My goodness, what a weekend of college football! It had upsets, Heisman-worthy performances, comeback wins and pretty much everything in between.
Saturday’s action commenced with a barn burner at the Cotton Bowl as Texas outlasted Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. And that was just a taste of what fans were treated to the rest of the way.
Here’s a look at the top takeaways from an absolutely loaded slate of games in college football Week 6.
Tua Tagovailoa is the best player in college football
Tua Tagovailoa is the best player in college football, on the best team in college football. Period.
What this young man has done so far in 2018 is stunning. He seemingly makes a monster play every time the ball leaves his magical left hand.
He went 10-of-11 for 334 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday. In the first half. Including what he did against Arkansas, Tagovailoa has now passed for 1,495 yards with 18 touchdowns and a big fat zero interceptions.
As if that weren’t impressive enough, he’s done all that on just 76-of-101 passing, which averages out to 14.8 yards per attempt.
Tagovailoa has also done all this despite spending roughly half of his game days on the sideline watching Alabama’s second-string offense work. Nobody’s come close to challenging the Crimson Tide this year. And nobody’s come close to matching what Tagovailoa is doing under center, either.
Texas. Is. Back.
One wonders if Texas isn’t going to look back at its Week 1 upset loss to Maryland at the end of the season and weep. Since that loss, the Longhorns have downed three ranked opponents and rattled off five straight wins, including Saturday’s incredibly entertaining victory over Oklahoma to claim the Golden Hat.
Sam Ehlinger leads a balanced offense, and he exploded with a five-touchdown game against the Sooners to lead Texas to victory in Week 6.
But it’s Texas’ defense that really has given this team a boost in recent weeks and did so once again against the Sooners. With three forced turnovers, the Longhorns were able to take advantage of some short fields and stave off one of the most explosive offenses in the nation.
The huge win over Oklahoma should vault Texas much further up the rankings. It’s going to be exciting to see how this young team continues to develop as the season progresses.
Gunslinger Grier needs to sharpen up his game
Overall, Will Grier had a pretty great day leading his West Virginia Mountaineers to victory at home against Kansas. Three passes in particular will haunt him, however, as he threw three red-zone interceptions in the first half, closing out the second quarter with two straight drives that ended in picks.
Needless to say, his 332-yard, four-touchdown game could have looked a heck of a lot sweeter. Thankfully his mistakes came against Kansas, rather than the likes of Texas, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma, all of which are on the schedule later this year.
Grier is the biggest gunslinger in the nation right now. He is extremely skilled and has a big enough arm to make every throw in the book. Unfortunately, like many other gunslingers before him, he also has a tendency to get a bit too aggressive at times. He’ll need to be much sharper when the Mountaineers take on better competition going forward, especially when the opposite team’s offense can put up points in bunches.
On that note, West Virginia’s defense needs to stick this particular play in the trash can and light it on fire.
Michigan State just isn’t that good
The Spartans shocked the college football world last year by going 10-3 and winning the Holiday Bowl over Washington State in grand fashion. Many thought Michigan State could potentially build on that success in 2018, but so far all we’ve really seen is a big pile of mediocrity.
The Spartans’ defensive secondary is a wreck, and Northwestern exposed it in a big way on Saturday (watch here). Clayton Thorson went off for 378 yards and three touchdowns through the air to lead the Wildcats to a 29-19 victory over their Big Ten rival.
Mind you, this game took place at Spartan Stadium. It’s not like Michigan State had a brain fart on the road. This was just another unimpressive game by an unimpressive team that has no business being ranked among the nation’s best.
Wolfpack the best undefeated team nobody’s talking about
It wasn’t pretty, but NC State held off a tough Boston College team on Saturday to improve to 5-0 on the season.
Ryan Finley leads a dynamic passing attack and is considered by some who cover the NFL draft to be the best pro prospect in next year’s class. He passed for 308 yards on Saturday against the Eagles and got a ton of help from his running game, which piled up 225 yards on the ground.
The Wolfpack can get after the quarterback and make plays behind the line of scrimmage as well. Nobody’s going to compare this team to the likes of Alabama, Georgia or Ohio State. But NC State enters the second half of the season as one of the few remaining undefeated teams in college football. And that’s a big deal.
Oklahoma State might be allergic to freshman quarterbacks
A couple weekends ago, freshman quarterback Alan Bowman led Texas Tech to a stunning 42-17 win over Oklahoma State. In that game, he nearly passed for 400 yards, and the Cowboys gave up a total of 621 yards and 35 first downs.
