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Reply To: NCAAF Week 6 – Previews, Articles, Info. Saturday 10/10/15

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First and 20: Teams go from contenders to pretenders

There’s chaos. Wonderful, unadulterated, college football madness.

Each week of the season is another chance to strip away what you thought you know about teams with what is actually happening on the field. And we can’t believe half of what we see.

First of all, we have to acknowledge that the human condition is still undefeated. Ohio State is suffering from the same post-championship malaise that afflicted Florida State in 2014. The Buckeyes — the unanimous pick in the AP preseason poll — look discombobulated and disinterested … but, hey, 5-0 is 5-0.

Michigan State was No. 2 last week but isn’t playing anything like it. TCU and Baylor have great offenses, but do you trust those defenses? No. 3 Ole Miss lost on Saturday. No. 6 Notre Dame lost. No. 7 UCLA lost. No. 8 Georgia lost.

One week earlier, the headlines screamed that all those teams were playoff contenders. A week later, just change “contender” to “pretender.” One week’s obit is another week’s resurrection (isn’t that right, Alabama?).

It’s hard to know what is real, what to really believe in. After five weeks, much to our surprise, we believe in:

–Northwestern’s defense. These guys held Stanford to six points, and have you seen what Stanford is doing now? The Wildcats have given up a scant three touchdowns in a 5-0 start, which included a shutout of Minnesota on Saturday.

“I thought our defense had a chance to be pretty solid,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Did I think that we’d be at this point from a points-allowed total? There’s no way I could’ve speculated that.”

–Texas A&M. The Aggies are growling on defense behind first-year coordinator John Chavis, and quarterback Kyle Allen is improving every week, not only with his arm but with his legs. A&M is a complete 5-0 team as it rests and prepares through this bye week in advance of a showdown against visiting Alabama on Oct. 17.

–Florida. OK, Gators, with that 38-10 dismantling of Ole Miss, you have our attention. First-year coach Jim McElwain’s aggressive approach is paying off on both sides of the ball; the Gators have more scoring passes of 30-plus yards (six) than they did all of last season, and they have recorded at least seven tackles for loss in four consecutive games.

–Jim Harbaugh. Michigan looked to be a threat to Ohio State and Michigan State in 2016, but the time is now. Infused with Harbaugh magic, the Wolverines have posted back-to-back shutouts and have held four consecutive opponents to single-digit points. Their only blemish is a 24-17 season-opening loss at Utah, a loss that looks very forgivable given the Utes’ surprising strength.

Oh, yeah, Utah. Undefeated Utah. We believe in them, too.

At least until next Saturday.

5 things we think we learned in week 5

1. Calvin Ridley is a worthy heir to Julio Jones, Amari Cooper. The Alabama true freshman caught five passes for a career-best 120 yards against Georgia, looking right at home in the old “X” receiver spot held by the recent Tide legends. Ridley is stepping up nicely after sophomore starter Robert Foster suffered a shoulder injury a couple of weeks ago.

2. Clemson didn’t lose all of its defensive stars. The Tigers returned just a few defensive starters from last season, and end Shaq Lawson was not one of them. “Not a huge difference between Shaq Lawson and Vic Beasley,” coach Dabo Swinney said in the spring. He got that right. Lawson has looked very much like the former All-American, with 8.5 tackles for loss in four games. Opposite end Kevin Dodd has 6.5 TFLs. They combined for seven stops behind the line of scrimmage against Notre Dame, with Lawson often schooling left tackle Ronnie Stanley, a future first-round pick.

3. Players should stay off Twitter during a game. You’d think this wouldn’t need to be mentioned. Texas freshman Kris Boyd, at halftime of a butt-kicking by TCU, re-tweeted a plea from a Texas A&M fan to consider transferring. Later, Texas A&M wideout Ricky Seals-Jones, who was ejected in the second quarter because of a targeting penalty while blocking, was on this phone late in the game and re-tweeted a tweet that was critical of the call and offered video of the play. Said coach Kevin Sumlin of the in-game tweeting: “We’ll address that.”

4. Mike Riley must not be living right. Riley has long been college football’s equivalent of Mr. Rogers, but not all is well in his neighborhood. He has already suffered three gut-wrenching losses in his Nebraska debut season — a Hail Mary vs. BYU, an overtime loss after a huge comeback at Miami, and then Saturday’s 14-13 loss at Illinois, which scored the winning touchdown with 10 seconds left.

5. Charlie Strong is in trouble. We’d almost never say that about a second-year coach, and it’s not fair. But that’s just the way it is. The Texas situation is getting so sideways on Strong so quickly — the Longhorns are 1-4 for the first time since 1956 — that the only solution for an eventual new athletic director might be another coaching reboot.

5 Week 5 losers

1. Virginia Tech’s offense. A promising season began to go off the rails in the first game when quarterback Michael Brewer suffered a broken collarbone. Tech scrapped together just 100 yards in a 17-13 loss to Pittsburgh, the Hokies’ third loss of the season.

