Week 5 Finalities – A True “Separation Saturday” in College Football
Week 5 featured a host of really great matchups on paper. At the end of the day, there were some good games but also some real blowouts – and dominance by two of the teams thought to be the best in the sport.
Here’s the storylines that jumped out to me from Week 5 of the College Football Season:
Main Storylines from Week 5:
Game of the Week: Stanford 31 – #3 Oregon 24 – down go the Ducks! They seemed to really miss Joe Moorehead, their offensive coordinator who was ill and missed the game (non-COVID). There were some controversial penalties, some questionable clock management by Mario Cristobal (although in this case I think there’s an argument to be made for what he did – allowing a pass call on 2nd & 18 late in the game – just poor execution) and really really awful announcing by Rod Gilmore and the rest of the ABC crew. The most significant outcome of the day both nationally and in the PAC 12.
Two teams standing above the rest…while a lot of…pretenders (?) lost…plus two other Final Four contenders more fully emerge:
We had Georgia and Alabama dominating their two highly touted, top 12 (maybe) opponents. Two other teams had statement wins that seemed to solidify their standing as contenders – Cincinnati (over Notre Dame in South Bend by 11) and Iowa destroying Maryland (no I’m not counting Michigan as a contender yet despite convincing win over Wisconsin). There were chalk wins from Ohio State and Penn State but neither team seems to be in the same league, especially with the Buckeyes having one home loss already. Oklahoma won and scored 37 – which counts as a breakthrough for the Sooners this year – but they only narrowly escaped Kansas State in Manhattan. However, a huge upset on The Farm – Stanford over Oregon has put the PAC 12 once again behind the 8 ball to have a shot at the playoff. Florida, Notre Dame and one-loss teams like Texas A&M and UCLA also went down.
Are crowds just louder than they used to be?
To watch games all day (which I did) you would think that every stadium was a combination of LSU’s Death Valley, Penn State’s Happy Valley and Between the Hedges at Georgia. Florida had 7 false starts at Kentucky, Washington struggled at Oregon State, even home crowds like TCU and Stanford made a lot of noise and caused problems for their opponents. It was noticeable and played a big role in Clemson surviving B.C. as well as the afore-mentioned Kentucky upset of Florida, their first win against the Gators in Lexington since the Reagan administration. I don’t know if it’s an over-reliance on communicating at the line of scrimmage as most teams are doing some sort of no-huddle offense or if it’s that teams got used to much quieter atmosphere’s in 2020 when there were 25% capacity limits or less but adjustments are definitely needed. I’ll be fascinated to watch Alabama and Georgia on the road next week in tough environments. Can they manage better or will they struggle similarly?
Some Cindarellas are still wearing slippers…but several of them blew out a carriage wheel:
Maryland, Arkansas, Ole Miss and one loss teams like UCLA all took blowout losses while previously undefeated Boston College and one loss Syracuse had gut punch late L’s. There’s still some cool stories alive including FIRST PLACE IN THE PAC 12 NORTH Oregon State (!!!) and undefeated Kentucky but…things are starting to normalize a bit. Still, there’s a lot of great stories to follow (and one bad loss doesn’t mean the season will be a failure for these teams above).
Next, let’s look at the Three Top Coaching Performances of Week 5:
Nick Saban - Alabama: Look – Saban won’t and shouldn’t necessarily get the same credit for coaching prowess as some who have less to work with overall (although whose fault is that?) – but he and the Alabama staff and players put on a clinic for about three quarters of total dominance of a team and coach (Lane Kiffin) that had given them nightmares last year and had Alabama fan base on pins and needles all week has to be noted. The Tide rolled the Rebels, leading 42-7 before a couple of late touchdowns. Best of all…they didn’t “finish” so it gives Saban more to chew on them for the week ahead.
Jonathan Smith – Oregon State: It’s hard to overstate how tough it is to win consistently in Corvallis. As the #2 FBS school in a state (and probably #5 in the Pacific Northwest if you count Boise State in Idaho), there is not a lot of talent close to OSU and you’ve got Nike-sponsored Oregon, winning big, just up the road in your home state. That’s why Oregon State beating USC and Washington in two successive weeks and rising to first in the PAC 12 North (for now) is so impressive. The Beavers play physical and smart. This isn’t a one year thing, they beat Oregon last year too. Smith took over a mess from outgoing Gary Andersen and has got things on the right track. They won’t win the PAC 12 – but they should go bowling.
Mark Stoops - Kentucky: When you beat a “rival” for only the second time in 40 years and the first time at home in that time…when you are legitimately at a talent disadvantage…to go 5-0, you get on this list. Mark Stoops has built a consistent winner in Lexington that can every so often win 9-10 games. This team may be that. Outgained by over 150 yards, the Wildcats found a way to beat Florida, including a goal line stand late that featured 7 plays inside the 10.
Honorable mention: Kirby Smart – Georgia (had him a little lower because I don’t think Arkansas was as good as their #8 ranking – but still super impressive), David Shaw – Stanford (you know this is a deep list when the guy who’s team beat the #3 team in the country is only honorable mention.), Jay Norvell, Nevada.
Finally, the Three Worst Coaching Jobs of Week 3:
Lane Kiffin – Ole Miss: Second straight week that a coach I love is on this list. Lane is an offensive savant, but his pregame antic of saying to CBS camera “grab your popcorn” was just…offensive…especially when Alabama straight up dominated the line of scrimmage, especially in the first half. Lane went for it on fourth down constantly – which I normally support, but not at your own 30 yard line after being stopped two other times when your defense had just gotten off field. He looked out of his depth, which I found surprising. May take a while to wipe the image on this one…or he could roll off 3-4 wins.
Paul Chryst - Wisconsin: For a guy on my list of top 16 coaches, Chryst seems to have really hit a wall over the past two years, but particularly this year. The starter he chose Graham Mertz was chased from the game with a bad injury but generally looked pretty awful before that. The offense just doesn’t have the power and the defense broke against Michigan finally, losing 37-10 after being down only 13-10 at halftime. This was second straight blowout loss to a “name” opponent (Notre Dame last week) and…it’s the first time Wisconsin has had this kind of start since the early 1990’s. Not good.
Skip Holtz – Louisiana Tech: A Group of 5 Team coach who loses narrowly to a Power 5 opponent on the road wouldn’t normally merit “bad coaching performance” reviews but Holtz, for the second time this year against a Power 5 opponent, mismanaged the clock with timeouts in his pocket and the Bulldogs were a bit disjointed the entire game. Holtz is a sharp football mind as far as X’s & O’s but why a veteran head coach like him can’t manage the clock is beyond me.
Dishonorable Mention: Mike Locksley, Maryland, Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech, Dan Mullen, Florida
As great as this week was…and as many questions as were answered…there’s another great week ahead! Stay tuned for Week 6’s “Most Meaningful Matchups” coming Thursday. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @ReadyCFB to argue or agree and see my takes throughout the week – and especially Saturdays!