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#Nuggets: A Michigan Statement, a Georgia avalanche, and the Jim Harbaugh Table of Pain

Plus: The crazy BYU-Virginia game, a game-winning kickoff return and why gambling on college football should be illegal.


The state of Michigan belongs to Michigan State. Two in a row. Six out of nine. Ten out of 14. And with all due respect to the other nine, this may have been the sweetest. It was definitely the hardest-earned.

Kenneth Walker III pieced together arguably the best day any Spartan running back has ever had: 23 carries, 197 yards, all five of the team's touchdowns. His 59-yarder helped tie the game at the 12:29 mark of the third quarter, and his 23-yard burst won it with 5:08 to play. 

The two plays that swung the game: 4th-and-4 at the Michigan 29 with Michigan State trailing 30-14 with 6:47 left in the third quarter that turned into a 28-yard completion, and JJ McCarthy's fumble with his Wolverines leading 33-30 midway through the fourth quarter.

That last fumble set up Walker's fifth and final touchdown, and quite possibly allowed him to become the first non-Alabama, non-quarterback Heisman winner since Reggie Bush.

Beyond keeping the Paul Bunyan Trophy -- which is enough in and of itself -- Michigan State announced itself as a contender for the Big Ten title and the College Football Playoff -- especially on a night when Ohio State struggled with Penn State. That's exactly what happened the last time Sparty started 8-0, in 2015, a year in which they went to Columbus and beat a seemingly unbeatable Buckeye team. 

The Big Ten East will be decided on Nov. 20, but for now a second straight Michigan State Championship is enough. The state of Michigan belongs to Michigan State.

"What does success look like? I’ve been asked several times. Success is us reaching our full potential as a football team. We have not hit our ceiling yet," Tucker said. "We still have room for improvement."

And now, the Jim Harbaugh Table of Pain. On the surface, there's zero shame in losing by four points on the road to the No. 8 team in the country. The problem is, we're now in Year 7 of understandable losses.

3-4 vs. Michigan State

0-7 vs. Ohio State

2-9 on the road vs. ranked teams

2-13 vs. AP top-10 teams

Changing out nearly his entire staff over a 2-year period has brought largely the same results: wins against almost everyone he's supposed to beat, and nobody else. 

Georgia is a rolling ball of butcher knives. With 2:45 to play in the first half, Florida had the ball trailing No. 1 Georgia 3-0. Two minutes and 38 seconds later, the Gators trailed 24-0. 

The 12 plays in between were a tornado that lifted Florida's house off the ground, spun it around, and then slammed it back to the earth upside down:

-- A fumble forced -- and I do mean forced -- when Nolan Smith ripped the ball out of Florida QB Anthony Richardson's hands.
-- An 11-yard James Cook touchdown run.
-- An Anthony Richardson incompletion, then a Richardson interception to Nolan Smith.
-- A 36-yard touchdown pass from Stetson Bennett IV to Kearis Jackson.
-- A 7-play Florida drive, that ended in a 50-yard pick six by Nakobe Dean. 

Georgia's 34-7 win was its fourth in five tries in this series, and its second-largest since 1982. 

This Bulldog defense is a ball of butcher knives rolling downhill at a 45 degree angle, and it's clear the players play so fast and so hard because they know if they happen to miss their assignment, the guy next to them will pick them up. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the sum of the parts adds up to like 50 stars.

Down Goes SMU. SMU opened the second half with a 100-yard kickoff return by Bryan Massey, giving the 19th-ranked Mustangs their first lead over Houston at 23-20 after trailing 17-0 in the first quarter. 

Back and forth the Mustangs and Cougars went until Blake Mazza booted a 45-yard field goal, tying the game at 37-37 with 30 seconds to play. The 45-yard kick was Mazza's career long, which is important because Sonny Dykes was lined up to go for a 4th-and-2 from the Houston 28 until Dana Holgorsen timeout. 

