2022 College Football: Week 5 Takeaways

Some things stay the same (UMass blew a lead against a fairly weak foe), and somethings change (UConn beat an FBS opponent????). I’m sorry; I’ll say nice things about some of these maligned things too throughout the season, but we’re looking higher up in the pecking order today. We know that the top few teams (think Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio State) are in a class of their own, but a few of the second-tier teams (such as Wake Forest, Mississippi, and Oklahoma State) separated themselves this week as well. Therefore, let’s see what we can learn from all of these games in my week 5 takeaways!

Jahmyr Gibbs Powers Alabama After Bryce Young Injury

As Bryce Young walked into the medical tent after hurting his shoulder against Arkansas, it looked like an injury that, if severe, could completely change the college football landscape. Things started out well for the Crimson Tide, as they took a 28-0 lead against the Razorbacks even with backup QB Jalen Milroe leading two of the TD drives. Arkansas made some nice halftime adjustments, shutting down the ‘Bama offense and pulling within 5 points.

RB Jahmyr Gibbs had enough of that. He ran for 72- and 76-yard TDs on two consecutive drives, giving Alabama a 49-26 lead that it would hold until the clock hit triple zeros. Gibbs ran 18 times in total for 206 yards plus those two TDs, and he added two receptions for 20 yards. The Georgia Tech transfer was a big acquisition for the Tide, and it was never more important until today. His presence in the backfield took a ton of pressure off the inexperienced Milroe and enabled Alabama to comfortably beat a very good Arkansas team. We’ll find out more about Young’s injury in the coming days, but Alabama should handle Texas A&M just fine with its current cast of characters.

Why Can’t New FBS Teams Play in Bowl Games/Conference Championships?

James Madison made the jump this season from the FCS to the FBS, joining the Sun Belt Conference. The Dukes have been among the best teams at the FCS level for some time, but moving up to Division I-A still typically comes with an adjustment period. Coastal Carolina went 3-9 in their first year after moving from the FCS to the same conference. Western Kentucky was 0-12 in their first FBS season, as was Georgia State. The level of play in the FBS, even in a Group of 5 conference, is simply a major step up from that in the FCS. Don’t tell that to JMU.

The Dukes announced their arrival by demolishing Middle Tennessee 44-7. They’ve also won their 3 games since including two against conference foes (Appalachian State and Texas State). With just 2 more wins in their last 8 contests, JMU would become bowl-eligible. There’s just one problem: teams that leap to the FBS from the FCS cannot play in bowl games, or even conference championship games, in their first season. I don’t understand the reasoning for this rule. Most teams that transition to the FBS aren’t good enough to reach the 6-6 threshold anyway, so why block the ones who are from doing so? These teams aren’t earning cheap wins against their old slate of FCS foes. They’re playing the full schedules of their new conferences.

I understand the notion that allowing the newcomer to seize glory would rub the existing schools the wrong way. In that case, beat the new team. The previous members should be much more battle-tested regardless. If an occasional team happens to prove that they belong (justifying the decision to allow them into the conference in the first place), then I think they should be able to reap the rewards that the other teams would get with identical records.

Big 12 Teams Beating up on Each Other Like the Pac-12

A known fact is that because the Pac-12 has possessed a lot of good teams but no truly great teams, the conference members would beat each other up and ensure that none of them were able to qualify for the CFP. The Big 12 might be heading down that road this season. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State last week before getting CLOBBERED by TCU this week. Texas Tech knocked off Texas in week 4 before losing themselves to Kansas State in week 5. Baylor was defeated by BYU earlier this season, while Kansas State suffered a bad loss to Tulane.

The best thing going for the Big 12 right now is that Oklahoma State managed to hold off a spirited Baylor comeback. Kansas and TCU have joined OKST in the undefeated group, but neither was ranked going into week 5, suggesting that the AP and CFP don’t have much belief in those squads. With Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson always threats to snag CFP spots, the Big 12 can only sit comfortably if they have a 0-loss conference champion. Right now, that team must be Oklahoma State, as Kansas and TCU play each other next week, which will take one of them out. All 3 teams play each other, so conference officials are hoping that they don’t all cannibalize each other’s chances.

Top-25 Matchups Making up for Last Week

After just 3 games last week in which both teams were ranked in the top 25, we got FIVE this weekend. Let’s discuss what we’ve learned from each of those games.

(2) Alabama def. (20) Arkansas 49-26: We sort of addressed this game above, but here’s a bit more. Alabama proved that they possess the depth to withstand an injury to their biggest star, while Arkansas showed us that they’re definitely a good team but maybe not quite good enough to hang with the elites. While Arkansas ran the ball well, Alabama ran it EXTREMELY well. Each team fumbled, but Alabama didn’t lose theirs. Alabama’s backup QB was efficient, whereas Arkansas’ was ineffectively. These small differences can be all that stands between and a juggernaut and an also-ran.

Arkansas is likely to fall out of the rankings after this loss, which feels a bit unfair. They play a rugged schedule and have only lost to Texas A&M (where they had a shot at a game-winning FG) and Alabama (who is…well…Alabama). Many AP voters have Florida as a team that could replace the Razorbacks, and I don’t think the Gators are worthy of being the only two-loss team in the rankings. Alabama meanwhile is likely to jump to #1. Georgia survived a real scare against Missouri, but the Young injury might make people wary of jumping them over the defending champs.

