Winners and Losers from Week 4 of College Football

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystSeptember 26, 2021

Winners and Losers from Week 4 of College Football

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    Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei and NC State's Jakeen Harris
    Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei and NC State's Jakeen HarrisKarl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    College football, thy name is chaos.

    Six AP Top 25 teams suffered Week 4 losses, and a bunchlike No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 15 BYU—faced a tougher challenge than was expected.

    Because of one of those losses, we are going to have a College Football Playoff without Clemson for the first time in seven years.

    Elsewhere, the SEC West is looking like a three-horse race between Alabama (what else is new?), Ole Miss (Lane Kiffin magic!) and Arkansas (wait, what?).

    Notre Dame had a fourth quarter for the ages in what turned into a dominant-looking win over No. 18 Wisconsin.

    Oh, and Auburn needed a fourth-quarter rally to avoid losing at home to Georgia State.

    Not Georgia. Georgia State.

    Yikes.

    Here are the biggest winners and losers of Week 4 of the 2021 college football season.

Winner: Arkansas over Texas A&M in a Defensive Slog

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    Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson
    Arkansas QB KJ JeffersonTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    To the surprise of no one, the SEC West showdown between No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 16 Arkansas was a defensive grind.

    Heading into the game, the Aggies were allowing 5.7 points and 77.3 passing yards per game, leading the nation in both categories. The Razorbacks were also doing one heck of a job on defense, limiting opponents to 265.7 total yards per game—only 18th in the country, but drastically better than their defensive effort in 2020.

    Factor in the lack of a strong passing game for either team, and it's little surprise that the biggest game of the day featured a grand total of 30 points.

    But as was the case in its Week 2 victory over Texas, there's no question that Arkansas was the better team in this 20-10 win.

    KJ Jefferson's big touchdown passes—an 85-yarder to Treylon Burks and a 48-yarder to AJ Green, separated by less than five minutes of game time—were surprising, but don't call them flukes. At least not the first one. Burks absolutely smoked his defender on a play-action streak, and Jefferson hit him with a beautiful ball deep down the sideline. Green's catch was just a short pass on a wheel route followed by a lot of poor tackling, but Jefferson put him in the perfect spot to see the entire field in front of him for a big play.

    And from there, Arkansas' defense ruled the day, save for one time Isaiah Spiller broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run on 3rd and short.

    The most remarkable thing about the Hogs' victory is that they played most of the second half without Jefferson (hopefully just a minor leg injury), became a completely predictable run-only offense and still did enough to keep the Aggies at bay.

    With road games against Georgia and Ole Miss on tap for the next two weeks, the strength of this defense is about to be seriously put to the test. But if Jefferson is healthy, I gotta say, I don't hate Arkansas' chances of winning at least one of those games. These Hogs are for real.

Loser: Clemson's Streak of 6 Consecutive College Football Playoff Appearances

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    Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
    Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Clemson's chances of playing for a national championship this year were already on life support after the Week 1 loss to Georgia. The good news about that game is it was close, but the bad news was the Tigers were not going to get another chance to face a Top 25 opponent for the rest of the season. Even if they won out, there was a non-zero chance they would get left out of the top four.

    But those dreams of winning out and winning over the CFP selection committee? Dashed at the hands of North Carolina State in a 27-21 double-overtime clash.

    As has been the case all season, the story here was Clemson's inability to move the ball.

    The Tigers had an 80-yard touchdown drive (65 if you subtract the 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty against NC State) in the first quarter and another 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth. Aside from that, though, they had just 39 yards of total offense at the end of regulation.

    And, listen, props to the Wolfpack, which has been very good on defense thus far this season. Even in their road loss to Mississippi State, they held the Bulldogs to 316 yards of total offense and just two offensive touchdowns. They also shut out South Florida and almost blanked Furman.

    But this is Clemson we're talking about. During their now-snapped eight-game winning streak against NC State, the Tigers averaged 42.9 points and eclipsed 400 yards of total offense in each game, usually by a wide margin. Running rampant against the Wolfpack defense was essentially one-thirteenth of their annual path to the College Football Playoff.

    Instead, with several key defenders sidelined by injury, Clemson was the defense that seemed helpless. Devin Leary matched a career-high with four passing touchdowns, and NC State went 11-of-21 on third downs, simply destroying Clemson in time of possession.

