Wisconsin was not alone this week as they were just one of several teams upset on the road in Week 8. Photo courtesy of Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports.
This past Saturday was one of those days in college football where highly favored Top 25 teams went on the road and got beat or nearly beaten. Every year, there always seems to be that one weekend where not one, but multiple teams end the day scratching their heads and wondering where it all went wrong. October 19th, 2019 was that day for a few schools around the FBS, none more seismic than Wisconsin’s loss at Illinois.
The Badgers went into Champaign as a 30 point favorite and featured one of the best, if not the best, defense in the country. The Wisconsin defense had only given up 29 points all season, an incredible 4.8 ppg average. On the other side, you had an Illinois team that had lost four straight and gave up an average of 39.5 points during that stretch. This had all the makings coming in to be another rout for the Badgers.
Wisconsin held a nine point lead mid way through the fourth quarter in a game that was already much closer than people were predicting. Jonathan Taylor, statistically, had a decent performance, but by his standards, it was not nearly up to par. Illinois had done a good job not allowing Wisconsin to have the big explosive play. Illinois scored with just under six minutes left in the game to cut the Wisconsin lead to two points. All the Badgers needed to do was try to run the ball and kill some time on the clock and get out of Champaign with a win. But with two and half minutes left, QB Jack Coan tried to throw a deep ball, but was intercepted and set the Fighting Illini up in plus territory. For Illinois, all they needed to go was gain a few yards and get into field goal range. That’s exactly what they were able to do as James McCourt, with ice running through his veins, kicked a 39 yard field goal as time expired to stun the #6 team in the nation.
Maybe Wisconsin was looking ahead to next week’s big game against Ohio State. Maybe they just didn’t respect Illinois. We can make all sorts of excuses as to why the Badgers lost this game, but the simple fact is that Illinois showed up and Wisconsin didn’t. Wisconsin can save itself next week if they were to knock off Ohio State, but this one still stings. For Illinois, this is a huge win for this program and a huge win for Lovie Smith, who in my opinion, is very underrated as a head coach. This is definitely a big step forward for the Illini, who now have second life at trying to reach a bowl game.
Luckily for Wisconsin, they weren’t the only ranked team to go on the road against an unranked opponent and lose. Then #22 Missouri traveled to Nashville to take on a Vanderbilt team that just got stomped on by UNLV at home. The Commodores only victory coming into this game was a six point win over Northern Illinois. Missouri, on the other hand, had been rolling since their season opening loss at Wyoming. The Tigers had won five straight and been winning big. Vandy’s defense came out firing and completely shut down Mizzou’s run game outside of Kelly Bryant, but even he couldn’t get much going. Vandy just barely broke over 300 yards of total offense and only had three touchdowns in the game, but that was just enough as they were able to knock off Missouri 21-14.
Out in Provo, Utah, it was BYU that shocked the Group of 5 world when they took down Boise State in a close 28-25 win. Even though it was only a three point win, the game never really even felt that close as BYU had built a 28-10 lead going into the fourth quarter. Boise fans will make the excuse that the only reason they lost this game was because star QB Hank Bachmeier was out for the game, but a lot of credit really does go to BYU for forcing a pair of turnovers on defense and capitalizing on those by scoring points on offense. The Cougars came ready to play and Boise didn’t. Much like Illinois, this was a season saving win for the Cougars, who now have a much easier path to six wins and making a bowl game.
Although those three teams will be remembered after this week for getting upset, there were a couple of other Top 25 teams that nearly blew it in Week 8.
Alabama found themselves in a dog fight with Tennessee and, had it not been for a forced fumble at the goal line that resulted in a 100 yard scoop and score, might have very well been upset by the Vols. This really was a crazy game in which both team lost their starting quarterbacks in the first half and in which Tennessee actually played pretty well defensively and gave themselves a shot. But the huge mistake by Jarrett Garantano at the one yard line squandered what little hope the Vols had. Alabama managed to survive and make it 13 straight wins against their rival.
#9 Florida found themselves trailing to South Carolina in the fourth quarter in a literal swamp at a rain soaked Williams-Brice. However, Kyle Trask and the Gators managed to take the lead with just over nine minutes left, then stretch the lead after forcing a South Carolina fumble and stopping the Gamecocks on fourth down. The fourth quarter got out of hand for South Carolina in a game that was a whole lot closer than the final score would suggest.
In a sloppy, rain soaked game in Athens, GA, the Bulldogs found a way to beat Kentucky after neither team scored a point in the first half. Neither team could do much through the air as the two teams combined for a total of 52 yards passing. Kentucky didn’t complete a pass until late in the fourth quarter! Any offense in this game had to be completed on the ground and Georgia was able to do just a little more.
