Winners and Losers from Week 6 of the 2015 College Football Season
Week 6 of the 2015 college football season was, in many ways, all about the coaches. There were some, like Texas' Charlie Strong and Tennessee's Butch Jones, who desperately needed wins—and got them. Others, meanwhile, have more questions to answer. USC's Steve Sarkisian, Georgia's Mark Richt and Maryland's Randy Edsall are specifically the focus of their respective anxious fanbases.
One, North Texas' Dan McCarney, has already been let go, per ESPN.com.
In between, there was more bad luck for Nebraska, highlight-reel catches, dramatic finishes in the Big 12 and stunning losses in Oregon. College football is many things, chief among them is unpredictable. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the opposite happens.
Who were the winners and losers from Week 6? We break down all that was good, bad, ugly, gorgeous and more in the following slides.
As a reminder, Winners and Losers is live while evening games are still being played. Fear not, as we will update this post throughout the night as events warrant.
There are things in this world far more important than a single football game will ever be. In the case of Saturday's tilt between LSU and South Carolina, it took one of those things for us to see that fact.
As you've no doubt heard, the state of South Carolina has experienced historically awful flooding. Columbia, South Carolina, was one of the areas affected by the high water levels. As a result, the Gamecocks' Week 6 game against the Tigers was moved to Baton Rouge.
But LSU made sure South Carolina felt as at home as possible on the road. First, LSU provided the air transportation to send the Gamecocks to Baton Rouge. It then sent all profits from ticket sales for the game back to South Carolina. The LSU band also learned the Gamecocks' fight songs and alma mater.
There were fundraising efforts at Tiger Stadium, and star running back Leonard Fournette did what he could to help. You can read all the ways LSU is helping South Carolina via the State. The Tigers' 45-24 win felt like an afterthought.
Well done, LSU.
Loser: USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
Eighteen games into his tenure at USC, head coach Steve Sarkisian is already mirroring his predecessor, Lane Kiffin. So we're clear: That's not a good thing.
Sarkisian is 12-6, like Kiffin was after 18 games with the Trojans, thanks to a 17-12 loss to Washington Thursday night. According to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, four of those losses have come against unranked opponents. Furthermore, all four of those unranked opponents were double-digit underdogs.
“This one at the end of the day is on me. We didn’t coach well enough. We didn’t execute well enough. We didn’t manage the game well enough," Sarkisian said, per B/R's Bryan Fischer.
That's all true, and Sarkisian is more than willing to take responsibility for it. Eventually, however, that goes only so far. Can the Trojans ever fix their penalty problem? Can they improve on third downs (they were 1-of-13 against the Huskies)? Can they play up to their ability instead of down to their competition?
Sarkisian has numerous questions to answer. Who knows for certain if he'll be able to respond to them. In the meantime, USC's quest to find its next Pete Carroll is keeping fans longing for the now-NFL coach's tenure with the team.
Winner: Baylor Tight End LaQuan McGowan
Baylor beat Kansas 66-7, which almost seems humane compared to what the Bears could have done to the Jayhawks.
But what Baylor did is replicate its famous Cotton Bowl touchdown pass to offensive lineman-turned-tight end LaQuan McGowan. On 1st-and-10 from the Kansas 18-yard line, quarterback Seth Russell hit McGowan on a seam route up the middle of the field. The 410-pound tight end took it from there, kinda sorta leaping over a defender for the score.
It was McGowan's first reception, and obviously his first touchdown, of the season. Still, how Kansas missed a 400-pound body coming out of the backfield is anyone's guess.
Loser: Maryland Coach Randy Edsall
Maryland coach Randy Edsall had a rough week. Or, as the case may be, "Former Maryland head coach Randy Edsall."
This past week, Jeff Ermann of InsideMDSports.com reported Edsall was "unlikely to survive as Maryland's football coach past this weekend's game against Ohio State" and that "barring an unexpected last-minute reversal, Maryland will part ways with Edsall when the floundering Terps enter their midseason bye week."
Unless that report is inaccurate, it seems only a matter of time now before Edsall is out following a 49-28 loss to the No. 1 Buckeyes. The game was tied at 21-21 early in the third quarter, creating the awkward possibility that Edsall could coach his way back into good standing—or hold on at least until the end of the season. But Ohio State, as it usually does, pulled away when it mattered most.
Maryland is now 2-4 on the season and 22-34 overall with Edsall. Interestingly, the coach agreed to a contract extension over the summer that would take him through 2019. Now, and following a tense press conference Saturday, Edsall could be looking for a new job.
Winner: Ole Miss Wide Receiver Laquon Treadwell
It was quite a day for LaQuans and Laquons alike on Saturday. LaQuan McGowan caught his first touchdown grab of the season, and Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell made perhaps his best catch ever in a 52-3 rout of New Mexico State.
