Winners and Losers from Week 5 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2021

Winners and Losers from Week 5 of College Football

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    So many big matchups fizzled and became one-sided on college football's biggest weekend of the season so far.

    Unfortunately for the No. 3-ranked Oregon Ducks and 10th-ranked Florida Gators, they provided the shockers of the day with an overtime loss to Stanford and a lackluster loss to Kentucky, respectively.

    But while the rest of the "big games" didn't provide as much drama as hoped, this was essentially a Separation Saturday, especially in the SEC. Juggernauts Alabama and Georgia exposed Ole Miss and Arkansas, respectively, for being good teams not yet ready for prime time.

    Meanwhile, Group of Five beast Cincinnati solidified itself as a Final Four contender by roaring into Notre Dame and handily beating the Fighting Irish. Big Ten teams Iowa and Michigan continued their undefeated romps through the early season.

    Here are the biggest winners and losers from Week 5 of college football. Check back later tonight as we add more.

Winner: Cincinnati's Plans to Crash the College Football Playoff Party

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    If you like pandemonium, welcome to the 2021 college football season. If you enjoy controversy, the Cincinnati Bearcats are providing your huckleberry.

    Luke Fickell's seventh-ranked Group of Five powerhouse rolled into historic South Bend on Saturday to take on Notre Dame in a battle of top-10 opponents. They entered with plenty of swagger, and they exited with a convincing 24-13 win.

    In the process, they placed themselves firmly in the heat of the College Football Playoff conversation. If you didn't believe it before now, get used to the idea. 

    According to Cincinnati's WLWT television reporter Brandon Saho, UC quarterback Desmond Ridder said offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock warned him about how loud Notre Dame would be. "I told him it shouldn't be loud for long," Ridder replied.

    He was right. The Bearcats silenced the stadium by building a 17-0 lead and wound up beating the highest-ranked opponent on the road in school history, according to the NBC television crew.

    If they run the table in the American Athletic Conference, it's going to be hard to keep Cincy out, especially with the chaos occurring around college football. 

    "Coach Kelly kinda set the standard here at UC, and we're just trying to increase the standard now," Fickell told NBC after the game "We said we had to beat a top-10 football program. This is a top-five program we beat today."

Loser: Smoked Bacon

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    Arkansas had looked like one of the best teams in this young 2021 season, using a dominant, upstart resurgence on both sides of the ball to skyrocket to No. 8 nationally in Sam Pittman's second year.

    But they ran into a red-and-black buzzsaw in Athens on Saturday, and things got ugly. Quickly.

    Sanford Stadium was equally (if not more) raucous than Fayetteville was when the Razorbacks upset Texas earlier this season, and that atmosphere helped fuel the second-ranked Bulldogs to the perfect start on their way to a 37-0 domination.

    Despite starting quarterback JT Daniels missing the game, Stetson Bennett guided UGA on a meticulous touchdown drive to start the game. The Hogs gained just 2 yard on their first six plays, reeling with offensive line penalties that pushed them back inside their own 10-yard line on two separate occasions.

    The second time that happened, UGA special teams coordinator Will Muschamp dialed up a punt block, and Dan Jackson got to it. Running back Zamir White recovered in the end zone, and the Dawgs had built a three-touchdown, first-quarter lead.

    At that point, you probably could have heard the red-and-black clad crowd all the way in Atlanta. It didn't get better. By the way, this electric UGA defense has allowed just 23 points all season.

    This Arkansas team is strong, and the Hogs have a lot of reasons to be thrilled about the direction of the program and have a ton to play for this year. But UGA is built sturdily through elite recruiting class after elite recruiting class, and coach Kirby Smart has what looks like his best team.

    The Dawgs look like the best team in the country.

Winner: Iowa and Its "Boring" Blueprint

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Iowa can lull you to sleep sometimes with its unimaginative offense. But coach Kirk Ferentz's team is adept, efficient, and has ridden that old standard to a top-five ranking this year.

    Are the Hawkeyes for real? They certainly looked it Friday night in a raucous environment against an unbeaten Maryland team looking to shock the world and prove to everybody it belongs in the elite upper echelon of the Big Ten.

    Instead, Iowa pounded the Terrapins until they went back in their shell, dominating every facet of the game on its way to a 51-14 win. It was as thorough a whipping as could possibly be. After a close first quarter, the Hawkeyes outscored Maryland 31-0 in the second quarter and never looked back.

    Their championship-caliber secondary intercepted Taulia Tagovailoa five times (Iowa had six picks and forced seven total turnovers), moving into first nationally with 12 team picks. They swarmed ball-carriers and allowed nothing between the tackles.

    On the other side of the ball Spencer Petras dissected Maryland with short passes and took advantage of the short fields his defense provided him. Running back Tyler Goodson had 151 all-purpose yards, too.

