Column: Last year’s upset now part of Virginia’s Final Four redemption story

Last year, Virginia was the victim of the greatest upset in NCAA Tournament history when they became the first-ever No. 1 seed to lose a first-round game to a No. 16 seed, UMBC.

What a difference a year makes.

Saturday, 379 days after losing to UMBC, Virginia defeated Purdue 80-75 in an overtime epic to win the tournament’s South Regional and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1984.

While the memory of the UMBC defeat will still be an unpleasant one for coach Tony Bennett, his Cavaliers and their fans, Saturday’s victory changes the narrative of that loss. In a bubble, the loss was the worst thing that could have happened to a college basketball team. But in the bigger picture, the loss becomes the beginning of one of the great redemption stories ever seen in sports.

This is not to suggest that Virginia’s loss last year was a “good thing” — to do so would disrespect both the accomplishment of UMBC and the Virginia seniors from last year who experienced that heartbreak and haven’t experienced this year’s Final Four run.

Virginia players celebrate after advancing to the Final Four on Saturday. (Photo: Virginia Athletics)

But now, a year and a program-record 33 wins later, coach Tony Bennett and his team can begin the story of this year’s success with that loss and recall how they overcame the humiliation and noise that came from it, only to come back better and reach the Final Four the following March.

A year after going to his knees in despair as time expired against UMBC, senior Kyle Guy finished the win over the Boilermakers on his knees as well — but this time he was overcome with jubilation.

“I was definitely flashing back to when I was on my knees last year, and I did it again,” Guy said. “And that was just, you know, just overflowing with joy. So happy for my teammates and my coaches and for myself to be able to break through in the way that we did this year. Not only did we silence (Bennett’s) critics, we silenced our own and we’re so grateful for our fans that traveled and have always believed in us.”

Bennett’s Virginia team reaching the Final Four — on the 10th anniversary of his hiring, no less — also helps change the overall narrative around the program. Even before last year’s upset loss, many saw the Cavaliers as a team that played great in the regular season but couldn’t win in the NCAA Tournament.

“There were a lot of people that didn’t think we would make it this far in the tournament,” sophomore Jay Huff said. “After last year, a lot of people were thinking similar would happen, there would be an early exit in the tournament. Obviously, we don’t go out just to prove people wrong, but it is fun knowing they’ll have to eat their words a little bit.”

That perception wasn’t completely unfounded. Since Virginia’s run of success began in the 2013-14 season, the team lost in the Sweet 16 in 2014 and the second round in 2015 after a pair of first-place finishes in the ACC. In 2016 the Cavaliers blew a double-digit lead in the final minutes of their Elite Eight game against No. 10-seed Syracuse, before a 2017 second-round loss to Florida.

Every loss except the one to Florida came as the higher seed (either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in each case), and against the Gators the Cavaliers could only muster 39 points.

“You think of all the guys that came before us and just the teams that were so close and showed you just how difficult it is to get to the Final Four,” Jerome said after Saturday’s game. “And how many times Coach Bennett has been a 1-seed or a 2-seed and has had so much regular season success. To be the team that gets him to the Final Four, I think that’s what means the most.”

Then came UMBC. Virginia — a program known more than anything else for a staunch defense — allowed 53 second-half points in a 20-point loss to the Retreivers. They weren’t just the first No. 1-seed to lose to a No. 16; they were routed. The narrative about postseason struggles intensified exponentially.

After that loss Bennett told his team they had to own it. He said they had no choice but for that loss to be a part of their legacy — it was going to be in the record books no matter how much the team disliked it — and that the best way to respond would be to come back and add a successful 2018-19 campaign to that legacy.

And did they ever add to that legacy. This group of Cavaliers — the upperclassman leaders Guy and Ty Jerome, the star forward De’Andre Hunter, the sixth-man-turned-postseason-starter Mamadi Diakite, the big New Zealander Jack Salt, the small but quick Kihei Clark and a solid-though-seldom-used group of reserves — will now become the Virginia players in 35 years to play in the Final Four, and could become the first Cavaliers to win a national championship.

“The quote we use is ‘If you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.’” Bennett said. “I didn’t know if that meant we’d get to a Final Four … I just knew that would deepen us in ways on the court, off the court and what we believe and mark us for the right stuff. And that, I think, is what took place.”

After failing to execute in their previous tournament failures, the Cavaliers made the big plays on Saturday night. Guy made five second-half threes en route to a 25-point night, Hunter hit the layup with 28 seconds left in overtime that gave the Cavaliers the lead for good and Clark hit the free throws in the final seconds to ice it.

