There were a few revelations unveiled during college football Week 7, including the undeniable fact that one team reigns above them all.
On the other end of the spectrum, teams that were thought to be hot stuff were exposed as frauds.
At the halfway mark of the 2016 college football season, there is still a ton of football to be played. Every week brings new surprises and confirmations.
After taking a look at what went down in Week 7, these are the top-10 things we’re taking away from the action.
1. Make no mistake about it: Alabama is king
Whether you love or hate Alabama, nobody can deny the Crimson Tide rules the college football landscape with an iron fist.
The No. 1-ranked team in the nation went into another hostile environment Saturday afternoon and beat the heck out of Tennessee to the tune of 49-10. It was the largest margin of victory by Alabama against an AP top-10 team during the regular season…ever.
It was also the second week in a row in which the Crimson Tide abused a highly-ranked SEC opponent in their own building.
And they’re making it look so easy.
‘Bama’s defense is suffocating. Bringing pressure unlike any other top team in the nation, the front seven is NFL-caliber and overwhelms every offensive line it faces. And don’t even get us started on the defensive secondary led by Minkah Fitzpatrick, which scores touchdowns on a regular basis.
.@AlabamaFTBL has scored 11 touchdowns on defense and special teams this season.
Its defense has allowed 11 touchdowns all season. pic.twitter.com/y3UhXFHgAf
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 15, 2016
Some wondered if freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts might finally have an off game and play, you know, like a freshman. Quite honestly, thanks to the effort of Derek Barnett and Co. up front, he did have a couple of major hiccups (watch here).
But the overwhelming surge from Alabama’s offensive line swept away any long-term resistance. ‘Bama’s offense ended up with 594 yards and five touchdowns — more than enough to put Tennessee down hard.
After the game, Nick Saban had an interesting comment about Tennessee’s worthiness that could be viewed as less than sportsmanlike (more on that here).
But the sword cuts both ways with Saban, who will find plenty of ways to criticize his team’s performance. No doubt they’ll have plenty of things to work on and fix during the upcoming week while they prepare for another top SEC team in Texas A&M.
But make no mistake about it: The Crimson Tide are on a level no other team can match. Whether you’re talking about coaching, preparation, execution and just an overall level of talent, ‘Bama is unrivaled.
2. Ohio State takes down Wisconsin in an instant classic
Of course the game between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 8 Wisconsin needed overtime to decide a victor.
Heading into this prime-time Big Ten clash, we knew these two teams were going to be evenly matched, especially being that it was contested in Madison, Wisconsin.
It was also a given that both teams would rely on the ground game and staunch defense to carry them through. To that end, Wisconsin’s Corey Clement was a beast, rushing for 164 yards against Ohio State’s outstanding run defense.
After four quarters, the two teams were knotted up at 23-23. The only thing that was surprising is that, after such a back-and-forth affair between these heavyweights, the game ended on such an anti-climactic note.
After generally outplaying J.T. Barrett for most of the game, freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook took a sack on fourth-and-goal following an Ohio State touchdown in overtime.
The touchdown that put Ohio State up for good to win the game 30-23 was also historic for Barrett and the Buckeyes.
With that touchdown, J.T. Barrett passes Braxton Miller to become the all-time touchdown leader in Ohio State history. pic.twitter.com/YIH6wawKCb
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 16, 2016
Anti-climactic conclusion aside, the game most certainly lived up to the hype that surrounded it all week.
Barrett finished with 318 yards and three touchdowns, which is amazing considering how darn good Wisconsin’s defense has been all year. He wasn’t particularly efficient throwing the ball but made plays when it counted.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, young Hornibrook was overwhelmed at the worst possible time. You cannot take a sack on fourth down in overtime. Even worse, despite the fact that Wisconsin is undoubtedly one of the top teams in the nation, it now has two losses at the hands of its more powerful Big Ten rivals, Michigan and Ohio State.
Hornibrook and the Badgers have no reason to hang their heads, though. Losing to the Wolverines and Buckeyes by a combined 14 points is quite an achievement on its own. And being that he’s so young, Wisconsin could be good for a few more years at least.
Speaking of those two teams, it’s going to be quite the scene when Michigan hosts Ohio State at the end of November in what will likely be a clash between to undefeated teams.
3. Clemson lucky to stay undefeated against NC State
The Wolfpack had the No. 3-ranked Tigers right where they wanted them. With just two seconds left on the clock, they had a 33-yard field goal, positioned perfectly in the middle of the field, to win the game.
Unfortunately, NC State kicker Kyle Bambard (who had already missed two field goals) shanked the game-winner to send the contest into overtime (watch here).
