Upset Special! Defending champs LSU raided at home in return of SEC football

Mississippi State QB K.J. Costello (#3) celebrates after throwing for an SEC-record 623 passing yards in the Bulldogs’s 44-34 upset win over No. 6 LSU. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Burtnett
Sports Editor

In a week where all 10 FBS conferences are on to play this fall, two major upsets shocked and thrilled the college football landscape, with Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense getting the better of LSU, and FCS powerhouse head coach Chris Klieman once again defeating Oklahoma, this time on the road.

It really does feel like college football is back, right? Two top-five teams went down, Florida State faced (and got absolutely drilled by) Miami, and a (mostly) full slate of games were played in the ACC, Big 12 and SEC.

Of course, some teams fell victim to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as five games were canceled or postponed this Saturday, namely Notre Dame-Wake Forest. One team, Houston, had their fifth game canceled so far this season!

But back to the games that were played. Most went according to script, although some were closer than others. No. 5 Florida beat Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss in a shoot-out, 51-35, while No. 10 Texas A&M beat lowly Vanderbilt just 17-12. 

The only ranked Power 5 match-up between No. 8 Auburn and No. 23 Kentucky went to Gus Malzahn’s Tigers (29-13), while No. 8 Texas had to stage a thrilling 15-point comeback in the last four minutes to force overtime against Texas Tech (63-56 win for the Longhorns).

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An intriguing game between two ranked Group of 5 early season contenders was a defensive battle, with No. 14 Cincinnati having too much for No. 22 Army in a 24-10 win.

The other two top four SEC teams – No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Georgia – got off to very different starts, with Alabama up 28-3 against Missouri at halftime, while Georgia struggled with a team which has now lost 20 straight SEC games, trailing 7-5 against Arkansas at halftime in their game. Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs would come back to win comfortably, but the offense took their time getting back into a flow.

Now, on to those upsets, starting with No. 3 Oklahoma falling to Kansas State for the second straight time. Looking at the stat line for redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler (30/41, 387 passing yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs), it looks like the Sooners could have come out on top. And they should have, as they led 35-14 late in the third quarter.

However, the offense stalled and Kansas State was highly efficient, scoring a TD in their next three drives and putting the winning field goal through the uprights with 4:32 left in the game.

The Sooners would get two more chances to even the score or take the lead, but they punted with 3 minutes left and Rattler threw a poorly-advised INT inside the final minute, sealing a 38-35 win for the Wildcats.

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In Death Valley, Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense quickly silenced any doubters, putting up an SEC-record 623 passing yards via the arm of graduate transfer QB K.J. Costello. It’s difficult to critique No. 6 LSU, who lost an astounding amount of production from last year’s National Championship squad.

Through the first three quarters, the game was a thrilling back-and-forth, with six lead changes through the first 45 minutes, the Bulldogs holding a 27-24 lead over the Tigers heading into the final quarter. 

Costello found Austin Williams on a 9-yard TD pass to increase the Bulldogs’ lead to 34-24, and after forcing a punt on the Tigers’ next drive, it looked good for Mike Leach’s team.

However, an interception and fumble on the next two drives resulted in 10 points for LSU, tying the game at 34 with 9:37 left in the game. 

Mississippi State took just two minutes off the clock on their next drive, and with the LSU defense holding them to a field goal, it looked like the defending champs could finally take back the lead. However, the Mississippi State defense forced a three-and-out, and their offense followed suit with a solid TD drive, giving them a 44-34 lead, which would end up being the final score.

Myles Brennan and the LSU offense just took too long to give themselves a chance to get the ball back a second time, with a throw to the endzone being intercepted by Emmanuel Forbes as time expired to close out the exciting upset.

With college football really being back, it’s time to get into some quick Top 10 rankings, accounting only for teams that have played.

  1. Clemson (2-0)

The Tigers have already cruised in their first two games (albeit against Wake Forest and The Citadel), but look to be the cream of the college football crop.

2. Alabama (1-0)

The Crimson Tide handled Missouri, though the final score may not show it (38-19), and look to be in line to return to form after last year’s disappointing 11-2 season, their first without a CFP appearance.

3. Florida (1-0)

This one is really a toss-up between Notre Dame and the Gators. Although Notre Dame has another win on their resume, the Gators offense looked scary-good on Saturday, with QB Kyle Trask finding TE Kyle Pitts for 4 touchdowns.

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4. Notre Dame (2-0)

Their first game against Duke was a feel-out game (27-13), but their 52-0 win over Wake Forest showed this Fighting Irish squad is ready to go this season.

5. Miami, FL (3-0)

The Hurricanes have the most wins out of anybody in this top ten, and if not for how bad Florida State has looked this year they might be even higher. They’ve proved themselves against a good Group of 5 team (UAB), handled a solid ACC contender (Louisville) and absolutely demolished their rival (FSU). Keep an eye on D’Eriq King, this offense is dangerous.

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6. Auburn (1-0)

With the only ranked win this week in the Power 5 conferences, the Tigers got off to a good start, particularly on defense, where they lost a lot of production from last year but still held Kentucky to just 13 points.

7. Georgia (1-0)

Yes, they turned things around after trailing 7-5 at halftime to Arkansas, but they still didn’t do enough to prove that they deserve to keep their No. 4 AP ranking. After their match-up against Auburn this week, they might find themselves back in the top four if they play a full 60 minutes of football.

8. Mississippi State (1-0)

Going into this season, many questioned how Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense would adjust to the vaunted SEC conference. After yesterday’s 623-passing-yards performance against the defending champions, how long will it take for the SEC to adjust to the Air Raid?

9. Texas (2-0)

No, they did not look good this week, no matter what putting up 63 points tells you. They had to overcome a 15-point deficit in the final minutes against an average Texas Tech team. The only reason they’re here is because they’re the best team in the Big 12 right now, which might not really be saying much.

10. Virginia Tech (1-0)

The ACC has several teams that are worthy contenders for this final Top 10 spot (Pitt 3-0, North Carolina 1-0, ), but the Hokies cruised to a 45-24 win over NC State after jumping out to a 31-10 lead at halftime. Before COVID-19 caused the ACC to go to a “top two teams” format for their conference championship game, I had the Hokies coming out of the Coastal division, and I stand by that with all the talent they return from last year (19 starters from a team that was 8-3 before dropping their last two games by a combined 16 points).

Next ten (no particular order): Pittsburgh (3-0), North Carolina (1-0), Oklahoma State (2-0), Oklahoma (1-1), Texas A&M (1-0), UCF (2-0), Cincinnati (2-0), LSU (0-1), Louisiana (3-0), BYU (2-0)

College football is starting to return to its regular form, and it served up a thrilling upset special this week!

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