Winners and Losers from Week 5 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2018

Winners and Losers from Week 5 of College Football

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    After an early near-upset where Clemson needed a last-minute drive to survive against Syracuse, college football threw its best punch with an incredible prime-time battle between Ohio State and Penn State.

    Unfortunately for viewers, that game ended with a colossal thud thanks to Nittany Lions coach James Franklin.

    Notre Dame upended Stanford in another battle of unbeatens, and Washington erased any hopes of yet another BYU upset with a thorough trouncing of the Cougars.

    There were plenty of winners and losers from Saturday's full slate of games, and it's our job to keep you posted on all the biggest stories as well as those you may have missed.

    Two high-profile coaches remain winless, and a perennial powerhouse used a late miscue by its opponent to pull off a huge come-from-behind win. Meanwhile, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh accomplished something he never has as a head coach.

    It was an eventful day around the sport, to say the least. Let's take a look at the winners and losers from college football's Week 5 games. 

Winner: Clemson's Clutch Season-Saving Drive

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    Kelly Bryant had declared his intentions to transfer earlier this week, and starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence had been knocked out of the game after taking a hit to the head from a Syracuse defender.

    With Clemson starting its last fourth-quarter drive from its own 6-yard line, the Tigers needed a dig-deep drive from redshirt freshman quarterback Chase Brice, who had been a third-string signal-caller just five days ago.

    They got it.

    Thirteen plays, 94 yards and five minutes, 25 seconds later, star running back Travis Etienne raced across the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown with just 41 seconds left on the clock to give Clemson a resounding 27-23 win at Death Valley in front of a raucous crowd.

    After the game, coach Dabo Swinney told the ABC television reporters that he kept telling Brice to "just find joy in the moment," over and over again. The quarterback did, and he made two critical plays on that drive when it mattered most.

    Facing 4th-and-1 near midfield on the drive, Clemson converted, but the play had been blown dead by a false start. With just 2:50 remaining, Swinney decided to go for it on 4th-and-6, and Brice delivered a perfect strike to Tee Higgins for 20 yards and a colossal first down.

    Brice looked like a veteran on the play. On the next one, he stunned everybody by keeping the ball for a 17-yard gain.

    "How 'bout Chase Brice?" Swinney exclaimed afterward.

    Etienne and Tavien Feaster took over from there, gaining the final 15 yards. Etienne helped carry Brice all day, finishing with 27 carries for 203 yards and three scores. Though Brice was overwhelmed at times, he made two massive plays with the game on the line. 

    It may have been a drive to save a season, especially if Lawrence returns next week and plays up to his capabilities. The crowd celebrated with the team afterward as Clemson remained undefeated and handed Syracuse its first loss of the season.

Loser: James Franklin's Play Call with the Game on the Line

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    After such an incredible atmosphere from the crowd in a "White Out" game in Happy Valley and following a late Ohio State comeback, Saturday's prime-time showdown between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes deserved a better finish.

    Instead, Penn State coach James Franklin's play-calling came up short with the game on the line.

    With the Lions a few yards shy of field-goal range on the Buckeyes' 43 and facing a 4th-and-5 with 1:22 remaining and just one timeout, OSU coach Urban Meyer and Franklin traded timeouts in what looked like a perfect cat-and-mouse game.

    Then, when it came time to see what brilliant plan Franklin drew up on the sideline, what followed?

    A zone-read handoff to Miles Sanders, who was swallowed up in the backfield. Really? It left everybody thinking, "After such a brilliant game between two great teams, this is what we get?" 

    Pffffffffft.

    Franklin has one of the best playmakers in college football with quarterback Trace McSorley, but he took the ball out of McSorley's hands and gave it to a running back who'd gained just 43 yards on 16 carries against a Buckeyes defensive front that had been excellent against the run all night.

    McSorley, on the other hand, threw for 286 yards and ran for 175 more, yet he didn't get the opportunity to win the game.

    In his postgame interview, Meyer talked about the heroics of OSU's exceptional 96-yard touchdown drive to take the lead, which was a huge story in a game the Buckeyes coach called "one of the greatest wins I've ever been a part of."