After that kick in the teeth, the Wolfpack just had nothing left in the tank.
Led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Tigers scored a touchdown in the first overtime period and closed out the game with an interception to win by seven, 24-17.
Clemson did not deserve to win this one. Watson threw a bad pick-six to Mike Stevens (he never saw him) and the Tigers coughed up three fumbles, losing the turnover battle by two.
But the still-undefeated Clemson Tigers clearly had Lady Luck on their side.
It’s troubling that Dabo Swinney’s players played so poorly in this one. It’s an extension of a disturbing trend we’ve seen this year from the Tigers — playing down to the competition. And during homecoming week, no less, this was an inexcusably sloppy performance for a team that has national championship aspirations.
Given the way Alabama is steamrolling teams these days, the Tigers need to find a way to get sharp throughout the second half of the season.
4. Hurricanes’ offense sputters for second week in a row
North Carolina and No. 13 Miami both came into Week 7 needing a win in the worst way after losing the week prior.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the offense continued to be a problem against the Tar Heels. Quarterback Brad Kaaya, who NFL scouts are watching with a keen eye, continues to disappoint.
On Saturday, playing in front of their home fans at Hard Rock Stadium, the Hurricanes managed to convert just 4-of-15 third downs. They were able to move the ball a bit, but when it came time to execute under pressure, time and time again Kaaya and the ‘Canes failed.
The final score of 20-13 leaves us with the impression that this might have been a closely contested battle. But after putting up 20 points in the first half, Mitch Trubisky (who bounced back nicely after a miserable outing in the rain last wee) and Co. went into cruise control, knowing Miami’s offense couldn’t make up the difference.
Kaaya finished with 224 yards on 16-of-31 passing with no touchdowns and a lost fumble. One wonders what kind of chance Miami might have if it possessed a top signal caller. Clearly, Kaaya isn’t the answer. His accuracy issues are a big red flag for teams at the next level, despite the other wonderful physical tools he possesses.
Now at 4-2. Miami has little chance of making much noise in the ACC later this year. Despite a strong defensive contingency, the Hurricanes just don’t quite have enough offense to compete with the big boys like Clemson and Florida State.
5. Lamar Jackson leaving door open for Heisman hopefuls
Just like we saw with Leonard Fournette last year, Louisville (No. 7) quarterback Lamar Jackson is having trouble keeping pace with his ridiculous early-season output as the season moves along.
Heading into Week 5 against Clemson, Jackson had scored 25 total touchdowns. He was so far out in front of this race it seemed he had a stranglehold on the award. But this is no sprint — it’s a marathon.
After scoring three times against the Tigers in a losing cause, Jackson and the Cardinals had a week off to recover from the emotionally draining experience. You’d expect them to come out with energy and fire after having that extra week to prepare. But that was not the case.
Jackson scored just two touchdowns against a feisty Duke defense — once through the air and once on the ground. And the Cardinals escaped with a narrow 24-14 win.
Despite his low scoring output, Action Jackson did pull off another Heisman signature moment in this game that had our jaws on the floor (watch here).
It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals will remain at No. 7 in the standings after this questionable performance against Duke. That said, wins are wins, no matter how ugly there were attained.
Back to Jackson and the Heisman Trophy. The sophomore sensation needs to up his game significantly the next couple of weeks to keep the likes of Jabril Peppers and Jake Browning from becoming more prevalent as legitimate contenders.
6. West Virginia has our attention
As many are quick to point out, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes is dealing with an injured throwing shoulder. That had something to do with No. 20 West Virginia’s one-sided victory. But only a little.
Instead, Saturday’s 48-17 victory by the Mountaineers over the Red Raiders — in Lubboch, no less — was more about West Virginia making a statement. The only reason to complain about the big win was a lapse in judgement when the two sides traded targeting calls (more on that here).
Now with a 5-0 record (and 2-0 in the Big 12), Dana Holgorsen’s program is right in the thick of it for the conference championship.
Many, (this scribe included) wondered if the Mountaineers would be able to stifle Kliff Kingsbury’s electric offense. We knew the Red Raiders were susceptible to being scored on, but it remained to be seen if the defense could step up.
Clearly, it did.
”It shows that we can do it,” quarterback Skyler Howard said after the game, per the Associated Press. ”It all goes back to the confidence.”
West Virginia will need to be ready. With games against TCU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor still upcoming, the Mountaineers have their work cut out to remain undefeated this year.