    So, yes, stick a fork in Clemson, which has already suffered multiple regular-season losses for the first time since 2014. Considering the Tigers also just barely won that game against Georgia Tech last week, there's really no valid argument for this team to be ranked right now. (They probably still will be since dropping from No. 9 to unranked pretty much never happens. But they certainly won't be in my Top 25 ballot.)

Winner: Georgia in a Relentless Landslide at Vanderbilt

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    Georgia's Brock Bowers
    Georgia's Brock BowersJohn Amis/Associated Press

    The biggest blowout victory of the early slate was Pittsburgh's 77-7 win over New Hampshire, in which the Panthers scored 42 points by the end of their fifth possession (five offensive touchdowns and a pick-six).

    Miami also annihilated Central Connecticut by a score of 69-0.

    But the most preposterous, merciless blowout came courtesy of Georgia.

    The Bulldogs didn't even receive the opening kickoff, yet they were up 35-0 less than 12 minutes into the game.

    Against what already felt like the best defense in the nation before the week began, Vanderbilt's first five "drives" were as follows: three-and-out, three-and-out, fumbled kickoff, interception on the first play, three-and-out.

    UGA starting quarterback JT Daniels was out of the game by the end of the first quarter, as it quickly became a game of whether Georgia would end the game with more points than Vanderbilt had total yards.

    Georgia's offense slowed down considerably in the second quarter, opening the door for Vanderbilt to end the half with more yards (50) than Georgia's point total (38). While Georgia opened the third quarter with a TD-TD-FG-TD sequence, Vanderbilt had four consecutive three-and-outs and gained 12 total yards. At that point, with 13 minutes remaining, it was Georgia 62, Vanderbilt yards 62.

    But the Commodores dug deep and mustered up 15 yards over their final two possessions to end the 62-0 loss with 77 total yards. They had an opportunity for a field goal in the last two minutes, but they more fittingly rushed for a four-yard loss on fourth down instead.

    Vanderbilt got trounced harder than most, but it's pretty much par for the course this season. Through four games, Georgia's defense has allowed just one touchdown—and even that one came in the fourth quarter of a blowout win over South Carolina.

    Per Sports-Reference, the 62-point margin of victory was Georgia's largest since a 66-0 win over Troy in 2014, its largest road victory since a 70-7 win at Furman in 1946 and its largest victory in SEC play since a 75-0 rout of Florida in 1942.

Loser: Yours Truly, for Repeatedly Doubting Notre Dame

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    Purdue head coach Brian Kelly
    Purdue head coach Brian KellyCharles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Before the season even began, I was more than a little skeptical about Notre Dame as a Top 10 team, given how much talent the Fighting Irish needed to replace from last year's team. And when they needed overtime to beat Florida State and a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Toledo, that skepticism evolved into full-blown doubt. I picked the Fighting Irish to lose to Purdue last week, and I had them losing by double digits to Wisconsin this week at Soldier Field.

    Can anyone recommend a good sauce to go along with all the crow I need to eat after that 41-13 shellacking of the Badgers?

    In reality, this game was way closer than the final score. Wisconsin took a 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, at which point Notre Dame's only touchdown came on a highly questionable 36-yard reception by Kevin Austin Jr.

    But the Irish's defense and special teams had a fourth quarter that would've been worth about a billion points in fantasy football. Chris Tyree went 96 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return, which was followed three players later by a strip-sack of Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz.

    And when the Badgers trailed by 11 with five minutes to go, Mertz started throwing passes to the wrong team. Cam Hart (who also picked off a pass in the second quarter) got the first interception of the fourth quarter, nearly taking it all the way back for six points. After that, Jack Kiser took an interception 66 yards for a touchdown, and then Drew White had a 45-yard pick-six.

    All in all, that's three D/ST touchdowns, four turnovers and no points allowed in the final 14 minutes and change.

    Even before that stretch of absurdity, though, Notre Dame played an excellent game on defense. Mertz never looked comfortable, and Wisconsin's usually top-notch ground game never got going. It's telling that Wisconsin's two biggest plays of the game were a pass to the running back and a pass to the backup tight end because nothing "conventional" was working.

    Notre Dame entered this contest at No. 12 in the AP poll, and it will likely vault into the Top 10 in advance of next week's colossal showdown with Cincinnati.

