College football Week 6 winners, losers, overreactions: Backup QBs fall, Tennessee poised to stun Alabama

A backup quarterback forced into a starting role is rarely considered an ideal scenario, and SEC reserves getting their shot were the perfect example Saturday. Alabama backup quarterback Jalen Milroe, for example, committed three turnovers to narrowly escape unranked Texas A&M 24-20 on the final play of the game as he filled in for injured Heisman winner Bryce Young.

In fact, of the seven SEC games Saturday, five featured fumbles by backup quarterbacks – including Texas A&M’s Haynes King. Easily the most disappointing was No. 13 Kentucky’s loss to South Carolina with Kaiya Sheron in the lineup in place of Will Levis as the Wildcats totaled less than 300 yards. Arkansas mustered just 17 points with Malik Hornsby against No. 23 Mississippi State. Auburn was rocked 42-10 against No. 2 Georgia behind Robby Ashford.

Oh, and by the way, we can include Oklahoma quarterback Davis Beville on the list. With Dillon Gabriel injured, Beville threw for just 38 yards in a 49-0 Red River Showdown loss to Texas. The Sooners aren’t in the SEC yet, but their quarterback issues deserve the biggest stage, too.

The transfer gate has made building and maintaining quarterback depth more difficult than ever, and nowhere more so than in the SEC where rosters are perhaps more transient than anywhere in college football. However, teams that are able to find consistency at this position in the event of injuries or adversity will be better prepared. Right now, very few teams have a good enough plan to survive.

Here are more winners, losers and overreactions from Week 6 of the college football season.

Winners

UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: It may have taken five whole years, but DTR is finally reaching the heights people expected when he committed to Westwood as a near-five-star recruit. Thompson-Robinson followed up his four-touchdown effort against Washington with an even bigger five-touchdown performance in a 42-32 win over No. 11 Utah. The Utes were preseason favorites in the Pac-12 and were seen as potential playoff contenders. Instead, the Bruins are making sure the Pac-12 goes through Los Angeles. Additional kudos to running back Zach Charbonnet for his 198-yard performance and a touchdown against a physical Utah defense.

TCU: It took some heroics in the end against No. 19 Kansas, but the Horned Frogs went 5-0 and tied for first place in the Big 12 after a 38-31 win. After some tough plays, projected first-round wide receiver Quentin Johnston exploded for 206 yards and a touchdown in a tight win. TCU hasn’t won more than six regular season games in five years, but Sonny Dykes already has the Frogs at five, not even halfway through the season. The schedule only gets tougher, but Dykes deserves credit for immediately finding a way to put his roster in the best possible position early and often.

Texas QB Quinn Ewers: Turns out the hype was real. After having a great first quarter against Alabama, Ewers followed it up with 289 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma in a 49-0 rout. The game looked shockingly easy for Ewers, and he shrugged off the pressure as if it wasn’t even there. There will be tougher matchups, but Ewers proved once again that he is the whole package. The Longhorns are a completely different team with him in the lineup.

Defeated

Washington: The one-time Pac-12 favorite fell painfully to earth after losing 45-38 to previously winless FBS Arizona State. Star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was held without a touchdown and threw his third interception in two games. Washington’s two losses were both by one score, but it’s hard to imagine the Huskies maintaining the credibility they built in the early weeks of the year. Wins over Michigan State and Stanford look less impressive than ever.

BYU: The Cougars have regressed every week since beating Baylor in Week 2, but a 28-20 loss to Notre Dame officially closes the door on any serious national consideration. BYU quarterback Jaren Hall was surprisingly pedestrian with just 120 yards passing, but allowing 234 yards rushing for more than 5 yards per carry was especially disappointing. The Cougars can still have a strong year, but falling to 1-2 against strong rivals Arkansas on next week’s schedule feels like a letdown in BYU’s final independent season.

Hyperreactions

Oklahoma is the worst team in the Big 12: Losing Gabriel matters, but the passing game hasn’t given up more than 140 points and 1,700 yards over the past three weeks. Even when Gabriel was healthy, the offense was limited and predictable. After a 49-0 loss to Texas — the worst in Red River Showdown history — the Sooners are deservedly in the Big 12 cellar.

Granted, West Virginia will give the Sooners a run for their money, but where else will the wins come? Kansas and Oklahoma State are ranked. Baylor will likely be again soon. Iowa State and Texas Tech don’t have the wins, but they’ve given every opponent hell in close games. Oklahoma won’t finish 0-win in the Big 12, but the fact that we’re even having this conversation is a testament to how much things have atrophied under Brent Venables.

Tennessee can beat Alabama: The last time Tennessee beat Alabama was in 2006, the year before Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Needless to say, the Crimson Tide have had the Vols’ number over the past 15 years, including losses by an average of 27 points per game since 2018 — when former coach Jeremy Pruitt took over the program.

But after watching these two teams play, it’s impossible to completely dispel the notion that No. 1 Alabama is vulnerable. Tennessee picked up another quality win by crushing No. 25 LSU 40-13 with Cedric Tillman in the lineup. Alabama nearly dropped the game against a struggling Texas A&M team thanks to big mistakes on both sides of the ball.

There’s always a chance Alabama’s running backs rise to the challenge and beat Tennessee’s receivers in man coverage. But if Young is limited at all, Hendon Hooker is good enough to take over this game.

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