Legit or Nah? Verdicts for College Football's Top Week 5 Performances
Washington State celebrated like it was putting on a clothed version of Woodstock after stunning USC, Troy pulled off the upset of the season with a 24-21 triumph at LSU and several individuals put up record-setting numbers in Week 5.
How much of it should be taken seriously, though? We're looking at the best performances—whether from an individual, a unit or a team—from the past weekend and determining if the topic will remain relevant.
An important note: Calling something "legit" doesn't mean the player, unit or team must sustain that output for the remainder of the year. Nobody reasonable ever expects three interceptions from a defender, for example. Conversely, a "nah" isn't necessarily intended to suggest they'll struggle.
Our goal is to explain if Week 5's standouts are going to build on the showing and be a national factor this season.
Washington State Cougars
In previous years, Washington State folded in marquee matchups at home. The 2016 squad wasted a chance to win the division, losing to No. 5 Washington 45-17. And in 2015, a missed field goal as time expired doomed the Cougs against No. 8 Stanford.
Mike Leach's team shook the trend with a 30-27 victory over No. 5 USC.
The Cougars were flat-out the better team in the Pac-12 showdown. They outgained USC 462-327 while converting third and fourth downs at a combined 9-of-19 rate and holding the Trojans to a 3-of-12 clip. Wazzu also forced two turnovers, including a game-sealing fumble recovery with less than two minutes to play.
Ranked 16th heading into the matchup, Washington State has climbed to 11th in the latest AP Top 25.
Will this lead to a Pac-12 North Division championship? Perhaps not, but this is the best team of Leach's six-year tenure. Quarterback Luke Falk and the offense provide the most highlights, yet a much-improved defense deserves a healthy share of the credit.
Although just nine years in Washington State history have ended with at least nine wins, a 10th is now well within reach.
The remaining schedule includes road trips to Oregon, Utah and Washington plus home dates with Colorado and Stanford. Surviving that stretch without dropping two games will be a major challenge, but the Cougs should remain ranked by season's end.
While that might not sound like an outstanding result, the program hasn't accomplished it since 2003.
Jalen Davis, CB, Utah State
Trailing 21-7 at home and on defense, Utah State desperately needed a spark. Jalen Davis provided one.
The senior cornerback took advantage of a fortunate deflection and returned an interception 30 yards to the house. Including that play, the Aggies outscored BYU 33-3 the rest of the way.
Davis was far from finished after that first interception. He snatched another errant throw during the third quarter before sealing the victory with a 50-yard pick-six, the final touchdown of a 40-24 margin.
Verdict: Legit, but you might forget
Davis has a nose for the football, given his 11 career interceptions. This year alone, he's snagged five picks—his two others came against FCS foe Idaho State—and returned three for scores.
However, Utah State isn't in the national eye. The victory over a recognizable program such as BYU is great for the Aggies, but they lost 59-10 at Wisconsin and 46-10 at Wake Forest. At least Davis will threaten for the interception crown thanks to two games.
Max Browne, QB, Pitt
The 2017 season must've had a distinct 2016 feel for Max Browne, who transferred to Pitt from USC after losing his starting job to Sam Darnold. This year, Ben DiNucci slid into the lineup in Week 4 following three middling performances from Browne.
But in Week 5, the senior responded with a career day. He led the country in passing with 410 yards, completing 28 of 32 passes while throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Thanks to Browne, Pitt cruised to a 42-10 victory over Rice.
What an awesome feeling for Browne. He waited patiently behind Cody Kessler at USC and stumbled when given an opportunity. History repeated itself at Pitt, but Browne redeemed himself.
Yet feel-good stories don't always have a happy ending.
Rice probably had the worst defense he'll face in 2017. The Owls rank 123rd in passing yards allowed per game and have surrendered 11 touchdowns compared to their one interception.
Pitt avoids each of Clemson, Florida State and Louisville in crossover conference games, but NC State, Virginia Tech and Miami may overwhelm Browne and the Panthers. Duke will be tough, too.
Ervin Philips, WR, Syracuse
One week after knocking off Florida State on the road, North Carolina State avoided an upset of its own when Syracuse came to town. But the Wolfpack struggled to contain Ervin Philips in the process.
A senior wideout, Phillips set an ACC single-game record with 17 receptions in the 33-25 loss, a record nine players previously tied for. Although he didn't score a touchdown, eight of his catches resulted in a first down.
Philips finished the contest with a career-best 188 yards.
Philips, who reeled in 90 passes as a junior, now has six outings with double-digit catches in his career. He'll rank near the top of the national leaderboard in receptions again this year.
While that's not enough to make Syracuse a real contender, Philips and teammate Steve Ishmael are productive high-volume targets who make the Orange enjoyable to watch.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Arizona State surprised much of the college football world by holding Oregon to 129 yards on 28 non-sack rushing attempts. Stanford running back Bryce Love was not amused.
Love sliced through and sprinted past the Sun Devils to the tune of 301 yards and three touchdowns—which covered 61, 43 and 59 yards. He also recorded gains of 39 and 31 yards to break Christian McCaffrey's previous mark of 284 yards rushing and help the Cardinal win 34-24.
Dating back to last season, it was the seventh straight 100-plus-yard performance for Love.
Verdict: Legit, duh
How could we not highlight a 300-yard outburst?
