Week 5 wipes the slate clean on what we thought we knew

October 4, 2015, 11:31 AM

— -- Forget everything we thought we knew about college football this season.

The first Saturday of October showed us once again that every week is truly a season. Four of the top-10 teams in the country were beaten, and more than a handful of contenders for the College Football Playoff barely survived.

During the first five weeks, much of what we knew has been proved untrue. And there are still plenty of questions to be answered over the next two months.

What we thought we knew: The Big 12 is a two-team race.

Reality: It's probably a three-team race. The Big 12, the Power 5 league that was left out of the inaugural playoff, is showing a lot of strength in the early stages of 2015.

No. 4 TCU crushed Texas 50-7 on Saturday. No. 5 Baylor was just as impressive in a 63-35 win over Texas Tech, scoring touchdowns on seven of its first eight possessions. The Bears have scored more than 60 points in each of their past three games. "I mean, it's an insane game," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "It's just kind of the way it has been the last four or five years. You can't breathe for a half-second. The pedal is all the way down. If you had any hair, it's blowing backwards. And you are just screaming the whole time. That's just the way it is."

Don't forget about No. 15 Oklahoma, a 44-24 winner over No. 23 West Virginia on Saturday. The Sooners are 4-0 and their defense keeps improving, which will be a key in trying to slow down the Bears and Horned Frogs.

What we thought we knew: Alabama's dynasty is over.

Reality: The Crimson Tide are going to be fine -- and they probably won't be picked as an underdog by Las Vegas oddsmakers again anytime soon.

After Alabama lost to Ole Miss 43-37 at home two weeks ago, we thought we saw cracks in the foundation of Nick Saban's program. But then the No. 13 Crimson Tide steamrolled No. 8 Georgia 38-10 at rain-soaked Sanford Stadium, a victory so convincing they once again looked like one of the top four teams in the country.

"I told them before the game that the plan that we had for them, ordinary men couldn't go out there and get it done," Saban said. "We needed them to be extraordinary and that they were, and they were special. They've been that way all year. I know they've been criticized a lot, but I thought we played an outstanding game today, every part of the game."

What we thought we knew: Ohio State and Michigan State are the top two teams in the country.

Reality: The Buckeyes and Spartans might not even be the best teams in the Big Ten.

Speaking of ordinary, that's exactly how No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan State have looked the past few weeks. At the very least, the Buckeyes and Spartans closely resemble last season's defending national champion, Florida State, which kept winning but did little in terms of style points.

On Saturday, Ohio State and Michigan State struggled to put away teams from Indiana -- this isn't basketball, boys -- and each needed defensive stops in the final minutes to remain unbeaten.

The Buckeyes struggled to pull away in their 34-27 win over upstart Indiana, even after the Hoosiers lost star tailback Jordan Howard in the first half and quarterback Nate Sudfeld in the third quarter to ankle injuries.

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones and the passing game still look out of sync, and the Buckeyes won only after knocking down a Hoosiers pass in the end zone on a third-and-goal from the OSU 10 as time expired.

"Look across the country and every day you better play," OSU coach Urban Meyer said. "You better play."

Ask the Spartans, who looked as sluggish as the Buckeyes on Saturday. Michigan State had a 21-0 lead over Purdue at the half, but then had to hold off a final drive by the 1-4 Boilermakers in the final minutes to escape with a 24-21 victory.

The Spartans, who became the first team to go 0-for-5 against the Las Vegas point spread this season, threw for only 11 yards and scored only a field goal in an uninspiring second half.

Meanwhile, Michigan keeps getting better and better under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The No. 22 Wolverines beat Maryland 28-0 on Saturday, their second shutout in a row and fourth straight game in which they allowed seven points or fewer.

What we thought we knew: UCLA is the team to beat in the Pac-12 South.

Reality: Who knows what's going to happen in the Pac-12? The division appears to have four contenders and looks a lot like the SEC West in terms of depth and balance.

UCLA looked like the strongest team in the Pac-12 South after blowing out Arizona 56-30 in the desert last week. But then the Bruins lost to Arizona State 38-23 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. The Sun Devils, who lost twice in September, led 29-10 after three quarters.

