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College Football, Week 6: Live in the Now

Florida State's Jameis Winston

Last Thursday, we wondered what this weekend might make of four would-be contenders — teams that emerged from September comfortably within the Top 25 and looking as though they might be cut out for a January Pasadena adventure, but that had some real hurdles left to clear. The findings were surprisingly tidy: two close wins against good teams, and two gaudy blowouts.

That Ohio State and Stanford might hurl themselves against quality opponents like Northwestern and Washington and remain undefeated is unsurprising. That Baylor might blow the doors off West Virginia — good grief; just how sheepish is Oklahoma State right now? — was entirely plausible. But we can’t be alone in saying that we really did not expect things to go quite this badly for poor Maryland, which stuck its terrapin neck tentatively into the polls only to have it promptly and neatly sliced off by a cursory flick of Jameis Winston’s wrist. (It was then made into soup, though regrettably not in time for last week’s Top Chef: New Orleans elimination challenge.)

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

No. 8 Florida State 63, no. 25 Maryland 0. Oh, Maryland. That’s gonna leave a mark. A psychic scar has to come with a conference loss of this magnitude, with being on the business end of a division opponent’s biggest-ever win over a ranked team. To quote Dana Holgorsen, who had a pretty bad day himself: That sucks, man.

Sympathies politely and sincerely dispensed with, do you know what’s great about not being part of a college football team? If you’re a Clemson player or coach or trained video parakeet or whatever, you have to think about Boston College football for this entire next week. Those of us at home? We get to train our sights on October 19 and the visiting Florida State Seminoles and the science-fair volcano show that must surely result between these two top-15 offenses, and just marinate in the possibilities for a couple weeks.

But for now, back to Week 6: At halftime of Maryland–Florida State, offering up this clip might have been impolite, with the score a tasteful 21-0. By the end of the third quarter, with the score 42-0, it was only fair. By the final whistle, well:

It can feel, at these times, as though the backlash begins almost before the adulation starts. You might feel this way about Winston. Sometimes you might catch yourself consciously tempering your emotions when it comes to his fledgling body of work. He’s very young, with several difficult games remaining in the first season of his collegiate career. He’ll have bad days. He’ll have entire bad games. And then you’ll remind yourself that it’s not called feelingsball, and that nothing you’re thinking will have the slightest measurable impact on the action on the field, so you might as well enjoy what’s in front of you while it’s in front of you, especially when this is what’s in front of you. Winston completed 23 of 32 pass attempts against the Terrapins for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Live in the now. Winston is.

“I’m going to enjoy this day right here because it felt like a Little League football game out there; twelve o’clock, the sun was out. I don’t think I saw a cloud in the sky. It was a beautiful day, so I’m going to enjoy this day.”

No. 4 Ohio State 40, no. 16 Northwestern 30. OSU trudged onto the sloggy, weird turf of Ryan Field, committed three turnovers, failed to score an offensive touchdown until the final 20 minutes of play, scored two more, then tacked on a final boost to the margin of victory thanks to some last-second Wildcat heroics gone awry, and trudged back out with a win. Carlos Hyde, blossoming since his return from an early-season suspension, came perilously close to doubling up the 85 yards he posted against Wisconsin with a 168-yard outing that encompassed the first three of those aforementioned touchdowns. (Counterpart Jordan Hall was sidelined with a knee injury, announced just before game time.)

Aesthetically, this was not exactly a game to burnish and throw up on the mantel, but with their 18th consecutive victory in the bag and bowl eligibility assured, the Buckeyes take the longest active winning streak in the FBS into a stretch of Big Ten play consisting of Iowa, Penn State, at Purdue, at Illinois, and Indiana — no, come back! The Big Ten game to watch next week pits Ohio State’s two most recent victims against one another, with Northwestern bound for Wisconsin. Stick with the Wildcats for a week and you’ll find a lot to like. There’s a two-quarterback system that’s actually functional, and their student streak of Space Mutiny reverence runs deep.

