Who’s Hot (and not) in college football entering Week 7. The landscape has again shifted thanks to Navy’s upset of Houston and FSU’s “Block at the Rock.”
Temple DE Haason Reddick
This is not the same Owl team as a year ago, as evidenced by Thursday night’s loss at Memphis. However, Temple has its Tyler Matakevich for 2016, a defender so disruptive that’s he’s liable to contend for national honors down the road. Reddick, a former walk-on, has racked up 11.5 tackles for loss over the last four games. His motor was dialed up to the max speed at the Liberty Bowl, resulting in eight solo tackles, five stops for minus yards and a pair of sacks.
Boise State WR Cedric Wilson
The Broncos needed a complement to go-to WR Thomas Sperbeck. They’ve located that No. 2 in Wilson, a first-year playmaker out of Coffeyville (Kans.) Community College. The newcomer is getting comfortable in the Boise State attack, catching nine balls for 167 yards and three touchdowns in Friday night’s win over New Mexico. The emergence of Wilson makes QB Brett Rypien more dangerous, which in turn makes RB Jeremy McNichols more effective as well … which makes Mountain West coordinators feel more helpless.
CB Treston Decoud And Oregon State’s Pass D
The Beavers did on Saturday what no one else has this season—shut down Cal QB Davis Webb and his top receiver, Chad Hansen. And, along with some clutch running from Ryan Nall and QB Darrell Garretson, it led Oregon State to its biggest win of the Gary Andersen era. Webb attempted 44 passes, yet threw for just 113 yards and no touchdowns. No, Hurricane Matthew didn’t reach Corvallis. There’s a lot of work to be done at OSU, but that defensive backfield gives the team a shot to deliver another upset in the season’s second half.
BYU RB Jamaal Williams
Williams is healthy, which changes the entire dynamic surrounding the BYU program. The Cougars must run the ball to be successful, since Taysom Hill is an unpolished passing quarterback. Well, Williams has now sprinted for at least 150 yards in three consecutive games, including 286 and five scores in Week 5 and 163 and two touchdowns this past Saturday versus Michigan State. BYU, which was snakebitten by close losses in September, has momentum as Mississippi State prepares to visit this Friday.
The Sooners are an incomplete squad, which was evident all the way back in the opener with Houston. In a league of incomplete programs, though, Oklahoma boasts enough offensive firepower to offset its defensive woes and make a run at a second straight Big 12 title. The week after torching TCU for 534 yards and 52 points, the Sooners ran circles around Texas in a 45-40 win. RB Samaje Perine was a bulldozer, but the news is the emergence of WR Dede Westbrook, who’s caught 17 passes for 390 yards and five touchdowns over the last two games.
Don’t look now, but the Tigers are riding a three-game winning streak that began with the controversial LSU thriller that cost Les Miles his gig in Baton Rouge. Auburn went on the road for the first time Saturday, yet didn’t skip a beat in a 38-14 pasting of Mississippi State. The Tigers have the running game going behind Kamryn Pettway, and the Carl Lawson-led D has given up more than 20 points in only a single game. They’re heading into a pivotal two-game swing with Arkansas and Ole Miss with the wind at their backs.
The Tide and the Volunteers are traveling in opposite directions entering this weekend’s rivalry game at Neyland Stadium. While Tennessee suffered its first loss of the year, Bama is coming off its best effort since the opener with USC. The Tide ransacked Arkansas in Fayetteville in a game that had the potential to be tricky. However, Alabama was dominant at the line of scrimmage, stifling the Razorback ground game and picking off three Austin Allen passes, all by Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Vols enter Week 7 bruised and battered. After facing the Tide, a standing eight count might be necessary in Knoxville.
Do not count the Trojans out of the Pac-12 South race. Not after this program got off the mat following a crushing Week 4 loss at Utah to trash Arizona State and then halt Colorado’s momentum this past weekend. In all phases, this looks like a different Troy team than the one that opened 1-3 to push Clay Helton into hot seat discussions. QB Sam Darnold has quickly matured into a difference-maker at quarterback, and USC now faces three beatable opponents, Arizona, Cal and Oregon, before a wicked final kick to the regular season finish line.
The Cougars are the lone remaining team capable of keeping Washington from wrapping up the Pac-12 North before the last trick-or-treater pounds on the door. Wazzu has turned things around since an 0-2 start, ripping one-time North heavyweights Oregon and Stanford the last two weekends. The Cougs annihilated the Cardinal on the Farm, 42-16, with plenty of help from QB Luke Falk as well as the defense. Next up is struggling UCLA, which will have a problem keeping up with Washington State’s scoring punch and defensive speed.
Here come the Hokies. Ever since flaming out versus Tennessee in Week 2, Virginia Tech has been on a tear, routing Boston College, East Carolina and now North Carolina by at least 31 points apiece. The Hokies did a much better job of navigating Hurricane Matthew than the Heels to become a legitimate contender in the ACC Coastal. In just his first season in Blacksburg, Justin Fuente has Tech playing at a higher level than at any point during Frank Beamer’s final few seasons.
To be sure, it was not easy. But the Aggies finally figured out the formula to put down Tennessee, the squad with more lives than an alley cat. A&M opened up a huge lead on the Vols, just like everyone else has in 2016. But unlike everyone else, the Ags actually closed the deal in overtime on an interception of Joshua Dobbs. Unranked before the season began, Texas A&M is now 6-0 for the first time since 1994, with two crucial weeks to prep for its Oct. 22 mega-showdown with Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The Huskies didn’t just end their 12-game losing streak to hated rival Oregon. They did it with an exclamation point, 70-21 in front of a demoralized Autzen Stadium crowd. A hangover after last week’s 44-6 demolition of Stanford? No chance. U-Dub doubled down with another complete performance, fueled by eight total touchdowns from sophomore QB Jake Browning. Now, the Pac-12’s clear-cut frontrunner gets a well-deserved break before returning back to home to host Oregon State on Oct. 22.
