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2021 Post-Week Six CFB Roundup


Caleb Williams, Oklahoma

Reactions & Thoughts

We're Witnessing A Special CFB Season: After the abbreviated 2020 college football season, just a normal 2021 would have felt particularly gratifying for the sport's diehards. Through a month and a half of football, this season has delivered on that, plus so much more. Every single week, it feels like anybody could lose to anybody, and division title races, conference title races, and the CFB Playoff are all shifting in real time. Simply look at the slate we had this weekend: Oklahoma and Texas squared off in a Red River for the ages, Arkansas and Ole Miss had a thrilling, high-scoring SEC West duel, Iowa and Penn State delivered an exciting game, and then Texas A&M toppled Alabama, handing Nick Saban his first loss ever against a former assistant. The amount of chaos we've seen in just six weeks rivals anything seen in our lifetimes, even the illustrious, wacky 2007 season. It will still take a bit to reach those levels, but this year has a completely different feeling to it. All I can say is we should all buckle up and enjoy the ride, because the next six weeks are going to go even faster than the first six.

Caleb Williams Is The Real Deal: Even though he was one of the nation's top recruits in the Class of 2021, nobody expected to see much of Caleb Williams this fall. However, with the preseason Heisman favorite, Spencer Rattler, continuing to struggle, Lincoln Riley turned to Williams and he delivered. The true freshman led Sooners on a spirited comeback from down three touchdowns, completing a host of difficult throws in the process. He would finish with 212 yards and two touchdowns, as Oklahoma stayed undefeated with a 55-48 victory. It felt like a turning point for Oklahoma, who was my preseason National Title pick, as they moved on from Rattler, finally opening up their offense to reach its full potential. One would assume Williams now takes over as the full-time starter, and he gets a great opportunity to further acclimate to the role, as the schedule is pretty favorable to end October. The interesting question is what happens with Rattler, who was the preseason darling but hasn't fully lived up to his potential. Does he sit on the bench and take his chances in the 2022 NFL Draft? Does he transfer right away? His fall has been one of the most surprising storylines of the 2021 college football season.

Is Arizona State The Pac-12's Best Hope?: After Oregon was upset by Stanford last weekend, the conference felt wide-open once again, as it has for most of this decade. The Ducks still command a lead in the league's North Division but Arizona State's win over UCLA last weekend seemed to assert them as the South Division favorite. In Week Six, they had a potential trap game possibility when they played Stanford late on a Friday, in a possible "Pac 12 After Dark" chaos game. But, the Sun Devils never let the Cardinal into the game and handled them with ease, winning 28-10. At 5-1, Arizona State becomes an interesting player in the CFB Playoff race. Their lone loss was a sloppy loss to BYU, but the Cougars have beaten several other Power Five schools and are not a terrible loss to move forward with. If ASU can keep their hot streak going, they certainly do become a factor down the stretch. In fact, they may be a better bet than Oregon for a New Year's Six bowl, considering they have a much better quarterback, and have yet to lose in the league.

About Alabama: Alabama's loss to Texas A&M snapped several impressive streaks they had been building for years: a 19-game win streak, the first loss to a former Saban assistant, and the first loss to an unranked foe since 2007. It was possibly the most shocking upset of the Saban era; while Texas A&M has been attempting to close the gap in the division for awhile, they came into this game with zero momentum and a backup QB, Zach Calzada, struggling. Calzada put together the performance of his life, and the Aggies answered every single time it looked like the Crimson Tide were going to take control of the game. It was a program-defining victory for Jimbo Fisher and the entire A&M staff, even if they still are likely out of serious contention in the SEC. As for Alabama, it was a wakeup call that this 2021 team is no 2020 group. The offense is good, but not elite, and the defense has been surprisingly bad this season, even though it was supposed to be one of the best Alabama groups in recent memory. I still get the feeling this team will play themselves into the Playoff, but they are clearly beatable. They realistically could have two losses at this point in mid-October, and the end of season stretch is no breeze.

So Is Tennessee...Actually Decent?: Following another tumultuous off-season on Rocky Top, which resulted in the firing of Jeremy Pruitt and his entire staff, not a ton was expected of Tennessee in 2021. Sure, head coach Josh Heupel might be able to provide some offensive fireworks, but this was still likely a SEC bottom-feeder, particularly with the mass exodus they suffered through following Pruitt's firing. However, the 2021 edition of Tennessee football was been actually pretty good and dare I say, fun? They had another impressive offensive outing this Saturday against South Carolina, putting up 472 yards of total offense and moving to 4-2 on the season. Former Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker has been a game-changer for the offense after taking over for Joe Milton, while junior tailback Tiyon Evans is starting to emerge as one of the best in the league. The Volunteers now enter a stretch of four straight ranked opponents before concluding the season with South Alabama and Vanderbilt. At worst, they look like a 6-6 and bowl team, but they're feisty enough to pull off an upset or two. Getting to the seven-win plateau with the off-season they had should earn Heupel serious SEC Coach of the Year consideration.