    All that equaled a thorough domination in College Park and further proof this No. 5 ranking isn't a fluke. It's been years since the Hawkeyes were considered a national threat, but with Ohio State vulnerable, the conference is open for the taking.

    They belong in the conversation. The playoffs aren't a stretch, either.

Loser: Lane Kiffin's Popcorn

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    Just before Ole Miss took on Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the CBS television crew caught up with Lane Kiffin, who answered a question and then offered this for the viewers:

    "Get your popcorn ready," he said, as he tossed the headset onto the ground.

    Turns out, the only show worth popping tasty treats for was Alabama. The "master" whipped the pupil again, making it a spotless 24-0 record against former assistants for Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, whose team destroyed the Rebels 42-21.

    At halftime, when the Ole Miss radio network caught up with Kiffin, he mentioned his Rebels needed to "start over." That was a far cry from the brash bravado offered to the national television audience before the game.

    The Rebels started the game with a long, time-consuming drive but couldn't post any points. Time and time again, Kiffin eschewed field goals or punts throughout the first half, electing to go for it on fourth downs. While you've got to gamble with analytics against Alabama, it's still a recipe for disaster when it doesn't work.

    Toss in a fumble by Matt Corral and Ole Miss gave Alabama too many short fields on its way to a 28-point halftime hole. It was tough, impossible sledding from there when you dig a hole that big against a team as good as Alabama.

    The media loves Kiffin, who is great for a soundbite and excellent for college football. But, when you yell in the face of a giant, prepare to get tossed off the beanstalk. Ole Miss—like fellow SEC West up-and-comer Arkansas—learned the hard way Saturday. 

    These promised kernels were left unpopped.

Winner: Oklahoma State Wins the Battle of the Big 12 Surprises

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    Mike Gundy cut the mullet, but he didn't lose his Samson-like play-calling strength.

    The man still has guts of steel when it comes to gambling with the game on the line. After Baylor whittled the Cowboys' two-touchdown lead down to three points late in the game, they marched down the field and faced a 4th-and-2 from the 4-yard line.

    Rather than kick a field goal to go up six and give the ball back to the Bears with 2 minutes left and the chance for the go-ahead touchdown (and following three timeouts) Gundy instead elected to hand the ball to workhorse running back Jaylen Warren, who barreled 4 yards for a touchdown.

    The 19th-ranked Cowboys remained undefeated by beating fellow spotless-slated Baylor, 24-14. The No. 21 Bears were perhaps the most surprising of the pair, taking a large leap forward in coach Dave Aranda's second season.

    But Gundy is still Gundy, and he's still a wizard calling plays. Though weapons are off to the NFL like running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace, the new cast of players are getting the job done.

    Though quarterback Spencer Sanders can be electrifying, he threw three costly interceptions against Baylor. Thankfully for the Cowboys, they've found a weapon in Warren, who had 125 carries on 36 carries and scored two touchdowns.

    The defense looks much improved, too. This Cowboys team isn't the class of the Big 12 yet, but they seem to be improving every week.

Loser: The Quack Attack Gets Sacked

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    You should have known college football was not going to let us get through the weekend without a stunner.

    Stanford conjured up some of those old Pac-12 powerhouse vibes, going toe-to-toe with third-ranked Oregon in Palo Alto before pulling out an inexplicable 31-24 win in overtime.

    The injury-riddled Ducks were running out the clock at the end of the game, but coach Mario Cristobal bafflingly decided to pass the ball on second down, stopping the clock and saving valuable seconds. The Cardinal got the ball back, and quarterback Tanner McKee led them down the field.

    Stanford's game-tying score came on an untimed down when Elijah Higgins pulled down a McKee pass over DJ James from the 2-yard line, taking advantage of a holding penalty on Oregon's Mykael Wright.

    A targeting penalty on Kayvon Thibodeaux was a catalyst for Stanford, too, allowing the game-tying touchdown after the Cardinal started the drive on their 13-yard line with 1:59 left.

    After John Humphreys' go-ahead touchdown catch in overtime, the Ducks' drive stalled, and Mycah Pittman couldn't drag a foot in bounds on a fourth-down final heave by Anthony Brown.

    It was a painful end to a day that proved tough in other ways. Oregon's star running back CJ Verdell had to be carted off the field, and linebacker Noah Sewell got hurt, too. Now, it's the Ducks' chances of getting into the College Football Playoffs that are unhealthy.

    Is the Pac-12 going to be good enough for them to run the table and get consideration?

Winner: The Jim Harbaugh Reclamation Project

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    There's no question Jim Harbaugh's tenure at his alma mater has been rife with underachievement. 

