College football Week 4 was full of standout performances, big statements, and featured the biggest upset we’ve seen in years.
The Heisman race is starting to really take shape. And it won’t be long before we have a firm grasp of which teams are true contenders, and which are pretenders.
Now it’s time to take a look at the biggest takeaways from this weekend’s action.
FAU has taken a significant step backward this year
For the second time in four weeks, the Florida Atlantic Owls had a chance to show they are capable of hanging with a top program with a prime-time matchup against UCF Friday night. For the second time this year, they proved they don’t belong. Much like we saw in Week 1 against Oklahoma, FAU’s defense had no hope of stopping McKenzie Milton, who put up Heisman-worthy numbers en route to a 20-point blowout win.
Just as frustrating, freshman quarterback Chris Robison gave the Owls no chance to keep pace with the Knights on the scoreboard. He threw three interceptions, two of which turned into touchdowns for UCF.
Simply put, Lane Kiffin’s team has taken a step backward since ripping off 10 straight wins to close out the 2017 season. If it weren’t for the stellar play of running back Devin Singletary, the Owls would be in really bad shape.
Trouble persists for USC, but JT Daniels provides hope
If not for a couple of special-teams mistakes by Washington State late Friday night, the USC Trojans would almost assuredly be 1-3 to open the season. As it was, they were lucky to escape with a 39-36 win.
USC’s defense is pretty darn awful. The Trojans struggle to pressure opposing quarterbacks, have been allowing massive holes to open up in coverage on the back end, and penalties are a big issue as well. On top of that, offensive coordinator Tee Martin seems to be out of his depth calling plays — his offense constantly stalls.
The silver lining is that true freshman quarterback JT Daniels finally came alive against the Cougars. He continually stressed Washington State’s defensive secondary with deep shots, connecting on many while forcing penalties on other plays. The end result was a three-touchdown, no-interception performance that should be a nice platform for him to build on going forward.
Scott Frost is going to need a lot of time to reshape Nebraska
In our preview of college football Week 4, we had a feeling that Nebraska would lose, thus falling to 0-3 on the season.
That said, losing to Michigan in Ann Arbor is one thing. Getting absolutely annihilated the way the Cornhuskers did is quite another. This game was over before the first quarter had concluded, and well before halftime social media was buzzing about the awful effort by Scott Frost’s program.
The level of disparity between Michigan (which really isn’t amazing, by the way) and Nebraska in this game was staggering. The Wolverines out-gained the Cornhuskers 491-132 and, of course, won the battle on the scoreboard, 56-10.
Clearly, it’s going to take Frost a couple of years to turn the ship around for Nebraska.
Boston College not as good as advertised
The Eagles went into Week 4 as a ranked team (No. 23) for the first time since 2008. Boston College fans everywhere were amped for their road game against Purdue, which came into the week without a win on record. This was supposed to be a big win for the road team, which opened as nearly one-touchdown favorites.
As we’ve seen so many times before, expectations were buffeted by reality, as the Boilermakers quickly put a stop to all that hype.
Rondale Moore once again put on a show for Purdue, sparking a huge 30-13 win with 114 total yards and two touchdowns, including an amazing 70-yard score that saw him shrug off a would-be tackler before torching the entire Boston College secondary (watch here).
Eagles quarterback Anthony Brown had a humbling game, throwing four interceptions and leading an offensive attack that couldn’t get out of its own way.
Boston College might be pretty good this year. But an elite team, it is not.
Brian Kelly made smart decision to start Ian Book
We had Notre Dame on upset alert heading into Saturday’s road game against Wake Forest. The reason we did is that quarterback Brandon Wimbush has been a huge liability for the Fighting Irish so far this year, much like he was a year ago.
Head coach Brian Kelly made the decision before Saturday’s game to bench Wimbush and roll with Junior Ian Book. It proved to be the smartest thing he’s done in a while. Book was brilliant, completing 25-of-34 passes for 325 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Notre Dame has a great offensive line and talented running backs. It does not need a running quarterback. Rather, it needs a distributor in the passing game. That’s what Book is, and he gives the Fighting Irish the balance on offense it will need to remain a top team this year and contend for a playoff berth.
