It’s Week 4 and our little college football season is all grown up. There were three games featuring two Top 25 opponents! The SEC is playing conference games!
There were new faces: Mike Leach at Mississippi State, basically the entire LSU starting lineup (and a chunk of the coaching booth) and Lane Kiffin on the Ole Miss sideline.
There were subplots: Florida State, whose coach, Mike Norvell, tested positive for COVID-19, was led by Chris Thomsen in the Seminoles’ loss against rival Miami.
We had all of that and more this week — cool uniforms, head-butting coaches and, maybe most important, Gary Patterson extolling the greatness of college football in song.
Here’s our look at the best of the week:
Top 25 games
All times Eastern. Lines courtesy of Caesar’s Sportsbook.
No. 8 Auburn 29, No. 23 Kentucky 13
Bo Nix made some impressive throws on Saturday, and Auburn fans should be excited about this offense. Nix showed a great connection with Seth Williams, who showed he’s going to make SEC defensive backs lose sleep on Friday nights. Overall, there was some rust to knock off given the circumstances this offseason, but the Tigers are going to be fun to watch and a problem in the SEC West. — Harry Lyles Jr.
Kentucky: The Wildcats really looked like they were going to hang with Auburn for the duration of the game — and then the fourth quarter happened. The game got away quickly from Kentucky after a pair of turnovers led to two Auburn scores. However, this is going to be a team that nobody in the SEC will be able to ignore, and the Wildcats have the potential to upset some teams if they’re able to put together four quarters of good football. — Lyles Jr.
No. 19 Louisiana 20, Georgia Southern 18
Another week, another test passed for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Georgia Southern is almost never a slouch, and it challenged Louisiana the whole way. It appeared that Eagles QB Shai Werts’ heroics on a go-ahead two-point conversion were going to give Georgia Southern the upset. But a 53-yard field goal by Nate Snyder saved the Ragin Cajuns’ perfect season. Now, they prepare for the Sun Belt’s game of the year against App State. — Lyles Jr.
No. 5 Florida 51, Ole Miss 35
It would be easy to say it was like the good ol’ Fun ‘n’ Gun days for the Gators, but not even Steve Spurrier’s best offenses put up the numbers Florida did in a win over Ole Miss. The Gators had 642 total yards of offense, the most in a conference game in school history. Kyle Trask threw a career-high six touchdown passes, tied with Joe Burrow for the most in an SEC opener; five of those went 15 or more yards. Tight end Kyle Pitts caught four of those touchdowns, tied for the most in a game in school history. Trask finished with a career-high 416 yards passing. But it was not all rosy for the Gators in their opener. The defense looked shaky at best, giving up 35 points and 613 yards. There is plenty to fix before Florida’s home opener next week against South Carolina. — Andrea Adelson
No. 21 Pittsburgh 23, No. 24 Louisville 20
The defense was never in doubt, but the Pitt front sure made a statement Saturday against Louisville. While the offense continued to muddle its way through another up-and-down performance, the D-line was simply superb. The Panthers finished with seven sacks, 13 tackles for loss and, aside from a 75-yard run by Javian Hawkins, allowed just another 41 yards on the ground. While Kenny Pickett and the offense aren’t likely to wow anyone this season, this defense appears likely to keep the Panthers in every game. — David Hale
Louisville: It’s tough to move the football consistently when the offensive line simply can’t block anyone. Malik Cunningham was under pressure throughout, and he finished with just 107 passing yards and three picks. Javian Hawkins broke off a 75-yard touchdown run but had just 3 rush yards on his other 12 carries. It was just a miserable day for the Cards’ offense, which is likely to overshadow what was actually a surprisingly strong rebound by the defense. Eventually, the Cards will put it all together. It just didn’t happen Saturday. — Hale
No. 13 UCF 51, East Carolina 28
UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel made some headlines this week for declaring UCF the best team in Florida, then backed it up with a second straight offensive performance to prove it. Gabriel threw for 408 yards and four touchdowns, and set a school record with 18 straight completions in the decisive win over East Carolina. Gabriel is the first player in UCF’s FBS history (since 1996) to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns in multiple games — he has done it each of the past two weeks. UCF also had two receivers with over 100 yards receiving for the second straight game with Marlon Williams (114) and Jaylon Robinson (100) topping the mark. It certainly was not a perfect performance, and that starts with the offensive line as UCF had seven false starts in the first quarter. In all, UCF had a jaw-dropping 19 penalties. — Adelson
Kansas State 38, No. 3 Oklahoma 35
For the second straight season, the Sooners got upset by Kansas State; this time, after holding a 21-point lead late in the third quarter only to see it disappear. Despite an impressive start by Spencer Rattler and the Sooners, they struggled down the stretch. The offensive line protection was shoddy late and the defense allowed four plays of 20-plus yards in the last 22 minutes. Special teams had its own issues, too, allowing a fourth-quarter blocked punt. Rattler also threw three interceptions. All told, a complete collapse late for OU. — Sam Khan Jr.
