Winners and Losers from Week 6 of College Football
One of these weeks, chaos will begin its tumultuous reign over college football.
Not this week, though.
A few ranked teams went down. Some others faced unexpected early challenges before blowing out their overmatched foes. But earth-shattering upsets eluded us once again.
It was still an entertaining Saturday, per usual.
Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama had the week off, but the other top challengers for the Heisman Trophy—Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields, Jonathan Taylor, etc.—had phenomenal performances. There were also a bunch of ridiculous second-half comebacks, most notably Miami's rise from a 28-0 deficit and SMU's 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points to force overtime.
There were also some atrocious offensive efforts from the likes of UCF, Michigan and Iowa.
Read on for the rest of this week's biggest winners and losers.
Winner: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Jonathan Taylor's big day against Kent State's front seven was just about the most predictable thing to ever happen in college football.
Dating back to the September 2016 game against Alabama, Kent State had allowed an average of 296.1 rushing yards, 6.8 yards per carry and 4.4 rushing touchdowns in its last seven games against Power Five opponents, including when Auburn stomped a mud hole through the Golden Flashes in Week 3.
Taylor still managed to impress despite only playing 31 minutes.
The Heisman Trophy candidate scored Wisconsin's first touchdown of the day, capping off a 68-yard drive with a six-yard run. He also scored the Badgers' second touchdown, this time from 19 yards out. For good measure, he proceeded to score their third, fourth and fifth, all in the span of the first five possessions.
By the time Taylor helped give Wisconsin a 35-0 lead on a 48-yard run on the second play of the second half, he had already accumulated 186 rushing yards and 29 receiving yards. The rest of the team had a combined total of 134 yards. Kent State had 41 yards.
Had he remained in the game for two more drives, he easily could have gone over 300 yards. Instead, he got the rest of the afternoon off, finishing his day with a mark of 9.8 yards per carry.
Taylor is now averaging 171.8 yards from scrimmage and 3.2 touchdowns per game. He has at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in all five contests. If he keeps that streak going next week against Michigan State, he'll go over the 5,000-yard mark for his career.
Loser: UCF's Red-Zone Execution; National Relevance
No. 18 UCF outplayed Cincinnati for most of Friday night's AAC clash. The Knights had 28 first downs to the Bearcats' 18. UCF also outgained Cincinnati by 82 yards, while the Bearcats committed 49 more yards' worth of penalties.
Were it not for turnovers and goal-line stands, we'd be talking about UCF's 20-game winning streak in the conference instead of a big upset and the most ruthless use of Twitter thus far this season.
Alas, Cincinnati's bend-don't-break approach on defense worked exceptionally well.
On four of UCF's first six possessions, the Knights got the ball inside the Cincinnati 15, only to come away with zero touchdowns. The Bearcats forced UCF to settle for three field goals of 31 yards or fewer and also intercepted a Dillon Gabriel pass at the 2. (On one of UCF's other two early possessions, Gabriel fumbled inside his own 20 and set up Cincinnati for a short touchdown.)
After 26 minutes, UCF had nearly three times as many yards of total offense (286) as Cincinnati had (97), and yet the Bearcats were leading 10-9.
Cincinnati would add an Ahmad Gardner pick-six midway through the third quarter and another long-drive-killing interception inside the 10 early in the fourth.
All told, UCF had six red-zone possessions and got just one touchdown and three field goals from them. Michael Warren II's 60-yard run on the final play of the third quarter was the biggest highlight of the game, but UCF's failure to average more than 2.7 points per red-zone possession is what enabled Cincinnati to pull off the 27-24 upset.
Thanks to this second loss in three weeks, the Knights will almost certainly drop out of the AP Top 25 and have virtually no hope of securing a New Year's Six bowl berth. Maybe they'll be relevant again in 2020, but this season has been quite the bust compared to the previous two.
Winner: Joe Burrow, LSU
LSU's 42-6 victory over Utah State was its lowest-scoring game this season, but Joe Burrow still put on the type of show we've come to expect from one of the top Heisman candidates.
There were early hiccups. On LSU's second possession, Burrow threw a regrettable interception while backed up deep in his own territory. On the subsequent drive, he was stuffed on a 4th-and-short rushing attempt. As a result, LSU only led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Burrow caught fire from there, though. He led the Tigers on seven consecutive drives of at least 44 yards, ending his day early in the fourth quarter with 344 passing yards, 42 rushing yards and six combined touchdowns.
One of those long drives was a 99-yarder on which Burrow converted on 3rd-and-4, 3rd-and-15 and 3rd-and-7 passing attempts to three different receivers. After all that, he ran for a 14-yard gain and found Ja'Marr Chase with a 25-yard dime in the corner of the end zone, showing off a full arsenal against which this Mountain West secondary was helpless.