Already up 38-3, Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly threw a pass downfield to a wide-open Treadwell, who hauled in the one-handed grab for the score. Why was Treadwell so open? Basically, he did a football version of a crossover on an Aggie defender.
The game was over before it began, but that 37-yard grab was one of the prettiest catches of the day.
Winner: Texas Head Coach Charlie Strong
Other than coaches whose fates may be determined—we're looking at you, Randy Edsall—did anyone else need a win like Texas' Charlie Strong?
The background to the Longhorns' stunning 24-17 win over Oklahoma wasn't pretty. Texas was off to its worst start since the 1950s thanks to yet another blowout loss in Week 5, this at the hands of TCU, 50-7. Reports of a divided locker room and speculation about Strong's job security created unwelcome distractions ahead of Texas' biggest game of the season.
Yet, the Longhorns came out with intensity and, for the first time as a young team, sustained that focus for an entire game and closed out an opponent. The Horns defense blitzed Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield time and time again, disrupting Oklahoma's offense from ever getting into a rhythm. The Texas offense ran wild for 313 yards rushing and 5.4 yards per carry.
The self-inflicted wounds that have plagued Texas were practically nonexistent. There were no special teams miscues, no turnovers and just five penalties.
Texas needed this win. Strong needed this win, if only to give himself some breathing room. Long term, the coach probably still needs four years or so to fully get the Longhorns competing at the level the school wants. But if there were ever a game to signal the start of that turnaround, this was it.
Loser: Oklahoma Running Back Samaje Perine
Remember when Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine took over the Big 12 as a freshman with a conference-best 1,713 yards? It wasn't that long ago—just last year.
In 2015, however, Perine has been practically nonexistent, save for a few moments when we're reminded that he does, in fact, play for the Sooners. In a 24-17 loss to Texas, Perine had 10 carries for just 36 yards. It's his fourth game of 78 yards or less in five contests this year. He's broken out once, against Tulsa, for 152 yards.
Though the Sooners are still extraordinarily talented at many spots, one of their weaknesses is offensive line, which features almost an entirely new starting lineup. Their run blocking just hasn't been there, and their pass protection was generally terrible against the Longhorns.
Regardless of what the offensive system is, Perine proved to be Oklahoma's most valuable player a year ago. He simply hasn't been a factor this season.
With each passing week, it's becoming harder and harder to qualify Michigan's success under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines aren't just a nice turnaround story. They're legitimately beating the hell out of opponents.
With a 38-0 win over Northwestern—Michigan's best victory this year—the Wolverines have now shut out three straight opponents and have allowed just 14 points since Week 1's loss to Utah. This is what Michigan fans have wanted for a long, long time: a team that keeps its foot on its opponent's throat no matter what.
I wonder where Michigan gets its edge? Look no further than Harbaugh, who was genuinely livid about something...while up 31-0.
With Ohio State and Michigan State looking sluggish, it's no longer far-fetched to think Michigan has a legitimate chance to beat both. At the very least, Michigan is college football's most interesting team, per freelance journalist David Ubben. It was always believed Harbaugh would do great things in Ann Arbor, but did anyone believe the turnaround would be this quick?
Loser: Mounting Injuries
We're not even technically halfway through the 2015 season, but it's hard to describe this year as anything other than grossly unfair. The number of injuries to key players around college football is disheartening.
Myles Jack, Malik Zaire, Karl Joseph, Taysom Hill and now Georgia running back Nick Chubb—they, along with more players than we care to name, have had their seasons cut short by injuries.
Early in a 38-31 loss to Tennessee, Chubb sustained a gruesome-looking knee injury and had to be helped off the field. According to Chip Towers of DawgNation.com, the CBS broadcast noted that Chubb "lost consciousness briefly while being moved from a training table to the cart that eventually took him off the field."
Asked after the game about Chubb's injury, head coach Mark Richt said "I'm optimistic it won't require surgery. I'm not 100 percent certain," per Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The saddest part about injuries is there's no prejudice. They're an unfortunate part of the game, but you'd be lying to yourself if you thought 2015 was just another year for injuries in the college game. For whatever reason, it's worse, at least when it comes to star players. Now, we can only hold our collective breath, wondering if/when the next one will occur.
Loser: Nebraska's Luck
Some things are obvious and able to be explained. And, if you really try, you could spend hours breaking down all the things afflicting Nebraska right now.
We'll take the easy road, though: The Cornhuskers are cursed. Someone, somewhere put some bad juju on this team and head coach Mike Riley. What, exactly, did Nebraska do to this scorned individual? There's no way of knowing. But, heavens, whatever it was, it must have been horrible. Because this is some dark, dark magic.
