College football Winners and Losers from Week 4: Penn State, Georgia come up big

It’s been just a few hours since the end of Penn State-Iowa, and only now are people starting to exhale. 

That’s what happens when you get 22 points in the first three quarters of action and 18 points in the final frame, including two touchdowns in the final two minutes. College football can take your breath away like that. 

Penn State Nittany Lions got the huge win and there’s plenty to digest from that game, but that’s not all that happened in a busy Week 4. Kentucky Wildcats had a 30-game losing streak to Florida Gators all but snapped … until it didn’t. Meanwhile, TCU Horned Frogs made the statement of the day with a road win over Oklahoma State Cowboys

What were the highlights from Saturday of Week 4? What were the moments some programs want to forget? We hash out the best and worst below with this week’s version of Winners and Losers. 

Winner — Saquon Barkley , challenger of the laws of physics: I haven’t touched on the Penn State running back and his Heisman candidacy much this season despite his weekly highlight worthy plays. As insane as it sounds, you almost become numb to the all the jukes and missed tackles. They become so commonplace it’s tough to differentiate what’s especially grand. The silence can go on no longer, though, not after Barkley racked up an astonishing 358 total yards in a thrilling 21-19 win at Iowa Hawkeyes . In the process, Barkley hit the highlight bingo. The lateral quickness he displays is … well … I’m basically out of adjectives to describe it. 

That’s a 230-pound running back. Just … how? How?

Bonus Winner — Trace McSorley game-winning throw: This wasn’t the best night for the Penn State quarterback. Iowa’s defense is for real and McSorley averaged just 5.9 yards per pass attempt, but he made the throw of the game — a walk-off winner — on the final play with this seven-yard touchdown. It was the perfect ball, floated right over the defender, and into the hands of Juwan Johnson , who ran a perfect route. That ball was right where it needed to be, when it needed to be there. That stinks for Iowa because there was absolutely nothing more that could have been done about that, but McSorley just made a play. That’s always going to trump the best defense. 

Loser — Kentucky: At this point, you just have to feel bad for Kentucky. The Wildcats had a win over Florida all but secured and a victory would have ended a miserable 30-game losing streak to the Gators. But Florida, as it somehow is known to do, erased a 13-point deficit in the final eight minutes to win 28-27. There were a series of brutal plays for Kentucky. The first was a miscommunication on defense that led to a wide open Freddie Swain for the 5-yard score (seen below). The next was a holding penalty on Kentucky during their ensuing drive to win the game. The final was a missed 57-yard field goal that came up just short of the goal posts. There have been some tough losses for Kentucky to Florida over the years. This one might sting the most. 

Winner — Georgia Bulldogs : Well, the Bulldogs certainly neutralized the threat that was Mississippi State Bulldogs easily, didn’t they? Georgia took a 7-0 lead on its first drive and never looked back. Georgia’s defense was exceptional, limiting Mississippi State to a meager four yards per play. Considering what Mississippi State just did to LSU, this was an equally impressive win. The Bulldogs certainly look like the team to beat in the SEC East and now have the looks of a playoff contender

Loser —  USC: You don’t want to be too hard on a team that’s 4-0 and part of the optic involves preseason expectations, which ultimately isn’t of Southern California Trojans own doing. But there’s been a couple of noticeable flaws in the Trojans in the past couple of weeks. For one, the ground game, which was so explosive over the first two weeks, has sputtered. Granted, Ronald Jones is hurt. But Texas Longhorns and Cal have found ways to keep USC from breaking loose on the ground. That’s put more stress on the passing game, which has been inconsistent because, well, Sam Darnold has been all over the place. On one play, he’s making an NFL throw and on the next, he’s throwing to a receiver who’s perfectly defended by a guy undercutting a route. The Trojans can turn it on whenever they want, and that’s a big part of what happened in a 30-20 win over Cal. I just can’t shake this feeling it’s going to come back around at some point. 

Winner — TCU coach Gary Patterson: Once again, we were reminded of just how good Patterson is. TCU’s 44-31 win over Oklahoma State was a clinic in how to slow down one of the best offenses in college football. The Frogs were able to get pressure on quarterback Mason Rudolph and hold their own downfield against a star-studded group of receivers. That sounds simplistic, but it’s not easily done. TCU took advantage of Oklahoma State turnovers with 14 points off takeaways and forced stops on three of the Pokes’ five first-half drives. That’s how it’s done. 

