Tremendous statements were made in some huge games during college football Week 5, from which reverberations will be felt the rest of the season.
Those who were lucky enough to stay up late for a special Friday Pac-12 after dark matchup between USC and Washington State witnessed the birth of something special for the minimally touted Cougars. Earlier in the evening, Miami made a statement of its own in a blowout win over previously undefeated Duke.
And those games were just the beginning. Saturday provided a phenomenal slate of games. Some outcomes were highly predictable, such as Alabama rolling over Ole Miss. Others were not. We’re looking at you, LSU.
These are the biggest takeaways from college football Week 5.
Muddy waters in Baton Rouge
There was a good reason oddsmakers made LSU nearly three touchdown favorites to beat Troy Saturday in Baton Rouge. After all, we’re talking about one of the SEC’s powerhouse programs hosting a Sun Belt squad that was easily handled by Boise State in Week 1. And before Saturday, the Tigers hadn’t lost to a non-conference opponent in Baton Rouge in 49 games.
As they say, that’s why we play the games. On paper, the Trojans had no business hanging around with the Tigers, let alone winning the game. Yet that’s exactly what happened. If not for some late magic by Danny Etling (who was out of the game for a while after getting blasted before halftime), LSU would have lost by more than just three points.
The Tigers turned the ball over four times in the loss, which was bad enough. But it wasn’t just the offense that struggled. The famed Tigers defense is suddenly impotent, having allowed 363 yards to Troy in Week 5 on top of the 384 it allowed last weekend and the 465 it gave up the weekend prior. Without a quarterback it can depend on and without a defense to speak of, this team is in trouble.
Adding insult to injury, after the game Troy took to Twitter to roast LSU.
Luke Falk and the Cougars are for real
Most of us who have watched USC this year could sense the Trojans were due to implode. It happened Friday night in southeast Washington. Injuries played a huge role in USC’s demise, but it would be bad form not to also mention Washington State’s stellar play had everything to do with its 30-27 win over the No. 5 team in the nation.
Alex Grinch called a masterful game defensively, dialing up effective blitzes that kept Sam Darnold on the run all night long. Aside from a magical 86-yard scamper by Ronald Jones II, USC gained just 77 yards on 28 carries. Darnold finished with just 164 yards passing, turned the ball over twice and did not throw a touchdown.
On the other side, Luke Falk was masterful. He was failed by his receivers and was hit hard many times throughout the game. Yet in the end Falk passed for 340 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, thoroughly outplaying Darnold and officially staking his claim as a Heisman candidate.
The Cougars are now 5-0 after beating the No. 5 team in the nation. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Mike Leach’s team the rest of the way. For now, it’s safe to say this Pac-12 team is a legitimate playoff contender.
Miami flexed its muscles on the road against Duke
Well, the Hurricanes didn’t knock Daniel Jones out of the game as they hoped to, but they did the next-best thing. Duke’s quarterback was hit hard and hit often on Friday night. He was on the run more often than not and finished with just 166 yards and one interception through the air, averaging a paltry four yards per attempt. Duke managed just six points in the game against Miami’s stout defense, which took the challenge of shutting Jones and Co. down personally.
Malik Rosier had himself a terrific game against Duke’s defense. He passed for 270 yards and finished with three total touchdowns. Running back Mark Walton found it tough sledding on the ground but did damage through the air, including a 39-yard scamper that featured a hurdle Saquon Barkley would be proud of (watch here). In the end, Miami heads back home with its perfect record intact after dismantling Duke and winning in blowout fashion, 31-6.
Wisconsin’s defense had to bail out Alex Hornibrook
Maybe he missed security blanket tight end Troy Fumagalli (out with leg injury). Maybe he didn’t eat his Wheaties. For whatever reason, sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook had an awful game at home Saturday against Northwestern. He barely completed half his passes (11-of-20) and threw two interceptions, one of which turned into seven points for the Wildcats.
Thankfully for Hornibrook, Wisconsin’s defense was Johnny on the spot. The Badgers forced two key turnovers, including a pick-six by Natrell Jamerson, and sealed the win late in the fourth quarter when D’Cota Dixon hauled Clayton Thorson down in the end zone for a safety. The nine points scored by Wisconsin’s defense turned out to be the exact difference in the game, as the Badgers held on to win, 33-24, at home in Week 5.
Bryce Love on pace to break Barry Sanders’ single-season record
Stanford running back Bryce Love says hello, Heisman voters.
