Thu. Jun 1st, 2023

It’s an exciting time for No. 10 North Carolina. The last time it was in the top ten was 20 years ago. The last time a top-five opponent was won on the road was 55 years ago. The only obstacle this week is No. 5 Clemson. You know, six of the past seven college football playoffs have been the same Clemson. The same Clemson who won 10 games in the “offseason” last season.

If you haven’t noticed, there isn’t a lot of room at the top. Not much has changed since we started with Alabama, Georgia and Ohio in the top three. At one-third of the way into the season, it’s still reasonable to predict that there’s still a spot to fill the CFP.

But it looks like another equally old, equally old playoff game has some flair. Suddenly, we need to think about universities like USC, Kentucky and Tennessee. Oklahoma too. Don’t forget: The Cowboys were inches from a playoff berth last season. Wolfpack had a chance to hang out there. Unconventional, of course. Basketball school, of course. non-factor? Well, we’ll see.

Coach Dave Doeren has methodically built the program over the past decade and once finished second in the ACC Atlantic Division. He has a quarterback, Devin Leary, who was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy at the start of the season. (At least the hat I got in the mail said so much.)

Much of this potential turning point lies with him. The win over Clemson opened up the possibilities for the CFP. After Saturday, there are only three away games. North Carolina could have one of the most impressive victories in the nation before the CFP search committee. Don’t forget: Half of the CFP field last year was a newcomer (Michigan, Cincinnati).

In an overtime win over the Bengals last year, Leary led the Wolves with four touchdowns. This season is kind of crap because the schedule is kind of crap. Leary (and others) struggled against East Carolina. Populated for Charleston Southern University and University of Connecticut.

Facing the only top-five opponent to date, Leary has mostly relied on short shots against Texas Tech. He has to be a different maker in this game. A number of measurable metrics favor Leary and NC State. Clemson’s second line has been vulnerable as part of the ACC’s second-worst pass defense. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s defense leads the ACC in interceptions (7).

It’s not a question of whether Clemson is back. Whether the Tigers really left. Last week, DJ Uiagalelei gave Clemson the win at Wake Forest. Clemson has won 36 straight at home. The Wolfpack is only the Tigers’ second top-10 opponent during that streak.

The team started playing in 1899. This could be the biggest game ever at Clemson-North Carolina. Just as Texas A&M beat Alabama, NC State didn’t do enough in Clemson’s breakout 9-3 victory. It still hasn’t won the ACC since 1979, when Dabo Swinney was 10 years old. Maybe it’s time for NC State’s aspirations to grow too.

Storyline for Week 5

Best coaching job at third point: Earlier this week, we watched Lance Leipold’s fiery start to his second year at Kansas and wondered if the Pinehawks could be in an already churning coaching rotation keep him. But Leipold isn’t the only coach who deserves credit for the final third of the season.

Lincoln Riley, USC: Did we forget that the Trojans were 4-8 last season? So far, SoCal’s turnaround has been huge. USC is the only program that hasn’t turned the ball over yet. Caleb Williams in conversation with Heisman. Jordan Addison looks to have no problem taking his Biletnikoff Award to the West Coast. Shane Lee looks like an Alabama linebacker — like many Trojans, acquired through the portal. PJ Fleck, Minnesota: Tanner Morgan is a fifth-year starter with a lot of experience. Mohamed Ibrahim returned from a season-ending injury to finish No. 2 in the FBS sprint. Fleck is not a fraud. He’ll have a nine-win season in 2021 and 11 wins at Minny in 2019. The Golden Gophers can win the Western Conference Big Ten. Josh Heppel, Tennessee: When Heppel left in 2018 to become UCF’s coach, he barely shrugged Missouri. Heupel succeeded Hendon Hooker at his best when he left UCF for Tennessee amid the NCAA scandal. After an impressive win over Florida, the Volunteers lead 4-0 for the first time in six years. TCU Sonny Dykes: The Horned Frogs didn’t fare well in their later years under Gary Patterson. The Dykes fixed them with the nation’s top passer, Max Duggan. That was after Dykes resurrected crosstown rival SMU. Beating Oklahoma, TCU will go 4-0 for the first time since 2017. Mark Stopps, Kentucky: Stopps temporarily lost his top guard. Chris Rodriguez is expected to return this week. He beat Florida State and passed Bear Bryant as Britain’s most championship-winning coach. He turned quarterback Will Levis into an NFL rookie. Stoops attended a school where he could go 8-4 for the rest of his career and they would build a statue of him. Kalen DeBoer, Washington: Junior version of Leipold, national championship coach in the lower leagues (NAIA’s Sioux Falls). The former Indiana offensive coordinator entered his former quarterback Michael Penix Jr. through the portal. The Huskies are back in the national conversation. Syracuse’s Dino Barbers: From hot seat to hot coach. In Year 7 of the Oranges’ up-and-down season, Barbers went 4-0 to ‘Cuse’ for the first time in 2018. We’ll find out more on the back-to-back weekends against NC State and Clemson next month.

