College football week 5 delivered a far better set of games than we’d seen in previous weeks. Headlined by a pair of key conference matchups, this weekend featured four games between Top 25 teams and another handful pitting ranked squads against opponents in the also receiving votes category. LSU at Georgia and Wisconsin at Ohio State earned most of the press leading up to Saturday, and rightfully so. Both were important tests for the home teams; the Bulldogs were already toting a loss from their opener at Clemson and Ohio State toughest foe to date had been Cal in Berkeley. Both hosts escaped with victories, although neither was able to offer much separation on the scoreboard when time expired.
Elsewhere, the Sooners rolled a Notre Dame team that continues to look weak in multiple facets of the game. It’s not just Tommy Rees. There are multiple points of failure in South Bend, including the defense. The Washington Huskies continued to roll with a foul-weather win over Arizona, Arizona State bounced back from its loss in Palo Alto, and Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, and Stanford all cruised.
On the flip side, Texas A&M, Florida State and South Carolina looked faulty in their less-than-impressive wins. Here is the best and worst of what the week had to offer.
Best Win of The Week: Georgia 44, LSU 41 in Athens
The win itself wasn’t the best we’ve seen, but its importance was off the charts for Georgia. With the loss to Clemson, the ‘Dawgs would have been in danger of falling out of the National Championship discussion had they suffered a second defeat. Plus, establishing a pecking-order within the SEC is always important for bowl positioning. The game was meaningful for LSU as well, though less so. The Tigers, despite the setback, can still achieve whatever they want. Alabama and Texas A&M are left on the schedule, and a clean sweep the rest of the way would put the Bayou Bengals in prime position for a title shot.
That said, LSU needs to work on some weaknesses if it wants to topple the nation’s best team.
The Tigers were victimized by a Georgia ground game that, even without a full game’s worth of Todd Gurley, looked downright nasty. Gurley had only eight touches due to injury. He did make them count, racking up 73 yards, but when he was out Keith Marshall picked up the slack. His 20 carries netted another 96 yards, and Marshall was crucial down the stretch as Georgia worked the clock late in the game.
Time of possession was perhaps less of a factor than each offense’s ability to score at will, but time did make the difference in the end. Sometimes, winning really is about being ahead when the clock runs down. Neither defense played particularly well, and if LSU had had a few more minutes to work with the outcome might have been different. As it was, Zach Mettenberger’s attempt at a game-winning drive came up short after Georgia went up 44-41 with 1:47 left on the clock.
In defeat, Mettenberger was outstanding, completing better than 62 percent of his throws and racking up nearly 400 yards. He tossed three TDs and, most importantly, avoided mistakes. His counterpart Aaron Murray did commit his requisite gaffe, tossing an interception into defensive lineman Anthony Johnson’s chest. However, Murray’s four touchdowns overcame that error, and Georgia’s pass rush helped harass Mettenberger enough to ensure that Murray emerged as the winning QB.
The 9-6 SEC slugfests of recent years are a fading memory. This game featured a combined 943 yards of offense and 85 total points. Frankly, it felt more like a typical Big 12 shootout. With the win, Georgia strengthened its resume as it looks like a heavy favorite in the East.
Honorable Mention: Oklahoma 35, Notre Dame 21 in South Bend
This was a statement game for the Sooners. A big road win over a respected team puts them squarely in the Big 12 title discussion, while Notre Dame excused itself from the Top 25.
Worst Win of the Week: Florida State 48, Boston College 34 in Chestnut Hill
The final margin belies how close this game was as Florida State struggled on both sides of the ball. The Seminole offense looked dull throughout the first half as we saw phenom Jameis Winston have difficulties normally reserved for ordinary humans. The first quarter finished with Winston completing only two of six passes; it wasn’t until late in the second that he seemed to find his rhythm. The Eagles led 14-3 after one and built that to 17-3 before FSU’s comeback…bear in mind BC lost 35-7 to USC and had a tough time with Villanova at home to open the season.
Even after the ‘Noles remember who they were this game was tight. FSU managed to go into halftime with a 24-17 lead thanks to a trio of Winston tosses including two of more than 50 yards. But despite being abused by the deep ball, the Eagles stayed focused. The second half scoring opened with a BC field goal that trimmed the lead to four. Winston continued to pound away, and Florida State went up by as many as 21, leading 48-27 early in the fourth. But each time they threatened to break it wide open, the Seminoles stumbled and let BC back in.
It was only after BC quarterback Chase Rettig was picked off at the goalline on fourth down that Florida State was able to close the books on this one. A game in which they were favored by 23 turned into something much less comfortable as the ‘Noles coughed up nearly 400 yards. BC rushed for 200, and ultimately fell thanks to a pair of turnovers and Winston’s persistence. But whereas Florida State once had the look of a potentially elite team, it now has some serious flaws to address.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 33 in Fayetteville
The Aggies had the Razorbacks on their heels throughout this contest, and considering that Arkansas as fresh off a loss to Rutgers, that can’t have Kevin Sumlin feeling very comfortable about what lies ahead. Though TAMU finally pulled away (slightly) in the fourth quarter, this game was within one score for much of the 60 minutes.
Upset of the Week: West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21 in Morgantown
Okay, we really don’t know anything when it comes to the Big 12. At the outset of the year, Texas was being hailed as likely favorites in the conference. Oklahoma State was right there too, selected by many experts as the eventual league winners. The Longhorns had already been exposed, and now so too have the Cowboys.
OSU didn’t look great in wins over Mississippi State and UTSA but had nevertheless risen to eleventh in the AP poll. West Virginia had been awful, barely edging William & Mary before losing to Oklahoma. The Mountaineers’ latest indignity was a 37-0 beatdown against Maryland, a loss so thorough that coach Dana Holgorsen was compelled to make sweeping changes across his depth chart.
WVU looked like a different team en route to a nine-point win. If quarterback Clint Trickett hadn’t suffered major accuracy issues, the margin might have been much larger. West Virginia looked quick and aggressive defensively, forcing three turnovers and brutalizing OSU QB J.W. Walsh. Walsh, like Trickett, was off the mark for much of the day, finishing 20 of 47 through the air with a pair of picks to counter his three touchdowns.
After WVU tied the game at seven on a pick-six, we were left waiting for a Cowboys’ rebound that never came. The Mountaineers led from that point on. Oklahoma State tumbled ten spots to 21st in the AP poll as a result of the upset, and frankly that fall should have been even more precipitous. West Virginia, meanwhile, showed its first real signs of life in the post-Geno Smith era.