Burrow now has 22 passing touchdowns in five games at a program where that simply doesn't happen.
In the 2010s, the only other LSU quarterback to throw for more than 16 touchdowns in a full season was Zach Mettenberger, who had 22 in 2013. As an entire team, the Tigers hadn't had 18 or more passing touchdowns in any of the past five seasons. But Burrow is on pace to finish the regular season with more than 50—which would be extra intriguing because he transferred away from Ohio State after losing the job to Dwayne Haskins, who threw for 50 touchdowns last year.
Loser: Offenses in Iowa vs. Michigan
No one was expecting Iowa and Michigan to combine for 100 points. The Hawkeyes entered the day ranked fifth in the nation in total yards allowed per game. Michigan was in the top 25 in that category in spite of getting whooped by Wisconsin two weeks ago. And neither offense showed anything worth remembering in September.
But no one was prepared for it to be this ugly, either.
Michigan had 267 yards of total offense and was somehow the better team in that regard. Aside from the 51-yard pass play from Shea Patterson to Nico Collins early in the first quarter, the Wolverines couldn't get anything going against the Hawkeyes defense. The two respectable drives they pieced together in the game's final 53 minutes both ended in missed field goals.
The Wolverines avoided shooting themselves in the foot, though. They committed four (accepted) penalties, only turned the ball over once—and got it back two plays later anyway—and Patterson took two sacks. They gained 17 yards or fewer on nine of their 13 possessions, but they didn't go backward and didn't set up Iowa with short fields.
The same cannot be said for the Hawkeyes, which committed 60 yards' worth of penalties, took 65 yards' worth of sacks and turned the ball over four times.
Even when Iowa started to do something good, it eventually turned into a mess. On its penultimate possession, Nate Stanley threw a beautiful ball to Tyler Goodson for a 31-yard gain down to the Michigan 25. The next six snaps resulted in two holding penalties, two pointless short gains, a false start and a 12-yard sack.
If you love dumpster fires, this was a work of art. Michigan got the 10-3 victory, but this was far from a statement win for the Wolverines.
Winner: Texas Tech's Offense, Finally
"Don't know what you got till it's gone."
Texas Tech ranked 16th or better in total offense per game in every year from 2002 to 2018. It didn't matter if it was Mike Leach, Tommy Tuberville or Kliff Kingsbury at the helm, we simply grew to expect the Red Raiders would have one of the most potent offenses in the nation every year.
That wasn't the case this September, though.
After destroying Montana State on August 31, Texas Tech put up just 424 yards, 411 yards and a brutal 314 yards against UTEP, Arizona and Oklahoma, respectively. That equates to an average of 383.0 yards of total offense against FBS opponents, which is a far cry from the norm in Lubbock. Even with the benefit of the Montana State game, the Red Raiders entered Week 6 at No. 32 in total offense per game.
At long last, that high-octane offense showed up for a 45-35 upset of No. 21 Oklahoma State.
The Red Raiders only had one drive of more than 37 yards in the first half, but they were up 20-7 at the intermission and turned on the afterburners from there. Their first six possessions of the second half went for 75, 61, 59, 35, 61 and 94 yards. There were two Oklahoma State defensive penalties for 25 yards in there, but that's still 360 yards of total offense in the span of 22 minutes.
Jett Duffey threw for 424 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran one in from 16 yards out as part of Texas Tech's 162-yard day on the ground. That adds up to 586 yards of total offense, and all without a single turnover. Tech's defense is still far from special, but this team can do a lot of damage in the Big 12 if that offense keeps showing up.
Loser: Miami's Desperate Comeback Attempt
Miami could not have played much worse than it did in the first half against Virginia Tech.
Jarren Williams threw interceptions on each of Miami's first three possessions. Mike Harley fumbled on the first play of the fourth "drive." The 'Canes went three-and-out the next time they had the ball. And then N'Kosi Perry threw a pick in the end zone on the sixth drive.
They were down 28-0, and they were as good as dead.
But a touchdown on the last play before halftime sparked something.
They scored on their first possession of the third quarter to cut the deficit to 14. And after Virginia Tech extended the lead to 35-14 early in the fourth, the Hurricanes put together three consecutive touchdown drives to tie it. (They actually should have taken a 36-35 lead, but Bubba Baxa missed the go-ahead extra point attempt.)
Perry—who had all of seven passing yards in the game's first 20 minutes—exploded for 422 yards and four touchdowns.
He needed another 10 yards to seal the deal, though.
Virginia Tech—which got an incredible game out of Hendon Hooker at quarterback in the first start of his career—marched right down the field to reclaim a 42-35 lead. From there, Miami's second comeback attempt simply ran out of time in the red zone. Perry got them down to the Miami 10 with five seconds remaining, but two passes fell incomplete for a Hokies victory.
