The pride, the passion and pressure of college football was on full display in week 5 of the 2018 college football season as the stakes start to get raised in the race for the college football playoffs. In a week that provided virtually no upsets, we are starting to see teams calcify themselves in the top spots and others start to fall back in the pack. Here’s what I saw in week 5 of the college football season.
1 Wait… Comeback!
You often wonder why things happen the way they do in life (boy do I ever) but they do and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has to be in that boat on this day. The rock at the top of the Clemson program made a big boy decision last week and named the freshman Trevor Lawrence his starter at quarterback. This move sent previous starter Kelly Bryant to the bench and essentially out of the program. The Twitter and media debates raged on last week as Bryant announced his intentions to leave the program. This essentially left the Tigers thin at the quarterback position but what does that matter, Lawrence has shown himself to be a future star at the position and likely capable to take Clemson far this season. What could possibly go wrong? Upon thinking this you can just see the devil rubbing his hands together Birdman style. Midway through the 2nd quarter in a game in which Lawrence wasn’t exactly lighting it up, he got lit up along the Syracuse sidelines with Clemson down 13-7. The hit sent Lawrence to the showers early and left redshirt freshman quarterback Chase Brice with the task of bringing the Tigers back from their deficit. Somewhere, Kelly Bryant had to be getting a chuckle.
Ultimately, Clemson got the job done in their home stadium thanks to some pretty staunch second half defense and timely throws for the unsuspecting Brice. My thoughts on the whole situation going into the game were that Swinney would have done well to keep Bryant as the starter, find ways to insert Lawrence at times in games and have both available in case somebody gets almost decapitated on the sidelines during a game. There’s little substitute for experience but it seems more and more in society, we are casting aside that element to chase shiny new objects. I guess it’s part of our ever increasing short attention span. I don’t know where Bryant is going to go and neither do I know where Clemson’s seasons is going to go either. I think it just took a hit.
2 You searched the whole playsheet and came up with that?
Saturday night we were treated to one of those college football thrillers that we all know and love. Ohio St. vs. Penn St. had all the build up of a Rose Bowl championship game when in truth it was just a midseason battle for Big Ten supremacy. While the outcome was ultimately what I expected, the lead up to the end was not. Penn St.’s coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for the game plan they came up to neutralize the superiority that Ohio St. had on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Defensively, the Nitanny Lions dialed up some exotic blitzes to get in the face of young QB Dwayne Haskins and limit his effectiveness. Offensively, they used the most lethal weapon they had and that was the legs of Trace McSorely. The talented signal caller threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns but more deadly were his 175 rushing yards. McSorely’s runs kept the chains moving and changed everything the Buckeyes had to do defensively. As a result, Penn St. kept a lead for most of the game and kept us fans on the edge of our seats. However, we were all knocked off our seats in the closing minutes of the game. Penn St. opted to take the ball out of the hands of the most productive player in the entire game and hand it to a back in Miles Sanders on 4th and 5. This was a classic case of a coach out thinking himself (I’ve been there). One thing my coaching has taught me is that in crucial moments it’s often players that make play not calls. When you get in the red zone or in crucial third or fourth down situations, it’s time to dial up your best players not necessarily your best plays. McSorely accounted for a school record 461 total yards at the point. Sanders had accumulated all of 45 yards. If it were a stock, you would not have picked Sanders. It’s a decision that Penn St. offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne will no doubt grow from and one that Penn St. fans will lament for some time to come.
3 Think Like an Underdog But Act Like a Big Dog
If you are a Florida Gator fan and not delusional, you were nervous entering into Saturday’s game on the road vs. Mississippi St. Here was the factology leading into the game. This was a tough road game vs. an opponent off of a loss with a team full of players feeling a certain type of way about their coach walking out on them to go coach another SEC team. Not to mention that up until this point, Mississippi St. appeared to be the more physical team more prepared for the rigors that this game would provide. Did I get that right? Well yes I did.
In much the same fashion that Penn St. did in their game vs. Ohio St., Florida walked into the game with confidence but coached it like an underdog. Like Penn St., Florida was at a disadvantage along both lines of scrimmage. Florida’s game vs. Kentucky earlier this season showed that their defensive line can get pushed around in a fist fight. Offensively, any honest Florida fan will tell you that upfront is not the strength of this squad. Mississippi St. is a heavy run team that is built on trench play and thus appeared to have an advantage coming in.
You have to give credit to the game plans for Florida. Instead of banging his head against the wall, Florida head coach Dan Mullen used a beavy of wide receiver screens as his outside run game forcing Mississippi St. to widen some of the activity in the box. When they did, Mullen attacked the middle with the numbers in his favor. Essentially Mullen fed the area where he had an advantage to weaken an area where the opponent had a strength. While the scoreboard will not say that Florida’s offense went off, the numbers speak volumes. Florida out gained Mississippi St. 357 to 202 in total yards and held the edge in time of possession. What was most surprising was the Gators outgaining the Bulldogs on the ground 118 to 104. All of this happened despite Florida having 11 pentalites to Mississippi St.’s two. Unlike the Penn St. game, with the game on the line, Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham went with what they do best and sent a safety blitz that hit home to salt the game. Maybe the ole Engage 8 Madden defense will get you your ass kicked online but in Davis Wade Stadium on a Saturday Night it can get you a big road victory in the SEC.
