Winners and Losers from Week 7 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 13, 2019

Winners and Losers from Week 7 of College Football

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    College football announced its presence Saturday.

    There have been some wacky weekends, a few upsets and a lot of reasons to keep us "fat, dumb and happy" for the first six weeks, to borrow a phrase from Washington State coach Mike Leach. But all of that was to prepare us for Saturday's fun.

    There were some clunkers such as Wisconsin-Michigan State, Alabama-Texas A&M and Clemson-Florida State, but there was plenty of excitement.

    South Carolina stunned Georgia in Athens in two overtimes in the upset of the year, and Baylor remained undefeated with a frenetic, late-game comeback that culminated with an overtime touchdown for a 33-30 win over Texas Tech.

    Then, LSU-Florida gave us a late-night dandy, while Notre Dame-USC and Penn State-Iowa proved to be filling side dishes. If you dipped a little deeper into the slate, Louisville's toppling of previously undefeated Wake Forest in a 62-59 thriller was worth a watch too.

    From prolific offenses such as Alabama's, Oklahoma's and Clemson's showing up and showing out to dynamic defenses such as Wisconsin's and Oregon's leading the way, this was a separation weekend in college football.

    Let's take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers from the action.

Winner: CeeDee Lamb; Red River Rivalry Hero

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    Stellar performances in storied rivalries produce legends.

    Go ahead and call Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb a legend.

    In Saturday's 34-27 Red River Rivalry victory over Texas, the electrifying pass-catcher was a one-man highlight reel. While Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts entered the game with Heisman Trophy aspirations, it was Lamb who looked like the best player on the field.

    He and Hurts hooked up 10 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns.

    Lamb warmed up with a ho-hum one-yard reception for his first score. His next two touchdowns were the stuff of lore. First, he took a flea-flicker pass, eluded five Texas defenders and stunned the Cotton Bowl crowd with an amazing score.

    It was the college football play of the day.

    The next time he scored, Lamb caught a pass around the 10-yard line, and though he seemingly had nowhere to go, he somehow made it through for a touchdown. He broke two tackles and completed the 27-yard scoring grab, pushing OU's lead to 27-17.

    On a day when Texas' secondary allowed Hurts to complete just six non-Lamb passes, the combination proved the difference in a massive win that gives the Sooners clear supremacy in the Big 12.

    Lamb's big day was rife with elite stats too. The 51-yard scoring grab on the flea flicker was his seventh catch of at least 50 yards since the start of the 2018 season. He also moved his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown catch to eight, the longest active streak in the FBS.

    Receivers don't get a lot of love for college football's top awards, but Lamb is making his mark.

Loser: Georgia, Thanks to South Carolina's Heroics and an Un-Georgia-Like Effort

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    As South Carolina celebrated with its fans and ripped off parts of the hedges at Sanford Stadium, it felt like the best team had won the game.

    Unbelievably, that wasn't the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

    UGA star kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed a would-be, game-tying 42-yard field goal not long after South Carolina's Parker White hit a 24-yarder for a three-point lead (though the latter did miss a 33-yard chip shot in the first overtime that would have won it for the Gamecocks), and Carolina escaped with a 20-17 win.

    But they deserved it, despite all the twists and turns that led to it.

    The Gamecocks confused Jake Fromm all afternoon, and the stud signal-caller who is expected to be a first-round draft pick threw three interceptions into the awaiting hands of Israel Mukuamu.

    Mukuamu returned the first of his picks for a touchdown, and the final one came in OT, setting up the should-be game-winning field goal that missed.

    Even before all that, South Carolina should have won in regulation, as it appeared to stop the Bulldogs on 4th-and-6 toward the end of the game in a stand that would have secured it. But the SEC officials threw a flag for a phantom defensive hold, giving the Bulldogs a new set of downs.

    They capitalized with a touchdown to send the game into overtime.

    It didn't matter, though, as South Carolina continued to find heroes all over the field. With starting quarterback Ryan Hilinski injured (knee), Dakereon Joyner had 39 passing yards and 28 rushing yards, doing just enough to keep the Gamecocks in position to win.

    In the end, they accepted a little luck with Blankenship's miss to earn college football's biggest upset of the season.

Winner: Penn State's Rugged Road Win

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    Ohio State has showcased the complete package this season, and Wisconsin's historic defense is keeping the Badgers in the Top 10 too.

    But Penn State coach James Franklin has his Nittany Lions playing exceptional football, and their body of work got a big resume bullet point Saturday night in a 17-12 road win over Iowa.

