After months of uncertainty and delay, college football is finally getting back into full swing, which means it’s time to once again pick winners and losers for each week of the season. The season officially got underway a few weeks ago, but most of the major conferences did not begin play until recently, which is why we begin with Week 5. Here are the winners and losers from this past week.
After last season’s off year in which they didn’t even make a New Year’s Six bowl, the results of this past week show that the Crimson Tide (2-0, 2-0 SEC) are on track to being the bosses of the SEC West once more. The Tide returned much of its starting talent on offense for this year, including dynamic playmakers like senior running back Najee Harris and junior wideout Jaylen Waddle. Redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones looks like he’s grown into his starting role for No. 2 Alabama, and the Tide still has the best coach in the game right now. No. 17 LSU, conversely, has lost a lot of talent to graduation and the NFL, while No. 13 Auburn and No. 21 Texas A&M don’t look nearly as good on the field as Alabama in these early weeks. Unsurprisingly, all three of those teams have taken a decisive loss in their first two games, while Alabama has cruised to two victories. If nothing strange occurs, Bama should roll to another SEC Championship Game in December.
Loser: Big 12
Much has changed in the year 2020, but Texas is still same old Texas. The Longhorns (2-1, 1-1 Big 12) seem to always make everyone think that they’re title contenders at the beginning of the season, only to lose an important game at some point in the season to an inferior opponent. That is what happened last week, when the Longhorns lost a home game to TCU because of a turnover at the goal line. It is clear that they are not College Football Playoff material. Because Texas fails to take the next step year after year, and because the Big 12 has no other teams of real quality, the fortunes of the Big 12 tend to rise and fall with those of Oklahoma. This year, the fortunes of Oklahoma have taken a nosedive. The Sooners (1-2, 0-2 Big 12) have lost both of their conference games this season, and their new starting quarterback, redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler, has looked good at times but has made big mistakes in key moments, including a bad interception that ended last week’s game at Iowa State. Perhaps No. 10 Oklahoma State can make its case with some convincing wins down the line, but as of now, it doesn’t look like any Big 12 team will make the College Football Playoff this season.
Some conferences have taken a hit this year, but others have improved. One conference that has improved is the Atlantic Coast Conference. Gone are the days when Clemson was the only top team in the conference and the rest of the ACC was garbage. For the first time in a long time, the ACC has some quality besides the top-ranked Tigers (3-0, 2-0 ACC). The conference definitely benefits from No. 5 Notre Dame’s inclusion, which only runs through this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, this season sees improvement from the ACC’s traditional teams as well. Two seasons ago, North Carolina was a mere two-win team, but under second-year head coach Mack Brown, the program has undergone a complete turnaround and now sits eighth in the AP Poll. No. 7 Miami (FL) is a strong team as well, having convincingly dispatched Louisville and Florida State in consecutive weeks. As of now, four of the top 10 teams in the AP Poll are ACC teams, which is the most of any conference at the moment. It’s not expected that any of these teams will knock Clemson off its perch, but at least Clemson will have to play some meaningful games instead of breezing through conference play like in previous seasons.
Loser: Mississippi State
The Mike Leach era at Mississippi State almost got off to a stellar beginning. In the Bulldogs’ first game of the season they marched into the home of the defending champions and overwhelmed LSU (1-1, 1-1 SEC), catapulting into the AP Top 25 in doing so. LSU is a diminished team from last season, but even so, it was no easy contest. Compared to that game, facing unranked Arkansas, who have been SEC basement-dwellers for a while now, at home should have been an easy matchup, but the Bulldogs’ offense had a much harder time against the Razorbacks (1-1, 1-1 SEC) than it did against the defending champions. Redshirt senior quarterback K.J. Costello threw the ball nearly 60 times, but only one of those passes was a touchdown, compared to three interceptions. Instead of a perfect start to the season, Mississippi State fell to 1-1, and are now once again outside the AP Top 25.