And then there was the biggest play in the game, in the tournament and in Virginia basketball history: Trailing by two in the final seconds, Diakite tipped the rebound of a missed Jerome free throw out past half court, Clark ran it down and frantically passed the ball back to Diakite, who threw up a 15-foot prayer — one which was nothing but net and sent the game to overtime, where Virginia eventually won.

These clutch plays helped to ultimately change the outcome of the game and perhaps the tournament. They helped change the perception of an entire program.

And they helped change this group of Cavaliers’ tournament legacy, from that of the event’s most notable losers to that of Final Four-bound redeemed regional champions.

Column: 16-seeds more confident after one of their peers pulled it off

Think back to when you were growing up and faced the daunting task of doing something new, scary and daring.

If you’re like me, you may have been more likely to feel comfortable enough to go for it if you saw one of your peers finish the task first — whether it was riding a bicycle without training wheels, diving into the deep end of the pool or riding on the zip line at summer camp.

For 16th-seeded Gardner-Webb, North Dakota State and Iona as they entered the 2019 NCAA Tournament, last year’s UMBC team may very well have been that peer.

Fifty-two weeks ago the Retrievers shocked the world by becoming the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the tournament’s first round when they beat Virginia 74-54, a feat previously thought by some to be impossible.

While none of this year’s 16-seeds were able to repeat the feat, Gardner-Webb, North Dakota State and Iona each played their top-seeded opponent extremely well for the first half of their games against Virginia, Duke and North Carolina and avoided being thought of as just an also-ran when fans and pundits recapped the first round outcomes. (Sorry, Fairleigh Dickinson, this column isn’t about you.)

Sure, the Cavaliers, Blue Devils and Tar Heels posted dominant second halves to win and advance (Virginia beat Gardner-Webb 73-58; Duke topped North Dakota State 85-62; North Carolina defeated Iona 88-73). It should be expected that this would happen in these games considering the talent gap between these No. 1 seeds — by definition the best teams in the country — and their 16th-seeded counterparts. The ability of great coaches to make halftime adjustments — and UVA’s Tony Bennett, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and UNC’s Roy Williams all fit that description — is also a factor in the games turning back towards the favorites, even after two of these three No. 1 seeds trailed at halftime and the other was up by just four points.

But as Gardner-Webb, North Dakota State and Iona each played on Friday there was a sense that the teams had a new sense of confidence never seen before in 16-seeds, knowing now that beating a No. 1 seed was not just something that hypothetically could happen, but something that has happened.

(Photo: Gardner-Webb Athletics)

It started in mid-afternoon as Gardner-Webb held a 28-14 lead on Virginia — the very team that lost to UMBC last year in the tournament’s ultimate upset — before the Runnin’ Bulldogs led 36-30 at halftime. Surely thoughts of last year’s game and all the noise surrounding it since had to creep into the heads of the Cavaliers, though Bennett’s club responded with their typical stanch defense, holding Gardner-Webb to 20 second-half points.

North Dakota State led 12-5 early and was tied with Duke as late as the 2:13 mark of the first half before trailing 31-27 at the break. Duke — the No. 1 overall seed and the tournament’s largest betting favorite in four years — used a 33-10 run to start the second half and put the game out of the Bison’s reach, scoring 54 second-half points en route to the second round.

Iona hit 10 threes in the first half to take a 38-33 halftime lead over North Carolina. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Gaels 52-26 for the game and Iona made just five of 20 threes in the second half, instigating a 30-9 UNC run that allowed them to cruise to the win.

While each of these three No. 16 seeds lost in the end, they all have nothing to hang their heads about and can be proud of the way they competed. Each of them took their best shot at an excellent opponent and provided them with a stiff first-round test — something that has often not been the case in past 1-vs-16 matchups, as the average margin of victory by 1-seeds over 16-seeds since 2015 is 26.8 points, with nearly half those games decided by 30-plus points.

While any reasonable pundit won’t expect 16-seed-over-1-seed upsets to become a normal occurrence, this year’s crop of three compelling games and three legitimate upset attempts could be a sign that the days of pushover 16-seeds may be history.

Because while facing a No. 1 seed is a daunting and scary task, they’ve now seen one of their peers finish the job.

College Football Power Rankings for Week 10

The college football season typically begins reaching its peak as the calendar turns to November. Sure enough, this past weekend–on the first Saturday of November–several big games wrecked the Playoff hopes of some big-name teams, while others solidified their status, or at least survived to stay in contention another week.

This week should be even more consequential, as eight of the top 10 face a ranked opponent, with four of those on the road, and six of the top 10 facing each other.

