There’s so much to get through this week that we’re going to jump right in, although (spoiler) Lee’s section on the Pac-12 officiating crews is worth skipping to if you’re short on time!
WINNERS – Andy (@ajmoore21)
The Big Ten & its 5-0 teams
Hands up if you had four Big Ten teams being 5-0 after five games, and none of them being Ohio State… thought so.
Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Iowa are all enjoying strong starts to the 2021 season and we’re around that time in the schedule where the contenders shake themselves loose of the trailing pack. All four teams have so far gone unbeaten and it’s fair to say that none of them have had the easiest schedule in the books by any means.
After seeing off a tricky Rutgers team, Michigan faced an equally difficult matchup against Wisconsin this week. Many expected it to be a battle in the trenches, with two teams that love to run the football going toe to toe, but in the end this one was won through the air. Junior receiver, Caleb Johnson, introduced himself to a national audience with a couple of nice touchdown grabs, and the Wolverines offense went 4 of 5 on fourth down attempts as Jim Harbaugh’s game plan worked to perfection against the Badgers run defense.
Their rivals, Michigan State, have been rumbling along nicely, buoyed by the emergence of Kenneth Walker III as a top Running Back. After seeing off Miami, this week’s game against Western Kentucky was a potential banana skin for the Spartans, but they got the job done efficiently with three skill position players (Walker, Jalen Naylor & Jayden Reed) topping 100 yards each.
Penn State are the highest ranked of these four in our weekly top 25 and that reflects the fact that they’ve seen off Wisconsin, Auburn and now Indiana, as well as Villanova and Ball State. The Nittany Lions defense came through with its best performance of the season against the Hoosiers, picking off both Michael Penix Jr and Jack Tuttle whilst limiting Stephen Carr to just 50 yards off 15 carriers. On offense Sean Clifford’s connection with Jahan Dotson was again evident for all to see, and the latter’s decision to return to CFB for another looks to be paying off, as his draft stock grows each week.
Iowa have also seen off Indiana this season, as well as local rivals Iowa State, but their Friday night demolition of Maryland was probably their best win of the season so far. A 31 point second quarter meant the game was essentially over before half time, especially considering that the Hawkeyes scored on nine consecutive drives at one point. Whilst Tyler Goodson and the offense often get the plaudits, the Iowa defense picked off Taulia Tagovailoa five times in this one to get the job done.
All of this sets up an incredibly enticing week six matchup between Penn State and Iowa. It’s not a stretch to say that Penn State needs a win to keep their conference hopes alive despite being 5-0, with Michigan in such strong form and Ohio State snapping at their heels. Interestingly Iowa opens up as the 2.5 point favourites.
BJ Baylor – Oregon State – Running Back
In a season in which we’re seeing a number of surprising breakouts from Running Backs (shoutout Kenneth Walker III), I’m not sure anyone could have predicted that BJ Baylor of Oregon State would be one of them.
However, through five games Baylor is having one hell of a season, he’s rushed 81 times for 533 yards and 9 TDs, that’s an average of 6.6 yards per carry. The Beavers’ back has already won Pac-12 offensive player of the week and it really isn’t a stretch to say that he’s the main reason they’re 4-1.
On Saturday night he added another 111 yards and 2 TDs as Oregon State navigated a tricky game against the Washington Huskies, emerging as a three point winner. Baylor was at the heart of everything, picking up third downs, tying the game up with a 27 yard run and then grinding out yards to set up the game winning field goal.
With a strong running style and the ability to hit the gap and maintain his balance, Baylor must surely be generating some interest in the NFL scouting community…
A ranked matchup with Baylor beckoned for Oklahoma State this week, and after an incredibly scrappy matchup, they emerged with the victory.
Spencer Sanders threw three interceptions and at times Mike Gundy did not look happy with his RS Junior signal caller, but in the end it is the result that counts. The Cowboys held Baylor’s offense to 280 yards, completely shutting out Baylor’s star receiver RJ Sneed in the process.
With Sanders struggling, Gundy turned to Jaylen Warren to get the job done on the ground for OSU. With Barry Sanders in the crowd, Warren was handed the ball 36 times, turning that into 125 yards and the all important two scores. His leg churning, power running style has now seen him rush for more than 500 yards this season, completely justifying his decision to transfer from Utah State in the offseason.
Baylor are probably the best team that the Cowboys have beaten so far, with wins against Kansas State, Boise, Tulsa and Missouri State propelling them to a 5-0 record. Next week’s matchup against Texas will be the real test of their metal, with Gundy wanting to see a lot more from Sanders in that one.
LOSERS– Lee (@Wakefield90)
The Pac-12 and their Officiating Crews
The Biggest loser of the weekend was the Pac-12.
And I am mad about it.