All that being said, Kelly left the door wide open to go back to Wimbush in the coming weeks, which leaves us feeling a bit unsettled about this team.
Dabo Swinney needs to turn Clemson offense over to Trevor Lawrence
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been loyal to Kelly Bryant so far this year, and that’s awesome. Bryant has been a solid player for over a year now, and he’s earned the trust of his teammates since taking over for Deshaun Watson last season.
That said, it’s time to let freshman Trevor Lawrence take over. On Saturday as Clemson battled Georgia Tech, the offense was a stagnant thing for the entire first quarter with Bryant under center, having gained 13 total yards of offense. At this point, the only points scored in the game by either team came on a fumble recovery for touchdown by Clelin Ferrell.
Then Swinney turned to Lawrence in the second quarter, and Clemson’s offense suddenly had wings. He threw three touchdowns in that second quarter (and four overall), and suddenly the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Lawrence did come back in to play during the second half, and the offense was just fine. But just like we’ve seen with Alabama, where Tua Tagovailoa is clearly the best quarterback, Clemson needs to turn to the young guy here for the rest of the season.
Georgia’s playmakers come through during big road win
We knew the Missouri Tigers were going to be a handful for Georgia’s defense, and they were. Drew Lock played better than his stat line suggests he did on Saturday against the Bulldogs, and the Missouri run game was a threat all game long.
The deciding factor was that Georgia just had too many playmakers, which is going to be a theme all year long.
In the first half, the Bulldogs scored a defensive touchdown on a 64-yard fumble return, and then they scored a touchdown on special teams after Eric Stokes blocked a punt with his face (watch here).
The scoring got turned up in the second half as both offenses woke up in a big way. Answering every challenge the Tigers served up, Jake Fromm threw three touchdowns that went for 33 yards, 61 yards and 54 yards, respectively, to three different receivers.
This type of firepower is why the Bulldogs are a legitimate playoff team.
Looks like Miami has a new quarterback
Malik Rosier has held a somewhat tenuous grasp on the starting quarterback position for Miami the past couple of years. On Saturday, Mark Richt pulled the senior passer after two series against Florida International, inserting freshman N’Kosi Perry in his stead.
Perry had performed very well in mop-up duty a couple weeks back against Savannah State, and he picked right back up where he started with a tremendous game in this one, prompting Richt to keep him in.
Completing 17-of-25 passes for 224 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, he led an efficient offensive attack in the team’s blowout 31-17 win at home that was never really that close.
The entire offense ran smooth with Perry under center. It sure made us believe that Rosier’s not going to get his job back any time soon.
Texas has to be taken seriously now
After a sluggish start to the season, highlighted by a loss to Maryland for the second year in a row, Texas has started to look like a formidable program the past couple of weeks. Following up their blowout win over USC in Week 3, the Longhorns took it to No. 17 TCU, wearing down the Horned Frogs with a tremendous second half surge.
Much like we saw against the Trojans, Texas’ defense led the way with a stellar effort to shut down Shawn Robinson on Saturday. Freshman defensive back Caden Sterns picked Robinson off twice, and the Longhorns forced a total of four turnovers in the game — leading to 10 points.
Sam Ehlinger doesn’t always wow you with his arm, but he didn’t get forced into turnovers and managed the offense very well. The end result was a convincing 31-16 victory that should see Texas get a sniff as a ranked team once again heading into Week 5.
Old Dominion pulls off upset for the ages
The Virginia Tech Hokies entered Week 4 as the No. 13 team in the nation. Old Dominion hadn’t won a game. Even more dramatic than that, the Monarchs had lost big to Liberty in Week 1, and Liberty was then throttled by Army.
Needless to say, it wasn’t surprising that the Hokies were nearly four-touchdown favorites to win on Saturday.
Only, nobody told that to Old Dominion. The Monarchs played a tremendous game, winning 49-35 to pull off the biggest upset by an FBS team over an ACC opponent in 40 years.
Junior quarterback Blake LaRussa went off to the tune of 495 yards and four touchdowns through the air, with receiver Jonathan Duhart coming down with three of those scores. Running back Jeremy Cox had 130 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Old Dominion’s defense forced two turnovers, including one on downs near the end of the game.