Iowa State With A Cushion
Last week, the Cyclones led Baylor by two touchdowns to start the fourth quarter … and lost. This past Saturday, they were beating Oklahoma State, 31-14, late in the third quarter … and lost. The hardest thing to teach a young and emerging squad is how to close the deal. And while Iowa State is clearly making strides behind new head coach Matt Campbell and offensive coordinator Tom Manning, it’ll be a case of one step forward and two back in Ames until the Clones develop a knockout punch.
Nah, the Eagles weren’t supposed to shock Clemson Friday night. But 56-10? At home? In the Red Bandana Game? The week after the Tigers’ emotional win over Louisville? It was not the kind of showing Boston College needed as it looks to catapult into the second half of the season. The 3-3 Eagles only face two more ranked teams, Florida State and Louisville, but based on last week’s effort upcoming games with Syracuse and NC State might be out of reach as well.
TCU QB Kenny Hill
The Horned Frogs survived a rocky outing from Hill, who completed just 17-of-32 passes for 206 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. But that was against Kansas, the Big 12’s doormat. What happens when the competition level rises, like this weekend at West Virginia? Hill’s accuracy has slipped since the start of league play, and his league-high eight picks are cause for concern for a struggling Frog program.
The Bearcats were supposed to be a serious contender in the American this season. At 0-3 in league play, they’ll need to hustle in the second half just to win six and qualify for a sixth straight postseason game. Cincy hasn’t shown up on offense this season, including in Saturday’s 20-9 loss at Connecticut. The Bearcats were stuffed at the line of scrimmage in East Hartford, and QB Hayden Moore failed to deliver in his return from a two-game absence.
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Hard to imagine, but, yes, it’s been 44 years since a Golden Gopher quarterback was drafted. Based on the way Leidner has performed in the first half of 2016, he’s less likely to break the dry spell than originally anticipated in the preseason. Take out the Indiana State game, and the senior has thrown one touchdown pass and four picks all season. In the Week 6 loss to Iowa, Leidner’s undeveloped passing skills were on full display, as he completed just 13-of-33 for 166 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Ash-kickings continue in Piscataway, with no end in sight. The Scarlet Knights impersonated Cumberland College the past two weekends, bowing to Ohio State and Michigan by a combined score of 136-0. The Wolverines stampeded Rutgers in its own building Saturday in one of the worst all-time beatdowns not involving a lower division school. The Knights manufactured two first downs, the first coming in the final quarter, despite playing a chunk of the game versus backups. Yeah, the Big Ten has a footprint in the New York metro area, and Rutgers has deeper pockets, but is it worth it when this is the final product?
Defense In Lubbock
Does anyone play defense in the state of Texas? They certainly aren’t at Texas Tech, which is squandering another prolific season of pitching from Patrick Mahomes. This past weekend, the Red Raiders travelled to Kansas State, which had previously scored 13 against Stanford and 16 versus West Virginia. Against the hapless Tech D: 44 points to outscore Mahomes and his five touchdowns. Next up are the Mountaineers and Oklahoma, which has really caught fire offensively the past two weeks.
The Texas Secondary
Austin is suddenly the place where quarterbacks go to beef up their resume. Texas, which had such high hopes with the return of sophomore corners Davante Davis and Holton Hill, hasn’t stopped a decent passing game all season. This past Saturday, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield threw for 390 yards and Dede Westbrook set a school-record by accounting for 232 of those yards. The Horns have given up 15 touchdown passes to their four best opponents, ominous for a secondary that must still face Seth Russell, Patrick Mahomes, Skyler Howard and Kenny Hill.
At 2-4, the Irish are off to their worst start through six games since 2007, Charlie Weis’ third year in South Bend. Notre Dame’s latest loss was to NC State in a 10-3 slopfest in the rain that could be described as a microcosm for the Irish’s 2016 campaign. There are still games to be played with Stanford, this Saturday, Miami, Navy, Va Tech and USC, so the situation could get worse before it gets better. It’s going to be interesting to see if Brian Kelly can keep his kids motivated despite having very little to play for down the stretch.
Just five games into the season, the Cardinal is already out of New Year’s Six bowl contention. That is a harrowing turn of events for a defending league champion that returned one of the game’s most dynamic individual players. Stanford has been uncharacteristically manhandled the past two games by Washington and Washington State, and its losing streak would have been three games if not for a last-minute rally versus UCLA on Sept. 24. Christian McCaffrey is fading out of Heisman contention, and this week’s trip to South Bend is infinitely less appealing than it appeared just a month ago.
The Cougars began Week 6 ranked No. 6 nationally and trying to get into the playoff discussion. They ended it needing help in the American Athletic Conference West Division. Houston fell to Navy in Annapolis, completely altering the trajectory for the presumptive Group of Five favorite. The Cougs can still win the league and play spoiler against Louisville on Nov. 17, but this year’s goals, from a perfect season to Greg Ward Jr.’s Heisman quest, were torpedoed by the Midshipmen, who’ve joined South Florida as the AAC co-favorites.
This latest loss to Florida State, the seventh straight in the series, could linger with the Canes for a while. This was a game Miami was supposed to win. Home. The Seminoles came in reeling, particularly on D. Plus, the Canes jumped out to a 13-0 lead, seemingly poised to make their case as an ACC threat, or at least the Coastal Division favorite. But they squandered the lead, unable to kickstart the offense behind QB Brad Kaaya, and then had the potential game-tying extra point blocked with 1:38 left. This was a momentum stopper, and at the worst possible time, too, with division contenders North Carolina and Virginia Tech next on the schedule.