And then there was Texas. The Longhorns were coming off a tough loss a week ago to rival Oklahoma and might not have been up to playing little ole Kansas. The Jayhawks nearly made them pay. In a game that was tied 24-24 at the end of the third quarter, you didn’t really expect to see the fireworks that would ensue in the fourth. The final frame saw both teams combine for 50 points. It was Kansas, though, that led by a single point with just over a minute remaining in the game, the Jayhawks first lead in the game. Sam Ehlinger would then lead the Longhorns down the field in 70 seconds to set up a game winning field goal by Cameron Dicker “The Kicker”.
It was an interesting weekend of football in the FBS to say the least. Week 8 had a little bit of everything. Close wins, dramatic finishes, upsets and blow-outs. Oregon and Penn State both won hard fought, close games to ranked conference foes. Oregon found a way on the road in Seattle to beat Washington, who sort of dominated most of the game until late. Even still, the Huskies had a chance to possibly win, had they converted on a critical yet controversial fourth down late in the game. And Penn State nearly squandered a big lead to Michigan at home winning 28-21. In fact, Michigan nearly tied the game in the fourth quarter, but the pass from Shea Patterson slipped right through wide receiver Ronnie Bell’s arms in the endzone and fell to the turf. A turnover on downs for the Wolverines and big win for Penn State.
The shock and awe wasn’t contained specifically to the FBS. In the FCS, more specifically, here in the Southern Conference, there were a couple of surprising results on Saturday.
Mercer, coming off a bye week and four straight losses, was able to thwart a late comeback by VMI. The Bears had been reeling after those four tough losses in which their defense virtually disappeared. The surprising thing Saturday is that Mercer’s defense was able to hold VMI to just 27 points, the lowest total of points scored by the Keydets in conference play this season. And 21 of those 27 points came in the fourth quarter. A much needed win for Mercer and head coach Bobby Lamb. This win gives the Bears a little confidence going into next week’s game at The Citadel.
Speaking of The Citadel, the Bulldogs were able to do something no FCS team has been able to do in a while and that was beat Furman. The Paladins had been running roughshod over their conference opposition coming into the game on Saturday, winning those three games by a total of 120-34. The Citadel had a couple of tough losses to Samford and VMI, but were able to right the ship against Western Carolina the week before. Furman came in as the #8 ranked team in the FCS, but it was The Citadel that looked like the better team, as they ran all over Furman’s defense, especially late in the second half. The two schools went to halftime 7-3 in a quagmire here in Greenville. Furman had managed to force three turnovers in the first half, but the offense could never manage to move the ball against The Citadel. The second half came and it appeared that The Citadel had all the juice as they outscored Furman 20-7 in the final two frames. A big win for the Bulldogs who, with a little help from some teams above them in the standings, still have a shot a possibly a tie for the conference championship. While the loss for Furman hurts, it doesn’t kill them. They still control their own destiny, for if they win out, they win the SoCon and get to the playoffs. They’re still well alive, but the margin for error is a lot slimmer.
The surprising results weren’t limited to just college football. Yesterday in the NFL was quite an interesting day as well. Who would have thought that the Miami Dolphins would lead Buffalo going into the fourth quarter? Well that’s exactly what happened on Sunday, however the Dolphins found a way to tank the game, much like their season. Buffalo, thanks to 22 points in the fourth, pulled away to a 31-21 victory.
Jacoby Brissett threw for 326 yards and 4 touchdows against Houston. The Indianapolis Colts continue to be, in my mind, the biggest surprise here in 2019. If anyone thought that through Week 7 the Indianapolis Colts, without Andrew Luck, would be in the lead of the AFC South, they would have been considered crazy. The Colts continue to roll with big wins over Houston and Kansas City so far this year.
Same thing can be said for the New Orleans Saints right now. Drew Brees goes out with a bad hand injury and the Saints continue to roll without him thanks to Teddy Bridgewater. That to me is incredible. The Saints are 5-0 with Bridgewater as the starter. If they are this tough to beat without Brees, I can’t imagine how good they will be once Brees comes back. I mean they just put up 36 points and 424 yards of offense on a very tough, very stingy Bears defense.
The biggest surprise was Dallas absolutely blowing the doors off of Philadelphia last night. I mean I know Dallas is good, especially when they are clicking offensively, but I didn’t think they would do that to the Eagles. Of course Philly didn’t help themselves much turning the ball over on their first two possessions of the game in their own territory and turning it over four times in total. The Cowboys defense stifled any attempt by Philadelphia to try and move the ball, let alone score. Philly needs to try and figure something out before heading to Buffalo next week, where they could legitimately lose their third straight game.
Head over to The Spread Podcast page and check out the Sunday recap show from yesterday. You can also listen to it directly from Soundcloud.com. Check us out on Facebook and Twitter and comment below with your biggest surprises or takeaways from this week of football.