    In a battle of two of the nation's top four teams in scoring defense, Penn State proved it can win any way it needs to against Kirk Ferentz's rough-and-tumble Hawkeyes. While the defense played perhaps its best contest of the season, it also handled late-game adversity.

    After Brandon Smith's fantastic touchdown grab closed the gap to 17-12, Penn State intercepted Nate Stanley's ensuing two-point conversion attempt. Then, when Ferentz elected to kick it deep with all three timeouts, Franklin leaned on a freshman running back.

    That would be Noah Cain, who is turning into quite a prospect for a Lions team that needed a hard-nosed, between-the-tackles runner. Journey Brown and Ricky Slade combined for just eight carries in this big-boy football game, while Cain got the majority of the workload.

    He wound up with 102 yards on 22 carries, scored a touchdown and got the big first down at the end of the game that allowed PSU to run out the clock.

    PSU was outgained 356-294, but the Lions converted 10 of 19 third downs to sustain drives and made enough big plays to pull out a huge victory in Iowa City, which is one of the toughest places to play in the Big Ten.

    Don't forget about Penn State.

Winner: Notre Dame and Its Career-Day Offensive Performances

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    It took a couple of huge days for Notre Dame to fend off long-time rival USC, but that's exactly what the Fighting Irish got in a 30-27 victory.

    Though the Trojans proved a worthy opponent thanks to quarterback Kedon Slovis' big day in his return from a concussion, the Irish had too many offensive weapons, and the running game was strong throughout, as it eventually wore down USC.

    Irish senior Tony Jones Jr. patiently waited his turn to be the backfield star, and it's paying off. Saturday night in South Bend, Jones had a game to remember with a career-high 176 yards on 25 carries.

    He spearheaded a rushing attack that found plenty of weapons. The one time Braden Lenzy touched the ball out of the backfield, he had a 51-yard scoring scamper.

    Jahmir Smith added 32 yards on five carries, and quarterback Ian Book was his normal dual-threat self, running for 49 yards and a touchdown and passing for 165 more and a score. The 308 rushing yards the Irish churned out were the difference in a huge win.

    Georgia's loss to South Carolina significantly hurt the Fighting Irish's chances to get back to the College Football Playoff, since their loss to the Bulldogs dropped a little luster. But all coach Brian Kelly's team can do is continue to win and try to do it in impressive fashion.

    The Trojans have endured their ups and downs this season, and we'll see how well this win ages, but it's never anything less than a huge victory when a team wins in this rivalry.

    Thanks to Jones, Book and Co., the Irish have bragging rights yet again.

Loser: Florida's Shredded Secondary

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    Welcome to the club, Florida.

    Despite having a defensive backfield that is among the nation's best and rife with NFL talent, you've become the latest team to get torched by LSU's suddenly vaunted passing attack.

    Every week, there's an opponent added to the "Honk If Joe Burrow Is Your Daddy" fraternity. It's one that will have a whole lot of members before the season is over, and Mississippi State is next.

    It's tough to say anybody's a loser in Saturday night's 42-28 Tigers victory in a true heavyweight battle between two exceptional teams. 

    Florida proved it's all the way back in the Dan Mullen era, and after last week's massive win over Auburn in an electric environment in the Swamp, Kyle Trask and Co. went into one of the country's most hostile stadiums and proved it can hang with an elite team.

    But a Gators defense that had been brilliant all season had no answers for Burrow, who should be No. 1 or No. 2 behind Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa in the Heisman Trophy race.

    Burrow finished the game having completed 21 of 24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, he had just three incompletions the entire night. Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson each eclipsed 120 receiving yards in the win.

    That Florida gets a "loser" slide is not necessarily an indictment of the Gators. They proved they're ready for prime time against the Tigers, and it was nearly much closer, but a goal-line stand by LSU at the end kept them two scores back.

    Regardless, Florida didn't stop LSU on offense. So far, nobody's been able to figure out how.

Winner: Oregon and the Real Reason the Ducks Are the Pac-12's Powerhouse

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    Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    Ever since quarterback Justin Herbert decided to come back for his senior season, that's been the story in Eugene, as the nation's most pro-ready signal-caller is having a terrific year.

    The Ducks defense deserves more attention, though.

    The unit is fast, aggressive, opportunistic and is without question the top outfit in the Pac-12. It may just be among the nation's top five defenses before the season is over. On Friday night, it smothered a quality quarterback in Steven Montez of the Colorado Buffaloes. 

    In the second quarter with the Buffs down 17-3, they had the ball on a 1st-and-goal on the 3-yard line, and Oregon kept them out of the end zone. That was the fuel that started the fire Colorado couldn't put out, as the Ducks defense nabbed interceptions on four consecutive possessions in what wound up being a 45-3 laugher. 