Winner: Casey Thompson and the Texas Longhorns in a Shootout

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    Texas QB Casey Thompson
    Texas QB Casey ThompsonChuck Burton/Associated Press

    Undefeated Texas Tech went on the road to Austin, Texas for a Big 12 clash with the Longhorns, and the Red Raiders fared pretty well on offense.

    Starting quarterback Tyler Shough suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter (which is expected to sideline him for a few weeks) but Henry Colombi was fantastic in relief, throwing for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Texas Tech also rushed for 128 yards and two scores, finishing the afternoon with 35 points and 520 yards of total offense.

    And the Red Raiders still lost in blowout fashion.

    Because while the offense mostly showed up, the defense was absolutely helpless against Longhorns quarterback Casey Thompson and Steve Sarkisian's multi-pronged rushing assault.

    Thompson—who, mind you, lost the quarterback battle to freshman Hudson Card this offseason before replacing Card in the Week 2 blowout loss to Arkansas—was sensational once again, throwing for 303 yards and five touchdowns without attempting a single pass in the final 19 minutes. He did throw an interception, but that was one of just five incomplete passes on the day. Thompson also rushed for 29 yards and a sixth score.

    Texas blew this one wide open in a hurry, scoring touchdowns on each of its five first-half possessions. The Longhorns also scored on a pick-six in the second quarter, so despite Thompson's lone pick in the third quarter, they had scored 70 points by the end of their 10th possession.

    I'll spare you the "Texas is back!" overreaction, but this was one hell of an efficient offensive performance against a Red Raiders defense that had held its first three foes to 22 points or fewer. This Sarkisian-led offense has now scored 128 points over its last two games.

    And Thompson, in particular, has been marvelous.

    Dating back to the start of the 2020 season, Thompson now has a passing line of 54-of-71 (76.1 percent) for 790 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions (plus three rushing touchdowns). It might already be too little, too late for a guy who played minimally in the first two weeks, but if you're looking for a bit of a dark horse Heisman candidate, you could do much, much worse.

Loser: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Minnesota head coach PJ Fleck
    Minnesota head coach PJ FleckDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Minnesota closed as a 31-point favorite for its home game against Bowling Green.

    And why not? Bowling Green lost by 32 to Tennessee earlier this season, which was the ninth consecutive game that it lost by at least 25 points dating back to early November 2019. Meanwhile, Minnesota just won 30-0 at Colorado one week ago, extending what was the nation's longest nonconference winning streak to 21 games—a run that included four bowl games and stretched back to September 2015.

    But take note of the past tense form in that last sentence because Minnesota somehow lost to the Falcons 14-10.

    This was a game that nobody wanted to win, which was most vividly on display during a BGSU possession that drained nearly half of the fourth quarter. Minnesota forced a punt, but the drive was extended by a roughing the punter penalty. Six plays later, BGSU attempted and missed a 45-yard field goal, but Minnesota was called for an illegal formation, gifting the Falcons another first down. And after all that, Bowling Green fumbled the ball away inside the 10.

    After Minnesota inexplicably punted down by four with less than four minutes remaining, the Golden Gophers got the ball back twice, only to immediately throw an interception on both possessions.

    Minnesota finished the afternoon with just 59 passing yards, while Bowling Green had 25 carries for 22 yards. Each side managed just 12 first downs. There were five turnovers, though it felt more like 15.

    It wasn't a pretty game, folks, but it was exactly the type of game Bowling Green needed in order to pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent history.

Winner: Jake Haener's Unlikely Heisman Trophy Campaign

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    Fresno State QB Jake Haener
    Fresno State QB Jake HaenerGary Kazanjian/Associated Press

    UNLV at Fresno State was supposed to be one of the most lopsided blowouts of the week.

    Fresno entered the game fresh off a road win over No. 13 UCLAits first victory over a Top 15 opponent since winning at No. 13 Kansas State in September 2004. The Bulldogs also gave Oregon a run for its money in their second game, rapidly emerging as one of the best Group of Five teams.

    UNLV, on the other hand, had not won since November 2019 and had lost eight consecutive games against FBS opponents by at least 13 points.

