Week 6 of the college football season began with some major storylines. Could Washington exorcise its demons vs. Oregon? Could Texas get back on track vs. Oklahoma? And who would take the next step in the SEC, Texas A&M or Tennessee?
By the end of Saturday, we got those answers — and more. Here is the entire breakdown of Week 6’s winners and losers.
Loser: Texas. Texas once upon a time stood at 2-0 and was ranked 11th in the nation after taking down Notre Dame during the season’s opening week. At that point, the accepted narrative was “Texas is back, folks.” But boy, how fast things have turned. After three straight losses in games in which the Longhorns have surrendered 48 points per contest, this now suddenly leaves Charlie Strong glued on the hot seat.
For Strong, it’s hard to argue that he has anything left to stand on. Initially, Strong was hired from Louisville three years ago for being able to construct a vaunted defense. However, what’s occurred through the season’s first six weeks has become an effort of futility. The Longhorns rank 114th out of 128 FBS team in total defense, allowing 6.38 yards per play and 5.1 offensive touchdowns per game respectively.
While Texas may have formed an identity on offense. One that consists of a tantalizing two-quarterback system paired with Tyronne Swoopes and Shane Buechele. Texas won’t be able to live up to its worth – as it may cost Strong his job mid-season – until the ‘Horns are unable to fix its porous defense and reach the eight-win mark, which right now seems to be a pipe dream.
Winner: Texas A&M. Is Texas A&M a legitimate SEC threat and playoff contender? Based solely off their valiant victory over previously unbeaten Tennessee suggests that the Aggies may be Alabama’s biggest competitor in the SEC West. In a game that was epitomized by runs, Texas A&M utilized a daring quarterback performance from Trevor Knight – 17/34, 239 yards and 2 TDs, including a game-winning rushing score in double-overtime to outlast a resilient Tennessee squad that overcame a 35-21 deficit with less than four minutes left in regulation.
Texas A&M also saw an all-worldly effort out of freshman tailback Trayveon Williams, who rushed for 271 yards on 28 carries to balance out the team’s efficient offense. Lastly, A&M’s defense did an immaculate job of forcing turnovers, seven to be exact (the most forced against a Top 10 Power Five opponent since 2011). However, it seemed to be turnover or touchdown all-together for the defense as they allowed Tennessee to score five total touchdowns for 684 yards.
As it stands, Texas A&M has the resources offensively to run the table, a mobile QB in Knight, a workhorse back in Williams and a receiver that can get yards after the catch in Christian Kirk. But if Texas A&M wants to knock off Alabama and take the SEC as well as its playoff aspirations by the throat, Aggies’ defensive coordinator John Chavis needs to make adjustments. The Aggies possess one of the best pass-rushers in the nation in Myles Garrett who can cause havoc to just about anyone’s offensive line (even the Tide’s). However, can the defense’s remaining core to do its job?
Loser: Houston. The Cougars were already in for an uphill battle before the week started as they seemingly needed a perfect finish in its regular season to qualify for a playoff spot. But after losing 46-40 at Navy, Houston no longer controls its own College Football Playoff destiny. And it could be left out of a New Year’s Six Bowl entirely too.
Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., who was listed as a serious Heisman candidate, pulled his end of the stick for the Cougars’ offense, connecting on 32-0f-50 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, his two costly interceptions, one that came late in the 4th quarter likely derailed his Heisman fate. To compound Ward’s misfortunes, Houston’s defense (which came into Week 6 sporting the 2nd best total defense in the country) was engulfed in Navy’s savvy triple-option attack. All-together, the Midshipmen garnered 306 rushing yards for the game.
In the bigger picture, Houston now finds its AAC title hopes hinging on two more Navy losses. Because here’s the deal: both Navy and Houston share the Western Division in the AAC. If Houston and Navy finish the season tied head-to-head for the division title, Navy gets the tiebreaker. In order for Houston to get to the AAC title game, it needs to win a three-way tie for the division or make up two games on the Midshipmen.
Winner: Washington. For the past 12 seasons, Washington had been outscored by its Pacific Northwest rival Oregon 533-222 and had zero wins to show for it. So entering Saturday, what better way for Washington to erase the almost decade and a half heartache then to demolish your rival by seven touchdowns? From start to finish, the Huskies dismantled Oregon 70-21 and in the process might have restored its power in the Pac 12.
Jake Browning commanded the Huskies’ offense with proficiency, finishing the night with more touchdowns from scrimmage (8) than incompletions (6). In addition, the sophomore quarterback threw for 304 yards and reeled off an impressive 96.2 QBR. Considering Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey’s fall from grace, Browning’s Heisman candidacy is growing each and every week. Especially if he has the numbers to back it up, in which he does. As it stands, Browning is completing 72.2 percent of his passes (5th best mark in the nation) for 2,955 yards and 23 touchdowns. Did I also mention that he’s only thrown two interceptions?
After finally slinging that 12 year-old gorilla off its back this week, the doors to the playoffs have swung open for the Huskies to make some noise. With an undefeated record so far and a watered-down conference slate the rest of the way, Washington’s path to the Final Four is as good as anyone’s.
What else did we learn?
- Is it possible that the Big Ten gets two playoff teams?: Although it’s only the midway point of the season, the Big Ten might have the best claim of any conference in the nation to have two playoff teams. At the moment, Ohio State sits at No. 2 in the nation and has looked just as complete as No. 1 Alabama. Through five games, the Buckeyes have outscored its opponents by an average margin of 42 points per game. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has shown every bit of why he is the Big Ten’s best quarterback as he’s orchestrated Ohio State’s offense virtually into a machine, operating the 10th best offensive S&P+ (41.7) in the FBS. However, the same can be said for Michigan. While they aren’t scoring at a prolific pace as the Bucks, they are shutting teams down entirely. For instance, after their destruction of Rutgers, a game in which they yielded a whopping 39 total yards of offense and two first downs, the Wolverines in total have given up SEVEN offensive touchdowns on the season. With both teams on pace for a potential Top 5 finish, it begs the question: how enormous will the final Saturday in November mean to both of them?