(5) Clemson def. (10) North Carolina State 30-20: This game had quite a slow start, with merely a field goal for each team in the first quarter. Relative fireworks ensued in the second and third quarters, with Clemson surging to a 20-10 lead. The Tigers added 10 more points in the first as they tried to run out the clock. NC State played tougher than the final score of 30-20 indicated, but they still belong in the good-but-not-great second tier of teams. They struggled to stop the run and couldn’t run themselves, but the latter was not entirely their fault.

Clemson’s defense was absolutely suffocating, holding NC State to just 34 rushing yards on 21 attempts. QB Devin Leary only managed 245 passing yards on 48 attempts (including garbage time). Dabo Swinney’s defense has been good for a while now. It became elite last season, but that was overshadowed by the Tigers’ poor offense. I think it’s safe to say that this is the new Clemson and how they must win: throttle their opponents and do just enough on offense. QB DJ Uiagalelei has been far better this year, minimizing turnovers while making plays to support his defense. If Dabo’s team continues at this pace, they might just make the CFP.

(14) Mississippi def. (7) Kentucky 22-19: This game was less about what Ole Miss did than what Kentucky didn’t do. I’d be remiss if I didn’t start off with the Wildcats’ kicking game. Kicker Matt Ruffolo missed a PAT and a short FG early in the game, while another PAT attempt was botched due to a bad snap/hold. If you do the math, you’ll note that those 5 lost points were VERY significant.

The other issue for Kentucky was QB Will Levis. He’s being hyped as a top draft pick by the media, but he couldn’t even beat out Sean Clifford at Penn State. His biggest problem in this game was ball security and decision making, with 2 crucial lost fumbles and a safety taken after he held the ball for too long. Kentucky is a ground-based offense that needs to play complementary football, and the team can’t do that if their QB can’t take care of the football.

The Rebels had a much more pedestrian day by comparison. QB Jaxson Dart wasn’t great, going 15/29 with no TDs and 1 INT. The running game was excellent though, allowing the team to continue moving the chains. Lane Kiffin is proving his worth with this year’s team. He no longer has a QB like Matt Corral who can provide explosive plays with regularity. Kiffin will still go for 4th downs, but he’s demonstrating adaptability by taking a squad with a different set of skills and guiding it to 5-0.

(9) Oklahoma St. def. (16) Baylor 36-25: In another game we touched on above, the Cowboys took care of business against Baylor in a rematch of last year’s Big 12 championship game. It should have been an easier game than the one that ensued, as after a kick-return TD to open the 3rd quarter, OKST held a 23-3 lead. Baylor could not get much going offensively, and the defense was starting to tire out. Credit coach Dave Aranda for making a game out of this.

The Bears were gutsy for the entire second half, even going for it on 4th and 1…at their own 14! They converted. QB Blake Shapen led an inspired comeback, but the game essentially ended when he threw a perfect pass only to watch the receiver bobble it right into the hands of an OKST defender. Both of these teams are missing something on offense, and they require a lot of effort to score. Their specialties lie on defense, and OKST is just a little better in that category right now.

(22) Wake Forest def. (23) Florida State 31-21: FSU has been given a lot of media love this week. Many have declared the ‘Noles to be truly “back” in the wake (pun intended) of their 4-0 start, but their record is very misleading. They whipped an FCS foe in Duquesne, beat LSU via a fortunately blocked PAT, struggled to put away Louisville, and then crushed Boston College. We have learned that the latter two of those teams are not very good.

Regardless, FSU got a real test, but they came up short. A garbage time TD kept the score reasonable, but this was a 28-7 game before Wake Forest took its foot off the gas. Florida State is definitely better than they’ve been in recent years, and QB Jordan Travis has taken a very big step forward. They just aren’t as deep or as talented as their rivals. On the other hand, Wake Forest has proven that their performance against Clemson wasn’t a fluke; they’re really a good team with a potent offense and an improving defense.

Texas A&M: The Most Mercurial Team in College Football

If anyone knows what to make of the Aggies this season through 5 games, please do tell me. We knew Jimbo Fisher’s group was a defense-first team, but the transfer of QB Max Johnson from LSU was supposed to fix their floundering offense. Instead, returning QB Haynes King was named the starter. King didn’t look great in week 1, but a 31-0 win over Sam Houston State in that game wiped away doubts. A 17-14 loss to Appalachian State the very next week, however, forced Fisher to switch to Johnson.

The new QB1 wasn’t overly impressive in his first start, but he limited his mistakes while his defense suffocated Miami en route to a 17-9 win. In week 4 against #10 Arkansas, Johnson was again decent but not great. That was enough to beat the Razorbacks though after their kicker missed a go-ahead field goal. This week, Johnson wasn’t part of the discussion. His line of 19/26 for 203 yards and a TD was once again fine, but the defense collapsed. Mississippi State jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Aggies seemed to know what happened. Texas A&M would never get within 11 points of the lead from there.

MSST went up 35-17, but Johnson got hurt, forcing King into the game. He promptly threw 2 INTs, one of which was returned for a TD. A garbage time score by the Aggies brought the final to 42-24, but the offense wasn’t fully to blame in this one. Playing efficient football should be enough for a team as talented as TAMU to beat an unranked opponent, even a quality SEC foe like this one. Alas, I really don’t know what to make of this team or even what direction it’s heading in. That’s probably not a good thing for Jimbo Fisher because if I’m thinking that way, I can only imagine how the boosters are feeling.

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