    Needless to say, we weren't expecting Fresno State to be playing from behind deep in the fourth quarter. But it was. And that meant more passing attempts for Heisman Trophy hopeful Jake Haener.

    The Bulldogs didn't find the end zone for the first time until the final minute of the first half, but you wouldn't know it from Haener's final stat line: 30-of-42 for 378 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Even the pick was beautiful, as he threw a dime some 35 yards down the field to Erik Brooks, only to watch it bounce off his hands and straight into the arms of Phillip Hill.

    There was an 18-minute stretch of the second half in which Haener connected with Jalen Cropper for not one, not two, not three, but four touchdowns, as the Bulldogs rallied from an early 14-0 deficit for a 38-30 victory.

    Last year, DeVonta Smith became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in roughly three decades, previously accomplished by Desmond Howard in 1991. Perhaps Haener can do something similar by becoming the first non-Power Five player to win the Heisman since BYU's Ty Detmer did so in 1990.

    Through five games, Haener is averaging 368.4 passing yards with a 73.1 completion percentage and 15 touchdowns against two interceptions. He also has three rushing touchdowns, albeit with negative-seven rushing yards after factoring in sacks.

    Up next for Haener? A road game against a Hawai'i defense that allowed 400 passing yards to Portland State at the beginning of the month. Get your coffee ready for that 11 p.m. ET kickoff to watch this college star while you still can.

Loser: Marshall in the 4th Quarter for a Second Straight Week

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    Appalachian State RB Nate Noel
    Appalachian State RB Nate NoelNell Redmond/Associated Press

    I know most football fans didn't have a game between unranked teams from Conference USA and the Sun Belt circled as a must-watch affair, but our Thursday night options for pigskin were either Marshall at Appalachian State or the snooze-fest NFL game between Carolina and Houston.

    Assuming you chose correctly, you were treated to an entertaining, back-and-forth affair in which Marshall wilted in the fourth quarter for a second straight week.

    Second-year quarterback Grant Wells led the Thundering Herd on three consecutive long scoring drives in the first half, and Rasheen Ali had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter to put Marshall ahead 20-14. Then, a pair of App State turnovers in the third quarter enabled Marshall to take a 30-21 lead with about 20 minutes to play.

    It was all Nate Noel and the Mountaineers from there, though.

    After taking a backseat early to Camerun Peoples and recording just three carries for 18 yards in the first half, Noel had 150 rushing yards on Appalachian State's final four possessions. Corey Sutton made a gorgeous touchdown reception, and Chandler Staton drilled the go-ahead 45-yard field goal, but Noel did basically everything else for the offense to battle back for a 31-30 victory.

    Along the way, Marshall missed a chip-shot field goal (32 yards), which was also the case late in last week's meltdown against East Carolina. In that game, the Thundering Herd missed one from 31 yards out while allowing the Pirates to close the game on a 21-0 run for a 42-38 victory. Maybe their late-game fortune will turn a corner in next week's matchup with Middle Tennessee.

Winner: A Pair of Unexpected Undefeated ACC Squads

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    Boston College's Zay Flowers
    Boston College's Zay FlowersMichael Dwyer/Associated Press

    If you had told us one month ago that there would be two undefeated teams left in the ACC heading into October, the obvious guesses would have been Clemson and North Carolina. Pittsburgh and Duke also would have been viable candidates based on the "strength" of their respective schedules.

    But Wake Forest and Boston College both sitting at 4-0 with a combined scoring margin of 198 points?

    Color me surprised and intrigued.

    Wake Forest thriving on offense isn't that much of a surprise. The Demon Deacons brought back pretty much everyone from an offense that averaged 36.0 points last season—save for back-up running back Kenneth Walker III, who has been outstanding at Michigan State—and they have scored at least 35 points in each of their first four games.

    The much bigger surprise is that this defense has yet to allow an opponent to score more than 17 points because they routinely got destroyed last fall and had a few gigantic duds in 2019. However, they've had an impressive bend-don't-break approach thus far this year, as displayed in Friday night's 37-17 win over Virginia, in which they allowed more than 500 total yards. It's likely to be problematic at some point, but it has worked thus far.

    Meanwhile, Boston College got to 4-0 in a dramatic, overtime game against a good Missouri team. The Eagles scored a go-ahead touchdown with 25 seconds remaining before Mizzou's Harrison Mevis made a 56-yard field goal at the buzzer to force extra time. BC's Zay Flowers scored in the first half of the first overtime, followed by a Brandon Sebastian game-winning interception.

