Talk about chaos.
For the first time since The Associated Press began doing its college football poll, five of the top eight teams lost on the same weekend.
The second-, third-, fourth-, sixth-, and eighth-ranked teams all lost last weekend as Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and UCLA all saw their undefeated seasons go down in flames. Add in losses by #14 Stanford, #16 USC, #17 Wisconsin, #18 BYU, and #19 Nebraska, and it was a rough day for ranked teams.
It all started on Thursday night when unranked Arizona went into Eugene as a 24-point underdog and stunned #2 Oregon 31-24. It was the second-straight year the Wildcats upset the Ducks and the third time since 2007 that a top-five Oregon team lost to an unranked Arizona squad.
The Wildcats led for much of the second half behind a 21-point third quarter, but Oregon tied it halfway through the quarter. Arizona benefited from a controversial unsportsmanlike penalty on third down to extend a drive that ultimately led to a touchdown. On Oregon’s ensuing possession, Arizona’s Scooby Wright sacked Mariota and forced a fumble which he recovered, enabling the Wildcats to run out the clock.
On Friday, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill was lost for the season after breaking his leg, and when he went out, so did BYU’s playoff hopes. Utah State beat the Cougars 35-20, forcing four turnovers. Hill’s backup, Christian Stewart, threw three interceptions.
The madness came full force on Saturday. Quarterback Bo Wallace threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions while the Ole Miss defense held Alabama to just 10 offensive points as the Rebels defeated the Crimson Tide 23-17, sealing the game with an interception in the end zone.
The Rebels’ in-state brethren, the Mississippi State Bulldogs dispensed with the drama, running all over Texas A&M in a 48-31 victory. Quarterback Dak Prescott rushed for three touchdowns and threw two more while the Bulldog defense intercepted A&M quarterback Kenny Hill three times.
In Fort Worth, the TCU Horned Frogs went toe-to-toe with #4 Oklahoma and shut down the Sooners in the second half to record a 37-33 victory. Trevone Boykin threw for over 300 yards, rushed for 70 more, and totaled three touchdowns. The Horned Frog defense intercepted Trevor Knight twice, including a pick-six that gave TCU the lead for good, and stopped Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine on 4th-and-1 late in the game to seal the win.
Eighth-ranked UCLA fell at home to unranked Utah 30-28. Backup quarterback Kendal Thompson and running back Devontae Booker keyed the upset, combining for 239 rushing yards. Kicker Andy Phillips made three field goals, including the go-ahead one with 34 seconds left. Utah recorded ten sacks, but UCLA still had a chance to win. Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a 55-yard field goal attempt as time expired, but a penalty gave him another chance. His 50-yard attempt just barely missed wide right, giving the Utes an upset victory over a top-ten team for the second year-in-a-row.
Notre Dame rallied to defeat Stanford 17-14 as quarterback Everett Golson connected with tight end Ben Koyack on 4th-and-11 with a minute to go to rally the Irish in a wet, sloppy game.
Michigan State dominated Nebraska for three quarters then took the foot off the gas and nearly let the Cornhuskers snatch away an improbable victory. The Cornhuskers scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to turn a 27-3 blowout into a 27-22 nail-biter. A potential touchdown catch in the end zone couldn’t be completed, and Michigan State finally put the game away with an interception.
Wisconsin fell 20-14 to unranked Northwestern, despite 259 yards rushing from Melvin Gordon. Wisconsin quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy combined to go 12-of-29 for 138 yards with four interceptions. Northwestern’s Justin Jackson rushed for 162 yards and the Wildcats won their third-straight game after starting the season 0-2.
The most improbable game of the weekend was Arizona State’s 38-34 victory over #16 USC. The Sun Devils scored three touchdowns in the game’s final four minutes and capped it off with a 46-yard Hail Mary to Jaelen Strong as time expired. Strong was heavily outnumbered, but no USC defender went for the ball as he jumped in front of a host of Trojans to make the catch. Backup quarterback Mike Bercovici threw for 510 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions as ASU won at USC for the first time since 1999.
In non-upset news, Auburn rolled to an easy 41-7 victory over LSU. Baylor managed to pull away late for a 28-7 victory over Texas, and Kansas State, Oklahoma State, East Carolina, and Ohio State all won handily. Top-ranked Florida State took awhile to get going before blowing out overmatched Wake Forest.