The Bruins get a week off before playing back-to-back games against No. 18 Stanford and No. 24 California.

What we thought we knew: Notre Dame will survive without injured quarterback Malik Zaire.

Reality: The No. 6 Fighting Irish were living on borrowed time. Notre Dame lost at No. 12 Clemson 24-22 on Saturday night. The Tigers nearly blew a 21-3 lead, but they stopped Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer on a two-point conversion run that would have tied the score with seven seconds to play.

Suddenly, Clemson looks as if it's in the driver's seat in the ACC. No. 11 Florida State had to hold off, ahem, Wake Forest 24-16 on the road. The Seminoles could barely muster any offense after star tailback Dalvin Cook left the game with a pulled hamstring. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Cook's injury is day-to-day.

What we thought we knew: Florida is going to need more time under first-year coach Jim McElwain to be a contender in the SEC East.

Reality: The Gators suddenly look like the cream of the crop in the SEC East after blowing out No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 in the Swamp. The Gators are 5-0 and have defeated Tennessee and Ole Miss in consecutive games.

After struggling on offense under former coach Will Muschamp, the Gators are scoring points in bunches under McElwain. Quarterback Will Grier, who battled the flu the past week, went 24-for-29 for 271 yards with four touchdowns against what was supposed to be a stout Ole Miss defense.

The Gators play consecutive road games the next two weeks at Missouri and No. 9 LSU, and then play Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida, on Oct. 31.

Playoff teams after Week 5

1. TCU : The Horned Frogs' depleted defense has been feast or famine this season, allowing 17 points or fewer in three games and 89 combined in the other two. The TCU defense will get another difficult test at Kansas State next week.

2. Baylor : The Bears have scored 60 points in each of their past three games, the third-longest streak by an FBS team since major classification began in 1937. The Bears have had 16 60-point games during the past five seasons, more than any other FBS team by a wide margin (Oregon is second with nine).

3. Ohio State : It wasn't pretty, but the Buckeyes won their 18th consecutive game and 15th in a row on the road, the longest active streaks in FBS. Despite their struggles, they'll be overwhelming favorites in their next five games.

4. Alabama : The Crimson Tide might already have a loss to Ole Miss, but their 28-point win at Georgia was as impressive as any victory this season. Alabama's margin of victory tied for the largest road win over a top-10 SEC team in AP poll history.

Next four in contention

1. Michigan State : The Spartans looked shaky in the second half against Purdue. A big reason: They lost a third offensive tackle. Already playing without star left tackle Jack Conklin (knee) and right tackle Kodi Kieler (leg), the Spartans lost Dennis Finley to a broken leg.

2. Clemson : With Georgia Tech, Miami and South Carolina struggling, the Tigers might have the clearest path to an unbeaten record. Their biggest challenge might be a Nov. 7 home game against Florida State, which looks vulnerable as well.

3. Utah : The Utes got a week off, which might have been a good thing with so many other top-10 teams losing. ESPN's College GameDay is headed to Salt Lake City for Saturday's home game against No. 24 California.

4.  LSU : How long can star tailback Leonard Fournette carry the LSU offense on his back? He became the first SEC running back to run for 200 yards or more in three straight games in Saturday night's 44-22 win over Eastern Michigan. The bad news: quarterback Brandon Harris completed 4 of 15 passes for 80 yards with one interception.

Heisman candidates

1.  Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Fournette rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' 44-22 win over Eastern Michigan, his third straight game with at least 200 yards rushing, which set a new SEC record.

2. Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU: Boykin completed 20 of 35 passes for 332 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions against Texas. He broke Andy Dalton's school record for career touchdown passes with 74.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Elliott ran for a career-high 274 yards with three touchdowns on 23 carries in the Buckeyes' victory at Indiana. He has gained more than 200 yards in four of his past eight games, dating back to last season.

4. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: Chubb was mostly held in check by Alabama's defense but still gained 146 yards on 20 carries. It was his 13th consecutive game with 100 yards or more, breaking Herschel Walker's school record. Most of Chubb's damage came on an 83-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Tweets of the night

Best moments

1. Tulane's Aaron Golub became the first legally blind player to play in an FBS game. He snapped the ball on an extra point after the Green Wave's final touchdown in a 45-31 win over UCF.

2. Tongues out! Former TCU and NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson and his family took a selfie during the Horned Frogs' big win over Texas.

3. Denied. Baylor's Corey Coleman couldn't get a high-five from a Big 12 field judge after his second touchdown against the Red Raiders.

4. Georgia's players wore a No. 33 decal on their helmets Saturday to honor injured Southern player Devon Gales, who suffered a spinal cord injury last week. Gales' family was also honored on the field at Sanford Stadium.

Best plays

1. Florida State's Dalvin Cook broke a couple of tackles and then went 94 yards for a touchdown, the third-longest in school history, in a 24-16 victory over Wake Forest.

2. This wasn't how Steve Spurrier drew it up, but Gamecocks running back Shon Carson scored after catching a deflected ball off a pass quarterback Lorenzo Nunez shouldn't have thrown.

3. For those kids reading at home: Never, ever give up on a play. UCF's Chris Johnson thought he was going to take it to the house on a long catch and run, but Tulane's Parry Nickerson chased him down. Then Richard Allen stripped the ball and took it the other way. The Green Wave scored one play later in a 45-31 win.

4. Here's yet another highlight-reel catch for TCU star Josh Doctson, who broke the school record for career touchdown catches with a pair against the Longhorns.

Worst plays

1. Leading 10-3 midway through the second quarter, Indiana tried a fake punt. It didn't work.

2. Washington State's fake punt turned into a touchdown -- for Cal.

3. There wasn't much that went wrong for TCU in its rout of Texas -- except for Aaron Green being stopped by teammate Ja'Juan Story on a 3-yard run.

4. Texas' snapper joined its kicker and punter on the special teams train wreck this week.

Quotes of the night

1. "What happened was simple. We didn't run the ball well. You got your quarterback hit, next thing you know, your quarterback's not making great decisions. They beat us. They beat us up front. They beat us as a unit." -- Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, after the Hokies had 100 yards of offense in a 17-13 loss to Pittsburgh

2. "We've had two really good road victories, so that's something that everybody can feel good about. We've had two games that have literally gone down to the wire. You talk about playing the full 60 [minutes], and both of those required that. Those are things that all help build a football team if the team has the right attitude." -- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, after the Hawkeyes upset No. 19 Wisconsin 10-6 on the road

3. "The dam broke and unfortunately we just didn't have enough counterpunches to get back in it. First, give them credit for the job they did. I'm disappointed for us as a team, players and coaches. I know our fans are sick about it, and I don't blame them. It's no fun to have that kind of performance." -- Georgia coach Mark Richt

4. "I'm just totally disappointed and frustrated when you look at how we played the last two weeks. We came out today and just didn't play hard. We have to get this thing turned around. We have to; we don't have a choice." -- Texas coach Charlie Strong

Stats that matter

21: North Carolina rallied from a 21-0 deficit to beat Georgia Tech 38-31 on the road, the biggest come-from-behind win in school history. The Tar Heels previously overcame 17-point deficits against Georgia Tech in 1987 and Virginia in 1997.

20: Years since Northwestern posted a shutout against a Big Ten opponent before Saturday's 27-0 win over Minnesota. The Wildcats' last Big Ten shutout was a 35-0 win over Wisconsin in 1995, when they finished 10-2 and won the Big Ten title.

38: Points allowed by Michigan through its first five games after Saturday's 28-0 shutout of Maryland, its fourth consecutive game in which it allowed seven points or fewer. The last time Michigan had a similar four-game stretch was 30 years ago, when their starting quarterback was Jim Harbaugh.

68: Cal QB Jared Goff threw four touchdowns in the Bears' come-from-behind 34-28 win over Washington State. Goff broke a tie with Kyle Boller (64) for the most TD passes in school history with 68.

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