Loser — Oklahoma State’s playoff hopes: Eliminating teams from playoff contention this early in the season after one loss is an easy way to paint yourself into a corner. With that in mind, Oklahoma State definitely hurt its chances against TCU. The Dallas Cowboys don’t have a nonconference win of note to lean on and now the road to the Big 12 championship game just got harder. By no means are the Pokes out of this thing, but the margin of error just got significantly smaller. 

Winner — Michigan Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn : Anytime a quarterback comes off the bench and leads his team to a road win, it’s a great sign. O’Korn had a solid 270 yards passing and a touchdown in Michigan’s 28-10 win at Purdue Boilermakers . That might not seem like much on paper, but Purdue is clearly an improved team and the Wolverines’ red zone woes were solved (2 touchdowns) with O’Korn at the helm. That’s a step in the right direction. 

Loser — Whoever tried to tackle Najee Harris : Remember when Vanderbilt Commodores was kind of a trendy team with Alabama Crimson Tide coming to town? Well, the Commodores lost 59-0 and everything you need to know about that game comes courtesy of a freshman running back (Harris) bowling over Vanderbilt defenders as if they were rubber cones to his Hummer H2. 

Winner — Butt catch: There are good catches, then there are great catches. And then there are butt catches. Rutgers Scarlet Knights  tight end Jerome Washington squeezed one of those rare grabs of the gluteus maximus variety against Nebraska Cornhuskers . Whenever Rutgers does something bad, the running joke is to call the Scarlet Knights, um, “Buttgers” because we’re all pre-teens, apparently. But in this case, Rutgers was, like, literally Buttgers. 

Loser — Michigan State Spartans and the lost art of ball security: The Spartans have lost eight turnovers in three games, including three in Saturday’s 38-18 loss to Notre Dame Fighting Irish . One of the two fumbles on Saturday came when running back LJ Scott was getting ready to score a touchdown. The Spartans also lost a turnover to a pick-six. Not saying the outcome of the game would have changed at all if those turnovers hadn’t happened, but this has been a bad theme for Michigan since Week 1. 

Winner — Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson : It’s not often a running back with 48 yards rushing on 18 carries — a mere 2.7 yards per rush with a long run of seven yards — gets selected as a winner. But that changes when you score five touchdowns like Johnson did in a win over Missouri Tigers . That’s quite the confusing stat line! 

Loser — West Virginia Mountaineers getting run over by Kansas Jayhawks : So, hey. Let’s talk about something for a minute here. The Mountaineers’ defense has, in an off the radar way, been porous at times over the past couple of weeks against lesser competition. West Virginia beat Kansas 56-34 on Saturday, but not before getting a scare from the Jayhawks and giving up a whopping 291 yards and two touchdowns to running back Khalil Herbert . And it wasn’t by any kind of magic, either. Kansas lined up, hat on hat, and blew West Virginia off the ball. Maybe it’s tough to get up for the competition. It certainly hasn’t been a huge deal over the past few weeks, but it’s something to keep an eye on as this team gets into the meat of Big 12 play. 

Winner — The Louisville Cardinals squirrel: I don’t care what anyone says, this is the most impressive touchdown run by anyone or anything in Week 4. The Louisville crowd knew this and cheered accordingly. 

Winner — Texas Tech Red Raiders : The Red Raiders got a rather important 27-24 win over Houston Cougars to move to 3-0 as Big 12 play gets underway. Tech didn’t have a particularly daunting nonconference schedule (Eastern Washington, Arizona State Sun Devils and Houston) but it was interesting, and given Tech’s defensive problems in the past, could have just as easily been 0-3. And yet here is Kliff Kingsbury’s team with a pleasantly surprising start and a defense that appears to be miles ahead of where it was last year. The hot seat chatter could spring up again in an instant with any kind of slide, but Kingsbury has coached himself off of it for now. 

Loser — Nebraska: I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t the Cornhuskers beat Rutgers 27-17? Why yes, yes they did. But this was a four-point game going into the fourth quarter and there’s not much to cheer about when the offense is averaging 4.2 yards per play. All of this comes after a tumultuous week in which athletic director Shawn Eichorst was fired, all but officially putting the lame duck moniker on coach Mike Riley. To top it all off, Central Florida, coached by a certain former Husker named Scott Frost, beat Maryland Terrapins handedly 38-10. It’s been a week for Nebraska fans. 

Winner — Texas A&M Aggies receiver Christian Kirk : The stellar wide receiver/return man accounted for 146 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns — one on a return — in Texas A&M’s 50-43 overtime win over Arkansas Razorbacks . The term “game changer” gets thrown around a lot, but Kirk’s 100-yard kickoff return for a score in the fourth quarter completely flipped the game in an instant. He’s rare, man. 

Loser — Arkansas: Not just the football program for losing, but Arkansas as a university. Coach Bret Bielema has a huge buyout that would be north of $ 15 million if he were fired before January (even after that, it’s large). Barring a total, unmitigated disaster, he’ll be the coach of the Razorbacks in 2018. The only way that changes is if Bielema takes another job — which he might and that would probably be good for both parties. The ultimate summary is that Bielema is 0-5 against A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, which, yeah … 

Winner — NC State Wolfpack fullback Jaylen Samuels : If you’re not up Samuels’ body of work yet, rectify that with a quickness. A fullback by definition, Samuels had a receiving and rushing touchdown in NC State’s 27-21 win over Florida State Seminoles . He also attempted and completed a 25-yard pass on a trick play. He is the best secret weapon in college football that weighs over 220 pounds and everyone should 100 percent be here for it. 

Loser — Boise State Broncos : Brash takes off of one game can paint you into a corner … but … Boise State’s 42-23 loss to Virginia Cavaliers on Friday night was the worst the Broncos have looked in a good long while (and it was the worst home loss since 2001). Many things went wrong, but getting run the hell over is a bad omen. The Hoos look like a much-improved and even fun football team, but getting housed on your own blue turf by an upswing program isn’t a good look. Are Boise’s days as college football’s giant slayer over? The Broncos certainly appear to be mortal right now. 

Winner — South Carolina Gamecocks kicker Parker White : You’re almost never going to find a kicker that went 1-of-3 on field goal attempts  as a winner on here, but White hit the go-ahead field goal to give South Carolina the 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech Bulldogs . It just so happened to be his first made attempt in college. Ever. Well done, White. 

Loser — Appalachian State Mountaineers special teams: The Mountaineers had an extra point and a would-be game-winning field goal — a 39-yard attempt with five seconds remaining — blocked against Wake Forest Demon Deacons . App. State lost 20-19. Yeah, those blocked kicks mattered. Even South Florida Bulls thinks those special teams miscues are costly. 

Winner — Baylor Bears receiver Denzel Mims : Quietly, Baylor has gotten a lot better over the past two weeks, though anyone who watched the Bears come up short against Oklahoma Sooners could have seen that for themselves. The switch at quarterback to Zach Smith has played a big role in this growth, but Denzel Mims is a bona fide. Mims had 11 grabs for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Succinctly, the best way to put Mims comes courtesy of Sooners fan and friend of the program Allen Kenney: 

Quick hits

  • Boise State’s loss to Virginia on Friday night ended a 32-game nonconference winning streak by the Broncos. Coincidentally, the streak was ended by Hoos coach Bronco Mendenhall. 
  • Quarterback Lamar Jackson had three touchdowns in a 42-3 win over Kent State Golden Flashes . That puts Jackson’s career total at 88 total touchdowns, breaking Chris Redman’s career mark at Louisville. 
  • In its 27-21 loss to NC State, Florida State is now 0-2 for the first time since 1989. It would be 0-3 for the first time since 1976 with a loss to Wake Forest in Week 5. 
  • Alabama had 59 points in its shutout win over Vanderbilt. The Commodores had 78 yards. That’s a good #ratio for one team and a terrible one for the other. 
  • Credit Michigan for making outstanding second-half defensive adjustments against Purdue. The Boilermakers had one — count ’em, one — yard in the second half. 
  • Some things can’t be explained. Iowa had 44 first-half yards against Penn State and were only sort of better in the second half — until the final two drives that is … 
  • Iowa’s three games against Penn State since 2008 in which the Nittany Lions are ranked in the top five have been generally low-scoring and close. The average score of those games, including Saturday’s, have been 21-18 in favor of the Hawkeyes. 
  • Arizona State’s 37-35 win over Oregon ends a 10-game losing streak to the Ducks for the Sun Devils. Prior to Saturday, ASU last beat Oregon in 2004. 
  • Stanford running back Bryce Love had 30 carries for 263 yards against UCLA. Both were career highs. Who needs Christian McCaffrey anyway?
  • It doesn’t fit in any particular category or stat line, but this tweet from Matt Hayes of Bleacher Report is a perfect example of how small the margins are between winning and losing. Sometimes, it’s just your year. 

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