By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
It’s been real, Group of 5.
The final two unbeaten teams from a Group of 5 conference both took their first lumps of the year as SMU fell to Memphis Saturday night and Appalachian State was upset by Georgia Southern last Thursday. There are eight Group of 5 teams with just one loss still vying for conference championships and a New Year’s Six bowl bid.
Around the rest of the country, four of the top five teams were off. LSU and Alabama had open dates ahead of their showdown against each other next Saturday, and Big Ten heavyweights Ohio State and Penn State were off as well. The Buckeyes get Maryland at home next Saturday while Penn State visits undefeated Minnesota.
Clemson was the highest ranked team in action as the 4th ranked Tigers cruised to a win over FCS Wofford.
Memphis and SMU were one of two ranked matchups on the weekend. Georgia’s win over division rival Florida was the lone game featuring a pair of top ten teams. The Bulldogs are one of many one-loss teams from the Power 5 attempting to climb back into the College Football Playoff conversation.
Week 11 will feature a monster doubleheader with Penn State and Minnesota beginning at noon before the Crimson Tide host the Tigers at 3:30. The playoff picture is about to get a lot clearer.
Before that though, here’s the best and the worst of the weekend.
The Good: Georgia. The Bulldogs’ defense dominated the game through three quarters and Georgia had enough of a cushion to hold off the Gators’ rally in the fourth quarter for a 24-17 win. Georgia has given itself some breathing room atop the SEC East and, more importantly, kept its playoff hopes alive. A win over Missouri at home next weekend and the Bulldogs will have all but wrapped up the division for the third straight year.
Honorable Mention: Since being upset by USC more than a month ago, the Utes had been dominant. They were tested on Saturday on the road against Washington and overcame an early deficit to beat the Huskies and regain control of the Pac-12 South thanks to the Trojans’ loss to Oregon. Utah closes the season against three conference opponents with losing records in UCLA, Arizona and Colorado. Two of those are at home. If Utah isn’t playing on December 6, it’s a serious letdown.
The Bad: SMU. Memphis was favored and at home, but the Mustangs’ defense couldn’t stop suffering explosive play after explosive play and trailed by as many as 22 before a furious rally fell short. SMU’s defense couldn’t stop Brady White or contain the Tigers’ rushing attack, and the special teams unit gave up a 97-yard kick return for a touchdown. SMU’s first loss of the season also cost the Mustangs control in the AAC West division, which now belongs to Memphis.
Honorable Mention: Appalachian State. Last year the Mountaineers climbed into the AP Rankings and were promptly knocked out by Georgia Southern. This year the Mountaineers strung together another impressive stretch of wins, won a couple games as a ranked team and were knocked out of the rankings by…Georgia Southern. Appalachian State has won 18 of its last 20 games. Both of the losses are to the Eagles. Ouch.
The Ugly: USC. After ending the first quarter with a 10-0 lead, the Trojans committed four turnovers and were outscored 56-14 the rest of the way in a 32-point beating from Oregon. The Ducks only faced nine third downs on offense and had four touchdown drives of 80 yards or more. Not to mention Oregon also had a pick six and a kickoff return for a score. Clay Helton is now 37-21 as USC’s head coach and the Trojans also lost the upper hand on the division in the Pac-12 South to Utah.
Honorable Mention: Arkansas. We’ll never know what possessed Chad Morris to guarantee a win for the Razorbacks earlier last week. Promise or no, Arkansas should’ve done more against a Mississippi State team coming into Fayetteville on a four-game skid. Arkansas gave up 640 yards of total offense, surrendered 460 yards on the ground and only went 2-12 on third downs on offense. With LSU and Missouri left on the conference slate, 0-16 in the SEC looks very likely for Morris in his first two years at Arkansas.