Winners and Losers from Week 9 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 27, 2019

Winners and Losers from Week 9 of College Football

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    For the third weekend in a row, college football has given us a win from an unranked team over a Top 10 foe.

    Saturday, it was No. 5 Oklahoma's turn to get toppled when its defense crumbled on the road against Kansas State in an eventual 48-41 loss where the Sooners nearly came all the way back.

    Auburn and LSU gave us everything we wanted, Penn State and Minnesota remained undefeated ahead of their Nov. 9 clash, and Ohio State showed everything we needed to see against Wisconsin to prove the Buckeyes are one of the nation's top teams.

    It was a weekend with plenty of action, some twists and turns and a lot of teams in midseason form.

    Alabama and Clemson more than handled business against inferior opponents, and Michigan demoralized Notre Dame to get a measure of revenge after last year's early-season loss.

    It was another fun week in college football.

    Let's take a look at the biggest winners and losers from Week 9.

Winner: Ohio State and J.K. Dobbins Getting It Done the Wisconsin Way

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    Windy showers at the 'Shoe played right into Wisconsin's hands Saturday afternoon, as the Badgers tried to put last week's horror-filled upset loss to Illinois behind them and upset Ohio State.

    Instead, the Buckeyes used a familiar formula to pound Wisconsin into submission.

    Leading 10-0, Ohio State allowed a touchdown drive to open the second half but then took to the ground to open things up and grind out a 38-7 victory in a battle for Big Ten supremacy. 

    Ohio State looked elite in every facet of the game.

    Throughout the first half, the contest's story was the Buckeyes defense, which smothered Jonathan Taylor and anything Wisconsin wanted to do. The Badgers wound up with 191 total yards, but they could never get in a groove against Chase Young and Co., managing just nine first downs.

    While Taylor is the one getting the Heisman Trophy buzz, Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins was the best running back on the field, blasting through holes opened by a Buckeyes offensive line that made the Badgers' vaunted defense, at times, look pedestrian. 

    Dobbins wound up with 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns and remained fresh-legged all day while Justin Fields loosened Wisconsin's defense with his legs and Master Teague III (76 yards) provided plenty of relief. For the first time this season, OSU relied on Fields' legs, and he did just enough to keep Wisconsin honest (167 yards rushing).

    Dobbins, the Ohio State offensive line and a fast, talented Buckeyes defense did the rest. The Buckeyes are not only the best team in the Big Ten, they may also be the best team in the country.

Loser: Oklahoma, Thanks to Manhattan Magic

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    During the Bill Snyder era at Kansas State (1989-2018), you could count on some occasional odd occurrences during Wildcats home games in Manhattan.

    With Snyder in attendance Saturday, the first of that sort of contest happened in the Chris Klieman era as Oklahoma came to town, was taken out of its comfort zone early and self-destructed in the second half on its way to a shocking 48-41 loss.

    The Sooners nearly came back from a 25-point deficit in the second half, but an onside kick they recovered with under two minutes left in the game was overturned because of illegal touching, enabling the Wildcats to run out the clock and their fans to rush the field.

    It was an unbelievable win for Klieman—the program's first victory over a Top Five opponent since 2006. 

    The Wildcats used turnovers on defense and special teams to pull ahead, and the offense—led by Skylar Thompson—dominated OU's defense. Thompson had 213 passing yards and four rushing touchdowns. The Wildcats used pivotal third-down conversions and gutting runs all day to surge ahead.

    After the Wildcats took a 34-23 lead to stun the Sooners, Oklahoma turned it over on special teams, and Kansas State parlayed that big play into a touchdown too. The Wildcats wound up with eight consecutive possessions with points. 

    All the talk about how improved the Sooners defense has been disappeared across the prairie as Thompson shredded it. K-State needed every point, too, as Riley's loaded offense came storming back.

    This is the type of program Klieman wants to build: a rugged, opportunistic group that capitalizes on mistakes. No matter how great Riley's offense has been, the defense threw up a clunker Saturday, and the offense made enough mistakes for it to get ugly.

    OU's College Football Playoff chances just got a whole lot slimmer.

Winner: LSU Finding Balance Just in Time for Bama

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    LSU quarterback Joe Burrow got his. You figured he would.