No. 14 Cincinnati 24, No. 22 Army 10
The game started out rocky for Cincinnati with quarterback Desmond Ridder mishandling a pitch, which was tipped and returned for an Army touchdown. Ridder threw an interception in the first quarter as well, and the Bearcats’ offense had only 6 yards rushing in the first half. The defense kept the team in the game, though, holding Army to 94 yards passing and 182 yards rushing. The offense got a little momentum in the second half, eventually pulling away and winning the game. That defensive performance helped get the job done and helped Cincinnati beat a ranked Army team that was 2-0 coming into this game. — Tom VanHaaren
Army: The defense did its job in the first half, holding Cincinnati to 6 rushing yards, recovering a fumble and getting an interception. It was the offense, however, that really could not muster any steam. Army had only 88 rushing yards in the first half against Cincinnati and the Bearcats’ defense seemed to be in position to stop a normally potent Army run game. The Black Knights never got their offense rolling, finishing with 182 yards on the ground, and that ultimately put the game out of reach as they scored only three points in the second half. — VanHaaren
Mississippi State 44, No. 6 LSU 34
So maybe losing 17 starters was a bigger deal than coach Ed Orgeron let on. Orgeron said Myles Brennan’s throwing arm was stronger than that of his Heisman Trophy-winning predecessor, Joe Burrow, but it didn’t do much good as Brennan got off to a shaky start. By the same token, Orgeron said LSU’s defense would be better than last year’s and yet Mississippi State went up and down the field at will, allowing K.J. Costello a single-game SEC record 623 passing yards. Brennan will eventually settle in, and of course cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. will return, but Orgeron & Co. have some work to do. — Alex Scarborough
No. 4 Georgia 37, Arkansas 10
The Bulldogs got a mulligan coming back in the fourth quarter to overtake an Arkansas squad that went 2-10 last season and fired its head coach. But the uninspiring win will do little to quell concerns about what many people believed could be a playoff team. Georgia’s new-look offense never really got off the ground, and neither did its new starting quarterback, D’Wan Mathis. Former fourth-stringer Stetson Bennett IV had to take over for Mathis before halftime and did just enough to win. If USC transfer quarterback J.T. Daniels isn’t cleared — or something doesn’t change dramatically in the next week — then the Bulldogs could be in trouble against Auburn. — Scarborough
No. 15 Oklahoma State 27, West Virginia 13
Neither of the Cowboys’ two wins has been pretty, but they’ve been wins nonetheless. Given the fact that they’ve been without starting QB Spencer Sanders (Mike Gundy said Sanders could’ve played but wouldn’t have been full strength), the Pokes will take it. Running back LD Brown has provided a boost, including a team-high 103 yards on Saturday, and the Cowboys’ defense has been strong, allowing only 20 combined points so far. If this team can clean up some things and get healthy, and if Chuba Hubbard can return to Heisman contender form, the Pokes will be dangerous. — Khan Jr.
