Winners and Losers from Week 10 of College Football
The AP No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs threw their hats back into the College Football Playoff ring with a 24-17 victory over their SEC East rival, the sixth-ranked Florida Gators.
It was allegedly going to be the only entertaining game of the weekend.
No LSU. No Alabama. No Ohio State. No Penn State. No Oklahoma. No Heisman Trophy front-runners in action...
College football always finds a way to deliver, even on schedules that look like they could be boring on paper.
The party started early Thursday night with one undefeated team suffering its first loss and another one narrowly averting disaster. And while the noon ET slate of games Saturday left a lot to be desired, Georgia-Florida was a gem, and both No. 16 Notre Dame and No. 9 Utah had to overcome fourth-quarter deficits to emerge victorious.
Read on for the full list of college football's Week 10 winners and losers.
Winner: Georgia on 3rd Downs
Georgia's 24-17 victory over Florida ended up being everything we thought it would be. (And thank goodness, since it was the only marquee game of the day.)
Two excellent defenses slugged it out for 60 minutes of turnover-free football. Both Jake Fromm (20-of-30, 279 yards, 2 TD) and Kyle Trask (21-of-33, 257 yards, 2 TD) threw the ball well, posting nearly identical lines. Georgia had an edge in the rushing department, though not nearly enough to blow the game open.
But there was one element in which Georgia took Florida to the cleaners: third-down success rate.
It started early with Florida facing a 3rd-and-1 at the Georgia 40 on the opening drive of the game. A false start turned it into 3rd-and-6, on which the Gators only gained five yards. They failed the ensuing 4th-and-1 attempt, setting up Georgia with a short field.
The Dawgs responded on their first possession by converting on 3rd-and-14, 3rd-and-11, 3rd-and-1 and 3rd-and-6, ultimately ending a long drive with a field goal.
Early in the second quarter, Georgia stuffed Dameon Pierce for a two-yard loss on 3rd-and-1. After the punt, Georgia's offense went 3-of-3 on third-down attempts, resulting in a touchdown.
With seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Georgia was 11-of-16 on third down, while Florida was 0-of-6 (excluding two third-down plays on which a Georgia defensive penalty resulted in a first down). The Gators ended up converting their next two third-down tries and even added a 4th-and-2 conversion a little bit later on a drive that cut Georgia's lead to seven, but it was too little, too late.
Fittingly, Georgia sealed the deal when Jake Fromm connected with Eli Wolf for a 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-7. An incomplete pass would have meant Florida got the ball back with about 2:30 remaining. Given the way things went all day on third down, though, Kirby Smart felt comfortable with letting his leader throw the ball. Georgia finished 12-of-18 on those conversions, while Florida went 2-of-9.
The Bulldogs bled out the clock in a win that puts them into the driver's seat for the SEC East crown.
Loser: Scott Frost, Nebraska
It's understandable that Nebraska has been unable to live up to the unrealistic preseason hype of being an AP Top 25 team and a fringe College Football Playoff contender. The Cornhuskers lost a 1,000-yard rusher (Devine Ozigbo) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Stanley Morgan Jr.), which meant they were pinning their hopes and dreams on a sophomore QB who had to replace his two best weapons.
Even though Nebraska head coach Scott Frost went 13-0 in his second season at UCF, it was always confusing that expectations were so high for the Huskers.
What isn't quite understandable, though, is Nebraska rapidly approaching a third straight 4-8 record now that it has lost three consecutive games.
This week was a new low, with injury-ravaged 2-6 Purdue delivering the L to the Cornhuskers in what ended up being the only entertaining fourth quarter from the early slate of games. The two teams combined to score four touchdowns scored in the final 13 minutes, each of which resulted in a lead change. The final one came on a gadget play, with Purdue's David Bell scoring from nine yards out on a WR reverse on 3rd-and-5.
Nebraska turned the ball over on downs four plays later and dropped to 4-5 on the season. And with a remaining schedule of vs. Wisconsin, at Maryland, vs. Iowa, bowl eligibility is just about out of the question. Perhaps the Cornhuskers will take care of the lowly Terrapins to pick up a fifth win, but at no point this season have they looked like a team capable of knocking off a ranked foe.