    The Eagles had previously faced Colgate, Massachusetts and Temple, which was one of the weakest schedules in the entire country, making it difficult to know if this team is actually any good. But this was a nice step in the right direction, improving to 4-0 for the first time since 2007—a season in which they climbed all the way to No. 2 in the AP poll before falling apart.

    Boston College will play at Clemson next week, which is where we'll really find out what this team has to offer.

Loser: TCU's Defense Trying to Stifle SMU's Offense

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    SMU QB Tanner Mordecai
    SMU QB Tanner MordecaiRichard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Led by former Oklahoma backup quarterback Tanner Mordecai, SMU's offense has been virtually unstoppable this season.

    Mordecai threw for seven touchdowns in the season-opening win over Abilene Christian, and he hasn't slowed down much from there. He also had four passing touchdowns against North Texas and five more against Louisiana Tech, throwing for at least 300 yards in each of those games.

    The Mustangs have had an impressive run game, too. Ulysses Bentley IV has led the way with 53 carries for 403 yards. Tre Siggers (52 carries for 257 yards) has also been a key cog for a unit that averaged 232.3 rushing yards through its first four games.

    Going on the road to face TCU was supposed to be a different story, though. Even when the Mustangs won this matchup in 2019—snapping a seven-game losing streak against the Horned Frogs—it was one of their less impressive offensive performances of the season.

    But they got just about anything they wanted in the process of improving to 4-0 in a 42-34 victory.

    Mordecai did throw three interceptions—one coming on a forced pass on the final play of the first half—which was just about the only way TCU was able to get the Mustangs off the field. They had five touchdown drives (four passing, one rushing by Mordecai) of at least 75 yards. Both Bentley (153 yards) and Siggers (110 yards) eclipsed 100 yards on the ground as SMU shredded a usually strong front-seven for 350 rushing yards.

    Mordecai is now averaging 317.0 passing yards and 5.3 total touchdowns per game for a team that may well vault into Sunday's AP Top 25. And based on the upcoming schedule, he (and SMU) might be able to maintain that pace for quite a while. The Mustangs' next five games are against South Florida, Navy, Tulane, Houston and Memphis, none of which has a good defense.

Winner: Baylor Against a Ranked Team for the First Time in 16 Tries

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    Baylor QB Gerry Bohanon
    Baylor QB Gerry BohanonJim Cowsert/Associated Press

    In the 2015 Russell Athletic Bowl, Baylor put up 49 points in a convincing win over AP No. 10 North Carolina.
    Since then, the Bears had lost 15 consecutive games against ranked opponents. Yes, even in 2019, when they went 11-3, they were 11-0 against unranked foes and 0-3 against Top 10 teams.

    But that drought of nearly six years came to an end with a 31-29 home win over No. 14 Iowa State.

    The astounding thing about this outcome is that Iowa State's offense finally looked like what was expected when the Cyclones were ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP Top 25. Breece Hall ran wild for 190 yards and two touchdowns and caught five passes for 51 yards and a third score. Tight end Charlie Kolar didn't play against Northern Iowa and wasn't much of a factor against Iowa, but he and fellow tight end Chase Allen combined for 12 receptions for 169 yards.

    Iowa State also out-gained the Bears by nearly 200 yards.

    The Cyclones defense had no answer for Gerry Bohanon early on, though, as Baylor's quarterback rushed for one touchdown and threw for two more in staking his team to a 21-10 lead.

    Iowa State tried to claw back, but a Trestan Ebner kickoff return for a touchdown was a huge blow, as was Brock Purdy's interception deep in Baylor territory early in the fourth quarter. The intercepted two-point conversion attempt with less than a minute remaining was the final nail in the coffin.

    Baylor had opened the season with wins over Texas State, Texas Southern and Kansas, which didn't amount to much more than a hill of beans in trying to determine if this team was a threat in the Big 12 this season. It's still more than a little unclear whether this result was Baylor emerging as a contender or Iowa State outing itself as a fraud, but at least the Bears have a feather in their cap for the first time in many moons.