No. 8 Texas 63, Texas Tech 56 (OT)
The Longhorns gave up the most points they’ve ever allowed to Texas Tech, but the stunning comeback in Texas’ 63-56 win is what Tom Herman can stress to his players. The defense tackled poorly, there were special-teams issues, but they also have a senior quarterback capable of leading a magical 3:31 frenzy that included two touchdown passes, a recovered onside kick and a two-point conversion. With TCU next week, Herman hopes his team learns from all of it. — Dave Wilson
No. 1 Alabama 38, Missouri 19
A resounding 19-point win on the road at Missouri coupled with LSU losing at home to Mississippi State means the Crimson Tide might have just retaken their spot atop the SEC. Not only was the offense effective with Mac Jones throwing to Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Co., but the defense, which slipped last season, returned to form thanks in large part to a healthy Dylan Moses running the show at linebacker. — Scarborough
No. 10 Texas A&M 17, Vanderbilt 12
The Aggies have high hopes for the running back tandem of Isiah Spiller and Ainas Smith, and the good news is they combined for 168 yards on just 18 carries, including a 57-yard run by Spiller. But senior quarterback Kellen Mond had two fumbles, and A&M struggled to put away Vanderbilt. The defense was stingy and the D-line created pressure, but Alabama next up, the Aggies will need the passing attack to start clicking. — Wilson
No. 16 Tennessee 31, South Carolina 27
Tennessee’s first 2020 win — and its seventh straight overall — featured runs of great offense and defense and, as with the rest of the early season, special teams miscues. Henry To’o To’o’s pick six gave the Vols a halftime lead, and big plays by both quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and running back Ty Chandler allowed them to keep pace in the second half before Jimmy Holiday’s recovery of an unintentionally touched punt sealed a four-point win. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t supposed to be. — Bill Connelly
No. 12 Miami 52, Florida State 10
No team has accomplished more in the 2020 season than Manny Diaz’s Hurricanes. They moved to 3-0 with an easy rivalry win, scoring on their first six drives and sacking FSU QBs five times in the first half. They eased off the throttle a bit, but FSU could not make up ground. D’Eriq King (267 passing yards, 65 rushing yards, two touchdowns) has lived up to every ounce of hype he received and his supporting cast is deep and explosive. After a bye week comes the ultimate progress check: Clemson. — Connelly
No. 20 Virginia Tech 45, North Carolina State 20
Not only were the Hokies down 23 players, including starting quarterback Hendon Hooker, due to positive cases for COVID-19 and related contact tracing, they were missing defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton and three other assistant coaches. None of that mattered. The Hokies piled up 320 rushing yards on 40 carries (8.0 yards per carry) in an impressive opener. — Bonagura
Florida, Ole Miss jointly kneel before kickoff
A.J. Finley intercepts Emory Jones’ pass and is awarded a money bag on the sidelines.
Florida and Ole Miss agreed to jointly take a knee before kickoff Saturday to “acknowledge the unrest in our country surrounding the treatment of African Americans.”
In a joint statement, the schools said, “We recognize the impact of our personal platforms and are choosing to amplify the issues that directly impact us. Together we have chosen to take the opening series of today’s competition to acknowledge the unrest in our country surrounding the treatment of African Americans. We will continue to support social justice efforts as members of the Southeastern Conference and members of our respective communities.”
Here’s what it sounds like when you rally from 21 points down to beat No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman. Kansas State’s comeback tied for the biggest against a top-five team over the past 25 seasons.
— K-State Football (@KStateFB) September 26, 2020
A cut above
Army offensive lineman Mike Johnson gets a little carried away, head-butting assistant coach Mike Viti and leaving a cut. Excessive celebration? You make the call.
Bring it on
Is Mississippi State coach Mike Leach looking for a bigger challenge after stunning LSU?
Mike leach after beating LSU:
“We played LSU because New England, Green Bay, and the Chiefs already had somebody scheduled”
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) September 26, 2020
NFL Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis and MLB great Alex Rodriquez were in the house to see Miami rout archrival Florida State. Lewis was an All-American while playing for the Hurricanes, while A-Rod, who was drafted right out of high school, has been a longtime supporter of the University of Miami after growing up in South Florida.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) September 27, 2020
Auburn pays homage
Auburn honored former coach Pat Dye, who died in June at 80, in a couple of notable ways.
The team wore helmet stickers labeled “PD” and another one that said “Sixty Minutes,” referencing a classic Dye retort when a reporter asked him how long it would take to finally beat Alabama, which had won nine straight Iron Bowls.
Coach Gus Malzahn paid his own personalized tribute by wearing Dye-style sideline attire.
Honoring an Auburn legend. pic.twitter.com/1qA5LeysKG
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) September 26, 2020
Iowa State’s Mike Rose gets bonus points for added degree of difficulty for this snag against TCU.
— HeavensFX (@HeavensFX) September 26, 2020
Ole Miss cashed in on the turnover celebration trend with an interesting new one.
Secure the INT, secure the bag 💰 pic.twitter.com/kPRwW595yY
— ESPN (@espn) September 26, 2020
And the Panthers took their talents to the hardwood after an interception against No. 24 Louisville.
After Army picks up a first down, offensive lineman Mike Johnson head-butts his coach with his helmet still on, shaking up the coach and giving him a cut under his eye.