7. Cornhuskers rising
#10 Nebraska is 6-0 for the first time since 2001. pic.twitter.com/meluQQyrVP
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 15, 2016
Nebraska is an interesting top-10 team. Undefeated now through six games, the Cornhuskers haven’t really played a top team yet, barring the Oregon game, which they barely won at home while Royce Freeman was sidelined throughout the second half.
This week’s game against Indiana was ugly, but they pulled out the 27-22 victory on the road. Yet going undefeated in the Big Ten means a heck of a lot.
Also, it’s impressive how quarterback Tommy Armstrong gutted it out Saturday against a tough Hoosiers defense that gave Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett fits in Week 6. He came into the game injured and was without receiver Jordan Westerkamp and tight end Cethan Carter — two of his top weapons in the passing game.
Armstrong threw two interceptions along with a touchdown. Thankfully, so did Hoosiers passer Richard Lagow, who threw a pick-six that put the Huskers up by a score of 17-0 in the first quarter.
Indiana kept things interesting but never led.
Despite not playing its best ball, Nebraska remained unblemished once again and is firmly entrenched in the top 10, for now. Upcoming games against Big Ten rivals Wisconsin and Ohio State still loom large.
8. Arkansas bounces back in nail-biter against Ole Miss
While the Crimson Tide just keep rolling SEC opponents, the rest of the conference seems doomed to cannibalize itself. This was in full effect Saturday night at Razorback Stadium.
No. 12 Ole Miss had come back nicely after losing two of its first three against the then-No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the nation. Coming into the game with a 3-2 record, the Rebels will drop significantly in the standings after losing their third of four ranked games thus far in 2016.
On the flip side, Arkansas should shoot up the rankings a bit after taking down Chad Kelly and Co. in a close contest at home.
Austin Allen outplayed Chad Kelly, throwing three touchdowns to Kelly’s one while they both tossed an interception.
Not surprisingly, it was the play of running back Rawleigh Williams III that tipped the balance of the scales into the Razorbacks’ favor. He rushed for 180 of Arkansas’ 200 total yards on the ground. While he failed to score, the punishing rushing attack he led kept Kelly and the Rebels off the field.
At the end, the Rebels had possessed the ball less than 20 minutes, while Arkansas controlled the clock more than two-thirds of the game.
It was fun to watch. Unfortunately for both teams, sitting at 1-2 in the SEC means it was just for show.
9. Virginia Tech takes one step forward, two steps back
One week removed from stunning North Carolina with a dominant performance at Chapel Hill, No. 17 Virginia Tech took a nose dive in a trap game against Syracuse.
It must be noted that the Orange had won just two games total heading into Week 7. Even Notre Dame had its way with Syracuse, and the Irish have been miserable this season.
Yet on Saturday the Hokies were incapable of stopping the Orange from successfully implementing a bombs-away passing attack and were outscored 31-17. Syracuse went up 17-3 by halftime and never looked back.
It was a terrible setback for a team that thought it was ascending after inching into the top 25 in Week 6, then taking down the Tar Heels to move up to No. 17 in the nation.
Of course, in every big upset, the underdog deserves plenty of mention. Syracuse forced Virginia Tech into two turnovers, dominated the time-of-possession battle and denied the Hokies chances to rebound.
Needless to say, the Syracuse locker room was a raucous place after the game.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Hokies and Hurricanes respond to adversity next weekend when they clash at Lane Stadium. Both ACC teams have lost two games and are quickly losing positioning for bowl games later this year.
10. “Top” programs struggling
Heading into the 2016 college football season, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Georgia were all ranked in the top 18 of the AP preseason poll.
It’s crazy how far these programs have fallen so short of expectations. After the action in Week 7, these teams have compiled a combined record of 8-12.
What in the world happened to these programs?
Notre Dame: 2-5
Michigan State: 2-4
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 16, 2016
Since beating North Carolina to get the season started off right, Georgia has lost two straight to ranked opponents and was edged by Vanderbilt in a stunning one-point loss between the hedges.
We’re wondering if Mark Richt might have some interesting things to say about the Bulldogs right now.
Notre Dame has no defensive presence whatsoever. Even worse, head coach Brian Kelly has completely lost his team after continually throwing players under the bus (more on that here).
He also apparently got into it with a Stanford strength and conditioning coach after the loss.
While nobody should expect Kelly to be fired (even though he should be), losing at home to the Stanford Cardinal (without Christian McCaffrey) Saturday night was a new low point.
Equally stunning has been the fall of Michigan State, which has lost four in a row since edging Notre Dame in Week 2. It’s like the Spartans have just never rebounded from the spanking Wisconsin gave them in Week 3.
Nobody expected any of these programs to be struggling this bad when the season began. That all three are in the dumps is incredible.