College football Week 4 winners: Malik Cunningham is electric as he joins exclusive club

Malik Cunningham entering an exclusive club, Sonny Dykes, and the Sacramento State Hornets headline the winners from college football Week 4.

College football Week 4 epitomized the sport. At its best, it’s a glorious mixture of elite-level football, pageantry, and humanistic storylines. At its worst, it can be ugly, brutal, and unforgiving. We witnessed both ends of the spectrum from Thursday through Saturday, and this edition of winners and losers captures the highest of highs and lowest of lows in college football Week 4.

College football Week 4 | Winners

Sonny Dykes

More so than in the NFL, college football is defined by its rivalries. They are fierce, they are passionate, and they often tread the tightrope between what would ordinarily be deemed as socially acceptable. The college football annals are full of tales of rivalry-fueled shenanigans that some would file under not suitable for work. Crossing the threshold of a rivalry line might be seen as one of the worst sins a player or coach could commit.

Such was the position that Sonny Dykes found himself in this season. The 13th-year head coach made SMU synonymous with success in recent seasons. His 30-18 record as the Mustangs’ head coach gave him the most successful tenure since the “death penalty” crippled the Pony Express. He’s returned the program to national relevance, making SMU an offensively attractive thorn in the side of any team in the nation.

Then he did the seemingly unthinkable. Dykes crossed the boundary of a TCU and SMU rivalry that is one of the most fierce in the nation. During his time with the Mustangs, the head coach even fueled the rivalry with some of his actions. A fierce backlash followed his defection. His family moved lock, stock, and barrel out of the area to avoid it. In the stadium Saturday, that anger and vitriol couldn’t be avoided with words and gestures.

Every move that SMU has made since his departure has seemed like an attempt to spite their former head coach. At least $65 million has been poured into the program since he left. Dykes had complained about attendances during his tenure. Saturday was SMU’s first sellout since 2015, a middle finger to their returning coach.

Yet, it was Dykes and his TCU Horned Frogs team that had the ultimate last laugh. SMU had set the standard for offenses in recent years, but they simply couldn’t handle the speed of Emari Demercado and Derius Davis in a 42-34 defeat. Max Duggan also played some of the best football of his career in Week 4.

It was the first TCU win in the Iron Skillet rivalry since 2018. TCU is one of just 21 teams left undefeated in the 2022 college football season. The Horned Frogs haven’t had a 3-0 start since the 2017 season, when they finished 11-3 and had a final AP Poll ranking in the top 10. In a Big 12 conference displaying Pac-12-esque cannibalistic tendencies, they could be a genuine challenger.

Meanwhile, SMU drops to 2-2. As the two teams at the center of one of college football’s greatest rivalries trend in opposite directions, it’s looking increasingly obvious that the head coach that crossed the divide was the true king-maker all along.

Malik Cunningham

Prior to college football Week 4, just seven players in college football history had thrown for 8,000+ yards while also rushing for 3,000+ yards. It didn’t take much of Louisville’s game against USF for another member to join that exclusive club. The Cardinals know a little about producing electric dual-threat QBs, and Malik Cunningham has established himself as one of the best at the position while securing his place in history.

Cunningham was at his most devastatingly dominant on the ground as the Cardinals comfortably buried USF 41-3, heaping further pressure on Jeff Scott and his beleaguered Bulls team. Tallying a total 113 rushing yards, his mazing runs were a thing of beauty, evoking images of Lamar Jackson in the days when he used to sport red instead of purple and black. The USF defense simply couldn’t match his speed or elusiveness.

Cunningham has now racked up 10 games with 100+ rushing yards, and Saturday’s showcase was the third consecutive game hitting that mark. The Louisville quarterback also found the end zone with touchdown runs of eight, 35, and 40 yards, while adding 186 passing yards and a touchdown strike to a diving Jaelin Carter who pulled off one of the catches of the day.

