Winners and Losers of Week 5 in College Football

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystOctober 1, 2017

Winners and Losers of Week 5 in College Football

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    USC vs. Washington State
    USC vs. Washington StateYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    Even with five AP Top 25 teams on a bye, Week 5 of the 2017 college football season managed to produce an entertaining blend of nail-biters, upsets and displays of dominance.

    The party got started late Friday night with a little #Pac12AfterDark action in which No. 16 Washington State defeated No. 5 USC. It was arguably the best game of the week, if not the season, so hopefully you were able to stay awake long enough to catch the end of that one.

    Saturday was more about dominance, as several Big Ten and SEC title contenders beat the daylights out of their opposition.

    Oh, and LSU lost a home game to a Group of Five school, so it wasn't a great week for everyone in the SEC.

    Read on for the rest of this week's biggest winners and losers.

Winner: Miami Hurricanes Defense

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    Michael Pinckney
    Michael PinckneyJoel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Coming into the week, Duke was one of the biggest surprise success stories of the season. The Blue Devils were 4-0 and averaging better than 40 points per game. Despite playing three of those games against Power Five programs, Duke's four wins came by a double-digit margin.

    And then Miami came to town.

    The 'Canes defense was nothing special in the team's first two wins. It gave up 350 yards to Bethune-Cookman and another 429 yards (and 30 points) to Toledo. Those two teams combined to convert 21 of 40 third downs against Miami while committing a total of three turnovers.

    The change in third-down numbers was the biggest key to Miami's win. It allowed Duke to gain 349 yards, including five drives that lasted at least 10 plays. But this "bend-don't-break" defense came up big when it needed to. The Blue Devils did have a couple of long conversions in the first quarter, but they finished the night 5-of-19 on third downs.

    There was a stretch of nearly two full quarters in which Duke failed to convert on 10 consecutive third-down plays.

    The Hurricanes forced two turnovers in the process of racking up five sacks and 11 tackles for loss in the 31-6 victory. It was far from their best offensive performance of the season, but this one was never in doubt.

Loser: Sam Darnold's Heisman Campaign

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    Sam Darnold
    Sam DarnoldWilliam Mancebo/Getty Images

    First and foremost, Mike Leach and Washington State were huge winners. The Cougars had already reached their highest spot in the AP poll since 2003, and they're going to climb a heck of a lot higher after improving to 5-0 with a 30-27 win over the Trojans. Much will be written about this team (and its Heisman candidate, Luke Falk) over the course of the next several weeks as it continues its quest for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.

    But the bigger story of the night was the onetime Heisman front-runner's cobbling together yet another lackluster box score.

    The national media has made a habit of finding excuses for Sam Darnold. Coming into the week, the narrative was: Sure, he's thrown seven interceptions on the season, but three of them came on tipped passes, and he has thrown them at points in the game and spots on the field that didn't break USC's back. For the folks refusing to sell the copious amounts of preseason stock they bought in Darnold, the only number that mattered was his 13 consecutive victories.

    Now that the streak is over, the excuses will likely be that USC was playing with three backup offensive linemen and head coach Clay Helton was practically throwing the game away by not getting Ronald Jones II more involved.

    Regardless, Darnold only completed 15 of 29 passes for 164 yards, no touchdowns (though, he did rush for two) and an interception that had nothing to do with a tipped pass or poor blocking. And the theory that he can make up for mediocre numbers in the first three quarters by coming through in the clutch went out the window when his sack-fumble killed USC's potentially game-winning drive before it had a chance to begin.

    In a game that was decided by a three-point margin, perhaps the most unforgivable part of Darnold's night was the inability to score touchdowns when gifted with great field position. Falk's lone interception gave USC the ball on the WSU 3, but the Trojans gained just one yard before kicking a field goal.

    A shanked punt started another USC drive at the WSU 27, but that also ended in just three points. Score seven on either of those possessions and perhaps the Trojans win the game.

