If you took the “over” on Saturday there’s a good chance you won — on everything.
On a day that saw a combined 133 points between West Virginia and Baylor, the FBS division of college football experienced it’s second-highest scoring day in history, according to Rece Davis of ESPN’s College Football Live. But who gets the credit? Was it exceptional offense or bad coverage and atrocious tackling?
Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated summed up the debate well with a tweet, “On Twitter, every high-scoring game is bad defense, every low-scoring game [is] bad offense. No one is good at anything in college football.”
While fans — and sometimes experts — struggle to understand the factors that lead to extreme results like we saw on Saturday; the reality is that a combination of great execution on offense took advantage of poor schematics by coaches and failed execution on defense. Coordinators and players may make mistakes, but rarely are they exposed and exploited to the degree we saw this weekend.
As always, the final result doesn’t always tell the full story. Here are five winners and losers from week five of the college football season.
FIVE TEAMS ON THE RISE
#12 Texas (4-0)
Week 5: Oklahoma State, won 41-36.
Week 6: #9 West Virginia (4-0)
Winning on the road in conference is never easy especially when it involves taking down the defending Big-XII champions in Stillwater. Mike Gundy’s squad will always have the plug-and-play potential on offense regardless of who is at quarterback or receiver, but their average defense is what separates them from the stellar squads of the past two years. On the surface it looks as if the Texas defense took a hit by giving up 36 points to Oklahoma State, but their recovery after a first-quarter letdown showed they have what it takes to take on the likes of West Virginia. The Cowboys do tote the highest-scoring offense in the nation as well with nearly sixty points per game. This week will tell us how good they truly are as they must face Geno Smith and Company after their record-setting day.
Penn State (3-2)
Week 5: Illinois, won 35-7.
Week 6: #24 Northwestern (5-0)
Statistically, the Nittany Lions didn’t own the game as much as the score might indicate, but their discipline in terms of ball control and ball security were second to none on the day. While Illinois turned it over three times, Penn State never once lost the ball. Likewise, PSU was penalized only twice for seventeen yards. But the most telling stat of the day for folks from Happy Valley was that of the number of times the blue-and-white ran the ball: fifty-five. Penn State may not be able to put better athletes on the field than their opponents this year, but if they duplicate this performance in efficiency they will undoubtedly make noise in the Big-Ten this year.
Week 5: #8 Stanford, won 17-13.
Week 6: #2 Oregon (5-0)
Hopefully the Huskies enjoy the party because the hangover might be extra painful with a trip to Eugene, Oregon awaiting. For one weekend, however, Washington was the talk of the PAC-12 as they took down the Stanford Cardinal a week after the nation’s number-eight squad dropped the #1 USC Trojans. Amazingly, Washington held the Cardinal to 65-yards rushing and actually attempted more runs (34) than did Stanford (28). The ability of the Huskies to take control of the pace of the game and influence the gameplan of Stanford was a beautiful thing to watch — if only for one week.
Week 5: Virginia Tech, won 27-24.
Week 6: Miami (OH) (3-2)
Sure, the Bearcats probably shouldn’t have won the game but the win-loss columns don’t care and neither does Cincinnati. There wasn’t much in the way of dominance by the ‘Cats throughout the contest but they did hold the Hokies to seven points through the first three quarters. Despite the figures, the key component for Cincinnati was playmaker at quarterback, Munchie Legeaux. Passing for 376 yards on 19 completions for three touchdowns, Legeaux’s ability to stay alive in the pocket — and scramble when necessary — will give fits to Big East opponents the rest of the season. Despite contests with Louisville and Rutgers down the road, a light schedule could carry the Bearcats to a double-digit win total at their current pace.
#18 Oregon State (3-0)
Week 5: Arizona, won 38-35.
Week 6: Washington State (2-3)
They don’t win big but the Beavers just find a way to get it done. Whether you want to play a low-scoring defensive affair or a high-flying shootout, the Beavers are up for the challenge and have won each scenario. Not only that, they’re taking down high-ranked opponents along the way as well. A trap game at Arizona could have put OSU in their place, but their surprising ability to match the firepower of the Wildcats has established a balanced attack that will give PAC-12 opponents nightmares as the season progresses.
FIVE TEAMS ON THE DECLINE
#8 Stanford (3-1)
Week 5: Washington, lost 17-13.
Week 6: Arizona (3-2)
Playing on the road in the PAC-12 has the same affect on teams within the conference as it does to teams from the Midwest who dare venture west early in the season. After thrashing the USC Trojans on the ground in their previous contest, Stanford amassed a pedestrian 65-rushing yards against the Huskies. Even worse was the lack of commitment to the run by the Cardinal coaching staff — attempting a total of twenty-eight runs on the day.
#3 LSU (5-0)
Week 5: Towson, won 38-22.
Week 6: #10 Florida (4-0)
For the second straight week the Tigers appear on my “Teams on the Decline” list. The rest of the nation spiced up their schedules in week five but LSU put themselves in a difficult situation by taking on Towson where winning the game wouldn’t be enough to satisfy pollsters. The Tigers from Louisiana came through for a comfortable victory, but their first-half struggles didn’t meet the standards of a top-three team and the voters responded in kind.
#9 West Virginia (4-0)
Week 5: #25 Baylor, won 70-63.
Week 6: #11 Texas (4-0)
For every amazing throw that Geno Smith made against Baylor there was an equally problematic miscue by the Mountaineer defense. Smith, who had more touchdowns (8) than incompletions (6), was phenomenal the entire game. The Bears defense failed to get pressure and made mistakes in the secondary the entire afternoon that West Virginia capitalized on. While Nick Florence of Baylor was impressive as well, his success against the Mountaineer defense came on the heels of completely blown coverages and horrible pursuit angles compounded by missed tackles. For a top-ten team these types of defensive mistakes can not be repeated as the schedule heats up for West Virginia.
#6 South Carolina (5-0)
Week 5: Kentucky, won 38-17.
Week 6: #5 Georgia (5-0)
The Gamecocks are in serious trouble as the next three weeks loom large on their schedule. Defensively, South Carolina can hang with anyone but their offense has failed to play to their potential; instead, matching the intensity of their opponents and then turning it on with their backs against the wall. In their two conference road games they’ve struggled mightily (Vanderbilt in week one) and trips to #4 LSU and #10 Florida await following their matchup with #5 Georgia later this week. Don’t expect to see the Gamecocks among the top fifteen teams come the end of October.
Georgia Tech (2-3)
Week 5: Middle Tennessee State, lost 49-28.
Week 6: #15 Clemson (4-1)
This certainly isn’t the year of the triple option as the Yellowjackets have struggled mightily alongside the likes of Navy and Army (see loss to Stony Brook). Georgia Tech moved the ball well — as they should against the Blue Raiders — but four turnovers doomed the ‘Jackets, including three lost fumbles. More painful, however, was the swiss-cheese ground-defense of Tech as they let MTSU’s Benny Cunningham run free for 217 rushing yards and five touchdowns. For a team allowing nearly thirty points a game, things don’t look promising as a contest with the explosive Clemson Tigers looms around the corner.
Sound Off: Who are your winners and losers from week five of the college football season?
Be sure to check out other great articles at Heavy in the Games.