<
>

GameDay Final: Aggies, Huskies rising up the ranks

Many of college football's best teams have already reached the halfway point of the 2016 season, and a clear top four in the College Football Playoff race has emerged.

Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Michigan are who we thought they were. What order would you put them in? Well, they may be interchangeable, depending on how you size each of them up at this point.

Defending national champion Alabama looks like the best team, but don't tell Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban that. It might get you an "ass-chewing" normally reserved for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. The top-ranked Tide gave up too many points and far too many passing yards (400) in a 49-30 victory at Arkansas, their 18th consecutive win.

There's still plenty of room for improvement, and Alabama is about to find out if it's really the best team in the country. The Tide play at No. 9 Tennessee next week, then host No. 8 Texas A&M on Oct. 22 and play at LSU on Nov. 5.

"We're certainly not where we want to be, not in all facets of the game," Saban said. "Sometimes we play great on offense, but we've just got to be more consistent when we play really good teams."

No. 3 Clemson might have the best individual win this season -- a 42-36 victory over Louisville at Death Valley last week. But the Tigers haven't beaten anybody else of real consequence, and they'll play only more ranked foe during the regular season: at No. 23 Florida State on Oct. 29.

Ohio State might have the best overall collection of talent even if much of coach Urban Meyer's rebuilt team is extremely young. The No. 2 Buckeyes have won each of their first five games by at least 20 points, including Saturday's 38-17 win over Indiana. We'll know more about Ohio State after next week's trip to No. 11 Wisconsin.

We can't say for sure if Ohio State is even the best team in the Big Ten. No. 4 Michigan demolished Rutgers 78-0, holding the Scarlet Knights to two first downs and only five passing yards. Rutgers punted 16 times in the game, and its longest play from scrimmage was 12 yards.

It was Michigan's largest margin of victory since an 85-0 win over the University of Chicago in 1939. It was Rutgers' worst loss since an 82-0 defeat against Princeton in 1888.

"It just feels like playing a video game," Rutgers safety Anthony Cioffi told reporters. "Just got spanked."

Michigan doesn't play a ranked opponent in its next five games and will be heavily favored to roll into its Nov. 26 showdown at Ohio State with an 11-0 record. A Big Ten title -- and potentially a spot in the CFP -- might be on the line.

Given the competition the top four teams faced in Week 6, there wasn't much that happened that would have changed opinions about them. However, the second tier of playoff contenders beneath them changed dramatically.

No. 6 Houston lost 46-40 at Navy, which all but knocked the Cougars out of contention for the playoff.

"We didn't play very well in any phase of the game, and we still had a chance to win it there in the fourth quarter," Houston coach Tom Herman said. "You're not going to win very many games against really good teams on the road turning the ball over three times, one for a touchdown, snapping the ball over the punter's head and letting them rush for 300 yards."

With Houston falling, No. 5 Washington and No. 8 Texas A&M look like the best bets to challenge the top four teams for the playoff spots.

The Aggies moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1994 after surviving a 45-38 win over No. 9 Tennessee in two overtimes. Texas A&M blew a 21-point lead in the second half and then won in overtime after squandering two chances to put the Volunteers away in the final minutes.

Texas A&M's defense allowed 684 yards against Tennessee, including 402 passing. They'll have two weeks to clean things up before traveling to Alabama on Oct. 22.

"It's great," Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett said. "We finally got over the hump, the little 5-0 hill that we've been facing every year."

Talk about getting over the hump. Washington ended a 12-game losing streak to bitter rival Oregon by demolishing the Ducks 70-21 at Autzen Stadium. It was the first time Oregon allowed 70 points in a game since losing to Texas 71-7 on Dec. 6, 1941. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor the next day.

"I'm just glad I don't have to talk about the streak, or have to answer that," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "That's probably the No. 1 thing I've been asked since the day I got to Seattle."

There are plenty of questions about Oregon's future after it dropped its fourth straight game. The Ducks are 11-9 in their last 20 games under coach Mark Helfrich since reaching the CFP National Championship at the end of the 2014 season.

"It's different than a normal loss, no question," Helfrich said. "I apologize for that score."

The Ducks aren't the only team that has fallen dramatically. Notre Dame is also 2-4 after losing to NC State 10-3 on the road. The Fighting Irish offense managed only 113 yards on 64 plays in the rain and wind from Hurricane Matthew. Quarterback DeShone Kizer was sacked five times and completed only 9 of 26 passes for 54 yards.