With three weeks left in the regular season, here are how the teams stack up in this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Alabama (9-0, Last Week: 1st, CFP Ranking: 2nd)
Although the Crimson Tide are second in the Playoff rankings, they remain first in both polls. Their 24-10 win over LSU was convincing on the scoreboard, although the Tide and the Tigers were quite even statistically. This week the Tide meet arguably their biggest test yet when they travel to #16 Mississippi State.

2. Georgia (9-0, LW: 2nd, CFP: 1st)
Georgia dispatched South Carolina, 24-10, behind one of quarterback Jacob Fromm’s best performances of the season (16-22, 196 yards, two touchdowns), as the Bulldogs held the Gamecocks to 43 rushing yards. Georgia will play in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 2–they clinched the SEC East on Saturday–but the biggest threat ahead of that game to their Playoff status is this weekend when they head to the plains to face #10 Auburn.

3. Notre Dame (8-1, LW: 4th, CFP: 3rd)
The Irish beat Wake Forest 48-37, although they led 48-23 early in the fourth before a pair of late Demon Deacon touchdowns. The Irish totaled 710 yards offensively, but those defensive lapses are something the Irish need to fix; if they allow 587 yards again this week, the odds of leaving with a win over #7 Miami would be slim.

4. Clemson (8-1, LW: 5th, CFP: 4th)
NC State is a tough place to play, but the Tigers were able to survive their trip to Raleigh with a 38-31 win. Although the Wolfpack outgained the Tigers 491-415, the Tigers used 224 rushing yards–including 88 from quarterback Kelly Bryant–and two Wolfpack turnovers to seal the win. The Tigers host Florida State this week in a game that, given Florida State’s 3-5 record, is much more pedestrian than it would have appeared before the season.

5. Oklahoma (8-1, LW: 6th, CFP: 5th)
The Sooners’ “Bedlam” game with rival Oklahoma State was just that: a 62-52 shootout with 1,446 combined yards of offense and 62 first downs. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 598 yards and five touchdowns, throwing himself right into the middle of the Heisman discussion. Saturday the Sooners will host #6 TCU; it’s a potential preview of the Big 12 title game, although the winner will greatly enhance their chances of getting there.

6. Miami (8-0, LW: 9th, CFP: 7th)
The biggest knock on Miami has been their schedule, but that is changing. The Hurricanes beat Virginia Tech on Saturday, 28-10, on the strength of 210 rushing yards and four Hokies turnovers, and will now host #3 Notre Dame on Saturday
#3 Notre Dame

7. Wisconsin (9-0, LW: 8th, CFP: 8th)
Wisconsin, who beat Indiana 45-17 on Saturday, is another team who has been hurt some by their schedule. However, they do now at least have one win over a ranked team, as Northwestern, who they beat Sept. 30, is now a top 25 team, and they will have a chance at another this weekend due to the emergence of #20 Iowa.

8. TCU (8-1, LW: 10th, CFP: 6th)
The Horned Frogs responded to their Oct. 28 loss to Iowa State with a 24-7 win over Texas, outrushing the Longhorns 177-9 in the win. This week, TCU faces their biggest test so far this season, when they travel to #5 Oklahoma, a team they could potentially have to beat twice to make the College Football Playoff.

9. Washington (8-1, LW: 13th, CFP: 9th)
The Huskies are quietly hanging around in the top 10, and defeated Oregon 38-3 on Saturday, holding the Ducks to just 31 passing yards. The Huskies are the favorites to win the Pac-12, but to return to the College Football Playoff they’ll need a ton of help. First though, they must win out, starting Saturday at Stanford.

10. Auburn (7-2, LW: 14th, CFP: 10th)
The Tigers beat Texas A&M 42-27 on Saturday, and are still lurking in the SEC race. They still control their fate in the SEC West, although it won’t be easy–they would have to beat the top two teams in the nation to reach the title game, then beat one of them again to win it–but Auburn has been in a similar situation before; remember 2013? The gauntlet stretch run begins Saturday, when the Tigers host #1 Georgia.

Worth a Mention: Iowa (6-3)
What is it about Iowa pulling off huge upsets at home? The Hawkeyes have now won four of their last five home games against top-five competition. Last year’s win over Michigan cost the Wolverines a Playoff berth, and Saturday’s 55-24 drubbing of Ohio State will likely do the same to the Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes had scored a combined 27 points their previous two games entering Saturday–and more than doubled that in their upset win, with the help of the defense’s four interceptions of Buckeyes signal-caller J.T. Barrett.

