It was the battle of Ohio to open week 2 of the NFL season as the Browns hosted Joe Burrow and the Bengals. This match up was about much more than who would come out on top.
Hard to believe that we’re a month into the season.
Conference play – including a couple of pivotal early Big Ten contests – has begun in earnest, even though we’re not yet done with the big non-conference games.
As usual, there were plenty of the big moments and surprising results that make college football such a great and unpredictable sport.
In case you missed the action across the weekend, read on for a look at who covered themselves in gridiron glory and who didn’t with the Week Four edition of winners and losers.
Johnathan Taylor: the Wisconsin tailback (who should and probably will feature in early Heisman Trophy talk this week) rattled off 203 yards and two touchdowns as the Badgers destroyed Michigan 35-14 in Madison.
Statement win for a Wisconsin team who’d looked good without playing anyone of note until now. Taylor’s 72-yard romp in the first quarter was a thing of beauty.
He might be the best back Wisconsin has ever seen, and that’s really saying something when you consider the legacy of Badger running backs.
Demetric Felton: the UCLA receiver had two touchdowns of more than 90 yards (a 100-yard kick-off return and a 94-yard reception) as the Bruins erased a 32-point third quarter deficit to win a barnburner 67-63. Absolute insanity in Pullman on both sides.
Tua Tagovailoa: granted, the Tide only played Southern Miss, but when you have more touchdowns than incompletions, it’s a good day. For the record, Tua went 17-21 for 293 yards and five scores.
Michael Pittman: the USC receiver had more receiving yards against Utah on Friday night than any other wide receiver has had this season, snagging ten passes for 232 yards and a touchdown as the Trojans – improbably – beat fancied Utah 30-23.
Justin Fields: the Ohio State quarterback is having himself some sort of start to the season, and wrote another page in the Buckeye record book with six touchdowns accounted for (four passing and two rushing) in the first quarter of the game against Miami of Ohio.
Jalen McCleskey: the Tulane receiver, a highly-touted transfer from Oklahoma State, made a spectacular catch and ran 53 yards to the end zone as the Green Wave completed an improbable 38-31 comeback win over Houston on Thursday night.
California: the Golden Bears beat Washington a few weeks ago and backed up that triumph by going down to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium – never an easy place to play – and beating Ole Miss 28-20 on a last-ditch goal line stand. Justin Wilcox is doing wonders for this football team, and has them knee-deep in the race for the Pac-12 championship.
Southern Methodist: the Iron Skillet will return to Dallas with the Mustangs, who went into Fort Worth and knocked off ranked Texas Christian 41-38 in the ninety-ninth meeting between the two in-state rivals. The victory was also SMU’s first against a Power 5 school since 2010.
Boise State: the Broncos won 30-19 over an always-tricky Air Force squad on Friday night, then saw, Central Florida, their major challenger as far as a Group of 5 team getting into a New Year’s Six Bowl goes, lose by a point to Pitt. Long way to go, still, but the Broncos are in front in that contest. Now, to see if they can handle the pressure that comes along with it.
New Mexico: the Lobos outlasted in-state rivals New Mexico State for a wild 55-52 win in the latest renewal of the Rio Grande Rivalry. Not a game for the defensive purist, that’s for certain, but wildly entertaining stuff in Albuquerque.
The Pac-12 conference: with Utah and Washington State losing this week, Cal is the only undefeated team out west, and with twin losses by the Utes and Cougars, any chance the conference had of putting a team into the playoffs – a slim chance after Cal took care of highly-fancied Washington two weeks ago – has been completely blown up. Amazing how this conference continuously manages to cannibalise itself.
Michigan: the Wolverines were thumped by Wisconsin in Madison despite having two weeks to prepare in another big game failure, and I’m putting it out there now that Jim Harbaugh’s is the hottest coaching seat in the Big Ten conference.
For the most part, his tenure in Ann Arbor hasn’t gone well, and based on today’s performance – they were poor on offense and abominable on defense, totally out-muscled, out-thought and horribly underprepared – I don’t see how they’re going to compete with the likes of Ohio State.
Nothing has really gone to plan at that school since the days when Lloyd Carr was on the sidelines.
Washington State: yes, their quarterback Anthony Gordon threw an incredible nine touchdowns Saturday night against UCLA, but the Cougars also turned the football over an incredible six times, and that was what ultimately helped UCLA erase a 32-point third quarter deficit for a 67-63 win. A night Mike Leach’s team will rue for some time to come, I’m sure.
South Carolina: things are not going well for Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks. They’ve fallen to 1-3 after losing to Missouri on Saturday and their quarterback situation is a mess with back-up Ryan Hilinski completing only 13 of 30 passes. He also threw a 100-yard pick six and the Gamecocks mustered only 271 yards of total offense. With Georgia, Clemson, Texas A and M and Florida to come, their chances of making a Bowl are basically non-existent and we haven’t even made it to October yet.
Texas A and M: lost 28-20 at home to Auburn, and are now 0-4 all time at Kyle Field against the Tigers from Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Central Florida: the nation’s most polarising win streak ends at twenty-seven regular season games, with the Knights falling 35-34 to Pitt. You have to go all the way back to November 26, 2016 to find the last UCF loss. An impressive run.
Tennessee: the Volunteers came back down to earth with a thud after last week’s victory over Chattanooga, losing 34-3 to Florida in the ‘Third Saturday in September’ rivalry for the third straight year.
Utah: lots of penalties, some poor defense and questionable offensive play-calls led to a 30-23 loss to a reeling USC team on Friday night. Here was the Ute’s chance to bolster their credentials and move into the cat bird seat as far as the Pac-12 South division goes, and they wasted it.
Arkansas: the Razorbacks lost at home to San Jose State and quarterback Nick Starkel threw five interceptions. The thing about this loss is that San Jose State were 4-23 in their last 27 games, were a 19.-point underdog, and hadn’t beaten a Power 5 school in 25 attempts, dating back to 2006. An unfathomable loss by the Razorbacks, who paid SJSU $1.5 million for the pleasure.
Miami-FL: the Hurricanes won, but it’s the manner in which they did so that will be worrying a lot of people attached to a program that expected far bigger things in 2019 than a 17-12 win over Central Michigan. The Chippewas turned the football over three times, which helped the ‘Canes preserve the shakiest of shaky wins.