Thursday, December 9, 2021

College football winners, losers, overreactions for Week 5: Alabama, Georgia lapping the field in title race

In a college football season full of wackiness, Week 5 delivered one of the most action-packed slates. Three top-10 teams lost with No. 3 Oregon and No. 10 Florida both dropping to unranked opponents. Six ranked teams have lost as of publication with even more trailing as we speak. 

But at the top, two Death Stars proved that they are running laps around the rest of college football. Two other programs gave us reasons to believe that they are prepared to legitimately enter the College Football Playoff discussion. Needless to say, this could be a shocking season for the ages. And for those at the top of the sport, there’s an important reminder: surviving and advancing is enough. 

Here are winners, losers and overreactions from a thrilling Week 5 of the 2021 college football season. 

Winners

Michigan: The Wolverines faced their first real test of the season against a talented Wisconsin program in a 38-17 victory. While the Badgers don’t look like their normal selves, Michigan threw them through the table and looked like a top-15 team while doing it. Quarterback Cade McNamara threw for a highly efficient 197 yards and two touchdowns as the defense held a struggling Badgers offense to 210 yards. The tests against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State are still upcoming, but Michigan can rest easily for the moment knowing they’ve shown everything they need to this point. 

Kentucky: If you ever wonder why Mark Stoops is beloved at Kentucky, check out these stats: Kentucky had not beaten Florida in 32 years before the Wildcats finally tripped the Gators up in 2018. They had not beaten Florida in Lexington since 1986 — a period of 35 years and 16 straight matchups. Finally, the streak is over after Kentucky pulled ahead to beat No. 10 Florida 20-13 to move to 5-0 for the first time since 2018. Competing with the top programs in the SEC once seemed like an impossible task at Kentucky, but Stoops deserves his flowers for building one of the most underrated programs in college football. 

Pitt QB Kenny Pickett: All Pickett has done for the past five seasons is complete passes, throw touchdowns and get overlooked. But while playing a Georgia Tech team that took Clemson to the wire and beat North Carolina, Pickett decided he needed a showcase game. The senior completed 23 of 36 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns in a dominant 52-21 win. A frustrating loss to Western Michigan feels like ages ago. It’s time for people around the country to realize that Pickett has been the best quarterback in the ACC this season, and among the best in the nation. 

Losers

Oregon: The Ducks built up as much credibility as any team in America after going on the road and beating Ohio State at The Horseshoe. It took just one game against Stanford for that cache to disappear. Oregon came out sluggish, going down 10 points against the Cardinal. After going up 24-17, the Ducks gave up a touchdown as time expired and another in overtime. It was the first back-to-back scoring drive of the game for Stanford. Playoff teams don’t give games like this away. Now, the Pac-12’s playoff hopes are on life support. 

Texas A&M: Losing to a physical, well-coached Arkansas is one thing. Getting out-physicaled by a Mississippi State team with one SEC West win since Mike Leach took over the program is something else. Texas A&M failed to clear 300 offensive yards on 52 plays and reached just 15 first downs. MSU QB Will Rogers threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns on his own. The final drive ended on a game-clinching safety — a safety! This is the thing about the SEC: when you’re half a step ahead, you can make it through conference play with only one loss. When you’re a step behind, four more potential losses suddenly appear on the schedule. The floor at Texas A&M is lower than anyone could have ever imagined. 

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The national title is a two-team race

There’s some real chaos near the top of the sport, but two teams are immune. No. 1 Alabama obliterated No. 12 Ole Miss 42-21 in a game that wasn’t anywhere near as close as the final score. No. 2 Georgia had an even more impressive performance, crushing No. 8 Arkansas 37-0 in one of the most dominant performances of the season all while starting a backup quarterback.

Typically, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson mean that there’s several ways the rest of the season could shake out. Not this year. The Buckeyes aren’t beating these teams. Penn State isn’t beating these teams. The SEC Championship Game might as well be the national title preview. No one else in the country can beat these superpowers. 

Iowa, Cincinnati are firmly in the playoff conversation

Both of these teams needed to show something different this week to enter the discussion. Iowa needed to show how it would play against a dangerous passing offense. Cincinnati had to show us how it would fare against a top-10 opponent. With Cincinnati’s 24-13 win over No. 9 Notre Dame and Iowa’s 51-14 evisceration of Maryland, both passed with flying colors. 

The fight for the last two playoff spots will be fierce, but Cincinnati and Iowa answered many of our outstanding questions. In a season filled with chaos, meeting the high expectations every week is reason enough for credit. In every way, these two teams have answered the call. 

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