With a 23-21 loss to Wisconsin on a late field goal, Nebraska has lost four games by a combined 11 points and each within 15 seconds of the end of the game or overtime.
Adding even more cruelty to Nebraska's seemingly predetermined struggle, Wisconsin actually missed a would-be go-ahead field goal—off the upright, no less—yet got another try on an ensuing drive with only seconds remaining.
Brutal. That's the only way to describe 2-4 Nebraska through six games.
Yeah, Tennessee needed that win over Georgia. Otherwise, the rumblings directed toward the very specific vicinity of head coach Butch Jones would have grown far louder.
We'll say this for the Vols: It's never boring. But they got a much-needed SEC East win against Georgia, 38-31. Ironically, Tennessee came back from a double-digit deficit to get the victory. Late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs had what looked to be a commanding 24-3 lead. No one in college football has blown more leads than Tennessee this season, so for the Vols to come back from a big deficit is a nice reversal.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs continues to be this team's MVP, leading the squad in rushing (118 yards) and passing this week (312 yards). When things are dire, Dobbs always kicks it into another gear. He's going to take matters into his own hands, and there's usually nothing anyone can do to stop him.
This time, it worked out for Tennessee.
Loser: Boston College's Late-Game Blunder
College football is a truly special sport in that it’s like someone who accidentally runs into a book shelf in a library and then watches in horror as every shelf knocks the next one down like dominoes.
Such is the case for Boston College, which completely botched its end-of-game possession against Wake Forest. Down 3-0 with 18 seconds left and no timeouts, the Eagles, instead of taking a shot into the end zone through the air, ran the ball and did not get a touchdown.
Then, everyone took their sweet time getting the ball set and back to the line, which ran off just about all of the time. Eagles quarterback Jeff Smith attempted to spike the ball but it was too late.
Time ran out and Boston College suffered the most head-scratching loss of the day.
Winner: Dabo Swinney Officially Buries 'Clemsoning' 6 Feet Under
“Clemsoning” is officially dead. It should have been dead long ago, but it took Tigers coach Dabo Swinney's postgame tirade to officially flatline it.
Clemsoning, for those unaware, was especially prevalent in the Tommy Bowden era when the Tigers would inexplicably lose a game it shouldn’t have. Under Swinney, though, the phrase should have been retired long ago. The team has taken care of business against unranked squads and toppled blue-blood programs like Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Notre Dame and LSU during his tenure.
Yet, following a 43-24 win over Georgia Tech, Swinney was asked about Clemsoning. You can see his response in the video above, but in short, Swinney called the term “bull crap.”
And he’s right. It was a fun joke for a while, but Clemson has done everything elite programs in college football do. It’s won big games and recruited at a high level. About the only thing missing is a playoff appearance, and that might happen in 2015. There's no underachieving there.
Loser: North Texas
In a previous edition, Winners and Losers has shined a nasty spotlight on another winless team this year: Central Florida. For the record, the Knights lost again Saturday, 40-13 to UConn in the inaugural #ConFLiCT rivalry.
But we simply can’t ignore what’s happening in Denton, Texas, where North Texas just lost to Football Championship Subdivision member Portland State, 66-7. It’s the worst loss by an FBS team to a FCS team since the separation.
And during Homecoming, no less. Yikes. After the loss, UNT confirmed it had relieved head coach Dan McCarney of his duties, per Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Granted, Portland State beat Washington State earlier this season, but this is about as bad as it gets for North Texas.
There have been some lean years for the Mean Green over the past decade or so, but McCarney looked like he was turning a corner with the program in 2013 by leading the team to nine wins. Since then, it’s been all downhill, and 0-for-12 looks like a real possibility in 2015.
Winner: Big 12 After Dark
The Big 12 began the day with the most stunning upset of Week 6: Texas over Oklahoma. It ended the day with a pair of thrillers under the moonlight that almost stops your heart.
For the second time this season, TCU found itself in conference dogfight, this time against Kansas State. The Wildcats, easily the Big 12 thorn for everyone else, jumped out to a 35-17 lead thanks to a dominating performance in the trenches. Meanwhile, K-State quarterback Joe Hubener was drawing comparisons to former program great Collin Klein.
Ultimately, however, TCU was able to rally for the 52-45 win, and Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin showed he still had a case for Heisman consideration with two touchdowns on back-to-back possessions at the end of the game. The first was a nice 69-yard touchdown run and the second was a 55-yard touchdown pass to Josh Doctson.
