Caleb Williams proves Lincoln Riley right, ACC hopefuls and more winners, losers from Week 7

It took nine minutes of game time to see Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley made the right decision at quarterback.

Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams was 5 of 5 for 71 yards and led two touchdown drives at that point, which gave the Sooners the early cushion in a 52-31 victory against TCU on Saturday. 

Riley maintained the worst-kept secret up until game time, but Williams is the full-time replacement for Spencer Rattler now, and Sooners fans were pleased.

Williams proved once again why he’s the right decision. 

It’s the big-play dimension Williams adds to the offense that is the difference-maker. The Sooners had five drives that featured at least one play of 25 yards or more in the first half. That led to three TDs and a field goal in building a 24-14 halftime lead. Williams hit his first 10 passes and averaged 20 yards per completion in the first half. 

Williams didn’t stop in the second half. He broke loose on a 41-yard TD run that gave the Sooners a 45-24 lead with 2:20 left in the third quarter. All but one Oklahoma scoring drive featured that big play of 25 yards or more. 

OU’s big plays against TCU

Oklahoma also finally won a game by double digits, and the Sooners have one of three offenses we’d like to see for four quarters against Georgia’s wrecking-ball defense. We’ll probably get to see Alabama against the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game, and Ohio State’s five-star offense is another one we’d consider. 

But Oklahoma has that look on that side of the ball too, now, and Willliams is the reason. Remember when Baker Mayfield took Georgia to the limit in a 54-48 double-overtime loss at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018? Maybe we get a rematch four years later. 

The Sooners are set up as one of six remaining unbeaten Power 5 schools, and the path back to the Big 12 championship is theirs to take. Questions about the defense will always persist, but the offense is no longer a question mark. 

With Williams at quarterback, it won’t be for the rest of the season. 

Here are some winners and losers from Week 7.

WINNERS

Pitt and NC State

Wake Forest had an off week, but two ACC schools improved to 5-1 with victories.

It’s entirely possible the ACC championship game could be N.C. State vs. Pitt.

The Wolfpack side-stepped a trap game by knocking off Boston College in a 33-7 blowout on the road. Devin Leary finished 16 of 24 for 251 yards and three TDs, and N.C. State took advantage of a 21-point third quarter to take control of the game.

The Wolfpack already has the Clemson win in hand, and the Nov. 13 game against Wake Forest could be huge. N.C. State has the top defense in the ACC at 292.7 yards per game.

Pitt, meanwhile, has the top offense in the conference at 533.5 yards per game. Kenny Pickett passed for 203 yards and a pair of TDs in a 28-7 victory at Virginia Tech, and Israel Abanikanda added 140 rushing yards.

The Panthers didn’t have a turnover at Lane Stadium; another sign of maturity. Now, Pitt has a chance to put the stake in Clemson at Heinz Field on Saturday. Will they take advantage?

Bedlam and Bunyan rising 

Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and Michigan-Michigan State are two of the most-heated rivalries in college football. Can both be battles of unbeaten teams this season? 

With Michigan on a bye week, the Spartans did their part to set up what could be a monumental Oct. 30 showdown between the Mitten State rivals. 

Michigan State didn’t play its best game. The Spartans were limited to 57 total yards in the first half against upset-minded Indiana, but Michigan State made the plays necessary to pull out a tough road victory. The defense forced three turnovers, and Peyton Thorne did not make the big mistake. 

Second-year coach Mel Tucker has Michigan State at 7-0, and the Spartans beat Michigan 27-24 last season. Michigan faces more pressure in the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. 

Oklahoma State doesn’t play Oklahoma in Bedlam until Nov. 27, but the Cowboys did their part in battling back from a 14-point deficit to beat Texas. Jaylen Warren rushed for 193 yards and upstaged Longhorns sophomore Bijan Robinson, who finished with 173 total yards. 

Oklahoma State’s defense also limited Texas to seven points in the second half. Mike Gundy has never led the Cowboys to the Big 12 championship game. That opportunity will be there in the second half of the season.