Winner: Jalen Davis, Utah State

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    Jalen Davis
    Jalen DavisDylan Buell/Getty Images

    Given the difficulty BYU has had on offense this season (9.8 points per game through four weeks), this Friday night battle with Utah State was not expected to be a high-scoring affair. Per OddsShark, the over/under was only 49 points. But what the oddsmakers didn't account for was such poor offensive execution that a bunch of points would come on defense.

    USU senior cornerback Jalen Davis was the primary beneficiary of that scoring loophole. BYU quarterbacks combined to throw four interceptions, finding Davis on three of them.

    The first one is when the momentum started working in the Aggies' favor. They were down 21-7 in the second quarter. Prior to a drive that ended with a blocked field goal, their previous four possessions consisted of 15 plays for 12 yards and an interception that BYU's Micah Hannemann returned for a touchdown. If they didn't do something in a hurry, this game was liable to snowball out of control.

    Fortunately for Utah State, Davis got his first pick-six of the night on the first play after the blocked field goal. He would add another interception early in the third quarter and sealed the game when he returned his third for a 50-yard score. The Aggies outscored the Cougars 33-3 over the final 43 minutes for a 40-24 victory.

    This wasn't the first time Davis popped up on the national radar, either. He was one of our first-team cornerbacks back in Week 2, thanks to one pick-six and a second interception against Idaho State.

Loser: Northwestern's Offensive Line

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    Garret Dooley sacks Clayton Thorson
    Garret Dooley sacks Clayton ThorsonAssociated Press

    Justin Jackson entered this season with 4,129 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns in his career with Northwestern. You would think the Wildcats would have one of the better rushing attacks in the country. But they were held to 22 rushing yards in a Week 2 loss to Duke and weren't any better this week against Wisconsin.

    Technically, they did gain three more rushing yards against the Badgers than they did against the Blue Devils, but it took them 13 more carries to get there. Thanks to a bunch of sacks, Northwestern had 34 rushes for 25 yards. But even when quarterback Clayton Thorson wasn't getting taken down behind the line of scrimmage, the running backs weren't able to do anything. Jackson's best play of the game only went for eight yards.

    What was he supposed to do, though, when his offensive line couldn't block anybody?

    Wisconsinwhich only had four tackles for loss last week against BYUpractically set up an office in Northwestern's backfield. Garret Dooley led the way with 3.5 of Wisconsin's eight sacks. One of those sacks was D'Cota Dixon's safety that pushed Wisconsin's lead to the final score of 33-24.

    In addition to those hits on the QB, the Badgers had four other tackles for loss and stuffed a ball-carrier for no gain four times. They entered the day at No. 10 in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game, and they should easily jump into the top five after this performance. Not too shabby for a team that lost T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel from last season.

Winner: Quarterbacks Named Max

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    Max Bortenschlager
    Max BortenschlagerAdam Bettcher/Getty Images

    By my count, there are only two quarterbacks in the country named Max. They just so happened to both lead their teams to victory in the early slate of Saturday games.

    The less surprising of the two was Pittsburgh's Max Browne, even though it would be a colossal understatement to say he struggled through the first four games of the season. He averaged just 106.5 passing yards per game with one total touchdown against two interceptions. But he was a highly touted quarterback who originally signed with USC, and facing Rice is a great way to cure whatever is ailing you.

    Browne shredded the Owls defense, completing 28 of 32 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-10 rout. After not completing a single pass that went for more than 30 yards in the first four games, Browne had touchdown strikes of 48 and 55 yards within the first nine minutes of this one.

    But the play of Maryland's Max Bortenschlager was arguably better.

    Minnesota gave up just 24 points in its first three games, but Bortenschlager led the Terrapins to a 31-24 upset of the Golden Gophers as a 12.5-point underdog, per OddsShark. He had a seven-yard rushing touchdown, two passing scores and led Maryland on an eight-play, 74-yard, game-winning TD drive in the closing minutes. All this without committing a turnover.

