Week 11: The Five Top Performing Teams

by Carter Hill

Photo courtesy of Marshall athletics

Another week has gone by and another weekend of college football is put to bed. 

While there wasn’t much action this weekend with multiple top-10 teams off due to bye weeks and COVID-19 cancellations, there’s still plenty of teams that stood out. 

Who is that you ask? Well let’s take a look.

Our weekly series of the “Five Top Performing Teams” will show you who.

5. Western Michigan

Look at this. We got some Wednesday night #MACtion making an appearance.

The Western Michigan Broncos defended Kalamazoo with a vengeance. The Broncos stormed back in the fourth quarter to beat the Toledo Rockets, 41-38. 

Toledo led the whole way through this one. After a touchdown run by quarterback Bryant Koback put the Rockets up 38-28 with 2:54 left, this game looked all but put away.

To quote Lee Corso, not so fast my friend! The Broncos went 70 yards in 11 plays capped off by a Kaleb Eleby 1-yard rushing touchdown to close the gap to 38-34. A missed PAT with 45 ticks remaining kept the lead at four. 

Western Michigan kicker Thiago Kapps redeemed himself big time, getting a perfect hop on the onside kick and the Broncos recovered with 44 seconds left. 

Needing a touchdown after the missed PAT, Eleby and the Western offense drove right down the field and scored on the old “fake spike” that legendary quarterback Dan Marino pulled off against the New York Jets. Eleby found Jaylen Hall all by himself in the end zone to give Western Michigan the thrilling 41-38 comeback victory. 

4. North Carolina

This one did not look promising for the Tar Heels. After trailing by 21 points midway through the third quarter, North Carolina stormed back to take down the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 59-53 in a shootout in Chapel Hill. 

After falling behind 45-24, the Tar Heels stormed back with 35 straight points.

Quarterback Sam Howell absolutely stole the show in this one. The sophomore standout went 32-for-45 with 550 yards passing and six touchdowns. That’s not to mention Howell put the Tar Heels up for good on the ground after a 20-yard scamper late in the final quarter. Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown also combined for 352 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.

With the win, North Carolina keeps its ACC Championship hopes alive in head coach Mack Brown’s second season back in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have big match-ups looming in the near future. They’ll take on both Miami and Notre Dame before the end of the season. 

3. Wisconsin

After a two-week hiatus and a near disqualification from the Big Ten contention, the Wisconsin Badgers returned from their quarantine with something to prove. The Badgers destroyed a reeling Michigan 49-11 at the “Big House”, sending the Wolverine fan base into a tailspin. Head coach Jim Harbaugh’s future in Ann Arbor now seems very much in question. 

Wisconsin quickly took control of this one, and found itself up 28-0 heading into the locker room. After holding Michigan out of the end zone on a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard-line, the Badgers had all the momentum. That momentum never swung the rest of the game.

The individual stats for this one are not all that one-sided. The Badgers held the ball for more than 40 minutes and went 8-for-13 on third down. They also finished plus-2 in the turnover department. Those figures were key in the beatdown.

Quarterback Graham Mertz threw two touchdowns in his return from his COVID-19 diagnosis, and the Badgers rolled out of Ann Arbor for a big conference win. Keep an eye on Wisconsin moving forward; the chips are in front of it to become a dark horse playoff contender. 

2. Tulsa

As far as who had the best win this past weekend, it may go to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Phillip Montgomery’s team was the lone team to beat a ranked team. Tulsa overcame a big early deficit to down 19th-ranked SMU in a 28-24 nail-biter. 

After finding themselves down 24-7 in the waning stages of the third quarter, the Golden Hurricane decided it was time to turn on the jets. Tulsa scored twice before quarterback Zach Smith took them right down the field, eventually hitting James Palmer in the end zone to put the Golden Hurricane up 28-24 with 2:11 left. 

Smith arguably had his best game of the season, going 26-for-38 with 325 yards and three touchdowns. The Tulsa defense shut down Shane Buechele and the high-powered SMU offense to pull out the victory in this one.

Tulsa now finds itself right in the thick of things for a berth in the American Athletic Championship game. A date with No. 7 Cincinnati looms in the next couple of weeks. 

1. Marshall

It was an emotional day in Huntington for the Marshall Thundering Herd. On the 50th anniversary of the deadly plane crash that killed all 75 on board and 37 members of the Marshall football team, the then 16th-ranked Herd took down the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 42-14 in dominant fashion. 

It’s a perfect story line for college football, as Marshall is off to a historic start. It has already achieved its highest ranking since 2002. When Southern Airways Flight 932 crashed and killed all 75 members aboard, there was much uncertainty on whether or not Marshall would ever play football again. Flash forward to today, here we are with a 7-0 Marshall team determined to make a bid for the New Year’s Six. 

As for the game itself, Marshall quarterback Grant Wells put the nation on notice. The redshirt freshman went 25-for-27 while throwing for 336 yards and an eye-popping five touchdowns. Wide receiver Willie Johnson put up 137 yards on eight receptions with two touchdowns. 

The Herd keeps thundering along in this unusual 2020 season. Head coach Doc Holliday has finally got Marshall where it wants to be after being so close for so long. 

The path for the Thundering Herd is there for them to finish up the regular season undefeated with just Rice, Florida International, and Charlotte left on the schedule. Winning out could resulting in Marshall playing in its first major bowl game.

Honorable Mentions

Northwestern (27-20 vs. Purdue)
Louisiana (38-10 vs. South Alabama) 
Colorado (35-32 vs. Stanford)

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