I am a big fan of the conference and how competitive it is and as a neutral when I am watching any game or indeed any sport, the game is always better when you’re not quite sure what the final result is going to be just before the game begins – Something the Pac-12 provides every single week.
There is also a certain amount of jeopardy for the Pac-12’s bigger programmes as they begin each year by embarking on the seemingly impossible task of running the table and potentially making it to the College Football Playoff.
By week 4 or 5 there are usually at least one team who are still in with a shout of doing that, by virtue of still being unbeaten but we all kind of know it won’t happen because the conference has a habit of cannibalising itself, year-in, year-out which rules their top team(s) out of playoff contention and it perpetuates the punchline that the Pac-12 sucks.
Which it does not.
However, speaking of sucking, this is where their refs come in and they become this week’s biggest losers.
The game between Oregon and Stanford had everything a nerve-jaggling Pac-12 game should have for a team ranked as high as Oregon were prior to Saturday’s clash.
They were on the road, they were losing at halftime and mismanaged their final offensive drive to leave the door ajar for Stanford to come back and take the game to overtime, with the score finely poised at 17-24 to the Ducks.
Stanford got the ball back and to my mind received three extremely helpful flags from the zebras which were amongst some of the worst calls I’ve seen in college football for a long, long time. Firstly star edge defender Keyvon Thibodeaux was called for targeting (below) which ruled him out of the rest of the game.
Next, Stanford got help on an extremely ticky-tacky roughing the passer penalty which moved them downfield and then as time expired the most egregious flag of them all was thrown for an apparent defensive pass interference on Oregon corner Mykael Wright. Firstly, to my mind, there wasn’t enough contact to call it and secondly, Wright has defended a pass a couple of plays earlier, where he covered the receiver in a physical manner, in a fair way and there was more contact on that one than the play that was flagged.
That gave Stanford one final play to take this to OT and of course they got the TD and went on to win the game.
For clarity, I am not knocking Stanford, nor am I saying Oregon should just be allowed to win the game so that the Pac-12 could potentially get a playoff spot but when an officiating crew has this much influence over the result and to my mind, changes the result of the game, it’s unjust and worth 500 words.
Oregon should have escaped this one to lose another day.
Anyone Who Doesn’t Want the National Championship Game to be Georgia vs. Alabama
I have just spent a little time angrily venting at Pac-12 referees there all in the name of having a team from the west with a chance to get into the final four… But really, what’s the point?
Seriously… What is even the point of having a four team playoff this year?
Look, I love that we have an open playoff race this year, with teams like Iowa, Penn State and Cincinnati having the potential to break the monotony and monopoly of the playoffs being made up of a mixture of the same 6 or 7 teams every single year.
But once the regular season, conference championships and bowl game are over, shall we just skip the semi-finals and just have Alabama and Georgia play each other and have an extra week off?
These two teams are so clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the field that it’s kind of mean at this point.
These two powerhouses faced off against two of the SEC’s and college football’s biggest storyline teams on Saturday, in an Arkansas team who have been flying so far this season and Matt Corral and Ole Miss… And then Alabama and Georgia beat the brakes off both of them.
Of course there’s no shame in being a run over by the Crimson Tide or being completely shut down by Georgia’s defense – That’s just what is going to happen to most teams this year, but if you don’t like the idea of these teams playing each other in the SEC championship and then in the college football playoff final then I’d say you better just get used to the idea now and save yourself the pain.
What could have been?
Earlier in the season there was a lot of excitement surrounding the Aggies – So much so that Ryan Leaf predicted that they would go 12-0.
Of course, that was over-zealous and stupid but as much as there weren’t many people willing to go quite that far, many did believe Texas A&M was in for a good season. Even in our preseason Full 10 Yards CFB top-25, our team unanimously agreed that this was the 6th best team in the country.
A 3-0 start followed and all seemed rosy in College Station, although in hindsight perhaps the warning signs were there in their 10-3 win over what is now a 1-4 Colorado team.
In that time, starting QB Haynes King has gone down with a foot injury and since they have started playing SEC teams, a couple of losses have rolled in. But still, this team was supposed to be one of the best teams in the country, they should have been able to deal with Arkansas and Mississippi State, right? Wrong.
This team is tumbling down the rankings! I mentioned on last week’s podcast that after the loss to Arkansas the two teams rankings almost swapped and after losing to unranked Mississippi State I can only see that ranking falling even more.
This team could well and truly spiral over the remainder of the season and that will represent a huge fall from grace from the season’s start until the regular season conclusion – Three ranked opponents remain as well as a trip to Tiger Stadium to play LSU.
How low will it go? Well in our top-25 last week they were down to #23 and now they aren’t even in our rankings, and for more bad news, Aggies fans only have to look at their schedule… Alabama is visiting Kyle Field next week.
Here’s our top 25 ranking after week 5: