Defending national champion Clemson was 6-0 and ranked 2nd in the country behind Alabama on the morning of Friday the 13th. They entered the 2017 season needing to replace top quarterback Deshaun Watson, big play wide receiver Mike Williams, plus his sidekick Artavis Scott. They lost top running back Wayne Gallman, top tight end Jordan Leggett and center Jay Guillermo, and that was just the offense.
The defense had it’s share of losses as well with linebacker Ben Boulware, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, safety Jadar Johnson and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins all heading for the NFL. But, Clemson under head coach Dabo Swinney, is a machine now and simply reloads.
The Clemson Tigers were rolling along and some people even had them as their top team in the country. Watson is missed, but junior Kelly Bryant looked very impressive both throwing and running the football. Bryant might even be a stronger runner than Watson.
Running back Wayne Gallman ran for 3,429 yards over three seasons, he has been replaced by
something of a committee. Tavien Feaster, Adam Choice and CJ Fuller have run for a combined 659 yards after 6 games. But, true freshman Travis Etienne has been the new star running for 446 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Big play wide receivers like Mike Williams and Artavis Scott are hard to replace, But, Alabama killer Hunter Renfrow, Ray Ray McCloud and Deon Cain have been up to the task. They also have young talent at receiver like Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, Diondre Overton and quite a few others just waiting in the wings for their opportunity. Tight end Milan Richard is trying to replace Jordan Leggett, but it’s not easy.
Center Justin Falcinelli has capably replaced Jay Guillermo.
The defense has been smoother with so much talent in the front 4, especially. Newcomers like safeties Tanner Muse and Isaiah Simmons have helped.
With everything going so well, Clemson is almost a guaranteed playoff team and a possible rematch, yet again, with SEC power Alabama.
Out west, the Washington Huskies are expected by many to return to the playoffs.
But, nobody expected another challenger to the Huskies and for them to come from their own state. Mike Leach and his Washington State Cougars have been playing lights out all season. They’ve mostly breezed through opponents although none as tough as Clemson’s foes until their 5th game when they beat 5th ranked USC at home.
Quarterback Luke Falk is breaking records with almost every new pass. But, oddly enough, the Cougars’ success has been because of their defense. Shocking, I know.
Currently, the defense led by a defensive lineman named Hercules is ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Hercules Mata’afa is undersized at 6-2, 255, but he is too quick for most offensive linemen. Linebackers Jahad Woods, Isaac Dotson, Frankie Luvu, Nate DeRider and Peyton Pelluer are all over the field. Defensive backs Jalen Thompson and Robert Taylor lead the team in tackles.
The Washington State Cougars climbed to 8th in the AP Poll.
Two teams, both 6-0 and ranked in the top 10 and some people were talking a playoff spot for Washington State.
On Friday the 13th, this October of 2017, both of these unbeaten teams took to the road to face
supposedly inferior programs. Both of these schools have new coaches. Syracuse coach Dino Babers took over before the previous season, while California coach Justin Wilcox took over just this year. Both programs appear to be on the rise. But, time is needed and both schools were 3-3 on early Friday the 13th.
Naturally, both 6-0 teams were highly favored. Nobody expected either team to lose which made both games something of a possible trap game. The home teams, both 3-3, had nothing to lose. Both 6-0 teams had everything to lose. A possible playoff spot was on the line for both of them.
Both Clemson and Washington State went down. Clemson, at least, went down swinging even after they lost their starting quarterback Kelly Bryant to a concussion. Syracuse beat Clemson, 27-24, in a stunner.
But, Friday the 13th was not through with ranked opponents.
The Cougars’ Mike Leach has always been known for his wild offenses and now he had a defense. That spelled trouble for Washington State foes.
But, the mighty Cougars fell apart and they were slaughtered by the Cal Golden Bears and their new coach Justin Wilcox. The 37-3 loss to the Cal Bears was more than just embarrassing. It was ugly.
It’s hard to explain how two 6-0 teams could lose to two 3-3 teams on the same night on the road. It’s also maybe a little bit strange and maybe even creepy. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to this old Friday the 13th is bad luck thing.
Well, it certainly wasn’t bad luck for Syracuse and the Cal Bears. Both former 3-3 teams that are now 4-3 probably think that Friday the 13th wasn’t such a bad day.