College Football: Week 5 Who’s Hot & Who’s Not

    A look at which players, units and teams are hot, and who's not from Week 5 of the 2016 college football season.

    September 27, 2016

    A look at which players, units and teams are hot, and who’s not from Week 5 of the 2016 college football season.

    Who’s Hot

    Syracuse Wide Receiver Amba Etta-Tawo

    You just knew someone’s career in Upstate New York was going to skyrocket with the arrival of head coach Dino Babers. Evidently, that someone is Etta-Tawo, a Maryland transfer using the fast-paced Orange attack to audition for NFL scouts. The senior has already torched his 2015 output with the Terps, catching 12 balls for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s win over UConn alone. True, Babers has a long way to go, but quarterback Eric Dungey to Etta-Tawo makes Syracuse sneaky dangerous in October and November.


    Life after Justin Fuente and Paxton Lynch may not be so bad after all. The Tigers moved to 3-0 with Saturday’s 77-3 demolition of Bowling Green that was spearheaded by six touchdown passes to six different receivers from first-year transfer quarterback Riley Ferguson. Memphis is amassing confidence in a hurry for rookie head coach Mike Norvell, one of the game’s respected young offensive innovators. This Saturday features a high-profile date with Ole Miss, which will be itching for payback for last year’s 37-24 loss to the Tigers at the Liberty Bowl.

    Virginia Tech Quarterback Jerod Evans

    Anyone notice the impact Justin Fuente is having on Evans and the entire Hokie offense? Since the nation stopped paying attention to Va Tech after the Week 2 loss to Tennessee in Bristol, the team has blanked Boston College, 49-0, and routed a dangerous East Carolina squad, 54-17. In those blowouts, Evans, a first-year JUCO transfer, accounted for nine touchdowns and just one pick. Fuente now gets two weeks to prep for a trip to Chapel Hill in a matchup that could impact the ACC Coastal race down the road.

    Utah Quarterback Troy Williams

    The Utes’ biggest offseason concern, the offensive backfield, has answers emerging in a couple of newcomers, Santa Monica (Calif.) College transfer quarterback Troy Williams and true freshman running back Zack Moss. Williams, in particular, stepped up in Friday’s come-from-behind win over USC to remain unbeaten. He accounted for 287 yards and three scores, but it was the final touchdown, a clutch 18-yard strike to Tim Patrick with 16 seconds left, that has his confidence soaring into this week’s battle with Davis Webb and Cal.

    Wake Forest

    It’s taken more than two years to see results, but Dave Clawson’s painstaking process in Winston-Salem is beginning to produce dividends. The Demon Deacons are 4-0 for the first time in a decade, getting out of Bloomington with an important 33-28 win over Indiana. Wake picked off five Richard Lagow passes to offset its own offensive struggles. The Deacs have now defeated two Power Five schools, Duke and the Hoosiers, and they can reduce their bowl-eligibility magic number to one this weekend at NC State.

    North Carolina Quarterback Mitch Trubisky

    The Tar Heel defense is soft—again. Fortunately, Trubisky is developing into exactly what Larry Fedora hoped he become when he signed him out of Ohio. Carolina can repeat as ACC Coastal champs because the balanced offense is averaging more than 40 points a game. And because Trubisky is growing into his role as the offensive linchpin, hitting Bug Howard for his fifth touchdown pass to beat Pitt, 37-36, with two seconds left. The Heels will try to remain hot this Saturday in Tallahassee.

    Texas A&M Free Safety Armani Watts

    Comparisons are always tough—and subject to scrutiny. But Watts is the Aggies’ Jabrill Peppers, at least from a defensive perspective. While he doesn’t get nearly as much attention as quarterback Trevor Knight or defensive end Myles Garrett, the versatile junior has played an integral role in A&M’s unlikely 4-0 start that includes wins over UCLA, Auburn and Arkansas. In the Razorback game, Watts chipped in a team-high nine tackles, 2.5 stops for loss and a strip at the goal line that he recovered to prevent a touchdown.

