Sports in this Day and Age: Football from this past week

        This column seeks to cover significant current events in the sporting world as it navigates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Most sports are finished now, leaving the spotlight this past week on football, although this week’s election has by far been the biggest story of the past week or so. With games being played at both the collegiate and professional levels, last week was jam-packed full of action. This week, we will get reactions regarding some of the biggest games from both levels.

Starting off at the collegiate level, there were many games that had a meaningful impact on teams and the playoff race. The most meaningful of these, though, perhaps was the game that pitted third-ranked Ohio State (2-0) against then eighteenth-ranked Penn State (0-2). Despite the misleading score of 38-25, Ohio State seemed to thoroughly dominate the game, especially the first three drives. 

After a scintillating 61-yard run on the first play of the game, Ohio State found the endzone two plays later to take a lead that the Nittany Lions never seriously threatened. The domination continued, as Penn State never really found their footing throughout the entire game. However, one of the biggest calls of the night went their way; at the end of the first half, the referees gave Penn State the ball with one second left and allowed them to kick a field goal and close the gap to 15 heading into halftime. Ohio State has now passed what most likely was its biggest test of the season, while Penn State is now 0-2 on the season, something that not many expected.

Elsewhere in college football, top-ranked Clemson (7-0) looked mortal, as they fell behind 28-13 at the end of the first half against Boston College (4-3) before rebounding in the second half to win the game 36-28. Clemson’s offence looked dominant in the second half as they scored 21 points to take the lead despite missing one of the nation’s best players in quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Next up for Clemson is a matchup with fourth-ranked Notre Dame (6-0) on Saturday. 

In a key rivalry matchup, Michigan State (1-1) entered Ann Arbor and came away with a surprising victory against then thirteenth-ranked Michigan (1-1), 27-24. Michigan, which many predicted as heavy favorites, could not stop the Spartans’ passing attack on defense and never found a rhythm on offence. For Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, this marks only the second time that a Spartan coach in his first year has beaten Michigan — the only other coach being Nick Saban in 1995.

Moving on to the professional league, there were several big games going on that ended up being one score games, most notably the Saints-Bears game that saw New Orleans (5-2) defeat Chicago (5-3) in overtime by a field goal 26-23. The Saints, who dropped two of their first three games, have now won four straight despite being without all-pro wide receiver Michael Thomas. 

Six other games in the NFL this past week were decided by eight points or less, including the matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) and the Baltimore Ravens (5-2), which ended with a 28-24 Steelers victory. The Steelers are the only remaining unbeaten team in the NFL now as they continue their dominance and look like a true contender for the Lombardi trophy. 

Lamar Jackson, quarterback for the Ravens, continued his struggles this week, as he threw two costly interceptions despite putting up more passing yards than Roethlisberger did. The Ravens, who looked like they were the team that would rival the Chiefs in the American Football Conference (AFC), look more like a smokescreen now after their second loss.

Speaking of the Chiefs, Kansas City (7-1) steamrolled over what could possibly be the worst team in the league this year: the winless New York Jets who fell to 0-8 after losing 35-9 in Arrowhead Stadium. Patrick Mahomes once again did what only he could do, as he threw for 416 yards and five touchdowns, while Jets quarterback Sam Darnold could only throw for a measly 133 yards on 30 attempts. The Jets’ run game was nearly non-existent as well, as their leading rusher for the game was Frank Gore, who only managed a total of 30 yards on 10 carries.

Minnesota (2-5) picked up their second win of the season last week with a 28-22 victory over the Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers (5-2). Green Bay, who entered the game as six-point favorites, lost by six points after they fell behind early in the third quarter. Minnesota, a team that looked dead after a horrendous start to the season, may have found their answer, as running back Dalvin Cook once again put up monster numbers, rushing for 163 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries while also leading the team in receiving yards with 63 yards and a touchdown through the air. Green Bay still looks to be the frontrunner in the National Football Conference (NFC) North. However, it would be unwise to count any team out, regardless of their record.