The college football season is only a few weeks old, and we’re already seeing some of the most exciting games in years. Here are the biggest takeaways from Week 4.
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The College Football Playoff field hasn’t been extended yet, but the competition has certainly heated up, particularly after Clemson’s second loss of the season.
From the ACC to the Pac-12, our writers break down the most important lessons from Week 4 in college football.
Texas A&M has to be inventive if it wants to salvage its season.
After a successful 2020 season, Texas A&M had to figure out how to replace four-year starter Kellen Mond at quarterback and the four starting offensive linemen that fueled the Aggies’ explosive run attack.
After starting quarterback Haynes King went down with an injury, those questions are more pressing than ever. Zach Calzada, his successor, has struggled. In four games, the Aggies have scored 95 points. Only South Carolina (89) and Vanderbilt (50) have scored fewer points in the SEC. Despite Jimbo Fisher’s attempts at various front-end combinations, the offensive line has failed. Calzada has only completed 51.4 percent of his throws for 334 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in two games against Power 5 opponents. In both the 10-7 victory against Colorado and the 20-10 defeat to Arkansas on Saturday, the Aggies scored ten points.
In Texas A&M’s 20-10 defeat against Arkansas on Saturday, sophomore Zach Calzada passed for 151 yards and one interception. Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
Despite running 20 plays and getting three first downs in the second half against the Hogs, A&M broke up the game with a 67-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Spiller with 7:51 remaining in the third quarter. Spiller would carry the ball for the last time in the game. With approximately four minutes remaining in the third quarter, his backup, Devon Achane, took the lone carry by an Aggies running back, for eight yards on first down. Throughout the game, Aggie wide receivers caught seven passes for 81 yards. Jalen Wydermyer, the star tight end, grabbed one for 18 yards.
Mike Elko’s defense has been a hallmark of the Fisher era in College Station, but the Aggies have given up 45, 47, and 52 points in three games with Alabama. We know A&M won’t be able to keep up. However, at this pace, you have to worry whether Fisher’s offensive can keep up with Mississippi State next week, much alone subsequent games like Missouri and Ole Miss. It may be a long road ahead for the Aggies if they don’t find a way to chuck the ball down the field. Dave Wilson is an author.
In the ACC, there is some optimism.
It’s the start of the season in an ACC that’s much weaker than usual, particularly after Clemson’s 27-21 double-overtime defeat to NC State on Saturday. Clemson has won 53 of its previous 56 games against ACC opponents dating back to the start of the 2015 season before falling short against the Wolfpack. Yes, Clemson has dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference. Since Florida State disappeared into the football wilderness, the ACC has basically been Clemson and everyone else. It’s tough to envision the ACC being involved in the College Football Playoff celebrations this season.
However, there may be a more beneficial way to view the ACC’s devastation up to this point. Boston College and Wake Forest are the only two undefeated teams in the country, two schools that aren’t exactly football powerhouses but have two outstanding head coaches. Jeff Hafley is in his second season at BC, having led the Eagles to a winning record during the COVID-19 epidemic in Year 1. And Dave Clawson is one of college football’s most underappreciated coaches. Everywhere he has been a head coach, he has enhanced programs and athletes. His teams are clever and disciplined, and he seldom has the best players on the field. Chris Low (c)
Clemson defeats to an unranked team for the first time since 2017, falling 27-21 in double overtime against NC State.
Without the enlarged field, the playoff race would be more competitive.
The College Football Playoff race has already become more intriguing, and it hasn’t even begun to grow. With Clemson’s second defeat, the ACC (still a premature proclamation tempered by reality) has basically been removed, leaving space for someone else (or, in the SEC’s case, two somebodies). While the field will inevitably shrink as the season progresses, with so many crucial conference games in October, fresh dark-horse contenders have arisen.
The Big Ten still has five unbeaten teams (don’t forget about Maryland! ), and Arkansas coach Sam Pittman seems to be ahead of schedule. Florida is driven by the prospect of a rematch with Alabama in the SEC championship game. UCLA has just one loss and hosts Oregon on Oct. 23, and no one outside of the Big 12 seems to realize Oklahoma State is also unbeaten. On Saturday, Cincinnati has an opportunity to make a statement against Notre Dame. While the Irish are still figuring out who they are, they are also discovering new methods to win.
More clubs may be in the mix if there is parity or mediocrity this season, whatever you want to call it. We’ll have to wait and see how long it lasts. Heather Dinich is a writer.
Finally, some good fortune for the NC State Wolfpack.
After Christopher Dunn’s game-winning field goal against Clemson at the end of regulation, you couldn’t help but feel bad for NC State. Over the course of Dave Doeren’s nine-year tenure with the Tigers, the same story kept repeating itself. Bryan Underwood had a touchdown called back in 2013 that altered the game’s momentum, and Doeren kept a screenshot showing Underwood tiptoeing the sideline in-bounds on his phone for years as a reminder of what might have been.
In 2016, the Wolfpack lost after missing a short kick in regulation. In 2017, NC State had a similar sorrow when they led at halftime but lost. Doeren, on the other hand, had a different feeling about this squad heading into the season since so many veterans were returning, and he thought his players had a better knowledge and respect for the effort that goes into winning a title.
“There’s something on the table we want to have,” Doeren said in early September, “and Clemson’s been a team that’s taken it every year.” “So, if at all possible, we need to get over that hurdle. We came in second place to them twice, so I believe it is feasible. I believe we are in a terrific position.”
Those remarks now seem to be prescient. NC State did not wilt as it has in the past. Rather, the Wolfpack rose to the occasion, surviving double overtime thanks to a spectacular touchdown throw from Devin Leary to Devin Carter and a second-overtime defensive stop that will be remembered for a long time. It doesn’t really matter whether Clemson loses. For the first time since 2012, NC State defeated a top-10 opponent. Doeren defeated Clemson for the first time, putting NC State in command of the Atlantic Division.
Doeren lit a celebratory cigar and smiled a football field wide during a post-game interview on the ACC Network. NC State, on the other hand, is a team that scored 10 points against Mississippi State only two weeks ago and has a history of terrible things occurring when things seem to be going well (there’s a term for it, too!). NC State has the rest of the season to really flip the script and put its previous history in its proper place. Andrea Adelson’s remark
Oregon State was weary of being in tight games going into the season. During coach Jonathan Smith’s first three seasons, the Beavers showed indications of improvement, but finishing games was a significant issue. In eight of their previous nine defeats dating back to 2019, the Beavers were in a one-score game in the fourth quarter. That’s a significant improvement over their uncompetitiveness in 2017 and 2018, but it’s also a source of frustration since they couldn’t find a way to win.
The Beavers are one of the bright spots in a dismal year for the Pac-12 after four games. The Beavers have won three consecutive games after dropping their opener to Purdue in a contest that was tight in the fourth quarter. The Beavers’ 45-27 victory against USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday was their first in the venue since 1960.
It’s still too early to tell how talented this squad is, but if the Beavers don’t complete conference play with a winning record, it will be a big surprise. That hasn’t happened since 2012, when it was the only occasion in the previous 11 years. After joining Chris Petersen as offensive coordinator in 2014, Smith was a big part of Washington’s ascent, and he deserves credit for his alma mater’s success. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
The college football season is off to a good start with the top four teams in the nation all winning their games. There are also some interesting storylines developing, including Texas A&M’s troubles and a wide-open playoff race.
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