    Oregon looks like the best team in the Pac-12, and it's largely because of its defense. The Ducks are first in total defense, allowing just 267 yards per game. Though Utah had allowed 14.4 points per game heading into Saturday, Oregon has allowed an incredible 8.7.

    The Ducks were also first in pass defense and third in rush defense before Saturday's action. Coordinator Andy Avalos' unit has been spectacular. Oregon can toss a complete attack at you, and that's bad news for the rest of the Pac-12.

Loser: Memphis, After a Slow Start and a Questionable Call

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    A quick look at Memphis' offensive stats in its 30-28 loss to Temple in Philadelphia would lead you to believe the Tigers did everything they needed to do to win.

    Coach Mike Norvell's team got 363 passing yards from Brady White, and electrifying freshman Kenneth Gainwell was all over the field with 106 rushing yards and a score to go with 98 receiving yards.

    But a defensive debacle in the first half led to a 23-7 hole for the No. 23, previously undefeated Tigers, and they never could close the gap. The Owls got their second big win of the season in a game with national attention.

    The Tigers have plenty of reason to be frustrated with themselves, but there was a highly questionable call that cost them a chance to win.

    On 4th-and-9 late in the game, White found star tight end Joey Magnifico for a completion that would have given them a first down. It was ruled a catch at first, but, after review, the call was overturned.

    According to Commercial Appeal reporter Evan Barnes, Norvell and receiver T.J. Carter thought Magnifico caught the pass. They aren't alone.

    The official said the ball hit the ground, and though the nose of it may have, Magnifico appeared to have control of the catch. It would have given Memphis 1st-and-10 on the Temple 30-yard line when all it needed was a field goal for the win.

    Regardless, Memphis has its first loss of the season and will almost certainly drop from the rankings.

Winner: Those Wanting Another Alabama-Clemson Rematch

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    Alabama has defensive issues.

    Clemson has offensive issues.

    You've heard the talking heads discuss both at length this year as warnings that the Crimson Tide and Tigers may not make the national title game again.

    It's all noise.

    While Georgia got upset by South Carolina, and Oklahoma put away rival Texas in the Red River shootout, Alabama and Clemson rolled by potential tests that never materialized. Alabama dispatched Texas A&M, 47-28 at Kyle Field, while Clemson rolled Florida State 45-14 in a laugher.

    For the Tide, this season continues to be all about the offense, and while it may be legitimate to wonder if their attack is good enough to mask any defensive issues they have thanks to youth and injuries, it's likely moot.

    The offense is indeed good enough. It scores points at will. Against a good, young A&M defense Saturday, Tua Tagovailoa and his stable of ridiculous playmakers dominated. They put so much pressure on the opponent, it's hard to envision they'll be slowed.

    As for Clemson, there were offensive struggles early in the season, and Florida State isn't good enough to make everybody feel like those are gone.

    But Trevor Lawrence looked more like himself against the Seminoles, finishing with 170 passing yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Travis Etienne finished with 127 rushing yards, and a defense that has been dominant all year remained so.

    Clemson likely won't be tested the rest of the season after the recent scare against North Carolina, so there's plenty of time to iron out the issues.

    It's a strong bet these two teams will meet yet again in December or January.

Loser: Mike Leach's Motivation Tactics

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    Mike Leach is the most outspoken coach in college football—even more so than Nick Saban.

    While Saban's verbal explosions seem to have a point, Leach's oftentimes are entertaining riffs that are a peek into his savant mind. However, when he called his players "fat, dumb and happy" following a loss to Utah two weeks ago, there had to be some motivational tactics behind his words.

    It didn't work, and, in retrospect, the controversial comments may have been a mistake.

    Washington State lost again Saturday, falling to 3-3. This time, the Cougars fell to a No. 18 Arizona State Sun Devils team it led virtually the entire game.

    When Sun Devils freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels went helicoptering into the end zone with less than a minute remaining to give his team a 38-34 win, Leach's comments went from being discussed as lighting a fire under his players to looking petty.

    That's just the way it goes.

    Wazzu continues to struggle on defense, unable to stop anybody. In years past, the Cougars ran the ball at least enough to keep defenses honest, but not this year. Quarterback Anthony Gordon is basically having to do everything himself with his receiving corps.

    Gordon's 466 passing yards weren't enough against defensive-minded Arizona State, which had to go outside its comfort zone to win.

    Though there's nothing wrong with Leach's tough-love mentality, which has worked in the past, it didn't have the desired effect this time. Now, the Cougars continue to search for answers.

