Commentary by: Andy Callaway, P&G Sports Staff
The week count has risen to five, and from the swamps of Florida to the the Rose Bowl and everywhere in between, Saturday brought fans big upsets, unexpected blowouts, and huge conference showdowns, all with potential postseason implications. We’ll go across the country, conference to conference, breaking down the biggest moments of week 5 and getting you ready for week 6.
The main event in the SEC this past weekend came just up the road in Athens, where 12th ranked SEC West powerhouse Alabama came to town to face off against the SEC East leading, and 7th ranked, Georgia Bulldogs. A highly anticipated matchup in which both these teams and their fan bases alike had marked on their calendars for months, each had their own statement to make.
Alabama was looking to show that they’re still a viable contender for the conference title after falling short against Ole Miss at home, while Georgia on the other hand, was looking to prove its legitimacy and score its first high profile win of the year. By the end of the first quarter however, the Crimson Tide had already set the tone, and didn’t let up, crushing the Dawgs on the road, 38 – 10. The Alabama defense came up huge in this one, holding Georgia to 106 yards passing and only allowing QB Greyson Lambert to complete 11 of 31 passes and forcing four turnovers, three of which were interceptions.
While offensively, Alabama didn’t quite stun anybody, they got the job done and supported the defense enough to crush the opposition. Georgia’s only bright spot in this game was 189 yard on the ground, 146 of which came from Nick Chubb. While Alabama has reaffirmed its significance on the conference and national stage, Georgia will need to take advantage of its remaining schedule to take back the lead in the SEC East and get ready to potentially face a big SEC West opponent again in the conference title game.
While one SEC East team stumbled against the West, another surged. The 25th ranked Florida hosted 3rd ranked Ole Miss in a battle of inter divisional unbeatens. Ole Miss came in to the game still riding high after upsetting Alabama, while Florida, who has had much less national recognition, was coming off a come from behind win against Tennessee. Florida has suffered from injuries and lack of skill position players and the last few years, but their performance Saturday night has a lot of people thinking that the Gators may very well be back.
In an impressive performance, both offensively and defensively, Florida shut down the Rebels completely, winning 38 – 10. Will Grier managed the Gator offense masterfully, going 24 of 29, for 271 yards with 4 touchdowns. While Ole Miss couldn’t keep Florida out of the endzone, their biggest problem came offensively, as they struggled to get what had been very potent rushing attack going. Florida remains unbeaten, and given the Georgia loss, has a firm grip on the SEC East. Ole Miss, meanwhile, is still in the race for the SEC West.
Taking the conversations to Aggieland, 14th ranked Texas A&M hosted 21st ranked Mississippi State in a highly contested SEC West matchup. Texas A&M came into the game undefeated, and after an impressive performance offensively and defensively, that remained the case. In spite of Dak Prescott’s attack through the air and on the ground, the Aggies held on, winning 30 – 17. Kyle Allen had yet another day that looked like a highlight reel. While completing 25 of 41 passes, he threw for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns, while RB Tra Carson ran for 110 yards and a touchdown himself. The Bulldogs, after an impressive season last year, are off to a slow start, while Texas A&M is tied for the lead in the SEC West with another undefeated team just down the road in Baton Rouge.
LSU hosted Eastern Michigan in what many expected to be nothing more than practice for the undefeated Tigers, for a while, the Eagles made it interesting. At the half, LSU only led 20 – 14, and going into the 4th quarter, the Tigers had only extended their lead by two. However, a big fourth quarter where LSU was able to come throughout with two touchdowns, sealed the victory. As one would expect, the Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette had another huge day, rushing for 233 yards on 26 carries with three touchdowns. While QB Brandon Harris struggled, only completing 4 of 14 passes, LSU proved once again that with such strong rushing game, they didn’t have to do much of anything through the air. While weaknesses still remain offensively and defensively, the Tigers stay undefeated and are looking good going forward.
While two ACC schools remain unbeaten, 11th ranked Clemson was under the national spotlight Saturday night as they hosted 6th ranked Notre Dame. Both teams came into the matchup needing to make a statement to solidify their position as a playoff contender, and although toward the end it wasn’t pretty, the Clemson Tigers did just that.
After dominating early, and suiting down Notre Dame’s 4th quarter comeback by stopping a two point conversion, Clemson won 24 – 22. QB Deshaun Watson, while not exactly shining, going 11 for 22 with 97 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, managed the game effectively. While Notre Dame QB Deshone Kizer was about to rack up 321 yards and two touchdowns through the air, Clemson was able to shutdown the Irish rushing game and hold on for the win. Clemson remains unbeaten and is now a huge favorite to win the ACC, while Notre Dame is still looking ahead to improve offensively behind Deshone Kizer, who was the team’s backup QB until week 2.
Meanwhile, up the road in North Carolina, the former Notre Dame QB Everett Golson led his Florida State Seminoles to a victory 24 – 16 over Wake Forest. While Golson threw for over 200 yards and RB Dalvin Cook almost reach 100 yards rushing, Florida State struggled to put many points on the board, and the underdog Demon Deacons were able to keep the game close until the end, but simply weren’t able to find the endzone enough. In much less convincing fashion than their Atlantic Division rival, Florida State remains unbeaten, but has exposed a lot of holes that will need to be filled if the Seminoles want to make it back to the Playoffs.
