Winners and Losers from Week 9 in College Football

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2018

Winners and Losers from Week 9 in College Football

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    Two of 2017's College Football Playoff teams used Week 9 to offer a clear reminder: We're back for more.

    After No. 2 Clemson completely obliterated Florida State during the noon session, seventh-ranked Georgia played a terrific second half to derail No. 9 Florida's hopes of an upset.

    They're here. And probably not going anywhere.

    Compared to previous weeks, college football's most recent slate was relatively tame. Though a few Top 25 programs fell, it was either to another ranked opponent or an unsurprising loss.

    Still, there was still plenty of action to dissect. We've got you covered.

Winner: Will Grier, West Virginia

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    During an uninspiring win over Kansas and loss to Iowa State, Will Grier committed a total of five turnovers. West Virginia remained a Big 12 threat, but only if the quarterback started to thrive again.

    So far, so good.

    While leading the Mountaineers to a 58-14 destruction of Baylor, the senior racked up 353 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also scored on a quarterback sneak.

    November brings a tough schedule for West Virginia, which bookends the month with a trip to Texas and hosting Oklahoma. But if the high-powered offense is playing up to its Grier-led potential, the Mountaineers certainly have a chance to reach the Big 12 title game.

Loser: Bud Foster's Virginia Tech Defense

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    Bud Foster is one of the most respected defensive coordinators in all of college football. Virginia Tech, however, has consistently struggled to deal with Georgia Tech's triple-option attack lately.

    In fact, the Yellow Jackets only attempted one pass during the 49-28 rout, winning their fourth game in the series' last five meetings.

    Georgia Tech quarterback Tobias Oliver scampered for 215 yards and three touchdowns, while running backs Jordan Mason and Jerry Howard combined for 158 yards and four scores. The Jackets sliced Virginia Tech for 465 yards on the ground.

    "They won the line scrimmage and manhandled us tonight," Foster said after the loss, per Evan G. Watkins of 247Sports.

Winner: Clemson's Beatdown of Florida State

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    Comprehensive obliteration.

    Trevor Lawrence tossed four touchdowns as Clemson built a 45-0 advantage over Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Tigers ultimately won 59-10, sending the Seminoles to their worst home loss in the proud's program history.

    On the other side of the ball, Clemson limited FSU to just 247 total offensive yards. Fourteen different Tigers contributed on a tackle for loss, led by Justin Foster's 2.5. They had five sacks, too.

    "Unbelievable day," head coach Dabo Swinney told reporters, via Anna Hickey of 247Sports.

    Three straight wins by 34-plus points is enough to call Swinney's team the biggest threat to Alabama in the College Football Playoff.

Loser: Purdue's Encore Performance

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    David Blough thrashed Ohio State for 378 yards and three touchdowns during Purdue's 49-20 upset of Ohio State last week. History did not repeat itself Saturday at Michigan State.

    Instead, the senior quarterback lumbered his way through the Big Ten clash and finished with three interceptions.

    Purdue reached the MSU 25-yard line on five possessions but scored only 13 points. The team also missed two field goals, one of which was made even challenging by a false start. Self-inflicted issues plagued the Boilermakers, who watched their four-game winning streak end in East Lansing.

    Though the Boilers are still alive in the Big Ten West, they'll need considerable help elsewhere to truly have a chance.

Winner: Georgia's Pursuit of SEC East

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    The division isn't quite locked up, but Georgia is one victory away from securing its second straight SEC East crown.

    During the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the Bulldogs overcame a sleepy opening half from the offense for a 36-17 win. They scored 23 of those points after the break, getting a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Jake Fromm.

    Most importantly for the Dawgs, though, they surrendered just 105 yards through the air to Florida's Feleipe Franks. Georgia also snatched three takeaways while committing zero.

    If Kirby Smart's club defeats Kentucky on the road in Week 10, Georgia will celebrate a division-clinching victory.

