The college football Week 6 action got started with a bang when Clemson made another statement on Friday night.
It ended with a stunning finish in Miami that will likely be talked about for years to come.
In between, a national power was stunned, a top coach continued to prove himself unworthy of his position and the top team in the nation continued to assert itself as the one all others have to look up at in the rankings.
These are the top takeaways from the biggest games in Week 6.
1. Tennessee’s magic runs out against Texas A&M
For a minute, it sure looked like No. 8 Texas A&M was going to be yet another team to fall victim to No. 9 Tennessee’s run of freakish come-from-behind wins.
Aggies running back Trayveon Williams burst through a big hole late in the fourth quarter and looked to have nothing but green between himself and the score that would put his team up by two touchdowns with less than two minutes left to play.
But rather than scoring the game-sealing touchdown, Williams fumbled the ball into the back of the end zone, courtesy of a ridiculous hustle play by Tennessee’s Malik Foreman (watch here).
The magic that propelled the Vols to an undefeated record was sparkling, and it appeared it might once again vault them to another improbable win. This was especially true when Texas A&M kicker Daniel LaCamera’s potential game-winner went wide left with four seconds left on the clock.
Anything can happen in overtime, so this scribe couldn’t help but wonder if the football gods were once again on the side of Tennessee in a nail-biter of a game.
But after trading field goals in the first overtime period, the Aggies prevailed.
Trevor Knight, who made spectacular plays throughout the contest, powered through for the go-ahead touchdown on the ground, reminiscent of his game-winning score against UCLA in Week 1.
On the next offensive play, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw his second interception of the game into the arms of Armani Watts — the same man whose play in the first quarter kept the Vols from getting a chance at an early score (watch here).
Interestingly, both starting running backs, Williams and Alvin Kamara, both had monster games while making critical mistakes. Together, they combined on 505 total yards and four touchdowns.
It was a game that was won and lost by the narrowest of margins. Unfortunately for the Vols, their late-game magic was used up during the first five weeks of the season.
2. Memo to Brian Kelly: Coaching had everything to do with loss to NC State
After Notre Dame lost to Duke in Week 4, Kelly made a perplexing statement about how coaching had nothing to do with being beat by an inferior team. Instead, he blamed the players (more on that here).
Of course, the next day Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder — totally unrelated, we’re sure.
Fast forward to Saturday’s game in Raleigh, N. C. against North Carolina State. Playing in conditions generated by Hurricane Matthew on a field that produced the most excellent slip-and-slide moments imaginable (watch here), the Fighting Irish went with a game plan that defies logic.
Kelly had quarterback DeShone Kizer throw the ball 26 times.
TWENTY SIX TIMES!!!
Shockingly, or not so much, the poor kid completed just nine of those attempts, throwing nary a touchdown and one interception, which thankfully did not turn into points for the Wolfpack.
Notre Dame ended up running the ball 36 times, though 15 of those attempts are credited to Kizer, who gained 15 yards.
On the other side, North Carolina’s coaching staff appeared to have a better grip on reality. The Wolfpack attempted just 14 passes while rushing the ball 51 times.
After the game, Kelly laid into center Sam Mustipher for his mistakes playing in the slop.
I was joking but we've really reached the point where Brian Kelly is calling out offensive linemen by name and throwing them under the bus
— 🎄 America is musty🎄 (@DragonflyJonez) October 8, 2016
Rodger Sherman of SB Nation had an appropriate response that summed up our feelings on the matter succinctly.
so tragic that Brian Kelly, a millionaire who has never made a mistake, is always surrounded by unpaid college students who let him down https://t.co/OnJ82W181e
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) October 8, 2016
Now at 2-4 on the season with upcoming games against Stanford, Miami, Virginia Tech and USC, it’s hard to imagine Notre Dame finishing above .500 on the season.
Bowl eligibility seems like a far-fetched dream.
And yes, it has a lot to do with coaching, whether Brian Kelly says so or not.
3. Charlie Strong still on thin ice after Sooners stampede
After Texas lost badly to Oklahoma State in Week 5, athletic director Mike Perrin made a comment that appeared to indicate Strong was on the hot seat. Rumors swirled, with some saying the university would not fire Strong at least until the end of the season, while others indicated he could be gone at any moment.
Strong made a move to demote defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, who was relegated to coaching the secondary while Strong took over calling defensive plays.
On Friday leading up to the Red River Showdown, Perrin gave a strong show of support to Strong and would not “speculate” about a magic number of wins Texas must tally this year in order for Strong to keep his job.
“I support Charlie Strong. He’s my coach. He’s a friend. I respect him as a man,” Perrin said Friday, meeting with a small group of reporters in Dallas (h/t Chuck Carlton of SportsDay. “I really can’t speculate or answer hypothetical questions about what might be put before us later in the year.”
