College Football Corner: Penn Statement

WASHINGTON — So, Penn State is back.

One year removed from coach James Franklin being on the rumored hot seat with a 2-2 start that involved a close loss to Pitt (for shame!) and a 39-point drubbing at Michigan (oh the humanity!), the Nittany Lions are as good as anyone not named Alabama. The defending Big Ten champs made a major statement Saturday night by routing the once-top 10 but suddenly sinking Wolverines 42-13.

Trace McSorley has developed into the senior leader that Christian Hackenberg with all of is untapped potential never could. Saquon Barkley provides just the right counterpunch on the ground. And the defense ranks 7th in FBS against the pass, 17th against the run and 10th overall while allowing the fewest points in the nation.

How far has this program come? Franklin was 16-14 at Happy Valley after the loss to the Wolverines last year. Penn State is 16-1 since that defeat. Last year many thought their Big Ten Championship merited their inclusion in the College Football Playoff.

If they can win road games at No. 6 Ohio State and No. 16 Michigan State over the next two weeks, it’ll take a major catastrophe to keep coach Franklin and company out of the Final Four this year.

Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) went into No. 5 Wisconsin and lost 38-13. The biggest surprise was that the Terps had the ball for more than 10 minutes in the first quarter and still went scoreless.

  • Terrapin Triumphs: The tailback tandem of Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison averaged more than five yards a carry after being held to 2.68 the week before. Darnell Savage (fumble recovery) and Josh Woods (interception) tallied first half take-aways to give the offense prime field position when the game was still close.
  • Terrapin Troubles: The offense converted just one of seven third down attempts in the first half, settling for a field goal after getting the ball at the Badgers 5 and failing to reach the Wisconsin 30 on any of their other possessions before intermission. The defense bent and then broke, allowing points on three of Wisconsin’s second half possessions.

Next: Saturday against 3-4 Indiana.

Virginia (5-2, 2-1 ACC) was stunned at home by a Boston College team much better than their record suggested, falling to the Eagles 41-10. The good news is they still control their Coastal Division destiny. The bad news is U.Va.’s November schedule involves four schools that are a combined 21-6.

  • Cavalier Congrats: Quin Blanding notched 13 tackles to once again lead the defense — it’s my firm opinion the senior safety can make 10 stops in his sleep. Lester Coleman averaged over 50 yards per punt for the third time this season.
  • Cavalier Concerns: The defense was burned by the big play, allowing a pair of 76-yard touchdowns in the first quarter. Boston College converted 5 of 6 third downs in the opening period while U.Va. was held to 34 yards on 12 plays the first three times they had the ball. The defense then allowed a pair of scoring drives to open the second half.

Next: Saturday at 3-5 Pitt.

No. 13 Virginia Tech (6-1, 2-1 ACC) qualified for bowl eligibility while eliminating North Carolina from postseason contention in a game that wasn’t as close as the 59-7 score would indicate.

  • Hokie Highlights: the defense held North Carolina to 3 of 17 on third down, sacking Tar Heel quarterbacks six times while intercepting them twice. Greg Stroman returned a punt for a first quarter TD. Josh Jackson threw three touchdown passes while not committing a turnover.
  • Hokie Humblings: I can’t even get upset at Joey Slye’s missed 47 yard field goal after this game. Seven penalties isn’t great either, but 52-point conference victories don’t come by too often.

Next: Saturday against 4-4 Duke.

Navy (5-2, 3-2 AAC) lost for the second straight Saturday to a team with just a little more firepower, this time slipping at home 31-21 to University of Central Florida. The best division race in college football nobody’s talking about? Unbeatens UCF and South Florida in the AAC East.

  • Midshipmen Medals: Zach Abey rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown and threw for a 75-yard score … and the offense converted 9 of 17 third downs. Sean Williams led the team with 11 tackles.
  • Midshipmen Miscues: the defense allowed 9.8 yards per pass and 5.9 yards per run while allowing the Knights to convert 8 of 13 third downs. Three more turnovers tormented the Mids again, as a fourth quarter fumble and interception helped seal their second straight defeat.

Next: Thursday, Nov. 2 at 3-5 Temple.

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