Loser: Iowa's Late-Game Execution

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    Iowa had a terrific opportunity to pull the upset in Happy Valley, but a series of small mistakes compounded into a huge issue.

    In the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes trailed Penn State 30-24. After surviving an errant snap, the combination of a miscommunication at the goal line and a poor decision from quarterback Nate Stanley resulted in an interception.

    The defense managed a stop, but it wasn't enough.

    On the final play of regulation, Iowa's blocking unit had a rare, inopportune letdown. Pressure quickly closed in on Stanley, who couldn't buy enough time to throw up a desperation heave. Instead, he tossed an ill-fated lateral to a lineman.

    And the Nittany Lions escaped with a six-point triumph.

Winner: D'Eriq King's Heisman Resume

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    D'Eriq King isn't a household name, but all he does is shred defenses.

    The quarterback racked up 419 yards and five touchdowns through the air in addition to scampering for a season-best 132 yards and two more scores. Under his guidance, Houston amassed 681 yards of offense in a 57-36 win over No. 21 South Florida.

    Never before in its history as a Division I program had USF surrendered so many points. Bulls fans will remember King as the reason for that disappointing record.

    Through eight games, King has accounted for 39 total touchdowns. Though it's exceptionally unlikely he'll win the award, he deserves a place in Heisman Trophy conversations.

Loser: Top Heisman Running Backs

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    As King strengthened his resume, however, a trio of Heisman-caliber running backs didn't offer much production.

    Clemson speedster Travis Etienne entered Week 9 with the eighth-best odds, per OddsShark, but he mustered only 45 yards and didn't score. While he'll absolutely enjoy the blowout win, Etienne had scored three touchdowns apiece in each of the last three outings.

    Jonathan Taylor, who was given the 10th-highest odds, trudged to 46 yards as No. 20 Wisconsin fell 31-17 to Northwestern. His eight-game 100-yard streak came to a screeching halt.

    Similar to Etienne, Benny Snell Jr. certainly prefers that No. 12 Kentucky won in dramatic fashion at Missouri. Still, he arrived averaging 128 yards per game and lumbered to only 67.

    In case there was any doubt, a quarterback is destined to hoist the Heisman in 2018.

Winner: Virginia's Coastal Division Chaos

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    Week 9 couldn't have gone better for Virginia.

    Thursday, Virginia Tech dropped its first ACC contest of the season because of the defensive nightmare against Georgia Tech. Then on Friday, the pitiful version of Miami's offense made another appearance, and the 'Canes lost 27-14 at Boston College.

    Virginia took care of business Saturday, dispatching North Carolina 31-21 before Pitt clipped Duke, 54-45, in the afternoon.

    As a result, the Cavaliers are leading the Coastal at 4-1 in ACC play. According to ESPN's Seth Walder, they hold a 44 percent chance to win the divisionyes, better than Virginia Tech and Miami.

    If they knock off Pitt next week, that number will only rise.

Loser: Colorado's Collapse

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    Avert your eyes, Buffalo fans.

    Holding a commanding 31-3 lead over Pac-12 cellar-dweller Oregon State, Colorado had this contest all wrapped up. Until it didn't.

    Beavers quarterback Jake Luton led four touchdown drives in the second half, including a game-tying score in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Colorado actually blocked the ensuing extra point to force overtime, but the Buffs failed to match Oregon State's touchdown.

    "I would say it was an extremely bad loss," said Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, per Adam Munsterteiger of 247Sports. "One that we should have won, too. It is extremely tough."

Winner: Nick Fitzgerald's Day of Redemption

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    In his first two appearances of the season, Nick Fitzgerald torched the opponents for 663 total yards and eight touchdowns.

    But when SEC action started, that production tanked. The third-year starter failed to collect more than 200 yards in three of Mississippi State's last four games. In those three games, the offense had seven points or less. That's an optimal way to lose for sure.