    But the biggest story is Franklin took the ball out of his star's hands and played right into the hands of the Buckeyes. 

Winner: Michigan's Defensive Domination

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    A lackluster first half put Michigan in a 17-point first-half hole, and it looked like the Wolverines were going to have to endure an ugly loss to a mediocre Northwestern team on the road.

    Instead, the Wolverines rode an incredible defensive performance to complete the largest comeback of the Jim Harbaugh era with a 20-17 win over the Wildcats. It wasn’t pretty for the No. 14 Wolverines, but that doesn’t matter. It was a rugged win in the tough Big Ten.

    This was the first time in 32 tries as a college head coach that a Harbaugh-led team came back after trailing by 17 or more points, according to ESPN.

    Needing a miracle on the final play, Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was sacked by Josh Uche to end any chances. That capped a brilliant effort by the Wolverines, who finished with six sacks in the game.

    Michigan allowed just 202 total yards to Northwestern (105 in the first quarter), including 28 rushing yards and 15 first downs. After a while, the game became about whether the Wildcats could simply hold on because they rarely threatened. 

    Meanwhile, Harbaugh methodically stayed the course, electing to kick a field goal down 17-10 rather than go for it on 4th-and-4. He knew his offense would get another opportunity because the defense was playing so well.

    “We had to show what we’re made of,” Harbaugh told 247Sports’ Zach Shaw after the game. “I like what we’re made of.”

    Running back Karan Higdon’s 5-yard scoring run with just 4:06 remaining finally gave Big Blue the lead, and the defense did the rest.

Loser: The Darlings of the Offseason's Coaching Carousel

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    There was almost universal love for the hirings of Scott Frost at Nebraska and Chip Kelly at UCLA this offseason, and it's hard to argue with either one given their track records.

    Frost led Central Florida to a spotless record and a mythical national championship in 2017, and after the season, he was hired for the head job at his alma mater, where he was a standout quarterback. Kelly returned to the Pac-12, where he helped revolutionize college football offense in his days at Oregon after an unsuccessful NFL career.

    So far, both rebuilds are rocky.

    How bad is it? There are only four winless teams left in FBS, and two of them are the Bruins and the Cornhuskers. The only other teams that haven't yet won are San Jose State and UTEP.

    There was never a question that it was going to take some time at both programs considering how far they'd fallen under the regimes of Jim Mora Jr. in Westwood and Mike Riley in Lincoln. But nobody expected this.

    Kelly's team has lost to Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Fresno State and Colorado. The Buffaloes used a dominant second half to run away from UCLA 38-16 on Friday. Nebraska has lost to Colorado, Troy and Michigan, and on Saturday, the Huskers added a 42-28 loss to Purdue at home.

    Yes, the season-opening game against Akron was postponed due to weather, and that could have been a win, but it wasn't.

    These were two high-profile coaching hires, and neither is on any type of hot seat. But it's a little bit alarming just how bad these starts are. At least the Huskers showed some signs of life against Purdue, but it didn't lead to anything meaningful in the win column.

Winner: Miami's Turnover Chain Gang

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    In Year 2 of the turnover chain, the Miami Hurricanes defense continues to bring the swagger back to "The U."

    In a Thursday night throwdown against North Carolina, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's defense forced six turnovers, and three of those were returned for touchdowns. Joe Jackson and Romeo Finley picked off passes and raced for the end zone, and Jonathan Garvin added a scoop-and-score on a fumble.

    A week after beating Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels couldn't gain any offensive traction in their two-quarterback system, and the 'Canes continued to thrive with a 47-10 thumping thanks on an opportunistic defense.

    In fact, Miami had more points than plays, with just 46 offensive attempts.

    The three defensive scores tied a school record, and it was enough for former Hurricanes linebacker and NFL great Jonathan Vilma, who was in the booth for ESPN, to say the defense reminded him of the speed and aggressiveness of all those old Miami teams. 

    Diaz, meanwhile, continues to inject excitement on that side of the ball.

    "It was a sight to see," Diaz said. "We always say, turnovers, they seem to come in bunches. The fact that we turned defense into offense on those was quite a sight to see."

