CFB Wrap-Up: Takeaways from Week 4's biggest games
College Football Wrap-Up recaps the most important developments from the day's action and examines their significance moving forward.
Ohio State runs it off
Any criticism of Ohio State under Ryan Day has usually centered around the team lacking the physicality to compete with the biggest programs in the nation. Prior to the Notre Dame contest this Saturday, that's exactly the words Day was hearing - especially from former Fighting Irish coach Lou Holtz.
"You look at coach Day," Holtz said on "The Pat McAfee Show." "He has lost to Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Michigan twice, and everybody beats him because they're more physical than Ohio State."
Holtz may have been right for the majority of the second half, but the game-winning plunge from the 1-yard line with one second to play erased all of that and gave Ohio State the dramatic victory. Afterward, Day pulled out the receipt he kept on Holtz during the postgame interview.
Let's push aside the fact that one of the most successful football coaches in the country is somehow incredibly upset about the musings of an 86-year-old. The decision to run the ball on what was likely going to be the final play of the game showed some belief from Day in the physicality of his program. It was the right play call at the time after they had struggled in short-yardage situations all game.
The entire final drive should be very encouraging for Buckeyes fans as it showed the development of first-year starter Kyle McCord at quarterback. Faced with a four-point deficit and 1:25 to play, McCord drove the team 65 yards with four clutch conversions on third or fourth down during the drive. After years of Justin Fields and C.J. Stroud at quarterback, there's no question that McCord currently is a step down from those stars. However, he showed Saturday that he can rise to the occasion and deliver the strength needed in the moment.
Notre Dame just can't close
Now that we have properly praised Ohio State for the playmaking on the final drive, let's break down how Notre Dame let a potentially huge victory turn into a heartbreaking loss.
The Fighting Irish took over possession up four with 4:26 to play on their own 11-yard line. Two plays later they were at their own 34 after a couple first downs and 2:28 left to play. A couple more first downs and Notre Dame would have been able to kneel it out for the victory. After Sam Hartman kept it on an option play and lost 5 yards, the Irish called a screen pass on second-and-15 that was incomplete. That stopped the clock and gave Ohio State the chance to keep a timeout. A short run and a punt later and the Buckeyes were taking over with 1:25 to play on their own 35.
Forget the first few conversions that Ohio State made on the final drive, the game came down to two plays in the dying moments. First, McCord was able to evade a rush and convert a 3rd-and-19 from the Notre Dame 22 with 15 seconds to play on a slick pass to Emeka Egbuka. That put the ball on the 1-yard line for the game-winning score - one made very easy considering the Irish only had 10 men on the field for it.
Notre Dame can take plenty of positives from Saturday's contest - most notably how it was able to run the ball and how well the defense slowed down Ohio State. However, the prevailing thought in South Bend will likely be that this one got away.
Oregon makes it personal
Deion Sanders and Colorado have found a way to make every game personal this season, and it's safe to say Dan Lanning copied that tactic Saturday. After giving a fiery pregame speech that featured the noteworthy bar, "They're fighting for clicks, we're fighting for wins," Oregon shut down the Buffaloes in the opening half to the tune of 35-0, the largest halftime lead over a ranked opponent in Oregon history. Despite that incredible performance, Lanning gave this halftime interview as his team left the field:
It wasn't just Lanning who had made it personal for Oregon, as the famous Duck came out looking like Coach Prime with a white hat and sunglasses.
Lanning would eventually call off the Ducks in the second half before the game finished 42-6, but the statement had already been made. Colorado may be the most followed team in the nation this season, but Oregon might be the best.
Bo Nix and the offense were once again brilliant, but the focus needs to be on the job the Ducks did in shutting down Shedeur Sanders and Colorado's offense. The Buffaloes entered the game ranked 12th in the nation with 41 points per game but were held scoreless until late in the fourth quarter. Oregon was the complete package Saturday, which should place them firmly in the conversation of legitimate national title contenders.
Coach Prime still has a long way to go
There's no shame in admitting you got swept up in the outrageous comebacks, engaging speeches, and appearances by Lil Wayne and The Rock. Judging by the absurd television ratings from last week's late game, it appears most of the country did as well. Saturday's blowout doesn't change the fact that Deion Sanders took over the worst Power 5 team in the country last year and has already tripled their win total through three weeks. However, it also showed that Coach Prime still has a mountain to climb to get the Buffaloes from respectability to conference contenders.
Three major issues that had been identified with the Colorado program were running the ball, pass protection, and the defensive line, all of which were on full display throughout the 60 minutes in Eugene.
Colorado's cobbled-together offensive line had allowed 55 quarterback hits, 15 sacks, and a 44% pressure rate. All three of those ranked at least 120th in the nation or worse. Oregon's relentless defense sacked Shedeur Sanders seven times and lived in the backfield throughout the contest. The running game entered ranked 126th in the country at just 2 yards per carry and finished at 40 yards total versus the Ducks. The Buffaloes' defensive line couldn't stop the running game and allowed 240 yards and three scores.
It's likely to get worse before it gets better for Colorado, as Caleb Williams and USC come to Boulder next weekend. It's tough to see the defense having any answer for the explosive Trojans, and with Travis Hunter still sidelined, it's doubtful the offense will keep up.
Penn State is elite
Even given the qualifier that Iowa essentially opts out of playing offense, Penn State's performance in the White Out Game is still incredibly impressive. Drew Allar threw four touchdowns as the Nittany Lions put up 31 points on the usually stout Hawkeyes defense. Iowa as a team ran just 33 total plays on offense.
The final yardage marker is almost unbelievable with Penn State gaining 397 yards to Iowa's 76. The Hawkeyes mustered only four total first downs and turned the ball over four times. The game marks Penn State's 10th straight victory by at least 14 points. When James Franklin's program wins, it almost always leaves no doubt.
