It was a true Survival Saturday this past weekend. Almost every top team was challenged and some pulled off wins they shouldn't have, some pulled off wins they barely deserved, and some top teams lost.
Florida State Escapes Clemson... Thanks to Clemson
All eyes were on Tallahassee and the amount of Jameis Winston drama did not disappoint. First, news late Friday night was that Winston was suspended for the whole game for being less than completely honest to the athletic director at Florida State in telling his side of the story. Before the game, Winston tried to warm-up and dress for the game in full pads before being sent to the locker to change.
Clemson seemed to be in complete control of this game until about 2 minutes left in regulation. The Tiger defensive line absolutely mauled the Florida State offensive line to the point I'm not sure it mattered if Winston was playing or not. Florida State finished with 13 rushing yards and at one point in the first half had negative yards on the ground.
Sean Maguire, Winston's backup who got the start, played well for someone who had never started a college game. He went 21/39 for 305 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.
Tiger quarterback Deshaun Watson had a breakout game. He made plays on the ground and through the air. He threw 19/28 for 266 yards and rushed for 30 yards on 12 carries in some pivotal moments.
If it weren't for a fumble in the Seminole red zone with less than two minutes to go, Clemson walks out of the game with a win. In overtime the Tigers go for it on 4th and 1 and decide to rush at the defensive lineman who has been tearing it up with a halfback dive play, which made completely no sense. Florida State responded with a touchdown for the win.
Florida State may have escaped with a win, but they have some serious issues.
Oklahoma Pulls Away from Surging West Virginia
West Virginia has shown excellence on offense this year but their defense has been lacking at times. Oklahoma's defense has been surging and with the two elements combined, this game provided a lot of answers to questions.
This game was back-and-forth until Oklahoma made the margin too wide with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Sooner running back Samaje Perine, a freshman, rushed for 242 yards and 4 touchdowns. West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White had 10 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown.
In a game that was so close the main differentiator was the turnover margin. Oklahoma was +2 after forcing Clint Trickett to throw two interceptions. West Virginia is really good this year, which head coach Dana Holgersen really needed to cool his seat. Oklahoma continues to show that they don't need stellar play at quarterback in order to win.
Florida Scares Alabama for One Half
Florida looked terrible against Kentucky last week when they needed extra overtimes to beat the Wildcats. They didn't look particularly good on offense again this week. They were held to only 200 yards of offense and benefitted from four Alabama turnovers, and many in the first half led to touchdowns because the Gators got to start near Alabama's red zone.
Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and 4 touchdowns in one of the more impressive Alabama offensive performances in recent memory. Lane Kiffin has led the Tide to multiple 600+ yard games this season with most of the yardage coming through the air. Amari Cooper is playing on another level this year and is like Marqise Lee 2.0.
Auburn's Defense Impresses Against Kansas State
Bill Snyder's defense did one of the best jobs of holding down Gus Malzahn's offense... probably since Oregon in the national title game. Auburn was held to 359 yards of offense.
Auburn's defense was the biggest story, along with the ineptitude of Kansas State. Kansas State committed three turnovers and the Kansas State kicker missed multiple field goal attempts that would've brought the game to even.
Mississippi State Tears Through LSU
"This is the year that Mississippi State plays great," is something I have said too many times in the last few years, but this is the biggest win for Dan Mullen as head coach. Mississippi State took it to LSU for three quarters before Les Miles' magic happened. The Bulldogs held on for a 34-29 win over the eighth ranked Bayou Bengals.
Bulldog quarterback Dak Prescott played so well. He threw 15/24 for 268 yards and 2 touchdowns. He rushed for another 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. MSU outgained the Tigers 570-430 and outrushed them 302-89.
LSU is a team based on playing great defense and rushing the ball well. They didn't do either well in this game. They let the Bulldogs burst out to a 34-10 lead before roaring back in the last 13 minutes to make it more competitive than it should have been.
South Carolina Struggles Against Vanderbilt
The Gamecocks have been a tough team to get a read on. They lost to Texas A&M before beating Georgia but then follow that up with an embarrassing win against Vanderbilt. The Commodores were leading until right before halftime and managed to keep it a one-possession game until 4:35 left in the game.
Mike Davis never got going for South Carolina. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry, which isn't good enough against a Vanderbilt squad that has struggled to look competent against all their opponents. Dylan Thompson was a bright spot for SC, going 22/34 for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Indiana Tops Missouri
The most surprising score of the day might belong to Indiana's 31-27 win over Missouri. Missouri was a sneaky good 3-0 team this year and Indiana's lone win was over Indiana State the opening weekend. The Hoosiers lost to Bowling Green 45-24 after a bye week and the Big-10 has been an absolute joke this year in non-conference play. On paper, this game was over before it began.
Honestly, Indiana played near perfect this game and Missouri didn't make enough plays. Missouri might have played down to the Hoosiers' level. Total yards reads 498-493, Indiana rushed for 241 yards while Missouri passed for 326, and the lone obvious difference maker is that Mizzou threw one interception while Indiana didn't commit a single turnover. The SEC East is an absolute toss-up right now.
Texas A&M v. Florida State
Oregon v. Oklahoma
Alabama still has yet to beat a top team but they'll have plenty of opportunities to break into the playoffs. I'm positive a SEC-West team will be in the playoff.
Texas A&M takes the number one spot until further notice because their win over South Carolina continually looks better.
Oregon drops because the performance against Washington State raised many questions and unless the line gets better, Oregon doesn't look like a top team.
Florida State has a lot of problems that Clemson exposed and I hope the committee doesn't take into account that Winston was suspended by the program for this game when looking at the close score. I don't think self-imposed penalties should be counted the same way that injuries are.
Oklahoma has some quality wins and has won games in a variety of ways