Winners and Losers of Week 4 in College Football
Week 4 of the college football season wasn't kind to SEC coaches on the hot seat—or the program looking to dethrone the conference's powerhouse. Vanderbilt thought it wanted Alabama, but the three-time defending league champion ended the discussion quickly.
Elsewhere in the nation, headlines followed quarterbacks.
Lamar Jackson continued etching his name into Louisville history, while Florida State couldn't overcome the loss of its star quarterback, Deondre Francois. Ohio State received an explosive day from J.T. Barrett, and Michigan battled through an injury to its starter, Wilton Speight.
And unfortunately for one national contender, one bold call complicated the outlook of its season.
Winner: South Florida's Defense
South Florida meandered to 2-0 before putting together a superb offensive day vs. Illinois in its third game. Thursday, it was the defense's turn to shine.
The unit allowed zero points and just 85 total yards in a 43-7 beatdown of Temple, whose only touchdown came on a fumble return.
On 28 non-sack rushing attempts, the Bulls ceded a mere 39 yards. They intercepted four passes while allowing just eight completions and recording five sacks in the AAC victory.
It took a few games, but USF seems to be finding a rhythm on both sides of the ball.
Loser: Butch Jones' Job Security
Without question, a victory over a winless Massachusetts team would not provide a boost to Butch Jones' job security. It's a game Tennessee will always be expected to survive.
But surviving is not what Jones needs right now.
The Vols clipped the visiting Minutemen 17-13, even needing to hold off a last-minute drive. Yes, the possession started inside UMass' 20-yard line, so the Minutemen weren't close to scoring, but it was still a tense moment for Jones' team.
Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama await the Vols over the next three weeks. The stretch could determine Jones' future on Rocky Top—and after Week 4, that remains murky at best.
Winner: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Ohio State pulled away from UNLV so quickly that J.T. Barrett took a seat before the second quarter ended.
Maligned for his inconsistency as a passer, the senior quieted his doubters for an afternoon with a five-touchdown performance.
Sure, UNLV isn't outstanding competition for the Buckeyes, but Barrett completed 12 of 17 passes for 209 yards and found five different targets on the scores. The only possession he led that ended without a touchdown did so due to a fumble near the goal line.
Barrett heads into the bulk of the Big Ten schedule on a high note.
Losers: Florida State's ACC Dreams
Given the context, it's important to note this is not a criticism of Florida State. Nevertheless, a preseason favorite is falling off the radar.
When starting quarterback Deondre Francois couldn't put weight on his leg while leaving the field against Alabama, the college football world knew the injury was trouble. When the school confirmed he would miss the rest of 2017, Florida State's dreams took a massive hit.
But, because of a potentially dominant defense, we couldn't eliminate the Seminoles until they lost again. After having two games canceled or rescheduled, Florida State returned to the field in Week 4 and came up short against North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack snatched a 27-21 victory on the road, handing the 'Noles their first ACC loss of the season.
Now, FSU's national championship hopes are dashed. With Miami, Louisville and Clemson remaining on the schedule, the end of their conference-title aspirations may not be far behind.
Winner: Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Following a frustrating loss to Clemson, Lamar Jackson helped Louisville respond with a painless win and set a record in the process.
The dual-threat quarterback tallied his 88th career touchdown (both scored and passed for) in the 42-3 victory over Kent State, passing Chris Redman.
Jackson finished with an 18-of-22 mark for 299 yards and two scores as a passer, though he tossed two interceptions. The junior chipped in 34 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
It wasn't a mistake-free outing, and it's likely that will be Jackson's biggest takeaway. But the reigning Heisman Trophy winner deserves a nod for moving up the program record book.
Loser: Bret Bielema in SEC Play
Being Arkansas' head coach is a tough job; there's no doubt about it. Playing in the same division as Alabama, Auburn and LSU makes for a challenging conference slate every season.
But that's why the Razorbacks cannot afford to waste opportunities like they did against Texas A&M. Unfortunately for coach Bret Bielema, that's been a trend in his four-plus-year tenure.
According to Brett McMurphy, Arkansas is 10-23 in SEC play since Bielema arrived in 2013. Only Vanderbilt and Kentucky have been worse.
Bielema could be looking for a new job soon.
Winner: The Grier-Sills Connection, Again
Kansas running back Khalil Herbert shredded West Virginia for 291 yards, but Will Grier and David Sills propelled the Mountaineers to a 56-34 victory in their Big 12 opener.
And it was simply the continuation of a trend.
In WVU's first game, Grier found Sills for two touchdowns. They connected for three scores in Week 2. And Saturday, Sills made two more trips to the end zone.
The Mountaineers improved to 3-1 thanks to four total scores from Grier, who hit Sills eight times for 130 yards.
Losers: Vandy Fans Who Wanted 'Bama
Following an upset of Kansas State last week, Vanderbilt fans exited the stadium chanting "We want 'Bama," per ESPN.com's Chris Low.
The Commodores most certainly did not want 'Bama.
Nick Saban's team racked up 496 rushing and 677 total yards in a 59-0 obliteration on the road. As if that's not impressive enough, Vandy had surrendered just 309 rushing yards, 595 total yards and 13 total points in its three previous games.
Let that be a lesson to fans of Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Alabama's other future opponents: Be careful what you ask for.
Winner: John O'Korn, Michigan
An awkward hit forced Michigan's Wilton Speight out of the game during the first quarter at Purdue. John O'Korn stepped in and starred.