    But the story of the game was how the Bayou Bengals did everything else well in Saturday's rugged, Top 10 clash against No. 9 Auburn in a rivalry tilt they won 23-20.

    With Auburn's top-shelf defense stymying the Tigers twice with goal-line stands, LSU battled through the tough times, found its running game and finished by bruising the other set of SEC West Tigers in a warm-up for the Alabama game in two weeks.

    Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran the ball 26 times for 136 yards and scored a massive touchdown. He also caught seven passes for 51 more yards. For a player who's taken a back seat to Burrow's historic start, it was the biggest game of his career.

    Burrow finished with plenty of fancy stats, completing 32 of 42 passes for 321 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He battled through some big hits from Auburn's front seven and had a strong game.

    Underrated much of the season because of just how many points the offense has scored and how much it has been on the field, LSU's defense fared well too. It forced 10 Auburn punts and did a good job of shutting down Bo Nix all day.

    It was a team win, and with a bye week before traveling to Tuscaloosa, Ed Orgeron's team didn't look ahead. The Tigers took care of business in a big way.

    The victory moved Orgeron to 9-3 all-time against Associated Press Top 10 foes as LSU's head coach. Of course, all three losses were to the Crimson Tide, and he'll get the chance to rectify that in two weeks.

Loser: A Golden Colorado Opportunity

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    Entering the fourth quarter, everything was lining up for Colorado coach Mel Tucker's signature win in Boulder.

    The Buffaloes had a 10-point lead on a USC team they'd never beaten (0-13). The Trojans defense was gassed after spending much of the first three quarters on the field and were riddled with injuries on that side of the ball.

    They also had little semblance of a running game, down to their fifth-string running back and leaning heavily on freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis to bring them back.

    He did, and all Tucker could do was watch helplessly as Michael Pittman Jr. grabbed a pass and surged past defenders for the go-ahead touchdown with under three minutes remaining to give the Trojans a 35-31 win. 

    The victory meant so much more for USC, though, and it was extra difficult for the Buffaloes, who are still struggling to find consistency in Tucker's first year and quarterback Steven Montez's last. Now, they're 3-5 on the season.

    USC, on the other hand, perhaps saved coach Clay Helton's job—at least for another week. It kept its Pac-12 South hopes alive and moved to 5-3 for the year, thanks to Slovis' daring passes and Pittman's massive swagger with the game on the line.

    In the end, even though everything looked like it was in Colorado's favor moving into the fourth quarter, USC had been there before and played like it. Unfortunately for the Buffs, they'll have to wait longer to notch the program's first win over the Trojans, as this was a massive squandered opportunity.

Winner: SMU Transfer Quarterback Shane Buechele Helping History

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    Forget that he wasn't perfect and neither was his team. SMU quarterback Shane Buechele did just enough to help the Mustangs edge Houston 34-31 on Thursday night.

    The significance of the victory was historic for No. 19 SMU, which moved to 8-0 for the first time since 1982. Yes, that was the undefeated Mustangs team that featured the Pony Express offensive backfield duo of Eric Dickerson and Craig James.

    Yes, that was before the "death penalty" crippled the program.

    But the Mustangs are back, and the program now-Arkansas coach Chad Morris helped build has been taken up a level by new coach Sonny Dykes. All he needed was an orchestrator for his high-flying offense that is far different from those churn-it-out teams from the early '80s.

    He got his man in Texas transfer quarterback Buechele, who has been an ideal fit. Against a game Cougars team that didn't look like it had been struggling in the first year of the Dana Holgorsen era, Buechele did just enough, completing 20 of 38 passes for 203 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

    His stat line for the year is now at 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

    The 6'1", 207-pound junior must keep it going with Memphis, East Carolina, Navy and Tulane remaining on the schedule, but the Mustangs already have become one of the toasts of college football. They're a real threat to make a New Year's Day bowl, and Buechele is a huge reason.

    Not bad for a second chance after stepping out of the shadow of Sam Ehlinger in Austin.

Loser: Texas and Too Many Mistakes on Both Sides

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    TCU may have worn the ugliest uniforms in college football since Wisconsin's early-season throwbacks, but the Horned Frogs looked just fine playing football against the rival Texas Longhorns on Saturday.

    Thanks to forcing the 'Horns into multiple mistakes, coach Gary Patterson's team wound up with a 37-27 win over the Big 12 foes.