No. 5 Stanford 31, no. 15 Washington 28. Seen Pacific Rim? (If not, why not? Stop. Go.) If so, informal poll: Is Stanford fielding a team of massive stompy robots, or of killer creatures ferried to Palo Alto through an interdimensional portal? Martin Rickman is correct: There may not be a player on Stanford’s roster who’s not a tight end or a linebacker. Can you really prove otherwise?

A tight end, a linebacker, or a Tyler. Grantland That Guy Tyler Gaffney led the Cardinal in rushing with 19 carries for 72 yards, eclipsed by Tyler Montgomery’s 30 rushing yards, 56 receiving yards, and 204 (TWO HUNDRED AND FOUR) kick return yards. Montgomery acquired 99 of those yards on the opening kickoff, as if to remind flagging viewers why we stay up late for these things in the first place. In purple and matching the Cardinal stride for bullish stride was Bishop Sankey, who came in with one of the more feelings-inducing story lines of the season and rolled up 125 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

The high drama carried right on through to the replay booth finale, an outcome mourned by many with no greater motivation than wanting to see the game go on, maybe until morning, maybe longer. Nos. 5 and 15 played about like you’d expect nos. 5 and 15 to play one another, and just like that, suspicions nursed since Week 1 were confirmed: There are three powers to be reckoned with in the Pac-12 North. Washington gets Oregon next week. Attention shall be paid. Boats shall be tailgated upon. The Cardinal spend next Saturday at Utah before hosting UCLA in what could be a preview of the conference championship game.

No. 17 Baylor 73, West Virginia 42. Might ought to have saved the “That sucks, man” clip until now, when we are compelled to point out that this was a 73-42 contest that simultaneously was not as close as the final score might have you believe (which is not that close at all) and that could have been soooo much worse. Baylor’s scoring, by quarter: 28, 28, 10, 7; WVU’s: 7, 7, 7, 21. There’s a grim poetry in the Bears besting the Mountaineers’ winning point total from 2012 by a field goal’s margin. We wonder if Art Briles thinks about poetry much, while he’s busy not worrying about early-game ties. Maybe he does. There’s a lethal lyricism to this offense that suggests the soul of an artist at work.

Bryce Petty, also hailing from this year’s That Guy ranks, scored his first touchdown 40 seconds into the game. He scored twice more in the first quarter before graciously yielding point-making opportunities to the likes of running backs Lache Seastrunk (15 carries, 172 yards, two scores), Shock Linwood (14 carries, 126 yards, one score), and Glasco Martin (12 carries, 63 yards, two scores). Ten players recorded some manner of score for the Bears.

Should you feel compelled to complain that the Bears’ 780 yards per game, and opponents’ 321, are a product of Baylor’s schedule and only Baylor’s schedule, you’re in luck: Your griping can proceed for the next month or so without interruption, as the Bears mow through Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas. But look alive in November: That’s Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State, all in a row and all not to be missed.

Elsewhere in Footballvania

Keith-Marshall

No. 6 Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT). The Pyrrhic victory is a common topic in sports talk, but it rarely manifests itself on the field quite so pointedly as it did Saturday in Knoxville. A Bulldogs squad already down star offensive weapons Malcolm Mitchell and Todd Gurley, and safeties Tray Matthews and Connor Norman, proceeded to lose receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley and running back Keith Marshall to knee injuries, and punter Collin Barber to a concussion. Marshall’s and Scott-Wesley’s injuries, like Mitchell’s, involve season-ending damage to their ACLs.

Here’s Plutarch:

Hieronymus says there fell six thousand of the Romans, and of Pyrrhus’s men, the king’s own commentaries reported three thousand five hundred and fifty lost in this action. Dionysius, however, neither gives any account of two engagements at Asculum, nor allows the Romans to have been certainly beaten, stating that once only after they had fought till sunset, both armies were unwillingly separated by the night, Pyrrhus being wounded by a javelin in the arm, and his baggage plundered by the Samnites, that in all there died of Pyrrhus’s men and the Romans above fifteen thousand. The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one other such would utterly undo him.