2. Wyoming. The Cowboys have only eight seniors (the school notes that only Wake Forest — 6 — has fewer) and they’re playing like it. The latest indignity was a 31-13 loss at Appalachian State to drop the Cowboys to 0-5.

3. Florida State’s running back position. Speedy sophomore Dalvin Cook left the Wake Forest game with a hamstring injury. The Seminoles are already without top backup Mario Pender (collapsed lung). No early word if Cook will be ready for Miami this week; if not, more pressure falls on quarterback Everett Golson, which is not a good thing.

4. Steve Spurrier. South Carolina fell to 2-3 with a loss to Missouri and has to play LSU and Leonard Fournette next. The Gamecocks simply don’t have the horses; does Spurrier still have the recruiting magic? The finish line to his Hall of Fame career is fast approaching.

5. Arizona’s defense. The Wildcats hit the Pac-12 season and promptly collapsed. They have allowed 111 points in losses to UCLA and Stanford, yielding points in 17 of 22 full possessions. And All-American linebacker Scooby Wright, likely out for several weeks, isn’t riding to the rescue.

5 top Heisman candidates

1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. He ran for 233 yards on 26 carries vs. Eastern Michigan, becoming the first SEC player to top 200 rushing yards in three consecutive games.

2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU. Flat-out embarrassed Texas with five touchdown passes and 332 yards before calling it a day in a 50-7 rout. His average of 408.8 total yards of offense is second in the nation.

3. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M. More of the same: The sophomore had two tackles for loss, including a sack, as the Aggies bottled up Mississippi State in a 30-17 victory. Garrett also knocked down a pass and made a huge play with a forced fumble near the A&M goal line that stopped a Bulldogs’ drive in the second half.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. He’s back. Elliott, showing his 2014 postseason form, rescued the Buckeyes at Indiana with touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards after halftime. According to ESPN, he is the only player in the past 10 seasons with a trio of TD runs of 50-plus yards in one half.

5. Cody Kessler, QB, USC. Take your pick of QBs here: Cal’s Jared Goff, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Baylor’s Seth Russell …

5 Best Week 6 games

1. Northwestern at Michigan (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET). First one to six points wins?

2. Cal at Utah (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET). The last two unbeaten teams in the Pac-12. Just like everyone had predicted. You can bet this game wasn’t on the radar of ESPN’s College GameDay before the season, but the producers called an audible and will be in Salt Lake City.

3. Florida at Missouri (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET). If Northwestern-Michigan is the top defensive matchup of the week, this SEC East clash is No. 2.

4. Arkansas at Alabama (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET). The Hogs held Alabama to 227 total yards last season, although the Tide eked out a 14-13 win with the help of a blocked extra point.

5. Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas (Saturday, noon ET). The Longhorns didn’t have much going for them last season, either, but barely lost to OU 31-26. Similar story in 2013, except that they actually pulled off the upset. Always beware the wounded bear in a rivalry game.

Bonus game: Baylor at Kansas. Bears quarterback Seth Russell was only joking about scoring 100 points in a game, right?

NFLDraftScout: Film Room Review

Analyst Rob Rang’s five prospect takeaways for this week. Players listed including position, school, year (Height, weight and current overall rating and by position).

5. CB Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, 5-11, 178, rJr. (#61 overall prospect in 2016/#6 CB): Challenged early, the slim-built corner was generally able to stay in the hip pocket of West Virginia’s athletic receivers and when in position to do so, showed the recognition and quick hands to break up passes. He did allow a couple of big plays downfield, however, and his lack of power as a tackler was evident.

4. WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame, 6-0, 180, Jr. (#15 WR in class of 2017): Fuller entered Saturday’s game against Clemson with 22 catches for 454 yards and six touchdowns, but was largely a non-factor. Fuller did demonstrate exciting agility and acceleration in the open field on a screen, traits that could make him a top 64 pick next spring, but he also continues to drop catchable passes.

3. DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson, 6-3, 275, Jr. (#77/#10): Lawson displayed power and was surprisingly quick working against Notre Dame’s Ronnie Staley, who entered as NDS’ fifth-ranked prospect for the 2016 class. Lawson alternately lined up with his hand in the dirt and as a stand-up rusher, challenging Stanley with a quick burst upfield and a very effective quick spin back to the inside. Lawson also displayed impressive strength and discipline against the run.

2. DT Jarran Reed, Alabama, 6-3, 313, Sr. (#68/#8): Reed and teammate A’Shawn Robinson stood out among the waves of Crimson Tide receivers in the rout of Georgia. Reed in particular showed terrific strength and balance to hold up at the point and even pull down Georgia running back Nick Chubb one-handed. He is best known for his power as a two-gap defender, but also showed surprising quickness in pursuit.

1. CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson, 6-0, 180, rSo. (#3 CB in class of 2018): Alexander virtually shut down Fuller, whose only reception for positive yardage came on a screen on which Alexander was blocked. Alexander already sports an NFL-ready frame with broad shoulders and thick thighs. His light feet, fluid hips and aggressive nature has kept opposing quarterbacks from challenging him much this season.