In addition to becoming the eighth member of the 8,000/3,000 club, Cunningham also climbed his way up the Louisville program record book during Saturday’s win over USF. He now trails Jackson for rushing touchdowns scored for the Cardinals, is third in career rushing yards and total touchdowns, and moved into the top five for career completions.

Sacramento State Hornets

FBS teams always need to be on the lookout for a stinging shock from an FCS opponent, and in college football Week 4, it was Colorado State who was brutally and repeatedly stung by the Sacramento State Hornets. The top-tier FCS program continued its unbeaten start to the season with a consummate 41-10 win over their FBS foe. It’s their first 3-0 start in 20 years.

Calling it a shock win might be a little short of the mark, as the Hornets were a 4.5-point favorite in Fort Collins. However, it was Sacramento State’s first win over an FBS opponent in 10 years. Prior to college football Week 4, the program had succeeded in overcoming an FBS opponent just once in 24 attempts. While the oddsmakers might have favored them, history was very much against them. Instead, they made their own bit of history.

As Middle Tennessee State produced one of the grandest upsets of college football Week 4 against Miami, their former quarterback was the architect of the latest FCS “giant killing” of an FBS opponent. Asher O’Hara last started for an FBS team in 2020, but he put one to the sword with his customary dual-threat skill set.

O’Hara opened the scoring with a 6-yard TD run and hammered home another Hornets rushing score in the third quarter. Meanwhile, he threw for just his third touchdown of the season while completing 100% of his passes for a season-high 71 yards. His contributions ensured that Sacramento State was the only FCS upset win in college football Week 4.

UNLV Rebels

The 2022 college football season is forcing us to change the way we view the hierarchy of the nation’s greatest sport. Maybe not at the top where the same trio of Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio State still lead the way after easy victories in college football Week 4. But, down at the bottom of the college football totem pole, the times…they are a-changin’. The perennial whipping boys are taking the whip and fighting back.

One of the most impressive turnarounds in college football this season is happening in Nevada. No, not with the Nevada Wolf Pack. The University of Nevada at Las Vegas rolled the dice on Marcus Arroyo three years ago and, after two seasons that seemed to follow familiar patterns, the chips are starting to fall the way of the Rebels.

If the season were to finish today, UNLV would have their best percentage record since 1984. Of course, there’s still a lot of football to play. But, the Rebels’ three wins — with the latest coming in a college football Week 4 win over reigning Mountain West champions Utah State — is more than they’ve managed since 2019. Looking at the schedule, you can see more wins on the horizon.

More importantly, the Rebels are looking good doing it. Doug Brumfield added another efficient performance against Utah State to an impressive season. Aidan Robbins has been explosive out the backfield. Daniel Gutierrez is one of the top kickers in the nation. The defense has been fierce and forced six turnovers in the college football Week 4 win over Utah State. The “Turnover Slot Machine” is one of the greatest sights in all of football.

College football Week 4 | Losers

Geoff Collins

By the time this publishes, Geoff Collins may be out of a job. The Georgia Tech Athletic Association Board called a special meeting scheduled for Monday, which is expected to expedite the termination of both head coach and athletic director Todd Stanbury’s tenure with the team. Collins, the former Temple head coach, has compiled a dismal 10-28 record as he tried — and ultimately failed — to change the offensive identity of the Yellow Jackets.

College football week 4 proved to be the breaking point for the powers that be at Georgia Tech. Despite racking up more yards than UCF, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t punch it in the end zone, were dominated in time of possession, and gave up far more penalties than the Knights. The result was a 27-10 defeat and what seems certain to be the end of Collin’s GT head coach reign.

In addition to the 10-28 record, Collins’ teams have lost eight consecutive games to Power Five opposition. Furthermore, they’ve failed to climb higher than 95th in the nation for both scoring offense and defense while Collins has been the head coach. Losing star power like Jahmyr Gibbs to the transfer portal hasn’t helped the cause either. Whoever has the reigns next time out has a difficult road game at Pittsburgh to negotiate.

