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Upset Saturday! Three top-four teams go down, shaking up CFP

Pittsburgh players are mobbed on the field by fans after finishing off a 43-42 upset on the road of third-ranked Clemson.
Pittsburgh players are mobbed on the field by fans after finishing off a 43-42 upset on the road of third-ranked Clemson.
Published Nov. 13, 2016

So much for this being a blah week in college football.

When the announcement was made in Husky Stadium, the sellout crowd at the Washington-USC game roared. Pittsburgh 43, No. 3 Clemson 42. It's safe to say that never has an ACC score made a Seattle crowd so excited.

That same sellout crowd was a bit deflated later, however, after USC handed the No. 4 Huskies a 26-13 loss, snapping their 12-game win streak.

And the blood-letting around the nation wasn't over.

In Iowa City, No. 2 Michigan seemed poised for a great escape, taking a 13-11 lead after a 51-yard field goal.

But with 1:23 left to play, the Hawkeyes — aided by a Michigan face mask penalty on a punt — got into position for a winning 33-yard field goal.

Three top-four teams, three College Football Playoff-shaking results on a Saturday when all the contenders were big favorites.

The only other time the Nos. 2-4 teams in the Associated Press Top 25 lost on the same day in the regular season? 1985.

Pitt 43, No. 3 Clemson 42: James Conner's smile said it all — Pittsburgh was happy to once again shuffle up the national championship picture.

"Hey, sorry to do that. But we wanted this one bad," said Conner, who had two touchdowns and ran for 132 yards for the visiting Panthers.

Conner's 20-yard touchdown run with 5:17 left inched the Panthers into striking range, and Chris Blewitt — after a kiss on the cheek from coach Pat Narduzzi — struck a perfect 48-yard field goal with six seconds left for the winning points.

"We'll remember this one forever," Conner said.

So, too, will Clemson (9-1, 6-1 ACC), which saw its run at perfection halted after it escaped several other jams this season. A fourth-down stop a yard shy saved the Tigers' 42-36 win over No. 5 Louisville on Oct. 1. North Carolina State's missed field goal at the end of regulation boosted Clemson to a 24-17 overtime win.

This time, it was the Panthers who made the critical plays.

When Clemson was driving for a touchdown already up 42-34, linebacker Saleem Brightwell picked off quarterback Deshaun Watson — his third interception — and returned it 70 yards to set up a 20-yard TD by Conner that drew Pitt within 42-40.

When Clemson attempted to run out the clock, the Panthers defense (despite allowing 630 yards) stuffed Wayne Gallman a yard short on third and fourth downs to take over near midfield with 58 seconds left.

"We had a chance to put the game away, and they stopped us," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We had been making those kinds of plays this year."

Quarterback Nathan Peterman moved Pitt (5-4, 3-4) to the Clemson 30, and Blewitt knocked it through.

It was Pitt's highest-ranked win since it defeated its Backyard Brawl rival, No. 2 West Virginia, 13-9 in 2007, spoiling the Mountaineers' chances at playing for the national title.

USC 26, No. 4 Wash. 13: Sam Darnold threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns for visiting USC (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12). Darnold was outstanding against one of the top defenses in the Pac-12, showing why USC has surged since he became the starter. Darnold's lofted pass over linebacker D.J. Beavers and into the arms of tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe for an 8-yard touchdown strike in the opening moments of the fourth quarter gave USC an 11-point lead that Washington couldn't overcome.