Winners and losers from Week 6 in college football are led by Michigan

USA Today Sports 1 month ago

We should take the game tape from Michigan's 10-3 win against Iowa and bury it deep underground, not for the purposes of creating a time capsule for the future but for the opposite: so that no one person anywhere, at any time, will be able to watch it again.

Iowa ran the ball 30 times and gained a yard. Quarterback Nate Stanley was credited with minus-65 rushing yards. (Allowing eight sacks will hurt the per-carry average.) The Hawkeyes turned it over four times, three via interceptions.

Michigan gained 267 yards of offense. About a fifth of that total came in the first quarter, in quarterback Shea Patterson's 51-yard completion to wide receiver Nico Collins that preceded the game's only touchdown. Patterson ended with 14 completions in 26 attempts for 147 yards and an interception, marking his third Big Ten game in as many tries with a turnover and the second time in three weeks the former five-star recruit has looked merely average, if not far worse.

In all, the two teams combined for 528 yards of offense across 131 plays, which is about 100 yards fewer than Oklahoma has averaged per game on half as many snaps. Purists — otherwise known as Michigan fans, in this case — will point to defensive excellence and expound on the beauty of an October contest where the Wolverines have more takeaways than third-down conversions. That's a stretch.

Michigan is still one of college football's big winners on Saturday, since the simple victory itself extends the Wolverines' hopes for the College Football Playoff for another week. Yes, beating Iowa 10-3 is great since it outweighs the alternative. Iowa is one of the big losers, though the Hawkeyes remain very much in the chase for the Big 12 West title.

But only a head-in-the-sand optimist would think Saturday's performance and result changes anything. What about Saturday makes you think Michigan is capable of beating Penn State, Notre Dame or Ohio State? The Wolverines' Playoff hopes are still alive, technically, in the same way the average American citizen is still technically alive in the race to be president. But the odds are increasingly against it.

Here are the rest of Saturday's winners and losers in college football:

WINNERS

Penn State

It's time to consider James Franklin and the Nittany Lions as: one, a really good and balanced team already exceeding national expectations behind a polished underclassman quarterback and an aggressive defense; and two, as what seems very much to be the biggest threat to Ohio State's reign in the Big Ten. The balance was on display in Saturday's 35-7 win against Purdue, which saw the offense surge out to 28-7 halftime lead and the defense hold the undermanned Boilermakers to 104 yards, including minus-19 on the ground. From here, Penn State will face three opponents in a row currently ranked in the Top 25. Franklin's team seems up for the challenge.

Florida

The Gators will remain among the upper crust of the SEC and the entire Bowl Subdivision after a pseudo-impressive 24-13 win against previously undefeated Auburn. In itself, beating Auburn is an impressive feat for the Gators, who before Saturday had to point to a season-opening win against Miami (Fla.) as the team's most noteworthy achievement. This is a nice resume-builder for Florida and second-year coach Dan Mullen. But the Gators need to improve upon Saturday's overall performance before being anointed as a team actually capable of beating those national powers who come next week will co-populate the top of the Amway Coaches Poll — say, one of Alabama, Georgia, LSU or Clemson.

Iowa State

It's a credit to coach Matt Campbell that the Cyclones have rebounded superbly from two narrow, single-possession losses. That may not be strong enough: Iowa State has two losses, against Iowa and Baylor, decided by as little as a single play. (Last weekend's loss to the Bears on the road came on a field goal with 21 seconds left in the fourth quarter.) On Saturday, the Cyclones rebounded with a 49-24 win against TCU that featured another strong performance from quarterback Brock Purdy, who threw for 247 yards and ran for another 102 with a combined four touchdowns. Iowa State is now 3-2 heading into road games against West Virginia and Texas Tech.

Tulane

The Green Wave moved to 4-1 after an impressive 42-33 win again Army, with the lone loss coming in a fairly competitive effort at Auburn on Sept. 8. As a program, Tulane has been growing into an American Athletic Conference contender since hiring Willie Fritz before the 2016 season. After winning four games in his debut and five games in 2017, Fritz led Tulane to seven wins and a bowl berth last season and has the Green Wave poised to make a dark-horse charge for the Top 25 in October and November.

Charlie Strong

Strong has found a home on the losers' portion of our weekly rundown amid South Florida's continued inability to do what Strong was initially hired to do: win football games, namely. So in the effort of fairness, let's promote the Bulls and their embattled head coach after Saturday's 48-22 win against Connecticut, the program's first win against a member of the Bowl Subdivision since Oct. 20, 2018. (That win also came against the Huskies.)

Navy

The Midshipmen took a step toward reclaiming the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy with a 34-25 win against rival Air Force, with the go-ahead score coming via a short touchdown run by quarterback Malcolm Perry with 22 seconds. (The offense added a meaningless touchdown as time expired.) Navy is officially back to contender status under coach Ken Niumatalolo, whose otherwise impressive tenure ran aground last season but has returned to form with three wins in four tries to open the season. The Midshipmen's lone loss is to Memphis, which is still unbeaten.

LOSERS

Boston College

The defense has been as bad as advertised. Already, the Eagles' porous defense has given up 567 yards in losing 48-24 at home to Kansas — repeat: losing 48-24 at home to Kansas — and, on Saturday, 664 yards in losing 41-39 at Louisville. On the other hand, the offense has been good: Boston College gained 563 yards against the Cardinals, for example, evenly split between the run and pass. Nonetheless, losing to rebuilding Louisville drops the Eagles to 3-3 heading into a second-half slate that includes Clemson and Notre Dame, leaving seventh-year coach Steve Addazio under pressure to deliver another bowl bid under adverse circumstances.

Illinois

Speaking of coaches under pressure: Lovie Smith is now 11-30 across three-plus seasons after his team's latest setback, a 40-17 loss at Minnesota that saw the Illinois barely put up a fight after taking a 7-3 lead into the second quarter. Minnesota put together five touchdown drives spanning 65 or more yards and gained 332 yards on the ground, marking the second game in a row Illinois' spectacularly awful defense has given up 300-plus yards rushing.

Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech

Nobody's a winner. Not Miami, which fell to 2-3 in Manny Diaz's first season after a furious comeback fell a touchdown short. Not even Virginia Tech, despite the 42-35 win that helps overwrite some of the foul taste still lingering from last week's historically bad loss at home to Duke. But here's the thing: Tech led 28-0 with a play left in the first half thanks to three short-field touchdown drives aided by Miami turnovers, and ended up averaging just 5.4 yards per play while allowing the Hurricanes to pass for 469 yards. The takeaway might be that these are two mediocre-to-worse teams. Shocking, I know.


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