At this point, Miami fans are all too familiar with this type of heartbreak. The 'Canes had the ball inside the Florida 30 on each of their final three possessions in the opener, scored zero points on those drives and lost by four. The following week, they lost by three to North Carolina when Sam Howell led a Heels comeback and Baxa missed a last-second field-goal attempt.
Winner: Florida Gators
Florida came into this week as the most disrespected AP Top 10 team in recent memory.
The Gators eked out an ugly win in "Week Zero" against Miami, had to make a fourth-quarter comeback with a backup quarterback against Kentucky and otherwise comfortably took care of business against three opponents any decent team should be able to blow out—Tennessee-Martin, Tennessee and Towson. Unless you actually wanted to believe in Florida as one of the nation's elite, it was easy to question the legitimacy of that zero in the loss column.
It's hard to keep doubting the Gators after the way they defended in a 24-13 win over No. 7 Auburn, though.
Florida only made two noteworthy (positive) plays on offense—the 64-yard strike to Freddie Swain on its second play of the game and the 88-yard run by Lamical Perine that effectively ended the contest in the fourth—but that was more than enough to overcome its severe case of fumble-itis. The Gators coughed up the ball three times in the first quarter as well as a fourth time in the fourth quarter.
But while Florida's offense gave Auburn every opportunity to win this game, the defense was a different story.
Auburn managed just two first downs in the first half and didn't score a point in the second half. The Tigers did score 13 points before the intermission because Florida handed them the ball in plus territory three times, but it wasn't until late in the third quarter that Auburn showed a feint pulse on offense. But even then, the Tigers couldn't finish those drives as Bo Nix oscillated between throwing terrible passes and running for his life.
Florida plays at LSU next week and then has the big showdown with Georgia on Nov. 2. If the Gators can win either of those games, they'll have an argument for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Loser: Tennessee's First-Half Upset Scare Against Georgia
Desperate to find something positive that his program can build around, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt opted to give true-freshman quarterback Brian Maurer the start against Georgia.
Early on, things went surprisingly well.
Maurer connected with Marquez Callaway for a 73-yard touchdown strike on Tennessee's second possession. After the defense held Georgia to a field goal, Maurer came back out and led the Volunteers on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. He threw for four first downs, drew a roughing-the-passer penalty for a fifth and then hit Jauan Jennings from 12 yards out to give Tennessee a 14-10 lead at the beginning of the second quarter.
It was still too early to start seriously thinking that an upset might be brewing. But then Georgia was held to another field goal. Then the Dawgs punted. Suddenly it was late in the second quarter, Tennessee was still clinging to a one-point lead and memories of Clemson's road scare against North Carolina last week started creeping into focus.
If Georgia had gone into halftime with a deficit, social media would have been a hotbed of hot takes.
It wasn't meant to be, though. Jake Fromm calmly led the Bulldogs on touchdown drives of 60 and 70 yards in the final four minutes of the first half, and entered the intermission with a 26-14 lead. And while the UGA defense completely shut down Maurer in the second half, the Dawgs gradually tacked on enough points to even cover the 24.5-point spread in the 43-14 victory.
The exclamation point was a hard hit on Maurer by Eric Stokes, forcing a fumble that Tae Crowder scooped up and took 60 yards to the house. As good as Maurer was on those early touchdown drives, he looked an awful lot like a true freshman against an elite defense over the final 20 minutes of this one. It should be interesting to see where he goes from here with Mississippi State and Alabama up next.
Winner: The Unranked, Undefeated Squads
It was nice to see Wake Forest and SMU finally break into the AP Top 25 this past Sunday, but there were four other deserving, zero-loss teams left in the "Others Receiving Votes" section of the poll.
One of those teams (Appalachian State) did not play this week and remains unblemished at 4-0. The other three were in action during the 3:30 p.m. ET window of games, and each one improved to 5-0 with a victory by a three-possession margin.
The least surprising victory was Memphis' 52-33 win at Louisiana-Monroe. Fresh off a quality victory over Navy, Brady White, Kenneth Gainwell and Co. couldn't be stopped. The former threw three touchdowns. The latter had more than 250 yards from scrimmage and two rushing scores. The defense allowed 575 yards to the Warhawks, but it's going to be tough for any AAC offense to keep pace with Memphis the rest of the way.
The other not-very-surprising win was Minnesota's 40-17 beatdown of Illinois. Just like Memphis, the winning quarterback (Tanner Morgan) accounted for three passing touchdowns, while the top running back (Rodney Smith) eclipsed 200 yards on the ground. The Golden Gophers have yet to face an opponent that is anything close to a guarantee to qualify for a bowl game, but they are thriving on offense and stockpiling confidence for when that day arrives.