"We don't have any excuses," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We were atrocious offensively."

Texas coach Charlie Strong is out of excuses as well. After Strong demoted defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and took over the defensive playcalling earlier this week, the Longhorns surrendered 672 yards of offense in a 45-40 loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry game in Dallas.

Texas lost its third straight game and fell to 2-3 overall. It has allowed 45 points or more in four of its first five games.

"We lost the game, so there was no improvement at all," Strong said. "We gave up 45 points and can't give up those big plays on defense."

Playoff teams after Week 6

1. Alabama: Crimson Tide freshman Jalen Hurts keeps getting better every week. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and ran for two more scores in a 49-30 win at Arkansas. He has accounted for eight total touchdowns in the last three games.

2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes slogged through a 38-17 win over Indiana, which limited the Buckeyes to only 93 passing yards. But Ohio State ran for 290 yards and won their fifth consecutive game by 20 points or more, the longest active streak in FBS. The Buckeyes will have to play better when they travel to No. 11 Wisconsin next week.

3. Clemson: The Tigers had a short week after last week's thrilling win over Louisville, but they responded with a 56-10 rout at Boston College on Friday. Clemson has won 12 consecutive ACC games and eight straight road games, tying the school record set in 1978-79. They'll get an extra day to rest before hosting NC State next week.

4. Michigan: One day after the 100-year anniversary of Georgia Tech's 222-0 win over Cumberland, Michigan steamrolled Rutgers 78-0 on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights had two first downs, five passing yards and were outgained 600-39 in total offense. Rutgers has been outscored 136-0 in its last two games.

Next four in contention

1. Washington: The Huskies took out 12 years of frustration on Oregon, crushing the Ducks 70-21 at Autzen Stadium. It was the Huskies' first win in the series since beating Oregon 42-10 in 2003, and they've now scored at least 35 points in nine consecutive games. The Huskies get a week off before hosting Oregon State on Oct. 22.

2. Texas A&M: The Aggies piled up 592 yards against Tennessee and had a 200-yard rusher and 100-yard rusher in the same game for only the second time since 1950. Tailback Trayveon Williams ran for 217 yards with one touchdown, and quarterback Trevor Knight ran for 110 yards with three scores.

3. Louisville: The Cardinals had an extra week to stew over their 42-36 loss at Clemson last week. They will host Duke on Friday.

4. Tennessee: The Volunteers nearly put together another incredible comeback, rallying from an early 28-7 hole before falling 45-38 in two overtimes at Texas A&M. The Vols were undone by seven turnovers and 12 penalties, and now they have to bounce back to play No. 1 Alabama at home next week.

Heisman candidates

1. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson is starting to look like the player he was a year ago. He passed for 266 yards with four touchdowns at Boston College on Friday night and is now 24-2 as Clemson's starting quarterback.

2. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: Barrett had a so-so day against Indiana. He ran for 137 yards with one touchdown on a career-high 26 carries while completing 9 of 21 passes for 93 yards with one score and an interception. With 86 career touchdowns (rushing and passing), he moved past former Buckeyes quarterback Art Schlichter for second place in OSU history.

3. Jabrill Peppers, LB/RB, Michigan: Peppers scored two of Michigan's nine rushing touchdowns in a 78-0 rout at Rutgers. Peppers, who has played 12 positions this season, also had a 63-yard run to set up another score and had an electrifying punt return for a touchdown wiped out by a penalty -- and he did it all without playing in the second half. Afterward, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said: "In my humble opinion, we're looking at a Heisman Trophy winner and candidate."

4. Jake Browning, QB, Washington: Browning accounted for eight touchdowns in Washington's 70-21 rout at Oregon. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 304 yards with six touchdowns and ran for two more scores. In six games, Browning has thrown 23 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

Best moments

1. Houston wide receiver Linell Bonner found himself in the middle of the Navy brigade after his last pass fell incomplete.

When you beat an AP top-10 team for the first time in 32 years ...

A video posted by espn (@espn) on


2. Pittsburgh right tackle Brian O'Neill (a former high school tight end) scored a 24-yard touchdown after catching a screen pass against Georgia Tech.