    One of the biggest reasons for the result was arguably Sam Ehlinger's ugliest game as the starting quarterback for his childhood-favorite team. The junior finished 22-of-48 for 321 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.

    The Horned Frogs turned those picks into 13 points and a game-ender when Texas needed to drive down and score to attempt an onside kick late in the contest. It was a forgettable performance for the preseason Heisman hopeful.

    But it wasn't all Ehlinger's fault.

    Texas has been depleted by injuries in the secondary all season, and star defenders B.J. Foster and DeMarvion Overshown didn't play. TCU took advantage of the gaps in coverage throughout the game, and Max Duggan piled up 273 passing yards and two scores.

    He also had 72 rushing yards and another score to help put Texas away.

    The Longhorns are 5-3 and fell to 3-2 in the conference. Suddenly, a team expected to contend with Oklahoma in the Big 12 isn't really a threat to win it. After this loss, it's possible the Longhorns will fall from 15th to out of the rankings.

    It hasn't been an easy year for coach Tom Herman, but he's got to find enough healthy defenders and rally his team down the stretch.

Winner: Chase Young and His Heisman Ceiling

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    If you blinked, you may have missed that dreadlocked blur ripping past Wisconsin's offensive line all Saturday afternoon. 

    That would be Ohio State's dynamic defensive end, Chase Young, who proved in the 38-7 victory over the Badgers he is the nation's best defensive player.

    He may be college football's best player, period.

    It's going to be difficult for him to get enough hype to win the Heisman Trophy, but with Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma's loss Saturday, Tua Tagovailoa's ankle injured and Jonathan Taylor's struggles, Young's high-exposure game may have moved him up a couple of notches in the race.

    And you can bet NFL teams are loading up to select the junior Buckeye in the draft as he surges up the board. It's not out of the question that a pass-rusher of his ilk could be taken first overall. It wouldn't be a wasted pick.

    Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst likely would agree. The Badgers had no answer for Young, who registered an astounding four sacks and forced two fumbles in the victory. Those totals gave him 13.5 sacks this season, tying Joey Bosa's 2014 total. There's still a ton of football left too.

    Young's four sacks tied an Ohio State single-game record, and he had five tackles for a loss overall.

    He's a big reason the Buckeyes are arguably the best team in the nation.

    With Joey and Nick Bosa, Ohio State has become Pass Rush U over the past few years, and it is churning out impact defensive linemen better than anybody else. Young is the nation's most disruptive defender and the next big-time defensive playmaker coming out of Columbus.

    He is a bad, bad man.

Loser: Whoever's Doing Social Media for Vols Football's Twitter Account (Ouch!)

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    One of the first rules of being a camera person is to never bail on the action, even when a herd of grown men are barreling in your direction.

    Whoever was running the camera for the Tennessee Vols' social media account hung in there like a champ during receiver Jauan Jennings' third-quarter touchdown grab, but, boy, did they pay for it. No matter the bumps and bruises, though, the person got the sweet shot.

    So, really, they're a winner in the end, right?

    Take a firsthand glimpse at the collision here. The Vols senior receiver caught the ball, absorbed a blow from a South Carolina defender and pummeled into the camera person. 

    The UT social media person wasn't the only one Jennings battered Saturday during Tennessee's 41-21 win over South Carolina that gave the Vols their first-ever victory over a Will Muschamp-coached team. Jennings had seven catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

    He also played some quarterback in a game where the Vols were without starter Brian Maurer (head injury) and dealt with an injury to Jarrett Guarantano. Guarantano finished 11-of-19 for 229 yards and two touchdowns, while freshman J.T. Shrout completed seven of 11 passes for 122 yards and another score.

    Both quarterbacks had their share of big completions, and UT sits at 3-5 with winnable games remaining against UAB, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. A strong finish would represent a stark difference from the team that began the year with losses to Georgia State and BYU.

    But the image of the game came from the social media person, who did not abandon their station. Kudos to that person, and hopefully he or she escaped with all of his or her teeth!

Winner: Penn State's Continued March to Perfection

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    "We are..."

    Undefeated. Still.

    For whatever reason, Penn State traveled to East Lansing on Saturday as only a narrow favorite over a mediocre Michigan State team that hasn't shown any signs of life against quality opponents for much of the year. Predictably, the Nittany Lions won 28-7.

