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College Football Best and Worst of Week 5

Week 5 was all about earning respect.  Teams that were under-appreciated stepped up to prove their worth.  Teams whose rankings had been questioned justified the love.  And, as always, there were a couple of stunning surprises.

Not too long ago I suggested that Wisconsin needed to prove that it was a Top 5 team.  The Badgers were only too happy to oblige, turning a hotly contested first half into a 48-17 laugher at Camp Randall.  Arkansas showed that Texas A&M’s collapse against Oklahoma State wasn’t merely a momentary lapse in concentration.  And #17 Texas did all it could to make the upcoming Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma a truly meaningful matchup for both sides.

Alabama throttled Florida while Auburn tipped a lackluster South Carolina squad, affirming that the SEC West powers own the conference.  At least for the moment.

And then, there was Clemson…

Best Win of The Week: Clemson 23, Virginia Tech 3 in Blacksburg

I admit it.  Clemson’s past disappointments had me ready to write off the Tigers again this season.  I dismissed the Auburn win as inconsequential; Auburn was simply a lousy defensive team.  I blew off the victory over Florida State, chalking it up to a fluky letdown by the ‘Noles and to QB E.J. Manuel’s shoulder injury.  But in week 5, Clemson earned its third consecutive win over a ranked opponent, and did it the hard way.

Virginia Tech might have been over-ranked, but to go on the road to Blacksburg and nearly shut out Frank Beamer’s squad in its own backyard?  That cannot be ignored.

I’m not yet prepared to accept that Clemson may finally, finally be ready to live up to its potential.  But there’s no denying that Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the country.  The win over the Hokies was completely dominating as VT was held to a single field goal.

It wasn’t the prettiest offensive day, but anytime a team can break 300 yards against a Hokies defense has to be considered a success.  Despite a near 10 minute disadvantage in time of possession, Clemson owned the day, holding VT to 258 total yards.  Quarterback Tajh Boyd was effective if not efficient, completing 13 of 32 passes for 204 yard and a score.  Clemson’s ground game used a by-committee approach to rack up 119 yards and two more touchdowns.

The lone bright spot for VT was tailback David Wilson, who gained 123 yards on 20 carries.  But he, like the rest of his team, was unable to find the endzone.  And after a second quarter field goal, the Hokies were kept off the scoreboard altogether.

The Tigers weathered their three-week gauntlet amazingly well, and now an October 29th meeting with Georgia Tech is the only real stumbling block between them and an undefeated ACC season.

Honorable Mention: Wisconsin 48, Nebraska 17 in Madison


Worst Win of the Week: Houston 49, UTEP 42 in El Paso

In recent seasons, Houston has raised expectations.  Routinely providing fantastic offensive performances courtesy of coach Kevin Sumlin’s game plans and QB Case Keenum’s execution, the Cougars have marked themselves as potential BCS-busters and have gotten us accustomed to outlandish point totals.

Week 5 delivered on that count with nearly 100 combined points between Houston and UTEP, but it was hardly the Cougars’ best performance.

When these teams last met in El Paso in 2009, Houston was on its way to greatness, having knocked off #5 Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in back-to-back weeks.  It looked for all the world as though the Cougars were on a collision course with a BCS bowl thanks to a seemingly unstoppable offense.  But the Miners had different ideas, and spoiled the storybook season with a 58-41 upset win.

Houston surely remembers that moment, and one might have thought that those memories would have the team extra motivated in its return to the Sun Bowl.  Moreover, this year’s UTEP team was barely a bump in the road; the Miners had barely beaten lowly New Mexico State and were trounced by both SMU and South Florida.

And yet the apparent disparity between these two programs was all but forgotten as the offenses went wild in what ended as a nerve-wracking seven-point win for the heavily favored Cougars.

The game was a defensive disaster on both sides.  Houston compiled an absurd 710 total yards as Keenum threw for 471 and two touchdowns.  The Cougars had a pair of 100-yard rushers in Charles Sims and Michael Hayes.  And they even got a pair of UTEP turnovers to help their cause.  But for all that, Houston was unable to gain much separation and even trailed 14-0 heading into the second quarter.

The underdog Miners traded scores throughout the game.  Even when they went down by 14 in the fourth quarter, the battle continued.  What should have been a fairly easy victory turned into something far too stressful as UTEP failed to convert a fourth down from Houston’s 23 yardline with about a minute to play.  Quarterback Nick Lamaison found Mike Edwards in the endzone for the potential game-tying score, but Edwards was unable to control the catch.

Honorable Mention: BYU 27, Utah St. 24 in Provo


Upset of the Week: Kansas State 36, Baylor 35 in Manhattan

A little more than a week ago, Kansas State traveled to Miami to face the Hurricanes.  Miami had just crushed Ohio State and looked to be improving while K-State looked like an easy target.  But appearances can deceive.  The Wildcats returned home with a 28-24 upset win in a week 4 shocker.  Even so, KSU wasn’t on the radar as far as being a quality team this year.

Then #15 Baylor went to Manhattan.

Coming into the matchup Baylor was averaging nearly 52 points per game, and had a thrilling week 1 win over TCU.  The Bears were climbing the rankings thanks to the spectacular play of QB Robert Griffin III, who is putting together a compelling case for the Heisman Trophy this season.

Kansas State?  Well, its little win over Miami was great and all, but this team was hardly a threat to the Bears.  Or so we believed.

If you didn’t know the outcome and looked only at the box score of this one, it would probably be about what you would expect.  Griffin was dominant, throwing for 346 yards and five touchdowns on 23 of 31 passing.  Wideout Kendall Wright continued his outstanding season with nine grabs for 201 yards and three scores.  And the Bears outgained the ‘Cats 429 yards to 356.

Yet in spite of all the statistical advantages, it was K-State emerging with the 36-35 win.  KSU quarterback Collin Klein had 259 yards from scrimmage (113 rushing) and found the endzone three times as he overcame a tough passing day and a costly interception.  The Wildcats defense was battered but not broken, coming up with a game-clinching interception in the final minutes to preserve the one-point margin.

It was the first time that Griffin had been picked off this season.

Linebacker Arthur Brown, in the right place at the right time and executing his assignment with perfection, helped Kansas State earn one of its biggest wins in recent memory.  Heading into a high-profile matchup with Missouri in week 6, these ‘Cats are now firmly on the radar.

Honorable Mention: SMU 40, TCU 30 in Fort Worth


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