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College football Week 4 observations: Playoff hopes for Texas A&M, North Carolina, Iowa State now just a memory

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 9/26/2021 Erick Smith, USA TODAY
Texas A&M safety Connor Choate falls into the end zone during the Aggies' 20-10 loss to Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. © Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports Texas A&M safety Connor Choate falls into the end zone during the Aggies' 20-10 loss to Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

High expectations are great as long as teams are attempting to make that climb with a solid foundation. 

Texas A&M, North Carolina and Iowa State spent all offseason with College Football Playoff talk permeating their locker rooms and fanbases. It was natural given those teams returning several key elements of last year's teams.

However, when you never reached the heights you seek, it is easy to get distracted in the enthusiasm of your situation. Chemistry doesn't carry over to the next season. The little things you did on your climb sometimes get overlooked. Distractions are everywhere. 

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Those playoff hopes are a distant memory after Saturday with the Aggies falling to Arkansas, the Tar Heels getting thrashed by Georgia Tech and the Cyclones dropping a close one to Baylor. 

It's easy to blame coaches in the situation. Jimbo Fisher, Mack Brown and Matt Campbell are three of the best in college football - two have won national titles -  and they're smart enough to understand the pitfalls. Sometimes they're unavoidable. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way.

In the case of the Aggies, they lost their starting quarterback without getting an accurate assessment if he was capable of sharing the load. Zach Calzada has struggled as the replacement of Haynes King. The defense that was expected to be great has been good, but not good enough.

Nothing has seemed to click for the Tar Heels and their offense that returned quarterback Sam Howell without his skill people that were standouts last year. They've struggled to score points on the road in losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

The Cyclones saw the first loss to Iowa come in a whirlwind of turnovers. Saturday's failure was assured on a missed two-point conversion. That magic that took them to the Big 12 title game last year has disappeared even after their biggest stars stayed in college to pursue bigger dreams.

The experience will be good for all the programs as they begin their climbs back up. But it's also worth reflecting on this missed opportunity for it could provide a blueprint to avoid in the future.

Here's some other observations from college football Week 4:

Oklahoma still stuck in neutral

The season started off with a bang for the Sooners as they led Tulane 37-14 at halftime of their opener. It seemed like this offense would match all the hype of the offseason. In the following 10 quarters against the Green Wave, Nebraska and West Virginia - all at home - the offense has generated 42 points. They've achieved the lowest-scoring games of Lincoln Riley's tenure in consecutive weeks. This coming on the heels of six years in a row of averaging at least 42 points per game. Riley will surely dissect all the issues and try to come up with a solution. It's not looking promising, unless the running game gets untracked and quarterback Spencer Rattler rediscovers his form. Looming next week is the team's first road game and maybe that's a welcome respite with the home crowd booing them against the Mountaineers. The downside is that Saturday's host is Kansas State, which has beaten Oklahoma in the last two meetings. 

UCLA continues its ascent

Let's get last week's Fresno State loss out of the way first because the Bulldogs are really good and tested Oregon two weeks earlier. The rest of the season has been fantastic for UCLA as Chip Kelly has started to get the train rolling in the right direction. A blowout of Hawaii and impressive defeat of LSU preceded this week's road win at Stanford. The defeat of the Tigers might draw the attention, but beating the Cardinal is more significant. The Bruins had lost 12 of 13 in the series, and couldn't afford an early Pac-12 loss with games against Washington and Oregon from the North later in the season. Another showdown awaits next week against Arizona State that will give the winner an early edge in the South.

CFB WINNERS AND LOSERS FROM WEEK 4: UCLA, Texas gain ground; Minnesota embarrassed

OPINION: Why No. 18 Arkansas and Sam Pittman may surprise as feel-good story of the season

NOT A CFB CONTENDER: Clemson has taken a step backward this season, but it shouldn't be surprising

Big things going on at Georgia Tech

Turning around an aircraft carrier might be easier than trying to change offensive philosophies after your predecessor was running the option. That's the challenge that faced Geoff Collins when he arrived at Georgia Tech. Four games into his third season, Collins is slowly putting his imprint on this program. It helps to have time and understanding involved in the rebuilding process. The Yellow Jackets went 3-9 and then 3-7 last year. Signs were flickering, though inconsistency remained. It showed in this year's opening loss to Northern Illinois when quarterback Jeff Sims was knocked out of the game. Fast forward two weeks when Tech narrowly lost at Clemson - a team that won last year's game 73-7 - and then knocked off North Carolina in emphatic fashion Saturday. These efforts weren't flukes, and the Yellow Jackets' bouncing back after the close loss to raise its level the following week shows a program that has bought into a coach. More good things lie ahead.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: College football Week 4 observations: Playoff hopes for Texas A&M, North Carolina, Iowa State now just a memory

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