AP Top 25: Clemson, Ohio State slip; Penn State jumps to 6th

Dan Rainville
2 Comments

Clemson and Ohio State slipped to the back of the top 10 in The Associated Press college football poll on Sunday and Penn State jumped four spots to No. 6 after another weekend in which lots of ranked teams had issues.

Even No. 1 Alabama.

The defending national champion Crimson Tide remained an overwhelming No. 1 after holding on to beat Florida 31-29, Alabama’s closest margin of victory during its current 17-game winning streak. The Tide received 59 of 62 first-place votes.

No. 2 Georgia, which had no problem with South Carolina, received the other three first-place votes in the AP Top 25, which is presented by Regions Bank.

No. 3 Oregon moved up a spot and No. 4 Oklahoma slipped one after a close victory over Nebraska.

Iowa was No. 5 for a second straight week and Penn State has its best ranking since the Nittany Lions were fifth on Nov. 3, 2019. Penn State beat Auburn on Saturday night to give it two victories against ranked teams, along with Wisconsin.

No. 9 Clemson and No. 10 Ohio State both won Saturday, but neither looked typically dominant. The Tigers managed only 14 points against Georgia Tech and the Buckeyes struggled defensively before pulling away late against winless Tulsa.

Clemson was last ranked this low early in 2015, when the Tigers started the season in the low teens but ended up playing for the national championship.

For Ohio State, 11th has been its lowest rankings since the 2014 season, when a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech sent the Buckeyes tumbling as far as No. 23. They never lost again that season and won the national title.

The last time Clemson and Ohio State were both ranked below No. 8 was Nov. 2, 2014, when Ohio State was 13th and Clemson was 19th.

POLL POINTS

Six ranked teams lost Saturday, though none in the top 10, raising to 19 the total number of ranked teams to lose through the first three weeks of the season.

That’s the most through three weeks of a season in the history of the poll, according to ESPN’s stats and info.

The number is padded by 10 ranked teams losing to ranked teams. Also, only one top-10 team has lost to an unranked team: North Carolina was preseason No. 10 when it opened with a loss to Virginia Tech.

It’s been a volatile first few weeks of the 2021 season, though not quite as crazy and unpredictable as it might look at first glance.

A total of 35 teams have been ranked through three regular-season polls.

IN

– No. 20 Michigan State is off to an impressive start in Year 2 under coach Mel Tucker, 3-0 by an average margin of 23 points. The Spartans won 38-17 at Miami on Saturday and are ranked for the first time since Oct. 5, 2019.

– No. 22 Fresno State won maybe the weekend’s most thrilling game, upsetting UCLA with two late scoring drives led by quarterback Jake Haener. The Bulldogs are ranked for the first time since the final AP Top 25 of 2018.

No. 24 UCLA dropped 11 spots after its first loss of the season.

– No. 25 Kansas State is off to a 3-0 start after beating Nevada 38-17. The Wildcats were ranked briefly in 2020 and then stumbled to a 4-5 finish.

OUT

– Virginia Tech slipped out after losing at West Virginia.

– Arizona State is out for the first time this season after losing to BYU. The Cougars moved up eight spots to No. 15 after a second straight victory against a ranked Pac-12 team.

– Miami is out for the first time this season after falling to 1-2.

CONFERENCE CALL

SEC – 7 (Nos. 1, 2, 7, 11, 13, 16, 23).

Big Ten – 6 (Nos. 5, 6, 10, 18, 19, 20).

Big 12 – 3 (Nos. 4, 14, 25).

ACC – 2 (Nos. 9, 21).

Pac-12 – 2 (Nos. 3, 24).

American – 1 (No. 8).

Mountain West – 1 (No. 22).

Sun Belt – 1 (No. 17).

Independents – 2 (Nos. 12, 15).

RANKED vs. RANKED

No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin at Soldier Field in Chicago. Toughest test yet for an Irish team that is unbeaten but far from perfect.

No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 16 Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Last time this was a ranked matchup was 2016.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.