By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
Alabama – While LSU has grabbed the national spotlight, the Crimson Tide has quietly thrived out of it. Not anymore. Alabama fell behind early against Florida, but rallied for a 38-10 victory. The Crimson Tide defense held the Gators to 222 yards and scoreless for the final three quarters. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron turned in an efficient start, completing 12 of 25 passes for 140 yards. Running back Trent Richardson was the workhorse for the Crimson Tide offense, gashing Florida’s defense for 181 yards and two scores. Barring a surprise defeat, Alabama should be 8-0 before taking on LSU on Nov. 5.
Arizona State – It wasn’t pretty, but the Sun Devils knocked off Oregon State to move to 4-1. Beating a struggling team isn’t the reason for making this list. Arizona State shook off a slow start - likely due to last week’s win over USC - and should be the favorite to win the Pac-12 South.
Auburn – The Auburn-South Carolina game was not easy on the eyes, but the Tigers found a way to win. Auburn was nearly a double-digit underdog, but rode sophomore running back Michael Dyer for the victory. The Tigers came into Saturday’s matchup allowing 31 points a game, but held the Gamecocks to 13. The schedule won’t get any easier for the Tigers, as a trip to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas is up next.
Clemson – Another week, another big win. The Tigers easily knocked off Virginia Tech 23-3 on Saturday, moving to 5-0 and taking a commanding lead in the ACC Atlantic. Looking at the upcoming schedule, it’s hard to find a guaranteed loss until Oct. 29 against Georgia Tech. Clemson’s offense has been impressive all year, but it was the defense that delivered in the win over the Hokies. After five weeks, it appears the Tigers are the ACC’s best team.
Duke – After starting the year 0-2, the Blue Devils have won three in a row. Wins over Boston College, Tulane and FIU aren’t going to draw much attention on the national level, but it seems Duke is a much-improved team since the Week 1 loss to Richmond. The Blue Devils still have a shot to make a bowl, but need an upset or two along the way.
Dustin Garrison, RB, West Virginia – Have the Mountaineers found their running back? Garrison rushed for 291 yards and two scores in Saturday’s win over Bowling Green.
Georgia – With losses by Florida and South Carolina, combined with the Bulldogs win over Mississippi State on Saturday, the SEC East race is wide open. Georgia has won three in a row after beginning the season with two losses and seems to be finding its rhythm on offense. If the Bulldogs knock off Tennessee this Saturday, it’s likely their biggest obstacle to the SEC East title is the annual matchup with Florida in Jacksonville.
Houston’s offense – UTEP’s defense is nothing special, but it’s noteworthy the Cougars have had back-to-back games of at least 700 yards of total offense.
Illinois – The Fighting Illini are 5-0 and in good shape to make some noise in the Big Ten race. Illinois rallied from a 28-10 deficit for a 38-35 victory over Northwestern on Saturday. Receiver A.J. Jenkins turned in one of the weekend’s top performances, catching 12 passes for 268 yards and three scores.
Kansas State – Considering the loss of running back Daniel Thomas and a shaky defense, just making a bowl game appeared to be the most favorable scenario for the Wildcats in the preseason. However, it’s time to update those predictions. Kansas State knocked off Baylor 36-35 to move to 4-0 this season. The Wildcats have a good chance to be 5-0 with a home game against Missouri this Saturday. Coach Bill Snyder should be in the discussion for coach of the year.
Melvin Ingram, DL, South Carolina – Ingram continued his hot start to the season with another ridiculous effort against Auburn. The senior registered four sacks and 11 tackles in Saturday’s loss to the Tigers.
Michigan’s defense – Sure, Minnesota isn’t exactly the greatest offense, but the Wolverines pitched their first shutout since Sept. 15, 2007. After last season's defensive debacle, this performance is noteworthy.
Pittsburgh – After dropping back-to-back games in the fourth quarter, the Panthers turned in their best effort of the year in a 44-17 whipping of South Florida. Pittsburgh’s offense finally seemed to find its rhythm, while the defense forced two turnovers and held the Bulls scoreless in the second half.
Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh – Even though the Panthers got a team mention, Graham deserves his own category. The junior rushed for a season-high 226 yards against South Florida, which gives him 734 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.
SMU – The Mustangs had to win in overtime after blowing a big second-half lead, but beat TCU for only the second time since 1998.
Washington – Jake who? New quarterback Keith Price continued his impressive start to 2011, completing 22 of 30 throws for 226 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-14 blowout win over Utah. The Huskies are 4-1 with a favorable game against Colorado in Week 7. If the Huskies can get by the Buffaloes, they will setup a huge Pac-12 North game against Stanford on Oct. 22. Washington is flying under the radar, but this is a dangerous team that deserves more credit for its start.
Washington State – Although the Cougars may not make a bowl game, it’s clear coach Paul Wulff has this team playing better. Washington State used a late touchdown pass to knock off Colorado and improve to 3-1 on the year. If the Cougars want to make a bowl, beating UCLA on Saturday is a must.
Wisconsin – Saturday’s game against Nebraska was hyped as one of the top matchups in the Big Ten this year. Not even close. The Badgers easily handled the Cornhuskers, winning 48-17 behind quarterback Russell Wilson’s three touchdowns and nearly 290 yards of total offense. The Badgers are clearly the No. 1 team in the Big Ten.
Louisville – The Cardinals have a lot of young players getting significant snaps, but this team has home losses to FIU and Marshall. Although both teams are solid non-AQ programs, these are games the Cardinals should win. Louisville was one of the Big East’s biggest surprises last year, but could be headed for a losing record.
Nebraska – The Cornhuskers first Big Ten game was a major disappointment. Nebraska dropped a 48-17 decision to Wisconsin, which was the first loss by the Cornhuskers of 2011. Nebraska’s defense had no answer for Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson or the Badgers’ rushing attack. And the Cornhuskers struggled on offense, particularly quarterback Taylor Martinez, who tossed three picks on Saturday night.
