Clemson had every chance it could ask for to pull off a road upset of No. 1-ranked Florida State on Saturday, and the Tigers' offense gave every one of them back in the Seminoles' 23-17 overtime escape.
The Tigers had a touchdown opportunity with the ball on the FSU goal line, but a shotgun snap over the head of quarterback Deshaun Watson resulted in a big loss and a missed field goal to start the fourth quarter. Late in the fourth quarter, Clemson intercepted a Sean Maguire pass and had itself easily within field goal range with less than two minutes to play. But the Tigers couldn't get out of their own way long enough to run the clock down and give their kicker a chance to end it. Instead, a fumble gave the Seminoles new life in the form of overtime.
But Clemson's gifts didn't stop there.
After the shotgun formation had let the Tigers down once already, Clemson went back to the shotgun for a 4th-and-1 play in overtime, but the Seminoles stuffed a handoff in the backfield to take over on downs. And with that, the suspended Winston -- who inexplicably dressed out for warmups -- went from college football's stooge of the week to ... well, a very lucky one.
Here are 18 more things you need to know from college football's fourth week:
- What controversy? If there was any doubt that Alabama quarterback Blake Sims had put his competition with Jacob Coker to rest entering Saturday, the Crimson Tide's fifth-year senior ended it with a prolific performance in his first SEC start, a 42-21 win over Florida. Sims shredded the Florida defense for 445 passing yards on 23 of 33 passing, with four touchdowns. He set the tone on Alabama's first play from scrimmage, connecting with running back Kenyan Drake for an 87-yard touchdown pass. And his season-long chemistry with star receiver Amari Cooper continued to the tune of 10 receptions for 201 yards -- a yard more than Florida had in total offense.
With that, the most heralded transfer in college football, whose former coach at Florida State predicted would be an upgrade over two-time national championship quarterback AJ McCarron, is officially a backup. And by the look of things, a poor showing by Sims later in the season -- if a poor showing ever even comes -- isn't going to change that situation. If Coker is to one day be a high NFL draft pick, as Jimbo Fisher also has projected, he'll have to wait until 2015 to show the world why.
- Nothing beats a Hail Mary prayer being answered for an instant change of football fortunes. Arizona's 49-45 win over Cal delivered as breathtaking a finish as you'll see in college football this year. It also kept the Wildcats unbeaten. Shards of Cal's shattered mojo are everywhere.
- We promised you points in this one. And we nailed it, even though it was an easy guess. Oregon's Marcus Mariotathrew five touchdown passes against Washington State in a 38-31 Ducks victory. Meanwhile, WSU quarterback Connor Halliday threw four TD passes of his own. Combine the total offense from the two teams Saturday, and it lands on 1,000 yards. Nice of them to give us round numbers.
- It's only fitting that National Talk Like a Pirate Day be followed by the East Carolina Pirates doing their talking on the field. ECU scorched North Carolina for the second year in a row with a 70-41 win, and have now scored 125 points on the Tar Heels over their last two meetings. Pirates receiver Justin Hardy, a sleeper-no-longer NFL prospect, caught six passes for 92 yards.
- Catch of the day honors are easy this week. Give it to Damond Powell of Iowa, who helped the Hawkeyes nip Pittsburgh 24-20 with a one-handed grab for a 63-yard gain.
- Pity the Troy Trojans. The broken machine that is college athletics churned out two things from Athens, Ga., Saturday: 1) A 66-0 beating where a Georgia freshman embarrassed an entire defense, and 2) A fat paycheck for Troy to take home, along with its bumps and bruises, to float its athletic budget.
- Speaking of overmatched opponents ... The license plate number on the truck that ran over Bowling Green Saturday was MLV-GDN. It seems Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon has finally renewed his tags for the season.
- If the name Nelson Spruce hasn't come across your college football radar yet, lock in here. The Colorado wide receiver is doing an awfully good Paul Richardson impersonation this season and had his biggest day yet Saturday with 13 catches for 172 yards and a score in the Buffaloes' 21-12 win over Hawaii. For the year, Spruce has 37 catches for 518 yards and seven touchdowns in just four games.
- While Spruce has quietly had a huge season in Boulder, Duke star receiver Jamison Crowder has been quiet. Until Saturday. The senior posted his first 100-yard game of the season (6 catches for 119 yards) in a 47-13 rout of Tulane. Crowder caught just two passes for 14 yards against Kansas last week.
- Some head-to-head matchups just don't live up to the hype. In other cases, only one side of the matchup does so. The aforementioned Amari Cooper's performance came at the expense of one of college football's top cornerbacks. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah likens Cooper to a more explosive Jordy Nelson.
- What are the odds? Texas A&M piled up eight sacks against SMU on Saturday, yet the Aggies' leading sack man, freshman Myles Garrett, couldn't come up with even one of them. Garrett has 5.5 sacks on the year, just 2.5 short of the SEC freshman record held by 2014 No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney (eight). It's only a matter of time before that mark falls, but Garrett's chase of it moves on to Week 5 with no advancement.
- Among the thuds heard in Indiana's 31-27 upset of Missouri was the end of a remarkable streak. Missouri's defense entered the game having forced at least one turnover in 47 consecutive games, but the Hoosiers never coughed one up. Instead, Missouri did all the choking in dropping its first loss of the season to a Big Ten team with a woefully bad defense.
- Meanwhile, one of Missouri's top NFL prospects ended a streak of a different kind. Defensive end Markus Golden missed the game with a hamstring injury. He and fellow Tigers defensive end Shane Ray entered the game having notched at least one sack each in every game this season. Ray did his part with his sixth sack of the season, but Golden was unable to go for Mizzou.
- Repeat after us: Mississippi State is an SEC West contender. The Bulldogs upset LSU on the road, serving notice that the division's typical pecking order might not hold firm this fall. Dak Prescott is the best quarterback Mississippi State has had in decades. And it was never more evident than on Saturday night.
- The Miami Hurricanes looked positively lost defensively Saturday night. And Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah found them. In fact, he found them to be inept.
- Who is Samaje Perine, you ask? West Virginia didn't know much about him either, until Saturday night. The powerful Oklahoma running back kept the Sooners on the undefeated track with 242 yards in a 45-33 win. He also has one of those names you can say seven different ways if you really try, so use your imagination until the talking heads on TV establish the proper pronunciation.
- If you want to play in this sandbox, you'd better pack a lunch. The vaunted SEC West holds an aggregate record of 24-2 with four weeks in the books. Both losses have come at the hands of -- you guessed it -- SEC West opponents.
- Texas A&M thrashed SMU so severely, the only suspense came from a canine. SMU receiver Der'rikk Thompson nearly crashed into Reveille VIII, the Aggies' mascot, on the sideline Saturday. But a Texas A&M cadet would have none of it. Photographers and other sideline observers often scatter like frightened squirrels when a collision appears imminent. This dog didn't move an inch.