Through five games, this phenomenal player is on pace to smash Barry Sanders’ FBS record of 2,628 rushing yards in a single season. With 301 yards and three touchdowns Saturday against Arizona State, Love now has 1,088 yards on the season. If the junior keeps up his current pace, he’ll finish the season with 2,828 yards rushing. Perhaps even more staggering than his overall total is the fact that Love has arrived at 1,088 yards rushing on just 98 total carries, giving him an average of 11.1 yards per carry.
Florida State earns win No. 1 the hard way
Florida State hasn’t started a season with an 0-3 record since 1976. For a while Saturday it looked like the Seminoles were going to fall to Wake Forest, continuing their losing streak into the month of October. Quarterback James Blackmon struggled throughout the contest as the Demon Deacons consistently applied pressure. On the other side, John Wolford was making clutch throws and was maddeningly effective evading pressure and scrambling for yards.
It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter that the Seminoles finally pulled even with their opponent, 19-19. Finally, with just under a minute remaining in the game, Blackmon found his passing touch on a 40-yard touchdown hauled in by Auden Tate. The offensive hero of the game for Florida State was undoubtedly Jacques Patrick, who totaled 146 yards and a touchdown. If not for his stellar running and big plays on screen passes, the Seminoles undoubtedly would have lost their third straight game to open the season.
Gators’ rushing attack shreds Vandy to bits
Florida found a groove offensively for perhaps the first time all season. Following up a passable performance against Kentucky last weekend, the Gators ran Vanderbilt into the ground Saturday at home to move to 3-1 on the season with a 38-24 victory. The Gators rushed for 218 yards and five touchdowns against the Commodores, who have now been punished severely two weeks in a row following an ill-advised boast in Week 3.
Malik Davis and Lamical Perine carried the bulk of the load and scored all five of those touchdowns. In total, Florida’s offense finished with 467 yards. The only thing that really went wrong is that Luke Del Rio was lost for the season after suffering an injury to his left shoulder. It’s going to be the Feleipe Franks show the rest of the way. So far, the freshman has certainly impressed. Now he’ll get to do it game in and game out.
Clemson starting to enter Alabama territory in terms of predictable dominance
For the second time in three weekends, Clemson went into another top team’s house and stole its lunch money.
Virginia Tech has been darn impressive this year, entering Week 4 with a 4-0 record, a burgeoning offense led by promising freshman Josh Jackson and a defense that allowed a total of 17 points the past three games. Of course, none of those teams were remotely of the same quality as Clemson.
The Tigers were in full control of Saturday night’s game in Blacksburg. Their defense forced Jackson into two interceptions and held the Hokies’ impressive rushing attack to just three yards per carry. Kelly Bryant led a mistake-free (albeit rough at times) offensive attack that was good enough, though not great.
In the end, it was a two-touchdown win (31-17) for the road team, which is starting to become Alabama-esque in terms of predictable dominance. The Tigers might just cruise to the finish line with an undefeated record after having already beaten their toughest opponents on the season.
Nick Fitzgerald, limping Bulldogs get trucked in Auburn
It’s been a couple of humbling weeks for Nick Fitzgerald and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Fitzgerald threw two interceptions for the second straight week. Going back to last weekend, he’s completed just 27-of-62 passes during the team’s two losses. After taking LSU to task in Week 3, the Bulldogs have now lost their last two games to Georgia and Auburn by a combined score of 80-13. Ouch.
It’s not all about Fitzgerald, either. Auburn rushed for 244 yards and four touchdowns Saturday, and Georgia went for 203 the previous weekend. Mississippi State’s defensive front has been getting absolutely abused. Thankfully the schedule is a bit kinder in the next few weeks. Following a bye, the Bulldogs will host BYU and Kentucky. They better get right, or the rest of the season will be miserable.
How does Butch Jones keep his job?
Tennessee was embarrassingly bad Saturday. Hosting Georgia, the Volunteers laid an egg on national television, losing by the score of 41-0. There was nothing positive to glean about anything that happened. Georgia did whatever it wanted on offense and Tennessee couldn’t do a darn thing right on either side of the ball.
This humiliating loss comes on the heels of another embarrassing loss to Florida two weeks back and a close shave last weekend at home against UMass. In terms of optics, the Vols might as well have lost their last three games. We targeted Jones as a guy on the hot seat entering the 2017 season, and things have gone downhill since then. His team is a dysfunctional mess. At this point, the only thing that we’ll be surprised about is if Jones still has his job on Monday night.
As a side not that’s treading dangerously close to Captain Obvious territory: Georgia is very, very good, you guys.
