2023 College Football: Week 7 Takeaways

We’re in the midst of 50 consecutive days with either a college or pro football game to watch. This is a golden time of year for any football fan, and we’re here to cover it all! Several ranked teams fell this week in surprises, while the top few teams continued to roll. One QB took a strong lead in the Heisman race, while another is seeing his goals slip out of reach. Best of all, we saw multiple games come down to the wire, providing compelling action throughout the week. Let’s jump right in to my week 7 takeaways!

(7) Washington Outlasts (8) Oregon in Thriller for 2nd Straight Year

This was our obvious game of the week, and not just because of the teams’ rankings. Washington and Oregon combine for over 97 points a game, so you knew we were getting a shootout. The two teams traded punts to start the game, and then the fireworks began. Five consecutive touchdowns (with each team adding a two-point conversion to one of theirs) gave the Huskies a 22-15 lead. Oregon cut that to 22-18 with an FG, and then we had our first mistake.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr threw an INT on a miscommunication with his receiver (the WR slipped and broke the wrong way) before the half. That could’ve been costly, but the Ducks failed on 4th and goal as the second quarter expired. The offenses toned down a bit in the second half, but both QBs played well. Penix (22/37, 302 yards, 4 TDs) stuffed the stat sheet, while Oregon’s Bo Nix (33/44, 337 yards, 2 TDs) had a strong game himself. The defenses made a few plays here and there, but they were mostly irrelevant. These high-powered offenses weren’t going to be regularly stopped.

Washington found themselves up 29-18 but went 3 and out twice while Oregon scored TDs. Suddenly, the Ducks led 33-29. The Huskies drove down the field again, but after reaching 2nd and goal at the 1, 3 straight runs totaled -1 yard. Starting at their own 2, the Ducks held the ball for over 5 minutes and reached midfield. Facing a 4th and 3, HC Dan Lanning made the call to go for it. This was a critical error. The pass fell incomplete, and Penix struck in just 2 plays. He hit his two favorite targets, Ja’Lynn Polk (6/118/1) and Rome Odunze (8/128/2), in succession, finding the latter for a go-ahead 18-yard TD.

Down 36-33, Oregon still had 1:38 to go. Washington played with 6 DBs, so Nix had to take underneath completions. The Ducks reached to the 25 with 4 seconds left, but K Camden Lewis missed the 43-yard FG that would’ve tied the game. Washington snuck away from Oregon with a win for the second year in a row. They’re now the last unbeaten team in the Pac-12 and remain the league’s best playoff hope. Oregon isn’t done though given their strong effort. However, he Ducks must run the table to have a chance at either the CFP. Penix also separated himself from Nix in the Heisman race. Read on to see why he also took the lead over another contender.

Fantastic Finishes Blanket Week 7

We at Takeaways (and most likely you as well) LOVE when games come down to the wire. A blowout, though satisfying for the fans of one of the teams, is not as exciting as a game whose outcome is unknown in the final minutes. Given the high amount of college games that are played, a few such endings are expected each week. This week though, we had a surplus, and I don’t just mean the Washington-Oregon game described above. Also, not all of the fun waited until Saturday. On Tuesday, Coastal Carolina faced a late game-tying charge by Appalachian State, only to kick a walk-off FG in a 27-24 win.

The next day, Houston trailed West Virginia 24-17 through 3 quarters, but then the teams unleashed a scoring barrage, combining for 42 points in the 4th frame. After Houston went ahead, WVU came from 11 down to take a 39-35 lead with just 12 seconds. The Mountaineers looked to have locked up a win, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ensuing kickoff back and gave Houston the ball at the 43. Two plays later, QB Donovan Smith heaved a 49-yard Hail Mary, which was deflected before landing in the hands of WR Stephon Johnson for a wild 41-39 victory.

Friday, Stanford and Colorado went to 2OT, but we’ll leave that discussion for another takeaway below. We got several more nail-biters on Saturday. Maryland tied their game against Illinois, but the Illini marched down the field and kicked an FG, walking off with a 27-24 win that mirrored the Tuesday game. Kansas and OK State traded leads until the Cowboys took control late. OSU withstood 5 Jason Bean TD passes to win 39-32. Florida tussled with South Carolina but went down 10 in the 4th quarter. The Gators led 2 straight TD drives and picked off Spencer Rattler to steal an unlikely 41-39 win. However, the best was yet to come.

Late at night, Colorado State trailed Boise State, who they had never beaten, 30-10 with 7 minutes left. The Rams scored a quick TD, but only 4 minutes remained. CSU K Jonah Dalmas then made his onside kick hop, and the Rams recovered. They scored to cut the deficit to 30-24 with 1:52 on the clock and went for another onside kick. CSU got it AGAIN, but they were penalized for blocking before the kick traveled 10 yards (stupid rule). Using their 2 timeouts, CSU forced a 3 and out and got one more shot. With 6 seconds left, a Hail Mary was deflected and caught by Dallin Kolker. The subsequent PAT won the game 31-30.

These are the games we watch for. In the early window on Saturday, only 2 games finished with one-score margins. At times, no game was within 10 points. That only heightened the contrast with the close contests above that gripped our attention. Despite the introduction of NIL and the recruiting advantage held by the top schools, the NCAA has surprising parity. There are more good players than roster spots on the elite colleges, so we see great football all across the country. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Michigan State Completely Collapsing Without Mel Tucker

We haven’t talked about the allegations that led to the firing of Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker. That story has a lot of conflicting information, and we should probably wait to hear the facts before we judge anyone involved. What we CAN do though is talk about what effect Tucker’s distraction and subsequent absence has had on the football field. MSU began the season 2-0, though one win came against Richmond of the FCS. The day after that victory, Tucker was suspended. The Spartans haven’t won since. With a cloud hanging over the program, MSU has lost each of their last 4 games.