    Quarterback Sean Clifford threw four touchdown passes, and the PSU defense did the rest in a win that never was in question.

    While Ohio State rolls through the Big Ten and piles up accolades and national love (and rightfully so), it may be easy to forget about coach James Franklin's rebound season, but the Lions are legit.

    With Michigan State keying on the run Saturday afternoon, Penn State went to the air. The Lions finished with just 113 rushing yards on 37 carries, and star freshman Noah Cain was a non-factor. 

    That was just fine. Take away one weapon, and Penn State has shown it can win games other ways.

    Michigan State had just 265 yards and 18 first downs in the lopsided loss. In the past three games, the Spartans have lost to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State by a combined score of 100-17.

    Meanwhile, the Lions get a week off before a clash of unexpected unbeatens on Nov. 9 against Minnesota. It will be a big test for both teams. For PSU, it's the opportunity to keep it going as a program that should move into the Top Five with Oklahoma's loss.

    For the Golden Gophers, it's the chance to show they're legit.

    The guess here is Penn State keeps on rolling. Franklin's team is too solid all the way around not to.

Loser: Those Hoping Alabama and Clemson Lost a Step

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    Turns out, the potential downfalls of Alabama and Clemson were greatly exaggerated.

    Both teams appear in College Football Playoff form.

    Of course, Saturday's cupcake clashes might not be the best gauges, but both the Crimson Tide and Tigers looked good in wins. 

    The Tide were without star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who injured his ankle in the first half of last week's game against Tennessee. No bother. Mac Jones played a sterling game in a 48-7 domination of a hapless Arkansas team, finishing with 235 passing yards and three touchdowns.

    Despite his half-season struggles, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence looked like the kid who took college football by storm a year ago to start the Boston College game, throwing the Tigers to a big lead in a 59-7 victory.

    While Oklahoma lost and LSU ground out a tough win against an excellent Auburn team, last year's College Football Playoff title game participants joined Ohio State and Penn State as national powers who won easily this week.

    Alabama's defense played perhaps its best game of the year, and running back Najee Harris (86 yards rushing, two TDs) helped Jones along, but the backup quarterback looked just fine when his number was called. Clemson looked good in all facets of the game too.

    Nobody expected Alabama and Clemson (both massive favorites) to sputter Saturday night, but they did more than just manage their contests in wins. They proved why you'd be way off base if you doubted them at this point.

    These are two talented, athletic, well-coached teams, and they're peaking.

Winner: The 'Other' Big Ten Titans Who Took Care of Business

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    P.J. Fleck's Minnesota Golden Gophers deserve the criticism they're getting about their skim-milk schedule, but you can't deny they're taking care of business.

    The latest victim was Maryland on Saturday afternoon. The Terrapins offered little resistance in a 52-10 win by Fleck's squad.

    All the Gophers can do is dispatch the teams on their schedule, and that's exactly what they're doing. Style points are coming with the territory, too, as they get more confident each week. This is a sneaky-good team on both sides of the ball, but we'll see how they play against a quality foe.

    Meanwhile, Iowa played like it wanted to get the Northwestern game out of the way early, kick back and watch the rest of a day filled with college football.

    In other words, the Hawkeyes won the way you'd expect a Kirk Ferentz team to win. But perhaps the best thing for the Hawkeyes was they got back to their strengths Saturday.

    Throughout the 20-0 win over Northwestern that was over long before 3 p.m. in a game that never sniffed three hours, the Hawkeyes dominated on both sides of the ball. 

    Defensive end A.J. Epenesa wreaked havoc, living in the backfield and stirring things up. He'd been relatively quiet, and the potential first-round draft pick looked like one Saturday. He was exceptional in the run game.

    Also, Iowa's vaunted offensive line, which had been a little bit disappointing and sputtered to start with negative-three yards on the first eight plays, finally showed up. Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs opened holes throughout the second half, and freshman running back Tyler Goodson was the beneficiary.

    At first glance, 302 yards and 12 total first downs don't look all that good, but this was a typical, grind-it-out Iowa game against another good defense.

Loser: Arizona State and All That Early-Season Momentum

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    You can call it the wacky Pac. It's Oregon and Utah; everybody else in the Pac-12 is so difficult to figure out.

    The league seems to be getting a lot better this year after several seasons of struggles, but there's still not enough consistency.

