Somehow, we are now one-third through the college football season as week five has come to a close. And, what a month we have had, unless you’re a fan of Texas A&M. The national picture is starting to get clearer and clearer every week, and we are reminded every Saturday why this is the world’s greatest sport. After another 14-hour day of watching college football, here’s what I saw in Week 5.
You may have expected the lead story to be about the injury to Heisman trophy winner Bryce Young. But, Nick Saban made it very clear postgame that the story was not Young’s golden right shoulder. Rather, it was the way his Crimson Tide played and responded to adversity in their 49-26 win on the road at Arkansas.
Alabama was rolling when Young went out and led 28-0 at one point. But, credit to Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks who clawed all the way to 28-23 before some long runs by Tide running back Jahmyr Gibbs and Young’s backup, the very mobile Jalen Milroe.
It was encouraging for the Tide for a multitude of reasons. First, they got some explosive plays out of their offense. Those types of plays have been largely missing for their offense, especially in the run game. Three 70-yard-plus runs will certainly do the trick in that department. Young looked excellent throwing the deep ball, too, and it was the first time all year I thought Alabama really looked like Alabama. The defense had a strange blip there in the third quarter but they too regrouped.
There’s no all-time great team this year in college football, no 2019 LSU or 1995 Nebraska out there to crush all dreams. And that includes the Crimson Tide, who are a great football team but a step below some of Saban’s best in Tuscaloosa. But, Saturday’s win reminded me why I was adamant in the lead-up to the season that this team would not be stopped in their quest to redeem last year’s title-game loss. I think the Tide’s best football is still ahead of them as these young receivers get more comfortable and that should be scary for everyone else.
They play Texas A&M next week. And, it seems like years ago now, but Aggie coach Jimbo Fisher ran his mouth all offseason. Turns out, A&M stinks, and Jimbo is going to have to pay the piper next week in T-Town.
Clemson Is Going to Steal A Playoff Spot
Those who know me in real life know that my dislike for Clemson is no secret. Why do you ask? Dabo Swinney is the biggest phony in all of sports. His running down the hill by himself before his players irritates the hell out of me. He said he would quit coaching when players got paid while collecting nearly eight figures a year from a public university. Yet, players are being paid and here he is, still coaching. The whole holier-than-thou, act to win football games makes my brain bleed.
Here’s the problem with hating Clemson and Dabo. They win all the time.
Well, not last year. Clemson went “only” 10-3 last year behind an anemic offense and a bunch of weird injuries on defense. But, I think even Tiger fans would tell you they were lucky to win that many games last year, as they had real deficiencies as a football team, and DJ Uiagalelei didn’t keep the offense running at the same level Trevor Lawrence had it going. By the way, why was the expectation that any quarterback could just come in and keep doing what Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence did with no hiccups? Those are two of the better college football quarterbacks of all time.
Anyways, DJ looked not-so-great early this season and I was calling for his backup, 5-star freshman Cade Klubnik to replace him. So were most Clemson fans. Dabo ignored them, and it paid off. He’s not the level of player Watson or Lawrence was, and that’s ok. But Clemson has learned to scheme to his talents and they showed that last week in a shootout win over Wake Forest before a 30-20 win Saturday over a top-ten NC State team. Uiagalelei looked in complete command of the offense and was a threat with his rocket arm and legs. Most importantly, he avoided the backbreaking mistakes that have defined the junior’s career to this point.
The concerning part for Clemson’s upcoming opponents is not even that Clemson offense, which still isn’t schemed super well and just doesn’t get as many easy big plays as some of the other top teams. It’s that front four that is slowly but surely getting back to the level on the defensive line of Dabo’s title teams.
The front was unblockable by NC State Saturday night, allowing only 34 rushing yards and rarely giving Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary any time to throw. And, they did it without the best player on the front, Bryan Bresee, who was out with a non-specified non-football-related medical issue. There are still questions about that secondary that looked poor against Wake Forest. But, if their defensive line plays as well as it did, that makes it much easier on that secondary.
Still, I don’t think this is one of the five best teams in America. But it might not matter. Clemson will be pretty significant favorites in every game left on their schedule in a horrid ACC and is probably going to go 13-0 en route to a playoff berth. They will get run by Alabama, Georgia, or Ohio State (though, that may be the case for whomever that fourth playoff team is), but they will get there, and the program will have its groove back.
Not good for us Dabo haters.
We need to talk about Lane Kiffin
Lane Kiffin has a reputation he earned as a younger coach as someone whose bark was bigger than his bite, someone who would have his program in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and an overrated ball coach who only got where he got because his father Monte was a very famous defensive coordinator in the NFL.
If you still think those things about the Ole Miss head coach, it’s time to wake up. It’s not 2011 anymore. Times have changed, and so has Kiffin.
