The Woodshed Week 5: In stunning surprise, Alabama is just better than everyone

From left: Alabama LB Jaylen Moody, Ohio State WR Parris Campbell, Georgia WR Jeremiah Holloman, Clemson QB Chase Brice.

As we head into Week 6 of the College Football Season, we’re really starting to learn who’s the best of the best of the college football world. Right now, It’s Alabama and then everybody else. Shocker, right? But as you read on, you’ll hear some arguments as to why ‘Bama has company in the Clubhouse.

Wide Right, or was it Wide Left?

Sep 27, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes defensive lineman Jonathan Garvin (97) celebrates after making an interception catch during the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get confused about the Red Tide Warnings in South Beach. It has nothing to do with a Seminole War Party coming to town. Like most of FSU fans, they quietly go about their business in the office hoping not to bump into any ‘Canes fans. Why? For one, they just are better at trash talking. For two, Miami is further along in the rebuilding process than Florida State.

FSU’s slow start isn’t looking so bad now that Syracuse almost knocked off Clemson. For Miami, now that Mark Richt has gone with N’Kosi Perry at quarterback, fans are pumping their chest. But be careful: 78 points over the past two games is “fool’s gold Jerry!”

The Miami Turnover Chain defense had three TDs against North Carolina. Three! I know, it doesn’t matter if you’re scoring right? In this case it does, because Perry hasn’t faced a defense yet. He hasn’t had to figure out how to beat people under pressure. The FSU defense gives up 385 yards a game, but that can be misleading, seeing how they have faced Virginia Tech, Louisville and Syracuse. Syracuse and Virginia Tech are ranked 26th and 27th in the nation in total offense, respectively.

FSU quarterback Deondre Francois is coming off his best performance of the year, throwing four TDs and leading a last-minute scoring drive over Louisville. I know ‘Canes fans are licking their chops here, but I’d be over cautiousarkan with the Seminoles.

Sep 29, 2018; Louisville, KY, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois (12) throws the ball past Louisville Cardinals defensive lineman Henry Famurewa (96) during second half at Cardinal Stadium. Florida State defeated Louisville 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, I’d give the edge to Florida State, because I believe veteran quarterbacks make a difference in a lot of games. The coaching edge goes to The U, and the defense goes to The U. As much as I’d love to see a quarterback make the deciding play of the game, it’s going to come down to a kick, and FSU has the better kicker in Ricky Aguayo.

And since this is a big recruiting weekend for Miami, here’s a tip: Stay away from the beaches; you’ll find a bunch of dead fish. #redtide

UCF makes claim as King Bear

Sep 29, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton (10) runs for a touchdown as Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker Quintin Wirginis (58) gives chase during the second quarter at Spectrum Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

How many of you drove up to Orlando to check out the fourth-ranked offense in the nation in UCF? McKenzie Milton improved his Heisman status with another six TDs in a 45-14 rout of Pitt. Where is Mark May now? You got whipped by UCF buddy, retire already!

If you’re keeping track at home, Penn State beat Pitt 51-6, so UCF will be knocking on the door of the playoff committee very soon. The AP has them ranked 12th, right behind the Nittany Lions.

But for some reason Auburn is ranked ahead of them? I know it’s a new year, but it’s not like Auburn has beaten anybody to deserve that, right UCF fans? And if you’re listening to Milton, UCF should have beaten the Tigers by three TDs.

The Mullen Bowl goes to Florida

Lost in the ratings of college football was one of the best bowl games of the year over in Mississippi between Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators and Dan Mullen’s former team, the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Mullen spent nine seasons at Starkville, and he built a great team that was going to contend for the SEC title this year. Florida won the “Mullen Bowl” — a game that featured four field goals — with a trick play set up early in the game with quick passes. The game-winning TD was a double-pass out of a screen formation.

The final was 13-6, and it is easily Mullen’s best win of the season. The Gators’ defense stepped up, and the offense racked up 357 yards. Plenty of reasons to be happy after the game.

