how the # 11 Aggies, who overthrew Florida for their most significant win under Jimbo Fisher to date, would fare.
An artisanal 28:14 win in the state of Mississippi is a good result. No, the Aggies (3-1, 3-1 SEC) didn’t show a dominant offensive performance, but Isaiah Spiller was very effective (18 carry, 114 yards, two touchdowns) but her defense was exceptional. It took the field for 10 possessions, forced seven punts, and collected a couple of takeaways. That will work.
Miami. A week after the Clemson fall, Hurricane No. 13 was not at their best on the offensive but never fell behind in a 31:19 win over Pittsburgh. D’Eriq King wasn’t perfect (16 of 31, 222 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions) but there was enough good to add to a defense in Miami that only allowed for 300 yards in total (including 22 yards over 26 runs) .
In many ways, it was kind of an exchange of blows that the Hurricanes (4-1, 3-1 ACC) and Panthers (3-3, 2-3) would have expected even if neither had lost, and Pitt was on quarterback Kenny’s service Pickett (he had dropped out with an ankle injury). With that in mind, it’s a good sign for Miami as it didn’t bleed a bad game in a second – a marked improvement over last season.
Kentucky. The Wildcats (2-2, 2-2 SEC) crushed Tennessee 34-7 No. 18, winning Knoxville for the first time since 1984. Kentucky was methodical on the ground (4.2 yards per carry) and flawless if not explosive in the air (13 of 16 for 107 yards) and opportunistic on defense (four forced turns).
Mark Stoops’ offense has not been as statistically productive in the past two weeks. A total of 451 yards and 28 first downs were amassed. But the Wildcats smothered the state of Mississippi and Tennessee by a combined lead of 58-9 and climbed out of a 2-0 hole in the process. Next up is a trip to Missouri.
Nelson Smith. The Navy senior began serving as the Midshipmen’s starting defender last season before Jamale Carothers took the job in late October. Smith remains part of a tandem with Carothers and has proven to be particularly valuable in the last two games.
A week after his career high of 120 yards and two points against Temple, Smith was even better in the Navy’s 27:23 win in East Carolina.
He took his first carry 20 yards for a score and made his final touch when he squeezed out a 2 yard win to convert a fourth down which allowed Navy to burn down all but the last 22 seconds. He made another career high in yards (157) for the day, scoring two hits when Navy (3-2, 3-0) went undefeated in the American game.
Georgia. Sure, the Bulldogs fell in Alabama between 41 and 24, but the real loser may well be almost everyone in the country other than Clemson. If Georgia’s strong defense of the Crimson Tide has surrendered 564 yards, then who has a realistic chance of slowing Alabama down when it’s near the best?
Tennessee. Shot. The Volunteers (2-2, 2-2 SEC) couldn’t have done much more to give Kentucky a win, at least on the offensive. In a period of 10 scrimmage games early in the second quarter, Tennessee threw three interceptions. Two were returned for touchdowns, and the third set a Kentucky field goal. The Wildcats were well on their way to a 34-7 win.
While the second half of last week’s loss to Georgia wasn’t pleasant, there was a good chance that this game would learn more about the Vols. It wasn’t good, and now Tennessee can play Alabama on a two-game slide. Good luck with it.
Auburn. South Carolina deserves credit for digging its 2-0 hole by beating Vanderbilt first and then turning Auburn back 30:22.
However, the number 15 tigers deserve a lot of credit for their own death.
Quarterback Bo Nix threw three interceptions, each of which set up the Gamecocks on Auburn’s side of the field. And South Carolina conceded all three for touchdowns, including Kevin Harris’ 8-yard run towards the end of the third quarter, one game after the last of Nix’s picks.
Auburn (2-2, 2-2 SEC) is lucky enough not to be on a three-game skid right now. It was overwhelmed by Georgia and survived Arkansas last week, thanks in part to an official mistake. The Tigers weren’t so lucky in Colombia and their chances of running in SEC West were a huge hit as a result.
Mississippi State. Another week, another overwhelming achievement for Mike Leach’s offense. The Bulldogs (1-3, 1-3 SEC) have managed to get into the end zone against Texas A&M after posting just one safety in last week’s Kentucky loss.
Even so, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter for the state of Mississippi to score points against the Aggies (Emmanuel Forbes ‘interception return early in the third quarter was responsible for the Bulldogs’ first points). Mississippi state quietly lost for the third week in a row, with a total of 217 yards. This doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Alabama on Halloween after an open date.