Alabama, Clemson pace-setting college football, on pace for National Championship rematch
A week after close calls among playoff contenders, college football revealed its truly elite teams. Some teams ended up dropping crucial games while others proved they are deserving of their high rankings. Yet, week five further solidified that the top two teams in the country, Alabama and Clemson, are clearly college football’s two front-runners while the rest of the top ten is still chasing last year’s National Championship teams. Here is a look at a few of the key games from this past weekend:
USC looks lost against Washington State
In front of eager Jets fans predicting the future of their franchise, quarterback Sam Darnold and the University of Southern California Trojans traveled north to take on the No. 16 Washington State Cougars. The battle between top Pac-12 teams left Trojan fans devastated as Washington State students flooded the field following a wire-to-wire win in Pullman.
The potential number one pick, Sam Darnold, and his running back Ronald Jones II had their hands full with an exceptional Washington State team. The Trojan offensive line played well against a tough pass rush, allowing only two sacks and five quarterback hurries. However, Darnold was not able to take advantage of an otherwise middling defense, completing 15 of 29 passes for 164 yards and an interception. His track-star running back, Ronald Jones II, broke out for an 86-yard touchdown run. Jones had a quiet night apart from that long run, however, finishing with a measly three yards per carry for the night.
On the other side of the ball, Washington State backed up its top-20 ranking with an amazing performance. Leading them was quarterback Luke Faulk, who threw for over 300 yards on 51 attempts against a top-25 ranked defense in the nation. The Cougars piled on the yards, outgaining the Trojans 462 to 327 and dominating the time of possession by over 10 minutes.
This game concluded a concerning start to the season for USC, as it struggled in wins over Western Michigan, Texas and California. The Trojans and Heisman-hopeful Sam Darnold must win out in a dominant fashion over the rest of their schedule if they have any hope of making noise come early January.
Clemson steamrolls Virginia Tech
In yet another battle against a top team, Clemson embarrassed Virginia Tech to grab its third victory over a top-15 squad in five weeks.
The Tigers continued their strong start to the season as they stuck to what they do best: Let their dual-threat quarterback make plays. Kelly Bryant paced his team this week in passing and rushing, finishing with a quarterback rating of 78.1 and compiling 186 yards through the air. Bryant did the most damage with his legs, though, cruising to 94 yards on 19 carries. The Clemson quarterback led the assault on the ground as the Tigers ran the ball a whopping 43 times in a statement win.
Quarterback Josh Jackson and the Hokies were not able to protect their home field as they were stifled by a talented Tigers defense. Jackson ended the game with 29 completions on 44 attempts for 251 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Coming off two straight weeks in which he averaged 335 passing yards, Virginia Tech's quarterback was not prepared for a defense of Clemson’s caliber.
As if Clemson didn’t have enough on its resume already, the Tigers dominated the No. 12 team away from home to inch closer to Alabama for the number one overall ranking. The national champions responded to questions all offseason after losing stars on both sides of the football by taking down three top teams within the first five weeks. After squeaking by No. 14 Auburn and wrecking Louisville and the 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, head coach Dabo Swinney and his players are paving the way for another opportunity to knock off Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Week 5 Preview
A quick look ahead reveals a disappointing schedule this weekend. However, a matchup worth tuning into is Penn State traveling to Northwestern. Running back Saquon Barkley looks to continue his torrid pace against a rush defense that held a strong Wisconsin run game to 109 yards on the ground this past week in Camp Randall. Penn State’s quarterback Trace McSorley will have to take advantage of a porous defense that left many opportunities for fellow Big Ten quarterback Alex Hornibrook to take advantage as the Nittany Lions look to defend their conference title.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter