13 Games From the 2017 College Football Season That Still Don't Make Sense
The Terps staked themselves to a 30–14 halftime lead in Tom Herman's Austin debut before anyone had even settled into their couches early on the first full Saturday of the season. Quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome was 9-of-12 for 175 yards and two scores and looked to be well on his way to becoming a national sensation, then promptly tore his ACL just as the Longhorns had dragged themselves back into the game—and somehow that didn't sink Maryland. Kasim Hill (No. 11) led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, Herman lamented the limitations of pixie dust, and the 2017 season received a jump-start of crazy to get off the ground.
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Northwestern turned out to be the second-best team in the Big Ten West and win 10 games, with losses only to top-10 teams Wisconsin and Penn State. Duke turned out to be ... a mediocre ACC Coastal team that was halfway to a six-game losing streak by the time the Wildcats began their season-ending eight-game winning streak. But on this day in Durham, the visitors had no answer for the Blue Devils’ offense, especially QB Daniel Jones, who threw for 305 yards and two TDs and ran for 108 yards and two more scores.
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These teams seemed headed in opposite directions before their Week 3 meeting in Columbia, with Purdue taking Lamar Jackson and Louisville to the wire and Missouri declining to play defense against Missouri State and South Carolina. But nobody expected a blowout in which a Tigers offense that ultimately finished fifth in the nation in yards per play was held to a lone chip-shot field goal before halftime. And just when we thought we'd learned something about both teams, Purdue fell back to Earth (see below) and Missouri turned into one of the SEC's hottest teams.
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Boise State entered 2017 having lost just six times at home since 2000, and only one of those (a 41–20 loss to Washington State in ‘01) had come by double digits. UVA arrived as 13.5-point underdogs and left the Friday night Albertsons Stadium crowd stunned, blasting the Broncos on the strength of three Kurt Benkert touchdown passes. Boise State sorted out its quarterback situation from there and lost just once the rest of the way en route to a Mountain West crown.
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Amid growing tension between coach Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, LSU's offense looked lifeless, and its defense couldn't stop Trojans back Jordan Chunn, who lumbered for 191 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers played their way back from the brink of collapse in the ensuing weeks, while Troy went on to share the Sun Belt title with fellow revered giant-killer Appalachian State.
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Of all the quarterbacks to outduel future Heisman winner Baker Mayfield, who would have picked Kyle Kempt, the Cyclones’ itinerant former scout teamer who came into the game having never thrown a major college pass? Kempt finished 18-of-24 for 343 yards and three touchdowns at the expense of Mike Stoops's hapless defense, and the Sooners were momentarily left for dead in the College Football Playoff race.
Arizona State had allowed the following point totals last fall before it welcomed the unbeaten No. 5 Huskies into Tempe: 31, 30, 52, 35, 34. Then out of nowhere, the Sun Devils completely stymied the Washington offense, which didn't score until its final drive of the game. As coach Todd Graham found a way to kill the final 5:32 of game clock, Van Soderberg's two missed field goals in the second half loomed larger and larger.
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Remember what we said about Purdue's fall back to Earth? After blasting Missouri, the Boilermakers played Michigan and Wisconsin tight ... and then failed to convert a game-tying two-point conversion attempt in the final minute, giving Rutgers its first conference winning streak since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten three seasons ago.
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This was the game that signaled it was safe to stop waiting for Florida State to get up off the mat. Freshman running back A.J. Dillon ground down the Seminoles with 149 yards on 33 carries, and FSU QB James Blackman had no answer for the BC defense.
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It wasn't just that Iowa dealt Ohio State a blowout loss that proved to be fatal to the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes. It was the way the Hawkeyes did it, racking up 487 yards of total offense and forcing senior QB J.T. Barrett into four interceptions, including a pick-six on the first play of the game to send Kinnick Stadium into a frenzy.
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The surprise here wasn't necessarily that the Yellow Jackets won but rather how they won: with an aerial assault. Taquon Marshall completed only two passes, but those two completions went for 60- and 80-yard touchdowns in the second half as Georgia Tech's triple-option-centric offense caught the Hokies off guard.
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It didn't take long for Toledo and Ohio to emerge as the clear class of the MAC last season, and when they met in early November, Ohio's 37–10 win served as both a statement win and a tone-setter for a nearly inevitable rematch in Detroit for the conference title. Akron, a decidedly middle-of-the-road team, had other ideas. Making the second start of his career, freshman QB Kato Nelson passed for 322 yards and four touchdowns, then didn't reach double-digit completions the rest of the year as the Zips were blasted by Toledo in the MAC title game and FAU in the Boca Raton Bowl.
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When the magic finally ran out for Miami, it ran out all at once. Pitt held the ball for 36:30 of game time, and a 22-yard scamper by freshman QB Kenny Pickett with under three minutes left officially knocked the Hurricanes from the ranks of the unbeaten on Black Friday. At 4–7, the Panthers were playing for nothing but pride—and the chance to extend the program's pattern of upsetting No. 2 teams with their eyes on the national title, as West Virginia learned in 2007.