"Action" Jackson here. What a weekend. Almost every marquee match-up lived up to the hype, and there's a lot more on the way this weekend. As we enter the meat of season, teams are looking to cement their playoff spots as they begin to play against divisional and conference opponents for a place in their respective conference title games. Every game impacts the eventual playoff standings, which begins in November and are cemented by mid December. This week, we'll look at the games that can have the most impact on sudden playoff contenders, as well as some good old fashioned rivalry games.
Here are some updates and breakdowns of games previewed last week:
College Football Top 25: Week 5 recap
The Stanford Cardinal travelled to Seattle and took on the Washington Huskies in a PAC-12 North rivalry game. They really shouldn't have. Washington shut down the Cardinal offense completely, blanketing Heisman contender Christian McCaffrey and sacking the quarterback 8 times. Final score, 44-6.
The Wisconsin Badgers got into an old-school fight with the Michigan Wolverines, losing the turnover battle and getting beaten up over the course of a 60 minute long bar fight. This defense is a Jim Harbaugh coached defense: they will punch you in the mouth, pick you up, and then tell you that you just got punched in the mouth. Final score, 14-7.
The Tennessee Volunteers went between the hedges and took on the Georgia Bulldogs, winning with a last second Hail Mary. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones continues to coax wins out of this Volunteers squad, and Georgia is left to wonder, "what if we simply knocked the pass down?" Tennessee is now on the fast track to win the SEC East (unless they manage to "Tennessee" themselves before the season ends). Final score, 34-31.
The Louisville Cardinals descended into Death Valley and took on the Clemson Tigers in a game that will go down as one of the best ACC match-ups of all time. At times sloppy, at times downright electric, but all around entertaining and fun to watch. The Tigers pulled off a victory while managing to contain the Cardinals' quarterback and Heisman contender Lamar Jackson, winning the game with a great final defensive effort. Final score, 42-36.
Main Takeaways from Week 5 games
The Washington Huskies are for real
Christian McCaffrey rushed for less than 50 yards and no touchdowns. No, you did not misread that stat line. The Washington Huskies are just that good. Long-maligned and relegated to the role of the PAC-12's 5th best team, the Huskies made a major statement at home by sacking the quarterback 8 times and holding one of the best players in the nation to less than 100 total yards. They were all over the field, winning the line of scrimmage and smothering this once explosive offense. They proved a point in this one, and have a relatively easy ride to win the PAC-12 and make a high-level bowl game, maybe even pushing for one of the coveted playoff spots.
Harbaugh and his Michigan Wolverines are scary
What do you call a team that wins with overwhelming defense, great special teams, and just enough offense to score a couple touchdowns a game? No, not the 2016 Minnesota Vikings, good guess though. It's Jim Harbaugh and his ultra competitive Michigan Wolverines. They bested the Wisconsin Badgers in Ann Arbor by forcing 3 turnovers and winning the field position battle, exactly the way Jim Harbaugh likes it. This defense has at least 5 starters who will hear their names called on draft day, translating to the effort and ability shown on the field Saturday afternoon. His San Francisco 49ers and Stanford Cardinal teams won in essentially the same manner, and he's got that winning formula once again with this team.
Louisville and Clemson: Game of the year?
If you did not watch this game, do yourself a favor and go watch it. Even if you've seen the box score, I'm sorry to say that you missed one of the candidates on the short list for game of the year. The Clemson Tigers scratched and clawed for a victory against the Louisville Cardinals in a shootout in Death Valley.
The focus of the Clemson defense all game: tackle Lamar Jackson and make him give the ball up, rather than carrying it himself and getting big yardage. That worked for the first half, until Louisville adjusted and Jackson began to move down field at will once again. Despite turnovers from the Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Tigers offense managed to get the go-ahead score late in the 4th quarter. It was up to the defense to secure this win, and they did by forcing a 4th down stop (how did you not get a first down, James Quick? Really?) Despite this early season loss, don't count out Jackson and the Cardinals for a playoff push. They went into Clemson's backyard and nearly beat the defending ACC champions; that's a hell of an accomplishment, especially for a team this young and well-coached. If they can beat Houston later in the season and Jackson continues to play at a high level, watch out for Louisville.
Week 6 Match-Ups and Breakdowns
Week 6 has plenty of match-ups that will could be considered rivalry week worthy, and we at Native Baydestrian will be watching these with fervor. Here are my previews and breakdowns of these excellent games.
#20 Oklahoma at Texas
One of the classic rivalries in college football, this game had the promise of one of the best of the season; now, it's simply a contest of who wants to keep their job more, Bob Stoopes or Charlie Strong. As far as rivalries go, this is one of pure hatred. Oklahoma and Texas fans buy season tickets just for this game.
The key to this game will be which offense scores last in a shootout that is becoming all too normal in the Big 12 conference. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield may not be able to win the Heisman this year at this point, but at least he can try to beat the hated Longhorns one last time. He has the offensive talent around him with running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, giving them a thunder and lightning attack to compliment a pretty good vertical passing game. On the other sideline, quarterback Shane Buechele and the Longhorn offense look to rebound from consecutive losses to Cal and Oklahoma St. and find an offensive groove that works for them. Mixing in their "18 Wheeler" package with specialist Tyrone Swoopes taking a direct snap as a Wildcat quarterback gives their team a nice mix of run and pass options.