Georgia has already faced three teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time (Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU) and remains undefeated in conference play, so the Bulldogs still have to be considered the favorites to represent the SEC East in December’s conference championship game. But by the power vested in a few traitorous, popping ligaments, could that stratospheric offense be rendered ordinary? Now’s an awfully inconvenient time to find out: The Dawgs’ next opponents are the undefeated, enigmatic, and now 25th-ranked Missouri Tigers.

No. 13 South Carolina 35, Kentucky 28. Jadeveon Clowney sat out Saturday’s game with what was either bruised ribs or a muscle strain, depending on which day you asked. Clowney’s head coach had some thoughts. Travis Haney had a theory. We don’t know anything more about Clowney’s health than what’s coming out of South Carolina, but we send best wishes for a speedy resolution to the situation so that we can get back to seeing Clowney throw lesser mortals around the field like rag dolls at his earliest possible convenience.

(Discuss: How many years away do you think we are from some kind of draft-based Inception scenario in which a highly regarded prospect tanks his own season to keep from having to play for the NFL’s most downtrodden outfit, only to have the team tanking to take him high in May throw everything it has into turning the season around and accidentally making the playoffs? And if we sent this concept to Oliver Stone, would he make another football movie out of it?)

No. 2 Oregon 57, Colorado 16. Oregon operated without De’Anthony Thomas this week, and will apparently be without the services of Colt Lyerla from now on. No pieces of the Friendship Touchdown remain in Eugene, but it shall not be forgotten.

No. 3 Clemson 49, Syracuse 14. Think of this Tajh Boyd–to–Sammy Watkins action as a kind of greeting card, tucked into your Saturday picnic basket: “Thinking of you. Now you’re thinking of us. See you soon.”

Notre Dame 37, no. 22 Arizona State 34. The Irish move to 1-2 against ranked teams this season, and will inevitably reenter the polls at some point during a verdant expanse of October play that includes USC and Air Force.

Indiana 44, Penn State 24. This was the Hoosiers’ first win over the Nittany Lions. Penn State led at the 9:18 mark of the third quarter, when Christian Hackenberg hit Allen Robinson for a 26-yard touchdown to go up 14-13, but lost that edge a minute later when Tevin Coleman responded with a 44-yard scoring run; a successful two-point conversion put Indiana back up, 21-14. It got more lopsided from there.

Washington State 44, Cal 22. If you’ve ever wanted to see a player penalized for a nonexistent play, well, the Golden Bears are givers like that.

Ball State 48, Virginia 27. More like football state, amirite, Pete Lembo? [Crickets chirping.]

Profiles in Profiteroles

To the surprise of precisely no one, the undefeated teams from non-AQ conferences are Northern Illinois and Fresno State. The Bulldogs jump from no. 23 to no. 21 in this week’s AP poll, while the Huskies enter the rankings at no. 23. What is surprising is how mundane it seems at this point to open up a box score and see that Derek Carr threw for 419 yards against Idaho on Saturday. Typical Derek Carr Saturday stuff. (No, it really is: Carr has played in five games this season, and 419 yards is his median effort.)

Malevolent Manipulation of Events by an Omnipotent and Crabby Hand of the Week

What started off as a surly week in Ames on Thursday night — and Mike Davis’s hit was disgusting and his explanation was worse — only got more grim in Logan on Friday, with the abrupt, painful, and utterly unfair exit of Chuckie Keeton from the 2013 season.

Grape Job!

We’re sure you tried your best, but …

Grape-Job

Southern Miss, you never want to be the subject of a trivia question that involves losing to 2013 Florida International.

Laff Riot

The story of Week 6, as told through the thumbs of a nation.

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