The Woodshed Week 6: Midterms are here for contenders to the throne

The Alabama Crimson Tide are undefeated and rolling. But are they unbeatable?
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Six weeks into the college football season, do you know which four teams are going to make the playoffs? We meet the halfway point basically, so some teams will be getting their midterm exams this week.

As we figure out who the King Bear is in the state of Florida, we should note that to get fat in the preseason on little effort only better prepares you for when the big fight will happen for the throne on top of the river where the salmon run.

It’s decided: The Turnover Chain is better than The Backpack

We should acknowledge the fact that Hurricane Michael devasted the Florida panhandle and our thoughts and prayers are with them. FSU evacuated the area. With them being on a bye week, most players left town for the week as practice was canceled. They will resume practice Saturday.

What happened in Miami was not as big as a tragedy as ‘Noles fans believe. Yes, FSU was up on Miami by 20 at halftime. It hadn’t even given Miami a chance to bring the chain out. What happens when that chain makes an appearance? The offense feeds off the buzz from the fans, and the next thing you know they are in the end zone.

Miami earned the 28-27 victory, but FSU also gifted them that game. If you’re up 20 points, take a page out of Jim Tressel’s playbook and run the ball, run the clock, punt. Squeeze the game, and make their offense beat your defense.

A lot of the talk was about the double-pass being called back, and the ‘Noles have a point of contention here. Don’t you just love how fans break down the moments. Both of these calls would have changed the game in favor of FSU.

Miami made a claim for the King Bear throne, winning the game and doing it in front of a lot of recruits.

The Gators are back, baby!

Dan Mullen’s Gators took down undefeated LSU 27-19. Offensively, Felipe Franks was below average, with 161 yards and a TD. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, but it was a trick play where Franks caught a pass that set up the game-winning TD.

The Gators highlight of the week was rushing for 215 yards vs LSU’s defense. Find a way, that’s all Mullen has had to do and for two weeks in a row, and Florida has two huge SEC victories to build on.

Florida winning is going to give Miami fits in the recruiting world. Mullen is overachieving at this point, and players in high school will realize it. The King Bear throne is vacant, and the Gators have the eye on the seat.

The best fake of the week

In the IowaMinnesota game, we saw a new wrinkle in fake field goal execution.

Long snapper Jackson Subbert goes backyard snap on you and rifles the ball to tight end T. J. Hockenson, who rambled in for the TD. Iowa rowed the boat and beat Minnesota 48-31.

Speaking of rowing the boat, is P.J Fleck a great soundbite or what? In talking about how his team didn’t give up, he gets a little testy with the media.

I don’t know about closing that gap this week. They head to Ohio State. Something tells me that gap will have to wait until after this Saturday to start shrinking again.

And now for The Woodshed Top 10:

No. 1 Alabama (6-0)

Can we please stop all the talk about how this is the best offense in Alabama’s history? They have not played anybody — ANYBODY — yet. Yes, Tua Tagovailoa puts up impressive numbers passing the ball: 1,495 yards and 18 TDs with zero interceptions. The biggest stat I care about here is the zero turnovers. That is going to change when you start to face better defenses.

Alabama just gave up 31 points to Arkansas, which rushed for 172 yards. If Arkansas can do that, what do you think an Ohio State, Clemson, or Georgia is going to do?

By the way, if you didn’t watch that Arkansas game, the final score shows a blowout, but let’s just say the Tide got some lucky breaks with fumbles and some overturned calls. I’m not saying the Razorbacks would have knocked them off, but the score would have been closer, like a 45-38 kind of score. And before you freak out on The Woodshed, I’m not the only one who thinks Alabama isn’t the best team in the history of college football.

Alabama hosts Missouri this week. Missouri can run the ball, and they have an NFL QB in Drew Lock. But the Tigers are 0-2 in the SEC and are about to be 0-3.

No. 2 Ohio State (6-0)

Like Alabama, they have a Heisman candidate QB with Dwayne Haskins Jr., who passed for a career-best 455 yards and six TDs in a 49-26 romp of Indiana.

Don’t be surprised to see Tagovailoa and Haskins in New York for the Heisman ceremony. Both are killing it. Haskins has 1,919 yards and 25 TDs but four turnovers. Regardless, would it shock you to know that Haskins and Tagovailoa communicate with each other on game days?

Ohio State has a lot of things to fix on defense. Perhaps it was a Penn State hangover, but OSU didn’t wake up until almost half time against the Hoosiers. Ohio State is very beatable, and they have below average linebacker and safety play at this point.

That’s why Urban Meyer and Nick Saban make the big bucks, because they are coaching those kids up so when it comes to the playoffs, they won’t be giving up those big plays. OSU still has the best road victory of anybody this year in beating Penn State, and doing it without their best player on defense in Nick Bosa.

No. 3 Georgia (6-0)

We will finally figure out if Georgia is for real this week when they face LSU. Unlike ‘Bama and OSU, Georgia is pretty good on defense, ranked sixth nationally with just 283 yards allowed per a game.