Fast forward to Saturday and another freshman, 18-year-old Brock Purdy, had an incredible game leading the Cyclones to a stunning 48-42 win over their Big 12 rival in his first real action, on the road no less. Purdy had 318 yards on 18-of-23 passing with four touchdowns.
It’s clear that Oklahoma State’s defense is a huge liability. But it’s just crazy to see these two youngsters, who have so little experience between them, shredding the Cowboys like this.
Defense turning Michigan into Big Ten threat
Coming off a road win that was too close for comfort against Northwestern last weekend, Michigan needed to make a statement at home against Maryland. Early on, it looked like the Wolverines were going to once again struggle as the Terps went up 7-3 on a 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Ty Johnson.
That’s the last score Maryland sniffed, however, until the game was already out of hand in the fourth quarter. Michigan’s defense was outstanding, forcing a pick-six and holding the Terrapins to under 100 yards until a 75-yard fourth-quarter drive.
Now the Wolverines are 3-0 in Big Ten play, and their only loss came at the hands of Notre Dame in Week 1. By no means is Michigan a national powerhouse just yet, but Jim Harbaugh’s crew looks a lot stronger now than it did a few weeks ago.
Clemson starting to establish identity on offense
It’s funny how, in hindsight, Trevor Lawrence getting banged up last Saturday and exiting Clemson’s game against Syracuse might have been the best possible thing to happen to the Tigers this year.
Once he left the game, Travis Etienne took over for Clemson, leading the offense and propelling the Tigers to a comeback win.
That trend continued on Saturday. Lawrence played very well but wasn’t the focal point of the offense. Instead, it was all about establishing the ground game and running Wake Forest out of the building.
Clemson piled up an astonishing 471 yards of rushing offense in the 63-3 blowout win. Three different players — Etienne, Adam Choice and Lyn-J Dixon — all went for at least 100 yards and scored a combined six touchdowns. The ground game allowed Lawrence, and then later on Chase Brice, a comfort zone passing the ball. The results speak for themselves.
Defense leads way for Gators over LSU
Florida’s offense did a decent job Saturday at home against LSU, but it wasn’t the reason the Gators beat the No. 5 team in the nation. No, the reason the Gators won is that their defense was absolutely dominant.
Joe Burrow hadn’t thrown an interception in his five previous starts for LSU this year. He was under constant pressure on Saturday as the Gators got in his face with five sacks and multiple additional pressures. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, he threw a pick-six to Brad Stewart Jr. Then on the next drive down by eight points, he threw another interception to seal the loss.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how Florida fares against Georgia later this month. Until that test arrives, it’s pretty clear that they have one of the best defenses in the nation.
The nation watched N’Kosi Perry grow up in a hurry
Many people watching Saturday’s nationally televised game were calling for Mark Richt to bring back Malik Rosier. Freshman N’Kosi Perry was not on his game, and the Gators fell into a 27-7 hole early in the third quarter.
Then the turnover chain started working its magic against Deondre Francois, who lost a fumble and then threw an interception on consecutive drives in the third quarter. Perry made Florida State pay for those turnovers with points on Miami’s next offensive possessions. Two possessions later, he put the Hurricanes up for good with his fourth touchdown pass of the game.
Perry completed just over 40 percent of his passes. For most of the game, it looked like he was in over his head. But when Miami needed a big play, he came through with the biggest passes of his young collegiate career to lead his team to a 28-27 win.
It’s worth noting that this was the first time since 2003 in which Miami overcame a 20-point deficit. No big deal, right? Just a freshman quarterback growing up before our very eyes.
Dwayne Haskins doing his best to keep up with Tua in the Heisman race
Not surprisingly, Ohio State pummeled Indiana at home on Saturday, winning 49-26. What is surprising is that the Buckeyes were only ahead by eight points at halftime after falling into an early hole. But Dwayne Haskins and Co. turned on the jets in the second half, outscoring their opponent 21-6.
The most impressive thing about Saturday’s game, and really, about the entire season so far for Ohio State, is just how good Haskins is under center. He went off for 455 yards and six touchdowns through the air Saturday, bringing his seasonal total up to 1,919 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Extrapolate those numbers and you see that Haskins is on pace to throw for nearly 4,000 yards with 50 touchdowns before bowl season begins. That’s absurd.