    In the much-anticipated starting debut of dual-threat quarterback N'Kosi Perry, the defense stole the show, moving on from the season-opening setback against LSU and continuing its surge to begin ACC play.

Loser: Tennessee and Its Ability to Invent Ways to Lose

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Already more than 30-point underdogs to Georgia in Athens, a struggling Tennessee team didn't need to do the Bulldogs any favors.

    The Vols did, though, continuing to find inventive ways to give up points. Last week, Tennessee handed the Florida Gators 28 points with three turnovers inside its own 30-yard line that the Gators converted and a fumble through the end zone that would have given Tennessee seven points of its own.

    On Saturday, the Volunteers were back at it. 

    In a scoreless game early in the first half, they looked like they may get their first sack-fumble of the year when defensive lineman Darrell Taylor rushed around the end and stripped Jake Fromm of the ball.

    Rather than UT pouncing on it, though, the most Vol thing in the world happened.

    Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta, who'd moments before missed the block on Taylor, scooped up the ball and raced for a 40-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

    It was surprising score for a Georgia offense that failed to look fluid yet again due to youth and squandered opportunities. But the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs still had more than enough firepower to easily handle Tennessee and its inept offense.

    The Nauta play was huge and set the tone for UGA, which had four fumbles against the Vols and got all of them back.

    For Tennessee, it was a continuation of a miserable stretch of football that led to the ouster of former coach Butch Jones and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt. Saturday's loss was the 11th SEC setback in a row for the Vols, who'd never gone winless in the league until last season.

    It's bad breaks and mistakes like the failure to hop on Fromm's fumble that have been going against UT for a long time.

Winner: Colorado Partying Like It's 1998

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    Somebody break up the Buffs!

    Just one year removed from 2016's 10-4 run that saw Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game, the Buffaloes look like they're back following last year's 5-7 lull. Granted, they didn't exactly beat the Patriots on Friday night, handing 0-4 UCLA a 22-point loss, but that doesn't diminish what they've accomplished.

    Quarterback Steven Montez continued his brilliant early-season play, completing 22 of 26 passes for 237 yards and a score, and he ran for two more touchdowns in a dominant 38-16 win over the Bruins.

    CU is now 4-0 for the first time since all the way back in 1998.

    Wins over Colorado State, Nebraska, New Hampshire and UCLA were expected, though. Now, the Buffaloes will see if they can keep it going in a tough stretch that includes hosting Arizona State and traveling to USC and Washington over the next three weeks.

    Mike MacIntyre's team has built a nice cushion so far.

    The best thing for the Buffaloes is it's not just Montez carrying the show, either. The defense was dominant throughout the second half of Friday night's win after it looked like the Bruins may finally be taking to coach Chip Kelly's scheme.

    Sophomore receiver Laviska Shenault also continues to shine in a sterling early season, grabbing 12 catches for 126 yards and scoring one touchdown through the air and one on the ground. Running back Travon McMillian (a Virginia Tech transfer) had his third 100-yard game.

    Next week, CU will start trying to prove the naysayers wrong about its light schedule.

Loser: Memphis' Offensive Game Plan and Execution

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    Memphis' Friday night game against Tulane was another opportunity for coach Mike Norvell to showcase one of the nation's best college players in running back Darrell Henderson.

    Instead, the Tigers offense was disjointed and their game plan shoddy in what wound up being a 40-24 loss to Tulane. The Green Wave held the nation's leading rusher in check, allowing the junior to tally just 51 yards on seven carries. And nearly all of those yards came on a 47-yard first-quarter scoring scamper.

    So, why only hand the ball to your best weapon just six more times?

    It was a confusing plan by Norvell and co., to say the least. The Green Wave came into the game ranked 120th in pass defense, so you can see why Norvell thought he could attack them through the air, but it never materialized.

    Brady White completed just 14 of 30 passes for 246 yards and was sacked seven times. Still, the Tigers kept going to that well while a one-man game-changer was relegated to spectator.

    Memphis could never even get the ball in the first half, as it saw drive after drive stall. The Tigers ran just 16 plays in the first half and finished with 51 plays for 277 yards. You have to think Henderson could have helped an offense that stagnated time after time.

    The Tigers lost several weapons off last year's team, but now they look lost as a unit. The offensive line was terrible, and if they don't get the ball to Henderson, he can't lead them to wins. 

    The defending American Athletic Conference West division champions must pull themselves out of a 0-2 hole if they're going to repeat.

Winner: Florida State's Late Response

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    In a game that looked at times like nobody wanted to win, Louisville made the most baffling mistakes at the end.

    Florida State made the Cardinals pay.

    The Seminoles shook off all their early-season misery with a quick-strike, game-winning drive to beat Louisville 28-24 in what they hope is a marker of a season turnaround. Coach Willie Taggart's program has struggled so far, but Saturday's was a win that could pay important dividends.

    After a first-down pass completion to Micky Crum moved the ball to the Seminoles 28-yard line with 2:12 remaining, Crum ran out of bounds to stop the clock. Then, on the next play, Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass threw an interception to A.J. Westbrook.

    The way Louisville coach Bobby Petrino yelled at Pass when he got to the sideline made it appear it was a run-pass option call, and Pass shouldn't have thrown it. Regardless, to even give a first-year starting quarterback that decision was baffling.

    For once, the Seminoles didn't let the opportunity slip through their hands. An offense that has struggled most of the season came alive, and it did so by using the center of the field in the passing game. Deondre Francois took the 'Noles 81 yards in five plays in just 43 seconds.

    The big strikes came on a 19-yard reception by D.J. Matthews and then an electrifying 58-yard catch-and-run by Nyqwan Murray, who took a slant, made a defender miss and then raced untouched to the end zone.

    Pass threw another interception to end any chance the Cardinals had of winning, and FSU moved to 3-2 on the season with a comeback win. With a road trip to Miami next week and a home game against Clemson on Oct. 27, FSU needed a win Saturday.

    The Seminoles got one in resounding fashion.

Loser: The End of an Era at Kansas State?

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    Remember when, no matter whether Kansas State was near the top of the Big 12 or not, Manhattan, Kansas was a difficult place for opponents to play?

    That isn't the case anymore.

    The Wildcats were defeated in the "Little Apple" on Saturday in a 19-14 win by Texas, marking their second home loss of the season. 

    It has been a long, brilliant run for head coach Bill Snyder, whom the stadium is named after. His career record entering Saturday was 100 games over .500 at 212-112-1. But this looks like his worst team in a long time. The Wildcats can't generate any offense, and the defense isn't much better, either.

    Against the Longhorns, KSU had just 64 first-half yards and dug a 19-0 hole it couldn't escape. The Wildcats rallied in the second half against a paltry Texas team that sleepwalked its way through the final 30 minutes, but it didn't matter.

    Kansas State never could generate enough offense to be a real threat. After dropping a would-be touchdown on the final play of the first half, the Wildcats simply couldn't make the plays, even though the Longhorns tried to give them the game.

    KSU had just 217 total yards of offense.

    There have been times over the years when Snyder's teams were left for dead, and they rebounded with strong performances. The Wildcats fell just short on Saturday, and now we're left wondering who they're definitively better than in the Big 12.

Winner: Marcus Simms' Personal Record Book

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    Entering this season, when West Virginia quarterback Will Grier's Heisman Trophy trumpeters cited his supporting cast as a major reason why he was a threat to win college football's top individual honor, they pointed to Gary Jennings Jr. and David Sills V as returning weapons.

    Everybody kind of glossed over Marcus Simms.

    But the good thing about having Grier at the helm is he makes everybody better. In head coach Dana Holgorsen's versatile offensive scheme, there are plenty of touches to go around, and the junior receiver is thriving in that environment.

    After a quiet season opener against Tennessee, Simms set a career-high with 119 receiving yards against Youngstown State. Then, in last weekend's lopsided win over Kansas State, he did it again, eclipsing that total with 136 yards against the Wildcats.