11. Ohio State (7-2, LW: 3rd, CFP: 13th)
12. USC (8-2, LW: 17th, CFP: 11th)
13. Michigan State (7-2, LW: unranked, CFP: 12th)
14. Penn State (7-2, LW: 7th, CFP: 14th)
15. Oklahoma State (7-2, LW: 12th, CFP: 15th)

16. UCF (8-0, LW: 16th, CFP: 18th)
17. Virginia Tech (7-2, LW: 11th, CFP: 17th)
18. Mississippi State (7-2, LW: 19th, CFP: 16th)
19. Washington State (8-2, LW: 25th, CFP: 19th)
20. Michigan (7-2, LW: 24th, CFP: unranked)

21. South Florida (9-1, LW: 22nd, CFP: unranked)
22. Memphis (8-1, LW: 23rd, CFP: 22nd)
23. Iowa (6-3, LW: unranked, CFP: 20th)
24. Iowa State (6-3, LW: 15th, CFP: 21st)
25. NC State (6-3, LW: 20th, CFP: 23rd)

Fell from Rankings: Stanford (6-3, LW: 18th), LSU (6-3, LW: 21st)

Also ranked in CFP Rankings: LSU (6-3, 24th), Northwestern (6-3, 25th)

College Football Power Rankings for Week Eight

1. Alabama (8-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 1st)
The Tide dominated Tennessee as expected on Saturday, winning 45-7, outgaining the Volunteers 604-108, and remain the unanimous number-one team in the AP and Coaches Polls.  The Tide will be idle this weekend ahead of hosting LSU next week, with their two toughest games still remaining (LSU, at Auburn).

2. Penn State (8-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 2nd)
For Penn State, it’s one down and two to go after a 42-13 win over Michigan to start a very difficult three-week stretch of games.  The Nittany Lions finished Saturday’s game with 28 unanswered points, led by the dynamic duo of quarterback Trace McSorley (17-26 passing, 282 yards, one passing touchdown, 11 carries, 76 yards, three rushing touchdowns) and running back Saquon Barkley (15 carries, 108 yards, two touchdowns).  The toughest of this three-game gauntlet comes this week, as the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus to face Ohio State in a game that will go a long way towards deciding the Big Ten East, and will have sizable College Football Playoff ramifications as well.

3. Georgia (7-0, LW: 3rd, AP: 3rd)
The Bulldogs had a bye on Saturday, and will play Florida in Jacksonville on Saturday in the rivalry game known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”

4. TCU (7-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
Consensus is that Kansas is the worst Power Five football program, but TCU’s showing against the Jayhawks was still impressive, especially defensively.  The Jayhawks gained just 21 yards–and lost 25 yards rushing–as the Horned Frogs held them to four first downs in a 43-0 drubbing.  Quarterback Kenny Hill also threw for five touchdowns, matching a career high.  This week’s game against Iowa State didn’t look particularly big in August, but the Cyclones are an upstart team having a solid year, have already shown their big-game meddle, and will have the crowd behind them in arguably their biggest home game in years.

5. Wisconsin (7-0, LW: 5th, AP: 5th)
The Badgers defeated Maryland comfortably on Saturday, 38-13, to stay perfect.  Running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown, topping the 1,000-yard mark for the season, as the Badgers executed a very balanced offensive attack with 225 passing yards and 215 rushing yards.  The Badgers begin a two-game Big Ten road trip at Illinois on Saturday.

6. Clemson (6-1, LW: 6th, AP: 7th)
The Tigers had a much-needed bye, coming off their stunning loss to Syracuse.  Georgia Tech visits Death Valley on Saturday night, a week ahead of a potential division-determiner at NC State.

7. Ohio State (6-1, LW: 7th, AP: 6th)
The Buckeyes also enjoyed a bye week ahead of this week’s showdown with Penn State.  That scheduling could be an advantage, as the Buckeyes should be rested while the Nittany Lions are coming off a physical game with Michigan.

8. Miami (6-0, LW: 8th, AP: 8th)
The Hurricanes were able to do something their ACC counterparts at Clemson were unable to do the week before:  they put away Syracuse in the fourth quarter.  The Orange had another upset chance at Miami, but the Hurricanes scored on a 33-yard Travis Horner run with 2:48 to go to extend the lead to the eventual final score of 27-19.  The Hurricanes did allow 264 Syracuse rushing yards, but also forced four Orange turnovers.  In a scheduling quirk, the Hurricanes will head to North Carolina this week for their final road game until after Thanksgiving.

9. Oklahoma (6-1, LW: 9th, AP: 10th)
The Sooners survived a trip to Kansas State, a tough place to win on the road, by scoring a go-ahead touchdown with seven seconds left.  Rodney Anderson, who totaled 147 rushing yards in the game, ran it in from 22 yards to give the Sooners a 42-35 victory, as quarterback Baker Mayfield had another strong game, completing 32 of his 41 passes for 410 yards and two touchdowns.  Texas Tech visits the Sooners on Saturday, ahead of a September in which they will play the three other four ranked teams in the Big 12 (at Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia).