    However, the best version of Fitzgerald returned Saturday.

    En route to defeating No. 16 Texas A&M 28-13, he threw for 241 yards, ran for 88 and accounted for four total touchdowns.

    It's certainly been a rough season for the senior, but that magnificent performance quieted the critics and any noise of a quarterback changeat least for a week.

Loser: Washington's Offense

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    In 2017, Washington traveled to Arizona State, played a tremendous game on defense and lost because the offense couldn't score. The Huskies experienced some deja vu in Berkeley on Saturday.

    Jake Browning guided a touchdown drive on the opening possession, but Washington never found the end zone again.

    Worst of all for the senior, his brutal day actually included a first: He got yanked. Browning's replacement, redshirt freshman Jake Haener, threw a pick-six on his first drive. Browning returned, yet two fourth-quarter drives that reached Cal's 40 led to three points.

    Washington's outstanding defense allowed only 242 yards and 12 points to Cal. The Dawgs still lost 12-10.

Winner: Washington State's Comeback

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    Washington State suddenly has a commanding edge in the Pac-12 North, but it required a second-half surge to get it.

    Stanford grabbed a 28-14 lead in the first half, and a last-second field goal trimmed Wazzu's deficit to 11 at the break. Though the Cougars scored on the opening drive of the third quarter, they entered the closing frame trailing the Cardinal 31-24.

    And then Gardner Minshew took over.

    The East Carolina graduate transfer led the game-tying drive, the go-ahead drive and the game-winning drive, throwing a pair of touchdowns and setting up Blake Mazza's decisive 42-yard kick for a 41-38 win.

    Washington State is now the only North Division team to have just one conference loss. Plus, victories over both Stanford and Oregon give the Cougs a critical advantage in tiebreakers.

    The division isn't decided, but Mike Leach's team has become the clear front-runner.

Loser: Defense in the Carrier Dome

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    The Carrier Dome often features low-scoring matchups. That, of course, is during college basketball season when Syracuse and its 2-3 zone frustrate opponents.

    Who likes defense in football? Not these teams!

    North Carolina State surrendered 561 yards and 51 points to the home side. Syracuse threw for 480 yards, the most of the Dino Babers era.

    And the Orange needed every bit of that explosive day. NC State put up 541 yards and 41 points. Unfortunately for the No. 22 Wolfpack, Ryan Finley tossed an interception when trailing by three points late in the fourth quarter. Syracuse soon iced the win.

    As a result, 'Cuse secured bowl eligibility for the first time since 2013. Coach Babers has the program headed in the right direction.

Winner: Arizona Dominates Oregon

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    College football is so weird.

    At no point this season did Arizona seem capable of upending an Oregon-caliber team. The Wildcats, who averaged 41.3 points last season, had only reached the 30-point barrier three timesand those opponents are a combined 5-19 this year.

    So, naturally, Kevin Sumlin's squad hung 44 on the Ducks.

    Khalil Tate tossed three touchdown passes while J.J. Taylor scampered for 212 yards and a couple of scores. The Wildcats held the high-powered Oregon offense to only 270 yards, too.

    Arizona wasn't a part of the Pac-12 title conversation anyway, but the 44-15 drubbing ensures Oregon won't be, either.

Loser: Texas Being Back

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    We have news to report: Texas is no longer back.

    It's fair to say a Longhorns loss—though not necessarily this one—seemed inevitable, given the cursory attention paid to Tom Herman's club in College Football Playoff discussions. Most analysis still seemed to favor Oklahoma this season anyway.

    Oklahoma State stepped in to derail the Longhorns first.

    OSU quarterback Taylor Cornelius shook his recent poor form, shredding a quality Texas defense for 321 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also provided key moments on the ground, scoring twice and picking up a game-sealing first down in a 38-35 win.

    Once down 24-7, Texas made a valiant comeback effort. It wasn't enough to stay undefeated in Big 12 play.