| USA TODAY
By battling back from an 18-point deficit to beat Boston College, Clemson dodged the sort of random, seemingly avoidable loss that could’ve severely damaged the team’s resume for the College Football Playoff.
Not that one loss would’ve eliminated the Tigers, who have made five straight appearances in the playoff. Even had the Eagles pulled off the upset, Clemson could have secured a spot in the semifinals by running the table, which would have included at least one and possibly two wins against Notre Dame.
Losing to the Eagles simply would’ve forced Clemson to win out — which the Tigers may very well do anyway.
The takeaway from Saturday may not be that Clemson survived. Instead, the bigger story was the play of freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who completed 30-of-41 attempts for 342 yards and three touchdowns, one on the ground, as the replacement for Trevor Lawrence, who missed the game after this week’s positive test for COVID-19.
Viewed as the heir apparent to Lawrence since signing with Clemson this past winter, Uiagalelei easily secured his place as the Tigers’ future starter and may have even made a case for being included among the top Heisman Trophy contenders heading into the 2021 season.
Here are the rest of Saturday’s winners and losers:
No. 7 Cincinnati shrugged off a challenge from another AAC contender and beat Memphis 49-10, riding yet an outstanding performance from a defense that’s making a case for being considered the best in the country. This is a no-brainer: Cincinnati is the best team in the Group of Five. The Bearcats might even be good to reach the playoff.
The No. 21 Chanticleers keep making it look easy. With freshman quarterback Grayson McCall back under center, Coastal Carolina blanked Georgia State 51-0 to move to 6-0 overall and 4-0 in Sun Belt play. After missing last week’s 28-14 victory against Georgia Southern, McCall threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns, giving him 15 scores against just one interception on the season.
If losing to Michigan State is bad enough, Michigan’s embarrassment and frustration is doubled by the fact that MSU was coming off a loss to Rutgers. The Wolverines allowed 449 yards of total offense and never led in a 27-24 loss, dropping Jim Harbaugh to 3-3 in the series and a combined 3-8 against the Spartans and Ohio State. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Mel Tucker, became the first MSU coach to beat Michigan in his first try since Nick Saban did so in 1995.
Kansas State was held to a measly 41 yards rushing and committed three turnovers in a 37-10 loss to West Virginia, the Wildcats’ first loss in Big 12. Were the Wildcats caught looking ahead to next week’s key matchup against Oklahoma State? The loss will force the conference to focus all of its playoff-centered attention onto the Cowboys, who remain unbeaten and are the last hope for the Big 12 to crack the top four.
The Bulldogs did beat Kentucky 14-3, and winning is preferable to the alternative. But Georgia’s issues on offense and in the passing game in particular could force coach Kirby Smart’s hand heading into next weekend’s rivalry game against Florida. After struggling in the second half of the 41-24 loss to Alabama earlier in October, Stetson Bennett tossed a pair of interceptions to give him five on the season.