College football Week 4 winners and losers: The most surprising undefeated teams so far
While preseason top 15 teams like Clemson, Ohio State, Iowa State, North Carolina and Wisconsin struggled and all lost at least one game, there are many teams that seem to have come out of nowhere to make the season unbeaten kick off.
Below are the most surprising undefeated teams in college football in four weeks of play.
Arkansas: It was pretty clear that the Razorbacks under Sam Pittman were on the right track. But causing excitement about Texas and Texas A&M in the first month of Pittman's second season? Not many expected that. Saturday's 20-10 win over A&M was hugely impressive and now Arkansas is a serious contender in the SEC despite the toughest schedule in the country. Arkansas will face Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn in the next three games.
Baylor: BU was really disappointing in Dave Aranda's first season with a 7-2 record in 2020. This year the bears started 4-0. The first three wins were against subpar competition, but Saturday's win against the state number 14 Iowa was a statement that Baylor won't be a pushover in the Big 12 game this season.
Boston College: With their top three opponents - Colgate, UMass and Temple - it's no great surprise that Boston College are 4-0. But the fact that BC beat Missouri with their backup quarterback on Saturday deserves some credit. BC took the lead with 34:31 25 seconds before the end of the game and defeated Mizzou in overtime with 41:34.
Boston College running back Pat Garwo III, 24, is picked up by a teammate after scoring a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri in Boston on Saturday, September 25, 2021. (AP Photo / Mary Schwalm)
BYU: The Cougars lost a significant amount of production from this excellent 2020 team, including the first-round quarterback Zach Wilson. It was of course to be expected that BYU would take a step backwards. So far this assumption has been wrong. Sure, the Cougars are nowhere near as explosive, but Kalani Sitake's group have found ways to win. BYU even had a losing streak of nine games against Utah in week 2 and defeated the state of Arizona a week ago.
Maryland: Maryland won a total of five games in Mike Locksley's first two seasons. Now the Terps are 4-0 in their third year. Maryland opened the year with a win over a solid team from West Virginia before beating Howard, passing Illinois on the road, and beating an annoying Kent State team on Saturday 37-16. Saturday's win makes for an intriguing showdown next Friday night when No. 5 Iowa visits College Park.
Michigan State: Mel Tucker does a hell of a job in East Lansing. The Spartans went 5-2 in 2020 but are now 4-0 to open the 2021 season. Michigan State has two good road wins, beating both Northwestern and Miami. On Saturday, MSU trailed Nebraska at the end of the fourth quarter but sent the game into overtime with a punt-return touchdown. The Spartans then took out Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez and won 23:20 with a field goal of their own.
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 18: Kenneth Walker III # 9 of the Michigan State Spartans runs with the ball against the Miami Hurricanes on September 18, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. . (Photo by Joel Auerbach / Getty Images)
San Diego State: How about some love for Brady Hoke and the Aztecs? SDSU is 4-0 with two wins against Pac-12 opponents. SDSU was expected to beat Arizona, but beating Utah in triple overtime is a good moment for a program that has lagged a little below expectations in recent seasons.
UTSA: In Jeff Traylor's first season, UTSA took five conference wins and played a bowl game for the second time ever. In 2021, the Roadrunners look like legitimate Conference USA title contenders. UTSA opened the season with a win over Illinois, the second ever over a Power Five opponent. On Saturday, the Roadrunners upset Memphis, a team that defeated Mississippi State last week. The game was won with a 42-yard field goal after the time ran out.
Wake Forest: Maybe it's time to get Wake Forest back in the top 25. The Demon Deacons and Boston College are the only two undefeated teams in the ACC. Wake Forest hit the state of Florida pretty easily last week before pissing Virginia off on the street on Friday night. The 37:17 win was Wake's most impressive performance so far, as the Demon Deacons only scored after 8:37 in the fourth quarter.
Here are this week's winners and losers.