    It only took him 28 minutes to one-up himself against Texas Tech's Swiss-cheese secondary. When it was all said and done, he totaled 138 yards against the Red Raiders as West Virginia's passing game torched Kliff Kingsbury's defense.

    Grier keeps shining, and he's distributing the ball to plenty of playmakers who make the Mountaineers an intriguing dark-horse pick for the College Football Playoff, especially after Oklahoma struggled to beat Army a week ago.

    WVU is going to load up the points against Big 12 defenses, and Simms has emerged as another seasoned, upper-class weapon for Grier. He's just another force to be schemed against for defenses around the country.

Loser: Mississippi State Holding Serve on Dan Mullen's Homecoming

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    Remember all that talk about how first-year Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead was the perfect guy to complete quarterback Nick Fitzgerald's development in his senior year?

    All that fell apart over the past two weeks.

    Early in the season, the Bulldogs were clicking on both sides of the ball and looked like they may be a force in the rugged SEC West. Instead, it took them two games against SEC East opponents to realize they aren't the team we thought they were.

    Saturday night, Starkville was rocking in Dan Mullen's first game back after leaving the Bulldogs for Florida. This was a perfect opportunity for Moorhead to endear himself to the fans and for Fitzgerald to have a hallmark game that could help put his name up there beside Dak Prescott's.

    Instead, the Bulldogs fell flat in a 13-6 loss to a Gators team that looks rejuvenated after dominating Tennessee on the road last weekend. Florida had a brilliant game plan to shut down Fitzgerald, and MSU had no answers.

    The senior dual-threat quarterback wasn't a threat at all. He finished 11-of-26 with just 98 passing yards, averaging only 3.8 yards per attempt. He wasn't good on the ground either, totaling 32 yards on 20 carries. MSU failed to score a single touchdown.

    It was a worst-case scenario game for the offensive-minded Moorhead. Mullen called a great game last week against the Vols but was aided by six UT turnovers. Though the Gators don't have many offensive weapons, Mullen is still finding a way to post wins.

    On Saturday, it was yet again the defense, a unit that has carried the Gators for years. The Bulldogs converted just two of 12 third downs and gained 202 total yards. They simply couldn't sustain drives.

    Now, they enter SEC West play with an ugly 0-2 ledger against conference foes. Moorhead has to regroup in a hurry.

Winner: Afternoon Receiving Delights

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    Woody Marshall/Associated Press

    If you like big receiving games, Saturday afternoon was your jam.

    Maybe you had to search for the huge performances, because most of them didn't happen in marquee games, but with a snoozefest slate of afternoon games before Saturday night's bonanza of quality football matchups, perhaps you ran across them channel-surfing.

    Wake Forest's Greg Dortch, Western Michigan's Jayden Reed, Ball State's Riley Miller and UMass' Andy Isabella combined for 41 catches for 706 yards and 12 touchdowns. Yes, that's numbers for just four players.

    In the Western Michigan game, Reed didn't even have the most yards on his team, as D'Wayne Eskridge added seven more catches for 141 yards. The Broncos needed every one of those yards in a 40-39 win over Miami (Ohio).

    Dortch's massive day came against a hapless Rice team as the Demon Deacons poured it on in a 56-24 win. Isabella's career day for UMass actually came in a loss after the Minute Men were walloped 58-42 by Ohio.

    If you stuck with the big-name teams, you saw some quality performances there, too. Oklahoma's Kyler Murray showed out with more than 400 yards and seven total touchdowns, distributing the ball to everybody. Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and CeeDee Lamb each had more than 100 yards.

    Vanderbilt's Kalija Lipscomb had a huge day too, helping the Commodores (barely) hold off their FCS neighbors from Nashville with a 31-27 win over Tennessee State.

    It was a huge day for receiving numbers, and those big performances helped tide us over until the night time feast.

Loser: Lane Kiffin's Head Coaching Return to the State of Tennessee

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    It's been a forgettable start to the season for Lane Kiffin, whose upstart Florida Atlantic Owls were one of the feel-good stories a season ago in the enigmatic head coach's first season in Boca Raton.