Saquon Barkley continues to amaze
Saquon Barkley only had 56 yards on the ground Saturday at home, even though he carried the ball 20 times, and he didn’t rush for a score, either. Those are unusual numbers, and not the good kind.
This just highlights what makes this kid so special, though. On a day in which he was mostly shut down as a running back, he managed to “pitch in” with other contributions. And by pitch in, we mean he left our jaws on the floor. It started when Barkley took the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for six. Utilizing his signature raw speed and lateral quickness, Barkley made a couple of subtle cuts and was gone (watch here). Then later in the game as the fourth quarter was winding down, Barkley threw a touchdown on a trick play.
All told, Barkley totaled 221 yards when factoring his throw, his runs, his receptions and his kickoff return.
Mason Rudolph’s gutsy five touchdown-performance just good enough
Oklahoma State did not play a perfect game Saturday night in Lubbock against Texas Tech. Far from it. Special teams weren’t so special for the Cowboys. Kicker Matt Ammendola doinked the same upright on short kicks two times, and he heard about it from stunned fans on social media. The team’s return unit was caught with its pants down when Kliff Kingsbury called for an surprise onside kick in the fourth quarter, down by a touchdown.
Mason Rudolph himself was responsible for an early 95-yard pick-six, throwing late to the outside near the goal line (watch here).
As we’ve seen so many times the past few seasons, though, Rudolph found a way to get the job done. He threw three touchdowns and showed off his wheels on two touchdown runs, the second being the game-winner with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. It was a gutsy win for a gutsy leader on the heels of a frustrating loss to TCU last weekend in which Rudolph was responsible for three turnovers.
Now he and the Cowboys can put that all behind them and revel in this huge road win, for at least one night.
- Maryland continues to prove it will be a tricky out for the Big Ten’s better teams. The Terps went on the road and took down previously undefeated Minnesota. A potent combo of run stuffing on defense and running the ball down Minnesota’s throat paved the way for the 31-24 upset win.
- South Florida steamrolled East Carolina, 61-31. The game was close at the half, with the Bulls taking a seven-point lead into the locker room. Then, as we’ve seen all year, the offense exploded in the second half. Charlie Strong just needs to keep his squad focused. It very well could be undefeated come November 24 when it has a date with UFC.
- It wasn’t pretty, but Texas got back to .500 with a feisty 17-7 win on the road against Iowa State Thursday night. The Longhorns relied on defense this time around, forcing three interceptions that turned into 10 points, the difference in the game.
- What a game for Pitt quarterback Max Browne, who has honestly had an awful start to the 2017 season. Saturday against Rice, he passed for 410 yards and four touchdowns, finishing with a QBR of 96.6, which is darn near perfect.
- Just another ho-hum, casually brilliant performance for defending Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson. He barely played in the second half in Louisville’s blowout win at home against Murray State, finishing with 349 yards and four touchdowns.
- One week after getting pummeled by Notre Dame, Michigan State rebounded with a gutsy win at home over Iowa. It was a defensive struggle the entire way. The Spartans were unbelievable shutting down Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley, who finished with just 30 yards on 17 carries.
- Baylor sure gave Oklahoma a scare last week. That momentum did not travel with the Bears to Manhattan, Kansas. Kansas State rushed for 225 yards and never trailed once, winning 33-20 to improve to 3-1 on the season. Baylor, on the other hand, is still winless at 0-5. Not the start Matt Rhule envisioned, we’re guessing.
- Seems safe to say that Notre Dame’s early season success isn’t a fluke. Since losing to Georgia by one point, the Fighting Irish have won their next three games by a combined 84 points. There are some big tests remaining, but at this point double-digit wins isn’t a crazy idea.
- It’s hard not to feel kind of bad for Rutgers, which hosted Ohio State Saturday night and lost in shutout, blowout fashion. The Crimson Knights averaged just over three yards per play on offense, allowed 9.2 yards per play and gave up 56 unanswered points to Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. At least they can take comfort in the fact it wasn’t quite as bad as last year’s home game against Michigan.
- Washington is known as an offensive powerhouse. But don’t sleep on the defense of the Huskies. Oregon State gained just 184 yards and gained just eight first downs at home Saturday night, losing by the blowout score of 42-7.
- Another week, another blowout win for Alabama. The Crimson Tide ate Ole Miss for a midnight snack late Saturday night, winning 66-3. They gained 365 yards on the ground and 613 yards total, controlling the outcome from the opening whistle. Once again, Nick Saban’s team will be the team to beat in college football come January.