That timeout turned out to be the smartest thing Holgo did all night, because it put the ball in his most dangerous player's hands: those of cornerback Marcus Jones. An All-American punt returner in 2020, Jones had already taken two punts and one kickoff to the house before pulling off an all-too-rare game-winning kickoff return on Saturday night.

A penalty on Houston and a 36-yard Massey kick return gave SMU the ball at the Houston 34 with seven seconds to play, but Tanner Mordecai could not repeat the magic of the Louisiana Tech game

With the win, Houston (7-1, 5-0 AAC) now needs to win two out of three against South Florida, Temple and Memphis to clinch a spot in the AAC title game. After starting 7-14 at Houston, Holgo has now won seven straight. 

The James Franklin predicament. No. 20 Penn State lost to No. 5 Ohio State 33-24 on Saturday which, well, see the Jim Harbaugh section above. Coupled with the awful Illinois loss and the getting-worse-with-age Iowa loss, Franklin's team has gone from 5-0 to 5-3. Which means the tenor of the noise around Franklin in State College has gone from "Please don't leave, James" to "Please leave, James."

Any hope of a Big Ten title now out the window, Penn State fans can reasonably ask if the best days of the James Franklin era are now behind them. Three AP top-10 finishes in four seasons, a Big Ten title in 2016, a bunch of close losses to Ohio State, Franklin's teams have been frequently good but rarely elite. With Michigan and Michigan State still ahead, a 7-5 season is a distinct possibility. 

Texas craters again. Going into the weekend, teams that led at halftime held an .835 winning percentage. After watching a 21-10 lead wilt into a 31-24 loss, Texas is now 4-3 when leading at halftime. 

-- A 96.5% win probability when leading 41-23 with a minute to play in the third quarter against Oklahoma.
-- A 92% probability when leading Oklahoma State 24-13 five minutes into the third quarter.
-- An 80.7% probability when leading Baylor 21-10 with six minutes to play in the third quarter. 

According to my calculations -- the website I found on Google -- Texas had a 71.6% chance of going 3-0, a 28.3% chance of going 2-1, and a 0.05% chance of going 0-3. They went 0-3. 

Of course, it shouldn't be at all surprising to go 0-3 against three top-20 teams when you're outscored 55-10 in the fourth quarter. 


Seen and Heard

This week's entire Seen and Heard section will be devoted to breaking down the Single Worst Bad Beat of All Time.

Trailing 24-20, Florida State needs a miracle. Anyone who bet Florida State +9.5 or the under 49.5 just needs a normal play. We start with three Clemson defenders in the picture.

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The ball is complete at the 43 with two blockers in front. Go forth, young man.

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Where are you going? Who are you throwing to?!?

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We're now 15 yards behind the original line of scrimmage. You have to move forward, boys.

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The ball was at the 40 with room to run just a few seconds ago. Catch the ball and end this madness. 

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Tackle him. Tackle. Him. 

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Oh my sweet Jesus.

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Here's the full play in all its glory.

By the way, the funniest part of this entire play was the ACC official announcing "The game is not over" as the play went under review. It was over for everyone except those who had money on it.

The Super 16. This week's NFF-FWAA Super 16 ballot.

1. Georgia
2. Cincinnati
3. Michigan State
4. Alabama
5. Oklahoma
6. Oregon
7. Ohio State
8. Wake Forest
9. Notre Dame
10. Oklahoma State
11. Michigan
12. Texas A&M
13. Baylor
14. Auburn
15. Houston
16. BYU

Odds and Ends

a. Don't look now, but Miami might just screw around and finish 8-4. The combination of Tyler Van Dyke and Jaylan Knighton has ignited the Hurricane offense, and wins over NC State and Pitt, both ranked at kickoff, have pulled Miami back to level at 4-4. Manny Diaz's team will be favored against Georgia Tech, Florida State and Duke, and the toss up, Virginia Tech, is at home.

