College football top 25 scores, overreactions, Week 6: Auburn’s deficiencies on offense were exposed

College football top 25 scores, overreactions, Week 6: Auburn's deficiencies on offense were exposed

As college football teams get into the heart of conference play, we start to find out who’s for real and who’s not. In Week 6, there were a few games involving top-25 teams that taught us a lot — or, in some cases, confirmed what had been the case for some time. Games like Auburn-Florida and Cal-Oregon were low-scoring rock fights, which can be fine, but they exposed some concerning patterns in the process. 

Weeks like these always lead to overreactions, and that’s OK. We are creatures of the moment. Overreactions are just as much a part of the game as touchdowns. So with Saturday’s action mostly in the books, let’s look at the biggest overreactions from the action and how absurd — or completely warranted — they might be.

Auburn’s offensive deficiencies were exposed against Florida. The world isn’t ending after one loss, but in a lot of ways, No. 7 Auburn’s 24-13 loss to No. 10 Florida put the Tigers’ offensive limitations under a microscope. Save for an offensive explosion against Mississippi State a week ago, Auburn has had trouble blocking against good opponents. Running the ball has been ineffective in stretches, and that was the case against the Gators on Saturday with just 3.6 yards per rush. Quarterback Box Nix has been uneven, so put him in a tough environment on the road and he had his worst game of the season. Florida has an elite defense and Auburn’s deficiencies were exposed because of it. So six games into the season, we’re at the point where we can fairly ask if Auburn is really any better than the eight-win team from a year ago. 

Also, there’s no way Florida plays like this and beats LSU. As we start to get into the meat of the conference schedules, we see there’s oftentimes a big difference between playing at home and on the road. Without a doubt, The Swamp played a role in Florida getting that big win against Auburn, but now the Gators go on the road to face No. 5 LSU in Death Valley in Week 7. The Tigers have been impressive and passed every test convincingly. Florida came dangerously close on Saturday to losing another quarterback, this time Kyle Trask, to injury. Testing the limits of an already precarious depth chart with shaky protection against LSU feels uneasy. Then again, a lot of SEC contenders will be taking turns at each other in the coming weeks. 

Speaking of rock fights, let’s talk about Iowa and Michigan. I’ll give both of those teams credit for outstanding defenses in No. 19 Michigan’s 10-3 win. The Wolverines were especially dominant, but the Hawkeyes had four turnovers, allowed eight sacks and netted 1 whole yard rushing for the day … and still had an opportunity to tie with less than two minutes remaining. That is … not hitting your stride, Jim. It’s the opposite. It sounds like a broken record, but Michigan really can’t keep playing like this. 

It’s time to admit Oregon has been underwhelming. No. 13 Oregon isn’t bad, it’s just … not great. It hasn’t been this season save for about one half against Auburn and one game against Nevada. And it wasn’t in a 17-7 win over Cal. Sure, a win counts all the same, but no matter how good Cal’s defense is, Oregon has a future first-round pick at quarterback and a veteran offensive line. It should be doing more than scoring 17 points and committing three turnovers. Against Cal, Justin Herbert forced a lot of throws (in part due to tight windows) and ball security was a problem for the running backs. If the Ducks defense hadn’t been upholding its end of the deal, Oregon would be in much deeper trouble. 

And that Justin Wilcox might be the most underrated coach in the country. Look, Cal held a lead on Oregon for the better part of 45 minutes on the road without its starting quarterback. Short of winning, I don’t know what else you could ask the Bears to do. Wilcox will kick himself over getting just seven points off of three turnovers, but there’s no question Cal’s defense is good enough to win every game on its schedule. But with backup Devon Modster, the offense is … well, limited. That’s a shame because Cal already has one signature road win this season at Washington. To have potentially beaten Oregon on the road, too, and Cal would be in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 North. This program has come a long way under Wilcox in just a few years. 

Washington is turning into “just another team.” Chris Petersen is a great coach, easily one of the top 10 best in college football. But, lord have mercy, his No. 15 Huskies have coughed up some inexplicable losses over the past couple of years. The latest, a 23-13 loss at Stanford, is baffling. The Cardinal were on track for a genuinely terrible season, were giving up 6.44 yards per play and had an abnormally large injury list. Yet they completely bulldozed a usually-stout Washington defense behind a MacGyver’d offensive line with 189 yards rushing while defensively getting all kinds of pressure on Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason. That extends a winless streak for Washington on the Farm dating back to 2007 and is the second loss to an unranked team this year. This is becoming a bit of an unsettling trend for Petersen’s team. 

Ohio State’s defense makes the Buckeyes a legit national title contender. I’m starting to run out of things to say about No. 4 Ohio State, but the Buckeyes’ 34-10 win vs. No. 25 Michigan State reinforced an important point about their defense: it’s a difference-maker. For the first time this season, Ohio State’s offense didn’t immediately click, though quarterback Justin Fields still finished with three total touchdowns and J.K. Dobbins rushed for 172 yards. However, when you have a pass rush featuring Chase Young — who, for my money, is the most dominant player in college football and hardest to game plan around — it gives everything else a little more wiggle room. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke played better than his stat line indicated (20 of 38, 218 yards, TD, INT) and Ohio State still got in the backfield nine times. I still don’t know which Big Ten team will challenge the Buckeyes this season. Maybe Penn State? Wisconsin will need Jonathan Taylor to run for probably three bills and five touchdowns. 

Miami suffered the most heartbreaking loss of the season. I don’t know what’s more impressive: turning the ball over five times on the first six possessions, erasing a 28-0 deficit, missing an extra point that would have given the Hurricanes its first lead of the day, or nullifying all of that by allowing a go-ahead touchdown with a minute remaining to lose to Virginia Tech 42-35. That game had everything for Miami — except a win. And Virginia Tech is b-a-d, too. 

Baylor will disrupt the Big 12 title hunt. It depends on the health status of quarterback Charlie Brewer, but it’s a theory made less crazy by the week. Halfway through the season, it’s safe to say No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 11 Texas are the Big 12’s two best teams. They’ll meet next week in the Cotton Bowl in what may be yet another preview of the Big 12 Championship Game. But in searching for “Team 3” in the Big 12, consider Baylor. The Bears have quietly surged under third-year coach Matt Rhule, who won all of one game in 2017. After getting back to a bowl game last season, Baylor is 5-0 with a top-20 defense in yards per play and points per game allowed. At this rate, the Bears may be favored in every game leading up to their November games against the Sooners and Longhorns. 

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