We are now a third of the way through the 2019 college football season. All teams have played at least four games so far this season. My two biggest surprises in the top ten have been the domination of both Oklahoma and Auburn. I knew the Sooners were going to be good with the transfer of Jalen Hurts. I was still suspect of their defense. Head coach Lincoln Riley brought in defensive coordinator Alex Grinch from Ohio State. The results have been noticeable. Through four games the Sooners have allowed just over 19 points per game, compared to 23 per game last season. The difference has been eye-popping, when you look at the difference in open field tackling. Watching the Texas Tech game Saturday was particularly impressive, as they limited the Red Raiders to just 314 total yards. Auburn is now 5-0 after blasting Mississippi State 56-23. The Tigers have moved all the way to No.7 in the polls. The Tigers have played perhaps the toughest schedule so far this season. They own victories over Oregon and Texas A&M. Head coach Gus Malzahn has done a masterful job calling plays and quarterback Jacob Nix, looks like a future star. The Tigers travel to Florida this weekend, in what should be a classic SEC crossover game. There were many impactful games over the weekend. Below I have news and notes from each conference.
THE LEGEND OF GARDNER MINSHEW GROWS
What’s wrong with Clemson? Nothing. Yes, the Tigers escaped yet another upset bid on Saturday. The Tigers needed a stop on a two-point conversion, with a minute left to beat North Carolina 21-20. This is the second time this season that the Tigers have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been just average so far this season. I really think that head coach Dabo Swinney, has yet to allow Lawrence to go full throttle. I look for that to change after this weeks bye. Quarterback Jamie Newman tossed two touchdown passes and rushed for 102 yards, leading Wake forest over Boston College 27-24. The Deacons are now 5-0 and nipping at the heels of the Clemson Tigers. The Deacons have a bye week this week and should get a couple key players back from injury to face Louisville in two weeks. Virginia traveled to Notre Dame and played toe/-to-toe with the Irish for a half, before succumbing 35-20. Notre Dame forced five turnovers. The loss was Virginia’s first of the season. The Cavaliers are still considered the top team from the Coastal division.
Michigan bounced back from an embarrassing performance to smoke Rutgers 52-0. Quarterback Shea Patterson enjoyed a banner day, accounting for four touchdowns (three rushing). The Wolverine defense held the Scarlet Knights to just 152 total yards and ten first downs. Rutgers head coach Chris Ash became the first FBS head coach to be fired. Quite honestly, I am surprised Ash lasted this long.
Former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano is rumored to be a candidate to replace Ash. I think Schiano is a perfect fit to return to the New Jersey school. It’s become very apparent that all the hype surrounding the Nebraska football team entering this season was unfounded. The Huskers suffered yet another devastating home loss, this time to Ohio State 48-7. Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields, toyed with the Husker defense all game long Saturday. The Buckeyes enjoyed a 580-231 yard edge, while forcing three crucial turnovers on defense. Nebraska is now 3-2 on the season and still in prime position to go to a bowl game. Minnesota defeated Purdue 38-31 to remain unbeaten at 4-0. Quarterback Tanner Morgan had a career best performance tossing for 396 yards and four scores. The sophomore now ranks No.4 in total QBR in the country. The loss by Purdue was magnified by the loss of quarterback Elijah Sindelar who had surgery yesterday and will be out indefinitely.
In my BIG 12 preview, I told you about how Baylor could make their way to the BIG 12 title game. The Bears have not disappointed, and Saturday made a statement defeating Iowa State 23-21. The Cyclones overcame a 20 point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Brock Purdy hit Charlie Kolar with a 20 yard scoring strike, with just over three minutes left in the game, giving the Cyclones the lead. Baylor then drove the length of the field and settled for a John Mayers 38 yard field goal for the win. Baylor is now 4-0 and head coach Matt Ruhle signed a contract extension over the weekend. Oklahoma State was mighty impressive defeating Kansas State 26-13. I was unsure how the Cowboys would react after suffering a tough loss to Texas. Chuba Hubbard put himself squarely in the Heisman race with another mind-blowing performance. The sophomore from Edmonton, Alberta Canada rushed for 296 yards. Hubbard now leads the nation in rushing with 936 yards in just five games. The Cowboys are a real threat to beat any team in the conference. They start just four seniors! I can’t wait to watch Hubbard in person, I’ll be in Stillwater for the Baylor game in a few weeks.
It was a wild weekend out west. The PAC-12 featured five conference games and each had impact in the standings. Friday night lights in Strawberry Canyon, saw Arizona State beat the undefeated California Bears 24-17. Eno Benjamin’s three yard touchdown scamper with just under five minutes left, gave the Sun Devils a 21-17 lead. Kicker Christian Zendejas later booted a 43 yard field goal for the final margin of victory. The loss dropped California out of the top 25. Head coach Mike Leach had plenty to say following Saturday nights loss to Utah 38-13. Leach went on a tirade after the game calling his players “Soft, Dumb and Fat.” It was clear to me that the Utes had gone to school the week before against USC, who runs a similar “Air Raid” offense.
Finally, a shout out to the Oregon State Beavers, who almost pulled it off against Stanford. My Beaver insider had insisted that the Beavers would defeat Stanford. The Beavers played inspired football and actually outplayed the Cardinal. They held a 501-353 yard edge and 28-18 first down edge. The Beavers trailed all game long before tailback Artavis Pierce tied the game 28-28 with a one-yard run with 1:55 left. The Cardinal then drove 29 yards, setting up Jet Toner’s 39 yard game winning field goal with six seconds left. The Beavers are going to be a spoiler before it’s all said and done.
Alabama jumped to No.1 in the polls with a 59-31 win over Ole Miss. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa tossed six touchdown passes, five of which went to DeVonta Smith. Smith had a career day for Alabama, with 274 receiving yards. What caught me by surprise was how well the Rebels offense was able to churn up yards versus the Tide defense. The Rebels rolled up 476 total yards. Another bright spot for the Rebels, was the play of Freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. Plumlee was tough as nails, rushing the football. Plumlee is was a two-sport star in high school, who turned down a pro baseball contract to enroll at Mississippi. Texas A&M held off a late charge by Arkansas 34-27. Jimbo Fisher’s squad bounced back, after Fisher was badly out-coached by Gus Malzahn the week before. South Carolina unleashed a physical, attacking defense to squash Kentucky 24-7. The Wildcats managed just 219 total yards and nine first downs. Tailback Tavien Feaster paced the Gamecocks offense with 107 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
TEAM OF THE WEEK FROM GROUP OF FIVE
Before the season started I talked about the SMU Mustangs. Graduate transfer quarterback Shane Buechele was one of my impactful transfers this off-season. He has fit right into head coach Sonny Dykes offensive system. SMU is now ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since the football program received the so-called death penalty for NCAA rules violations in 1987 and did not compete for two seasons. SMU’s appearance in the rankings is historic, considering where the program has been. After returning from the death penalty in 1989, the Mustangs managed one winning season (6-5 in 1997) over the next 20 years. Buechele and Auburn transfer Richard McBryde,who is the leading tackler on defense has sparked the rise. Buechle who was a former starter at Texas lost his job to Sam Ehlinger. Texas head coach Tom Herman had said that Buechele was equally talented, but Ehlinger was a better fit for his offense. SMU has 65 new players, including scholarship freshman, walk-ons and transfers.