    In a perfect world, Bortenschlager would've been holding a clipboard in this game. But with both Tyrrell Pigrome (knee) and Kasim Hill (knee) already out for the season with injuries, the third-string QB had one heck of a performance in just his second career start.

Loser: Vanderbilt's Rushing Defense

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    Vanderbilt's Ryan White and Florida's Malik Davis
    Vanderbilt's Ryan White and Florida's Malik DavisLogan Bowles/Getty Images

    Vanderbilt's defense was eviscerated last week in a 59-0 loss to Alabama. In particular, the rushing defense was beaten to a pulp, allowing 496 yards and six touchdowns.

    But sometimes you just have to throw away a game against Alabama when looking at a team's numbers, because the Crimson Tide could do something like that to just about anyone. And in Vandy's first three games, the Commodores held the opposition to 103 yards per contest and 3.3 yards per carry with one touchdown.

    With Florida's hapless offense next on the schedule, they should have gotten back to that run-stopping dominance. Instead, Vanderbilt allowed the Gators to run for 218 yards and five touchdowns. Malik Davis led the way with 124 yards and two scores, but Lamical Perine had one heck of a day, too, with 58 yards and three touchdowns.

    Running backs scored all five of the touchdowns, which ended a nine-game drought for the position. (There were two rushing touchdowns along the way, but one was by a quarterback and the other was by a wide receiver.)

    Save for Davis' 39-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes, most of Florida's damage came in small chunks. In fact, there were a lot of carries on which a Gator was stood up at the line of scrimmage or stopped behind it. But the Commodores could not seem to bring anyone down at the point of contact. Whether it was broken tackles or Florida's big men pushing the pile, it seemed like the Gators got half of their yards on second and third efforts.

    With Georgia on deck for Vanderbilt, this could get even uglier before it gets better.

Winner: DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State

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    DaeSean Hamilton
    DaeSean HamiltonChris Knight/Associated Press

    Through the first four weeks of the season, Penn State was the Saquon Barkley show. And early in the 45-14 win over Indiana, it looked like it was going to be just another day at the office for the Heisman candidate. He returned the opening kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown and had a first-quarter, one-handed reception that went viral as only a Barkley highlight can.

    After that, though, he kind of disappeared. He did throw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but the combined 107 rushing and receiving yards were a far cry from his season average of 213.3 yards from scrimmage.

    In his stead, DaeSean Hamilton had a huge day against the Hoosiers secondary.

    The senior wide receiver entered the day with a modest 11 receptions for 209 yards and one score on the season, but he went for nine, 122 and three, respectively, in Week 5. He led all players on both teams in all three categories.

    This is what we expected from Hamilton. With Chris Godwin's move to the NFL, Hamilton should have become the No. 1 receiving option. Instead, Barkley, tight end Mike Gesicki and sophomore wide receiver Juwan Johnson all had more receptions through the first four weeks.

    Now that Hamilton has arrived, it's just one more thing that makes this offense almost impossible to stifle.

Loser: Butch Jones, Tennessee

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    Butch Jones
    Butch JonesScott Halleran/Getty Images

    Depending on when you read this, Butch Jones may have already been fired as the head coach of Tennessee.

    The Volunteer fanbase turned on Jones a long time ago, and the last three weeks have gone from bad to worse to downright catastrophic.

    Losing on a Hail Mary at Florida? OK. Fine. It happens. The Gators are the luckiest team in the country this year, and let's just chalk that one up to karma for all the miracle wins Tennessee had at the beginning of last season.

    Barely winning a home game against Massachusetts? That's a team that lost to Temple and Coastal Carolina and is now 0-6. That's a big problem, and it led to an interesting week in Jones' relationship with the media.

    Getting shut out 41-0the first time since 1994 that Tennessee failed to score a point in a gameat home by SEC rival Georgia? As Tom Fornelli wrote for CBS Sports, Jones is now a dead coach walking. And with Tennessee's bye coming next week, there's no time like the present to make that change.

