There are a few inarguable truths in life that all of us should abide by. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Never text your ex after 2 a.m. And
Imagine, back when Oklahoma fans welcomed home prodigal son Brent Venables with thunderous approval, that the Sooners’ showdown against Texas would be a lopsided embarrassment, with Oklahoma being shut out 49-0.
Imagine, when Texas landed Ewers and A&M signed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, and Houston was hailed as a potential playoff party crasher, that instead, the unquestioned top team in Texas would be TCU.
Perhaps the truly wild part of this entirely impossible scenario is that Saturday’s TCU-Kansas showdown wasn’t overhyped. If anything, we massively underestimated how much drama the Frogs and Jayhawks could muster.
TCU’s onetime backup QB now looks like a Heisman contender. Max Duggan threw for 308 yards, ran for 55 more and accounted for four touchdowns. Every time Kansas steadied itself and got off the mat in the second half, Duggan delivered another haymaker, leading TCU to touchdowns on four of its last five drives of the game.
Meanwhile, the fairy-tale season at Kansas played out — well, like a fairy tale on Saturday, when the Jayhawks turned to a magic Bean to salvage their fading fortunes. Jalon Daniels left the game near the end of the first half with an injured shoulder, turning over the reins to Jason Bean, who threw four second-half TD passes, leading the Jayhawks back from the brink of the abyss again and again down the stretch.
The second half of Saturday’s game saw Kansas erase leads of 10-3, 17-10, 24-17 and 31-24, and only a failed fourth-down conversion with 37 seconds remaining kept the Jayhawks from a chance to tie it at 38, too.
The game was decided not by inches but by margins undetectable by the world’s most powerful microscopes, as Derius Davis tiptoed the sideline for TCU and Quentin Skinner tapped his knee in the back of the end zone on a late score to keep Kansas alive.
Quentin Skiner does a great job as he comes down inbounds for the Kansas’ touchdown as they tie it 31-31.
It was a battle rife with cinematic drama that not only warranted the title of Week 6’s best matchup but will undoubtedly be in the conversation as one of the most entertaining games of the 2022 season.
And it happened at Kansas.
And yes, Kansas’ record is no longer unblemished. Reality — if that’s what we’re living in — had to return eventually. And no, TCU isn’t likely to overshadow college football’s behemoths for long. And yes, had Ewers been healthy all season, it might well be the Longhorns who are the talk of the sport now.
But for one magical afternoon, nothing in college football mattered as much or offered more drama than the happenings in Kansas. As the great Jasper Beardsley said, “What a time to be alive.”
That is, if we’re not all actually in a simulation.
Big wins out west
Don’t sleep on the Pac-12. OK, sleep a little on the Pac-12. The games are on late. You’ve got things to do on Sunday, and Home Depot opens early. Still, be sure to at least check the scores and highlights, because for the first time since the Hoover administration, the Pac-12 has some serious playoff juice.
UCLA staked its claim to contender status with an incredibly impressive 43-32 win over Utah. Dorian Thompson-Robinson was 1 yard shy of throwing for 300, Zach Charbonnet was 2 short of rushing for 200 and the defense came up with one critical play after another.
The Bruins’ first four wins were far from emphatic, but the past two weeks, they’ve largely had their way with Washington and Utah, making a serious statement that Chip Kelly’s past decade was like that season of “Dallas” that turned out to all be a dream. Seriously, Kelly supposedly coached the San Francisco 49ers for a year. There’s no way that really happened.
UCLA gets on the board first as Dorian Thompson-Robinson extends into the end zone for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, USC avoided a potential trap game against Washington State, and we think it’s time the pundits give credit where it’s due. Yes, Lincoln Riley has injected new life into the Trojans’ program, and sure, Caleb Williams, Mario Williams and Jordan Addison have been excellent. But the real hero of this team? Travis Dye‘s mustache. Not since Tom Selleck has L.A. had such fantastic facial hair.
Two weeks ago, it looked like Washington could be a real playoff contender, too, but Saturday proved an absolute embarrassment in a 45-38 loss to Arizona State. Xazavian Valladay ran for 111 yards, caught four passes, scored twice and accounted for a Scrabble points record as the Sun Devils suddenly look frisky now that Herm Edwards is out.
