College Football Rankings 2018: Bleacher Report's Week 6 Top 25
What a wild slate of games Week 6 brought us. It was a loaded schedule for Top 25 matchups, including critical conference games from the early afternoon until the late evening.
Ohio State pried an absolutely stunning 27-26 victory from Penn State's paws as the Buckeyes made key adjustments in the second half. They locked themselves into controlling their destiny for conference supremacy with the win.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame established that it's back and a force to be reckoned with as Ian Book emerged as a potential star. The Irish handled Stanford with ease and rose dramatically in our rankings.
West Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Clemson and Michigan State all survived close games. On the less fortunate side, the offenses for Duke, BYU and Mississippi State all fell apart, as they joined Penn State and Stanford as the other Top 25 losers.
We have new-look teams all over now that the first five weeks are completed. There's a better grip on the identities and makeups of many teams, making the preseason polls a moot point.
Bleacher Report's panel of experts—Matt Hayes, David Kenyon, Adam Kramer, Kerry Miller, Brad Shepard and Ian Wharton—voted on the action. A first-place vote is worth 25 points, followed by 24 points for second, 23 for third, etc.
Here is our Week 6 poll:
1. Alabama (last week: 1)
2. Georgia (2)
3. Ohio State (4)
4. Oklahoma (5)
5. Clemson (3)
6. Notre Dame (T-9)
7. LSU (6)
8. West Virginia (8)
9. Washington (T-9)
10. Penn State (12)
11. UCF (13)
12. Auburn (11)
13. Kentucky (18)
14. Miami (T-15)
15. Michigan (14)
16. Wisconsin (17)
17. Oregon (T-15)
18. Texas (19)
19. Stanford (7)
20. Colorado (20)
21. Texas A&M (NR)
22. Florida (NR)
T-23. Oklahoma State (NR)
T-23. Syracuse (21)
25. Boise State (NR)
Others receiving votes: Michigan State, Cincinnati, NC State, California, Boston College, Texas Tech, Iowa
Who's Hot: Notre Dame with Ian Book
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish seemed to have found a secret weapon that was needed to unlock their offense: quarterback Ian Book. Benching senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush for Book in Week 4 was likely the absolute latest they could make the switch and still get Book comfortable within the offense. The risk has so far paid off immensely.
The Irish's win against Stanford was a total team effort, but it was impossible not to notice the stark contrast between the Book-led attack and the stagnant offense behind Wimbush. Everything opened up because of his willingness to attempt and, more importantly, hit tight passing windows. He made several sideline throws that the Irish hadn't seen since DeShone Kizer was their signal-caller.
After Stanford's offense had surged despite Bryce Love in recent weeks, it had the chance to challenge the talented Irish defense with a quality passing attack. That didn't come to fruition, as Irish defensive tackle Jerry Tillery helped lead a swarming and vicious unit that mostly contained Love and quarterback K.J. Costello throughout the night.
Sitting at 5-0 with a favorable schedule the rest of the season, if you weren't already taking this team seriously, it's time to now. It features playmakers on both sides of the ball and is hitting its stride as October arrives.
Who's Not: Penn State's Blown Opportunity
The Penn State Nittany Lions had Ohio State right where they wanted them in Happy Valley. Down 12 with eight minutes left, the Buckeyes looked lost, outcoached and out of answers. And yet, the Buckeyes stormed back to win, 27-26.
Despite the win, Ohio State never looked like the better team. The Nittany Lions limited the Buckeyes, who came in averaging 55 points per game, to only three drives longer than 27 yards. Their ability to create pressure put Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins on his heels, forcing Ohio State to move to a screen-based offense that continued to work for the entire second half.
What separated the Nittany Lions offense was Trace McSorely's ability to rush for a career-high 175 yards. It was the first time in his career he surpassed 100 rushing yards, and the senior set a career high in total yards as well. Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano continued to call man coverage and failed to have a capable spy defender, allowing McSorely to find huge running lanes.
And yet as a result of Penn State's lack of defensive adjustments to counter the screens, the game came down to a 4th-and-5 on the Ohio State 43-yard line. Instead of keeping the ball in McSorely's hands, even for a designed draw or a scramble drill, the Nittany Lions ran a zone read that was easily stopped by the crashing defense. The play call was especially terrible since each team had taken a timeout prior to the snap, so there was time to rethink it.