Winner: Wisconsin's Smothering Defense Actually Improves

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    You ooh at Alabama's offense, and rightfully so. You marvel at what Oklahoma can do to put up points; how Ohio State seems to be clicking on all cylinders with Justin Fields; and at the massive offensive potential Clemson has with all those weapons.

    Nobody daydreams about defense.

    But if you don't pay as much attention that side of the ball, you're missing a marvelous unit, and that's the Wisconsin Badgers defense.

    We've already discussed Oregon's upstart D and how it's carrying the Ducks to the top of the Pac-12, but an even better group resides in Wisconsin. The Badgers proved it yet again Saturday in a 38-0 shellacking of Michigan State.

    It was their fourth shutout in six games, and it's the first Big Ten team with four shutouts in its first six contests since Minnesota in 1962. The Badgers had an interception in the end zone with 21 seconds left to preserve the shutout.

    The Spartans rarely sniffed positive yardage, and they even replaced quarterback Brian Lewerke late after he threw a pick-six to Badgers captain Zack Baun to make the score 31-0 in the fourth quarter.

    Just how good are the Badgers? They entered the game leading the nation by allowing 5.8 points per game, and they improved that number Saturday. They're now allowing just 4.8 points per game. The unit also entered the contest allowing 178.6 yards per game and held MSU to 149.

    If you can't wait until that October 26 showdown against Ohio State at the Shoe, count yourself among the rest of us who love college football. It's going to be a clash of Big Ten titans with completely different styles.

Loser: P.J. Fleck's Naysayers

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    It hasn't been an overnight rebuild, but P.J. Fleck has the Minnesota Golden Gophers sitting at 6-0 after Saturday night's convincing 34-7 beatdown of Nebraska in the snow.

    After last season's 7-6 record, the Gophers are on their way to improving that significantly. You may hate Fleck's hokey slogans, such as "Row the Boat," but the Gophers did that in a wintry mix against the Cornhuskers and looked excellent in every facet of the game while doing it.

    This program is on an upward trajectory after Fleck left his job at Western Michigan to take over the Gophers and have had an incredible start.

    Fleck's doubters will point to the fact that Minnesota's played a soft schedule, beating South Dakota State, Fresno State, Georgia Southern, Purdue, Illinois and Nebraska, but it's still a spotless slate. Though the Cornhuskers played without star quarterback Adrian Martinez, Minnesota's win could get it into the Top 25.

    It may be time to start believing the Gophers can make noise in the Big Ten.

    Beginning November 9, Minnesota has to play Penn State at home, at Iowa, at Northwestern and home against Wisconsin. If they split that gauntlet, they'll have a terrific chance for a 10-win season.

    There's still work to be done by Fleck, but he's winning behind the rugged running of Rodney Smith and with the same staunch defense that has been a staple at Minnesota for years.

    Much like a surging Baylor in the Big 12, Minnesota may not be ready to compete with the upper echelon of its conference, but it's on the cusp of consistent football.

    Fleck's formula continues to prove it works.

Winner: Baylor Stiff-Arming Upset-Minded Texas Tech to Remain Unbeaten

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    Matt Rhule-coached teams simply don't lose games they're winning late. It's the mark of a well-coached, mentally disciplined and tough-minded group of players.

    When adversity struck the Baylor Bears on Saturday and Texas Tech surged ahead late, quarterback Charlie Brewer calmly led his team down the field and inside the 10-yard line. When Denzel Mims dropped the would-be, game-winning touchdown pass at the end of regulation, Rhule smartly had his team kick the game-tying field goal.

    After both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, the Bears held Texas Tech to three points in the second overtime, and then scored on a JaMycal Hasty touchdown to earn a walk-off 33-30 win in McLane Stadium.

    The victory moved the Bears to 6-0, smacked down the Red Raiders' hopes of securing their first back-to-back wins over Top 25 opponents since 2012 and marked the 38th consecutive victory for a Rhule-coached team that led entering the fourth quarter.

    The streak of wins dates back to Rhule's time at Temple, where he turned the Owls into a mid-major powerhouse. Now, he's led Baylor back from the doldrums of NCAA sanctions and the embarrassment of the Art Briles era.

    Are they the same high-powered team? No. But they share the rugged mindset of Rhule, and they are making plenty of noise in the Big 12.

    Baylor won't likely challenge Oklahoma or Texas, but the Bears are quickly elevating to that plane and are just a rung below. Saturday was a tough test against another program doing good things under new coach Matt Wells, but Baylor is just a bit ahead of Texas Tech.

Loser: The ACC's Cast of Pretenders

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    Most people think the ACC is Clemson and everybody else. Unfortunately, the other ACC teams aren't doing anything to change that thinking.