And if Week 1 convinced us to give up on Oregon, the Ducks keep trying to remind us that anyone can lose to Georgia by 46. Oh, sure, not Auburn or Missouri or Kent State … but, you know, good teams. The Ducks dominated Arizona and have topped 40 in five straight games. And are we ready to love Bo Nix again? He’s like that boyfriend you’ve decided to dump a dozen different times, but then he shows up with In-N-Out burgers at 2 a.m. and you figure, “Ah, another week can’t hurt.”
This list of genuine playoff contenders isn’t long, but as the season approaches its midpoint, the Pac-12 has three teams that fit the bill. That’s three more than it’s had at this time of year in a long time.
Pokes keep winning
Oklahoma State is the No. 7 team in the country, is 5-0 for the second straight season and has an impressive win over Baylor in its back pocket. But it might still be fair to ask a pretty basic question: Are the Pokes all that good?
Yes, there have been dominant stretches — the fourth quarter vs. Arizona State, the first half against Baylor, Spencer Sanders‘ take-no-prisoners late touchdown drive Saturday — but those always seem to be paired with other stretches in which Oklahoma State can’t get out of its own way.
That was largely the story Saturday against Texas Tech, a team that has also spent much of the season looking like Nic Cage’s IMDB page — beat Texas one week, make “The Wicker Man” the next — and once again, it’s not entirely clear who played well.
Texas Tech started its third different QB of the season, and Behren Morton threw for 379 yards. Oklahoma State relied on the veteran Sanders, who accounted for three total TDs despite completing less than half his passes.
Oklahoma State went up 17-7. Texas Tech went to the half with a 24-20 lead. The Cowboys scored. The Red Raiders scored. The Pokes led by just 3 entering the final quarter, then a game filled with offensive fireworks slowed to a crawl. One drive is “Leaving Las Vegas,” and the next is “Bangkok Dangerous.”
Of all the teams to start 5-0 this season, only Coastal Carolina allowed more points in the process than Oklahoma State. Sanders is completing just 56% of his throws against Power 5 foes. And yet, for a few drives every game, Oklahoma State looks like it’s poised for another “Raising Arizona.” The Cowboys are a paradox wrapped in an enigma topped with a mullet.
Abanikanda runs wild
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi promised his team would run more this season after saying goodbye to QB Kenny Pickett and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. Mission accomplished.
Pitt fed tailback Izzy Abanikanda 36 times during Saturday’s 45-29 win over Virginia Tech, and he made every one of them count.
Abanikanda rushed for 320 yards and six touchdowns in the win, becoming the first Power 5 or BCS conference back to go for more than 300 yards and six scores since Ricky Williams did it in 1998. After the game, Mike Ditka immediately texted Saints management and suggested trading as many picks as it takes to get Abanikanda in the 2023 draft.
Israel Abanikanda can’t be stopped as he rushes for six touchdowns, tying the Panthers’ school record set back in 1910.
For Pitt, Abanikanda’s big day was a salve for an offense that struggled mightily last week against Georgia Tech. For Virginia Tech, the Hokies are off to their worst start (2-4) since 1991.
But the story, of course, was Abanikanda, who now leads the country with 13 scrimmage TDs. His 320 yards were the fourth most in a game in ACC history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, and he passed Tony Dorsett for the most in a single game in Pitt history.
Now, if some newspaper doesn’t run with the headline “Pitt’s Abanikanda don’t want none unless it’s touchdowns, hon” on Sunday, then journalism is officially dead.
Bryce Young missed Week 6. Jalon Daniels left early. A half-dozen other big-name QBs also dealt with injuries that cost them some or all of the Saturday action, meaning it was a great time to get some new names into the Heisman mix.
1. Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud
Stroud threw six TDs to Ohio State receivers and, because he’s a man of the people, one to Michigan State, too. It was Stroud’s fourth game this season throwing four TDs or more. Our working theory is that he’s been catching up on “House of the Dragon” on his sideline iPad, and so he’s in a rush to score on every possession to get back to his stories.
2. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker
Hooker led Tennessee to another dominant win, throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns without a pick. Since Hooker’s first start for the Vols in Week 3 of last season, he’s 12-5 with 41 passing touchdowns (20 more than his former team, Virginia Tech, has in that span) while throwing just two interceptions (19 fewer than SEC East rival Florida).
3. USC QB Caleb Williams
Williams struggled at times against Washington State’s defense, completing just over half his throws for just 188 yards. But he tossed two TDs, converted several big third downs and kept USC undefeated. But if any Oklahoma fans are reading this, just know that he’s not actually happy and he keeps all your letters in a lavender-scented box next to his bed.
4. UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson
In just his 304th start (note: that’s a rough estimate), Thompson-Robinson set the UCLA record for career touchdown passes in the impressive win over Utah. In all, he accounted for five TDs on Saturday, averaged 13 yards per throw, and utterly flummoxed one of the Pac-12’s best defenses.
5. Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs and Alabama LB Will Anderson Jr.
OK, we’re probably not permanently dropping Young from our Heisman contenders, but for this week at least, let’s recognize how good two of his teammates were. Gibbs carried 21 times for 154 yards, and since Young went down with a shoulder injury last week, Gibbs has 328 rushing yards, is averaging better than 10 yards per carry and has scored twice. Meanwhile, Anderson racked up eight QB hurries and spent enough time in A&M’s backfield that Jimbo Fisher assumed his NIL collective owed Gibbs money.
The most college football thing to happen in Week 6
Jackson State ran its record to 5-0 as Shedeur Sanders threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns in a 26-12 win over Alabama State. That puts Deion Sanders’ team at 3-0 in conference play, but he has a big, fat zero when it comes to true SWAC-ness.
Alabama State coach Eddie Robinson — no relation to the longtime Grambling coach — was less than pleased with Coach Prime’s apparent prima donna attitude before the game.
“He ain’t SWAC. I’m SWAC.”😳 Alabama State HC Eddie Robinson about Jackson State HC Deion Sanders #bamastate #swac #swarmas1 #theeibelieve pic.twitter.com/sJuZjnSXdB
— The Wild Card (@wildcard2k) October 8, 2022
Robinson said he “prays [Sanders] doesn’t get a Power 5 job” so they can play again next season and, in theory, exact some revenge.
You hear that, Auburn? No hiring Deion. We need more SWAC grudge matches.
The other most college football thing to happen
Give Florida State credit. Even after five of the most miserable seasons in school history, the Seminoles keep finding new ways to inflict pain on their fan base.
On Saturday, the latest blow came from the punter because it’s not enough to simply throw salt in FSU fans’ wounds. The Noles needed to dump a jug of cheap tequila on top of all that salt.
Alex Mastromanno was either running a fake punt or trying to rugby punt or wanted to see what would happen if every Florida State fan on the planet slammed their heads against a wall at the same time. It’s hard to say which was his true motivation. But the result is that, rather than take off running and likely picking up a first down, he punted beyond the line of scrimmage, setting up NC State at the FSU 13-yard line.
One drive earlier, Devin Leary was sidelined with a shoulder injury, leaving NC State with virtually no answers on offense, but it didn’t matter. Christopher Dunn booted a 53-yard field goal to pull the Wolfpack to within 1, then managed another field goal on their next drive to pull ahead 19-17.
FSU still had a chance to win late, but because Mike Norvell had minimal confidence in his kicker, he had Jordan Travis throw into the end zone on a second-and-8 play from the NC State 22, and it was picked off.
NC State trailed 17-13 when Leary went down. It attempted just two passes the rest of the way, and still pulled off the 19-17 win.
There’s pain. There’s unimaginable pain. And then there’s what happened to FSU on Saturday.
Next up? Clemson.
Purdue finally fends off a comeback bid
The football gods had not been kind to Purdue to start the season. The Boilermakers led in the final minute of each of their first five games, only to see Penn State emerge with a four-point win on a TD with 57 seconds to play, and Syracuse win by 2 on a TD with just seven seconds remaining.
It made for a somber backdrop as Taulia Tagovailoa hit Corey Dyches from 18 yards out for a potential game-tying touchdown with 35 seconds remaining Saturday at Maryland, but at long last, Purdue’s luck changed.
Maryland scores a touchdown, then appears to haul in a game-tying 2-point conversion, but the play is called back and the Terps fail on their next attempt.
The Terps appeared to have tied the game on a 2-point try in the back corner of the end zone, but the score was waved off due to a flag for an illegal man downfield (a penalty that has become college football’s equivalent of your buddy who ruins everyone’s fun by refusing to split the check evenly because he only had a salad). Maryland’s second crack at the 2-point try came up short, and Purdue escaped with a 31-29 win.
Purdue looks like the favorite now in the topsy-turvy Big Ten West, where the Boilermakers are tied for first with — surely this can’t be right? — Nebraska, among others, though no one from the division is ranked in the AP top 25. It’s nice to see that, while the Big Ten is stealing teams from the Pac-12, it managed to steal only the vibe of the ACC Coastal.
