Wisconsin made an emphatic statement, Tennessee and Mississippi snapped long losing streaks to Southeastern Conference rivals and Notre Dame’s got some serious problems.
Observations, thoughts and takeaways from week four of the college football season:
1. Butch Jones and Tennessee have their turning point victory . The 14th-ranked Volunteers showed some moxie that had been lacking from the program to rally back and snap an 11-game losing streak to Florida.
2. Things could not be better set up for the Vols to get to Atlanta for the conference title game for the first time since 2007. Because the rest of the SEC East is a mess.
3. Now, Vols, about ending that nine-game losing streak to Alabama . Not happening without some seriously better offensive line play, but y’all enjoy this for now.
4. It would have been the most Les Miles victory in LSU history. Instead, the Tigers’ loss to Auburn puts Miles on the clock. The Tigers will likely hit a brutal late-season stretch of games (Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M) with Miles fighting for his job - again.
5. The at-this-pace game is fun to play with Lamar Jackson. After Louisville came up a point short of a fourth straight 60-point effort against Marshall , Jackson is on pace for a 12-game total of 3,990 yards passing, 1,578 yards rushing and 75 total touchdowns. No. 3 Louisville at No. 5 Clemson next Saturday.
6. It’s not as if Christian McCaffrey is doing anything to hurt his Heisman Trophy hopes. McCaffrey had 138 hard yards against UCLA , with Stanford providing no balance - until its last drive. But good luck catching Jackson at this point.
7. Summing up Stanford’s rise to the top of the Pac-12 in one stat: David Shaw is 12-2 against USC and UCLA.
8. No. 11 Wisconsin’s sheer dominance of Michigan State in East Lansing was stunning and the Badgers have made an upgrade at quarterback with freshman Alex Hornibrook making his first start.
9. The strange career arc of a defensive coordinator: Justin Wilcox was a budding star with Boise State. The star faded during stops and Tennessee, Washington and Southern California. Now at Wisconsin, Wilcox is in the process of rebuilding his reputation.
10. Wilcox inherited a stellar group of linebackers, including T.J. Watt, who had 2.5 sacks against the Spartans. Apparently, Watt has a brother who played in the NFL game last Thursday .
11. It gets no easier for the Badgers, who are at No. 4 Michigan next week . The Wolverines made Penn State look like a bad MAC team at the Big House.
12. The Nittany Lions are 0-7 against Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State under coach James Franklin and have been outscored 253-99. That gap is the reason why things are getting uncomfortable for Franklin in Happy Valley.
13. Not so great a day for Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, even though the Seminoles beat USF 55-35. The Seminoles’ defense was ripped again. In three games against Ole Miss, Louisville and USF (all good offenses), Florida State is allowing 7.8 yards per play.
14. Kelly still had a much better day than Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder . The Fighting Irish fell to 1-3 in a 38-35 loss to a Duke team that had scored 38 points combined in losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern. An in-season change by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly would not be shocking. It would certainly be welcomed by Irish fans who have started an online petition for VanGorder’s dismissal .
15. Never forget how good a job David Cutcliffe has done making Duke football relevant.
16. When Oregon loses at home to Colorado , the direction of the program can reasonably be called into question. It was the first time since 2007 the Ducks lost consecutive games. Oh, and the Buffaloes used a backup quarterback.
17. Add Oregon’s Brady Hoke to the list of defensive coordinators who had a bad, bad day.
18. On the other side, the Buffs beat Oregon for the first time since joining the Pac-12. Coach Mike MacIntyre is winning his way off the hot seat.
19. Best freshman running back in the country? How about No. 10 Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams, who went 153 yards on 12 carries against Arkansas and is averaging 9.8 yards per carry through four games.
20. He’s listed as a tight end for No. 23 Ole Miss, but really Evan Engram is an oversized wide receiver who might have already locked up a spot on the AP All-America team. The senior has 26 catches for 397 yards and three touchdowns in four games and helped the Rebels snap a 10-game losing streak to Georgia in a big way.
22. After thumping East Carolina, Virginia Tech has outscored its last two opponents 103-17. It should be noted, the Hokies do not play Clemson, Florida State or Louisville from the ACC’s Atlantic Division. First-year coach Justin Fuente’s transition year could wind up in the conference title game - wherever that will be.
23. The Big 12 race figures to be wide open and maybe a little weird. Put this away just in case: West Virginia and Baylor, the conference’s last two undefeated teams, meet in the season finale on Dec. 3 in Morgantown.
24. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is not quite what he was before a couple of serious injuries, but he’s still a fun player to watch .
25. No offense to Buffalo, but after all that Army has been through over the last couple of weeks it was tough to see the Black Knights lose for the first time this season.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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