Weekly Awards

Offensive Helmet Sticker: Zach Calzada, QB, Texas A&M

Zach Calzada entered the meeting with Alabama struggling mightily, completing just 54% of his passes. There was little expected of him, even at home, but the young quarterback came out and had the performance of a lifetime. Sure, his stat-line doesn't necessarily jump out at you, but throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns against the Tide defense is nothing to shrug off. It wasn't just the numbers, but the guts he had to make some extremely difficult throws in order to secure the victory. It's one thing to help pull off the miraculous upset, but another thing to do it as a backup QB. 

Defensive Helmet Sticker: Jermaine Johnson, DE, Florida State

There might not be a more impactful transfer on the defensive side of the ball to this point than Jermaine Johnson of Florida State. The former JUCO product came over from Georgia and has been nearly un-blockable for the Seminoles, leading the ACC in sacks, with seven. He continued his dominance over the weekend, as he managed six tackles and one sack, while adding a QB hit. Johnson kept Sam Howell uncomfortable the entire night, playing a pivotal role in Florida State's upset of UNC for the second year in a row. Florida State, who began the year 0-4, now becomes an interesting bowl possibility down the stretch, especially with how weird the ACC has been in 2021.

Team of the Week: Texas A&M Aggies

Any time a team is able to conquer the Alabama Crimson Tide, it's noteworthy. However, Texas A&M's victory felt even more shocking than most Tide defeats, even if the game was at Kyle Field. The Aggies entered the game with two consecutive losses, including a putrid showing against Mississippi State the week prior. They had a backup QB, Calzada, and were extremely beat up across the offensive line, the receiver corps, and in the secondary. In fact, A&M had to play a pair of freshman offensive linemen against an Alabama pass rush full of future NFL defenders, and they managed to keep Calzada as clean as possible. Even with those things working against, the Aggies jumped out to an early lead and then held on the rest of the way. To answer every single time it looked like 'Bama might sneak back into the game is a testament to the work Jimbo and this staff have done in building this roster, and what these players have achieved here. I don't think this suddenly makes A&M a serious contender in the SEC West, but it was a program-altering win that showed they're here to stay on the national scene.

"Small-School" Team of the Week: Villanova Wildcats

Although they still be known primarily as a basketball school by most sports fans, Villanova continues to prove their worth on the gridiron. They defeated No. 2 James Madison over the weekend to improve to 4-1, with their lone loss on the season coming to Penn State. It wasn't a particularly special performance by the Wildcats, but was all about good solid defense, methodical offense, and not turning the ball over. After falling behind to the Dukes at halftime, Villanova scored the final 12 points of the game to come out on top 28-27. They now move up to No. 6 in the latest FCS poll and become the co-favorites of the Colonial Athletic Association with undefeated Rhode Island.

Top 25

Current Rank_________Previous Rank

1. Georgia Bulldogs    (2)

2. Iowa Hawkeyes    (3)

3. Oklahoma Sooners    (5)

4. Cincinnati Bearcats    (4)

5. Alabama Crimson Tide    (1)

6. Oregon Ducks    (7)

7. Ohio State Buckeyes    (8)

8. Michigan Wolverines    (9)

9. Penn State Nittany Lions    (6)

10. Michigan State Spartans    (12)

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish    (11)

12. Arizona State Sun Devils    (14)

13. Oklahoma State Cowboys    (13)

14. Ole Miss Rebels    (17)

15. Kentucky Wildcats    (18)

16. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers    (16)

17. Wake Forest Demon Deacons    (19)

18. BYU Cougars    (10)

19. Florida Gators    (20)

20. NC State Wolfpack    (21)

21. Clemson Tigers    (22)

22. Iowa State Cyclones    (23)

23. SMU Mustangs    (25)

24. Texas A&M Aggies    (NR)

25. UTSA Roadrunners    (NR)

Just Missed: Arkansas Razorbacks, San Diego State Aztecs, Baylor Bears, Texas Longhorns, Boston College Eagles, Liberty Flames

Dropped Out: Arkansas Razorbacks (15), Texas Longhorns (24)

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