    With high expectations this year, the Owls were blown out by Oklahoma to start the season, barely put up a fight in a lopsided loss to Central Florida and sat at 2-2 before traveling to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to take on the MTSU Blue Raiders.

    The host team stormed back from a large second-half deficit to score what looked like the game-tying touchdown with less than a minute to play. Instead, Raiders coach Rick Stockstill decided to gamble and go for two points to try to win the game.

    His son, quarterback Brent, rolled left, and with everything bottled up in front of him, he threw back to the middle of the field, where Gatlin Casey caught the conversion attempt.

    The Owls couldn't muster anything in the final 38 seconds, and Middle Tennessee completed an important upset with a 25-24 win. The Stockstills embraced on the field, and the big crowd in Murfreesboro erupted.

    Now, it looks like FAU will have a difficult time climbing out of the Conference USA East division as the Blue Raiders completed a huge divisional win. They came all the way back from a 21-3 deficit and sent Kiffin back home with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Winner: Virginia Tech Quarterback Ryan Willis

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    Last weekend's shocking loss to Old Dominion was one of the worst moments in recent history for a proud Virginia Tech football program, and it was compounded by the loss of starting quarterback Josh Jackson. The second-year starter broke his leg, and it's possible he could miss the remainder of the season. 

    Suddenly, a season that started so strongly looked to be spiraling out of control.

    Instead, the Hokies rebounded nicely on Saturday, beating No. 22 Duke 31-14 to move to 3-1 on the season a week after losing to the Monarchs and falling out of the Top 25. The biggest reason for the win was the performance of junior backup quarterback Ryan Willis.

    Without dual-threat quarterback Jackson, coach Justin Fuente's offense looked different, but it was still prolific. Willis completed 17 of his 27 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

    It was the first time Willis started a game since transferring to Blacksburg from Kansas, where he started parts of his first two years in college. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Mike Barber, Willis went 22-2 in high school before going to the Jayhawks, where he went 2-22.

    He was back to his winning ways against the Blue Devils, calmly leading the Hokies in an air assault against a Duke defense that had carried coach David Cutcliffe's team to a spotless mark and the Top 25.

    The Blue Devils got their starting quarterback, Daniel Jones, back from his clavicle injury but were denied their first 5-0 start since 1994. Willis was the main culprit, completing a 27-yard TD pass to Damon Hazelton, a 67-yard catch-and-run score to Dalton Keene and a game-clinching 10-yarder to Phil Patterson.

    The Hokies look like there may be life after Jackson and the ODU debacle, after all.

Loser: The Overtime Killer Instincts of Hawaii and San Jose State

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    With all the exciting games that were going on between college powerhouses on Saturday night, you may have missed the wildest of them all.

    Upstart Hawaii got a major scare from winless San Jose State, needing five overtimes to finally dispose of the Spartans, 44-41.

    You need to look a little deeper to truly appreciate that final score, though, and to realize just how frustrated SJSU has to be, especially considering this was a prime chance to win a game and pull a major upset at the same time.

    The teams ended regulation tied at 31 and both scored touchdowns on their first possessions of the extra session. But over the next four drives, the Rainbow Warriors and Spartans combined for 13 total yards and four—yes, four—consecutive missed field goals.

    After they traded successful field goals, Hawaii put one more through the uprights before San Jose State kicker Bryce Crawford missed his fourth field goal of the day. One of his missed overtime kicks came from just 30 yards away.

    That's news, too. Crawford is one of the nation's best kickers, and he set a school record as a junior last season with five field goals of 50-plus yards. But he was the biggest struggler in a game full of them.

    That's something you almost never see in overtime; it was a battle of who would screw up the least.

    Thankfully for Hawaii, it survived the scrum for its fifth win, and Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Cole McDonald finished with yet another brilliant game. But the victory was overshadowed by the overtime shenanigans.

Winner: The Undefeated Kentucky Wildcats

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Maybe you thought the first win over Florida in 31 years was because the Gators are having a down year. Perhaps you still weren't convinced when Mississippi State came to town and left with its first loss of the season.

    But after dominating South Carolina on Saturday night in Lexington, you have to start believing in the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats now, don't you?

