Tennessee summoned its magic to come back against Texas A&M but didn’t have enough to finish. Oklahoma returned to supremacy in the Red River Rivalry, and one Cinderella team lost its chance at making the College Football Playoff. Here are the biggest takeaways from Week 6:
Dede Westbrook and the Oklahoma resurgence
Rumors swirled around Charlie Strong’s job security all weekend, but conventional wisdom indicated that if Texas were to beat Oklahoma, then he could at least feel more secure for a week. Sooners receiver Dede Westbrook helped make sure that didn’t happen.
He compiled a career day and one of the best individual performances in Red River history, logging 10 catches for 232 receiving yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 45–40 win. Westbrook’s speed was on full display, but he was every bit as good after the catch as he was before it. Lighting up a maligned Longhorns secondary may not look like a huge accomplishment (the Texas defense has surrendered at least 45 points in four of its five games this season), but Westbrook looked like a weapon that quarterback Baker Mayfield will rely on for the rest of the season.
The Sooners have been written off by many after their losses to Houston and Ohio State, but with back-to-back wins against TCU and Texas, Bob Stoops’s squad looks like a legitimate Big 12 contender. A perfect run in conference play wouldn’t get them back to the playoff, but the Sooners look like a team that is still capable of a New Year’s Six bowl appearance.
Houston is out of the playoff
The triple option has taken down several good defenses. It was unclear how good Houston’s defense was even after its impressive start to the season, but Navy flummoxed the Cougars in a 46–40 upset Saturday. Houston’s dreams of the College Football Playoff were dashed, and its aspirations for a New Years’ Six game may have gone with it.
As SI’s Colin Becht points out in his recap, Navy’s triple-option attack thrives on its ability to take advantage of particularly aggressive units. As a result, scheming to bring lots of pressure will end up with your defense tackling the wrong opponents. Houston did plenty of that Saturday.
The loss won’t lessen the demand surrounding head coach Tom Herman, who may end up being courted by LSU, Texas and USC by the end of the season, but the dream of seeing a Group of Five team in the national semifinals ended in Annapolis.
Texas A&M is a threat
Any dutiful follower of college football knew that Texas A&M had started 2014 and 2015 with 5–0 records before late-season collapses. While it’s hard to call the Aggies any kind of SEC West favorite since they share a division with Alabama, their double-overtime win over Tennessee spoke values about the Aggies’ quality. Kevin Sumlin’s team has brought renewed vigor to College Station and helped fans forget about the struggles of the past two seasons.
The 45–38 victory featured significant drama, but Texas A&M demonstrated what’s best about its team—the Aggies rush the passer well, and the offense is impossible to predict. Quarterback Trevor Knight was known primarily as a traditional pocket passer during his time at Oklahoma, but he’s become more of a dual threat so far under Sumlin. After breaking out two long TD runs during the Aggies’ win over Arkansas two weeks ago, Knight rushed for 110 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday to complement 239 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Knight seems like an unlikely candidate to be the marshal of Sumlin’s offense since he plays nothing like Johnny Manziel. But as it stands today, Texas A&M probably has the most feared offense in the SEC and two surefire NFL defensive linemen (Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall) leading the defense.
Michigan humiliated Rutgers in the cruelest possible manner
Just study the team stats in the box score. The carnage is unlike anything else you’ll see all season, and this was between two teams in the same conference!
Washington did something similar to Oregon
Had this game taken place at Washington, then Oregon coach Mark Helfrich would have likely been left at the airport like Lane Kiffin was by USC. Worse, the Ducks’ 70–21 loss to the Huskies was in Eugene, once one of the most feared venues in college football, now the home of one of the nation’s most disappointing programs. Perhaps Phil Knight and the Oregon athletic department will lock Helfrich out of his office.
Oregon’s porous defense has been an issue all season, but Saturday was a new low for a unit that entered the game ranked 117th in total defense and then proceeded to surrender 70 points and 682 yards of offense. Washington quarterback Jake Browning may have entered the fringe of the Heisman conversation after logging 304 passing yards and six touchdowns (he ran for two more) Saturday. Browning has now thrown for 1,418 yards and 23 touchdowns through the first six games of the season.
After Washington State thrashed Stanford 42–16, the Huskies have a clear path to win the Pac-12 North title. Judging by their performance on Saturday, it’s hard to imagine who wants to play them.
Miami is in a good place
Losing to rival Florida State on a blocked extra point was a brutal end to the day, but Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz have the Hurricanes looking like a formidable national power one year after the program was in complete shambles. Add in that Miami dismissed arguably its two best defensive players, Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace, before the season, and it’s clear that Richt has already altered the culture.
Notre Dame’s nightmare continues
The Irish are 2–4 after losing to NC State 10–3 in a rain-soaked bog in Raleigh. Head coach Brian Kelly blamed his center for his “atrocious” snapping, which means he’s now blamed his defensive coordinator, his larger defensive staff, his quarterback (despite that quarterback having an excellent season) and now his center for his team’s struggles. Working for Brian Kelly sounds like it would be a challenge.
Stanford’s offensive struggles
Stanford has now failed to log 300 yards of total offense in back-to-back games and lost those games to Washington and Washington State by a combined score of 86–22. The offensive line, a known strength throughout David Shaw’s tenure, has been embarrassed by both the Huskies and Cougars, and neither Ryan Burns nor Keller Chryst have looked like dependable options at quarterback. The Cardinal remain one of the best programs in college football, but this looks like it’s going to be a rare down year in Palo Alto.