Sports, Thrill of Victory

Winners and losers from college football’s Week 5

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace.

It wasn’t the most exciting week of college football, but there were still a number of notable happenings from the weekend. Here’s a breakdown of the winners and losers from the week that was.

WINNERS

The Southeastern Conference’s Western Division. You couldn’t have scripted things much better for the SEC West. Ole Miss beat an underrated Memphis team (and dominated it on the stat sheet), and (for what it’s worth) Auburn and LSU got blowout wins over Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. But the big thing was this: Texas A&M managed to stay undefeated against an Arkansas team that, based on the way it took A&M to overtime, looks legit. You could reasonably say that the West has six of the nation’s top 15 teams, and that Arkansas might be somewhere in the top 30.

Ole Miss and quarterback Bo Wallace are looking good.

Ole Miss and quarterback Bo Wallace are looking good.

Missouri. One week after a head-scratching loss to Indiana, the Tigers went on the road and won at South Carolina, leaving them as the SEC East’s lone unbeaten team in conference play. Georgia still looks like the team to beat, but since the Tigers catch UGA in Columbia and the Bulldogs have a loss, one might argue that Missouri is now the team to beat there.

Ameer Abdullah and Nebraska. How good did Ameer Abdullah look in the first half on Saturday night against Illinois? Good enough that I was Googling the NCAA record for rushing yardage in a game (it’s held by TCU’s LaDanian Tomlinson, who ran for 406 vs. UTEP in 1999). Abdullah ended up with just 208, but that’s only because the senior had 196 in the first half against Illinois before the Huskers, leading big, chose to rest his mildly bruised knee. Abdullah has now topped 200 yards rushing three times this season and while the Cornhuskers haven’t exactly played a challenging schedule in going 5-0, they’ve built some confidence in their offense behind quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s improved throwing arm. If Abdullah can run well against a tough Michigan State defense on Saturday, it only strengthens what’s already a legitimate Heisman candidacy.

Brett Hundley and UCLA. We were beginning to wonder if the Bruins might not be the top-10 squad we’d cracked them up to be, especially with Hundley, UCLA’s star QB, suffering from a banged-up non-throwing elbow. Alas, Hundley and company went to Arizona State and beat the… well, you know… out of the Sun Devils, with the senior compiling video-game numbers (18-of-23, 355 yards, four TDs, no picks, plus eight carries for 72 more yards and a score). The Bruins look like the Pac-12s best team after Oregon, but it’s worth noting that the Ducks have to come to L.A. for that game in two weeks.

Unbeatens. After this week, 17 of ’em remain; they are, in no particular order: Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Auburn, Florida State, Notre Dame, Marshall, UCLA, Baylor, BYU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Nebraska, TCU, Arizona, Mississippi State and Georgia Tech.

 

LOSERS

The state of Pennsylvania. A couple of weeks ago, things were looking up for college football fans in the Keystone State. Pitt was 3-0 with a big game up against Iowa, and coach James Franklin had Penn State fans dreaming of an appearance in the Big Ten title game. Since then, Pitt failed to handle Iowa and home and then followed that up with a stunning 11-point loss to Akron (Akron?) at home, and then the Nittany Lions got roundly smacked by Northwestern, a squad that had lost nine of its last 11 games. Only Temple, which beat lowly Connecticut, was the state’s saving grace on Saturday.

The state of North Carolina. Duke got off to a 4-0 start against a very suspect schedule, and needed to win at Miami to legitimize that new Top 25 ranking. Instead, the Blue Devils played poorly, gaining just 264 yards in a  22-10 loss to the Hurricanes. Of course, it could be worse, as North Carolina, a loser to Clemson, has now given up 120 points its last two weeks after starting 2-0. For good measure, Wake Forest and North Carolina State also dropped games, though there’s no shame in losing to Louisville and Florida State, respectively.

Michigan and coach Brady Hoke. There was some hope that Michigan’s season could turn around before Saturday; yes, the Wolverines had lost games to Notre Dame and Utah, but both teams were undefeated and UM has been fairly competitive outside the minus-10 turnover ratio it had amassed coming into Saturday. Well, Michigan finished minus-2 in losing to Minnesota and worse, Hoke tried to play quarterback Shane Morris through what obviously looked like a concussion. Hoke’s chances of keeping his job after this season are roughly equal to his chances of going undefeated from here on; given the fact that Michigan travels to both Michigan State and Ohio State, let’s just say I don’t feel good about it.

Boise State. Oh, how we all loved the wonderful underdog story of Chris Peterson’s Broncos while it lasted. Peterson lost just 13 games in his eight seasons in Boise, but perhaps after the Broncos lost five of those games last season, Peterson knew something was up as he departed to Washington over the winter. Boise had recovered nicely after that 22-point, opening-night loss to Ole Miss to win three in a row, but got embarrassed in a 28-14 loss to an Air Force team that, while certainly improved, was one of the NCAA’s worst teams in last year’s 2-10 campaign. You have to wonder now if those glory years are gone forever.

The hapless. Six teams are still winless on the season. Three come from the Mid-American Conference (Kent State, Miami and UMass), two from the Sun Belt (Idaho and Troy) and one from the American (SMU).