New Mexico – The Lobos are staring at the possibility of a winless season after Saturday’s blowout loss to New Mexico State. New Mexico fired coach Mike Locksley after the loss to Sam Houston State, but this program needs a lot of work before it can become a bowl team in the Mountain West again.
Ohio State – The Buckeyes lost their Big Ten opener in ugly fashion. Ohio State’s offense managed only 178 yards and only a late touchdown prevented a shutout. Luke Fickell is not having the best audition for the fulltime job and with Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin coming up, Ohio State could be 3-5 going into the final month of the season.
South Carolina – The defending SEC East champs are in trouble. Yes, the Gamecocks are only 4-1, but quarterback play continues to be a problem and likely won’t get any better this season. Losing to Auburn was a surprise, especially with the way the Tigers were playing on defense entering this game. Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore has to get more than 17 carries a game if the Gamecocks want to think about a repeat trip to Atlanta.
South Florida – After starting out the year 4-0, the Bulls fell flat in the Big East opener against Pittsburgh. South Florida’s offense didn’t score in the second half, while the defense was gashed for 523 yards. The Bulls can still contend for the conference title, but it appears they have more question marks than anticipated after the first four games.
Texas A&M – The Aggies have been awful in the second half the last two weeks. After blowing a 20-3 lead to Oklahoma State, Texas A&M watched a 35-17 lead slip away against Arkansas on Saturday. The Aggies entered the year with BCS bowl hopes, but it’s going to be a challenge to win all of their remaining games.
Utah – There was a lot of anticipation for Saturday’s Pac-12 home opener in Salt Lake City, but the Utes had a disastrous performance. Utah had been winning the turnover battle this year, but lost five in the 31-14 loss to Washington. Making matters worse is a shoulder injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn. The junior is unlikely to play in Saturday’s game against Arizona State.
Utah State – The Aggies are just a couple of plays from a 4-0 record. Unfortunately for Utah State, it has not had much success in the final moments of games this year, as evidenced by BYU’s wild comeback on Friday night.
Virginia – Yes, the Cavaliers got the victory, but needed overtime to beat…Idaho. The bye week comes at a good time for Virginia, especially with Georgia Tech coming up in Week 7.
Virginia Tech – A favorable non-conference slate had the Hokies at 4-0 and in good shape entering ACC play. However, Virginia Tech wasn’t ready for the challenge on Saturday night. Clemson’s defense kept the Hokies in check, while the offense made just enough plays to win. The good news? Virginia Tech can still win the ACC Coastal, especially with Miami and Georgia Tech remaining on the schedule.
Looking Ahead to Week 6
A small sample of what’s ahead
California at Oregon (Thursday)
Golden Bears nearly upset the Ducks last season, but can they pull out the victory in Eugene?
Boise State at Fresno State (Friday)
Broncos look to continue their quest for an undefeated season and a BCS bowl.
Florida State at Wake Forest
Seminoles desperately need a win to keep their ACC Atlantic title hopes alive.
Miami at Virginia Tech
Loser of this game will see their ACC Coastal title hopes slipping away.
Iowa at Penn State
Hawkeyes have won eight out of the last nine against the Nittany Lions.
Georgia at Tennessee
Are the Bulldogs the favorite to win the SEC East? A win in Knoxville would solidify their case.
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas)
The Red River Rivalry has renewed energy this season, as both teams enter this matchup undefeated.
Auburn vs. Arkansas
Can the Tigers build off last week’s surprising win against South Carolina?
Ohio State at Nebraska
This game appeared to be one of the key matchups on the Big Ten schedule in the preseason. However, both teams are desperate for a win after disappointing efforts in its conference opener.
Florida at LSU
If the Gators are without quarterback John Brantley, it’s going to be a long night against LSU’s defense.
Injuries from Week 5
Arizona State C Garth Gerhart – sprained ankle – unlikely to play in Week 6
Arkansas DT Robert Thomas – leg – questionable for Week 6
Arkansas CB Darius Winston – leg – questionable for Week 6
Auburn WR Emory Blake – ankle – questionable for Week 6
Connecticut OT Jimmy Bennett – torn ACL – out for remainder of year
Florida QB John Brantley – leg – questionable for Week 6
Iowa State OT Kelechi Osemele – ankle – questionable for Week 6
Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson – head/neck – questionable for Week 6
LSU RB Spencer Ware – hamstring – probable for Week 6
Miami LB Ramon Buchanan – knee – questionable for Week 6
MTSU RB Benjamin Cunningham – foot – questionable for Week 6
North Carolina DT Tydreke Powell – shoulder – questionable for Week 6
Northwestern QB Dan Persa – leg – probable for Week 6
Northwestern RB Mike Trumpy – knee – questionable for Week 6
Notre Dame DE Ethan Johnson – ankle sprain – questionable for Week 6
Ohio State WR Verlon Reed – knee – questionable for Week 6
Oklahoma RB Brennan Clay – shoulder – probable for Week 6
Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming – undisclosed – probable for Week 6
Penn State CB Stephon Morris – ankle – doubtful for Week 6
Pittsburgh OG Lucas Nix – knee – questionable for Week 6
South Carolina OT Kyle Nunn – knee – doubtful for Week 6
Southern Miss RB Kendrick Hardy – arm – questionable for Week 6
Texas LB Jordan Hicks – hamstring – probable for Week 6
USC RB Marc Tyler – bruised quad – probable for Week 7
Utah QB Jordan Wynn – shoulder – questionable for Week 6
Virginia Tech DT Antoine Hopkins – knee – out for remainder of season
Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler – ankle – questionable for Week 7