Georgia is going to have to figure out how to manage Jake Fromm, who passes the ball, and Justin Fields, who runs the ball. In the words of the great Johnny Cash, the Bulldogs offense is going to have to “GET RHYTHM.”

My guess is when Fromm has the blues, they’ll have to find their rhythm moving the chains with Justin Fields who can run. Fromm has 12 TDs throwing the ball, and Fields has three TDs running the ball. Here’s the deal, Georgia hasn’t figured it out yet. Elijah Holyfield leads the Bulldogs rushing attack with 432 yards and three TDs.

LSU gives up an average of 121 yards a game. Georgia heads to Death Valley to take on a team that just dropped a heart breaker to Florida. The Bulldogs are ripe for an upset this week.

No. 4 Clemson (6-0)

For all the Notre Dame fans that are complaining that they should be in the top four for the playoff, go sip some moonshine because you’re talking crazy!

The Tigers worked on their ground game against Wake Forrest for an “are you serious” 471 rushing yards. The beauty of having six weeks in the books is we now have some measurements to compare. It’s not all the eye test. Clemson is ranked third in the nation on defense, and that’s what wins you championships. They are beatable because they have a freshman quarterback in Trevor “Sunshine” Lawrence. Clemson is on a bye this week, so we’ll dig up some dirt for you next week.

No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0)

Notre Dame beat Virginia Tech 45-23 in Blacksburg, which is easily their best victory on the road. It’s a great win, and Brian Kelly is doing a fantastic job managing the schedule.

Keep an eye on these guys. They could run the table, because every game is winnable. The Irish need Stanford and Michigan to keep winning, because the rest of the schedule they are facing no ranked opponents and they don’t play a championship game to pump up their resume. This is going to be trouble when it comes to the playoffs.

Before ND fans get too upset, there is a measurement between the Irish and Clemson for the 4th spot, and I’m pretty sure Dabo Swinney knew it before they ran up the score on Wake Forest 63-3. Notre Dame threw the Book of Ian at Wake Forest scoring 56, but they gave up 27 to the Deacons. Ian Book is a guy the entire Catholic nation can get behind.

Here is the big warning flag, People: The Irish rank 49th in the nation in total defense, giving up 357 yards a game. And I get it, ND is unbeaten and should be highly touted, but the fact remains that they have the 45th best offense and 49th best defense.

The next test is Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame should be 7-0 soon.

No. 6 Penn State (5-1)

The Nittany Lions are one point away from being an elite program. But for now, they will just have to settle for great. Second place in the Big Ten isn’t a bad thing when you lose to Ohio State.

They’ve had a bye week to sulk in their misery in Unhappy Valley. Penn State hosts Sparty this week, and Michigan State isn’t just going to give them a W. The Spartans rank first in the nation against the run.

Penn State needs to be careful here, or it could be on a two-game losing streak. If James Franklin learned anything from the loss to OSU, don’t take the ball out of the hands of Trace McSorley. The kid is special.

No. 7 Michigan (5-1)

Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines on a five-game win streak going into one of the Big Ten’s best games of the week in Wisconsin. Michigan only gives up 230 yards a game, and they are the nation’s best defense statistically. The offense is boring to watch, but it’s power football.

This week’s game between Wisconsin and Michigan will be a slugfest in the trenches. I am a believer that Wisconsin is just way over-ranked. Michigan should win this game easily, but upsets happen. Harbaugh seems to lose big games, and this is the biggest game since his last big game in Notre Dame.

No. 8 LSU (5-1)

Before you get down on the Tigers for losing 27-19 in the Swamp last week, remember that the Gators had the power of Tebow and were using that juice to fuel the fans. LSU’s Joe Burrow threw his first interception for a pick-six late in the game that sealed the deal.

The Tigers were in this game, it took a trick play to beat them. LSU’s offense just needs to not beat itself, and it will be more than fine in playing the Bulldogs this weekend.

No. 9 Florida (5-1)

The Gators’ defense is the reason why this team is ranked so high. They are second in the nation in takeaways, which they routinely convert to points. Dan Mullen has this team believing, and to making matters worse, the fans are out chomping around. I actually had one in my office this week worrying about Vanderbilt. “Look Out” I believe were his exact words.

Mullen will get his troops going on offense, and they should be moving to 6-1 this week. The only loss was to Kentucky, who isn’t the cupcake this year.

No. 10 West Virginia (5-0)

If only we could merge the Gators and the Mountaineers, no wait. Will Grier used to play in Florida. How could we forget, take a look back at the life he used to lead:

Much has changed for Will, now he’s the man in Morgantown. The beard may throw you a bit. No, he’s not Baker Mayfield. He’s married with a baby girl now, he’s motivated to provide for his family. Grier is lighting it up as a father too, 1,819 yards and 21 TDs. Those numbers are better than Tagovailoa’s, if you’re keeping count.

WVU won’t be losing anytime soon. The Texas game is three weeks away. WVU will come down to earth, as they end the season with Texas, TCU, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. I suspect they will drop two of those four.