Notre Dame: The Irish don't win nicely. But only these victories count. Notre Dame are 4-0 after beating Wisconsin 41:13 at Soldier Field on Saturday. The win made Brian Kelly the most successful coach in Notre Dame history as he now has 106 wins with the Irish. The Irish Defense forced five Wisconsin turnovers, including the return of two interceptions for a touchdown. Notre Dame also returned a kickoff for a TD.
NC State: Perhaps this is the win that propelled NC State to the top of the ACC. The Wolfpack achieved their first win over a top 10 team since 2012 when they beat No. 9 Clemson in OT on Saturday. QB Devin Leary was 32 of 44 passes for 238 yards and threw for four touchdowns, while Emeka Emezie caught 14 passes for 116 yards and one score. NC State are now 3-1 and have Louisiana Tech facing a sudden major clash against Boston College on October 16.
Texas QB Casey Thompson: Thompson opened the season as QB # 2 in Austin and it's hard to imagine how he's going to be at that point anytime soon. Thompson threw for five TDs and stormed for another in Texas' 70-35 blowout win over Texas Tech. Thompson was 18 of 23 for 303 yards while charging for 29 yards. Thompson replaced Hudson Card in the loss of the Longhorns to Arkansas and then took over as the starter of the team. He has eight pass touchdowns and two interceptions and has also rushed for three TDs.
Casey Thompson scored six TDs on Saturday. (Photo by Adam Davis / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Georgia Tech: A week after sticking hard with Clemson, Georgia Tech picked up its signature win under Geoff Collins. The Yellow Jackets beat No. 21 North Carolina at home slightly 45-22 and improved to 2-2. Georgia Tech outperformed UNC 35-7 in the second and third quarters when Jeff Sims threw for a TD and ran for three. Sims was a 10-of-13 pass for 112 yards while carrying 10 times for 128 yards. Georgia Tech ran 43 times for 261 yards while holding UNC's Rush Offensive to 63 yards on 35 attempts.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are 4-0 after beating Kansas State 31:20 at home on Saturday. OSU was 31:13 ahead at halftime and didn't have to score a goal in the second half as K-State's offense only had 260 yards. The Oklahoma State Defense did a great job stopping K-State's hasty attack - Deuce Vaughn only had 13 carries for 22 yards. OSU QB Spencer Sanders was 22 of 34 for 344 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score. The Cowboys play Baylor at the top of the Big 12 in week 5 in a fascinating game.
SMU: SMU improved to 4-0 by angering state rivals TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth. The Mustangs exposed 595 yards, including a ridiculous 350 yards to victory. While Tanner Mordecai threw four TD passes, Ulysses Bentley and Tre Siggers scored 153 and 110 rushing yards, respectively. The Mustangs will be a difficult team in the AAC.
Kayshon Boutte caught 8 TDs in 2021. (AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis)
LSU WR Kayshon Boutte: The second wideout has eight TDs in four games after scoring two points in LSU's 28-25 win over the state of Mississippi. Boutte had four catches for 85 yards and now has 24 catches for 309 yards conference play in 2021 so far.
Louisville QB Malik Cunningham: If you haven't seen Louisville since the opening season loss to Ole Miss, you've missed out on a really good Malik Cunningham. He struggled in that Week 1 loss but has thrown four touchdowns and stormed six since then, with Louisville now 3-1. Cunningham was 25 of 39 and passed for 264 yards and two TDs and stormed 14 times for 56 yards and two TDs in Louisville's 31-23 win at Florida State on Saturday.
Duke RB Mataeo Durant: Durant ran 124 yards and a TD and had three catches for 62 yards in Duke's 52-33 win over Kansas on Saturday. Duke scored 31 points in the second half after entering halftime 34:21 back. The Blue Devils open the season 3-1 after losing to Charlotte, and Durant has stormed over 100 yards in three of the first four games of the season.