4 ICU UCF
We can no longer ignore this. UCF has built itself a hell of a program. College football fans living outside of the Orlando / Kissimmee area clowned the Knights last year when they crowned themselves king and trumped up a mythical national championship. They ushered in further shade when UCF defeated Auburn in the bowl game citing how the Tigers could careless about the game and the opponent. Perhaps that was true but there’s no denying what UCF has been doing for the last two years. The Knights’ 17 game win streak is the longest in college football currently and not a place for you to cast your petty scorn. Yes, Pittsburgh is not having one of their finer 1980 type seasons but they are an ACC opponent that got melted like a forgotten Now N Later in a car’s back seat.
UCF is not just beating teams, they are destroying them. The Knights’ closest game this season was their “showdown” with in-state upstart FAU. That was a 20 point win for UCF. The average margin of victory is 32 points on the season and they are yet to have a game in which they have not put up over 500 yards of offense. It would have been nice to have seen them play their game vs. North Carolina to have a measuring stick against fellow in-state competitor Miami but that has not happened. In all likelihood, UCF will go undefeated through their regular season. The way this playoff thing is set up, UCF will again be on the outside looking in and end up in a bowl game against a dejected big name who fell just outside of playoff consideration. Y’all folks are going to have to endure another trip to the jewelers for these Knights.
5 Well How Good Are They?
One of the mysteries so far this season is the strength of Notre Dame. I am not even sure why it’s a mystery. Is it because we hate Notre Dame and don’t want to believe it or is because they don’t have the big marketable names that make us gravitate to them? Or is it because we just hate them? Yea we hate them but you can’t hate the game. Saturday Night, the Irish took apart another top program from a top conference. Stanford got their heads handed to them under the watchful eyes of Touchdown Jesus. Lord Touchdown was likely producing a few fist pumps as Notre Dame wandered their way into the endzone five times during a 38-17 win over their nemesis.
I am sure college football fans can opine about the lack of quality in Notre Dame’s schedule but the truth is that their five wins do include two against Michigan and Stanford. We can argue that those wins were at home and 2017 showed us that the Irish dominance doesn’t necessarily fit in the overhead compartment when they travel. I am not sure that we will get a chance to find out in 2018. There is no trip to Miami this year and the toughest remaining road game is against a disheveled USC program at the end of the year. So what we’ll be faced with it come playoff time is a possible undefeated Irish team lurking around that top 4 ahead of teams with one loss against a killer. Oh the controversy.
On Some Smaller Matters
Lethal Comebackery. Yes I made up a word but Wille Taggert made up a saying and like my word, his offense did not exist until Saturday. On their way to another embarrassing performance, Florida St. grew a pair and snatched a win away from a struggling Louisville football team. Don’t look now but the Seminoles have improved since their face hiding performance vs. Syracuse three weeks ago. I have been saying all season long that Deondre Francois has been a bright spot for FSU and it was he who led the revolt vs. the Cardinals. Left for dead with flies everywhere, Florida St. shined like a 20 wall in the final 20 minutes of the contest. Led by Francois’ 294 yards passing and four TDs, Florida St. found something to feel good about heading into their annual showdown with the Miami Hurricanes.
So how did the Canes do in their lead up to the showdown? It was pure dominance on a national television stage vs. North Carolina. The Canes forced six turnovers with three of them being TDs enroute to a 47-10 win over conference foe North Carolina. These type of things lead to set up point spreads and we see the Canes have marched out as 11 point favorites in their meeting with FSU. It’s the largest line in favor of the Canes in quite some time. However, considering the results of games thus far, is this line high enough? Common fans may rush to the betting window in favor the Canes but Vegas always holds a little reverence for rivalries.
The struggles for first year coaches Chip Kelly at UCLA and Scott Frost at Nebraska continue and they aren’t getting better. Kelly’s bunch took it on the chin yet again this week when Colorado cold cocked them 38-16 in Boulder. Things remained frosty for Scott when Purdue came to Lincoln and put up half a four score on the Huskers 42-28. The fortunate thing for both of these coaches is that they are in places that will have patience. People don’t care as much about UCLA football in Los Angeles like they do in Tuscaloosa, Gainesville or Columbus so Kelly can fumble his way through these performances for a little while longer. They most certainly care about football in Nebraska but Husker fans have shown themselves to have that good Midwestern patience especially for a son come home. However, patience has an expiration date everywhere even in Westwood and Lincoln.
Author: Chad Wilson
Chad Wilson is a college football recruiting expert and creator of the GridironStudsApp which allows high school football players to gain exposure to college football coaches and fans. Wilson is a former college football player for the University of Miami (92-94) and Long Beach St. (’90-’91) and played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks (’95). He is also a former youth and high school football coach for over 15 years. Wilson’s older son Quincy plays in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and his younger son plays cornerback for the University of Florida. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.