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College Football 2015: Week 5 and 6 Recap
Sunday, 2015 October 11 - 8:07 pm
Michigan dominates in two shutout victories; NCSU loses twice.

Sorry, I've been traveling a bit and I haven't had time to keep up with the old blog here. Not that anyone reads it anyway, but you know, it's the principle. I'll try to cram two weeks worth of recap into one article.

#22 Michigan 28, Maryland 0
#18 Michigan 38, #13 Northwestern 0

These were two games in which Michigan was favored, but the games were expected to be competitive. However, Michigan's defense is indeed looking like it's elite, perhaps even the top defense in the country. And not only that, but Michigan put up 38 points and 380 yards on a Northwestern defense that had been averaging just 7 points and 250 yards against it. The Maryland win was somewhat expected; the Northwestern win was shocking in its magnitude. This is a Northwestern team who has beaten Stanford and Duke, two ranked teams that could contend for their conference titles. Michigan dominated Northwestern in every facet of the game.

The defense is fierce, and much better than last year's defense with largely the same personnel. We're seeing the defense take maximum advantage of its athleticism with its aggressive press coverage and a stunting, blitzing front. The ability of the linebackers and safeties to close down sweep plays is a revelation compared to the last few years.

The Harbaugh-led offense is starting to gain traction as well. The seemingly endless wrinkles in the trap-block rushing scheme are fascinating. And just when you think you've figured it out, the offense will pop a fullback quick dive play for 15 yards.

If there's one area where the offensive needs to improve, it's throwing downfield to receivers. Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson are rangy and athletic, but we haven't seen them get much separation, and even when they do, Jake Rudock hasn't been accurate delivering deep balls. With future defenses extra-keen to stop the Michigan running game, the ability to throw deep at least a couple of times will become important.

Michigan State is next. MSU has looked shaky against some inferior competition, and its signature win over Oregon looks worse now that the Ducks have lost a few games badly. For the first time in years, I expect Michigan to be competitive in this game. We'll probably even be favored, which is just wow.

NCSU 13, Lousville 20
NCSU 13, Virginia Tech 28

Just as Michigan's two wins were similar, NCSU lost its first two conference games in similar fashion. Louisville and VT had 203 and 200 yards rushing, respectively. NCSU went 5-16 and 5-15 on third downs. The defense probably played well enough to win; the offense couldn't put it together.

Jacoby Brissett is a good quarterback. He doesn't have enough athletes around him to win games. The team misses Shadrach Thornton, who was kicked off the team after an arrest earlier this month. Jaylen Samuels is starting to emerge as a receiving threat, but the offensive line has to hold up long enough for Brissett to get him the ball.

After a 4-0 start against cupcake teams, reality is starting to sink in a bit for the Wolfpack. It seems like this is a perennial pattern for NCSU: a team with lots of promise loses games it really ought to win. I expect NCSU will beat Wake Forest and pull out one upset out of its games against Clemson, Florida State, and UNC. The games against Boston College and Syracuse are a tossup. So a 7-5 season with a mediocre bowl game seems like the most likely outcome. Again.

Playoff Contenders

It's become a question of, is anyone really looking like a national championship team? The ostensible favorites and traditional powers have stumbled a bit.

#1 Ohio State struggled mightily to put away Indiana in Week 5, and then was tied against Maryland in the third quarter before finally pulling away late. The OSU defense looks a bit suspect, and the offense looks lackadaisical at times. They're a good team, no doubt, but they look extremely vulnerable. The Penn State game next week, which most people would have predicted to be a blowout after Week 1, might be a stern test for the Buckeyes.

#2 TCU is putting up big scores on most of its opponents, but its defense is downright awful at times. After stomping Texas 50-7 in week 5, they nearly lost to unranked Kansas State in week 6, coming from behind to win 52-45. Their best non-conference win was against what has turned out to be a pretty bad Minnesota team. They might still go undefeated; they might still get left out of the playoffs even if they do.

#3 Baylor has yet to be tested, but has yet to play anyone noteworthy either. They could similarly find themselves undefeated and left out of the playoff. Hey Baylor, if you want respect, improve your non-conference scheduling.

#4 Michigan State beat Purdue by just 7 points, and Rutgers by just 3. These are bad Purdue and Rutgers squads, and the Dantonio mystique is showing cracks. Injuries to the offensive line have hurt the Spartans badly. If not for the fact that State has a senior quarterback in Connor Cook and a NFL-caliber receiver in Aaron Burbridge, the Spartans could easily be 3-3 right now. The defensive secondary is suspect, and opponents have figured out how to attack the vaunted quarters defense. Michigan State will likely be an underdog to Michigan this week, and for good reason.

#5 Utah, meanwhile, is starting to look like the top team in the country. They pasted Oregon 62-20, and then beat a ranked Cal team 30-24. I can't see who in the Pac-12 can beat them, though upcoming games against Arizona State and USC will be a challenge.

