September is in the books and the 2017 college football season is heating up. Legitimate playoff contenders are beginning to emerge while pretenders are starting to fall by the wayside.
Clemson certainly looks like it's heading back to college football's final four after yet another impressive road win, this time against Virginia Tech. Other top-10 programs on the road weren't as lucky. USC fell on Friday night to Washington State. Oklahoma State had a scare in Lubbock against Texas Tech.
And then there was LSU ... at home ... against Troy. There's a lot to unpack from that fiasco, too. With so much happening around college football, we're here to give you the good, the bad and the weird from another action-packed weekend.
What were the highlights from Saturday of Week 5? What were the moments some programs want to forget? We hash out the best and worst below with this week's version of Winners and Losers.
Winner -- Clemson. Again. The Tigers continue to impress in what was pegged as a reloading season. The thing is, Clemson now reloads with the top programs in college football. The other one that loads at the same level? Alabama. And after one month, those two look like they're on a collision course for a third national title game showdown. Clemson's 31-17 win over Virginia Tech showcased a lot of the things that's made this team so much fun to watch. Quarterback Kelly Bryant throws a terrific deep ball; it's probably the best part of his game, running back Tavien Feaster is asserting himself as a bona fide out of the backfield and the defense is special. Virginia Tech had 4.4 yards per play and the Tigers were in the backfield chasing down plays. The Tigers are a machine with a resume to boot.
And with that Clemson beats VT 31-17.— SHAKIN THE SOUTHLAND (@STSouthland) October 1, 2017
First team in history to beat 3 top 15 teams before October, no big deal
Loser -- Oklahoma State's red zone offense: Getting a conference road win is rarely easy, so tip of the cap to Oklahoma State for surviving Lubbock -- a known Bermuda Triangle in the college football universe -- and beating Texas Tech 41-34. However, there was a major flaw that kept this game closer than it otherwise might have been. The Cowboys had 10 red zone opportunities on 11 possessions, but squandered a few of those chances with two missed field goals and a pick six. The turnover alone was a 14-point swing. On one other red zone attempt that started from a blocked punt, the Cowboys weren't able to stick it in the end zone despite getting the ball inside the Texas Tech 10. Moving the ball was never an issue for the Pokes. Finishing was, and that's part of why this game was as close as it was. This is arguably one of college football's best offenses and it has to be better with Big 12 play picking up.
Winner -- Your weekly Saquon Barkley update: Penn State's running back continues to find new ways to amaze. I could try to wax poetic about what he does on a weekly basis, but you're better served to just watch and enjoy highlights from his 205-yard performance. So here's Barkley taking the opening kickoff against Indiana back for a touchdown ...
And here he is making a one-handed grab out of the backfield before cutting up field for a big gain ...
... and, finally, because nothing is ever too much for him, here's Barkley throwing a touchdown pass to pad those Heisman stats ...
Loser -- LSU: It really shouldn't matter who's coaching the Tigers. Losing to Troy 24-21, getting straight up beat in the trenches and needing two turnovers to make a come back is unacceptable. This wasn't even Troy's A-game. The Trojans averaged 5.3 yards per play, but did outrush LSU 208 to 162 and scored 14 points off of turnovers. The stunning loss caps off an abysmal first month for first-year coach Ed Orgeron. LSU got beat up by Mississippi State, had to hold on against Syracuse and have now lost to a Sun Belt team (albeit a good one). So it's not just Orgeron and his team who lose, it's the school. LSU agreed to pay Orgeron $12 million if they were to fire him after the 2017 season (which would be tempting in any other scenario). That's on LSU. Orgeron was not an in-demand coach during the last carousel. And if he's not in demand by other competing programs, it's probably not a great hire.
Winner -- Troy's troll game: Right about now, LSU has to be wishing we still lived in an age without social media. The reactions to these types of games can be brutal, but you don't always expect shade from the school that beat its opponent on homecoming. But apparently Troy has no chill whatsoever ...
Hey @LSU, thanks for having us down for homecoming! We really enjoyed it! 😁— Troy University (@TROYUnews) October 1, 2017
Adding insult to injury is the fact that LSU paid Troy $985,000 to come play this game.
Loser -- This week in sad field goals: There are few sights worse than sad field goals. It's understandable that a team down 56 points wants to get something -- anything -- on the board before time expires, but it's a futile move. And to miss that field goal like Rutgers did is gut-wrenching.
Poor, poor Rutgers. Tried to get points on the board in the final minute ... kick hits the right upright. 56-0 final.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) October 1, 2017
Winner -- Auburn: The team many people thought Auburn would be before the season is starting to show up. The Tigers' 49-10 win over Mississippi State was their most impressive to date. The passing game has gotten back on track as quarterback Jarrett Stidham was an ultra efficient 13-of-16 for 264 yards and two touchdowns passing. It wasn't flashy, but it's what this offense has needed. Teams change and Auburn has done a nice job of better balancing the offense with coordinator Chip Lindsey.
Winner/loser -- Florida's lucky rabbit's foot: This is complicated. Florida isn't lucky that it beat Vanderbilt 38-24. In fact, the season-ending injury to quarterback Luke Del Rio is the textbook definition of unlucky. The mounting injuries for the Gators feel like a yearly plague. However, in light of all of that, can we talk about Florida living an absolutely blessed life on the play execution front? A Hail Mary win over Tennessee? Uncovered receivers against Kentucky? A would-be interception against the Commodores that instead goes for a huge chunk yardage?
There's a reason I'm not making a living in Vegas, but if I had to put my life's savings on any college football prediction, it's that the Gators will stumble and tumble straight into a 10-win season with a two-deep made of a shoe string, a tin can and caramel candy wrapper.
Loser -- Tennessee coach Butch Jones: If Jones' press conference last Monday was that awkward after a win, what's it going to be like after losing 41-0 to Georgia? It was the worst home loss for Tennessee in more than 100 years. Tennessee was lifeless and it falls on Jones to fix that. It's not the fault of "fake news" or negative media, it's his. This is Year 5 and the Vols are regressing at an alarming rate. (They never even reached the red zone vs. Georgia.) It seems now a matter of when, not if, Jones is fired. Overall, Jones has done a somewhat under-appreciated job elevating the program, even if not to the heights it wants. But getting outclassed by Georgia on your home turf is bad news and the loud cries aren't getting any quieter.
Winner -- Stanford running back Bryce Love: With all of the talk about Saquon Barkley, there doesn't seem to be much room for Bryce Love, um, "love." There should be as he piled up a whopping 301 yards (a single-game school record) and three touchdowns in a 34-24 win over Arizona State. His touchdown runs were 61 yards, 43 yards and 59 yards. That's 54 percent of his yardage on three runs. Love has 1,088 yards on the season and we're just getting into October. Seven of his eight touchdown runs are of at least 40 yards or longer. He has been a walking video game and yet there's somehow a high probability that he's still flying under the radar. He shouldn't. He's a surefire Heisman finalist -- at least -- based on his body of work.
Loser -- Plumbing at Kyle Field: According to Dallas Morning News reporter Ben Baby (great name), the press box at Texas A&M's Kyle Field was without running water for a while during the Aggies' game against South Carolina. I've only ever witnessed true panic in the press box once. It was at a bowl game I won't identify and the catering company ran out of burgers. If the delicate line between civility and chaos can be tightroped by the absence of questionable ground beef, I can only imagine what no bathrooms mean when the soda is flowing. Thoughts and prayers to all those affected.
A&M press box announces there's no running water at Kyle Field. If you need to use the restroom, you have to leave the stadium.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) October 1, 2017
Good thing the extensive renovations to the stadium didn't cost north of $400 million or anything.
Winner -- UCF coach Scott Frost: It won't get the most attention from Saturday, but UCF's 40-13 win over Memphis was one of the top performances from Week 5. The Knights might not just be the best team in the AAC, they might be the best team in Florida. A New Year's Six bowl spot is most certainly in play now. Frost doing an amazing job of turning around a once-winless team, but to be this far ahead of schedule in Year 2 has to be even a little bit surprising for him. It's a shame that UCF's schedule has been so fouled up from the effects of Hurricane Irma because the nonconference game against Georgia Tech could have been a lot of fun. Whether it's at Nebraska (his alma mater) or somewhere else, Frost will be a coveted coaching commodity in earnest.
Winner -- Maryland: A week after getting boat-raced by Central Florida, the Terps went on the road with their third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager against an undefeated team with the best scoring defense in the Big Ten, and picked up a 31-24 win in Minnesota. Bortenschlager went 18-of-28 for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns. D.J. Durkin and his staff know how to coach 'em up. That's a solid win and the Terps look like a bowl-bound team for the second year in a row.
Loser -- USC's sputtering offense: How bad are things for the Trojans? Washington State, the poster team for high-scoring Air Raid affairs, had a great defensive game in Friday night's 30-27 win. There are a few reasons for this. Cougars defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has done an outstanding job building up that side of the ball. Meanwhile, USC was down three starting offensive linemen and running back Ronald Jones was returning from injury. Let's go to the stats: USC was 2 of 11 on third downs with an average distance of nine yards. In all, USC averaged 5.6 yards per play. Outside of a long touchdown by Jones and two scoring drives, the offense was lifeless. The Trojans have had problems for a while -- too many to list them all here -- and it finally came back to bite them. Whether this group can improve will be one of the more interesting questions moving forward.
