Abundant thrills in college football this Saturday

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley lifts the Golden Hat trophy after his Sooners beat Texas again to improve to 4-1 during his tenure against his team’s biggest rival. Josh Gateley / Pool photo

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

Another week, another instance of a couple of top ten teams falling, with one coming on a last-second field goal, and the other a complete domination from the No. 1 team in the country.

Those two losses would be, of course, No. 4 Florida falling to No. 21 Texas A&M in a shootout, 41-38, and No. 7 Miami (FL) being crushed on the road at No. 1 Clemson, 42-17.

The holes on Florida’s defense were once again exposed, as they allowed Kellen Mond to throw for 338 yards – setting the all-time Texas A&M record – and 3 TDs, and Isaiah Spiller to rush for 174 yards and a pair of TDs.

In their first two games, Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts and the rest of the Gators’ offense was enough to overcome allowing 49 combined points, but the Aggies were too much, giving Georgia a spot in the driver’s seat of the SEC East.


Speaking of No. 3 Georgia, they sleep-walked through the first half, trailing 21-17 at halftime to the No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers. However, due to increased offensive execution and a litany of mistakes by the Vols, Georgia dominated the second half 27-0 to win 44-21 and set up their top-3 match-up against Alabama in Tuscaloosa next week.

Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide of Alabama were in another SEC shoot-out, fighting with Ole Miss well into the fourth quarter, leading just 49-45 with seven minutes to go after an Ole Miss field goal. Lane Kiffin has the Rebels clicking on all cylinders on offense, but will have to make some adjustments on defense to compete in a tough SEC West.

Moving out of the SEC and onto the other top ten loss, the No. 7 Miami Hurricanes were handled from start to finish by the top-ranked Clemson Tigers, who won the total yards battle 550-210 and the turnover battle 3-1. 

The ‘Canes looked like a team that could stand up to the Tigers in the weak ACC, but after this latest drubbing, it’s down to Notre Dame and North Carolina to put up a fight against a team that has to be the favorite to win the national championship.

No. 5 Notre Dame struggled against an inept Florida State through the first quarter, trailing 17-14 in their first game since Sept. 22 after COVID-19 postponements. The Fighting Irish went on to win 42-26, but the gap still seems to be broad between Clemson and the rest of the ACC.

Another ACC contender, No. 8 North Carolina, was led by running back tandem Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, who combined for 383 rushing yards against a depleted Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels beat the 19th-ranked Hokies, but allowed a 42-17 lead to be reduced to 42-37 before waking back up and putting the game away, 56-45.

To have a chance at beating the top-ranked Tigers, both Notre Dame and North Carolina have a lot to work on to stop Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and the rest of the potent Clemson offense – not to mention getting past their stingy defense.

Also, shout-out my predecessor, former sports editor Michael Crouchley, who now covers the Tigers for South Carolina newspaper The Seneca Journal.

Finally, perhaps the biggest story of the day was a thriller in the Red River Showdown, which lacked some of the regular build-up with both Oklahoma and No. 22 Texas coming off a loss. 

The game itself consisted of multiple runs, with Oklahoma going ahead 10-0 in the first quarter, before Texas responded with 10 points to tie the game halfway through the second quarter. The teams exchanged touchdowns for a 17-17 game at halftime.

Oklahoma won the third quarter 14-0, but two touchdowns by Texas in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the game sent the rivalry match-up into overtime. 

Turnovers by Spencer Rattler and poor execution from Texas made the 31-all score look a lot less exciting, but the excitement ramped up once overtime started. 

Both teams scored touchdowns in the first two overtimes, but the third overtime is where the game got wacky. With a chance to go ahead 48-45, Texas’ field goal attempt was blocked. On their chance to win the game, Oklahoma kicker Gabe Brkic – who was a perfect 17/17 in 2019, shanked a 31-yard field goal attempt to the left to send the send into the fourth overtime.

In 4OT, Drake Stoops, son of legendary Sooners coach Bob Stoops, caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Rattler to give the Sooners the lead, which was extended to 53-45 after a successful 2-point conversion.

On Texas’ last drive of the game, Sam Ehlinger threw his second interception of the day in the endzone on a second-down play from the 19-yard-line to give Oklahoma the win and send both teams to disappointing 2-2 records.

In other games, defending-champion LSU fell once again, this time to unranked Missouri 45-41 after failing to score on four plays from inside the 1-yard-line.

Staying in the SEC, No. 13 Auburn got the benefit of what looked like a missed call on a backwards spike – should have been a fumble – and beat Arkansas on a last-second field goal, 30-28. 

With more games to look at, here are my CFP rankings with less than two weeks until the Big Ten and Pac-12 join the fray.

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. Notre Dame

After these four teams, the only contenders outside the Big Ten and Pac-12 are North Carolina and Oklahoma State, who are still undefeated. College football has provided plenty of thrills, and that will only be heightened once the Big Ten and Pac-12 rejoin the battle for the CFP.

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