3. Rutgers didn't get a first down against Michigan until the fourth quarter. Ahhh, sportsmanship.


4. Miami's Brad Kaaya needed a dentist on the sideline after getting a tooth knocked out against Florida State. His offensive lineman helped him out, though. How about that for protecting your quarterback?

When you're just trying to have some fun playing football and your dang tooth falls out 🤐

A video posted by ESPN College Football (@espncfb) on


Tweets of the night

1. Yeah, the dude was on fire.


2. Party like it's 1984.


3. After a 78-0 win, they may regret this promotion.


4. Swagger.


Best plays

1. It was a good throw by Washington State QB Luke Falk but an even better catch from receiver River Cracraft for a touchdown that put the Cougars up 25 on Stanford in the fourth quarter. They went on to win 42-16.


2. Alabama has scored a nonoffensive touchdown in eight consecutive games and Minkah Fitzpatrick's 100-plus yard pick-six gave the Tide a commanding lead in the fourth quarter of their win over Arkansas.

3 interceptions: ✅ 100-yard pick-six: ✅ Have a night, Minkah Fitzpatrick.

A video posted by espn (@espn) on


Utah's Chase Hansen made the hit and Marcus Williams scooped the ball off of an Arizona receiver's leg for a heads-up interception.


4. USC's Adoree' Jackson made one of the best interceptions you'll ever see.

We're still trying to figure out how he stayed inbounds. #SCtop10

A video posted by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on


Worst plays

1. DeMarcus Walker blocked Michael Badgley's PAT which would have tied the game at 20-20. Instead, it secured a 20-19 win for Florida State over Miami.


2. Nothing went right for Notre Dame's offense in its 10-3 loss at NC State, including this bad snap with about two minutes left.

Mud. Rain. Lots of bad snaps. The Notre Dame vs NC State game was wet and wild.

A video posted by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on


3. I got it! I got it! Two Eastern Michigan kick returners collided and fumbled, and Toledo recovered to set up an easy touchdown.

He's on your team. #SCNotTop10

A video posted by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on


4. For some reason, it's open season on Penn State kicker Joey Julius. Maryland's Isaiah Davis was ejected for taking a cheap shot against Julius to start the second half of Penn State's 38-14 win over the Terrapins.

Will people stop picking on Joey Julius please?

A video posted by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on


Quotes of the night

1. "It shows the resiliency of our kids. I always say that it lets you know our country is in good shape because these are the leaders of our country in the future." -- Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo after the Midshipmen's 46-40 upset of No. 6 Houston.

2. "We're tired of hearing about everybody else: North Carolina, Miami, Clemson, Louisville. Those are great teams, but we think we deserve to be mentioned in that category." -- Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans, after the Hokies improved to 4-1 with a 34-3 win at North Carolina.

3. "The game needs to be played, and we need to work to find a way to do that. This conference often describes itself as a family; a family has points of tension. I certainly understand the angst and frustration. I have my own level of angst, but we need to come together to play a football game and find the best way to do that." -- SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to CBS, on whether Florida and LSU will reschedule their game from Saturday, which was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew.

4. "If I had to do it over again at the end of the game, I probably still would have gone for it, but I would have called a different play. I felt the way the game was going, I felt like we could make a half-yard, and we didn't, so that's on me. That's my responsibility, and I'll take the blame for it." - Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, on his decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from Tech's 34 with 1:47 to play. Pitt's defense stuffed Dedrick Mills for no gain, setting up Chris Blewitt's game-winning 31-yard field goal with no time left in the Panthers' 37-34 victory.

Stats that matter

1. 9: Purdue snapped a nine-game losing streak with its 34-31 win in overtime at Illinois. It was the Boilermakers' first road win since 2014. In its last 17 road games, Purdue is 3-0 at Illinois and 0-14 against everybody else.

2. 31: Virginia Tech walloped No. 17 North Carolina 34-3 on the road on Saturday, its second largest road win ever against an AP-ranked opponent. The Hokies defeated No. 24 Virginia 38-0 in 2011.

3. 149-55: Since losing to FCS foe Eastern Washington and Mountain West Boise State in its first two games, Washington State has outscored its last three opponents by a combined score of 149-55. The Cougars won 42-16 at No. 15 Stanford on Saturday night. The Cardinal lost consecutive games for the first time under coach David Shaw.

4. 232: Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook had 232 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 10 catches in the Sooners' 45-40 win over Texas. It was an OU single-game record for receiving yards and the most by a player on either team in the Red River Rivalry.