    The perfect example is coach Herm Edwards' young Arizona State squad. Much like USC, Washington, Colorado, Washington State, California, Stanford and others, the Sun Devils are never the same from week to week.

    After starting the season 5-1 (including an embarrassing loss to Colorado), the Sun Devils traveled to Utah last week and lost 21-3 in a game where they barely put up much of an offensive fight. During Saturday's 42-32 loss at UCLA, the defense let them down.

    That's the side of the ball Edwards has relied on for much of the season, but Chip Kelly's Bruins had plenty of answers for whatever the Sun Devils threw at them defensively.

    With a healthy Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA looked more like those old Kelly-coached Oregon teams than at any other time during a difficult first two seasons in Westwood. Thompson-Robinson finished with 176 passing yards and two touchdowns.

    Running back Joshua Kelly was a force as well, adding 164 rushing yards as UCLA had few issues in picking up its third win of the season and moving to 3-2 in the Pac-12. 

    With Colorado, Utah, USC and Cal remaining, getting bowl-eligible is still an uphill battle for the Bruins. But while it looks likely Arizona State is postseason-bound, the Sun Devils are trending in the wrong direction.

Winner: Michigan's Quiet Improvement in a Breakthrough Win

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    On a banner day for the Big Ten, Big Blue rejoined the party in the Big House.

    Coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines needed a victory in the worst way against No. 8 Notre Dame. They got it with a throwback performance against the Fighting Irish in a convincing 45-14 win.

    The only thing more relentless than the driving rain in Ann Arbor was Michigan's aggressive defense, which punished Irish quarterback Ian Book and forced a forgettable showing from the senior. The Wolverines built off last week's second-half surge, which came in a losing effort against Penn State, and brought it for an entire game.

    The result was an impressive beatdown and some revenge for last year's loss.

    Notre Dame finally hit the scoreboard after an egregious pass interference penalty was called on Michigan, extending a drive that Book turned into a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 17-7 in the third quarter.

    That was the only highlight of the night for Notre Dame. Book finished with 73 yards on 8-of-25 passing, and the Irish's leading rusher was Jahmir Smith with 15 yards.

    Michigan's one-two running back punch of Hassan Hawkins (20 carries for 149 yards) and Zach Charbonnet (15 rushes for 74 with two touchdowns) pummeled Notre Dame throughout the game, helping pave the way on a night when weather conditions led to just 100 passing yards for Wolverines quarterback Shea Patterson.

    Coordinator Don Brown's defense looked like Michigan's elite unit from a year ago, and the team is slowly building back to what everybody expected early in the year. 

    Harbaugh got a much-needed big win to quiet the critics.

Loser: Texas Tech After It Gift-Wrapped a Kansas 2nd Chance

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    Texas Tech straight-up gift-wrapped a victory for Kansas on Saturday night like Oprah giving away cars.

    If you haven't seen it, you wouldn't believe it. The Athletic's Max Olson grabbed the blunder on video. It's a sight to behold.

    With 13 seconds left in a 34-34 tie, Les Miles' Jayhawks drove the ball down the field and lined up for a 40-yard field-goal attempt from Liam Jones that would be the game-winner.

    Instead, Texas Tech blocked the kick, and it went into the arms of defensive back Douglas Coleman III, who ran around for a little bit and, seeing no open lane in sight, looked to lateral the ball to a teammate. The problem was, nobody was around.

    Kansas dove on the ball with two seconds left, and Jones got another try. This time, he made the 32-yard kick for the 37-34 victory. Just pure shenanigans that was a classic Miles moment.

    Speaking of the veteran coach and former national champion, he has the lowly Jayhawks sitting at 3-5 with an outside chance of making a bowl game. There are other worthy candidates out there, but Miles has a strong case for National Coach of the Year.

    With Carter Stanley at quarterback, Kansas has revitalized its program. Stanley had 415 passing yards against the Red Raiders, and though TTU shut down Pooka Williams Jr., the Jayhawks found other scoring methods.

    But in a game that looked destined for overtime, the Red Raiders gaffed, leading to the biggest win for Miles at Kansas. It was an even worse giveaway than when Tulsa missed a chip-shot field goal that would have beaten Memphis as time expired.

    Kansas is no longer a team Big 12 opponents can walk all over, especially when it gets second chances to win.