Gators Beat MSU – Post Game Locker Room

The Florida Gators Football locker room was so loud! (In a good way.)#GoGators

Posted by Florida Gators on Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Gators get a much stiffer test this weekend in the Swamp, as they host the undefeated LSU Tigers. I’m just happy this game is a must-watch game again. It should be a doozie.

Now for the Woodshed Top 10:

No. 1 Alabama (5-0)

Well, everybody in America is anointing Tua Tagovailoa as the second coming who is taking the form of an Alabama quarterback. Yes, Tagovailoa is really good, and Alabama is really good. But can we just look at the schedule a second?

So you beat LouisianaLafayette 56-14 in Week 5. Congrats. Though I applaud ‘Bama fans for saluting Jalen Hurts for not transferring.

He still can transfer because he is graduating early, which he’s on pace to do in December. So that means he can move on as a graduate transfer without losing a year. He doesn’t need to take the redshirt.

Next up is Arkansas. Oh, how I miss Bret Bielema. Don’t expect the Razorbacks to give Alabama any kind of a game this week. They are a team riding a four-game losing streak who’s claim to fame is giving up awesome special teams TDs this year

They will give up a punt return to Alabama — maybe two! — if they kick to Jaylen Waddle.

There so much to talk about with Alabama right now. But perhaps the most “Nick Saban being Nick Saban” thing is calling out students for not coming to the games or cheering hard enough. Maybe he’s a little upset because players want to play in front of Whiteouts? Hard to tell, but go, NICK, go!

No. 2 Ohio State (5-0)

Right now, I believe Ohio State has a shot at beating Alabama. Urban Meyer’s squad has gone on the road in two hostile environments and beaten two top-20 teams. You can call them lucky, but who has better quality wins than Ohio State right now? Pipe down Notre Dame fans, we’ll get to you in a second.

As much as everybody wants to give Penn State’s head coach grief for the worst play call in the history of college football.

Maybe you should be giving Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano some credit for the calls. The defense showed one thing but did another, which led to Franklin’s call right into their defense.

And don’t be mad, OSU’s offense made the plays when it had to, including Fort Lauderdale’s Ben Victor making the play of the year for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State won without Nick Bosa on the defensive line. If Chase Young can make such an impact in the backfield, what do you think Bosa would do?

The Buckeyes have Indiana this week, so don’t be surprised to see a hangover a bit before they get rolling.

No. 3 Georgia (5-0)

Sep 29, 2018; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Justin Fields (1) dives to score a touchdown during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulldogs had no issues in Knoxville, beating Tennessee 38-12. But I’m sounding the alarm right now: Georgia better figure out what they are doing on offense or they are going to be in trouble during the later part of their schedule.

Georgia is testing out its quarterback run game with freshman Justin Fields, who had two TDs and 45 yards rushing. Jake Fromm had two fumbles that kept the game tighter than it should have been.

Kirby Smart needs to watch what Clemson is doing, because the two-quarterback system is going to make the football gods mad. Fields sparked the win, and he adds to the running game big time. Keep an eye on this against Vanderbilt. You’ll want to see Fields passing the ball with the LSU game two weeks away.

No. 4 Clemson (5-0)

Dabo Swinney dodged a bullet after freshman quarterback Trevor “Sunshine” Lawrence got knocked out of the game with a concussion. This game was fascinating to watch, because Syracuse was up on Clemson the entire time.

It was a nightmare situation for Clemson. First, second-string quarterback Kelly Bryant leaves the program on Monday. Then, the new starting quarterback gets concussed, followed by third-stringer Chase Brice making his way onto the field.

The Tigers prevailed, and maybe Syracuse is better than most people think. The Orange had a fake punt conversion flagged for illegal receiver downfield that could have iced the game for Syracuse. Without that penalty, there are no Brice heroics.

No. 5 Notre Dame (5-0)

Sep 29, 2018; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book (12) walks toward the locker room after Notre Dame defeated the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

“AND HERE COME THE IRISH.” Que the marching band. Notre Dame is a much better team with Ian Book at quarterback than with Brandon Wimbush. The Book of Ian threw for four TDs and 278 yards against seventh-ranked Stanford. You should also note that they got their running back from suspension, too. Dexter Williams gashed the Cardinal for 161 yards.