b. The last time Wake Forest started 7-0, in 1944, Game 8 saw the Deacons go to Duke and lose 34-0. At 7-0, Wake hosted Duke and scored sweet revenge for the '44 team, moving to 8-0 with a 51-7 drubbing. At No. 13 and with losses by No. 6, No. 9 and No. 10, might that be enough for Wake -- the only Power 5 never to appear in the AP Top 10 -- to end that blight once and for all?

c. Iowa compiled a 12-game winning streak by being plus-24 in turnovers, not losing a single game on the turnover ledger along the way. The Hawkeyes are minus-6 in their last two games, and as a result they've lost two in a row by a combined 51-14.

d. By the way, the over/under of Iowa-Wisconsin was 36.5, the lowest of the season. Final score: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 7. 

e. No. 18 Auburn beat No. 10 Ole Miss 31-20, which means that if -- and it's a big if, a 7-foot, 380-pound if -- Auburn manages to win the Iron Bowl and chalk plays out elsewhere, the SEC West champion will be decided next week when Bryan Harsin's Tigers visit Kyle Field.

f. This incredible 91-yard Kyren Williams run proved to be the difference in No. 11 Notre Dame's 44-34 win over North Carolina.

g. Scot Loeffler was ejected for drawing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties but Bowling Green won anyway, defeating Buffalo 56-44.  

h. The dream of seeing College GameDay in El Paso is likely dead after Florida Atlantic defeated the Miners, 28-25. 8-0 UTSA at 7-1 UTEP might be enough to get the gang to the Sun Bowl. 8-0 UTSA at 6-2 UTEP? Likely not.

i. Jake Dickert earned his first win as a head coach in leading Washington State to a 34-21 triumph at Arizona State.

j. Nebraska dropped to 0-6 in one score games with a 28-23 loss to Purdue. Scott Frost is 5-18 in such games in Lincoln.

k. Mississippi State's 31-17 win over No. 12 Kentucky means No. 1 Georgia tied an SEC record for earliest clinching of a division. The Bulldogs will celebrate Halloween as SEC East champions.

l. Arizona cracked 20 points for the first time in 11 games in a 41-34 loss at USC.

m. Geoff Collins fell to 9-21 at Georgia Tech after losing 26-17 to Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will need to be one of Notre Dame or Georgia, and sweep Miami and BC, to avoid missing a bowl game for the third time in Collins' three seasons.

n. Appalachian State dropped 59 points on ULM, their most against an FBS foe since scoring 63 on Louisiana to close the 2017 regular season.

o. Oregon State lost control of the Pac-12 North with a 39-25 loss at 2-5 Cal. 

p. Georgia State defeated Georgia Southern for the second straight year, scoring a 21-14 win in Statesboro. 

q. Fresno State wrested full control of the MW West race by beating Nevada last week and by knocking off No. 21 San Diego State, 30-20 on Saturday night. 


We end the column with how we ended the day, all the ridiculous numbers from No. 25 BYU 66, Virginia 49.

-- 16 touchdowns
-- 63 first downs
-- 1,322 yards of total offense
-- BYU gained 734 yards on 83 snaps (8.84 per play)
-- Virginia averaged 9.19 yards on 64 plays
-- BYU quarterback Jaren Hall: 22-of-37 for 349 yards and 3 TDs, 6 carries for 42 yards and a TD
-- BYU running back Tyler Allegier: 29 carries for 266 yards and 5 TDs
-- BYU wide receivers and brothers Samson and Puka Nacua: 11 catches for 214 yards and 2 TDs. Samson did that damage while wearing No. 45.
-- Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong: 22-of-34 for 337 yards with 4 TDs and 2 INTs; 11 carries for 94 yards and 2 TDs. 

Unfortunately, Armstrong left the game early with a self-diagnosed broken rib. Virginia is still in the ACC title hunt, but not without Armstrong.