Calling the explosion "more of the same" isn't fair to Love, because that's a special performance. However, it was the continuation of a trend, considering the junior hasn't tallied fewer than 160 yards in a game this season.
The only question is whether Love stays healthy enough to merit an invitation to the Heisman Trophy presentation. He leads the nation with 1,088 rushing yards.
Malcolm Williams, WR, Coastal Carolina
Malcolm Williams managed six catches for 91 yards during Coastal Carolina's first three games of the season. A return to his home state did the receiver well, apparently.
The junior—who is from Shreveport, Louisiana—collected 266 yards and a pair of scores on nine receptions while playing on the road against Louisiana-Monroe. The touchdowns covered 86 and 27 yards, and he added catches of 47 and 38.
No receiver had more yards in Week 5 than Williams, whose Chanticleers fell to the Warhawks 51-43.
Williams showed off his breakaway speed during the conference matchup, but both he and Coastal Carolina benefited from a couple of major breakdowns in the ULM secondary.
Plus, the Chants have struggled through poor quarterback play this season. Prior to Week 5, Tyler Keane had thrown for 78, 75 and 85 yards and tossed a single touchdown.
Coastal Carolina hopes that was a turning point of the season, but we'd have to see that improvement sustained to believe it.
DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
DaeSean Hamilton finally put together the showing Penn State fans hoped he'd regularly have in 2017.
During a 45-14 win against Indiana, the senior caught nine passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He scored from eight, 24 and 16 yards—the last of which came on a throw from Saquon Barkley.
Additionally, Hamilton's eighth grab propelled him to the No. 1 spot on the school's career receptions list.
Verdict: More legit than nah
Hamilton is a notable piece of Penn State's scoring attack, and the career accomplishment showed his value to the program.
Granted, the Nittany Lions' success isn't dependent on him. Barkley is the key to their offense, and both Juwan Johnson and Mike Gesicki are important targets for quarterback Trace McSorley.
Still, Penn State needs Hamilton to make a complementary impact each week, and he's consistently done that with at least 44 yards in all five games. It's unlikely Hamilton keeps that streak alive for the entire season, but he's a regular contributor for the Lions.
Central Florida Knights
Two years ago, UCF joined Kansas as the laughingstock of college football. Neither program won a game in that 2015 season.
Fast-forward to 2017, and former Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost has the Knights looking like the class of the American Athletic Conference. Yes, the same league that includes an undefeated South Florida team (5-0), which was the preseason favorite.
UCF shredded Memphis 40-13 in Week 5, and the final score would've appeared even more impressive had the Tigers not scored a touchdown on the last play of the game. The Knights racked up 603 total yards and notched four takeaways.
Hurricane Irma affected Central Florida's schedule in September, but Frost's squad didn't let the real-life issue affect its performance.
The Knights opened the year with a 61-17 smashing of Florida International before having two unplanned bye weeks. However, UCF recovered to hammer Maryland on the road 38-10 and then dominate Memphis, another respected AAC team.
Should UCF navigate a favorable October slate—though the toughest clash, a road trip to Navy, is no easy task—the Knights will set up a winner-take-all season-ending showdown with USF.
Richard McQuarley, RB, New Mexico
Richard McQuarley amassed 18 touchdowns in 2016, tying notable players such as South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers and Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook for the 16th-most nationally.
Through four games this season, though, he'd been kept out of the end zone. That changed in a massive way during Week 5, when McQuarley rumbled past Air Force for five scores in a 56-38 triumph.
In addition to a trio of short touchdowns from three, six and five yards, McQuarley twice pushed the Lobos to 17-point leads during the fourth quarter with six-point scampers of 63 and 65 yards.
Verdict: Both legit and nah
On one hand, the breakout game was bound to happen for McQuarley. He was a goal-line monster last season, and his first 10 red-zone carries of 2017 resulted in just six yards and zero touchdowns. Regression toward the mean seemed likely.
Conversely, explosive gains are not McQuarley's strength. Entering the matchup with Air Force, he'd recorded five gains of 20-plus yards in 235 career carries—and just 18 of 10-plus, for that matter.
The senior should creep up the country's touchdown leaderboard despite New Mexico's trudge toward a mediocre year.
"Hey @LSU, thanks for having us down for homecoming! We really enjoyed it!"
Troy University's official Twitter account added insult to injury after its football team pulled off the most stunning development in Week 5—and maybe of the 2017 season—when it upended LSU 24-21.
The Trojans took advantage of LSU's mistakes, which included four turnovers, a missed field goal and a turnover on downs. Troy turned its four takeaways into 14 points—and capitalized on a time-keeping mishap to kick a controversial field goal.
Derrius Guice's absence (leg injury) loomed large for the Tigers, who had a 49-game home winning streak against nonconference teams snapped.
Verdict: Legit, but seriously?
If Appalachian State doesn't win the Sun Belt, the champion will likely be Troy. Plus, the Trojans were one quick whistle away from positioning themselves to stun Clemson in 2016, and rumor has it that ACC team did pretty well last season.
Troy didn't emerge from nowhere.
But come on, man. This upset victory was amazing, befuddling, spectacular and just about every adjective out there.
Entering the game, Troy had lost to Boise State and earned one-possession wins over New Mexico State and Akron. Sure, LSU was struggling and most of B/R's experts predicted and ugly game for the Tigers, but a Troy win? No, sir.
Neal Brown is coming for your Power Five head-coaching job.