Minnesota: The Gophers made the decision to run the ball against Bowling Green a lot and it just didn't work out. Minnesota ran the ball 45 times and gave it only 13 times in a 14-10 loss to the Falcons. The defeat interrupted a streak of 21 straight wins for the Gophers when Tanner Morgan threw two interceptions in the final three minutes that sealed the surprise. Minnesota was up high after beating Colorado in Week 3, absolutely laying an egg on a team that hadn't beaten an FBS opponent since November 2019.
Clemson: This isn't the Clemson playoff caliber we're used to. The Tigers' offensive is nowhere near what it used to be, and that was reflected in a 27-21 double overtime loss to NC State. The Clemson Defense gave up their first touchdowns of the season on Saturday and are playing at championship level. The offense had only 214 yards and lost the newcomer RB Will Shipley in the second half to an injury. DJ Uiagalelei is clearly nowhere near the pass that Deshaun Watson or Trevor Lawrence had with the Tigers and Justyn Ross is the only playmaker out there. This is not a good recipe for success.
Iowa State: The Cyclones College Football Playoffs aspirations are as good as done. ISU have never won 10 games in a season and would have to lead the table to get there after a 31:29 loss to Baylor. The state of Iowa has lost no less than three games in a season since 1906, and in 2021 the ISU finally seemed to be repeating that feat. Instead, ISU is now 2-2 and pretty much outside of the CFP competition.
Graham Mertz had a tough day on Saturday. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz: Under-bettors in Wisconsin's loss to Notre Dame were very unhappy with Mertz. In the final minutes of the 41-13 defeat, he threw two pick sixes to push the score above the over / under of 46.5. Mertz threw four interceptions that day, despite throwing his first touchdown of the season. He also lost a fumble. It feels like it was ages ago when Mertz lit Illinois for the start of the 2020 season. Wisconsin's insult is in great turmoil right now.
Old Dominion: The Monarchs stormed back from a 35-7 half-time deficit and scored a potentially game-defining TD 19 seconds from time in fourth place. Unfortunately we said "potential". ODU was fined 15 yards for celebrating the TD. This penalty shifted the game-binding extra point from a 20-yard kick to a 35-yard kick. And you can guess what happened next. Yes, Old Dominion lost 35-34.
As mentioned on the Buffalo Bulls radio: pic.twitter.com/siaz0tRxeY
- Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 26, 2021
Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt went into Saturday's game against Georgia as an underdog with 34.5 points. Georgia covered the spread in the first quarter. The Bulldogs scored 35 points to start the game en route to a 62-0 victory at Vanderbilt. The game was so easy for Georgia that QB JT Daniels only played a quarter before taking his seat. Nine bulldogs carried the soccer ball and five scored, while nine different players also caught a pass. New Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea would have an overwhelmed team in 2021. But such a defeat was unexpected.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders were doubled up by the Longhorns in Austin in an absolute brawl. Texas scored 10 touchdowns in the blowout win and six came in the first half. The Longhorns went up at a point 70-28 before finally stopping the TD attack at 13:23 in the game. Texas had a total of 639 yards of offensive as UT QBs threw 303 yards and Texas stormed 52 times for 336 yards. The Red Raiders are still 3-1, but it's hard to be optimistic about their chances in the Big 12 after that performance.
Liberty: The Flames entered Friday night's game in Syracuse as a 6.5 point favorite, with a chance to score a big win against a Power Five opponent. That didn't happen. Liberty never led in a 24-21 defeat thanks to Andre Szmyt's field goal. The Flames equalized the game 21:21 with 14:31 to go, but turned the ball around on downs and fiddled with the last two drives of the game.
Washington State: The WSU screwed up another lead. The Cougars fell back to 1-3 on Saturday with a 24-13 road loss to Utah. Washington State had a 13-10 lead with less than five minutes remaining but allowed a green touchdown run from the Utes and then Jarrett Guarantano threw a pick-six just to be on the safe side. The WSU took a second half lead in all three defeats.
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