Pig Paradise: No. 20 Arkansas No. 2 Alabama (3:30 p.m., CBS) It would be nice if a kicker could make a certain kick against Texas A&M many. But here, with the Razorbacks, we were able to climb back into the SEC West. Wild Boars defensive coordinator Barry Odom will have something for the Crimson Tide. Question: How long does it last?

Alabama hasn’t been particularly good on the road the only time this season. Texas, now 2-2, exposed Bama’s weaknesses that day: an inexperienced cornerback and a problematic offensive line. Aside from Jace McClellan’s key 81-yard score, Tide averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Arkansas led Texas A&M 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. The game is won when kicker Cam Little scores the game-winning field goal. You know what happened next. Arky’s New Year’s Bowl wishes could be in jeopardy.

The SEC East won’t be an easy win for No. 1 Georgia: We know now, because No. 7 Kentucky and No. 8 Tennessee are both 4-0. Oh, and don’t forget Florida (2-2), the team that wins more rankings than the other 10 SEC teams. (Okay, one, but it’s a big deal compared to Utah, which is currently No. 12.) In four weeks, the Gators have done enough to make the world’s biggest cocktail party even more interesting.

Georgia played another scrimmage this week against 28-point underdog Missouri. At No. 14 Ole Miss in Kentucky, the winning coach gets Auburn? Well, maybe it’s too early, but Stoops and Lane Kiffin have done a great job. The school they attend can be seen as a stepping stone to both. Kentucky has the second-longest winning streak in the nation (eight games). Stoops got Rodriguez back from suspension. Kiffin wants people to leave the Grove early so they can be on time for games. It’s somewhere between profanity and guerrilla marketing.

Big 12 replay: For No. 9 Oklahoma, this week’s win at No. 16 Baylor was somewhat of a revenge. The world seems to have forgotten that the Cowboys are just 2 yards from a playoff berth in the Big 12 championship game. Dave Aranda’s defense maintains and changes mathematics on several levels. Aranda remains a popular name in coaching circles. Question he has to answer: Does he believe he’s chasing a CFP berth in Waco, Texas? For now, the answer is yes.

If the higher-ranked Pokes want to stay in the playoffs, they have to win. Quarterback Spencer Sanders won 27 career games, one shy of coach Mike Gandy’s school record. That nugget stood out this week as Gandy “celebrated” the 15th anniversary of his “I’m a man. I’m 40.”

road trip! at last! We don’t want to say Iowa can’t score, but if you give Hawkeye a dart from 2 feet away, they’ll miss the dartboard. Too bad for offensive offenses like…smelly. Meanwhile, who is fourth better than Michigan? Nooooooobody. The Wolverines won’t play their first road game until October. They’ve solved the quarterback problem (JJ McCarthy). You have to love their chances of being second on offense (50 points per game) against the worst offense in the country (5.8 points per game). Another reason to love Wolverine: Blake Kunlun has rushed for nine touchdowns (mostly on FBS). Iowa State has rushed five as a team (2nd in FBS).

Quick kick: Will Kansas, Iowa’s winning coach get Nebraska job? … No. 18 Oklahoma visits TCU Still trying to figure out what happened to Brent Venables’ defense last week. Kansas State’s 41 points were the most on a home defense against the Venables since 2016… Williams completed streaks with no interceptions at both schools (Oklahoma, USC) ( 188 points), survived the transfer, and defended four opponents so far this season. Arizona State visits USC this week…The Sun Devils are 1-3 (or worse) after four games for the first time since 1994…Minnesota leads the nation with 355.2 yards per game. 31 teams don’t have that many total yards average…Arkansas leads the nation with 20 sacks, 4 more than the next closest team (Middle Tennessee, 16)…Heisman rivalry Brock Bowles — widely regarded as the best tight end in the country — rushes for more touchdowns (three) than points (two).