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#Nuggets: Cincinnati arrives, Michigan survives and everything else from Week 6


All hail Luke Fickell. Let's start this week's Nuggets column with a nugget. Last 19 games:

UCF: 16-3
Cincinnati: 16-3


UCF: 1
Cincinnati: 1

The Knights spent the better part of two years credibly arguing they belonged in the College Football Playoff, and now they're looking up at Cincinnati in the American East.

Playing before a sellout crowd at Nippert Stadium and the largest student body to ever attend a Cincinnati football game, the Bearcats made the most of the opportunity. They turned a 16-10 halftime deficit into a 27-16 fourth quarter lead, intercepting UCF freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel and taking one to the house.

UCF pulled within 27-24 with three minutes left, and Cincinnati found itself facing a 4th-and-1 at the Knights' 47 with just under a minute to play. The Jim Tressel in him was undoubtedly screaming at Fickell to punt and pray rather than risk a bad snap and give UCF a short field to tie or win the game, but Fickell ignored the angel-in-a-sweater-vest on his shoulder and went for it. Quarterback Desmond Ridder picked up the first down and Fickell had his biggest win as a head coach.

"What an incredible night, not just for us as football program," Fickell said after the game. "It means the world."

Cincinnati is now the unquestioned top dog in the American and in competition with Boise State for the best team in the Group of 5.

Two years after Cincinnati went 4-8 and UCF 12-0 with a self-proclaimed national championship, Fickell's program has now equaled and surpassed the champs.

The season begins now for Auburn and Florida. It's a cruel world when Auburn could build the best resume in college football through five weeks -- a neutral-site win over Oregon, a road win at Texas A&M, a blowout of Mississippi State -- lose on the road at No. 9 Florida, and suddenly find itself back at Square One. Bo Nix finally looked human, completing just 11-of-27 passes for 145 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. The magic touch Gus Malzahn carried through September in the running game vanished, as Auburn rushed for just 124 yards and a long of 16. Florida's offense wasn't much better. The Gators opened and closed the scoring in their 24-13 win with touchdowns of 64 and 88 yards, but outside of those two plays Florida gained 246 yards, went 4-of-15 on third down and lost four fumbles. That's not to say either team should apologize for where they stand today. Far from it. And yet here is the reality: the SEC's unbalanced scheduling model, isn't just an injustice to players, students and fans. It's actively unfair to its championship competitors in 2019. Auburn's cross-over games are at Florida and home against Georgia. Florida beats Auburn, then turns around and visits LSU next week. Georgia, meanwhile, gets Texas A&M at home in addition to its trip to Auburn. LSU visited Vanderbilt last week. And while Auburn faces Florida and Georgia from the East, Alabama gets South Carolina and Tennessee. Michigan survives Iowa, but does it advance? Much was made in Ann Arbor of Josh Gattis's move from the press box to the sideline for Michigan's 52-0 win over Rutgers last week. Let's be honest, Gattis probably could have called plays from Toronto and most of them would have worked. Iowa came to town on Saturday, and here was the end result: 147 yards and an interception on 26 passes, 120 yards on 33 rushes, 10 points. Michigan won the game, 10-3, thanks to Don Brown's defense. Michigan intercepted Nate Stanley three times -- Stanley hadn't been picked all season coming into the game -- and held the Hawkeyes to one credited rushing yard on 30 carries. The Wolverines straight up swallowed Iowa's passing game and has now allowed all of three points in their two games since the Wisconsin debacle. Michigan's defense could repeat that performance each week, but nothing Don Brown's unit accomplishes between now and then will count unless it's repeated against That Team Down South on Nov. 30. That's the legacy of the 62-point tattooing Ohio State gave Michigan last year. And while Michigan put up 267 yards and 10 points over their entire game against Iowa, on Saturday night Ohio State racked up 296 yards and 24 points against Michigan State -- in the second quarter. SMU's first game back in the Top 25 since 1986 was an absolute trip. With 13:47 left in the second quarter, SMU led Tulsa 6-3. With 13:45 left, SMU trailed 16-6. Tulsa put up 13 points in one second thanks to a 58-yard touchdown pass from Zach Smith to Keylon Stokes, then scored on the ensuing kickoff in one of the strangest plays you'll ever see.

If anything screams "It's just not your night" like that, I don't know what it is.

Tulsa added another Smith touchdown pass later in the quarter, then a third in the third quarter to take a 30-9 lead into the fourth quarter. SMU was 2-147 all-time when trailing by 21 points or more at home.

But a 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the final frame pulled SMU within 30-16, and, after a missed field goal, a Shane Buechele touchdown pass cut the deficit to 30-23. SMU forced a punt on Tulsa's next touch, then went 80 yards over 14 plays to force overtime.