From a pure numbers standpoint, he’s actually outpacing Tagovailoa, who is his main competition for the Heisman, by a significant amount. That being said, Haskins has played significantly more than Tagovailoa, whose team has been winning by such massive margins that he’s only playing roughly half the game every weekend.
It’s going to be fascinating to watch these young man continue to push for New York as the season rolls along.
Laviska Shenault might be the best player you’ve never seen
There were two NFL-caliber playmakers on the field Saturday when Arizona State took on undefeated Colorado. The man who’s been getting a lot of press lately, Sun Devils receiver N’Keal Harry, was pretty quiet in a losing cause.
The other young man who has a bright future ahead of him at the next level is sophomore Buffaloes receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who has been making jaw-dropping plays all year long. He was at it again at home against ASU, scoring all four touchdowns for the Buffaloes in the 28-21 victory that kept them undefeated.
Shenault finished with 13 catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns, adding 13 yards and two scores on the ground. Because he plays for Colorado, there’s a good chance most of you haven’t had the pleasure of watching this young man in action. If you do get the chance in the future, it’s highly advisable that you make it a point to see him play.
UCF Knights are a sure-fire top-10 team now
The UCF Knights never were given the proper respect they were due last year, despite going undefeated. Perhaps things will be different in 2018. They’re still undefeated after throttling SMU on Saturday night, and it’s looking like a sure bet that they’ll be a top-10 team leading up to Week 7.
The Knights were the No. 12-ranked team this weekend. Then we saw LSU (No. 5), Oklahoma (No. 7), and Auburn (No. 8) lose on Saturday.
Meanwhile, UCF put 48 points on the board in a blowout win over SMU.
Sure. We get it. The strength of schedule thing. That’s not going to stop the Knights from continuing to roll, however, and if they continue to stay undefeated all year, there’s little doubt they will deserve consideration for a playoff spot.
Mark Stoops’ failure to feed Benny Snell Jr. doomed Kentucky
Kentucky entered Week 6 with an undefeated record, thanks mostly to its defense and the play of running back Benny Snell Jr. The junior entered Saturday’s game against Texas A&M with 639 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, and he has been a workhorse who averaged 23 carries per game.
On Saturday, Snell carried the ball 13 times. That’s it. The game was never out of hand, and Kentucky was within one score of Texas A&M throughout the contest.
Instead of feeding his top guy, head coach Mark Stoops put quarterback Terry Wilson in the spotlight. He passed the ball 20 times and took off running 14 times…for a grand total of four yards rushing.
With the game on the line in overtime, Snell didn’t get a sniff. Not one carry or catch in overtime. Wilson took an awful sack instead, and kicker Miles Butler missed a 43-yard field goal before Texas A&M won the game with a touchdown.
It was an awful way to break a winning streak. And it was preventable, which makes it even worse.
Auburn’s offense is a mess
We touched on this last Saturday after the Tigers struggled to do much offensively against Southern Mississippi. If things didn’t get fixed quickly, it was inevitable that Auburn’s offense would crumble against a tough defense like the one Mississippi State features.
Oh boy, did it crumble.
Jarrett Stidham entered Saturday’s game with only 963 yards and five touchdowns. He only managed to complete half his passes (19 of 38) against the Bulldogs and threw nary a touchdown. This means in six games, he’s still stuck at just five passing touchdowns. That’s a single half of work for the likes of Tua Tagovailoa or Dwayne Haskins.
The Tigers scored just nine points in a blowout loss to the Bulldogs. They converted just 3-of-14 third down attempts and one out of three fourth downs. They held the ball for less than 19 minutes in the entire game.
That’s just pathetic. We can safely rule out Auburn as a championship contender this year, folks. And don’t be surprised if a few more losses pop up between now and the end of the season.
Notre Dame well on its way to playoff berth
At the least, Notre Dame will bump up one spot to take LSU’s No. 5 ranking heading into Week 7. Through the first half of the college football season, however, it’s hard to argue that the Fighting Irish aren’t already one of the top-four teams in the nation.
Saturday’s impressive win in Blacksburg against a feisty Virginia Tech team smoothed the way for a playoff berth, regardless. Including this game, the Irish have now beaten three ranked opponents and have a relatively manageable schedule the rest of the way.
Barring any craziness — meaning, assuming Notre Dame continues to plug away with dominant performances on both sides of the ball from now until the end of the season — the Fighting Irish will not lose a single game this year.
That would put them squarely in the College Football Playoff, without a shadow of doubt.