Coaches Bob Stoopes and Charlie Strong are on opposite ends of the spectrum, in my opinion. While Stoopes has coached the Sooners for years, Strong has just started out; Stoopes has been given excuse after excuse for being unable to win games, while Strong is blamed for losses that aren't entirely his fault. If this game truly determines who is going to keep his job, then the smart money would be on Strong and his Longhorns. This very young team fights for him and plays hard every snap. Oklahoma has already proven that they can't compete for Stoopes when the going gets tough, as this game inevitably will. This game will be a shootout, and I feel that this Texas team can pull off the upset.
#9 Tennessee at #8 Texas A&M
While not technically a rivalry, it's an SEC match-up, so it gets the same level of hype. Texas A&M and Tennessee have both done the improbable, winning all their games up to this point and achieving top 10 rankings in the AP poll. Plenty of times this season, they've proven the pollsters and the media wrong by winning the tough games and pulling off upsets. This game should be a fun one to watch.
When will I give Tennessee the benefit of the doubt? Maybe never, since they've yet to actually beat a real contender. Florida was eh, they never really do anything, and Georgia was bound to lose eventually because they're Georgia. This game could be their coming out party as head coach Butch Jones pursues an SEC East title and a date with Alabama in the SEC Championship game in December. Quarterback Josh Dobbs and his Volunteers have come from behind, they've thrown Hail Marys, and they've squeezed by in an overtime victory. They'll need to play a full 60 minutes if they want to beat quarterback Trevor Knight and the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. The 12th Man will be loud and rowdy, and head coach Kevin Sumlin has this team's offense firing on all cylinders.
Butch Jones.....you are a puzzle. You recruit great players, you compete with other SEC teams every single season, but then you can't finish when it comes down to the wire, be it in a game or the season. Now, you have a 5-0 team threatening to win the SEC East for the first time in years. Here's hoping you can get out of the rut and compete this year finally. On the other sideline, Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin was thought to be on the hot seat, meaning his job was on the line. After the first month of the season, I'd be willing to say that his job is secure. He's got the future SEC Defensive player of the year, a sure-fire quarterback, and his prowess with offenses keeps his team competitive and winning games. He'll always have a job in the world of college football, be it at A&M or somewhere else, and eventually as a coordinator in the NFL. He's that good.
#23 Florida St. at #10 Miami
NFL scouts, you're welcome. This game is basically one NFL team vs another NFL team, coached by two of the best coaches in the ACC and college football as a whole. Spanning generations, Florida St. and Miami has been one of the premier rivalries of college football with a rich history between the two. From battles between Pro Football Hall of Famers Deion Sanders (FSU) and Michael Irvin (Miami), to the epic trilogy of Wide Right I-III, to Hurricanes Ed Reed and Andre Johnson redeeming the University of Miami in the eyes of the nation by beating the Seminoles in Tallahassee with arguably the greatest team in the history of college football. (I am a Miami fan, if you haven't noticed.)
This year, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes host Florida St. running back Dalvin Cook and the visiting Seminoles. Miami is ranked in the top 10 after a win against Georgia Tech last weekend. Strong performances all season long have vaulted the Canes up the rankings, and head coach Mark Richt has this team playing hard and very focused. He's recruiting SEC-level talent to his alma mater, and in a rivalry game like this, the entire nation will be watching as the Seminoles come into Coral Gables for their annual bout. For the Seminoles, they are reeling after back to back losses to ACC opponents Louisville and UNC, meaning it's going to be next to impossible for them to win the conference and make a push for the College Football Playoffs. In order for them to redeem this season, they'll need to beat their hated rivals on the road in a game that can quickly get out of hand. Miami can score in an instant, and the Seminoles' defense has sorely missed All-American safety Derwin James; his absence due to injury has exposed holes in this defense, namely their inability to tackle in open space against shifter opponents. Unfortunately, the majority of the skill players at Miami are shifty/able to make people miss, meaning this game could turn from grudge match to curb-stomp in an instant.
As far as coaching goes, Mark Richt and Jimbo Fisher are as good as it gets. I'm looking forward to seeing this rivalry grow in intensity over the next few years. They recruit from the same talent pool in the "State of Miami" (Central and South Florida), they play each other annually in a game that could determine bowl games and playoff positions, and they are both excellent media personalities who love the spotlight. This could grow into the ACC's version of the Ten Year War, the legendary Michigan-Ohio St. rivalry from the 60s and 70s. The outcome of this game will come down to Miami's defense plugging up holes against Florida St. running back Dalvin Cook, who gashed the Hurricanes last season for big chunks of yardage in a close game. The winner of this one will bragging rights for the next year, as well as excellent leverage in recruiting all that talent in the "State of Miami" region. We at Native Baydestrian will be watching this one with earnest.
Everything you need to know about the yay.