Everything you need to know in college football following Week 5
We expected a weekend of wall-to-wall excitement, and after Washington dismantled Stanford to kick off the madness on Friday night, it was as advertised all day on Saturday. Few weekends can match the roller coaster of emotions felt throughout the day — particularly for North Carolina, Florida State, Georgia, and Tennessee fans. Late-game heroics and collapses carried right into the main event as Louisville and Clemson lived up to the hype from start to finish. What else happened in Week 5? A little of everything.
- Clemson survives, but Louisville impresses
Lamar Jackson. Deshaun Watson. Two good defenses. This game had it all and Clemson survived in the end to take charge of their playoff destiny. The Tigers got off to a great start, playing strong defense and containing QB Lamar Jackson as well as any team thus far in 2016. Louisville went on a second-half run, turning a 28-10 deficit into a 36-28 lead, but Clemson stepped up down the stretch with a Mike Williams 20-yard touchdown and the game winner, a 31-yard yard catch and run by TE Jordan Leggett to win 42-36.
The game was filled with back-and-forth defensive stops, a multitude of fumbles and uneven play from both Heisman candidates at quarterback. But in the end, Clemson found a way to win, and it says a lot about the championship roster that head coach Dabo Swinney has built. As for Louisville, while they proved to be one of the nation’s best teams, they may need a few of the other top teams to falter along the way in order to keep their standing in the College Football Playoff hunt.
- Tennessee still controls their own destiny
Coming into their game at Georgia, I expected a letdown from Tennessee after beating Florida for the first time since the pre-social media days last week. The beginning of the game looked like the expected letdown, but that was nothing new for the Vols given their slow start against the Gators. They bounced back to take the lead before surrendering what could have been a season-altering late touchdown with only nine seconds to go in the game. That’s not how things would end, though — instead of calculating who Tennessee still has to beat to secure an SEC East title and who has the tie breakers, we stand here with the Vols completely in control of their SEC and playoff fate after they stunned Georgia with a long kickoff return and Hail Mary of their own to remain undefeated. Few games turned from anguish to ecstasy as quickly as this one, and the Josh Dobbs to Jauan Jennings Hail Mary in Athens will be a story to tell grandchildren for Vols fans.
- Speaking of anguish to ecstasy… North Carolina is still alive, too
Moments before the Georgia-Tennessee ending, Florida State and North Carolina wrote their own historic finish as they battled back and forth before a two-yard run by Florida State QB Deondre Francois with 23 seconds remaining appeared to seal the deal for the Seminoles. Of course a 23-yard pass and pass interference penalty later, North Carolina was in the outskirts of field goal range and lined up for the near-impossible (in college football) 54-yard field goal. With one kick from North Carolina kicker Nick Weiler, the Tar Heels salvaged their ACC and playoff hopes while Florida State saw theirs disappear with Weiler’s tomahawk-chopping victory lap as the final insult to injury.
The Tar Heels are now 2-0 in the conference and the ACC Coastal is suddenly an intriguing, important division with undefeated Miami and a dangerous Virginia Tech team. The Atlantic Division has gotten plenty of well-deserved hype due to Louisville, Clemson, and Florida State, but the Coastal is shaping up to be one of the best races in college football.
- Washington made a statement on a national stage
A weekend of top-10 matchups got off to a one-sided start as Washington announced their national presence with authority with a 44-6 win over Stanford. They came in with the best defensive front in the Pac-12 and it was on display as they controlled the line of scrimmage and dominated Stanford’s offensive line. Defensive linemen Elijah Qualls (82.8 season grade), Greg Gaines (83.9), and Vita Vea (82.6) proved why they’re among the Pac-12’s best, while edge rusher Joe Mathis (84.2) and Sidney Jones (84.6) are right there are their respective positions as well. Offensively, QB Jake Browning has spread the ball around to his various playmakers with accuracy all season and he showed that precision against the Cardinal. Washington is no fluke as they have the quarterback play, defensive talent at all levels, and offensive firepower to get through the Pac-12 and make a run to the College Football Playoff.
- Michigan defense smothers Wisconsin
While a 14-7 win is not a headline-grabber, the Michigan defense proved their worth once again in a smothering effort against Wisconsin. The defensive line set the tone as they do on a weekly basis, led by DT Ryan Glasgow’s 86.4 grade and it was the secondary that reaped the benefits as CB Channing Stribling (82.1 game grade) picked off two passes and our top-graded returning cornerback Jourdan Lewis sealed the deal with one of the best interceptions of the year in his 87.0 overall effort.