The next step for the Nittany Lions is to challenge Ohio State and Michigan for supremacy in the Big Ten East and likely the conference. They will get that chance later this season and showed yet again that they are a very real threat for the conference title this year.
Washington State is a problem
Scratch the Evergreen State nickname and just call Washington the state of quarterbacks in 2023. Michael Penix's accolades with the Huskies are well-documented, as the star senior leads the nation in passing. However, by the time the season ends, he might not even be the most prolific passer in the state. Washington State's Cameron Ward sent the latest reminder that he's just as polished through the air as Penix, torching the stout Oregon State defense in an exceptional performance on Saturday. His final numbers: 404 yards through the air with four touchdowns - including this outrageous catch by Josh Kelly in the back of the end zone.
The victory over the 14th-ranked Beavers will surely send the unbeaten Cougars up the AP Poll next week. Washington State now has FBS victories at Colorado State and home against Wisconsin and Oregon State. That trio of wins is among the best resumes in the country at this point in the season.
Milroe is Alabama's difference-maker
Alabama's production at quarterback last week resembled a time before the forward pass was allowed. Jalen Milroe's insertion back into the starting lineup fixed that and then some, as the Crimson Tide pulled away for a win over Ole Miss.
After sitting out the entirety of the close win over South Florida, Milroe flashed his dual-threat ability throughout Saturday's game. Perhaps most impressive was his accuracy in connecting on 17 of 21 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown. The re-emergence of the passing attack opened up running lanes once again for Jase McClellan, and the standout back finished with 105 yards and a score.
The defense is certainly strong enough to make noise in the SEC West this season. Nick Saban's brief game of quarterback musical chairs appears to have concluded, and Milroe showed why he provides the best path forward.
Florida State pulls off Houdini win
The most elaborate magic acts on the Las Vegas strip make more sense than Florida State somehow walking away from Death Valley with a win Saturday. The Seminoles didn't hold a lead over Clemson until the first possession of overtime, with Keon Coleman's touchdown in the extra frame holding up as the eventual game-winning score. The Seminoles were outgained in yardage by a significant 429-311 margin, only gaining a paltry 22 yards rushing. Nevertheless, Mike Novell's outfit still found a way to get a first win over its ACC rival since 2014.
Florida State can thank Kalen DeLoach for getting the game to overtime. With the Seminoles' offense stuck in the mud and Clemson at the 29-yard line looking to push the lead to double digits, DeLoach came through with a massive hit on Cade Klubnik before scooping the loose ball himself and running 56 yards for the score.
They say you have to be good to be lucky, and if DeLoach's play was good, then the Clemson kicking situation is where Florida State got lucky. The Tigers' kicking game is in such disarray this season that Dabo Swinney was forced to call former walk-on Jonathan Weitz back to the team this past week to handle the duties. Weitz last kicked in April and was taking online classes for his graduate degree when Swinney called. While he had been strong throughout the contest, Weitz missed a potential game-winning 29-yard kick with 1:45 to play.
It's the second consecutive week where Florida State hasn't played its best but still delivered a victory. That's something championship teams must do to remain in the hunt, and the Seminoles fit the bill. They don't leave home again until the last weekend of October and will likely be favored in every single contest for the rest of the season. The ACC ran through Tallahassee for years, and Saturday's result showed we are well on the way to that scenario returning in 2023.
King Clemson has fallen
For three hours, it looked as though the takeaway from the Tigers-Seminoles game would be something to the effect of "Clemson still Kings of the ACC," as an eighth straight rivalry win looked likely. The opposite is now true following the Tigers' first conference home loss since 2016. The setback drops Clemson to 2-2 on the young season, marking the second time in the last three years that the program has lost two of its first four contests.
While the Tigers deserve a ton of credit for the way most of Saturday's game went, there are a few things that signaled this ain't the same program that dominated college football from 2015 to 2020. A missed blocking assignment led to Florida State's game-changing fumble recovery touchdown at the end of the third quarter. The fact Clemson had to bring back a former walk-on kicker from retirement to be the No. 1 option late in the contest is purely on the coaching staff. The Tigers needed just 1 yard for a first down in overtime but threw two very questionable passes that failed.
Swinney has largely ignored the transfer portal over the past few years, opting to lean on player development and high school recruiting to keep his roster strong. His opposition Saturday started 17 different transfers, including the quarterback and receiver, who combined for the game-winning score.
The Tigers still have a roster with elite talent and will likely hit double-digit wins and play in a solid bowl game. However, Saturday's result served as the latest reminder that the conference is no longer ruled by the lone school in South Carolina.
Utah gives Moore rude welcome
Dante Moore has already shown this year that he's well on track to be an exceptional college football quarterback. However, life on the road in Power 5 football is much different than the friendly confines of Los Angeles, a lesson the true freshman learned the hard way in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
You can add the five-star prospect to the lengthy list of those who've struggled in Salt Lake City after Utah stifled the UCLA attack in a 14-7 victory. The Utes held the Bruins scoreless virtually the entire game until a late touchdown in the fourth made things interesting. The pass rush from Utah absolutely torched the UCLA offensive line, sacking Moore seven times and posting a ridiculous 11 tackles for loss.
UCLA entered the contest with a top-10 offense in the nation, averaging over seven yards per play. That changed drastically in Salt Lake City, with the offense barely mustering 3.6 yards against the stout defense. Moore's final line of 15-for-34 passing demonstrates just how difficult it was for the Bruins to move the ball the entire game.
With star quarterbacks Michael Penix, Caleb Williams, and Bo Nix in the conference and Coach Prime making headlines at Colorado, Utah has again somehow flown under the radar amid a 4-0 start.