    Look, there's no shame in losing to Georgia. The Bulldogs haven't given up a touchdown in either of the past two weeks. They're arguably the third-best team in the country. But when your job is already hanging by a thread, you've got to at least show up. Suffice it to say, scoring zero points, committing four turnovers and achieving seven first downs isn't showing up.

Winner: Florida State Seminoles...Finally

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    James Blackman
    James BlackmanStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    It wasn't pretty.

    James Blackman was under relentless pressure all afternoon, as Wake Forest defenders blew by Florida State offensive linemen like they weren't even there. As noted on the ABC broadcast of the game, the Demon Deacons set a school record with 18 tackles for loss—five of which were QB sacks.

    Blackman had a couple of big downfield plays in the final 10 minutes, but up until that point, he had just 31 passing yards and had lost 39 yards on sacks. It's tough to move the ball when you average negative yardage on pass plays.

    The Seminoles had no answer for Greg Dortch, either, who had 10 receptions for 110 yards and kept Wake Forest moving down the field in eight- to 15-yard bunches.

    But Derwin James, Tarvarus McFadden and company managed to dig in their heels on defense, when necessary. Wake Forest had four drives of at least 35 yards that did not result in any points. Those missed opportunities allowed Florida State to hang around just long enough to win the game 26-19 on a 40-yard bomb to Auden Tate with just under one minute remaining.

    Hurricanes resulted in one cancellation and one postponement, but who could have guessed it would take until about six hours before the start of October for Florida State to get into the win column? The 'Noles will need to play a heck of a lot better than this to pick up win No. 2 next week against Miami.

Loser: Iowa Hawkeyes Rushing

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    Akrum Wadley
    Akrum WadleyDavid K Purdy/Getty Images

    Iowa is the only team in the country with two players who rushed for at least 1,000 yards last season. Akrum Wadley ran for 1,081 and Nevada graduate-transfer James Butler had 1,336. Iowa also brought back pretty much every noteworthy offensive lineman from last season, so the Hawkeyes should've been one of the best rushing teams this year.

    That hasn't been the case, and it got much worse in a 17-10 loss to Michigan State.

    Butler missed the game and will be out with an elbow injury for the next few weeks, and the Spartans had Wadley's number this week. He had been averaging 84.5 rushing yards and 56.8 receiving yards per game, but he was held to 30 and 17, respectively, on 20 total touches.

    The saddest part is he was still the highlight of the offense, leading the team in both rushing yards and total yards from scrimmage, tying for the team lead in receptions and scoring Iowa's only touchdown.

    As a whole, the Hawkeyes ran for 19 yards against a Michigan State front seven that hadn't been all that impressive up until Saturday. The Spartans just gave up 182 yards and three touchdowns to Notre Dame seven days ago, but they were impenetrable in this one. On 25 carries, Iowa only rushed for two first downs.

Winner: Bryce Love, Stanford

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    Bryce Love
    Bryce LoveMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    It was after five games last season that we began to accept that Lamar Jackson might not be human. At that point, he was averaging 462.6 yards, 5.6 touchdowns and (unofficially) 3.7 Heisman-reel-worthy highlights per game. Though there were a lot of solid players at his position, anyone who tried to argue that he wasn't the best quarterback in the country was out of their mind.

    So, uh, you guys?

    Bryce Love might not be human.

    Love entered this week's game against Arizona State averaging 196.8 rushing yards per game and 10.8 yards per carry. And he'll enter next week's game against Utah with even better numbers after running all over the Sun Devils.

    On his second carry of the game, Love ran for a 61-yard touchdown. He would tack on runs of 31, 39, 43 and 59 before all was done, carrying the ball 25 times for a school-record 301 yards. He's now averaging 217.6 yards per game and 11.1 yards per carry.

    ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out a graphic after the game showing that Love's 1,088 rushing yards are the fourth-most in FBS history through five games. That's amazing stuff, but this might be an even more ridiculous factoid: Love has already rushed for at least 30 yards 14 times in five games. Per CFBStats, no player in the country had more than 13 such runs in the entire 2015 or 2016 season.

    Saquon Barkley is the best highlight-making running back in the country, but he has already been held to 88 or fewer rushing yards in three of five games this season. Love has at least 160 in every game. Anyone who tries to tell you Barkley is hands-down the best running back in the country is dealing with a heavy dose of East Coast Bias.

Loser: Mississippi State's Fairy Tale Beginning

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    Nick Fitzgerald
    Nick FitzgeraldButch Dill/Associated Press

    Two weeks ago, Mississippi State was the hottest team in the country. Fresh off a 37-7 shellacking of LSU, the Bulldogs debuted at No. 17 in the AP poll and had many reminiscing about the 2014 team that started 9-0 and spent nearly half the season at No. 1 in the polls.

    Now, we're left scratching our heads and wondering how we were duped into buying stock in this team.

    Last week, Georgia smashed Mississippi State 31-3. The "Nick Fitzgerald 4 Heisman" campaign barely even got off the ground before it came crashing back to earth thanks to a two-interception performance with just 130 total yards.

    This week against Auburn wasn't any better. Fitzgerald threw two more interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He completed 13 of 33 pass attempts (39.4 percent) and only had a couple of respectable drives.

    MSU's defense has vanished, too. Through the first three weeks, the Bulldogs had only allowed one play that went for more than 33 yards. But Auburn had six plays go for at least 47 yardsall by different playersas the Tigers destroyed Mississippi State 49-10.

    Maybe the Bulldogs can get back on track before the big showdown with Alabama in mid-November. They do have next week off before home games against BYU, Kentucky and Massachusetts in three of their next four contests. But for right now, this looks like a team that could lose by 100 points to the Crimson Tide.

Winner: Zach Abey, Navy

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    Zach Abey
    Zach AbeySue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    We have a subconscious tendency to take triple-option ball-carriers for granted in this weekly slideshow. Because Navy, Army and Georgia Tech seem to run for 350 yards as a team every week, it doesn't feel noteworthy to point out their top rushers.

    But Navy QB Zach Abey entered the week third in the nation in rushing yards per game (157) and extended his streak of rushing for at least 100 yards in each contest this season.

    On this particular afternoon against Tulsa, he ran for 185 yards and three scores, despite not registering a single carry that went for more than 13 yards. He carried the ball 36 times without a fumble and was not once tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

    Abey is now averaging 164.0 rushing yards per game43.1 more than Lamar Jackson averaged last season and 26.9 more than any QB has put up in the past decade.

    For good measure, Abey also threw the ball four times, completing three passes for 90 yards. 

    Navy won 31-21 to improve to 4-0. For all the recent talk about UCF and San Diego State as the top Group of Five teams, it's about time Abey and the Midshipmen enter that conversation.

Loser: The Winless Club

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    Zach Smith
    Zach SmithOrlin Wagner/Associated Press

    This group grows smaller each week, but there are still a handful of teams trying to get rid of the doughnut in their win column.

    Most notable among them is Baylorthe only remaining Power Five team without a victory. After opening with losses to Liberty and UTSA, it looked like the Bears were making positive strides. They pushed Oklahoma to the limit last week before falling short, 49-41. This week, however, that offense was nowhere to be found in the first half against Kansas State. They fell behind 20-3 and could not close the gap, losing 33-20.

    Elsewhere, Massachusetts put more points on the board this week (50) than it had in the previous three weeks combined (41), but it wasn't enough in a 58-50 loss to Ohio. UTEP also set a 2017 team best on offense with 21 points, but the Miners fell to 0-5 because they couldn't stop Army's triple-option. Bowling Green briefly held a second-half lead at home against Akron before a late pick-six sealed its fifth loss of the year.