    After some promising first steps to his rebuild in Ann Arbor, he's gone just 11-8 the past two years. While he agreed to a four-year extension in January this offseason, it was at a much smaller price tag that has him in the bottom half of the Big Ten in annual base salary.

    This is for a coach once among the nation's highest-paid.

    So far this year, it looks like the Wolverines may have a bargain. Harbaugh's team went into Camp Randall on Saturday and whipped Wisconsin in every facet of the game on its way to a 38-17 win. The Badgers aren't going to scare anybody this year, but it was still a strong win, even if it wasn't exactly a statement.

    The No. 14-ranked Wolverines are not a pushover this year. They've been run-heavy much of the year, but against a Wisconsin defense determined to stop the run, Michigan diversified.

    Wolverines quarterback Cade McNamara found Cornelius Johnson twice for scoring tosses, proving they can move the ball through the air, too. A rugged Michigan defense knocked Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz out of the game with a chest injury.

    After Mertz's injury, Michigan scored 25 consecutive points to run away with the game. Wisconsin could do nothing on the ground, and that's how the Wolverines won in Madison for the first time since 2001.

    Harbaugh's team is now 5-0, and there are plenty of reasons for Big Blue Nation to hope.

Loser: Florida's Uncharacteristic Meltdown

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    Michael Clubb/Associated Press

    Nobody should take anything away from the way Kentucky showed up and showed out in a Saturday night chaotic environment in Lexington.

    The Wildcats did what they do, playing rugged along both lines of scrimmage, leaning on their running game and trying to hit a few big shots here and there. The game plan didn't change just because they were playing No. 10 Florida. They swarmed Florida and kept the Gators from big plays.

    It's what the Gators failed to do, coupled with UK perfecting its craft, that led to a 20-13 upset of the Gators.

    Not only did Emory Jones basically shut down in the second half, looking like the inconsistent quarterback that plagued his early season, the rest of the team was so undisciplined. 

    Florida finished with 15 penalties for 115 yards, and it never ended, even with the game in crunch time. With the Gators facing 3rd-and-goal from the 5 on the would-be, game-tying drive, they suffered a false start from Ethan White.

    Then when a Kentucky facemask penalty gave the Gators a fresh set of downs, running back Malik Davis started early again on 2nd-and-goal. Florida had to use a timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff on the eighth false start of the day.

    Throw in Kentucky's biggest play of the day, a 76-yard blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by freshman linebacker Trevin Wallace, and it's obvious it was a comedy of errors for the Gators. The Wildcats will take the monumental win any way they can get it and remain undefeated.

    This was among the biggest wins of coach Mark Stoops' career.

Winner: Oklahoma Exorcises Purple Demons

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    Oklahoma fans had to be squirming.

    After losing consecutive games to a Kansas State program rebuilding under coach Chris Klieman and making Wildcats quarterback Skylar Thompson look like Patrick Mahomes in the process, the Sooners received some interesting pregame news.

    Thompson—who hasn't played because of injury since the season's second game, against Stanford—was going to return in time to terrorize Oklahoma. And he did indeed have a terrific game Saturday.

    But there would be no upset for the third consecutive season. Instead, a Sooners team growing on the defensive side of the ball showed a different side, keeping the Wildcats from lighting up the scoreboard in a win.

    Following an up-and-down start to the season, OU quarterback Spencer Rattler was nearly perfect through the first three quarters plus, completing 22 of his first 25 passes and tossing two touchdowns. While the sixth-year senior quarterback Thompson was exceptional, OU made Kansas State one-dimensional.

    Deuce Vaughn never could get going, and the Sooners proved it can win a different brand of game again this season. When things slow down and become defense-oriented, the Sooners can hang. They don't wilt like they have in years' past, though the end got a little shaky again.

    So, while they aren't posting the same style points as they normally do on offense, coach Lincoln Riley's team is undefeated heading into next week's huge game against Texas.

Loser: Anybody Trying to Tackle Bijan Robinson While Breaking Horned Frog Hex

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    Texas coach Steve Sarkisian looked like he basically made the decision Saturday he was going to give the ball to stud running back Bijan Robinson as many times as it took to grind out a victory.

    The sensational sophomore was up to the challenge.

    After TCU had beaten the Longhorns six of the past seven years, Texas went on the road to Fort Worth and gritted out a 32-27 win, thanks to Robinson, who used a career-high 216 rushing yards and scored twice on the ground. He added two catches for 22 yards.

    With the game on the line and the 'Horns trying not to give the ball back to the Frogs with 2:45 left, Robinson broke what seemed like his hundredth tackle of the day and surged to a first down on 3rd-and-6. It was runs like this one that characterized his entire day.

    On the next carry, he proved just how big and strong he is by carrying a pile of TCU players as the clock ticked down to a Texas victory.