10. Notre Dame (6-1, LW: 22nd, AP: 9th)
All season, I’ve thought the Irish were only ranked because of the name on the front of their jersey, and I didn’t bye the hype around their rebound from last year’s 4-8 record.  But after Saturday’s 49-14 win over USC, I have much more faith in the Irish and their abilities.  The team rushed for 377 yards, led by 191 from running back Josh Adams and 106 from quarterback Brandon Wimbush, while holding the Trojans to 76 rushing yards and forcing three Trojan turnovers.  The Irish have only lost once all season, by a single point to #3 Georgia.  This week, the Irish will be tested again as NC State comes to South Bend, in a rematch of last year’s 10-3 slobber-knocker in Raleigh in the rain from Hurricane Matthew.

Worth a Mention: Bye Weeks
An unusually high number of programs were idle on Saturday, as six of the current top 25 had their bye week for the season, along with several other notable unranked teams.  This was part of the reason for a fairly bland Saturday of college football, with the only ranked teams to lose doing so against other ranked teams and the two big games being played in prime time, and made it the rare Saturday in the fall that was actually perfect for catching up on yardwork or homework, or attending a wedding like I did (congrats, Jackson and Natalie).  This week, four ranked teams including Alabama have byes, but we’ll make up for it with a slew of ranked matchups.

11. Virginia Tech (6-1, LW: 14th, AP: 13th)
12. Oklahoma State (6-1, LW: 11th, AP: 11th)
13. Washington (6-1, LW: 12th, AP: 12th)
14. Washington State (7-1, LW: 15th, AP: 15th)
15. Auburn (6-2, LW: 16th, AP: 19th)

16. South Florida (8-0, LW: 17th, AP: 17th)
17. NC State (6-1, LW: 18th, AP: 14th)
18. UCF (6-0, LW: 19th, AP: 18th)
19. USC (6-2, LW: 10th, AP: 21st)
20. Stanford (5-2, LW: 20th, AP: 20th)

21. Michigan State (6-1, LW: 21st, AP: 16th)
22. Michigan (5-2, LW: 13th, AP: unranked)
23. West Virginia (5-2, LW: 23rd, AP: 22nd)
24. LSU (6-2, LW: 24th, AP: 23rd)
25. Memphis (6-1, LW: 25th, AP: 24th)

Also ranked in AP Poll: Iowa State (5-2, 25th)

College Football Power Rankings for Week Six

1. Clemson (6-0, Last Week: 1st, AP Poll: 2nd)
The Tigers beat Wake Forest 28-14 Saturday, but led the Demon Deacons 28-0 in the fourth before allowing two late scores. Clemson won this game doing what they’ve done all year: dominate on defense, and supplement that with a more-than-sufficient offense. The offense isn’t without questions, however, heading into this week’s game at Syracuse, as quarterback Kelly Bryant is questionable with a sprained ankle. The Tigers biggest remaining regular season game isn’t Florida State, as everyone would have predicted, but a trip to NC State on Nov. 4.

2. Alabama (6-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 1st)
The Crimson Tide didn’t dismantle Texas A&M quite like they did Ole Miss and Vanderbilt the previous two weeks, but the Tide outrushed the Aggies 232-71, including 124 yards from Damien Harris, and forced three turnovers to win in College Station, 27-19. The SEC isn’t as strong this year, and it shows in the Tide’s schedule: they have yet to play a team that is currently ranked (that win over Florida State hasn’t aged well), and only have one ranked team on the regular-season agenda the rest of the way, as they travel to Auburn on Nov. 25.

3. Penn State (6-0, LW: 4th, AP: 3rd)
Both teams struggled on the ground–it wasn’t a traditional Big Ten ground-and-pound affair–but despite only rushing for 95 yards, the Nittany Lions used their running game in the right spots to beat Northwestern 31-7 in Evanston. Three of Penn State’s touchdowns came on the ground, including the game’s biggest play: a 53-yard Saquon Barkley run that gave the Nittany Lions some third-quarter breathing room. The Nittany Lions have a bye this weekend, which comes at a good place in the schedule–the next three games are against ranked opponents (Oct. 21 vs. Michigan, Oct. 28 at Ohio State, Nov. 4 at Michigan State)

4. Georgia (6-0, LW: 5th, AP: 4th)
After a 45-14 win over Vanderbilt, it’s safe to say the state of Tennessee doesn’t like the Georgia Bulldogs; the last two weeks, they’ve beaten the state’s two SEC teams by a combined 86-14 margin. The rushing duo of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb dominated in the win, with Michel gaining 150 yards and a touchdown, and Chubb rushing for 138 yards and two scores. The Dawgs host struggling Missouri this weekend, before a bye week ahead of their rivalry game with Florida.