Louisiana’s Nate Snyder was previously 2-for-6 on field goal attempts this season, including a 34-yard miss earlier in the game before nailing this one to beat Georgia Southern.
LOUISIANA DRILLS A 53-YARD FIELD GOAL FOR THE WIN! pic.twitter.com/2qL0S6sAZN
— ESPN (@espn) September 26, 2020
A few teams are breaking out classic jerseys this weekend.
Oklahoma State is inducting Thurman Thomas, who was a two-time first-team All-American at OSU, into its new Ring of Honor this weekend during its game against West Virginia. To celebrate, the Cowboys are going to dress just like Thurman did in 1987 when he ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia in the Sun Bowl.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, broke out its powder blue jerseys for the first time since 1994. The Rebels originally wore the colors from 1948 to 1977 and again from 1983 to 1994. Fans had seen them only as an alternate helmet over the past few years.
This Saturday … we honor a legend like it’s 1️⃣9️⃣8️⃣7️⃣.
— OSU Cowboy Football 🇨🇦🤠 (@CowboyFB) September 23, 2020
❄️ 𝗜𝗖𝗬 ❄️ pic.twitter.com/P74OuZQS8d
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 17, 2020
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State’s current running back is worthy of a little love as well.
A guy up the road from me painted this massive painting of Chuba Hubbard and put it on display in his backyard. pic.twitter.com/3EhN34L7vP
— Seth Duckworth (@Seth_Duckworth) September 26, 2020
Sing it, Coach
You think you’re ready for some football? TCU coach Gary Patterson wrote and sang a whole song about it.
“I keep telling people, creativity takes courage,” Patterson said last week. “Me singing a song like that takes courage. It’s all about getting back to college football. That was the inspiration.”
It’s the second song Patterson released this offseason, after “Take A Step Back,” which he posted in June.
It’s gotta be the shoes
The University of Florida dropped the Gators’ new cleats, retro Jordan 10s, for the opening week of the season.
If you think the players and alumni aren’t excited about them, just ask former Gator and current Pittsburgh Steeler, Joe Haden.
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) September 21, 2020
It certainly seems like Notre Dame long-snapper Michael Vinson, or “Milk” as his teammates call him, has won over the team.
The Fighting Irish created “Milk Monday” this week and the junior was the talk of the locker room. Everything from Vinson’s ability as a long-snapper to his skills on the golf course were covered and the Notre Dame players even got the chance to list their favorite milks.
Unfortunately, following Milk Monday, the team was forced to cancel its game on Saturday with Wake Forest because of coronavirus concerns.
The Fighting Irish might not be able to play this week but at least they’ll be able to kick back and watch some games with a tall glass of milk, be it whole, strawberry or chocolate.
The Man. Myth. Milk.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 21, 2020
Your educational uniform update
Pitt’s first alternate uniforms since 2016 honor the city’s steel history. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there are several nods to the school’s Gothic Revival skyscraper, the Cathedral of Learning.
The “H2P” logo (for “Hail To Pitt”) is meant to evoke the “USS” mark that United States Steel Corporation employees wore. A yellow badge on the front left features an icon of master blacksmith Samuel Yellin, who forged the Cathedral’s 18-foot ornamental gates, at work. And, the paper adds, “above a black and yellow panther logo, reminiscent of steel’s smelting process, is Yellin’s Cathedral gates design gracing the jersey’s neckline.”
ꜰᴏʀɢᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ꜰᴜᴛᴜʀᴇ
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) September 20, 2020
If you prefer your uniform reveals with a little more ancient history, take a gander at Troy. While the uniform combo is no doubt a good one, what’s the deal with the scene?
The Troy website explains: “The Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park is home to 200 permanently exhibited Terracotta Warriors made by Dr. Huo Bao Zhu, from Xi’an China. The Warriors were constructed upon careful inspection of the original Terracotta Army buried with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di to accompany him in his afterlife.”
Elsewhere, the school explains the significance: “The warriors celebrate Troy’s reputation as ‘Alabama’s International University,’ in particular the University’s long association with partner schools in China.”
Something a little 🆕 for the 𝙉𝘼𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉𝘼𝙇 𝙎𝙋𝙊𝙏𝙇𝙄𝙂𝙃𝙏‼️
— Troy Trojans Football 😷 (@TroyTrojansFB) September 24, 2020