The Big 12’s chance of putting a team in the CFB Playoffs

It would be a surprise to absolutely nobody if the Big 12 conference pulled off their mask to reveal the Pac-12 hiding underneath. The conference from way out west has routinely tripped itself up while trying to place a team in the College Football Playoffs. Now, the Big 12 is following suit in dramatic fashion following college football Week 4.

Kansas State, fresh off one of the upsets of the previous week, took down Oklahoma 41-34 with some Adrian Martinez heroics on the road. The clash is becoming a regular banana skin for the Sooners — this one removes their chances of an undefeated campaign that would facilitate a cruise into the final four.

Meanwhile, Baylor — with a defeat to BYU already on their résumé — outlasted Iowa State in an exciting 31-24 clash marred by multiple Cyclones penalties. Iowa State was undefeated coming into the game. Texas slipped to 2-2 with a nail-biting defeat to Texas Tech, with kicker Trey Wolff slaying the Longhorns in overtime. Whichever team lost would slip to 2-2, but conventional wisdom suggests that Texas would normally be a better bet to challenge at the top of the conference.

Conventional wisdom is out of the window in the conference this fall. Following college football Week 4, TCU and Kansas are the front-running teams. Kansas has been incredible behind the head coach/quarterback duo of Lance Leipold and Jalon Daniels — who looks like a legitimate 2023 NFL Draft QB prospect — but how long can they keep it up? The schedule is such that more chaos and carnage is surely just around the corner.

Northwestern Wildcats

So it turns out that Nebraska really was that bad, huh? The Northwestern Wildcats fooled everybody in their season opener. It turns out that there are still some serious issues with this college football program following another embarrassing defeat in Week 4.

Their third defeat in a row came at the hands of MAC outfit Miami (OH) who, in the absence of injured quarterback Brett Gabbert, threw for just 62 yards but mobilized running back Keyon Mozee to the tune of 171 yards and leaned on kicker Graham Nicholson to come out of Ryan Field win an unlikely 17-10 victory.

The defeat comes on the back of a shocking loss to Southern Illinois the previous week. Northwestern isn’t lacking in talent, with a devastating running back duo in Cam Porter and Evan Hull, a potential NFL Draft first-round offensive tackle in Peter Skoronski, and multiple defensive playmakers (including highly rated cornerback Cam Mitchell).

Yet, the Wildcats have now won just one of their last 10 games, and the pressure must surely begin to mount on a head coach in Pat Fitzgerald who has felt untouchable during his Northwestern tenure. Something has to change…and soon.

The state of Colorado football

If you’re a fan of the Air Force Falcons, this doesn’t apply to you. Similarly, fans of the Adams State Grizzlies or Colorado Mines Orediggers need not track me down on Twitter to rebuke me for what I’m about to say. Ok, now that we’ve clarified that, football in the state of Colorado is, for want of a better word, in a state.

For every winner in college football Week 4, there was a loser. And as Sacramento State celebrated a famous win, Colorado State was on the losing end. It’s been a common theme for the Rams this season. Another dismal performance leaves them at 0-4 through Week 4, a situation they haven’t been in since 2007, the final season of the Sonny Lubick era in Fort Collins.

Defeats to Michigan and Washington State are understandable. Losses to Middle Tennessee State and Sacramento State are not. Following college football Week 4, the Rams rank 125th in scoring defense, 102nd in yardage allowed per game, 130th in scoring offense, and 129th in total offense. Odds of 10/1 on Jay Norvell to be fired have surfaced online.

Meanwhile, things aren’t much better at Folsom Field. The Colorado Buffaloes fell to 0-4 with a 45-17 defeat to UCLA. If you’re a college fantasy football manager, finding the running back that faces the Buffs is your number one move each week — the Colorado run defense constantly ranks as the worse in the nation. Bruins back Zach Charbonnet torched them to the tune of three touchdowns and 104 yards as UCLA put up 249 total rush yards.

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