Texas put up a good fight Saturday at the Cotton Bowl, ultimately losing by just five points, 45-40. The loss dropped the Longhorns to 2-3 on the season, but more importantly it marks the third straight loss for the program.
One thing that stands out as a huge negative from Saturday’s action is that Texas allowed a whopping 672 yards to Baker Mayfield and Co. The defense also missed a whopping 19 tackles, per Pro Football Focus.
It was an abhorrent display of defense, if you can even call it that.
It was also a sign that Strong’s move to demote Bedford isn’t going to change anything this year for the Longhorns. While the offense did all it could Saturday to hang with the Sooners, the defense — Strong’s baby — continues to prove one of the worst in college football.
That cannot bode well for Strong’s job security. If the Iowa State Cyclones (1-5) are able to whip Texas next week, don’t be surprised if Strong gets his walking papers halfway through the season.
4. Clemson undoubtedly a national championship contender
If there were any doubts about No. 3 Clemson’s viability as a legitimate contender after the Tigers took down Louisville last weekend, they should be squashed by now.
Boston College played host to Dabo Swinney and Co. Friday night and got absolutely hammered, 56-10, by the Tigers.
Clemson racked up an incredible 503 yards of total offense, despite possessing the ball almost half as long as the Eagles did.
Deshaun Watson wasn’t terribly efficient, completing 14-of-24 attempts, but he made his connections count. Finishing with 266 yards and four touchdowns passing, he connected with seven receivers, three of which caught his touchdown passes.
This is especially remarkable considering Boston College featured the No. 1 overall defense in the nation, allowing just 202 yards per game before this contest.
The Tigers also kept Boston College’s run-heavy offense from doing much damage, allowing just 3.5 yards per play.
It was a show of overall dominance that had been missing the first few weeks of the season. It was the kind of showing you’d expect from a championship contender, and Clemson delivered.
5. Just like that, Houston’s playoff hopes are dashed
Down go the Cougars!
Navy upsets No. 6 Houston, totaling most points scored vs a ranked team in school history. pic.twitter.com/zYTplHzKt6
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 8, 2016
Nobody saw this coming.
Houston has been steamrolling opponents since taking down Oklahoma in Week 1. Heading into Saturday’s game against the Midshipmen, the Cougars had been winning games by an average score of 44-11.
But on a rainy day in Annapolis, Houston’s normally staunch defense was the unit that got steamrolled.
Navy rushed for 306 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Will Worth threw two touchdowns (despite throwing just five passes) and the Midshipmen controlled the clock to the tune of roughly 35 to 25 minutes over Houston.
Cougars quarterback Greg Ward Jr. had another highly productive day, totaling 453 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also threw two interceptions, both of which were hauled in by Josiah Powell and one of which was returned for a touchdown.
This loss was both unexpected and devastating to Houston’s hope of making it to the College Football Playoff at the end of the year. Even if the Cougars win out the rest of the way (no given, considering their tilt against Louisville later this season), a one-loss American Athletic team is not going to trump a two-loss Power 5 team.
On the flip side, it was also a historic win for the Midshipmen.
Navy takes down No. 6 Houston 46-40, ending the Cougars’ @CFBPlayoff hopes. Most points for Midshipmen vs. ranked team in school history.
— Sam Khan Jr. 😷 (@skhanjr) October 8, 2016
6. Virginia Tech makes huge ACC statement
One of the biggest storylines we talked about before Week 6 was how fired up the No. 25-ranked Hokies were to take on No. 17 North Carolina this week. They didn’t think the Tar Heels respected them enough, and boy, did they ensure that was a short-term mistake.
After getting beat like a drum, losing 34-3, we have no doubt North Carolina fears Virginia Tech now.
Playing in tropical storm conditions, it was a sloppy game for both teams. But it was the Hokies who made the most out of extra opportunities, turning four North Carolina turnovers into 20 points.
They also neutralized quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who came into the game unblemished with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. He ended up with just 58 yards on 13-of-33 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Now 5-1, and more importantly 2-0 in the ACC Coastal division (first place), the Hokies are in control of their own destiny to potentially play for the ACC Championship later this year.
Looming large as the definitive battle for that honor is their home game against No. 10 Miami, which lost Saturday night, in two weeks.
7. USC shows serious heart taking down Colorado
The Trojans certainly have not quit on head coach Clay Helton this year, despite starting the season 1-3. Now with two straight wins, USC is back on track to potentially finish strong and earn a decent bowl bid, not to mention save Helton’s job.
Coming into the contest, the No. 21-ranked Buffaloes were No. 9 in the nation allowing just 149 passing yards per game.
