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College Football Recap: Week 5

Auburn’s good. Nebraska’s bad. What else did Saturday tell us?

Ohio State v Nebraska
Nebraska fans love their team at all costs, even if it means being trapped living in the 1960s.
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Another week of college football, another week of lessons.

Do you feel smarter? Regardless, let’s recap Week 5, shall we?

What We Learned

Auburn Might Be the Best Team in the Country (Right Now)

Very quietly, even in the wake of its 33-point deconstruction of Mississippi State on Saturday, there may not be a more impressive team at the moment than the Tigers. So quiet, in fact, that others within their own conference – where four teams are ranked in the top 7 of every poll – may not have bothered to take notice.

After Auburn scored three touchdowns on its first eight plays from scrimmage against Mississippi State, the game yesterday was over at the half, and the Tigers went into the locker room up 42-9, largely content with easing up off the accelerator for the final 30 minutes. That is, until they scored on their first possession of the second half to erase any and all doubt.

First-year starting quarterback Bo Nix needed only 16 completions to break 300 yards, and wideout Seth Williams caught eight balls for 161 yards and two scores. Auburn did not punt until more than halfway through the third quarter, which is all you need to know about the rhythm of Gus Malzahn’s offense, which amassed nearly 600 yards on the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State v Auburn
Gus Malzahn and Auburn fans have reason to smile over the Tigers’ undefeated start, but with games still remaining with four of the current Top 10 teams, how long will the good feelings last on The Plains?
Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Through five weeks, Auburn – save for two back-to-back matchups with Group of Five opponents – has played what could be argued as the toughest schedule in the country – and they’ve excelled, edging both No. 13 Oregon and No. 23 Texas A&M before blowing out Mississippi State.

But myriad tests lay ahead. And if that schedule is not the nation’s toughest right now, it certainly will be by season’s end, when the Auburn will have played No. 9 Florida (next week), No. 4 LSU, No. 3 Georgia, and No. 2 Alabama.

Uh, damn…

What We’d Still Like to Know

How Are Those Blackshirts Working Out For Ya?

With ESPN in town to preview Nebraska’s showdown with Ohio State Saturday night, the College Gameday crew gushed over a piece in which we were all supposed to reminisce in wonder and awe at the list of names that have personified the long and storied history of the Huskers’ famed Blackshirt defense.

More than a jersey color, the Blackshirts represented a culture, a standard of excellence with which Nebraska would dominate much of college football over a 40-year period.

The last person on ESPN’s list was Ndamukong Suh, who last played college football 10 years ago— also roughly the last time Nebraska fielded a unit that finished the season ranked 25th or better in total defense nationally.

And if you dig a little deeper, the numbers get more grim: Only once since 2010 — and three times since 2006 — have the Huskers finished a season 50th or better in total defense. More recent history is even worse. Thus far this season, thanks in part to Saturday’s 48-7 shellacking by the Buckeyes, Nebraska ranks 93rd in total defense, which is consistent with 2017 and 2018, when the Huskers checked in at 116th and 88th, respectively.

Ohio State v Nebraska
Former Nebraska quarterback and current head coach Scott Frost experienced the Blackshirt glory days firsthand back in the ‘90s, but his teams’ defensive shortcomings are just the latest in a trend that started years ago.
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Saturday was especially ugly and very un-Blackshirt-like. Nebraska only allowed 212 yards through the air, but that’s only because Ohio State did not need to throw. The Buckeyes rushed for 358 yards on 53 attempts. No offense needs to bother throwing if the opposing defense provides little to no resistance on the ground.

Nebraska fans are some of the most passionate there are, but they’re also convinced that the playing field that existed in 1960 has not been leveled. It was long ago, and it won’t be tilting back in the Huskers’ favor any time soon – particularly not as it relates to their outdated defensive moniker.

What We’d Like to Forget

My Predictions the Last Two Weeks

Well, at least I would like to forget them. I will understand if you all have taken delight in just how massively terrible my crystal-ball guesses have been recently.

If it was possible to talk trash to myself, I’d do it. (editor’s note: try it and report back to me how it goes)

First, there was Maryland, whom I predicted could very well rattle off eight straight wins to start the season after beating then-ranked Syracuse by 43 in Week 2. Days later, the Terrapins wet the bed at Temple and then got undressed, 59-0, at home by Penn State. Since my hasty prognostication, Maryland has been outscored 79-17, a startling margin of defeat that the Terrapins imposed on their opponents the first two weeks— and the exact reason I made my prediction in the first place.

Less egregious was my call that SMU would enter the Top 25 polls last week for the first time since 1986.

Alas, much to my chagrin, the Mustangs fell a few votes short, all but delegitimizing hours of hard work researching SMU’s descent into college football oblivion and constructing the framework for the argument of how the latest poll would illustrate just how glorious SMU’s rising from the ashes has been.

Except, nah, no Top 25 ranking. Credibility shot to hell. Naturally, the Mustangs entered the polls this week, coming in at No. 24 after a blowout win over an awful South Florida team.

My latest bold prediction: No more bold predictions.