It was a good day of college football... but an even more amazing night. The late game you expected to be watching turned into a blowout, and the one you did not expect became one of the craziest games and upsets of the year.
Here’s who won and who lost Week 7 of college football.
Winner: Will Muschamp’s family, agent, and supporters
He’s alive once again.
It might be that the (soon to be formerly) #15 Auburn Tigers simply aren’t as good as projected, but the South Carolina Gamecocks took care of business in a 30-22 win in Columbia. And Muschamp got the vultures circling his head coaching chair away for at least another week.
Quarterback Collin Hill was an unspectacular 15/24 for 144 yards, one TD and one INT for USCe. The home team averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, but also forced Auburn’s Bo Nix into three interceptions that made the difference.
The guillotine hanging over Muschamp daily is an SEC tradition as much as tailgating and accusing opposing schools of paying players on message boards, but the problem with this particular parole is that it’s not sustainable. The fundamental problems with the Gamecocks offense are still very much there, and they are the same problems that have plagued Muschamp during his stint at Florida.
Muschamp continues to either not empower or allow his teams to move the ball in the way everyone else in college football is. You can have offensive linemen block three yards downfield in college legally. The best athletes you recruit want to play offense. Either embrace the scoreboard at any school where there’s pressure, or feel the blade on your neck eventually.
For now, he gets a reprieve. But fail to beat Ole Miss, Mizzou, or Kentucky later this season, and you’ll be able to look up and see the wings flapping and waiting to dive at his impending carcass yet again.
Loser: The Church of the Air Raid
When Mike Leach was hired by the Mississippi State Bulldogs, it was finally the test Air Raid offense gurus had been asking to see for about three decades. Could the system of overt simplicity be as effective in the toughest league in college football, one with athletes on defense that don’t tend to matriculate in other leagues?
The answer looked like yes after the SEC’s opening week, with a 44-34 win over the defending national champions in LSU. K.J. Costello was the toast of college football after his five touchdown performance, and it looked like we’d be seeing the staple plays such as “Mesh” and “Y-cross” torture well-paid defensive coordinators for years.
Since then, MSU has scored a total of 30 points in three games, and Costello has one touchdown and eight interceptions. They scored two points total against Kentucky, and if you’re familiar with the rules of football, that means the offense scored zero.
Leach needs an opportunity to get his personnel in via recruiting, but it appears safe to say that any hopes of an instant jolt by his presence are by the wayside. The Air Raid is not a quick fix, but the jury is still out on if it can be a solution at all.
Winner: Liberty’s bid for the College Football Playoff
OK, we kid a bit here. But the Flames knocked off an ACC team for the first time in school history with a 38-21 win over the Syracuse Orange in the Don’t Call It The Carrier Dome. LU is 5-0 and after two one-possession wins over Western Kentucky and FIU to open the season, they’ve won by three scores or more over North Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe, and now the Orange.
Full disclosure: Syracuse is one of the worst teams in college football, but it shows the progress Liberty has made. Former university president Jerry Falwell Jr. gave Hugh Freeze basically unlimited resources to make the school a power in football and a billboard for the Thomas Road Baptist Church. Falwell Jr. is now gone due to various scandals, but the team has everything you’d need to compete at the G5 level... except a conference that would welcome them.
The Flames get two more shots at the ACC in 2020, with #23 Virginia Tech and North Carolina State still to come in 2020. An invite from the league won’t be coming even if they finish 3-0, but with the toxic Falwell Jr. gone it’s possible some smaller leagues might consider an invitation to an institution with a massive student base (15,000 on campus, 110,000 counting distance learning) and money to burn.
They’d need to change some policies that are discriminatory and beef up the academic credentials, but there’s no doubt LU is a cash cow. And cash will be king in a post-Corona college sports landscape. If the school wants to “mainstream” itself, and you don’t oust your founder if you don’t, there might be a match in their future.
Loser: The Mack Brown Reclamation Project
It was on their racket, and they blew it. And then they got it back anyway... and then they blew it again.
With UNC already down 17-0, fringe Heisman Trophy candidate Sam Howell threw this flat route completely unaware of what was to come.
PICK SIX ALERT— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) October 18, 2020
DE Joshua Kaindoh intercepte QB Sam Howell pour le TD défensif de Florida State !
On vous l'a dit dans le dernier podcast : Sam Howell a snobé FSU lors de son recrutement. #Revengepic.twitter.com/dh5eOrRCAW
It put the Heels down three scores on the road with zero momentum to an FSU team that had seemed lifeless all season.
FSU led 31-7 at halftime... and wouldn’t score again. And if you’re familiar with the work of Mike Norvell during his time at Memphis, this shouldn’t surprise you. UNC outgained FSU 317-152 in the second half, FSU was the only team to punt (three times), and the Noles Jordan Travis threw an interception as the second half’s only turnover. It was another Norvell Meltdown, but this time possibly the most epic one.
UNC got the ball back with 2:30 remaining on their own 22-yard-line trailing 31-28 after an inspired second half. And sometimes box scores lie, because this is how the play-by-play looked after the last first down looked:
But what that doesn’t show is that these were three perfect passes right in the hands of the receivers from Howell, and all of them were dropped. The Tar Heels had dropped passes problems all night, and it came back to bite them in the most dramatic way possible.
It’s not over for UNC, who will drop from their #5 ranking today but certainly not out of the polls. But the dream season was right there, and it literally fell from their hands.