    Worst of all, though, Charlotte jumped out to a 26-7 lead over Florida International before letting it all slip away. The Golden Panthers outscored the 49ers 23-3 over the final 31 minutes for a 30-29 win. A missed 48-yard field goal in the closing seconds doomed Charlotte to another week with a goose egg where wins are supposed to go.

    Factor in an idle 0-3 Georgia Southern and 0-5 Nevada getting crushed by Fresno State and there are a total of seven teams still seeking that elusive first win of the year.

Winner: UCF Knights

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    McKenzie Milton
    McKenzie MiltonAlex Menendez/Getty Images

    Before the season began, South Florida was supposed to be the king of the American Athletic Conference. While the Bulls are undefeated at 5-0, they haven't been nearly as impressive as anyone was expecting. (Though, the offense did show up in a huge way Saturday in a 61-31 win over East Carolina. Holding the Bulls below 30 points over the past two seasons has been impossible.)

    When Memphis upset UCLA two weeks ago, the Tigers became the new team to beat in the AAC.

    And, goodness gracious, did UCF ever beat them.

    The Knights ran for 350 yards, had 603 yards of total offense and forced four Memphis turnovers in a 40-13 blowout—which looked even uglier before Memphis tacked on a meaningless touchdown as time expired.

    What's wild is UCF allowed 25 Memphis first downs and committed more than 100 yards' worth of penalties and this game was still never close. In other words, the Knights were far from perfect and they still destroyed the team that was supposed to win the AAC West.

    Due to Hurricane Irma, UCF has only played three games, but it has won all three of those contests by at least a four-possession margin. The Knights smoked FIU 61-17 back in Week 1, and they took care of business on the road against a solid Maryland team, winning 38-10.

    We'll have to wait until Sunday afternoon to see if the AP voters agree, but this is a team that deserves to be ranked. When it plays Navy in three weeks, it should be one of the most intriguing Group of Five games in recent history.

Loser: LSU Tigers

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    Danny Etling
    Danny EtlingChris Graythen/Getty Images

    It was clear from the beginning that LSU was headed for a long night.

    With Derrius Guice out for this home game against Troy with a knee injury, the Tigers' first play from scrimmage was a handoff to Nick Brossette. He fumbled, Troy scored five plays later and the Tigers were playing from behind for the rest of the night, ultimately losing 24-21—their first loss to a non-Power Five school since 2002.

    For a team missing its star offensive weapon, it moved the ball well, amassing 428 total yards and 21 first downs. However, too many of those long drives resulted in nothing. LSU missed one short field goal and fumbled inside the Troy 10 on another, wasting multiple drives of more than 60 yards. They also had a pair of 42-yard drives that yielded no points.

    The four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) was a bad look for LSU, but third-down conversion rate was the most brutally telling statistic in this game. Troy was 10 of 18 on third downs (and converted both of its fourth-down attempts), but LSU was 0-of-8. It's hard to win a game with that much disparity on the most crucial downs.

    But let's not pretend this came out of nowhere. Mississippi State smashed the Tigers two weeks ago, and LSU got more than it bargained for from Syracuse last Saturday. This team is a mess and had no business being ranked in the first place.

Winner: Clemson Tigers

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    Kelly Bryant
    Kelly BryantMichael Shroyer/Getty Images

    Stop us if you've heard this before, but in a game that was supposed to be a major test, Clemson passed with flying colors and looked even better than we thought it would.

    Against Auburn, it was the defense. Against Louisville, it was the offense. And against Virginia Tech, it was timely offense combined with relentless defense.

    Including penalties, Virginia Tech's first five possessions amounted to 38 total yards, one first down and five punts. The Hokies' drives were a little more effective from that point forward, but it already felt like too little, too late. And it took a 43-yard punt return for them to put a touchdown up against this defense. (And Clemson got it right back one possession later with a pick-six.)