The Houston transfer enjoyed a little redemption, too.
Tony Levine, who benched O'Korn at Houston three years ago, is a Purdue assistant. O'Korn guided the eighth-ranked Wolverines to a 28-10 victory, throwing for 270 yards and one touchdown while jawing a bit at his former coach.
"Asked O'Korn if he was yelling in Levine's general direction after that first TD," Nick Baumgardner of the Detroit Free Press tweeted after the game. "Probably in his exact direction," O'Korn responded.
Consider that two victories for O'Korn in Week 4.
Loser: Oklahoma State's Trickery
Mason Rudolph did not have a perfect game, but taking the ball out of his hands is begging for disaster.
And the Cowboys found out the hard way in their 44-31 loss to TCU.
Trailing 37-24 midway through the fourth quarter, Oklahoma State called a trick play for Jalen McCleskey. Although the receiver had an open man, he air-mailed the throw into the waiting arms of TCU defender Nick Orr.
Since the Pokes forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and scored a touchdown, it's reasonable to wonder whether they could've pulled off the 20-point comeback had the trick play never been called. But wondering won't change the outcome.
Oklahoma State no longer has a margin for error in either the Big 12 race or its pursuit of the College Football Playoff.
Winner: Oklahoma's Rushing Attack
Baylor made it interesting, but Oklahoma eked out a Big 12 victory with considerable assistance from its running game.
Abdul Adams, who entered the night with 166 rushing yards on the season, amassed 164 in the 49-41 triumph. He provided the highlight-reel moment with a 99-yard scamper late in the first quarter.
Trey Sermon eclipsed his career total of 135 yards, tallying 148 to complement a pair of touchdown runs. Dimitri Flowers chipped in another score for the undefeated Sooners (4-0).
While quarterback Baker Mayfield (13-of-19, 283 YDS, 3 TD) had another productive night as a passer, complementing his efficiency with 342 rushing yards should mean an Oklahoma win every time.
Loser: Kentucky's Lack of Timely Defense
Kentucky had a terrific chance to snap a 30-game losing streak against Florida and blew it.
Florida engineered a near-six-minute drive late in the fourth quarter to take a 28-27 lead. But the problem wasn’t that it happened; no, it was how the Wildcats coughed up the win.
The Gators converted a 3rd-and-6 with a swing pass and moved the chains on a pair of fourth downs. As if that weren't deflating enough, Kentucky only had 10 defenders on a 3rd-and-1 at the 5-yard line—and didn’t cover the wide receiver.
Luke Del Rio flipped an easy touchdown to Freddie Swain, and Eddy Pineiro added the extra point to push Florida ahead.
After a 57-yard field-goal attempt fell short as time expired, Kentucky could only blame itself for the 31st straight loss to Florida.
Winner: Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Saquon Barkley is amazing. What's new?
Penn State's superstar running back collected a career-best 358 all-purpose yards in a thrilling 21-19 victory for the nation's No. 4 team.
Trace McSorley found Juwan Johnson for the game-winning touchdown as time expired, and it wouldn't have happened without Barkley. In addition to, you know, having 358 total yards, Barkley's 14-yard catch on the final drive put Penn State in scoring position.
He gathered 211 rushing yards, 12 receptions for 94 yards and 53 kick-return yards.
The Nittany Lions' championship dreams remained as strong as possible because of Barkley.
Losers: Underdogs Collapsing Late
Underdogs almost created mass havoc in the polls. Almost is not enough, however.
With the exception of Alabama and Ohio State, each Top 10 team needed time to pull away—and Oklahoma State lost.
Clemson and Boston College entered the fourth quarter tied at seven before Dabo Swinney's team rattled off 27 straight points in a 34-7 victory. Similarly, USC notched 17 consecutive points in the final frame to break a 13-13 tie with Cal and eventually win 30-20.
Baylor led Oklahoma 31-28, but three straight touchdowns earned Baker Mayfield and Co. a 49-41 win. Iowa surrendered a final-play touchdown in the 21-19 loss to Penn State. Michigan trailed Purdue 10-7 at halftime, then responded with a 21-point run in the second half for a 28-10 victory.
Yes, that is evidence why those teams weren't favored. But to have five programs come so close and not finish was a major letdown for the underdogs.
Winner: Georgia's Defense
Mississippi State surged into the national picture following its 37-7 demolition of LSU, but the praise is going to disappear due to a tremendous day from Georgia’s defense.
Kirby Smart’s team stopped the visiting Bulldogs from establishing an offensive threat in the 31-3 triumph. Mississippi State didn’t cross midfield until the second quarter and only reached the red zone once before UGA had built a commanding 31-3 advantage.
Nick Fitzgerald managed just 83 yards on 29 pass attempts and tossed a pair of interceptions, which led to 10 points for Georgia.
With this defense, Georgia should be the clear favorite in the SEC East.
Oregon's bounce-back year took a detour Saturday night.
Well after much of the nation called it a day, the No. 24 Ducks slipped on the road against Arizona State. Brandon Ruiz's 41-yard field goal handed the Sun Devils a 37-35 lead late in the fourth quarter, and they held on from there.
The most disappointing part for Oregon is the offense had two chances to move back in front. The first drive ended at midfield—one yard short of a first down—and the final possession went nowhere after Dillon Mitchell's 12-yard catch on the opening play.
While expectations weren't enormous for Willie Taggart's squad, a loss to Arizona State certainly wasn't expected.