This week’s loss to Rutgers came in excruciating fashion. For a while, it seemed like it would be MSU’s day. They replaced starting QB Noah Kim with Katin Houser, and that immediately paid dividends. Houser was extremely cautious with the football (18 completions for just 133 yards), but he threw for 2 TDs without turning the ball over. His counterpart, Gavin Wimsatt, threw 2 picks. That all led to a 24-6 lead through 3 quarters, i.e., a 3-score game. Then, the Spartans imploded. First, the Scarlet Knights scored a TD on a fumble return. After an MSU punt, Rutgers scored another TD on offense.

The 3rd TD was a disaster. On the subsequent kickoff, Michigan State let the ball bounce, and Rutgers ran in and grabbed it at the 21. One play later, RB Kyle Monangai ran for a score and a 27-24 lead. MSU would go 3 and out on the next drive and then never see the ball again. The lack of discipline is what tells me that this team is missing its coach. Even a fantastic three quarters didn’t stop the bleeding of recent weeks. This game had some positives, but the result was another L just the same. With #2 Michigan on tap next week, I don’t think the losing is going to stop just yet.

Elic Ayomanor Powers Stanford to Comeback Win Over Colorado

As I alluded to earlier, Stanford and Colorado had quite the battle. If you only stayed and watched the first half, that statement is probably shocking to you. After all, Colorado DOMINATED the first half. The Buffaloes looked far superior to the Cardinal, taking a 29-0 lead and doing nothing wrong. It helped that CU got CB/WR Travis Hunter back from a lacerated liver. He struggled at times in coverage, but he was a weapon on offense, catching 13 passes for 140 yards and 2 TDs (all of those stats led the team). QB Shedeur Sanders (33/47, 400 yards, 5 TDs, INT) was spectacular, while Stanford couldn’t even decide on a QB.

What could have gone wrong? For starters, the Cardinal finally picked a passer, letting Ashton Daniels complete the game despite his bad first half. Daniels would end up throwing for 396 yards and 4 TDs without turning the ball over. I can’t give him the bulk of the credit though; that belongs to WR Elic Ayomanor. Nobody could cover this man. It’s almost as if he wanted to will his team to a win and would not be denied. He caught 13 passes for 294 yards and 3 TDs. The Cardinal knew he couldn’t be stopped when they had Ayomanor run at least 5 slants in a row. He got open on every one of them.

Colorado surrendered 36 points in the final two quarters, allowing Stanford to tie the game as time expired. Curiously, Colorado chose to go on offense first in OT after winning the toss. That didn’t matter immediately, as the Buffaloes scored a TD with ease. Stanford answered in one play (a throw to Ayomanor of course), but then Sanders threw his one INT in 2OT. The Cardinal simply ran 3 QB sneaks before kicking a 31-yard FG to seal a 46-43 comeback.

This is the most embarrassing loss of Coach Prime‘s tenure. I did not forget the 42-6 trouncing by Oregon. This one simply had the team lose its composure and run out of answers. The Buffaloes still aren’t big enough on either line of scrimmage, and if Hunter isn’t at his best, the secondary can be exploited as well. This result was a reminder that while Colorado has come really far since last year, there’s still a lot of room left to grow, especially on defense.

(10) USC, (14) Louisville Melt Down in Their First Losses

Two top-15 teams played lower-ranked opponents (unranked in Louisville’s case) and went down. Neither felt like a fluky win; both lost decisively. In USC’s case, we saw the worst offensive performance from this team in the Caleb Williams/Lincoln Riley era. Williams went 23/37 for just 199 yards. He threw 1 garbage-time TD but flung an uncharacteristic 3 INTs. All of the picks came in a dominant first half for (21) Notre Dame. The Trojans couldn’t run the ball well either, two players lost fumbles, and the defense was its typical porous self (48 points allowed).

We can say with confidence that USC is always going to be in big trouble if the offense isn’t excellent. This is now 3 straight weeks of the defense allowing 41 or more points. That’s not sustainable, and the AP has taken notice. USC has fallen in the rankings for 3 straight weeks despite winning all of their games. We also know that the CFP committee has no respect from them, which we learned last season. A lopsided loss like this probably ends the Trojans’ playoff hopes. The offensive dud likely ruins Williams’ repeat Heisman bid as well. On the plus side, one clunker shouldn’t stop NFL teams from wanting him #1 overall.

Louisville’s fall to Pittsburgh was perhaps more plausible, but it was surprising nonetheless. Mostly, I was shocked at how discombobulated the Cardinals looked. QB Jack Plummer threw 2 INTs and lost a fumble, though one of the picks wasn’t his fault (it bounced off a receiver’s hands). The yardage was there for Louisville, but the turnovers came at awful times. K Brock Travelstead also missed his only FG attempt. At that point in the game, a converted kick would’ve made it a one-score contest. You simply can’t win games against quality opponents when making so many mistakes.

Credit should be given to the Panthers’ defense. They forced Louisville into many of the mistakes, none bigger than a pick-six thrown to DB MJ Devonshire. That was the play that really broke the game open and allowed Pitt to win by 3 scores (38-21). Ironically, Louisville’s worst game comes the week after I talked them up. That said, they really did show us quite a bit in their first 6 games, so we can forgive them if there’s a hiccup now and again. HC Jeff Brohm‘s rebuilding project is still ahead of schedule, and the Cardinals have plenty of season left.

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