This is a crushing loss for Penn State. Unless the Buckeyes stumble against a lesser team than this Nittany Lions squad, they're in the driver's seat once again to make the Big Ten Championship Game.
Fun Fact: ACC Competition Is High
Some may call it sabotage or cannibalizing themselves, but the ACC produced highly contested games once again this week. Syracuse nearly upset Clemson, Virginia Tech surprised Duke without starting quarterback Josh Jackson and NC State jumped to 4-0 against Virginia.
Clemson's comeback victory seemed unlikely after Trevor Lawrence left the game with an ugly concussion. But Syracuse just couldn't hold on to its 10-point fourth-quarter lead, with poor run defense and a costly illegal man downfield penalty on a 4th-and-1 conversion leading to an Orange loss. The Tigers rallied under freshman quarterback Chase Brice to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Duke had seemingly entered contender status until its defeat at home against the Hokies. The Blue Devils offense couldn't get much going despite quarterback Daniel Jones' early return from injury. For Virginia Tech, junior quarterback Ryan Willis was a calming presence amid concerns about how the offense would find points without Jackson. Virginia Tech is now 3-1 and Duke 4-1.
Florida State and Louisville had an exciting end as Nyqwan Murray scurried for a 58-yard touchdown with 1:13 left. That capped off a back-and-forth game between two struggling programs.
Thursday night saw Miami destroy North Carolina, 47-10, and the clock may be winding down on Larry Fedora's time in Chapel Hill. While Miami is thriving with QB N'Kosi Perry and its stiff defense, Fedora's Tar Heels look like they'll struggle to win three games this season.
Boston College moved to 4-1 and Wake Forest to 3-2. There's not much separation between these teams right now, making the conference a must-watch every week.
What to Watch For: Home-Field Advantage
Utah at Stanford (TBD):
With Stanford coming off back-to-back emotional games against Oregon and Notre Dame, there's a possibility the Cardinal won't be as fired up for a home matchup versus Utah. Utah was shut down against Washington, so it'll be out to prove it can hang with the other contender in the Pac-12. This has upset alert possibilities.
Auburn at Mississippi State (TBD):
The Mississippi State Bulldogs will need to give Auburn everything they have, but their defense is good enough to stifle the Tigers offense like LSU did. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has significantly disappointed to this point as a passer. If he can break out and capitalize on the opportunities that star runner Kylin Hill creates, they can win at home.
Kentucky at Texas A&M (TBD):
After Kentucky's beatdown victory against South Carolina, it's clear the Wildcats are a team to take seriously in the SEC. They're well-rounded, boasting a fast, physical defense that flies to the ball. On offense, Benny Snell Jr. continues to be a focal point that opens up production for everyone else. Texas A&M has impressed this year, but the Aggies have another difficult task against the Wildcats.
Texas at Oklahoma (noon ET):
Is Texas back? The Longhorns are a much better team than what they showed in Week 1, that much is for certain. This is a massive conference showdown that happens first thing in the afternoon. The Longhorns defense will be pushed to the limit by Lincoln Riley and his bevy of playmakers on offense. Texas head coach Tom Herman will need to pull out every special wrinkle he has to surprise the Sooners.
Boston College at NC State (12:30 pm ET):
Both teams were disappointed with Clemson's comeback victory against Syracuse, but this is a big ACC game nonetheless. Boston College's powerful running game behind AJ Dillon will have to eat as much clock as possible, since the Eagles defense has struggled to slow opponents. Meanwhile, the 4-0 NC State Wolfpack have been solid in every game since their opener. A win here would prove they're ready for their showdown with Clemson in Week 8.
Arizona State at Colorado (4 pm ET):
Some of the air has been let out of the Herm Edwards balloon at Arizona State after the Sun Devils dropped two games prior to their win Saturday, but they're going to challenge Colorado on the road. The 4-0 Buffaloes have a powerful offense with quarterback Steven Montez improving by leaps and bounds and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. dominating everybody. They'll have to grind out a tough win against the Sun Devils, though.