B/R's College Football Weekly Awards: Week 4
One month into the 2021 college football season, Alabama and Georgia look pretty good. Everyone else? Maybe not!
If that wasn't already clear, Week 4 continued to shatter both preseason expectations and recent-year performances. Clemson could not escape another close game, Texas A&M fell to upstart Arkansas, while Iowa State dropped another game. Five of the top 10 teams in the AP preseason poll already have a loss.
Friends, the chaos has arrived.
Welcome it. Embrace it. Encourage it. Because in 2021, nobody knows anything—more than usual. And here at B/R's Weekly Awards, we're loving every minute of the chaos.
If you're new here, hello! Every Monday this season, B/R will distribute a handful of awards. Some will review the previous weekend's slate, and others will preview what's coming up. A few topics might be humorous or downright strange. Let's unveil some winners.
Catch of the Week: Romello Brinson's Ridiculous Snag
Last week, Oklahoma defender D.J. Graham joined the Catch of the Year race. Romello Brinson might have one-upped him.
When you consider game context, this moment was insignificant. Miami had already built a 49-0 lead on Central Connecticut State, a lower-division program just cashing a check. However, we have the privilege of looking at every snap as a standalone play.
And, uh, holy crap.
Miami quarterback Jake Garcia lofted a ball into the left corner of the end zone, and Brinson made a catch that's nearly impossible to describe accurately. The freshman reached back and made a sprawling one-handed grab while parallel to the ground, and his backside dropped in-bounds before his legs smacked the sideline.
The play ultimately doesn't mean much, but Brinson still put himself on "best catch" highlight reels for the 2021 season.
Team of the Week: Arkansas Razorbacks
Over the last four seasons, Arkansas has posted an 11-35 record that includes a 4-30 mark against SEC competition. Not since 2011 have the Razorbacks even eclipsed eight wins.
Folks, Sam Pittman has something cooking.
Capped by Saturday's 20-10 victory over Texas A&M, the Razorbacks ripped off a 4-0 opening month. They upended Rice, smacked Texas and crushed Georgia Southern before the impressive Week 4 neutral-site win. Arkansas racked up 443 offensive yards and limited Texas A&M to just 272 in Arlington.
In this sport, we're constantly talking about what's next—and the upcoming clash with Georgia is a humongous game.
Pittman, though, kept the focus on this single result. It was the program's first Top 10 win since 2015 and snapped a streak of 12 consecutive losses in such games.
"We play Georgia next week, which I'm not even going to think about until [Sunday]," he said, per Mark Heim of AL.com. "They are a great football team, but we did beat the No. 7 football team, and I'm damn proud of our team for it."
#TeamChaos Wins of the Week
Along with Texas A&M and Wisconsin falling in Top 25 matchups, four more ranked teams lost in Week 4.
North Carolina State beat No. 9 Clemson with an impact we'll analyze in-depth shortly. Elsewhere around the country, Baylor clipped No. 14 Iowa State, Georgia Tech destroyed No. 22 North Carolina, and Oklahoma State beat No. 25 Kansas State.
We can probably burn some of our preseason picks now.
Clemson entered the year ranked third, yet a 2-2 start already has the six-time reigning ACC champs on the outside of the College Football Playoff picture. Ditto for both Iowa State and UNC, which began the season at seventh and tenth, respectively.
When the season ends, having accurate predictions is gratifying. But over the last half-decade, the same programs have consistently won conference and national titles.
Change is good. Through chaos, it's even better.
Sad Field Goal of the Week: Vanderbilt Commodores
Honestly, I feel bad for Vanderbilt. Finding the right coach is difficult enough, but a successful person at Vanderbilt will find a well-compensated promotion as James Franklin did at Penn State. And then, the process starts all over again.
That's the long version of saying Clark Lea has a challenging job, and taking on top-ranked teams will always be tough.
And on Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Georgia was merciless.
Not only did the Dawgs score touchdowns on five straight drives, but they also needed just 20 snaps to take a 35-0 lead. Through a mere 15 minutes, Vanderbilt had no chance of competing. At that point, perhaps the goal shifted to avoiding a shutout loss.
After all, the Commodores attempted a 49-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Lea passed up a 4th-and-8 and gave Joseph Bulovas a chance to put points on the board. However, he missed their opportunity to trim the deficit to 32.
At least Vandy managed to gain more yards (77) than Georgia scored points (62), right?
Implosion of the Month: The ACC
We've given the Pac-12 their share of criticism, but after Week 4, the ACC deserves the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
The league had three programs in the preseason AP Top 25, and each one is 2-2. Clemson dropped games to Georgia and NC State. North Carolina lost to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Lastly, both Alabama and Michigan State rolled Miami.
Not a great September, my friends.
Thanks to six straight CFP appearances, Clemson has long propped up the league. That streak is very likely over, no matter what happens for the rest of the season.
And if you believe an ACC program will still reach the CFP, that makes one of us. The lone remaining undefeated teams are Boston College and Wake Forest. One-loss squads include Duke, Louisville, NC State, Pitt, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.
One month from now, it'll be a surprise if any ACC team is a legitimate threat in the College Football Playoff race.
Others Receiving Votes: Week 4 Rundown
Unseen Upset of the Week: Bowling Green Falcons
Fresh off a 30-0 road beatdown of Colorado, Minnesota welcomed MAC program Bowling Green to the Twin Cities. But the visitors took advantage of many Minnesota mistakes—three giveaways, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal—to steal a 14-10 victory as 30.5-point underdogs. Bowling Green's last win against a Power Five opponent had been against Purdue in September 2015.
Moral Victory of the Week: UConn Huskies
It's difficult to overstate exactly how poorly the UConn football program has played in recent years. Heading into Week 4, the Huskies had a 3-25 record since 2018. Worse yet, they've only had five one-possession losses—eight points or fewer—in that stretch. Wyoming merely edged UConn 24-22 on Saturday. Progress?!
Last Man Standing Award: UTSA Roadrunners
Most of the 14 programs in Conference USA take an early loss opposite a Power Five school, and this season is no exception. However, one team managed to emerge from September unscathed. UTSA polished off a 4-0 start with a victory at Memphis, adding to a resume that already included a win at Illinois. Golf clap for you, Roadrunners.
Best Week 5 Storylines
The opening month brought a handful of great matchups, but the upcoming slate is the first truly stacked weekend of 2021.
No. 5 Iowa's trip to Maryland on Friday is a sneaky-good clash. Iowa boasts one of the nation's top defenses, and there aren't many—if any—quarterbacks playing as well as Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa. He has 1,340 yards and 10 touchdowns so far.
Saturday's slate is loaded with meaningful games, starting at noon when No. 8 Arkansas travels to No. 2 Georgia. It's only the third meeting between the SEC schools since 2010.
Also, in the early window, No. 14 Michigan meets Wisconsin. Though it's no longer a possible marquee win for Jim Harbaugh—his teams have struggled as a road underdog—Wisconsin's stout defense is an important test for Michigan's run-heavy offense.
At 2:30 p.m. ET, No. 7 Cincinnati meets No. 9 Notre Dame in a critical game for both programs' CFP hopes. One hour later, No. 12 Ole Miss takes on No. 1 Alabama. Beyond the national storyline, that result will have a major impact on the SEC West race.
We're not finished yet!
In the evening, check out No. 21 Baylor at No. 19 Oklahoma State (7 p.m. ET), unbeaten Boston College at No. 25 Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET) and No. 22 Auburn at LSU (9 p.m. ET).
Get ready for a full day of important football.