Loser: Florida State Falls to 0-4 for First Time Since 1974

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    Florida State head coach Mike Norvell and QB McKenzie Milton
    Florida State head coach Mike Norvell and QB McKenzie MiltonMark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    That Sunday night season opener in which McKenzie Milton came off the bench to give Florida State a huge emotional lift feels like it happened a decade ago.

    The Seminoles ultimately lost that game to Notre Dame in overtime. They followed it up with an embarrassing home loss to Jacksonville State, a 21-point loss at Wake Forest and now a home loss to Louisville to fall to 0-4.

    Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 56 yards and two more touchdowns. It was his fourth consecutive game with at least one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns, as he and the Cardinals have been mighty impressive outside of the abysmal first half in the season opener against Ole Miss. They have a huge game coming up against Wake Forest next week.

    But the real story here is the sad state of affairs in Tallahassee.

    The last time the 'Noles started a season 0-4 was in 1974 when they were in the latter half of a 20-game losing streak spanning three seasons.

    Things have been bad for this team for half a decade now, but this is especially putrid.
    They fired Willie Taggart midway through his second season as head coach in 2019. With Mike Norvell sitting at 3-10 in the Florida State portion of his coaching career, it's fair to wonder how much longer he'll be welcome on that sideline.

    The 'Noles are hosting 3-1 Syracuse next weekend in what is shaping up to be a key game as far as the hot seat is concerned. 'Cuse running back Sean Tucker is averaging 177.8 yards of total offense and 2.0 touchdowns per game, and he might just run Norvell right out of a job.

Winner: Sincere McCormick and the Still-Undefeated UTSA Roadrunners

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    UTSA RB Sincere McCormick
    UTSA RB Sincere McCormickCharles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    UTSA running back Sincere McCormick was perhaps the biggest unsung star of the 2020 season. He ranked sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game (133.4) and finished second only to Iowa State's Breece Hall in total rushing yards (1,467).

    With him back for another year, the Roadrunners entered this season as a legitimate threat to win a Conference USA title.

    But I don't think anyone anticipated this team sitting at 4-0 with road wins over Illinois and Memphis.

    The former was a 37-30 back-and-forth affair in Week 1, in which McCormick rushed for 117 yards.

    The latter was a frantic comeback in which McCormick was Mr. Everything. He carried the ball 42 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 33 yards as UTSA—which trailed 21-0 less than nine minutes into the first quarter—battled all the way back for a 31-28 victory on a last-second field goal.

    Naturally, it was McCormick who set up that field goal, busting free for a 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-5 near midfield with one minute remaining in regulation.

    Now that they're 4-0, it's time to seriously start asking whether the Roadrunners could go 12-0.

    The defense gave up a decent amount in those road games against quality opponents, but they held both Lamar and Middle Tennessee below 200 yards of total offense. Teams of that caliber are mostly what's left on their schedule. They won't face Charlotte, Marshall or Florida Atlantic during the regular season, they get UAB at home and the rest of Conference USA is very much beatable by an average team.

    It might be a while before AP voters notice the Roadrunners, but they should at least improve to 5-0 next week at home against UNLV.

Loser: Southern Miss Trying to Contain Jameson Williams, Bryce Young

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    Alabama QB Bryce Young
    Alabama QB Bryce YoungKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    We all knew coming into this week that Alabama was going to beat Southern Miss. Fresh off a way-too-close-for-comfort win over Florida, we all assumed it was be a classic "Letting Out Some Frustration" type of blowout. And it was. Alabama won 63-14.

    But even in a game that played out pretty much exactly according to plan, two members of the Crimson Tide stood out in a huge way.

    First and foremost was the Heisman favorite Bryce Young, who was almost perfect.

    Why he was even still in the game and throwing the ball with four minutes remaining in the third quarter is a mystery, but his last pass attempt of the game was an interception (the first of his college career) on a forced ball on 3rd-and-long. Prior to that hiccup, though, Young was 20-of-21 for 313 yards and 5 touchdowns, which translates to a passer efficiency rating of 299.01.

    Not too shabby.

    But if you want to talk efficiency, how about the night that former Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams had for the Crimson Tide?

    Williams returned the game's opening kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown. Early in the second quarter, he had an 81-yard touchdown reception. And after Southern Miss' second touchdown, Williams took another kickoff to the house, this one from 83 yards out.