    UK has been patient with coach Mark Stoops over the past six years and let him quietly build a program. Now, with star running back Benny Snell Jr., dual-threat jewel Terry Wilson—who has transformed the Wildcats offense with his arm and feet—and a better-than-expected defense, UK is 5-0.

    It seems there is an exuberant postgame celebration for the Wildcats every week now. You may continue to doubt the ‘Cats, but that's OK, because they believe.

    All of a sudden, they look like Georgia's biggest competition in the SEC East.

    After a three-point first quarter, Kentucky erupted for three second-quarter touchdowns to build a 24-3 advantage over Will Muschamp's Gamecocks. They were supposed to be the only real threat to the Bulldogs in the East, but UGA ran roughshod over them earlier this season, and UK did the same Saturday.

    Wilson wasn't great against a solid South Carolina defense, but he was good enough. Snell controlled the game, and the UK defense did enough to stop the Gamecocks, who tried to rally late.

    Any time you get into divisional play and win a game the way Kentucky did Saturday night, it's important, no matter how many style points you get. Right now, the Wildcats have an unblemished record in a magical early season where they can do little wrong.

Loser: BYU's Ability to Continually Rise to the Occasion

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    The AP poll voters were buying BYU entering this weekend after the upstart Cougars upset Arizona and Wisconsin earlier this season.

    Apparently, they forgot about that loss to California, though. 

    On Saturday night, the Cougars didn't even look average during a road trip against a Washington team that looked more like the Huskies everybody expected entering the season. After losing to Auburn in the season opener, they hadn't gotten going yet, but all that changed against BYU.

    Washington dominated the game from the outset in a 35-7 win, and it will probably be a while before the Cougars see the rankings again. They couldn't generate any yards on the ground at all, and Washington quarterback Jake Browning did as he pleased.

    The senior signal-caller had struggled early this season, but he completed all but two of his 25 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown. The Cougars offered no resistance defensively as the Huskies converted nine of 12 third-down attempts.

    Browning was brilliant, and he surpassed Cody Pickett to become the school's all-time passing leader in the midst of an offensive breakthrough.

    Defensively, Washington let BYU cross midfield just once in its first eight drives. If not for a one-yard TD run with 41 seconds left, the Huskies would have gotten their first shutout against a ranked opponent since a 31-0 win over No. 5 USC in 1990.

    It was a forgettable evening for BYU. The team that showed up in Seattle on Saturday looked more like the 4-9 Cougars team Kalani Sitake had to deal with in 2017.

Winner: Ian Book's Grasp of Notre Dame's QB1 Role

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Brandon Wimbush has won some important games in his career at Notre Dame, and he's likely going to play a role in the Fighting Irish's run throughout the remainder of the year.

    But, make no mistake, this is Ian Book's team.

    The junior signal-caller put any doubts to rest with a breakout performance in a battle of undefeated teams on Saturday night in what ultimately led to Notre Dame's resounding 38-17 win over Stanford.

    Book was a difference-maker under center, and that's something coach Brian Kelly's team hasn't had in a long time. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns against the Cardinal. He added 47 more yards on the ground.

    Stanford's defense had no answer for Book, and he made sure the Cardinal earned the delayed loss they should have gotten a week ago when Oregon gave them a victory in the closing minutes. 

    Nothing about him is particularly imposing. He's listed at a shade over 6'0" and 203 pounds, and he wasn't a highly sought-after prospect as a 3-star quarterback from El Dorado Hills, California. Book didn't shine immediately upon arriving at South Bend, and he wasn't an overnight star.

    But over time, he's become a dependable weapon who is capable of being spectacular. With him at the helm, the Irish are a legitimate CFP contender, which has never been more evident than after Saturday's performance.

    In two starts now, Book is averaging 301.5 yards and has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also has three rushing touchdowns.

    With a favorable schedule remaining, Notre Dame could continue to improve with Book under center and make some noise in the postseason.

Loser: Arizona Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone

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    How do you inherit college football's most electrifying dual-threat quarterback in Khalil Tate, a quality running back in J.J. Taylor and several other offensive weapons and turn them into this?

