Welcome to the college football overreaction index, where we examine the most important storylines from the past weekend of games to determine what’s worth paying attention to and what’s getting a little too much attention.
Let’s get to the biggest takeaways from Week 6.
Florida is a legitimate playoff contender.
I hate to pour cold water on the Gators after such an uplifting 24-13 win over Auburn. But consider Florida’s opponent Saturday, and how the Gators played themselves.
For all the deserved attention quarterback Bo Nix received after leading Auburn to a 5-0 start as a true freshman, Saturday revealed that he isn’t quite ready to carry his team to a road victory over a top-10 team. Nix completed just 40.7% of his passes for 145 yards and threw three interceptions, including one in the end zone as the Tigers were looking to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Gators certainly deserve credit for rattling the young quarterback and blanketing his receivers, but Auburn didn’t enter Saturday’s game as an offensive juggernaut, averaging 6.1 yards per play in its first five games, on par with Troy and Wyoming.
Let’s also consider Florida’s offense. Quarterback Kyle Trask played well, throwing for 234 yards and two touchdowns, and the Gators got huge performances from talented playmakers Lamichal Perine (14 carries for 130 yards, including a game-clinching 88-yard touchdown run) and Freddie Swain (six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown). But the Gators also looked sloppy at times, losing four fumbles and converting just four of 15 third-down opportunities. Not to mention, Trask’s health remains a question after he left the game for a few drives with a left knee injury before returning with a brace that limited his mobility and ability to step into throws.
If the Gators played the way they did Saturday against LSU or Georgia, it’s unlikely they’d be leaving The Swamp undefeated. Luckily, we won’t have to wait long to see how Florida will fare against the Tigers, as the Gators travel to Baton Rouge on Saturday night.
Florida is worthy of a top-10 ranking and has a great chance of winning the SEC East. But even after Saturday’s win, there are more questions than answers about this team.
Michigan’s defense is good enough to keep the Wolverines in the Big Ten title race.
Verdict: Not an overreaction.
So much for the offense getting back on track.
Quarterback Shea Patterson and Co. couldn’t get anything going after Michigan scored on its second and third possessions of the game, averaging just 5.7 yards per pass and 3.6 yards per carry in a 10-3 win over Iowa. But the offensive ineptitude didn’t cost the Wolverines this time, thanks to a dominant defensive performance.
Michigan had eight sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble and limited the Hawkeyes to a sack-adjusted 3.0 yards per carry. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time the Wolverines won a conference game at home when scoring 10 points or fewer since Nov. 11, 1995, when they beat Purdue, 5-0.
The reality for Michigan is that it will need to win more games the way it did Saturday to have any hope of competing for a Big Ten title. At this point, expecting first-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis to turn the Wolverines into a team that can keep up with high-scoring opponents like Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State is foolish, especially with the way Patterson is playing (14-for-26 for 147 yards and an interception vs. Iowa). Unless Jim Harbaugh makes the switch to Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton at quarterback, Michigan’s ceiling on offense is average at best, and that won’t be enough to win the Big Ten.
But there’s a glimmer of hope for the Wolverines, and that’s the way the defense played Saturday. If Don Brown is able to keep Michigan performing at such a high level, the Wolverines can at least be competitive in every game they play. Whether they can improve on offense just enough to take advantage remains to be seen, but the winning blueprint has been laid out.
Don’t let the wild comeback bid against Virginia Tech fool you. The Hurricanes have serious problems.
After rallying from a 28-0 deficit to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, Miami allowed the winning touchdown with just over a minute left and couldn’t find the end zone in the final seconds, even after being given an extra play when everyone, including the referees, thought the game was over.
The 42-35 loss was yet another disappointing result for first-year coach Manny Diaz, who is 0-3 against Power 5 opponents after losing to a Hokies team that is facing its own serious questions about its viability in the ACC.
It’s not fair to expect a new coach to come in and immediately make his team a contender, but Miami fans were hoping for more than what Diaz has shown thus far. A loss to Florida in Week 1 wasn’t surprising, but the Canes’ performance in that game created the expectation that they were at least a force to be reckoned with. Miami followed that up with a head-scratching loss at North Carolina, and it’s been downhill since.
On the bright side, the Canes might have finally found their quarterback, as N'Kosi Perry entered in relief of a struggling Jarren Williams (who threw three interceptions on his first seven attempts) on Saturday and passed for 422 yards and four touchdowns.
Facing one of the easiest remaining Power 5 conference schedules in the country (ranked 62nd-toughest by ESPN’s Football Power Index), there’s still plenty of time and opportunity for Miami to put together a seven- or eight-win season. While that won’t placate fans who want to see “The U” return to its glory days, it would at least give Diaz some momentum heading into his first full recruiting season.
Miami needs to start convincing in-state talent to stay at home and developing those players into stars. With the way the Canes have been playing this season, it’s unclear if Diaz is up to the task.
The race for a New Year’s Six bowl bid in the Group of 5 is wide-open.
Verdict: Not an overreaction.
Cincinnati’s win over UCF on Friday night not only launched the Bearcats into contention for its first New Year’s Day bowl game since 2008, but it knocked the Knights out of the race for their own major bowl bid. You hate to see it.
This is as wide-open a race for an at-large bid in a major bowl game (likely the Cotton Bowl) as there has been in recent memory. With UCF out of the picture, the team to beat is Boise State, which rose to No. 14 in the latest AP poll. The Broncos are the likeliest of the remaining G5 contenders to finish undefeated, though they have a tough test remaining at BYU in two weeks before finishing their Mountain West schedule.
In the American Athletic Conference alone, Cincinnati, Temple, SMU, Memphis, Tulane and Navy all have a legitimate chance to finish the season with either zero losses or one loss and a conference championship.
In the Mountain West, Wyoming, Hawaii and San Diego State will compete to not only take down undefeated Boise State, but perhaps jump into the Top 25 themselves.
In the Sun Belt, Appalachian State and Louisiana get to fight for conference supremacy Wednesday night, with the winner likely headed for 10 or more wins.
In the MAC, heavy conference title favorite Toledo is favored to win all seven of its remaining games, per ESPN’s Football Power Index.
Even in Conference USA, Louisiana Tech has a chance to run the table and finish with one loss.
An undefeated or one-loss Group of 5 champion has yet to get serious consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but a game in Dallas against one of the nation’s best teams isn’t a bad consolation prize.