Victory bells for Leach’s Bulldogs
That unbearable clanging noise still ringing in your ears is simply the Mississippi State bandwagon rolling through SEC country.
Mike Leach’s crew dominated Arkansas 40-17 on Saturday, with Will Rogers setting the SEC record for career completions in the win, topping Aaron Murray’s previous mark of 921 in just his 28th career game.
Arkansas, which played without QB KJ Jefferson, suffered a third straight loss, dooming a once-promising season to a 1-3 mark in SEC play.
For Mississippi State, it was a statement win for a multitude of reasons. The defense was stout, fending off all three of Arkansas’ fourth-down attempts, stuffing drives at its own 8, 29 and 37. The ground game excelled, too. While Leach typically throws the ball between 40 and 600 times per game, the Bulldogs actually racked up 173 yards and three touchdowns on the ground Saturday. It was the most rushing yards by a Leach-coached team since Washington State went for 253 against Cal in 2016.
And, of course, the Bulldogs still threw the ball with ease. Rogers finished with 395 passing yards and three TDs, including one to Caleb Ducking — who now has seven TD catches on the season, offering a rare opportunity for Mississippi State fans to actually intend to type the word “ducking” in text messages.
The party could come to a screeching halt over the next month, however, as Mississippi State goes to Kentucky and Alabama in back-to-back weeks before hosting Auburn and Georgia.
Under-the-radar play of the day
With two interceptions, it was hardly Drake Maye‘s finest day for North Carolina, but he still threw for 309 yards — averaging 11 yards per attempt — and tossed two touchdowns, including this ridiculous completion to Josh Downs that was reminiscent of either Patrick Mahomes or Neo in “The Matrix.”
DRAKE MAYE OFF HIS BACK FOOT 😱 @UNCFootball #SCtop10 pic.twitter.com/3AEBkQ4mCr
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) October 8, 2022
The Tar Heels are now 5-1 and in clear control of the ACC Coastal. Perhaps as significant for the Heels is their defense held back-to-back ACC opponents to 24 points or fewer for the first time since Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2020 season.
Under-the-radar game of the day
Georgia Tech is now 2-0 since moving on from former coach Geoff Collins. It’s fair to wonder — if he’d just let the team eat something other than Waffle House, perhaps the Yellow Jackets might’ve started playing this well much earlier.
On Saturday, Tech built a 20-6 lead on Duke entering the fourth quarter, but the Blue Devils refused to roll over. A punt return for a TD brought Duke to within one possession, and on the final drive of regulation, the Blue Devils went 80 yards on 14 plays before Riley Leonard hit Nicky Dalmolin for a TD with eight seconds remaining to force overtime.
In the extra frame, however, Georgia Tech kicked an easy field goal, then watched as Duke went backward on its possession, with kicker Charlie Ham missing from 52 yards.
Now, who wants to celebrate with a bacon-egg-and-cheese hash brown bowl?
Big bets and bad beats
UConn went on the road against FIU on Saturday as a 5.5-point favorite. It marked the first time the Huskies were favored in any FBS game against a team not named UMass since 2017 vs. East Carolina, and the first time as a road favorite since 2015 against Tulane. It was due credit for a team that is, at long last, not a total embarrassment. Indeed, Saturday’s 33-12 win over FIU means the Huskies are on a winning streak! They’ve now won two games in a row and have three wins in a season for the first time since 2017. UConn has set an incredibly low bar for itself, and it’s nice to see Jim Mora casually stride over it like Lamar Jackson strutting into the end zone.
The magical start to Kansas’ season came to an end against TCU, but Jayhawks backers are still riding high. Kansas was a 7.5-point underdog at kickoff, and while it lost 38-31, that’s still a cover — the ninth straight for the Jayhawks dating back to last year’s 57-56 win over Texas. Since then, Kansas is 6-3, but all three losses have come by seven or less.
As the great Chris Fallica noted this week, there have been 18 SEC games over the past five seasons in which a team was favored by 30 or more, as Georgia was against Auburn for much of the week leading up to kickoff. The favorite in those games is just 6-12 against the spread, with the Dawgs a woeful 1-4. So, lucky for UGA backers that the line moved down to 27.5 in time for Saturday’s game. Auburn was on course to cover until Georgia engineered a late 11-play, 65-yard drive that included two third-down conversions (one on third-and-15) and was capped by a Branson Robinson TD run. Final score: Georgia 42, Auburn 10, and a garbage-time cover that beleaguered Bulldogs fans deserved.