Freshman Sam Darnold must not have gotten that memo, because he absolutely torched Colorado. Finishing with 358 yards on 25-of-37 passing with three touchdowns and one interception, he looked like a seasoned leader who was in control of the offense, barring his turnovers.
In total, USC’s offense piled up 539 yards in a stunning show of dominance. The final score of 21-17 would have been much more lopsided if not for four turnovers, including three fumbles deep in Colorado territory.
Since Helton made the switch from Max Browne to Darnold, USC’s offense has taken a turn for the better, and so has the program as a whole.
8. Miami learns it’s the little things that matter most sometimes
The first half of this game between in-state rivals belonged to No. 10 Miami.
Thanks to an interception in the red zone by Sean Maguire, No. 23 Florida State suffered an early double-digit deficit. His turnover turned into seven points for the Hurricanes when Brad Kaaya threw a gorgeous pass to Stacy Coley for the score to cap off an impressive 10-play drive.
What a catch!
Miami takes the 10-0 lead on FSU with this beauty from Brad Kaaya to Stacy Coley. pic.twitter.com/svAWkpd49L
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 9, 2016
It was a huge swing in the game. The Seminoles might have scored three on a field goal or perhaps seven on a touchdown. They ended up going into halftime down by 10 points, 13-3, instead of being knotted up at six apiece or ahead by four.
Maguire was only in because freshman Deondre Francois had to leave for a series after getting blasted and landing hard on his shoulder. Thankfully for FSU fans, he returned and played out the remainder of the game.
Francois played well, too. He threw two second-half touchdowns, one of which was caught by running back Dalvin Cook, who had a huge game.
Because of their fine play, Florida State went up 20-13 in the fourth quarter until Kaaya threw another dime to Coley that should have tied the game up with less than two minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, kicker Michael Badgley had his extra point attempt blocked by Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker.
That was the first big mistake by Miami. The second was kicking off deep and allowing the Seminoles to run the clock down for the win.
Miami hoped to stop Cook and force a punt, but the dynamic running back wasn’t having any of that. He was stymied on first down but then he and Francois gained 21 yards on the next two plays, sealing the victory over their rivals.
Florida State’s win marked their seventh in a row over Miami in as many years.
9. Alabama rides wave of defensive pressure to victory
No. 17 Arkansas made far too many mistakes offensively to hang with the No. 1 team in the nation.
The mistakes started early in the second quarter when a forced fumble turned into a touchdown, putting the Crimson Tide up by two touchdowns. At that point, it was already 21-7, and the rout was on.
Offensively, ‘Bama was its usual balanced self, gaining 253 yards through the air and 264 on the ground. They did turn the ball over three times, which will eat at Nick Saban like a worm eats through a rotten apple.
But it was plenty good enough considering how the defense performed.
Austin Allen put forth a valiant effort, but he was too often under heavy pressure before he had any time to think, let alone make an accurate pass.
He was especially victimized by Alabama’s wildly talented cornerback, Minkah Fitzpatrick, who intercepted him three times — one of which he returned 100 yards for six points.
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 9, 2016
The Arkansas rushing attack was equally dominated, gaining just 73 yards on 36 carries.
Until proven otherwise, Alabama is going to remain atop the rankings. And rightly so. But that doesn’t mean another team isn’t capable of giving Nick Saban and Co. a run for their money, should they get the opportunity to square off later this year.
This leads us to our final takeaway from Week 6.
10. Michigan might be the best team in the nation
To this point, the No. 4-ranked Wolverines haven’t had a single hiccup since Week 1.
They have absolutely dominated the teams that should have been beneath them and out-muscled a very good Wisconsin team in Week 5.
Featuring the best defense in the land to these eyeballs, they came into Saturday’s game against Rutgers as the No. 4-ranked defense in the nation in terms of yards allowed per game. They also had the No. 6 scoring defense, allowing just over 12 points per game.
Then Michigan went to New Jersey to take on the Scarlet Knights and absolutely wiped the floor with the poor saps.
Here’s a look at what happened in the first half.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 9, 2016
Rutgers ended up with just 39 total yards and two first downs, going 0-for-17 on third downs. It got so bad that, when Rutgers had finally converted a first down midway through the fourth quarter, this happened.
Granted, Ohio State also blanked Rutgers last week, 58-0. But that was in Columbus, and the Scarlet Knights at least generated a modicum of offensive production with nine first downs and 116 yards. They also converted four third downs against the Buckeyes.
Michigan’s defense is on another level.
Combined with the strong play of quarterback Wilton Speights and the team’s overpowering run offense, the Wolverines are a team that could give Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State a run for their money.
The big showdown against the Buckeyes at the end of the season cannot come soon enough. Though, Ohio State still has to get past Wisconsin next week to remain unblemished.