5. Washington (6-0, LW: 7th, AP: 5th)
Saturday, the Huskies defeated California 38-7, doing so with an exceptional defensive performance. Cal only gained 93 yards in the game, and the Golden Bears actually lost 40 yards rushing against the Washington defense. The Huskies are ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency as they try to return to the College Football Playoff. Washington travels to Arizona State this weekend before a bye, and while coaches don’t like to look ahead, I will:  the “Apple Bowl” rivalry game against Washington State on Nov. 25 looks bigger and bigger every week.

6. TCU (5-0, LW: 10th, AP: 6th)
The Horned Frogs were outdone by West Virginia in nearly every stat category on Saturday, but TCU won the most important one–points–by a 31-24 margin after quarterback Kenny Hill’s go-ahead rushing touchdown with 2:53 to go. Hill became the just second player with passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns in the same Big 12 conference game. This week the Horned Frogs head to Kansas State; the Wildcats are unranked, but Manhattan is always a hard place to play.

7. Washington State (6-0, LW: 9th, AP: 8th)
A week after beating USC, the Cougars went on the road and dominated Oregon 33-10 for another impressive win. People focus on the Cougars offense, but their defense contained Oregon to 277 yards and held the Ducks scoreless after the first quarter. The Cougs play their second Friday game in three weeks tonight, when they travel to Cal.

8. Wisconsin (5-0, LW: 8th, AP: 7th)
Jonathan Taylor ran for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries Saturday in a 38-17 win at Nebraska, as the Badgers further cemented their status as the heavy favorites in the Big Ten West. Taylor’s performance was his second 200-plus-yard game this season, after gaining 223 on Sept. 9 against Florida Atlantic, and the freshman is averaging 153 rushing yards per game. The Badgers host Purdue this weekend.

9. Miami (4-0, LW: 13th, AP: 11th)
Even in a rivalry with an abundance of classic games, Miami’s win over Florida State on Saturday is one that will be remembered for a long time by Hurricanes fans. The win, which snapped the team’s X-game losing streak to their rivals, came after Darrell Langham barely crossed the goal line (if he even did at all–the play was the subject of a very tough replay review) after a 23-yard pass from Malik Rozier with 0:06 to play, giving the Hurricanes the 24-20 triumph after a back-and-forth thriller. The Hurricanes return home Saturday to face Georgia Tech.

10. Auburn (5-1, LW: 12th, AP: 10th)
The Tigers dominated Ole Miss even more than the 44-23 final score sounds; Auburn led 41-10 after three quarters, to the tune of a 561-yard offensive explosion. Auburn outrushed the Rebels 326-83, with 204 yards coming from Kerryon Johnson, who scored three touchdowns on his 28 rushes. The Tigers have an interesting schedule the rest of the way, as they have three straight road games, starting Saturday at LSU, before finishing with three straight home games.

Worth a Mention: Iowa State (3-2)
Iowa State is not one of the more prominent Power Five-conference programs, as they haven’t had a winning season since 2009, and have combined for an 11-37 record the last three years. Yet once every three or four years, the Cyclones program has a knack for sneaking up on a big-name team and pulling off an upset. It most notably happened to Oklahoma State in 2011, costing the Cowboys a BCS Championship Game berth, but it happened again on Saturday when the Cyclones traveled to Norman and upset #3 Oklahoma, 38-31. With a win on Saturday against Kansas (the worst team in the Power Five by far), Iowa State would win their fourth game, a mark they haven’t reached since a 6-7 season in 2012. Don’t look now, but second-year coach Matt Campbell, who came to Iowa State after a successful stint at Toledo, has vastly improved this program.