    Friday night was Virginia's opportunity to move to 5-1 and seize total control of the ACC Coastal Division with a road win against a Miami team that was starting backup quarterback N'Kosi Perry and hovering just under .500.

    As a road underdog, the Cavaliers had a good chance to prove they were worthy of their No. 20 ranking. Instead, the Hurricanes traded in their turnover-chain glare for an impressive all-around performance that kept the Hoos out of the end zone in a 17-9 win.

    The biggest bad-news story of the night for Virginia, though, was the loss of preseason All-American cornerback Bryce Hall, who was injured on punt coverage. According to ESPN.com, he was placed in an air cast with what Mendenhall called an ankle injury and carted off the field.

    Then, an undefeated No. 19 Wake Forest team played Louisville on Saturday night with a chance to solidify its stance in the rankings against Louisville. While Scott Satterfield's team is supposed to be rebuilding, he's escalating that process quickly, and the Cardinals got a signature win against the Demon Deacons.

    In one of the most exciting games you'll see, the Cardinals built a huge lead, only to watch Wake Forest come storming back before losing 62-59.

    It's not out of the question to say the Cardinals may be playing the second-best football in the conference behind the Tigers. Yes, that's how bad the league is.

    The Cardinals proved too strong for coach Dave Clawson's Deacons, but the way Wake battled back is at least encouraging. The ACC just can't quit getting in its own way. There's the slim chance for teams play well every once in a while, but nobody is consistent outside of Dabo Swinney's Tigers.

Winner: Kentucky Do-It-All Athlete Lynn Bowden Jr.

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    There's just something about the Kentucky Wildcats' magic when they put a wide receiver at quarterback.

    On a night when they honored another former signal-caller—recently deceased Jared Lorenzen—the Wildcats were depleted at the position by injuries, so they stuck star receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. at the position.

    The junior pass-catcher, who entered the week leading the 'Cats with 348 receiving yards, played admirably, completing 7-of-11 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown and running 24 times for 196 yards and another pair of touchdowns. He gets overlooked because he's on a mediocre team, but Bowden proved his ability Saturday night.

    He's one of the best playmakers in the SEC, and with Sawyer Smith's struggles at the position, it may not be a bad idea for the Wildcats to stick with Bowden at QB even if Smith is healthy. It's unconventional, yes, but the 'Cats are finding it tough sledding this year in the SEC a year after their best year in program history.

    Saturday night's victory pulls them back to .500 at 3-3 and gives coach Mark Stoops his first league win this season.

    Despite the cool storyline for Bowden, it isn't the first time UK has had success doing this. In 2011, with coach Joker Phillips on his way out and Tennessee's then-coach Derek Dooley trying to take the Vols to a bowl game, the Wildcats placed receiver Matt Roark at quarterback.

    Roark completed four of his six passes for 15 yards, and he ran 24 times for 124 yards in a 10-7 win by the Wildcats that snapped Tennessee's 26-game winning streak versus Kentucky. 

    Bowden's effort was much better Saturday night, but the result was the same. Meanwhile, Arkansas continues to struggle mightily under coach Chad Morris, and the Razorbacks are still looking for their first SEC win.

Winner: Appalachian State's Sun Belt Reign (And Sneaky Group of Five Presence)

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    Remember when Scott Frost left UCF and Josh Heupel came in and picked up right where he left off? Well, Eliah Drinkwitz is doing the same thing after Scott Satterfield left another Group of Five powerhouse for a Power Five opportunity.

    Satterfield is now in the early stages of turning around Louisville in the ACC, but his Appalachian State Mountaineers haven't skipped a beat under Drinkwitz, the former North Carolina State offensive coordinator.

    On Wednesday night, they put the nation's third-longest winning streak on the line in a battle of the Sun Belt's two best teams during a road test against Louisiana-Lafayette. They shut down the nation's sixth-best offense in a 17-7 win.

    The Mountaineers proved they are the most unheralded Group of Five power yet again, thrumming in all three facets of the game. They allowed just seven points and had a goal-line stand in the first half against Billy Napier's Ragin' Cajuns.

    On special teams, they blocked a field goal.

    Then, despite an offense that sputtered well below its average much of the night, Appalachian State pieced together a 19-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a beautiful bootleg run for a score from quarterback Zac Thomas to put the game out of reach.

    During that drive, Appy converted two fourth-down plays, and the Cajuns never could quite make it off the field despite no chunk plays from the Mountaineers. 

    The win gave them their 11th consecutive victory and pushes them to 5-0 on the season. Perhaps most importantly, the Sun Belt looks like the three-time defending champions' to lose yet again.