    Clemson’s Defense

    A date with Lamar Jackson awaits. At least the Tigers have momentum heading into their showdown with Louisville. With a young group and just four days rest, Clemson absolutely stifled Georgia Tech last Thursday, holding the nation’s 18th-ranked rushing attack to just 95 yards on 38 carries. The D-line is growing up at warp speed around Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, and the overall closing speed of Brent Venables’ unit lends hope that Jackson can be penned in.


    There’s a long way to go, but the Big 12 might finally have a program it can hang its hat on for a while. In their first challenging game of the year, the Bears outplayed Oklahoma State with a total team effort. Seth Russell delivered the ball well, getting more than KD Cannon involved in the attack. But it was the play of a defense that created four turnovers, made plays behind the line and tackled well in space that has Baylor feeling optimistic. With Iowa State and Kansas next, the Bears will be soaring into their Oct. 29 trip to Austin.


    The Vols absolutely, positively had to have Saturday’s game with Florida in Knoxville. But down 21-3 at halftime, it looked as if Tennessee was staring down the barrel of an intolerable 12th consecutive loss to the rival Gators. Lo and behold, though, UT went berserk in the second half behind four Joshua Dobbs touchdown passes and an opportunistic defense. And just like that, the Volunteers dodged another slow start and enter this week’s game at Georgia with a chance to put the SEC East in a chokehold.


    There was a rout in East Lansing. Shockingly, Michigan State was on the losing end of it, as the Badgers bagged their second win over a top 10 opponent for the first time since 1962. Wisconsin didn’t run the ball effectively, and started a redshirt freshman quarterback, Alex Hornibrook. And yet, the team rolled, 30-6, behind a dominating defensive effort, setting the stage for an absolutely hellacious October of trips to Michigan and Iowa and visits from Ohio State and Nebraska.

    The ACC

    Eight non-conference games. Eight wins, including five on the road. Florida State regrouped with a surprisingly easy win at South Florida. Duke shocked Notre Dame as a three-touchdown underdog. Wake Forest is undefeated after taking down Indiana in Bloomington. And even Virginia broke through against Central Michigan behind five Kurt Benkert touchdown passes. Best of all, Clemson and Louisville took care of business, meaning the ACC will enjoy an enormous spotlight when its two top 5 schools face off this Saturday.

    Who’s Not

    Northern Illinois

    Remember when the Huskies could perennially be counted on for eight or nine wins and MAC title contention? Yeah, this is not one of those years. Northern Illinois stumbled out of the gate, lost quarterback Drew Hare to an injury and capped a miserable 0-for-September by falling in DeKalb to FCS Western Illinois Saturday. Now, the Huskies, losers of seven straight dating back to last November, hit the road for the next two weeks, looking for that elusive first win at Ball State and Western Michigan.

    BYU In Close Games

    Apparently, the Cougars are compelled to be this year’s Nebraska, whose seven losses in 2015 were by an aggregate of 31 points. BYU has now dropped three straight heartbreakers, by a point to rival Utah, by three to UCLA and by a field goal to West Virginia Saturday when Taysom Hill was picked off near the goal line in the waning moments. The dejected Cougs have a short week to prepare for Toledo, which has rolled through three opponents and will arrive in Provo well-rested.


    You want to keep pace with surging Wisconsin in the Big Ten West, Hawkeyes? You better step up your game, especially on offense. The week after Iowa fell to North Dakota State, 23-21, it barely eked out a 14-7 win over a bad Rutgers team. A Rutgers squad that struggled with New Mexico a week ago, mind you. The Scarlet Knights actually out-gained the Hawkeyes, who need to give C.J. Beathard more opportunities to showcase his next-level passing skills.