After a very impressive win over Arizona on the road, the 7th ranked UCLA Bruins came home to the Rose Bowl to host the Arizona State Sun Devils in a matchup in which they were heavily favored. After keeping it close in the 1st half, the Sun Devils outscored the Bruins 23 – 13 in the 2nd half to get out of Pasadena with the 38 – 23 upset. UCLA QB Josh Rosen completed only 22 of his 40 passed, with one touchdown and an interception. The real problem for UCLA came offensively, as they just couldn’t quite shut down the Sun Devil offensive. UCLA, while still in complete control of their destiny, will need to recover from the loss to regain its top spot in the conference. Arizona State is still behind with 2 losses, but there is plenty of football left to be played.
In another matchup of teams from these bordering states, 18th ranked Stanford hosted the Arizona Wildcats and made a serious statement, with a 55 – 17 beat down of the Wildcats. Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan was near perfect, completing 17 of his 19 passes, for 217 yard and two touchdowns, while RB Christian McCaffrey ran for 156 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. After losing in Week 1 to what has proven to be a very good Northwestern team, the Cardinal have been all business, winning every game since, and in convincing fashion. Arizona, who was unbeaten two weeks ago, has now dropped two games in a row, shaking up the conference and division standings.
One Pac 12 team won to remain unbeaten Saturday, and it probably wasn’t who anyone was expecting at this point in the season. The 24th ranked Cal Golden Bears muscled their way past Washington State with a 34 – 28 come from behind win. Cal QB Jared Goff had a monster day, going 33 of 45 with 390 yards and four touchdowns. While plenty of success came offensively for the Golden Bears, the defense still proved it was vulnerable, giving up nearly the same amount of yards through the air to the Cougar offense. Nevertheless, Cal remains one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the Pac 12.
The number one team in the nation, the Ohio State Buckeyes, proved they have weaknesses once again as they struggled to edge past the Indiana Hoosiers on the road Saturday. The Buckeyes had a monster day offensively, with Cardale Jones going 18 of 27 with 245, a touchdown, and a pic. Even more impressive was, Ezekiel Elliot rushed for 274 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.
The struggle for Ohio State came on the other side of the ball, as they allowed Indiana to rack of over 400 yards offensively, as they kept it close the entire game. Ohio State looks impressive, but remains barely hanging on with teams they should ideally be thumping. Nonetheless, they are unbeaten and are still at the top of the polls.
The Buckeye’s East division rivals also struggled with a sub-par opponent. The 2nd ranked Michigan State Spartans barely edged Purdue as they thwarted the Boilermakers’ late comeback attempt to edge the Big Ten foe 24-21. As usual, the Spartan defense had an excellent day, not even letting Purdue into double digits until the 4th quarter, and shutting down their passing game. The Spartans, while getting the job, stubbled offensively to put of the kind of number that would give them a comfortable lead. Michigan State RB LJ Scott did have himself a good day however, rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. The Spartans remain unbeaten.
Taking matters over to the Big Ten West, the 16th ranked Northwestern Wildcats also remained unbeaten in yet another impressive performance. The defense was stellar and wouldn’t hardly budge from the line of scrimmage as they pitched the shutout, beating Minnesota 27-0. The Wildcats only gave up a mere 173 yards to the Golden Gopher offense. Good defense in the cornerstone of this team, but the offense remained very efficient, with QB Clayton Thorson completing 14 of 19 passes for 128 yards, while RB Justin Jackson carried the ball 20 times for 120 yards.
This wasn’t the only Big Ten shutout of the weekend however. 22nd ranked Michigan dominated Maryland from start to finish, getting the 28-0 road win. The Wolverines, under new head coach John Harbaugh, shut down the opposition, only giving up 105 yards defensively and forcing three interceptions. On the other side of the ball, QB Jake Rudock managed the game effectively, going 16 of 32 with 180 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. After losing the opener to what has proved to be a very good Utah team, Michigan has looked impressive.
In the Big 12, all three major contender remained unbeaten. While Baylor had a bye, the 2nd ranked TCU proved they are the force to be reckoned with in the Longhorn state as they dominated Texas, 50 – 7. QB Trevone Boykin had a Heisman like performance, going 20 of 35, with 332 yards, and an astounding five touchdowns. Texas was held to under half o TCU’s offensive production.
15th ranked Oklahoma also stayed among the ranks of the unbeaten as they powered past 23rd ranked West Virginia. Sooner QB Baker Mayfield, on only 14 completions, threw for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns. In a game that was close early on, the Sooner pulled away for the win behind a solid offense and an ever improving defense.
What to watch for in Week 6
The biggest games of Week 6 take place on opposite ends of the country. In the Big Ten, Northwestern travels to the Big House to defend their division lead over Michigan, while Cal travels to Utah in a matchup of Pac-12 North unbeatens.
Now 13th ranked Northwestern and 18th ranked Michigan are two programs on the come up, and both depend on a steady offense and an aggressive defense to win football games. So while the two Big Ten rivals share a lot in common, both are looking to make a statement on the national stage this coming Saturday. Kickoff is at 3:30 PM ET on the Big Ten Network.
The story-line is similar in Salt Lake City, as 5th ranked Utah hosts 23rd ranked Cal. While the Golden Bears have been more of a surprise with their early success, Utah has had two strong performances against tough opponents and is looking to once again show the nation why they belong in the top 5, hoping to make a case to be in the top 4. Kickoff will be at 10:00 PM ET on ESPN.