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Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame makes the cut

After five weeks, the College Football Playoff rankings are beginning to take shape and Notre Dame is in the picture after a big win over Stanford.

We are officially beginning conference play across the power five schools. For the most part, games against weaker competition are out of the way, and no more easy games exist. Every conference game can present some challenges for the top teams. Just ask Clemson.

Looking back to 2017, conference games were the games that ultimately doomed many teams. The Miami Hurricanes lost late in the year to Pittsburgh, and it seemed to derail their season and even leaked into 2018. Penn State looked ready to finally make a playoff run last season, and they were tripped up on the road against the Buckeyes. USC had plenty of potential going into 2017, but Washington State shocked them in a tough road game.

The key thing here is that nobody is safe. One team on this list survived a scare, and another team made a big time statement on the road in an extremely tough environment. Let’s take a look at the top four teams after week five in college football.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

The top spot is once again business as usual. The Crimson Tide, while having played Louisiana-Lafayette today, are still the team to beat. They’ve already proven they can handle what many believed were the more talented teams in the SEC West. Today felt like a spring exhibition game out there.

Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looked great once again, completing 100 percent of his passes for 128 and two touchdowns. Backup Jalen Hurts came in and looked very good as well, completing four of six for 118 yards and a touchdown. The running game was once again a committee, with Najee Harris leading the way. He finished with 73 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown.

The young receiver core looks to be in great shape with another young stud showing up in the later part of the game. Henry Ruggs was dominant early on, catching five passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. However, he didn’t finish the day as the leading receiver. Freshman Jaylen Waddle came in a scored on a 94-yard touchdown pass later in the game and finished with 138 yards on three catches.

Defensively, it was once again a group effort with a ton of rotation. Linebacker Christian Miller led the way with just one sack, and the team finished with just five tackles for loss. Safety Deionte Thompson led with seven total tackles. The Tide travel to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas next weekend.

2. Georgia Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs, like the Crimson Tide, are just running through their side of the conference to an undefeated matchup in Atlanta for the SEC title. They ran away against Tennessee, with an emphasis on “ran”.

It was an underwhelming day for Jake Fromm, who will always get high expectations every week. He finished with just 185 yards passing and no touchdowns on the day. He did contribute to one touchdown though, as he fumbled on a sack, only for his tight end to pick it up and run 31 yards for a score.

The running back group, like Alabama’s, was once again a committee. Elijah Holyfield led the way with 78 yards on 16 carries. Sophomore Deandre Swift scored twice on the day, and he certainly continues to fight for the top running back spot. Backup quarterback Justin Fields also scored twice on the ground along with throwing a few passes on the day.

The defense again looked stout, even with a group that is still looking to find an identity without their top guys from a season ago. Edge defender Deandre Walker tallied another sack, and he continues to prove he is one of the better edge guys in the conference. Cornerback Deandre Baker looked very good today, and he led the team in tackles.

The Bulldogs will host Vanderbilt next Saturday and will be heavily favored once again.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

Talk about a statement win for the Buckeyes. Going to Happy Valley on whiteout night is a very difficult task, and Ohio State found a way to win it at the wire.

Early on, Penn State was dominating the trenches and made quarterback Dwayne Haskins look like a shell of the quarterback we’ve seen through the first four weeks of the season, and shut the Buckeyes out for most of the first half. The defense looked lost trying to contain Trace McSorley and gave up a 93-yard touchdown to KJ Hamler after pinning Penn State back inside their 10-yard line.

Momentum shifted late in the second quarter, as linebacker Tuf Borland forced a McSorley fumble Penn State territory. Two plays later, Haskins found running back J.K. Dobbins for six on a great screen call. Ohio State came right out in the second half on a mission, storming down the field in 13 plays to take the 14-13 lead into the fourth quarter.

It looked like it would be all Nittany Lions from there. Penn State scored on back-to-back possessions and built a commanding 26-14 lead just like that with 8 minutes to play.

Ohio State needed only three plays to cut it to a score, with wide receiver Binjimen Victor making a great catch and weaving through defenders for a 49-yard score. The defense got a stop, and Haskins led them on a 96-yard drive to take the lead with just over two minutes remaining. The defense got a fourth-down stop near midfield to seal it.

It might have been the toughest game Ohio State will see until the playoff, should they make it there.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame is back in the top four. After a big win in Week 1, the Irish stumbled a bit in the next couple weeks, barely edging out both Ball State and Vanderbilt. Head coach Brian Kelly ultimately decided to change quarterbacks and go with junior Ian Book. Book and the Irish dominated last week, and faced a tough test in Stanford today, even at home. Stanford was coming off a big win in Eugene last weekend.

Notre Dame continued the offensive onslaught from last week and scored touchdowns on both their second and third drives of the game. Stanford came back and responded each time, with a Bryce Love touchdown run and a J.J. Arcega-Whiteside red zone touchdown, something becoming increasingly more common.

The Irish would not be denied on this night, as that Arcega-Whiteside touchdown was the last one they would give up.

Ian Book was dominant, completing 24 of 33 for 278 yards and four touchdown passes. Senior running back Dexter Williams was great on the ground, gaining 161 yards and scoring Notre Dame’s other touchdown. The offense looks markedly better than it did with Brandon Wimbush under center, and more balanced too.

The defense shored up after Stanford’s two touchdowns, and they were led by Jerry Tillery’s four sacks on the day. He continues to make his name known to draft scouts everywhere.

Notre Dame, with two big top 15 wins, is the fourth team in this week.

Just Missed: Clemson, LSU

Next: 50 greatest college football players this century

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