Tulsa scored to open overtime, then SMU answered in the bottom. The Mustangs converted a 4th-and-3 for 15 yards to set up its score; for the night, the Mustangs were 6-of-7 on fourth down. Sonny Dykes bypassed a chance to go for two and the win, a choice he immediately regretted when senior running back Xavier Jones fumbled in the top of the second overtime.

SMU's defense held, and Jacob Rainey's game-winning 43-yard field goal hooked wide right. It was Rainey's second missed field goal and third missed kick... but not Tulsa's last. Rainey came up gimpy after the missed kick, which presumably made Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery inclined to go for any fourth-and-short situations in the top of the third overtime -- only he never got the chance. SMU's defense forced a 4th and 9, and kickoff specialist Zack Long's 42-yarder hooked wide left.

Given a chance to win the game, Buechele hit James Proche on SMU's first snap in the bottom of the third overtime, a play that was initially ruled incomplete but turned into a game-winning touchdown upon review.

After losing to Tulsa in the final game of the regular season to miss a bowl game in 2018, SMU's win on Saturday night clinched bowl eligibility -- on Oct. 5! -- and moved SMU to 6-0 for the first time since 1982.

FRIESThe Super 16. The Nuggets is once again honored to vote in this year's FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Here's this week's ballot.

  1. Ohio State
  2. LSU
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Alabama
  5. Clemson
  6. Georgia
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Notre Dame
  9. Florida
  10. Auburn
  11. Penn State
  12. Texas
  13. Oregon
  14. Boise State
  15. Utah
  16. Cincinnati

Odds and Ends a. Oklahoma State entered this season having won five straight in Austin and Lubbock. Both streaks are now history as Matt Wells' team jumped up early and never trailed en route to a b. Through five games, Wisconsin's defense has allowed four touchdowns and scored three.

c. No one gave Texas Tech much of a chance to beat Oklahoma State, but Matt Wells went out and earned his signature win through six games in Lubbock. The Red Raiders went up 20-0 early and rode out a 45-35 win, earning their first home win over the Pokes since 2008.

d. Meanwhile, Mike Gundy won't give a rat's ass about this, but here's the question they're asking on the Oklahoma State fan sites: "Has Mike Gundy lost his fastball?"

e. If you can figure out the ACC, please share your secret with the class. Virginia Tech went up on Miami 21-0, carried a 35-14 lead into the fourth quarter, watched that lead disappear, scored with 1:03 remaining to go back up 42-35, then had to survive two game-tying passes in the game's final two seasons to hold onto its third win of the season.

f. Pitt led Duke 26-3 late in the third quarter, Duke scored four unanswered touchdowns over a 16-minute span to go up 30-26, but Pitt regained the lead with 38 seconds left and forced a game-ending fumble to win 33-30 and move to the most eventful 4-2 record on the year.

g. In case you don't believe me, Pitt's last four games: lose 17-10 to Penn State, a game that turned when Pat Narduzzi kicked a field goal from the 1 that missed; beat UCF 35-34; beat Delaware by 3; blow a 23-point second half lead to Duke, fight back to win. "Wow," Narduzzi said after the Duke win. "All I can say is wow."

h. Baylor gave up 31.7 points a game en route to their 7-6 record a year ago. Matt Rhule's club is 5-0 and limiting opponents to 15.4 points per game. Baylor went to Manhattan and beat Kansas State 31-12 on Saturday.

i. Minnesota is 5-0 for the first time since 2004 after handling Illinois 40-17. It was the Gophers' first win by more than seven points this season.

j. It's 2019 and we still get to watch Mack Brown dance after winning a football game.

k. Arizona is 4-1 and alone in first place in the Pac-12 South after a 35-30 win at Colorado. Khalil Tate threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns. l. The longest streak of consecutive games with at least 40 points in FBS? That would be LSU and its eight straight games of 40-plus, dating back to last season. The last team to hold the Ed Orgeron's Flying Tigers under 40: Arkansas. m. Ohio beat Buffalo 21-20 in overtime thanks to a missed extra point. n. If the season thus far seems a bit dull, here's why: top-10 teams are 47-1 this season, excluding games when they don't play each other. The one loss: USC over No. 10 Utah. The closest thing we've gotten to an upset this season is a first half deficit that turns into a blowout, like when No. 3 Georgia trailed Tennessee 14-10 (they won 43-14) or when No. 6 Oklahoma trailed Kansas 7-0 (they won 45-20). o. Oregon State went to UCLA and earned its first Pac-12 win in regulation since Nov. 26, 2016.


Offensive linemen are elite athletes, and don't let anyone tell you any differently.