Zeb Noland and Bo Nix 

The ballad of Zeb Noland continues to be one of the most interesting stories of the season given the nature of quarterback play this season. Noland played two seasons at Iowa State from 2017-18 before transferring to North Dakota State for the next two years. He was hired as a graduate assistant at South Carolina but was promoted to the active roster when Luke Doty was injured. Noland threw four TDs against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 4. 

Noland resurfaced Saturday when he replaced Doty with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter and the Gamecocks trailing Vanderbilt 20-14 at their own 25-yard line. Noland hit 5 of 8 passes, including a clutch throw on third-and-10 for 15 yards to Josh Vann. That set up the game-winning touchdown pass to Xavier Legette with 37 seconds remaining. The Gamecocks beat the Commodores 21-20, and the hope for a bowl berth in Shane Beamer’s first season still exists.

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has taken a different path. He’s started for the Tigers since his freshman year, and has been fighting for his job with backup quarterback T.J. Finley this season. Nix is that guy who has been there forever, and he delivered his best start of the season in a 38-23 victory against Arkansas. 

Nix finished 21 of 26 passing for 292 yards, 2 TDs and an interception. He added 42 rushing yards and a score. It’s always unpredictable wtih Nix, but keep in mind he’s beaten Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers could make it interesting on Nov. 27. 

LOSERS

Dan Mullen’s season-breaker

The heat turns to Florida coach Dan Mullen, who still hasn’t answered the quarterback question. Anthony Richardson and Emory Jones combined to finish 22 of 38 for 328 yards and four TDs, but they also threw four interceptions, which the Tigers turned into 21 points.

Now, Mullen faces the question whether it’s time to start Richardson once and for all. Richardson added some heat to that with his postgame comments when asked about a potential transfer. 

Is that a not-so subtle strong-arm from the redshirt freshman quarterback? Dating back to last year’s loss to LSU, the Gators are 4-6 in their last 10 games.

Mullen continues to stick with Jones, who has more experience but also continues to struggle with costly interceptions. He has 10 TDs and nine interceptions this season. Yes, Florida lost first-round picks Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney to the 2021 NFL Draft, but this is the second half of the season.  

With Georgia next on the schedule, it’s time for Mullen to give the ball to Richardson once and for all. 

Iowa’s falling offense 

Iowa’s defense won over the first half of the season.

But what happens when the Hawkeyes need the offense to come through? Iowa found out the hard way in a 24-7 loss to Purdue at Kinnick Stadium.

Purdue pressed the Hawkeyes with quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who passed for 375 yards and two TDs, and David Bell, who shot up NFL Draft boards with 11 catches for 240 yards and a TD. The Boilers had one turnover and no picks, and Iowa did not have the answer on offense.

Spencer Petras threw four interceptions. Iowa had 30 rushing attempts for 76 yards and got away from Tyler Goodson, who had 12 carries for 68 yards. Kirk Ferentz’s methodical formula didn’t work. All the momentum from the Penn State victory is lost, and now Iowa must win the Big Ten championship to have a playoff shot.

How can this offense match a goliath like Ohio State if it can’t beat Purdue? That’s the uncomfortable question in Iowa City now. 

Texas and Arkansas 

Arkansas beat Texas 40-21 on Sept. 11 in one of the most surprising September results.

Perhaps more stunning is the slides both teams have undergone since. The Longhorns blew a 14-point first-half lead against Oklahoma State in a 32-24 loss one week after losing a 55-48 shootout to Oklahoma.

One of the biggest issues of the Tom Herman era was losses by 10 points or less. They were 15-15 in that situation under Herman, and now first-year coach Steve Sarkisian is 1-2.

This is part of the reason the program is stuck in neutral despite bright spots like Bijan Robinson.

Arkansas, meanwhile, lost to Auburn 38-23. It’s the Razorbacks’ third straight loss, and Auburn quarterback Bo Nix finished 21 of 26 for 292 yards. Second-year coach Sam Pittman has flipped the program, but Arkansas has still allowed an average of 42.3 points and 461 yards in those losses and sits 1-3 in the SEC.

Which one of these teams is the better bet to go 8-4?

Source: Read Full Article