    Coach Gary Patterson's defense had no answers for him all day, and while there were other stars for the Longhorns on a day day, such as quarterback Casey Thompson and a defense that rallied from an awful first quarter to largely shut TCU down the rest of the way, this was Robinson's day.

    Texas has a long way to go to get back in the national spotlight, but it's time Robinson starts getting mentioned in the Heisman Trophy conversation. He's peaking at the right time with the Red River Showdown looming next week against Oklahoma.

Winner: Bo "Houdini" Nix Leading a Historic Win in Death Valley

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    A week ago in a too-close-for-comfort survival win over Georgia State, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix got benched in favor of TJ Finley after being rendered completely ineffective.

    On Saturday night, coach Bryan Harsin gave his junior leader another opportunity in the hostile environment of Death Valley against LSU, and, boy, did he ever respond in a 24-19 comeback win. 

    Putting on one of the most phenomenal individual performances you'll see this year in the face of adversity, Nix was at his freelancing best. As the visiting Tigers' offensive line broke down time after time, Nix was his slippery self, sometimes running from one sideline to another to avoid sacks.

    It was truly remarkable how he didn't get sacked on multiple occasions.

    Twice, he sprinted between LSU defenders, avoiding near certain sacks and converting passes on drive-saving fourth-down conversions. Other times, he made those "No! No! No! YES!!!" plays that make him a must-watch player when he takes the field.

    At the end of the game, he emerged a winner, giving Auburn its first win in Baton Rouge since 1999. Nix completed 23-of-44 passes for 255 yards and touchdown. He also led the Tigers with 12 carries for 74 yards and a scoring run.

    With the game on the line, Auburn got three terrific runs from freshman running back Jarquez Hunter to cap an 11-play, 92-yard drive that will go down in Tigers lore. Nix was at the center of it all, the battle-tested leader who gave Harsin his biggest SEC win so far.

Loser: Manny Diaz

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    College football's hottest pressure cooker in the Sunshine State may be lit under Florida State coach Mike Norvell, whose Seminoles are off to a historically horrid start. But things at the U aren't much better.

    Manny Diaz is sweating plenty, too.

    Even when Miami's coach did everything right at the end of Thursday night's game, his young Hurricanes found a way to squeeze a loss from the jaws of victory against Virginia at home. 

    After a meticulous, clock-milking drive to get in position for a 33-yard, would-be game-winning field goal from big-legged freshman kicker Andres Borregales with 3 seconds left, the freshman drove the kick dead-left, and it clanked off the upright.

    Virginia celebrated a 30-28 win after squandering a two-score second-half lead. The Hurricanes were playing without star quarterback D'Eriq King and former highly rated freshman Jake Garcia. But Tyler Van Dyke made his second career start and was strong.

    The Hurricanes defense improved in the second half after a rough start, and the offense found a late groove, but they couldn't finish the comeback. Borregalas (who is the younger brother of former All-American 'Canes kicker Jose) had been 6-of-8 with a long off 55 before that costly miss.

    Miami began what was supposed to be a promising season getting its will crushed by Alabama. Now, Diaz's team is now 2-3 and blew their first ACC game of the year Thursday night. They need King back to help rally the youngsters, or the season could quickly go in the can, even in a mediocre conference.

    Diaz may follow.

Winner: The Catalyst Churning BYU's Old Wagon Wheel

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Everything was set up for the 13th-ranked BYU Cougars to get upset by rival Utah State on Friday night in Logan.

    The Cougars already were dealing with the loss of starting quarterback Jaren Hall, who'd missed recent action with an injury. Then, exceptional backup Baylor Romney went out against the Aggies after a sterling start to the game where he'd completed 15 of his 19 passes for 187 yards.

    With first-year coach Blake Anderson leading a potent USU offense, things were dicy for BYU. But the Cougars had a star the Aggies didn't: running back Tyler Allgeier.

    The big-bodied bruiser ran around and through USU defenders on his way to a monster performance, leading the Cougars to a 34-20 win over their rival in the battle for the Old Wagon Wheel.

    He finished with 218 rushing yards and three touchdowns and added three catches for 22 yards, carrying a team down to its third-string quarterback. Coach Kalani Sitake rode his workhorse with the game on the line in a one-score contest late. Allgeier didn't disappoint.

    "He got so tired he couldn't finish the game," Sitake told the Daily Herald. "I'm really, really happy. If you ask him, he’ll give a lot of credit to the offensive line and the guys blocking downfield. I was happy with the way he ran the ball and the way the line blocked."

    Life after Zach Wilson wasn't supposed to be easy, but Sitake has built a program that withstands key departures. The depth and talent they're flashing this year proves it.

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