TCU's defense remains a liability, and you have to wonder how many more times the Frogs can survive a shootout, but this team is a lot of fun to watch.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State remained undefeated with a 33-26 overtime win on the road against West Virginia. The Cowboys blew a 23-9 lead and continue to live on the edge, but they're 6-0 all the same and in the race for the Big 12 title.
The Big 12 remains an exciting, albeit messy, conference. Only Baylor has taken care of its business without much of a doubt. That could very well change, though, as conference play is just getting started.
Loser: Oregon's Incredible Fall
If Oregon fans ever wanted to know what rock bottom feels like, now they do.
The Ducks' decline following a national championship run just a season ago is almost spectacular. A 45-38 double-overtime loss to Washington State at home is the latest blemish on a disappointing 3-3 season. Twice, in the second and fourth quarters, Oregon had a double-digit lead over the Cougars. Both times, the Ducks allowed Mike Leach's team to come back. The second time, Wazzu scored the tying touchdown with one second left in regulation.
Then, in the second overtime, the Cougars scored on one of the most unlikely catches you'll ever see.
It's a great win for Leach, who just might turn this thing around and get Washington State back to the postseason. As for Oregon, getting to bowl eligibility is far more of a legitimate talking point than it's ever been before.
Who thought that would happen two months ago?
Winner: Florida State Running Back Dalvin Cook
Notice how the photo above of Florida State running back Dalvin Cook was taken from behind? That's basically the view Miami had of the sophomore in a 29-24 win by the Seminoles.
Cook once again proved he's Florida State's MVP with 222 yards and two touchdowns. According to Tim Linafelt of Seminoles.com, that's the highest rushing total for any FSU running back against Miami. Cook added three receptions for 47 yards and a score.
Yeah, it looks like Cook was recovered from his hamstring injury.
Slowly but surely, Seminoles quarterback Everett Golson is improving and looks more comfortable in the offense. He still hasn't thrown an interception, a drastic improvement from a year ago. But Florida State's key to victory in 2015 starts with Cook.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher knows that. Without overworking Cook, Fisher's done all he can to get him the ball.
Loser: The Dreaded 4th-Down Spike
How do you blow a chance at a home upset against a Top 10 team? Spike the ball on fourth down to end the game, of course.
Oh, Rutgers. Why'd it have to be you?
Down 31-24 to Michigan State, Scarlet Knights quarterback Chris Laviano took a sack at midfield on third down. Rushing back to the line, Laviano needed to throw a Hail Mary. Instead, on fourth down, he spiked the ball.
The announcers in the Big Ten Network booth and the crowd in the stands collectively groaned at the mental lapse. The Spartans held on for another closer-than-it-should-have-been win.
You don't want to get too down on any player, but that's...well, that's about as bad as it gets. However, the decision to spike the ball wasn't Laviano's. At least so said interim coach Norries Wilson. "Chris Laviano did what he was told to do, and I told him the wrong thing," said Wilson (via Chris Vannini).
Winner: Alabama Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley
When Alabama absolutely needed a play against Arkansas, it called upon freshman receiver Calvin Ridley.
And the first-year player delivered with 1:50 to play in the third quarter, scoring on an 81-yard bomb from quarterback Jake Coker to help give the Tide a 9-7 lead. Ridley led all players with nine catches for 140 yards and a score.
Ridley has emerged as one of the top targets in the passing game, and his ability to stretch the field vertically provides a spark for the Tide when the offense finds itself in a rut. While he's not quite at Amari Cooper's level at getting downfield, Ridley does help fill that role.
Alabama goes to Texas A&M in Week 7. The Aggies have another top freshman wide receiver in Christian Kirk. If you want to see two of the better freshman pass-catchers in college football, check out the pair on display in College Station.
Loser: Cal Quarterback Jared Goff
Not to pin everything on Cal quarterback Jared Goff, but throwing five interceptions isn't exactly the best way to win a football game. Playing on his biggest stage of the season, and perhaps of his collegiate career, the junior was erratic. Most of his interceptions were on him, and Utah's pressure forced some high or otherwise inaccurate throws. He also had fumbling problems and nearly threw more picks.
Sometimes, you have a bad game, and Goff had a bad game.
It won't get nearly as much attention, but Cal's defense bailed out Goff. The Bears had six turnovers and only lost by six points, 30-24, with a chance to win at the end. Other than failing to tackle Utah running back Devontae Booker (222 yards, two touchdowns), the Bears played stout defense. That's a tribute to the job defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has done. Without that effort, the outcome could have been much, much worse.
This performance doesn't mean Goff is a fraud. He still makes NFL-type throws, and his whole body of work is much better than what fans saw Saturday night. He'll rebound, but he had a disappointing effort in a huge game.
If fans were tuning in to see Goff for the first time this season, they left disappointed.