Who said Week 9 of the college football season wasn’t going to have any good games?
If anything, there’s an argument that Saturday was among the busier days of the season in terms of eventful games and highlights. Divisional races are beginning to take shape and so is the College Football Playoff race. There are teams like Washington State, Northwestern and Virginia that continue to surprise. All three may make their conference championship games. Then there are others like Wisconsin, Washington and Miami that continue to underachieve.
Nov. 3 may be this year’s marquee weekend, but Week 9 still had plenty of storylines. From big wins by Georgia, Kentucky and Clemson to ugly losses by Texas and Washington, a lot happened around college football. Let’s get you caught up with all things through Winners and Losers.
Oklahoma: The Sooners handled Kansas State 51-14, but that’s not why they’re big winners. That would be because Texas lost to Oklahoma State 38-35. Now, every Big 12 team has a loss heading into November. Of all the teams still realistically in the Big 12 Conference Championship Game race, Oklahoma is easily playing the best. Chances are, it’ll be in Arlington come the first weekend of December. It’s the rest of the top half of the Big 12 standings that’s a little tougher to decipher. Know this, though: there are a lot of crossover games involving Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech in the next four weeks.
SEC East showdown: The SEC will host two of Week 10’s most important games. Of course, there’s Alabama-LSU, which will understandably garner the most eyeballs. But with Kentucky’s thrilling walk-off touchdown over Missouri to win 15-14 coupled with Georgia’s 36-17 thrashing of Florida, the upcoming Georgia-Kentucky game in Lexington gets some shine, too. The winner will have a grip atop the East division and both teams only have one conference game left in which they will likely be heavy favorites. So, yeah, you could say there are some stakes.
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew: The Cougars were coming off a huge win vs. Oregon in Week 8, so a road trip to Stanford seemed like a perfect letdown spot. And for one half of football, it seemed that way. The Cardinal had a 28-17 halftime lead, but Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew was lights out in the final 30 minutes. He finished the night with 438 yards passing on 40-of-50 attempts with three touchdowns. Washington State may not just be the best team in the Pac-12 North … it might be the best team in the Pac-12. And Minshew has at the very least earned a spot in the Heisman Trophy conversation. In a huge game, he was superb when it mattered.
Northwestern: The Big Ten West was a four-team race coming into Saturday with Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin. Purdue and Iowa both lost cross-divisional games against Michigan State and Penn State, respectively, and Northwestern upset Wisconsin 31-17. That puts Pat Fitzgerald’s team alone atop the West at 5-1. Not a bad place to be for a team that lost three games in September. Fitzgerald continues to get the most out of his teams.
Conference doormats: Hey, it’s been a rough go lately for the likes of Kansas and Oregon State. Combined, they were 3-11 and winless in conference play coming into Saturday. Kansas finally got over the hump against a nosediving TCU, 27-26, thanks to a butt fumble. Oregon State came from a whopping 28 points down in the third quarter to beat Colorado 41-34 in overtime. When the suffering has been this great, such dramatic wins are perfect remedies.
Texas (the state): Yes, the Longhorns’ loss to Oklahoma State was rough, but at least they weren’t the only Texas team to have a rough day. Texas A&M made Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald look like a great passer again in a 28-13 loss. TCU fumbled (again, via buttocks) the game away against Kansas. Texas Tech dropped a road game at Iowa State 40-31. The state’s power teams had an awful time in Week 9, leaving room for the best team at the moment to be … Houston?
Florida (also the state): Don’t worry, things weren’t much better in Florida with the Gators, Seminoles, Hurricanes and Bulls all losing by double digits. Even FAU’s slide under coach Lane Kiffin continued on Friday with a 21-13 loss to Louisiana Tech. So Florida’s best team in Week 10 was … FIU? The Panthers beat lowly Western Kentucky 38-17.
Washington: Usually every week there’s at least one “what in tarnation?” result. That was No. 15 Washington’s 12-10 loss to Cal. You don’t need me to recap what happened — and if you’re a Washington fan, you probably don’t want to relive it anyway — to know this was the college football equivalent of trying to fold a fitted sheet. Just know that coach Chris Petersen benched starting quarterback Jake Browning for Jake Haener, who played two possessions, went 1-of-4 and threw a pick-six before Browning re-entered the game. Something’s terribly wrong in Seattle.