Looking Ahead to Week 7:
Week 7 doesn’t appear to have quite the same quality of matchups as Week 6, but it should be pretty close. Once again, the spotlight will be down south in the SEC. Second-ranked Auburn travels to Starkville to take on third-ranked Mississippi State.
Ole Miss, also ranked third in the nation, heads over to College Station to face #14 Texas A&M in a huge game for both teams. Ole Miss is coming down from a huge high after upsetting Alabama last weekend at home. ESPN’s College GameDay came to town, as did Katy Perry, and it was a huge, emotional victory for the program. After a week of basking in the win and receiving massive amounts of media attention, will the Rebels experience a letdown?
Texas A&M comes into the game with the opposite mindset. The Aggies got blasted by Mississippi State 48-31. Texas A&M suffered numerous drops on offense and yielded 559 yards on defense. How will they respond? The Aggies looked amazing against South Carolina, but with the Gamecocks’ struggles, that win looks less and less impressive with every passing week. Two things in the Aggies’ favor: Ole Miss struggles to run the ball, and their quarterback, Bo Wallace, has a propensity for throwing interceptions.
Alabama heads to Fayetteville to take on a much-improved Arkansas team. The Razorbacks are tough and gave both Auburn and Texas A&M all they could handle. However, they don’t have nearly the same caliber of defense as Ole Miss, and the Razorbacks’ ground-oriented offense is much better suited to Alabama’s defense than the spread approach used by the Rebels.
A big SEC showdown will also take place this weekend, as #13 Georgia faces #23 Missouri in Columbia. Both teams are 4-1, but Georgia will be without star tailback Todd Gurley, who is suspended due to an investigation of NCAA violations. Gurley has been sensational this season, so this is a huge loss for the Bulldogs. His replacement, freshman Nick Chubb, is averaging over seven yards-per-carry, but he hasn’t been asked to carry the load before. Add in the Bulldogs’ struggles on the road of late and quarterback Hutson Mason’s lackluster passing performance to date, and this spells trouble for Georgia.
Missouri is coming of a dramatic 21-20 win over South Carolina, but the Tigers are porous against the run, ranking just eighth in the conference in rush defense. Georgia’s rush-heavy attack also neutralizes Mizzou’s stellar pass rush. Still, without Gurley, one has to like the Tigers’ chances in this one.
The Pac-12 also has a couple of big games on the docket this weekend. Oregon and UCLA meet in what many figured would be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game. However, they also figured both teams would be playoff contenders and not coming off upset losses.
Oregon was upset by Arizona yet again, this time a 31-24 defeat at home. UCLA was dropped, also at home, by Utah in a 30-28 defeat in which the Bruins had two chances at a game-winning field goal but missed both wide right.
Both teams have had trouble protecting their star quarterbacks. Oregon’s offensive line is banged up and starting a true freshman and a walk-on at the tackle positions while UCLA gave up 10 sacks against Utah.
When either line gives its quarterback time, they are deadly. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has thrown 15 touchdown passes with no interceptions and is second in the country in completion percentage. The man ahead of him? UCLA’s Brett Hundley, who has completed nearly 73 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Raise your hand if, coming into the season, you figured the USC-Arizona game would feature the number ten team in the country against an unranked opponent. Keep your hand raised if you had Arizona picked as the tenth-ranked team.
Much like the Ole Miss-Texas A&M matchup, this game features two teams coming from opposite ends of the spectrum. Arizona is coming off a high after upsetting previously-undefeated and #2 Oregon on the road while USC has to bounce back from a heartbreaking last-second loss to Arizona State in which the Sun Devils connected on Hail Mary as time ran out to steal a win.
The Wildcats are 5-0 and the only remaining unbeaten team in the Pac-12. They jumped from not being ranked all the way to number ten. Behind freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, Arizona boasts the nation’s seventh-best offense, but the defense is a concern.
USC’s defense has been gashed in both the Trojans’ losses, but the offense has been humming with quarterback Cody Kessler and running back Javorius Allen. Expect a shootout in this one.
The Big 12 also has a marquee game this weekend, and it’s not the Red River Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas.