    Williams' only other touch in the game was a botched kickoff that went for a six-yard loss. But even including that in his numbers, the man averaged 64.5 yards per touch and scored on 75 percent of them.

    He also had a 94-yard touchdown reception in the Week 1 win over Miami, so this wasn't just a Southern Miss problem. Williams is an X-factor who has already done the improbable by replacing Jaylen Waddle's limitless big-play potential. Don't be surprised if he gets more touches in next week's showdown with Ole Miss.

Winner: Emory Jones Silencing the Haters

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    Florida QB Emory Jones
    Florida QB Emory JonesJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    Two weeks into this season, many in the national media (myself included) were hypercritical of Florida quarterback Emory Jones. He had a brutal touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-4 in the first two games against Florida Atlantic and South Florida, and backup Anthony Richardson was all sorts of electric, looking like the second coming of the 2017 version of Khalil Tate.

    But because of a hamstring injury suffered late against South Florida, Richardson was unavailable (or at least undeployed) in last week's game against Alabama, in which Jones more than held his own against a juggernaut.

    It was a confidence builder for him, and it translated into a dominant performance this week in a 38-14 victory over Tennessee.

    Jones went 21-of-27 through the air for 209 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 15 times for 144 yards. And for the first time since becoming the starting quarterback, he didn't commit a single turnover.

    Jones had the Volunteers on their heels all night long. Just on the opening touchdown drive, he had four carries for 24 yards, as well as two completions for 20 yards and a score. And by the second half, the entire field was open for him to go to work for chunk gain after chunk gain.

    For the second straight week, Richardson didn't see the field. It will be intriguing to see what Florida decides to do if and when he's healthy enough to play again. But if it's solely Jones moving forward, his play (and the play of the defense) over the past two weeks suggest the Gators would still be able to compete for a spot in the SEC championship.

Loser: Ranked Kansas State and North Carolina on the Road

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    North Carolina QB Sam Howell
    North Carolina QB Sam HowellIcon Sportswire/Getty Images

    AP No. 24 UCLA was able to pick up a nice road win over Stanford, but it was otherwise quite the rocky ride for teams ranked in the 20s.

    No. 20 Michigan State didn't get a single first down in the entire second half but somehow still managed to force overtime for a 23-20 victory over Nebraska.

    No. 22 Fresno State got all it could handle from winless UNLV before eking out a win late in the fourth quarter. Ditto for No. 23 Auburn, which trailed 24-12 at halftime and needed a 98-yard touchdown drive in the game's final three minutes to come from behind for a home win over Georgia State.

    But while Nos. 20, 22 and 23 barely survived at home, Nos. 21 and 25 weren't so lucky on the road.
    No. 21 North Carolina suffered a shocking 45-22 loss at Georgia Tech.

    The Tar Heels had scored 59 points in each of their previous two wins over Georgia State and Virginia and seemed to have fully recovered from the offensive woes in the season-opening loss to Virginia Tech. However, they had a world of trouble with the Yellow Jackets defense. Sam Howell's stat line (306 passing yards, three total touchdowns, three lost fumbles) doesn't look too bad, but most of the good came after Georgia Tech had already opened up a 20-point lead.

    Georgia Tech rushed for 261 yards and four touchdowns while holding UNC to just 1.8 yards per carry. Coupled with their defensive effort in last week's close call at Clemson, the Bees are looking pretty good for a team that opened the year with a home loss to Northern Illinois. In the wide-open ACC Coastal, they just might be in the mix for a spot in the conference championship.

    And in a battle between undefeated Big 12 foes, No. 25 Kansas State was knocked off 31-20 by Oklahoma State.

    KSU's Malik Knowles had a kickoff return for a touchdown midway through the first quarter for a 10-7 lead, but the Cowboys responded with a 24-0 run over the course of the next 17 minutes.

    Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders has had a very up-and-down, banged-up career in Stillwater, but he was awesome in this one, throwing for 344 yards and accounting for three touchdowns. Even more awesome was Oklahoma State's defense against KSU running back Deuce Vaughn, limiting the Wildcats' playmaker to 22 rushing yards on 13 carries. Vaughn did have a 55-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter, but it didn't matter.

    Both North Carolina and Kansas State are sure to fall out of the rankings on Sunday afternoon.

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