Preseason top-10 teams: While we’re talking about Washington, now is a good time to remind you that preseason polls are fine if they’re only viewed as fun talking points and nothing more. Because, really, they don’t mean anything. As ESPN’s odds guru Chris Fallica pointed out, four preseason top-10 teams — Auburn, Miami, Washington and Wisconsin — are either unranked or could very well get there soon. Every single one of those teams has three losses and most of them are trending hard in the wrong direction.
Mark Richt: And while we’re talking about Miami, let’s talk about Richt. The Miami coach is embattled following a 27-14 loss to Boston College on Friday night. Namely, Richt’s critics are spotlighting the quarterback situation with Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry, along with the general offensive ineptitude (the Hurricanes averaged four yards per play). Rosier’s ups and downs are well-documented and he had a particularly abysmal night with a couple of interceptions and about 4.2 yards per attempt. But this has been a mismanagement job weeks in the making that is now starting to cost Miami. And it’s starting to tick off some of the program’s biggest alums.
Best of the rest
Wake Forest running back Matt Colburn: If you don’t know Colburn’s story off the top of your head, here’s a refresher. The running back was a one-time Louisville commit, but Cardinals infamously pulled his scholarship offer just days before National Signing Day in 2015 with an intent to greyshirt him. Colburn joined Wake Forest, and in a 56-35 rout of the Cardinals, rushed for a career-best 243 yards and three touchdowns.
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate: Welcome back, sir. College football has missed you. Tate still wasn’t a monster rushing threat in Arizona’s 44-17 win over Oregon, but he did have three passing touchdowns and looked far better coming off of his ankle injury.
Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders weren’t having any trouble dispatching Old Dominion when Reed Blankenship returned this interception 100 yards for a touchdown, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Middle Tennessee won 51-17.
Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry: Arizona State’s 38-35 win over USC stopped a tough slide for the Sun Devils in which they lost four of their last five. During that slide, it could be easy to forget that Harry is an absolute monster. In addition to a punt return for a touchdown, Harry had 95 yards receiving on four catches, including this absurdity, and a score.
Houston quarterback D’Eriq King: The Cougars might be the best challenger to UCF in the American Athletic Conference, which means they might be the best challenger to UCF in the race for a New Year’s Six bowl berth. King has been unstoppable and tallied 551 yards of offense plus seven touchdowns in a 57-36 win over No. 21 USF.
Central Connecticut State running back Aaron Dawson: Kudos go to Dawson, who set a Division I record for rushing yards in a half on Saturday with 308 in a 49-24 victory over Wagner. Dawson ended the game with 361 yards — sixth-highest in FCS history — and five touchdowns.
Fresno State’s kick-six: Bulldogs wide receiver Jamire Jordan took this 53-yard field goal attempt from Hawaii right before halftime 100 yards the other way for a touchdown. And take a look at Fresno’s blocking, too. That’s how you set up a monster return.
Clemson: The Tigers had no problems with Florida State, winning 59-10. The Tigers have turned on a different gear lately, winning their last three games by a total of 163-20.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles didn’t have enough to beat Charlotte, but this late, crazy tip drill made it 20-17, which ended up being the final score. Still cool, though.
Cincinnati: College football has the best overtime of any sport, period. But with all the fun offense that college football’s overtime enables, you don’t often see a walk-off pick-six to win the game. So, congratulations Cincinnati, your 26-20 overtime win over SMU was a rare breed.
Virginia: With a 31-21 win over North Carolina, the Cavaliers are now bowl eligible in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2004-2005. Additionally, the Hoos will exit Week 9 atop the ACC Coastal standings. Clemson-Virginia ACC Championship Game anyone?
UTEP: With San Jose State’s 50-37 win over UNLV, UTEP remains the FBS’ lone winless team (and likely No. 1 seed in the Bottom 25). The Miners are 0-8 this season and have lost their last 20 games dating back to last season. Oddly enough, though, they’ve been dynamite against the spread, so maybe that first win is coming sooner rather than later? W&L hates to see any team go winless, so best of luck in November.
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