Fifth-ranked Baylor hosts ninth-ranked TCU in a matchup of undefeated teams. TCU is the more battle-tested team, having upset previously-undefeated Oklahoma last week 37-33 at home while Baylor has yet to play anyone of significance (sorry, Texas).
Baylor has become relevant on the strength of its high-powered offense while TCU is known for its vaunted defense. However, the overshadowed units for each team are quite potent themselves. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is having a breakout season and guides an offense that averages almost 43 points a game. Baylor’s defense actually yields fewer points than TCU’s lauded unit, 12.4 to 13.5 points per game.
Factoid of the Week: War Damn Eagle
Without a doubt, the most confusing slogan in college football belongs to the University of Auburn. Like Alabama’s “Roll Tide,” Auburn has its own saying; “War Damn Eagle!”
The confusing part is that Auburn’s mascot is officially the Tiger and has never been known as the Eagles or War Eagles. Adding to the confusion is that the school does have a live eagle mascot that flies around the stadium prior to home games.
As with any good college tradition, the exact origins of the saying are unknown and shrouded in mystery. However, what sets Auburn’s apart is that there are not one but four legends as to how the saying got started.
The most popular claim is that it dates back to a game against Georgia in 1892. One of the fans in attendance was a Civil War veteran who had found an eagle on the battlefield and kept it as a pet for 30 years.
The bird suddenly launched into the air and started circling the field. Auburn then drove down the field, leading the fans to start chanting, “War Eagle!” When the game ended with an Auburn victory, the eagle suddenly dove to its death, but the chant lived on.
The second version of the story goes that in 1914, Auburn played the Carlisle Indian team, whose best player was a guy named Bald Eagle. Auburn went right at him the whole game in an effort to wear him down. Auburn’s quarterback kept yelling out “Bald Eagle!” prior to the snap to let his teammates know, but the crowd mistook it for “War Eagle” and started shouting that instead. Auburn’s Lucy Hairston scored the game-winning touchdown, yelled “War Eagle,” and a new tradition was born.
Version numero tres states that during a pep rally in 1913, the head cheerleader gave a speech about how the team needed to go out there and fight “because this means war!” Right then, an eagle emblem fell off of a student’s military hat. He was asked what is was and replied, “It’s a war eagle!” Students took up the cheer the next day when Auburn beat Georgia.
The final legend is that Auburn fans adopted the chant as a nod to Saxon warriors of old (because Alabama and Saxons have so much in common). According to the legend, Saxons referred to buzzards as “war eagles” because the birds would circle the battlefield before settling down to feast on the dead.
Regardless of the actual origins, the “War Eagle” chant is one of the most enduring and deep-rooted traditions in college football, and watching the eagle take that pregame flight around the stadium is one of the coolest sights you will see on game day.
Game of the Week:
Auburn vs. Mississippi Sate
Talk about a fun two weeks. The state of Mississippi must be beaming with all the attention it has been garnering lately. Last week, College GameDay went to Oxford for the first time to see Ole Miss upset Alabama. This week, GameDay will make its Starkville debut as third-ranked Mississippi State hosts second-ranked Auburn, last year’s national runner-up.
Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is a leading Heisman contender and has thrown for over 1,200 yards and rushed for over 450 with 19 total touchdowns for the unbeaten Bulldogs. He has plenty of weapons around him, such as running back Josh Robinson (7.5 ypc), and will present Auburn’s defense with its toughest test to date. The Tigers have been dominant thus far this season, but they haven’t faced a quarterback of Prescott’s caliber.
The Tigers have a dual-threat quarterback of their own in Nick Marshall. Marshall has tallied 12 total touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards of total offense for an offense that averages 42 points a game and is in the top-15 nationally in rushing offense. Mississippi State’s defense has shown some vulnerability this year, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Intangibles could certainly come into play here, too. This is uncharted territory for Mississippi State while Auburn is battle-tested, having gone to the national title game last year. Plus, the Tigers are the more complete team. They would be comfortable in an offensive shootout are used to tight games in the fourth quarter. Think back to how many comeback victories the Tigers had a year ago. Mississippi State, on the other hand, has struggled in the fourth quarter, letting big leads slip away and making games much closer than they should have been.