Winner -- Florida State: The Seminoles didn't play anywhere near their best game against Wake Forest, but a perfect throw from James Blackman to Auden Tate in the final minute gave FSU the 26-19 win. And when you get your first win of the season, you get a shoutout. It's been a tough road for the 'Noles. From the opening loss to Alabama, to the injury to quarterback Deondre Francois and the long layoff, it's been a September to forget. Wake is a good team, too. It was a tough battle and Florida State got beat a lot up front -- the Deacons' defense forced 17 negative plays -- but a win is a win. There's still a lot for coach Jimbo Fisher to fix, but he gets to enjoy this one.
Loser -- North Carolina's sudden and dramatic fall: Goodness, the Tar Heels fell on hard times with a quickness. This program was in the ACC Championship Game two seasons ago and went 8-5 last year. But with a 33-7 loss to Georgia Tech, UNC is now 1-4. Granted, UNC has played good teams. Georgia Tech, Cal, Louisville and Duke were a combined 13-3 coming into Saturday. Other than this blowout, none of UNC's losses were totally out of hand. That needs to be taken into consideration. Still, with Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, NC State and Miami on the schedule, a bowl game seems unlikely already and we're only getting into October.
Winner -- Utah State cornerback Jalen Davis: The senior hauled in not one, not two, but three interceptions -- returning two for touchdowns -- in a 40-24 win over BYU. He had literally the same number of touchdowns as the Cougars' offense. BYU, by the way, had seven turnovers in that game and is now 1-4. Woof. This has to be the lowest point in BYU football in a long, long time.
Jalen Davis with his third INT and the second returned for a TD. An absolutely amazing performance for the Aggies pic.twitter.com/gFXu7UdFxG— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 30, 2017
Winner -- Dartmouth: You're damn right W&L is reaching into the Ivy League. The Big Green got a walk-off 16-13 win at Penn on Friday night when quarterback Jared Gerbino bulldozed his way into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line as time expired. The last play was either going to be a walk-off score or a goal-line stand. Dartmouth easily could have defaulted for the tying field goal, but the ball was inches outside the goal line. And if you can't get a few inches, you don't deserve to win. The score capped off a whopping 15-play, 80-yard drive that took up the final 5:37.
What. A. Game.@DartFootball scores on 4th down as time expires to defeat Penn, 16-13! #IvyFootballpic.twitter.com/oiyJqjPuuK— Ivy League Network (@IvyLeagueNet) September 30, 2017
Loser -- Miami punter Zach Feagles: Everything went right for Miami in a 31-6 win over Duke ... except my man netted a rare, non-blocked, minus-one-yard punt. At least he was spared the inconsolable embarrassment of having to down his own negative kick since the ball rolled out of bounds. It's not as bad as missing the punt altogether, but that's going to be a tough day in the film room.
Yikes @PatMcAfeeShowpic.twitter.com/wbyZr0P8pL— Barstool Heartland (@barstoolhrtland) September 30, 2017
Bonus Loser -- East Carolina punter Austin Barnes: Sometimes you kick the ball a little too low. Sometimes you outkick your coverage. And sometimes you just hit your punt protection in the back of the helmet.
Not your ideal punt. pic.twitter.com/yGhfQmIwAl— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 30, 2017
Better days are ahead for both of these gentlemen.
- Alabama has outscored opponents 125-3 in the past two weeks, the largest margins of victory in back-to-back games for the Tide since 1945.
- Army's 42-yard touchdown from Ahmad Bradshaw pass against UTEP was the Black Knights' first touchdown pass of the season and just his fifth completion. We're now in October. Long live the triple option.
- Northwestern's 14 second-half points were the first allowed in the final 30 minutes by Wisconsin this season. The Badgers got the 33-24 win.
- Baylor is the only winless Power Five program heading into October.
- You wouldn't think that a game featuring 91 points had any defense, but South Florida recorded its 13th and 14th interceptions of the year in a 61-31 win over East Carolina. That leads the FBS.
- Another note on Bryce Love: he's in elite company by rushing for more than 1,000 in his first five games of the season. Among the others on the list, as noted by Paul Myerberg of USA Today, are Barry Sanders and Ricky Williams.
- Since beating LSU 37-7, Mississippi State has been outscored 80-13.
- Meanwhile, Tennessee has lost 27 straight games against top-10 opponents.
- Troy got its first win over an SEC team since Oct 13, 2001. LSU, on the other hand, suffered its first home loss to a noneconference opponent since 2000, a streak of 49 games. (A certain coach by the name of Nick Saban was the coach of the Tigers.)
- A quick note about Texas Tech's defense against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had no problem moving the ball, but the Red Raiders did a much better job of forcing them to drive the field. Oklahoma State averaged 7.3 yards per play on 82 plays. Certainly not "shut down" by Texas Tech by any means, but an improvement by almost two yards from this game a season ago.
- Down to its third-string quarterback, Oregon still managed to outrush Cal 331-8 (yes, eight whole yards) in a 45-24 win.
Bryce Love is the 11th RB in FBS history to gain 1,000 yards in 5 games. Others on the list: M. Allen, B. Sanders, Ricky Williams, Fournette— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) October 1, 2017