11. Oklahoma (4-1, LW: 3rd, AP: 12th)
12. Ohio State (5-1, LW: 11th, AP: 9th)
13. USC (5-1, LW: 14th, AP: 13th)
14. Oklahoma State (4-1, LW: 15th, AP: 14th)
15. Michigan (4-1, LW: 6th, AP: 17th)

16. Virginia Tech (5-1, LW: 17th, AP: 15th)
17. South Florida (6-0, LW: 19th, AP: 18th)
18. San Diego State (6-0, LW: 20th, AP: 19th)
19. NC State (5-1, LW: 23rd, AP: 20th)
20. UCF (4-0, LW: 22nd, AP: 22nd)

21. Stanford (4-2, LW: unranked, AP: 23rd)
22. Michigan State (4-1, LW: unranked, AP: 21st)
23. Notre Dame (5-1, LW: unranked, AP: 16th)
24. Utah (4-1, LW: 18th, AP: unranked)
25. Navy (5-0, LW: unranked, AP: 25th)

Also ranked in AP Poll:  Texas Tech (4-1, AP: 24th)

Fell from Rankings:  Florida (3-2, LW: 16th), Louisville (4-2, LW: 21st), Florida State (1-3, LW: 24th), West Virginia (3-1, LW: 25th)

College Football Power Rankings for Week Five

1. Clemson (5-0, Last Week: 3rd, AP Poll: 2nd)
After the Tigers’ 31-17 win at Virginia Tech, they clearly have the best resume of anyone. Clemson has three wins against the current AP Top 25 (Virginia Tech, Louisville, Auburn)–no one else has more than one–with two on the road. They are playing better than anyone, including Alabama, and have only been kept from the top spot because the Tide, who were the top-ranked team in the preseason, hasn’t struggled with anyone (more on that below). It’s the Tigers, not the Tide, with the best resume right now.

2. Alabama (5-0, LW: 1st, AP: 1st)
Pushing Alabama down to the second spot is in no way a knock to their early-season success. In fact, it’s almost unfair to knock the Tide down a spot, given their 125-3 advantage over the last two weeks, and a majority of the AP Poll voters decided not to punish Alabama for Clemson’s success, which is out of the Tide’s control. But while Alabama has simply been dominant, they don’t have the resume to match Clemson, at least not right now.

3. Oklahoma (4-0, LW: 2nd, AP: 3rd)
The Sooners are coming off a bye week, and face Iowa State on Saturday. As is the case with Alabama, Oklahoma dropping a spot is not a slight to them, but is simply because Clemson has earned the right to move up.

4. Penn State (5-0, LW: 4th, AP: 4th)
Penn State’s game against Indiana had the narrative of Nittany Lion domination from the opening kickoff, which was returned for a touchdown by Saquon Barkley, as they went on to beat Indiana 45-14, led by DaeSean Hamilton’s three receiving touchdowns. The Nittany Lions travel to Northwestern on Saturday before a bye next week, but have back-to-back games against Michigan and Ohio State lurking on Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.

5. Georgia (5-0, LW: 8th, AP: 5th)
A year after losing to Tennessee in a heartbreaking last-second Hail Mary, the Bulldogs found revenge and then some with a 41-0 drubbing in Knoxville, giving the Volunteers their worst home loss since 1905. While the Dawgs lack the resume of some of the teams above them–their best win is at Notre Dame–they have nonetheless looked more and more impressive each week.

6. Michigan (4-0, LW: 6th, AP: 7th)
The Wolverines are coming off a bye week as they face in-state rival Michigan State on Saturday night. While Michigan clearly has the better team on paper, history shows you should throw out the records and the stats as bragging rights are on the line in the Great Lake State.

7. Washington (5-0, LW: 7th, AP: 6th)
After leading by just seven at halftime, the Huskies scored 35 in the second half to pull away from Oregon State, 42-7. The Huskies schedule gets progressively tougher leading to a huge November against Oregon, Stanford, Utah and Washington State.

8. Wisconsin (4-0, LW: 9th, AP: 9th)
The Badgers held Northwestern to 25 rushing yards in a 33-24 win over the Wildcats, coming off a bye the previous week. Wisconsin will travel to Nebraska this week before back-to-back Big Ten home games with Purdue and Maryland.

9. Washington State (5-0, LW: 20th, AP: 11th)
While Washington gets a lot of the attention in the Pac-12 after reaching the College Football Playoff last year, the Cougars made their own statement on Friday night with a 30-27 win over USC. The win was the Cougars’ first over a top five opponent since 1992, and their first over USC since 2002, giving them a 5-0 record for the first time since 2001. Staying perfect won’t be easy, though, as the Cougs travel to Oregon on Saturday.

10. TCU (4-0, LW: 10th, AP: 8th)
The Horned Frogs enjoyed a bye, fresh off their big 44-31 win over Oklahoma State. TCU enters Saturday’s game against West Virginia with a 17-0 record at home as a top 10-ranked team under coach Gary Patterson.