Last but certainly not least, Baylor went on the road and scored a 31-12 victory over Kansas State. "Big 12" and "defense" don't often go together, but the Bears have been fierce in that regard, holding all five opponents to 21 points or fewer. We shall see if that's enough to keep winning games once they have to face the more proficient offenses, but they're tied with Oklahoma and Texas atop the league standings for now. And this road win ought to be enough to vault them into the next Top 25.
Loser: Michigan State's Reputation as a Run-Stopper
Led by Joe Bachie, Kenny Willekes and Antjuan Simmons, Michigan State had one of the best defensive front sevens through the season's first five weeks.
In the opening win over Tulsa, the Spartans set up shop in the Golden Hurricane's backfield to the tune of negative-73 rushing yards. Their next four opponents at least finished with positive yardage, but none of them did better than 139 yards or 3.2 yards per carry. For the year, the Spartans were sitting at 1.86 yards per carry and 279 total rushing yards allowed. They were fourth in rushing yards allowed per game and second in yards allowed per carry.
If any defense is capable of stifling Ohio State's Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague III, surely this would be the one, right?
It took a quarter for Ohio State to get into a rhythm, but that offensive line parted the Red Sea time and again throughout the second quarter. Dobbins' virtually untouched 67-yard touchdown run was the main highlight, but there were a bunch of big plays en route to 323 Buckeye rushing yards and a 34-10 victory.
Yes, Ohio State rushed for 44 more yards than Michigan State's first five opponents combined.
The Spartans had only allowed two rushing plays of more than 20 yards, neither of which went for 30. But the Buckeyes had rushes of 13 (three times), 18, 29, 35, 41 and 67 yards. They made it look easy against one of the top defenses. Meanwhile, their D made life miserable for MSU's O, forcing three turnovers and holding Sparty to fewer than 300 yards.
With each passing week, it's getting harder to imagine any team being able to beat a healthy Ohio State.
Winner: SMU's Comeback to Keep Perfect Season Alive
SMU emerging as one of the most unstoppable offenses in the country was one of the best surprises of the first five weeks of the season. The Mustangs were held to 31 points or fewer in 75 percent of their games last season, but they scored at least 37 points in each of their first five games with Texas transfer Shane Buechele running the offense.
After breaking into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1986, that offense was mysteriously absent in the first three quarters against Tulsa.
The Mustangs scored on a pick-six in the first quarter and tacked on a second-quarter field goal when a shanked punt set them up inside the Tulsa 35. Aside from that, though, they were held scoreless and had just 139 yards of total offense through their first nine possessions. By midway through the third quarter, Tulsa was up 30-9.
Buechele and Co. finally showed up, though.
The comeback started with a 19-play touchdown drive on which SMU converted not one, not two, but three fourth downs. The Mustangs proceeded to put together 92-yard and 80-yard touchdown drives, each of which included a successful 4th-and-1 try. All of that just to force overtime, where they again needed a fourth-down conversion (4th-and-3) to stay alive.
Any one of those six plays could have ended their perfect season. So could have Tulsa's 43-yard field-goal attempt after the Mustangs fumbled on their possession. But Lady Luck was shining on SMU on Saturday in Dallas. In the end, James Proche made a beautiful catch in the third overtime to put the finishing touches on an improbable 43-37 victory.
Loser: Washington Huskies
It's not an official week of college football until a ranked Pac-12 team suffers a loss.
In Week 1, it was No. 11 Oregon against Auburn. Week 2 saw both No. 14 Washington and No. 23 Stanford go down. Week 3 gave us BYU over No. 24 USC. The Trojans bounced back the following week to upend No. 10 Utah while No. 19 Washington State and No. 24 Arizona State also bit the dust. And last weekend, both No. 15 California and No. 21 USC suffered losses.
Though there were only two ranked Pac-12 teams in action in Week 6, that trend continued when No. 15 Washington fell at Stanford 23-13.
With the exception of Aaron Fuller (nine receptions for 171 yards), Washington's entire offense had a nightmarish evening against an opponent that hadn't looked good against anyone yet this season. USC and UCF both scored 45 against the Cardinal. Oregon State had more than 500 yards against them last weekend. But they had guys in Jacob Eason's face all night.
The real story of the upset was Stanford coming into its own on offense against a U-Dub defense that had held each of its first five opponents to 20 points or fewer. Playing with a makeshift offensive line held together by bubble gum and scotch tape, Cameron Scarlett ran for 151 yards, while Davis Mills fell just shy of 300 passing yards.
Stanford's highest yards total through the first five games was 365 against Northwestern, but it just exploded for 482 yards against the Huskies.
We tend to think #Pac12AfterDark consists of bizarre scoring plays and huge swings, but this may have been the weirdest outcome for the conference thus far this season.