SPORTS COLUMN: Looking back at week 5 of the college football season

(Kent Gidley/UA Athletics)

-Get Your Popcorn Ready. It would be easy to look at the Alabama v. Ole Miss game and think no. 1 Alabama just dominated, and for much of the game it did. However, there is one simple place to look that was a key determinant of that domination: fourth down conversions. No. 12 Ole Miss picked up two on it’s opening drive only to have the next three come up short. Alabama would score 21 points off those three failed fourth down attempts, followed by a quick one play fumble followed by yet another touchdown. And just like that Ole Miss found itself down 28-0 heading into the half, with Alabama receiving and scoring on the opening drive of the second half making it 35-0. Alabama meanwhile was able to convert three of their four fourth down attempts, two of which led to touchdowns. If you’re not doing the math, that’s a total 35 points swung by fourth down conversions. 

Other than that, it was an odd play call from Kiffin. Without one of his best receivers going in there wasn’t the typical misdirections, trick plays, and big play type of calls Kiffin is known for. With his “get your popcorn ready” and mic drop interview to start the game it was clear he wanted this game bad, perhaps too bad. Ultimately, Kiffin’s offensive genius was failed by the analytics, and quite frankly he was outcoached and Ole Miss simply was outmanned. Alabama flexed its muscles in a game that was never in doubt and now they move on. Alabama will head to College Station next week to face Texas A&M. With the Aggies coming off back to back losses, it’s not looking good for a team whose Head Coach, Jimbo Fisher, guaranteed a win over Alabama this year. Meanwhile Ole Miss will look to get back to winning against Arkansas, who took their own gut punch to Georgia. 

-Hawgs or Dawgs? In only a quarter of play no. 2 Georgia made it clear: Dawgs. No. 8 Arkansas came into Athens, Georgia riding their best start to a season in almost two decades, but UGA made quick work and shut them down with a 21-0 opening quarter. It’s obvious that “improved” and “contending” are two very different things. Arkansas still has plenty to play for, but they’ve not yet arrived. Again, they’ll meet Ole Miss next week to see which team can recover from their disappointing week five loss. More on Georgia in a moment. 

-Catch a Tiger by the Toe. Late in the Saturday night Auburn pulled off yet another comeback, this time at LSU (for their first win at LSU since 1999). One week after being benched Bo Nix entered the game in the second quarter and played a gutsy game that led to the Auburn comeback. While Auburn continues to struggle, they somehow find themselves at 4-1 and have an opportunity to really throw the college football world into chaos with an early October rivalry matchup against Georgia next week. With the game on the plains, where magic seems to always happen, Auburn will try and keep themselves in the mix a little longer. Over the last decade there have been several seasons where Auburn has stumbled through the first half of the season, only to find themselves in the mix late in the year. Will the year be the same for the Tigers?

-SEC: Southeastern Cannibalism. Across the rest of the SEC, it became even more clear how many good teams there are in the conference. Kentucky shocked no. 10 Florida with win at home to start 5-0. Tennessee blasted Mizzou to show improvement from another team in the east, and Mississippi State went into College Station and upset no. 15 TAMU. Coming off a 9-1 second TAMU started the season quite a bit over ranked and now have dropped back to back SEC West matchups, with the Tide rolling into town next week to threaten a three game losing streak. 

-Duck Season Started Early. The Stanford-Oregon games have given us many classics over the years as they have swapped blows at the top of the Pac-12 over the last decade. That would continue today at Stanford as they shocked no. 3 Oregon with a game tying touchdown on an untimed down at the end of regulation to force OT. Stanford would score on the first play, ultimately winning 31-24. With the entire Pac-12 in the loss column their playoff drought looks to continue for those out west.

This leads to a prediction made weeks ago: this year will feature either A) the first two-loss team in the playoff, B) the first group of 5 school in the playoff, or C) both. With no. 7 Cincinnati knocking off no. 9 Notre Dame the pave is paved for Cincinnati to grab a playoff spot. They will have a couple roadblocks in the way such as the Gus Bus at UCF, but overall, the path is clear to an undefeated season for the Bearcats. Meanwhile, Clemson nearly escaped yet another game to improve to 3-2. If they can muster up any kind of offense to pair with their elite defense, they are poised to win out with the lackluster ACC schedule that remains for them. 

-Big 10’s big five now ready for battle. No. 5 Iowa took care of business and avoided any thought of an upset at Maryland on Friday night, while no. 4 Penn State, no. 11 Ohio State, no. 14 Michigan, and no. 17 Michigan State all took care of business as well in a Big 10 conference that will be brutal down the stretch. Penn State will head to Iowa next week for a top five matchup as the head to head games begin among the conference’s top teams. 

-It’s Gonna Happen Sooner or Later: No. 6 Oklahoma managed to get out of Manhattan alive, for yet another narrow victory, this time over Kansas State. With Texas, who will likely be ranked going into next week, outlasting TCU it sets up a key matchup for week six in this year’s edition of the Red River Rivalry. A loss for the Sooners seems inevitable and it could be first year Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian who gives it to them. Lead by arguably the best running back in the country, Texas will look to let Bijan Robinson continue his dominance, coming off a 200+ yard game. 

-Isn’t the Chaos Supposed to be in November? Only one third of the way into the college football season and it has not disappointed. It very much feels like it’s Alabama and Georgia and then everyone else. With a ton of football left to play the madness is just beginning. Each week the season is shaping up more and more and it’s looking to be the craziest season of college football we’ve ever seen. And how fitting for a season that was preceded by the craziest offseason we had ever seen. From the college football playoff expansion to 12 teams talk to the NIL deals for players to Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC, sending the rest of college football into a frenzy, this season to follow shouldn’t be a surprise. Mix that it will the new faces across the college football landscape and here we are. In the words of Lane Kiffin, “Get your popcorn ready.”

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