Week 4 Wrap Up:
Most Impressive Team Performance: In a week that saw seven teams within the Top 25 rankings lose, it was not easy to pick one that impressed the most. Georgia showed guts and a defense that will allow them to play with anyone in the country, Pittsburgh pulled an upset over #15 UCF who had not lost a regular season game in almost three years, and Auburn went on the road and handled Texas A&M in a game they controlled the entire time. However, the most impressive performance of the week goes to the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin defeated #11 Michigan 35-14 in a game that never even seemed that close. They took the lead on the first possession by driving down the field in twelve plays and scored a touchdown. They would add another first quarter touchdown on a 72 yard run by star running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor ran for 203 yards and two scores on the day while also missing an entire quarter while he received treatment for cramps. Wisconsin’s defense was suffocating throughout the game as well, they held Michigan to only 40 rushing yards as a team and did not allow any points until late in the second half when they had a 35-0 lead. The win was also noticed by the Associated Press, who moved Wisconsin up five spots in this weeks Top 25 all the way to 8th in the country. They will host Northwestern this Saturday at noon on ABC.
Most Disappointing Team Performance: Like I said, in a week where there were seven ranked teams lost, it was hard to identify one who was the most impressive. However, it was very easy to single out the most disappointing. When Washington State kicked off their game at home against UCLA on Saturday night they were one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the PAC 12 conference. It seemed like they would remain amongst the unbeatens for at least another week as they built a 49-17 lead behind seven touchdown passes from Quarterback, Anthony Gordon. Quite simply, the 19th ranked Cougars crumbled. They ended up turning the ball over six times with four of them being fumbles. The defense was almost non-existent while UCLA scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions, and they allowed 50 points in the final 19 minutes of the game. N ot to mention that UCLA entered the game with a 0-3 record and was an 18.5 point underdog when the game started. After Washington State built their 32 point lead, ESPN gave them a better than 99.8% chance to hold on and win. A game that should’ve been remembered for a school record nine touchdown passes from Gordon will instead live in infamy as the one that ended the Cougars national title hopes in 2019.
Best Individual Performance: It occurred to me that after last week I had given this award to a quarterback for each of the first three weeks, so this week I was determined to give it to another position. USC Wide Receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is a very deserving recipient this week. Pittman caught ten passes for 232 yards and a touchdown in his teams 30-23 win over #10 Utah on Friday night. Through the first four games over the year he averages over 100 yards per game and has caught three touchdowns. Making his accomplishments even more impressive was the fact that he helped USC bounce back from a loss last week at BYU and defeat a top 10 team. He also did all of this with a third-string quarterback playing. After losing their starter in the first game of the season and backup in the second play of the Utah game, USC saw Pittman step up and help out his third-string quarterback and lead the team to a big conference win.
Best Game: From Tulane winning on the final play of the game Thursday night, all the way through UCLA’s comeback in the early hours of Sunday morning, the weekend was packed with close games. The best of which took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where the Pitt Panthers defeated the UCF Knights 35-34. This game held extra significance due to the fact that UCF was working on their third consecutive undefeated regular season and the noise for them to finally appear in the playoffs was getting louder and louder. Those dreams were dashed on Saturday afternoon when they lost to Pitt. The Panthers jumped out to a 21-0 lead behind solid defense, an efficient offense and a blocked punt that they returned for a touchdown. UCF was able to cut the lead to 21-10 by halftime and eventually wound up taking a 31-21 lead behind three straight unanswered scores in the second half. After UCF kicked a field goal with around 4:30 remaining in the game to lead 34-28, Pitt began their game winning march down the field. On fourth and goal from the three yard line the Panthers ran their version of the “Philly Special” that was made famous when the Eagles defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. Quarterback, Kenny Pickett caught a touchdown pass from Aaron Matthews and after forcing two sacks on UCF’s desperate final second drive the upset was complete.
Week 5 Preview:
Team Who MUST Win: This week there is one team playing not only with the hopes of their fanbase riding upon them but their entire conference as well. The California Golden Bears are the only remaining undefeated team in the PAC 12 and will put that mark on the line on Friday night when they take on Arizona State. Cal is coming off a win at Ole Miss last week, they have their first 4-0 start since 2015 and hold the #15 ranking in the country, their highest since 2009. Cal is playing to keep their season perfect and hopes of PAC 12 and National Championships intact but are also representing the whole conference. The PAC 12 needs Cal to win, a loss by them would essentially remove the conference as a whole from the playoff picture for the remainder of the season. Fans of every other team with one loss need Cal to stay unbeaten for as long as possible and climb as high in the rankings as they can so a win over them will have even higher significance in the eyes of the selection committee. ESPN gives Cal a 60.6% chance to win the game, and they enter as five point favorites, but I’m not sold on them yet and won’t be surprised if the team who most needs a win, doesn’t get one.
Best Chance for an Upset: I wrote last week that Notre Dame was playing for their season when the visited Georgia on Saturday night, after losing the game 23-17, closer than I expected, my opinion on them has changed slightly. I still do not believe they will find their way back into the playoffs, however they are a far better team than I gave them credit for. With all that being said, they are still my team who has the greatest chance to be upset this weekend. #18 Virginia travels to take on the 10th ranked Fighting Irish on Saturday afternoon and are currently listed as 12.5 point underdogs. I’ve witnessed it a million times in watching college football, one team doesn’t move on quickly enough from losing a big game and that spirals into the next week. When the opponent of the second game isn’t very good, the favorite is usually able to recover at some point, but Virginia is good. They have reached the #18 ranking for the first time since 2007 and are 4-0 for the first time in fifteen years. Quarterback, Bryce Perkins is a senior who has played in tough environments before and is the team leader in both passing and rushing yards. Ultimately I wouldn’t be surprised if Notre Dame ends up winning the game but 12.5 points is just too many and Virginia absolutely has a chance to win outright.
Biggest Game: The biggest game of Week 5 features two of college football’s most historic programs, Ohio State and Nebraska. Nebraska who has started the season 3-1 plays host to 4-0 Ohio State on Saturday night. Ohio State enters the game with the #5 ranking in the country and has their sights set on a National Championship behind transfer Sophomore Quarterback, Justin Fields. Fields has accounted for 19 touchdowns through the first four games while not throwing a single interception. The competition will take a major step up this weekend when they visit Nebraska. The Cornhuskers will be looking to make a statement that they are back among the premier programs in the sport under second year coach Scott Frost. After a 0-6 start last season in his first year, Frost has seen his team win seven of their next ten games. They will also look to enact some revenge upon Ohio State stemming from both their 36-31 loss last year and the embarrassing 62-3 loss in 2016, the last time Nebraska was ranked in the Top 10. I think Ohio State will win on Saturday night and keep their dreams alive, but it will be close and they will leave knowing Nebraska will be a threat for years to come.