While it was a championship-level defensive effort, the offense controlled the action but couldn’t finish drives as they missed three field goals. While the low point total is a concern, the Wisconsin defense is still one of the nation’s best and a 14-7 win is right in line with who we thought Michigan was coming into the season. Every yard is difficult to come by, and the Wolverines are still on a collision course for a late-season showdown with heated rival, Ohio State.
- Ohio State remains dominant
Speaking of Ohio State, in case you forgot while the Buckeyes were on a bye, they’re still really good. Sure, Rutgers looks like the worst team in the Big Ten, but it was a championship-level demolition. They outgained Rutgers 669 to 116 in yards on their way to a 58-0 victory in a reminder that Ohio State has the well-rounded roster to be considered one of the nation’s top teams. As we highlighted after the Oklahoma win, the #BabyBuckeyes have new stars emerging all over the roster and they were all on display yesterday with top efforts. RB Curtis Samuel (82.1 receiving grade) continues to create mismatch problems while S Malik Hooker (78.1) and CB Marshon Lattimore (82.6) locked it down on the back end once again. Opposing quarterbacks are now 2-for-19 for 58 yards and four interceptions on deep (20-plus yard) passes against Ohio State (passer rating of 0.2), summing up just how dominant they’ve been despite an inexperienced secondary.
Is it time for The Game yet?
- The Big 12 stays alive
Last week, we highlighted the last two remaining hopes for the Big 12 – Baylor and West Virginia – and both teams survived scares to remain undefeated. Baylor was down 42-28 heading into the fourth quarter before pulling away to win 45-42. West Virginia was in an even deeper hole, down 14-3 to Kansas State heading into the fourth quarter, but they scored 14 unanswered and avoided their first loss with the 17.16 victory. While the College Football Playoff committee always considers the eye test as much as the win-loss record, remaining undefeated is necessary if either Big 12 team can make a run at the playoff. Both teams need a lot of help, but they live to fight another week as the lone hopes with in the Big 12.
- Colorado is a player in the Pac-12 South
While Washington has established itself as the team to beat in the Pac 12 North, Colorado continues to impress in the South. Backup QB Steven Montez built on his Week 4 Team of the Week effort with another strong outing and the defense has exceeded expectations behind LB Kenneth Olugbode (84.8 season grade) and cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie (82.1) and Ahkello Witherspoon (84.8). Colorado dominated Oregon State from start to finish and while they still have difficult games looming with the usual heavyweights of the Pac-12 South – USC, UCLA, and Utah – it’s the Buffaloes in the driver’s seat and nationally relevant for the first time in years.
- Crossroads for Charlie Strong at Texas?
After a Week 1 shootout win over Notre Dame, we highlighted head coach Charlie Strong turning a corner but swallowing some defensive pride in order to do so. His move to an up-tempo spread offense all but ensured that he’d be in weekly shootouts in the Big 12, with 30 points surrendered classified as a good week for the defense. However, after losses to Cal and now Oklahoma State, he may have much more than pride to worry about. Year 3 of the Strong regime was supposed to show positive steps, and while the offense has been much better than it has in recent years, he still sits at 2-2 with the Red River Shootout looming next weekend. The Oklahoma game may be the biggest of Strong’s tenure as a 2-3 start combined with a loss to Texas’ biggest rival will make the seat a little warmer in Austin.
- Top performances that caught the eye
— USC has shown signs of life on offense the last two weeks, led by new starting QB Sam Darnold whose 79.6 adjusted completion percentage ranks fourth in the nation during that time.
— Staying at USC, running back Justin Davis ran for 123 yards on only 14 carries against Arizona State with 111 of those yards coming after contact (7.9 yards after contact per rush).
— Florida LB Jarrad Davis made an impact in all phases of the game against Vanderbilt, deflecting three passes (including one that led to the game-ending interception), while also picking up six stops, a QB hit, and two hurries.
— NC State CB Jack Tocho was targeted seven times against Wake Forest, allowing only three catches for 10 yards while deflecting three of the passes. He casually tacked on a sack, QB hit, and a hurry as a blitzer.
— Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell made eight run stops on his 40 snaps against the run, good for a run stop percentage of 20.0 percent for the game and he now ranks third at 16.1 percent on the season.