First off, I don’t think he did as bad of a job at Tennessee and USC as people remember. He inherited tough situations in both places. At Tennessee, his only Volunteer team was mighty competitive that year despite going 7-6, and an Alabama team that went 14-0 had to block a very makeable field goal to avoid losing to the Vols. Then, at USC, he won 10 games in year two but couldn’t go to the PAC 12 title game because of a postseason ban that had nothing to do with him. USC was preseason number one the next year, but that was a gross miscalculation by the media as they had no depth due to scholarship restrictions that were because of those same actions that were before Kiffin was the head coach.
After going to the Nick Saban School of Reformed Coaches, where he became the most feared play-caller in the entire sport, all he’s done is walk into two dumpster fires and turn the programs around. This is a guy who won double-digit games at Florida Atlantic twice in three years. He inherited an Ole Miss team that was arguably the least talented team in the SEC West and all he did there was win 10 games in year two and earned a Sugar Bowl trip. For context, that was the third major bowl game for the Rebels in 50 years.
And now, Kiffin has Ole Miss undefeated at 5-0 after beating undefeated #7 Kentucky 22-19. People have the misconception that Kiffin is some air raid guy. But, his teams have always been about running the ball effectively, and this Rebel team sure can do it. And, despite having their second coordinator in two years, that Ole Miss defense is once again improved. Ole Miss is a clear-cut top Top 10 once again this year after just barely missing out on the playoff last year. This is a program playing in the toughest division in college football where five of the six divisional foes have significantly more resources and history than them. Yet, it would be hard to not call Kiffin’s program the second-best in that division now.
So, why all this about Lane Kiffin? There are going to be some big jobs open this off-season. Nebraska is already open, Auburn could be open by the time you read this, and who knows what else will be open.
Lane Kiffin should be the number one choice for every single job in America this year. This is a guy who no longer feels the need to prove himself with his words. He instead does it by coaching great football teams. He’s not a problem off the field and he’s well-respected in the profession. And he’s on his way to his fourth 10-win season in the last 5 full seasons at programs that have been allergic to 10-win seasons.
Some team (I mean you, Auburn) is going to hire Hugh Freeze over Lane Kiffin. They will pay for it dearly. Lane Kiffin is good enough to win national championships. Let’s give him a shot at a program that can give him every resource possible.
Texas A&M is a complete dumpster fire as they got run out of the stadium by Mississippi State. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Speaking of things I warned you about, Oklahoma is also bad. They gave up over 440 yards in the first half en route to giving up 55 points to TCU to drop to 0-2 in Big 12 play. This isn’t surprising to me, because they have a significant downgrade at coach and quarterback going from Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams to Brent Venables and Dillon Gabriel. For some reason, many college football media types across the country thought that wasn’t the case.
Oklahoma fans call Lincoln Riley TBOW (The B**** Out West). Well, TBOW has the Trojans at 5-0 with a great chance to make the college football playoff year one. Can Sooner fans give me an acronym so I can be as good at my job as Lincoln Riley?
UCLA made an absolute statement and cost me a lot of money by beating Washington 40-32 Friday night in a game that was not as close as the score. Are Chip Kelly and fifth-year starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson finally getting it to click for the Bruins? Imagine the Pac-12 South coming down to undefeated UCLA and undefeated USC at the end of the season. Can we just put them in the Big Ten West now?
Speaking of the Big Ten West, I think Illinois is the best team in the division. That loss to Indiana was weird, but the running game is very good, Tommy Devito is doing an excellent job under center, and Bret Bielema can flat-out coach. They boat raced Bielema’s former team, Wisconsin, 34-10 Saturday.
Speaking of Wisconsin, things are at rock bottom in Madison. Coach Paul Chryst has clearly lost that team, and the Badgers rushed for only two yards against Illinois. That’s not a typo. Two yards. They are this week’s Down Bad Team of the Week.
Oklahoma State continues to make me look like a smart man for picking them to win the Big 12 as they outplayed Baylor en route to a huge conference win.
This is the second week in a row that Georgia looks bad as they needed some late scores to beat Missouri 26-22. I’m sure Kirby and company will figure it out but I do wonder what is up in Athens.
Auburn blew a 17-0 lead to LSU and this has to be it for Bryan Harsin, right? Or, does the Auburn brass make him eat the loss next week to Georgia before firing him?
James Madison, who just this year transitioned from FCS to FBS, has a serious shot at going 12-0 in their first year as they are rolling at 5-0 and could be favored in every remaining game. The kicker? A stupid NCAA rule that prohibits them from playing in the postseason during their transitional period. I know one thing, they’re the best team in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Purdue caused chaos once again as they shut down Minnesota’s rushing attack and beat the undefeated Gophers 20-10. Star Minny back Mo Ibrahim didn’t play. But, give credit to the Purdue front that held them to under 50 yards rushing while rushing for nearly 200 yards of their own. The Big Ten West is a complete mess.
Kansas beat Iowa State in a slugfest, 14-11, thanks to a terrible special teams day from the Cyclones. Their reward is College Gameday coming to town for the first time ever for a football game. They host 5-0 TCU next week.
No. 4 Clemson vs. No. 1 Alabama
No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Georgia
1. Hendon Hooker
2. Bryce Young
3. Caleb Williams