College football takeaways: Mac Jones and Alabama came out firing

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October 6th, 2020

It’s been the strangest college football season, to say the least, but it’s starting feel more normal after two weeks of SEC action.

We still have a couple weeks until the Big Ten gets underway, and the Pac-12 has announced a seven-game conference schedule that begins Nov. 7.

Here are three takeaways from Week 5 of the college football season.

Aerial Alabama

Alabama’s passing attack has not missed a beat, despite personnel losses from last season. After an easy win over Missouri in the opener, the Tide lit up Texas A&M on Saturday, as Mac Jones threw for a career-high 435 yards and four touchdowns.

For the first time in the program’s storied history, Alabama had a pair of wide receivers drafted in the first round last spring. Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy both went in the top 15, and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the fifth overall selection.

Jones gained valuable experience when Tagovailoa was hurt late during the 2019 campaign, and Alabama has quality wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle back in the fold. However, it was sophomore John Metchie III who led the way against the Aggies, with a 78-yard touchdown reception on the first play. Metchie finished with 181 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Nick Saban is committed to a high-powered offense, and Alabama came out firing Saturday. It opened a 35-14 halftime lead behind the passing exploits of Jones. With an insurmountable advantage, the Tide took its foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter and ran the ball 12 times over the last few drives, but still finished with nearly as many passes (27) as rushes (28).

Alabama has one more tune up, at Mississippi on Saturday, before Georgia makes a highly anticipated visit to Tuscaloosa on Oct. 17.

Will Alabama finish the season with an undefeated record?

Oklahoma stumbles again, Big 12 up for grabs

There is more parity than ever in the Big 12 this year, as Iowa State, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State are all tied atop the standings at 2-0.

Oklahoma, which has won the last five conference titles, has been arguably the biggest surprise in college football. The Sooners are tied for last in the Big 12 standings (0-2), after a loss at Iowa State for the first time since 1960.

The Sooners fell out of the top 25 this week and are unranked for the first time since head coach Lincoln Riley took over in 2017. They had made 64 consecutive poll appearances, the fourth-longest streak — behind Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson — and the defense has been diced up by Kansas State’s Deuce Vaughn (174 total yards) and Iowa State’s Breece Hall (139 rushing yards) the last two games.

Texas also can’t stop anybody and lost an ugly, 33-31 affair to TCU on Saturday, which was difficult to watch because of 26 penalties. The Longhorns have given up 87 points the last two weeks.

Iowa State has turned things around since it was shut down in a 31-14 home loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the opener. Kansas State has overcome a disappointing start to the season, as well. The Wildcats lost, 35-31, at home to Arkansas State.

Oklahoma State is the only unvanquished team in the Big 12. The Cowboys didn’t start fast, with an ugly 16-7 win over Tulsa as a 24-point home favorite, but they are starting to find their footing and recorded a 47-7 victory over Kansas over the weekend.

The race for the Big 12 is wide open, and the Iowa State-Oklahoma State game Oct. 24 promises to be a showdown.

Arkansas snaps 20-game SEC losing streak

Arkansas appears to have made the right hire in Sam Pittman.

Winless in the SEC since October of 2017, the Hogs snapped a 20-game conference losing streak Saturday, when they defeated 16th-ranked Mississippi State, 21-14, as a 17-point home underdog.

Pittman, a longtime offensive line coach and the associate head coach at Georgia, before he took the Arkansas job this season, made a savvy move to hire defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who was fired after he went 25-25 over four seasons as Missouri’s head coach.

I’ve been impressed by the new mindset on defense. In the opener at Georgia, Arkansas led 7-5 at halftime, after it gave the No. 4 Bulldogs fits.

The Razorbacks maintained the same level of play over four quarters last week and consistently frustrated quarterback K.J. Costello, who established a new SEC passing record (623 yards) against LSU a week earlier.

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