    On offense, Kelly Bryant had a solid, mistake-free game, throwing for 186 yards and rushing for 94 more. In what was a rare off night for Clemson's brigade of running backs, Bryant shouldered the load. On Clemson's first four third-down plays, he was 3-of-4 for 103 yards with a touchdown, putting the Tigers ahead 10-0 roughly eight minutes into the game.

    From there, they cruised to a 31-17 victory.

    Thus far this season, there have been 10 losses by teams in the AP Top 15. Clemson is responsible for three of them. You can play the "Who have they beaten?!" game with a lot of teams, but the Tigers aren't one of them.

Loser: Air Force's Rush Defense

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    Richard McQuarley
    Richard McQuarleyAndres Leighton/Associated Press

    New Mexico running back Richard McQuarley is no stranger to finding the end zone. Coming into this season, he had 25 touchdowns on 195 career carries. He has never been a work-horse back, though, as his career-high in carries in a game is just 17. He has to get his points efficiently, and he did so like never before in a 56-38 win over Air Force.

    McQuarley only got 11 touches against the Falcons, but he turned them into 179 yards and five touchdowns.

    He didn't do much in the first three quarters, but he was critical in helping the Lobos preserve the late lead. He had three of his five touchdowns in the final frame, including runs of 63 and 65 yards.

    Prior to this game, McQuarley had no touchdowns in 2017 and his season high was 36 yards. Safe to say he made up for lost time. He wasn't alone in this one, either. As a team, the Lobos rushed for 363 yards and six touchdowns.

    Prior to this game, Air Force had only given up four rushing touchdowns all seasonthree of which came from San Diego State's Rashaad Penny last week.

Winner: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

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    Mason Rudolph
    Mason RudolphJoe Sargent/Getty Images

    Last week was a tough one for Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He threw for nearly 400 yards, but two back-breaking interceptions and a 53.7 completion percentage contributed to a 44-31 loss to TCU.

    But he didn't allow that poor performance to follow him into Week 5. If anything, he used it as motivation to have one of the best games of his career.

    Rudolph did throw a 95-yard pick-six in the first quarter, but that was just about the only mistake he made against Texas Tech. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 50 yards and two more scores.

    Pretty much every time he got the ball, he marched right down the field. Each of OK State's first six drives went 51 or more yards, and the Cowboys only had two possessions in the entire game that didn't eat up at least that much of the field. The swing from the lone interception kept things interesting, but Oklahoma State outgained Texas Tech 597-384 in the 41-34 win.

    Rudolph is now averaging 381.8 yards and 4.2 total touchdowns per game. If you thought last week's loss to the Horned Frogs killed his Heisman campaign, think again.

Loser: Rest of SEC Against Alabama

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    Jalen Hurts
    Jalen HurtsBrynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Early in the season, Alabama looked vulnerable. Don't misinterpret that as a suggestion that the Crimson Tide looked bad, but they were far from perfect. The offense did next to nothing in Week 1 against Florida State, and the defense gave up 23 points at home to Colorado State two weeks later.

    Whatever problems the Tide had in early September are long gone as we enter October.

    They destroyed Vanderbilt 59-0 last week and stomped Ole Miss 66-3 this week. Between the two games, they scored 17 touchdowns while allowing 14 first downs. They rushed for 861 yards while allowing 331 total yards.

    Damien Harris was the star against the Commodores, but Jalen Hurts stood out against the Rebels. The dual-threat QB had a combined 298 rushing and passing yards with three touchdowns. Levi Wallace was also a big piece of the puzzle against Ole Miss, picking off Shea Patterson twice and returning one for a touchdown.

    Granted, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt were never supposed to be the two most difficult opponents on their schedule, but I'll tell you one thing: That three-game stretch of Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State doesn't look like much of a challenge, either.

    The Iron Bowl should be a blast, but until that Nov. 25 showdown with Auburn, will any team come within 21 points of beating Alabama?