Ward’s Winners: Week 6

By James Ward

Week in Review:

Jim McElwain: Two weeks ago, the story out of Gainesville was Jim McElwain laying into Kevlin Taylor on the sideline. The story this week is Florida’s return to the AP Top-25 after a big win against Ole Miss. Florida quarterback Will Grier won the Davey O’Brien Quarterback of the Week after leading the Gators to an upset over the Rebels, and he looks to be the Gators quarterback moving forward. What’s most interesting about the Gators so far; McElwain is winning with Muschamp’s players. The Gators were thought to be in rebuilding mode after losing 13 games in the last two seasons, but Coach Mac is winning now, setting up a huge matchup next week against LSU in Baton Rouge.

Undefeated: Through five weeks of the college football season, there are fifteen undefeated teams in the Power Five conferences. The biggest surprises: Northwestern, Iowa and Cal. Northwestern might be the biggest shock, considering they won two difficult non-conference games against Stanford and Duke. In three games against Power Five opponents, the Wildcats have allowed 16 points. Iowa is the other undefeated surprise from the Big Ten West Division.

Cal is also undefeated at 5-0, but that streak faces serious doubt heading into Saturday against Utah. The Golden Bears have been led by quarterback Jared Goff, but they have played close games against pedestrian opponents in Texas, Washington and Washington State – remember Cal was an extra point away from heading to overtime against the Longhorns.

#BYOG: Bring Your Own Guts. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s post game interview on the field following the Tigers’ win over Notre Dame was inspiring. Clemson beat Notre Dame under the lights in Death Valley, in a game that cemented the Tigers as the best team in the ACC. Swinney’s teams have had issues in the past with this sort of game, see: Florida State in 2013 or Georgia Tech in 2014, but Saturday night was different. In a rain soaked game, Deshaun Watson played well despite just 97 yards passing and the Clemson defense stopped Notre Dame’s potential two-point conversion with seven seconds to go to thwart the Irish’s comeback. Swinney’s players love him and Dabo loves his players, and his post game dancing in the locker room is everything that makes college football so great.

Top Performers:

Ezekiel Elliott (23 rushes for 274 yds & 3 TDs): The Buckeyes are only undefeated because of the hero in a half shirt. Elliott set a new career high for rushing yards, including touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards in the second half. The Buckeyes have yet to get their passing game going behind Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, but Elliott is making sure Ohio State continues to win.

Trevone Boykin (20 of 25 for 332 yds & 5 TDs): Out of high school, Boykin chose TCU over UTEP after playing high school football in West Mesquite, Texas – another Texas H.S. quarterback not recruited to play at the University of Texas. I imagine it felt pretty good for Boykin when the Horned Frogs went up 50-0 on the Longhorns in Austin.

Jared Goff (33 of 45 for 390 yds & 4 TDs): The best quarterback in college football plays for Cal and the Jared Goff hype train is in full effect behind the Golden Bears’ 5-0 record this season. Once thought to be Christian Hackenberg, Goff is now the consensus top pick in next year’s NFL Draft, assuming he leaves school early. For now, let’s just enjoy him for what he is: a great college quarterback.

Games to Watch:

Georgia Tech at Clemson: The Yellow Jackets have been falling, and falling fast, since they lost to Notre Dame. Georgia Tech has lost three straight – Notre Dame, Duke and North Carolina – and Clemson might be their most difficult opponent to date, but this game has letdown game written all of it for Clemson. Last week’s victory against the Irish in Death Valley was one of the biggest victories in the program’s recent history, but if Clemson wants to remain atop the ACC, they need to beat the Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon.

Northwestern at Michigan: This game looks to be an old fashioned slobberknocker, as CBS Sports’ Brian Jones likes to say. Both of these teams play defense, something that is unfortunately not common in college football this year. The over under total in this game is 35 points and Michigan is favored by 7, meaning Vegas thinks the final score will be 21-14 Michigan. Michigan is coming off back-to-back shutouts against BYU and Maryland, and as mentioned earlier, Northwestern has allowed just 16 points in three games against Power Five opponents. This game will be boring Big 10 football at its finest.

Ward’s Winners:

Georgia (-3) at Tennessee: After throwing away a fourth quarter lead to Oklahoma, Butch Jones’ Volunteers have lost two straight games to Florida and Arkansas. With a 2-3 record, their season is over before the middle of October, an unfortunate realization for Volunteer fans. Mark Richt’s Bulldogs looked to be the best team in the SEC before last week’s loss at home to Alabama, but Georgia is still alive in this year’s College Football Playoffs. Tennessee faced Arkansas last week with a must-win mentality at home and they came up short. Georgia is a much better team than Arkansas, and Georgia is a much better team than Tennessee. For once, the Volunteers wont have a chance to give up the game in the fourth quarter, because the Bulldogs will have it decided already.

Oklahoma State at West Virginia (-7): After a tough loss last week in Norman to Oklahoma, the Mountaineers look to bounce back against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Morgantown has become one of the strongest home field advantages in college football. Remember, West Virginia almost upset TCU last year in Morgantown en route to a share of the Big 12 Title with Baylor. WVU’s Skyler Howard had a bad game in Norman last week, but expect him to play well against Oklahoma State, a Cowboys defense that allowed Kansas State’s fifth string quarterback/leading wide receiver Kody Cook to keep the game close last weekend. A lot of the betting trends suggest an OSU victory, but Dana Holgorsen will look to score in early and in bunches, and I expect them to cover the touchdown.

Cal at Utah (-7): This game is a matchup between the two remaining unbeaten teams in the Pac-12 Conference, but both teams are in entirely different places. In Utah’s last game, the Utes beat up on Oregon in Eugene, in a game in which they looked like one of the best teams in the country. Meanwhile, in Cal’s last three games, they beat Texas, Washington and Washington State by a combined 13-points. Washington and Washington State are two of the worst teams in the Pac-12 this season, and Texas is having one of the most disappointing seasons in program history. It’s cute to think Cal’s Jared Goff can keep the Bears in the game, but their defense isn’t good enough to stop Utah’s Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker. Cal has come a long way since their 1-11 season in 2013, but this game will show there is still a discrepancy between the Bears and the top teams in the Pac-12.

Last Week: 2-1-0

Season Record: 8-7-0

James Ward is the Associate Producer of the DA Show, as well as the Executive Producer of CBS Sports Radio Weekends. On Saturdays, you can find him in studio producing Eye on College Football and catching as many games as possible. Check him out on Twitter (@JamesWardCBS).

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