Social media went wild watching this unfold, and we certainly were caught up in it as well.
Kentucky’s 4-0 start is no fluke
The Kentucky Wildcats are better known for being a basketball school, but the football program is coming on strong.
Heading into Week 4, Kentucky was undefeated and had a nice feather in its cap for having taken down Florida in Gainesville a couple weeks back — a win which broke a losing streak that had lasted more than three decades.
On Saturday at home against Mississippi State, these Wildcats once again stepped up big in their second major upset win of the season. Defensively, they held the Bulldogs to just seven points and 201 yards of offense while forcing an interception.
Benny Snell Jr. once again had a huge game to lead the offense, racking up 165 yards and all four touchdowns scored by Kentucky in the contest.
The Wildcats are a force to be reckoned with in the SEC. They’re currently tied with Georgia, whom they’ll face on November 3, atop the SEC East with a 2-0 record in conference play.
Red Raiders put Big 12 on notice with blowout over OK State
Ever since being smacked down by Ole Miss in Week 1, the Texas Tech Red Raiders have raised their game to a very high level.
Following up an offensive explosion last weekend in which freshman quarterback Alan Bowman set a new Big 12 passing record, the offense once again had a monster performance on Saturday against Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders piled up 621 total yards, 35 first downs and, most importantly, they hung 41 points on the Cowboys.
As impressive as that is, the more important stat is this: The Red Raiders did not allow a single score in the game’s final 40-plus minutes. Once Oklahoma State went up 17-14 early in the second quarter, the Texas Tech defense went into lock-down mode and shut the Cowboys out.
Mind you, all this happened in the confines of Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. Talk about a statement game.
Pac-12 is fun, but there’s no playoff team here
One thing that’s abundantly clear early this season is that, while the Pac-12 provides us with plenty of entertainment, there isn’t a single team in the conference that has a realistic shot at winning — let alone making — the College Football Playoff.
The Stanford-Oregon game Saturday night was a clear example of why this is true. Both teams made critical mistakes at key moments. Both teams have defenses that aren’t disciplined enough or consistently dominant enough up front to stop a true powerhouse. Both teams have exciting offenses, but again, there’s just not enough consistency there to really scare a team like Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson or Alabama.
Washington has a tremendous defense, but quarterback Jake Browning cannot be counted on to come through against tough odds.
This conference is maddening. There’s a lot to like about the players and teams that regularly take the spotlight. But there’s nary a championship-caliber team among the bunch.
Mistakes cost Iowa a chance to pull off another upset
Man, for a while there it really looked like the Iowa Hawkeyes were going to be giant slayers at Kinnick Stadium for the second year in a row. They had the Wisconsin Badgers on the ropes in the fourth quarter, up by three points. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes just shot themselves in the foot one too many times.
It started with an ill-fated decision to go for it on fourth-and-one at the Wisconsin five-yard line early in the first quarter. They failed to pull it off, killing an 11-play drive while turning all the momentum over to Wisconsin, which then drove 11 plays for the game’s first touchdown.
Then late in the fourth quarter with a chance to either tie or win the game, quarterback Nate Stanley had his pass careen off the hands of his intended receiver, only to land in the hands of Wisconsin’s T.J. Edwards.
Wisconsin was ripe for a road loss after being upset at home last weekend by BYU. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes just ran out of magic.
Heisman race is really starting to heat up
Through four games, it sure seems like it’s a four-player race for the Heisman Trophy. And of the four top contenders, there really isn’t a heck of a lot of wiggle room — it’s anyone’s race to win.
Kyler Murray didn’t pile up the yardage like he’s been early this season due to Army’s grind-it-out offense. But he still put up 236 yards and four touchdowns as Oklahoma scooted past the Knights in overtime.
Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins only played one half against Tulane but went for 304 yards with five touchdowns, missing on just three of his 24 attempts.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was magnificent leading the Crimson Tide to another blowout win, racking up 397 yards and five touchdowns.
Will Grier continues to put up staggering numbers for West Virginia, as well. He finished Saturday’s win over Kansas State with 356 passing yards and five touchdowns.
One player who could possibly sneak into this race with a couple more big-time games is UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, whose six-touchdown performance on Friday night certainly got him in the conversation.