#6 Clemson beat Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in the last two weeks, vaulting them into the playoff picture. Despite that, the team has a reputation for falling apart ("Clemsoning") in some games, and having watched some of their play, I'm not yet convinced that this is an elite team.

#7 LSU beat Eastern Michigan and South Carolina by near-identical scores (44-22 and 45-24), which doesn't say much for South Carolina. LSU is still suspect on defense, but Heisman candidate running back Leonard Fournette makes the team capable of beating just about anyone. Next week's game against Florida is a monster.

#8 Alabama beat Georgia and Arkansas comfortably, keeping them in the midst of the playoff picture. The team is clearly not as dominant as it has been in some recent years, though, and they'll face an enormous challenge against Texas A&M next week. Speaking of the Aggies...

#9 Texas A&M beat Mississippi State 30-17 in week 5, and will have had two weeks to prepare for Alabama. A&M is a solid if unspectacular team, with good wins against teams like Arizona State and Mississippi State under its belt. I won't be surprise if they beat Alabama.

#10 Oklahoma, fresh off a terrific win against West Virginia, was stunned by a struggling 2-4 Texas team 24-17. Even if they win the rest of their games, this one bad loss may be a killer for their playoff hopes.

#11 Florida is quietly undefeated. They knocked off two high-quality opponents in Ole Miss and Missouri, and are suddenly in the driver's seat to win the SEC East. They have to travel to Baton Rouge next week to face LSU, though.

#12 Florida State keeps chugging along, beating inferior competition. The win against Miami this week was a decent win, but FSU might not really know what they're made of until they face Clemson on November 7th.

#13 Northwestern got pasted by Michigan, as we know. It's now time to put Michigan in the playoff competition; if Michigan wins out, the one "good" loss against Utah will hardly be held against them. Meanwhile, Northwestern still has a chance in the weak Big Ten West.

#14 Ole Miss can't be counted out yet. They lost badly to Florida, but they have a win against Alabama under their belt and have a chance to pick up a bunch of quality wins against a tough slate over the next seven weeks.

#15 Notre Dame's playoff hopes took a big hit when they lost to Clemson in week 5. They could still win out, but the strength of their schedule doesn't look great stacked up against a bunch of other potential one-loss teams. The Texas win in the opener seems particularly unimpressive now.

#16 Stanford pasted Arizona 55-17 in week 5, and have a bye to prepare for UCLA. Stanford has a good chance to win the Pac-12 North, with Oregon struggling and the rest of the division looking weak. Cal might be their toughest remaining conference test.

#17 USC can be counted out of the playoff picture, having suffered their second loss to a not-so-good Washington team. Also, head coach Steve Sarkisian was suspended for being drunk, so that's not good. They play Notre Dame next week, though, and that game will be entertaining if nothing else.

#19 Georgia lost two straight, to Alabama and Tennessee. This was a team that was supposed to contend for the conference championship and perhaps the playoffs; now that seems unlikely. Still, the remaining schedule is soft; aside from a game against Florida on Halloween, the Bulldogs will probably be favored the rest of the way out.

#18 UCLA lost to Arizona State in week 5, but it seems too early to count them out. They have a big game against Stanford this week; a win keeps them in contention for the Pac-12 South.

#19 Oklahoma State and #20 Iowa can be mentioned in the same manner. They are both undefeated against a mediocre slate of opponents. Iowa, however, faces a very weak Big Ten West schedule the rest of the way out (they don't play Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, or Penn State) so there's an outside chance they'll make the Big Ten Championship game with an undefeated record. Egads. First they have to get by Northwestern next week, which I'm not sure they'll be able to do. Meanwhile Oklahoma State has TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma remaining on their schedule, so 12-0 seems less likely.

Other Teams
Penn State is starting to look respectable with a 5-1 record, albeit versus weak competition, and some bad wins along the way. I'm still hopeful, though, that they'll be able to test Ohio State this week.

Nebraska continues to be cursed, losing yet another game in the final minute. This time, it was a field goal that did them in. Nebraska had a chance to close out the game late, but instead played conservatively to force Wisconsin to use its timeouts. After rushing three times for five yards and punting, Wisconsin drove 42 yards in six plays to set up the game-winner.

Arizona bounced back from big losses against UCLA and Stanford to beat Oregon State 44-7.

North Carolina beat Georgia Tech in week 5, and are quietly 4-1. UNC doesn't face Clemson or Florida State this year, and has a decent chance of going 11-1 and reaching the ACC playoffs. Their biggest competition might be Duke, who similarly is 5-1 and doesn't face Clemson or Florida State. Or hey, one-loss Pitt has a similar conference schedule ahead (though they have a game against Notre Dame out of conference remaining.)

Ken's Top Ten
1. LSU
2. Utah
3. Florida
4. Ohio State
5. Clemson
6. Baylor
7. Texas A&M
8. Michigan
9. Michigan State
10. Alabama
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Posted by Ken in: sports

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