Listen up: Notre Dame has a very manageable schedule and should go unbeaten. Are they better than the teams above them in The Woodshed? That’s a big nope. But you reward strength of schedule and victories and Notre Dame has beaten Michigan and Stanford. That reward would be larger had the Irish done it on the road like the Buckeyes did, but that’s a small detail.

The Irish get their biggest test on the road this week in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech. Notre Dame is for real, but are they the team that lays an egg like they did in South Beach last year, or are they a team that gradually puts it all together as the season moves forward?

No. 6 Oklahoma (5-0)

Who are the Sooners? I can’t figure out how you need overtime to beat Army, and when the game was at home? You do get ranked high when you have a guy like Kyler Murray at quarterback. He threw for 432 yards and six TDs against Baylor. They have their biggest test in the Red River Shootout with Texas.

Possibly the best story to come out of this was Mike Leach’s story about planting a fake script for the offense so Texas coaches could find it. This is outstanding, and it reminds me of a coach I once knew of jogging around football facilities on game days looking for things hoping to find an edge to the game. Leach used it to his advantage in 1999, jumping out to a 17-0 lead.

Tom Herman’s Texas Longhorns have recovered from losing to Maryland at the start of the season. But I don’t think they are quite ready for Kyler-ball. The winner of this game will win the Big 12 and possibly make the playoffs if they can stay unbeaten.

No. 7 Penn State (4-1)

One point. Almost had ‘em. Buckeyes fans are happy to escape Happy Valley with a W, but man do they feel for Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, who balled out with a school record 461 yards of offense.

Penn State is very good. McSorley may have missed his Heisman moment, but he may have been saved because the coach didn’t put the ball in his hands when the team needed 5 yards. A call that has already been documented, even James Franklin’s own fans were giving him the business as he came off of the field.

Perhaps my biggest bone to pick with Franklin is recognizing that Ohio State is just better than Penn State. You are hosting all the best recruits with the best crowd in history and this is what you tell your fans and recruits. Ohio State is elite, we’re great.

In Franklin’s defense, the entire soundbite is about taking the next step as a program. I may suggest it starts with some better play-calling, but that may make too many Penn State fans uncomfortable.

No. 8 LSU (5-0)

The Tigers might actually be better than Penn State. But I’m still a little suspicious.

They thumped Miami 33-17 to open the season. And they have a great story with their transfer kicker and quarterback. Joe Burrow had his best day, throwing for 292 yards and three TDs while rushing for another 96 yards in a 45-16 domination. LSU heads to the Swamp with all the confidence this week. Florida WR transfer Trevon Grimes, who played with Burrow at Ohio State, is talking some smack.

What Grimes and the rest of the Gators defense ought to know is that LSU led the nation last year with the fewest turnovers. Florida leads the nation this year with 14 takeaways, so there is some confidence there if you’re a Gators fan.

But why don’t you ask Miami fans what happened in Week 1. That Turnover Chain didn’t make an appearance, and the ‘Canes’ defense is better than the Gators’ defense. Miami is second in yards allowed per game; Florida is 19th, giving up 244 yards a game.

No. 9 Kentucky (5-0)

Sep 29, 2018; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) runs the ball against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats put a 24-10 whooping on the Gamecocks of South Carolina. Benny Snell is the real deal. The kid is going to run you over or by you.

Kentucky heads to Texas A&M this weekend, and if they get by the Aggies, it is two more weeks of victories before they host Georgia. Kentucky could end up winning the SEC East, how about them Vegas odds. Jimbo Fisher will have something to say about that Saturday night.

No. 10 West Virginia (4-0)

Will Grier. Watch a Mountaineers game. Could you imagine Florida with Will Grier?

WVU skunked Tennessee the same way Georgia did in Week 1, and they just went to Texas Tech and beat them 42-34 in a shootout. I’m wary of West Virginia’s true measure of success. The game against NC State was canceled, and the Wolfpack would have been a real test.

In the end, they may need that game to make the playoffs, especially if they run the table. I just don’t see them getting by Texas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma to end the season. But Grier’s 1,487 passing yards and 17 TDs are pretty nice to see. Que the John Denver music!