    UCLA With The Ball

    The Bruins went toe-to-toe with Stanford Saturday night, displaying a physical brand of football. And that’s a good thing. But where’s the scoring punch? Take out the UNLV rout and UCLA is averaging just 18 points a game, well below expectations for a unit led by Josh Rosen. Against the Cardinal, the Bruins went the final three quarters without reaching the end zone. None of the team’s skill players frighten opponents, which needs to be addressed in upcoming matchups against a pair of mediocre defenses from Arizona and Arizona State.

    Penn State

    Central Pennsylvania is a rather unhappy valley right now. Since the Kent State opener, the Nittany Lions have fallen to Pitt, escaped Temple and gotten hammered by Michigan, 49-10. James Franklin remains winless against the Big Ten East’s power brokers, Ohio State, Michigan State and the Wolverines, and the offense is sputtering. Penn State is averaging just three yards a carry, has allowed 11 sacks and ranks 127th nationally in third-down conversions. If the Lions don’t handle Minnesota and Maryland in the next two home games, bowl eligibility could be in jeopardy.

    The Arkansas Ground Game

    Under Bret Bielema, the Razorback offense, heck the entire program, is rooted in the ability to bully opponents at the line of scrimmage. Yet, the team is averaging just 3.8 yards carry, a number inflated by the Week 3 dismissal of overmatched Texas State. Save for one burst through the line from Rawleigh Williams that ended in a fumble, Arkansas couldn’t get out of the blocks against Texas A&M Saturday, a warning sign since Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida and LSU are still on the schedule.

    Football In Oklahoma

    The Sooners went from a preseason playoff contender to the fringe of the Top 25 after losing to Houston and Ohio State before going on a break. The Cowboys, a potential sleeper out of the Big 12, have already fallen twice as well, to Central Michigan and Baylor. Saturday’s loss in Waco shed a bright light on Oklahoma State’s flaws, from poor pass protection to dreadful pass coverage. Both teams have key games this weekend, the Sooners at TCU while the Pokes host Texas.


    The 2016 season was at a fork in the road early in the fourth Friday night in Salt Lake City. USC led unbeaten Utah, 27-17, with a chance to begin turning the ship around. Uh-uh. Troy blew the lead and suffered a demoralizing loss on a Troy Williams touchdown pass with 16 seconds left. It’s been an extremely challenging start for Clay Helton, who received a boost from first-time starting QB Sam Darnold, but needs to turn things around immediately, like the next two weeks with Arizona State and Colorado visiting the Coliseum.


    If things don’t turn around in a hurry in Athens, the Dawgs are going to lose to Tennessee this Saturday and gradually fade out of the SEC East race. Georgia hasn’t looked good since the opener. And it caught up to the team in Oxford, as Ole Miss snapped a 10-game losing streak in the series in style. The Rebels coasted to a 45-14 victory, shutting down Jacob Eason and knocking Nick Chubb from the game. There’s time, but Kirby Smart’s first team looks as if it might be built more for 2017 than 2016.


    The 2-2 Tigers expected to challenge Alabama in the SEC West this season. They’re not even at the level of Auburn after a crushing loss on The Plains following a reversal of a game-winning touchdown pass as time expired. LSU continues to labor on offense, losing a game in which the defense kept Auburn out of the end zone for 60 minutes. The Tigers are unable to capitalize on a roster that includes Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre at the skill position. How will the team respond to Les Miles’ firing and playing for Ed Orgeron for the remainder of the season?


    Autzen Stadium lacked its usual buzz. The offense was shut out in the final quarter, capped by a Dakota Prukop pick in the end zone as the Ducks tried to rally back versus Colorado. The defense remains a mess, even though Brady Hoke is in charge. Oregon is off to a rancid start for a second straight year, dropping two straight for the first time in nine years, with a trip to the Palouse up next. And there doesn’t appear to be a spark plug on either side of the ball capable of igniting the Ducks the way quarterback Vernon Adams did in 2015.

    MORE: 1-128 College Football Rankings – Week 5


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