Worth a Mention: Troy (4-1)
In 2008, Troy led LSU 31-3 before the Tigers pulled off their largest-ever comeback in a 40-31 win. Saturday, Troy was able to finish off the upset, winning 24-21 in Baton Rouge to hand the Tigers their first home non-conference loss since 2000, ending a 49-game streak. The Trojans, who were paid $985,000 to come play LSU, are now 4-1, and have steadily progressed since their season-opening loss to Boise State.

11. Ohio State (4-1, LW: 11th, AP: 10th)
12. Auburn (4-1, LW: 14th, AP: 12th)
13. Miami (3-0, LW: 13th, AP: 13th)
14. USC (4-1, LW: 5th, AP: 14th)
15. Oklahoma State (4-1, LW: 15th, AP: 15th)

16. Florida (3-1, LW: 16th, AP: 21st)
17. Virginia Tech (4-1, LW: 12th, AP: 16th)
18. Utah (4-0, LW: 17th, AP: 20th)
19. South Florida (5-0, LW: 19th, AP: 19th)
20. San Diego State (5-0, LW: 19th, AP: 19th)

21. Louisville (4-1, LW: 21st, AP: 17th)
22. UCF (3-0, LW: unranked, AP: 25th)
23. NC State (4-1, LW: 24th, AP: 24th)
24. Florida State (1-2, LW: 25th, AP: unranked)
25. West Virginia (3-1, LW: unranked, AP: 23rd)

Also ranked in AP Poll: Notre Dame (3-1, 21st)

Fell from rankings: Mississippi State (3-2, LW: 22nd), LSU (3-2, LW: 23rd)

Column: Don’t mourn for Pitino

Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino was placed on unpaid leave on Wednesday (with the expectation that he will be fired once his contractually-required 10-day notice expires) after the Cardinals program was among several implicated by an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball.

Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach with great on-court success at multiple stops throughout his career, but that has all come to a very blunt ending.

3392553078_9caee79491_o

Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino, who was placed on unpaid leave on Wednesday. (Bradjward/Flickr)

Yet there’s no need to mourn for the legacy Pitino has lost, as his impending termination is the end of a long, winding and, to be frank, disgraceful road that got him here.

Yes, Pitino is the only coach to lead two different schools to national championships, winning them in 1996 at Kentucky and 2013 at Louisville.

Yes, he has seven Final Four appearances, and is the only coach to take three schools to the Final Four, also doing so at Providence.

Yes, he has 12 conference tournament championships (one at Boston University, five at Kentucky, six at Louisville), and been to 21 NCAA Tournaments, including 19 of the last 21 years his team was eligible.

Yes, Pitino has 770 collegiate wins, and may have 900 if not for six seasons as an NBA coach with the New York Knicks, who he took to the playoffs twice, and the Boston Celtics.

But with the revelation of the scandal that has brought Pitino’s career to a crashing end, real questions exist about Pitino’s on-court accomplishments, as the legitimacy of his players, their amateur status and their reasons for coming to Louisville (or Kentucky, Providence or Boston University) is now under a black cloud of doubt.

The FBI alleges that the family of a highly-ranked recruit (the overwhelming consensus is that the player, unnamed in the FBI report, is Louisville commit Brian Bowen) agreed to be paid $100,000 by Adidas executives–who were working in conjunction with a Louisville assistant coach–for the recruit play at Louisville. As part of the agreement, the recruit would represent Adidas when he turned professional.

This scandal reaches far beyond Louisville, as 10 individuals, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested in the case on Tuesday. But it’s Pitino who has the highest profile of anyone implicated in this case, even as he was not directly named in the FBI report (though he reportedly was listed as “Coach 2”).

Pitino was already suspended for five games this coming season as the result of his program’s previous scandal, in which former assistant coach Andre McGee had paid for the services of prostitutes and strippers for players in the team dormitory.

The program self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2015-16 season, and Pitino was suspended by the NCAA for “lack of institutional control.”

Pitino has also admitted to an extramarital sexual encounter in 2003, in which he impregnated his mistress and paid for her abortion.

In each previous case, Pitino’s job has seemed bulletproof. He downplayed both his affair and the escorts scandal, and claimed ignorance regarding the escorts.

With Pitino’s habitual refusal to accept any responsibility, and the pattern of athletic director Tom Jurich–who was also fired–releasing a passive statement of support (which he’s also done in regards to the football program’s issues), I assumed we would see the same movie this week, and Pitino would be pacing the sidelines of the KFC Yum! Center this winter.

Yet this scandal, which figures to bring down more than just Pitino over the coming months, finally ousted a man who could have, and should have, been out of college basketball years ago.

From purely an on-the-court perspective, Rick Pitino can legitimately say he has had a good career.

But don’t shed a tear for Pitino’s career coming to an end the way it did.

He’s done plenty to deserve this.