    That's a question Arizona first-year coach Kevin Sumlin will have to continue to answer as the Wildcats keep underachieving in the early season.

    The latest frustration came in Saturday night's home loss to USC. Arizona failed to generate anything offensively or even crack the scoreboard until midway through the third quarter.

    Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has turned the electrifying Tate into a quarterback who stands in the pocket, hands off or throws screens. This has been a disaster so far, and a 24-20 loss didn't help matters.

    A season ago, Tate thrived in Rich Rodriguez's spread scheme, and even though Arizona was far from a powerhouse, the quarterback would routinely put up amazing stat lines no matter who he played.

    That isn't the case this year, and Mazzone must shoulder his share of the blame.

    Yes, the veteran offensive coordinator helped mold quarterbacks such as Josh Rosen (during his freshman year at UCLA, Brett Hundley, Brock Osweiler and Philip Rivers. But he has never managed dual-threat quarterbacks very well.

    That is continuing this year, and in a huge chance to change their fortunes against USC, the Wildcats again flailed miserably at getting into any offensive rhythm at all.

    At this point, you've got to wonder if Mazzone and Sumlin simply don't know how to utilize Tate, but if that's the case, what's going to happen when they get a less athletic quarterback under center?

    There is plenty of reason to be concerned in Tucson.

Winner: Eno Benjamin

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    If you've never heard of Arizona State sophomore running back Eno Benjamin before Saturday night, you're probably in the majority.

    But after a Bryce Love-esque performance against Oregon State, you may be hearing a lot more about him soon. Heck, even this year's version of Love hasn't come anywhere near doing what Benjamin did to the Beavers.

    He posted one of the day's two most memorable numbers, running for 312 yards on 30 carries and scoring three touchdowns in a 52-24 win over Oregon State. That was just as impressive as Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray's seven touchdowns against Baylor.

    Benjamin's school-record performance eclipsed Ben Malone's 250 yards against Oregon State way back in 1973.

    Benjamin had had two 100-plus-yard games (against UTSA and Washington) so far this season but gained fewer than 30 each against San Diego State and Michigan State.

    Apparently, playing against the Beavers cures all ills.

    Unbelievably, Benjamin had plenty of company in a game that saw both teams dominate on the ground. Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson finished with 254 rushing yards of his own in a losing effort.

    But this game was about Benjamin, who helped Arizona State overcome a sluggish start and surge to a 3-2 record after disappointing losses to San Diego State and Washington.

    Coach Herm Edwards' team is still on track to impress this year, and now, it's possible the Sun Devils have found a star runner to go along with quarterback Manny Wilkins.

Winner: Oregon's Resounding Response

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    It would have been easy for Oregon to have a hangover after last week's discouraging overtime loss to Stanford that only happened because the Ducks fumbled trying to run out the clock.

    Instead, they showed the type of veteran resiliency that should make head coach Mario Cristobal, a hard-nosed former offensive lineman, proud.

    The Ducks used big play after big play to dominate California in a late-night battle between ranked teams. No. 19 Oregon won 42-24 thanks to so many quick strikes. The victory snapped the Ducks' five-game conference road losing streak and put them back on track in the Pac-12.

    It was an important win, not only for the standings, but also for team morale after last weekend's disappointing blow.

    Not only did star quarterback Justin Herbert have a big day, but the Ducks also had two running backs (Travis Dye and CJ Verdell) over 100 yards. Receiver Dillon Mitchell also wound up with more than 100 receiving yards, and Cal had no answer for the offensive onslaught.

    In grind-it-out drives, Cal held its own against Oregon, but the Golden Bears couldn't stop the big strikes. Herbert hit Kano Dillon for a 30-yard score and added a 36-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell.

    Dye had a 45-yard touchdown run, and Verdell added a 74-yard run to set up another score.

    The defense got in on the action, too, sealing the win when Ugochukwu Amadi's second interception of the night was returned 32 yards for a touchdown, the final score of the night.

                      

    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of Sports Reference and CFBStats.com and recruiting data courtesy of 247Sports. Odds provided by OddsShark.

    Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.