Even in our overreactionary world of sports media, it's unlikely you'll find anyone suggesting that Frost is likely to be fired this offseason. But this can't be considered a promising start for a coach at a program that fired Bo Pelini after seven consecutive seasons with at least nine wins. The 'Huskers might not win again this season, but they had better at least show some heart and potential for a change.
Winner: Baylor's Defense
Baylor improved to 8-0 with a home win over West Virginia on Thursday night, but it wasn't pretty.
The Bears turned the ball over on fumbles three times near midfield and had an 85-yard drive result in no points when they were unable to punch it in on 2nd-, 3rd- or 4th-and-goal from the 1. Both the offense and the special teams did just about everything in their power to keep the Mountaineers in the game, even allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Fortunately for its dream of an undefeated season, Baylor's defense showed up in a huge way in the 17-14 victory.
By the end of the first quarter, West Virginia had 25 yards of total offense and had managed just one first down. On each of the Mountaineers' first six possessions, they managed to gain fewer than 10 yards of field position before punting. And on both their final possession of the first half and first possession of the second half, they gained more than 10 yards only to turn the ball over.
Baylor was up only 7-0 midway through the third quarter, but it felt like an insurmountable deficit.
WVU finally got on the board with an 83-yard strike from Austin Kendall to George Campbell on the first play of their ninth possession, but a diving Kalon Barnes almost broke it up. He missed by an inch or two on his swipe at the ball.
But that one misstep didn't faze the Baylor defense. It went right back to work, limiting West Virginia to 15 yards of total offense on its next 12 plays, resulting in three straight three-and-outs and a blocked field goal.
The 'Eers picked up 34 meaningless yards against the prevent defense on their last-ditch attempt to drive down the field, but they were sitting at only 185 yards of total offense prior to that. And remember, 83 of those yards—44.9 percent of them—came from one play which was a fingernail away from being an incompletion.
West Virginia's woeful offense bears some responsibility for this putrid performance. This was the fourth time this season—and the third consecutive game—in which the Mountaineers were held below 250 yards of total offense. But this was still a great sign for a Baylor defense that had struggled in recent wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Loser: Syracuse's Defense
Hey, remember two months ago when we thought Syracuse would be the second-best team in the ACC thanks to one of the better defenses in the nation?
The Orange—who allowed 487 yards to Florida State last week and who gave up 650 yards, 612 yards and 557 yards in consecutive September games against Maryland, Clemson and Western Michigan—set a new season record for futility on defense in a 58-27 loss to Boston College.
BC's David Bailey rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns, and he didn't even lead the team in either category. That honor belonged to AJ Dillon, who finished with 242 yards and three scores. In all, Boston College rushed for 496 yards and five touchdowns and had 691 total yards. (Quarterback Dennis Grosel had only eight completions for 195 yards and three touchdowns.)
Even more ridiculous than the total is the fact that most of the deluge transpired during two of the four quarters.
In the second quarter alone, Boston College scored touchdowns on plays that went for 64, 50, 51 and 74 yards—all scored by different players, too. By the end of the third quarter, the Eagles had 651 yards of total offense. At that point, they were averaging more than 10 yards per offensive snap, even though they were almost exclusively running the ball.
In their first eight games, the Eagles had seven plays of 50 or more yards and only one that went for 60-plus, so it isn't as though Syracuse ran up against one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Orange are just that bad on defense.
Winner: Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
In a week where all the top Heisman candidates and a lot of the top teams were idle, Jamie Newman and AP No. 23 Wake Forest could not have picked a better Saturday to get some attention with a statement performance.
Newman missed Wake's previous game due to a shoulder injury, but he looked as good as new in a 44-10 thrashing of NC State.
In the first quarter alone, he threw for one touchdown and rushed for two more. According to a graphic that appeared during ESPN's broadcast of the game, he's the third player this season to pull off that feat in a single quarter, joining Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields.
Newman wasn't done, though. He tacked on a passing touchdown in the second quarter and another early in the third, finishing with five touchdowns and more than 300 combined yards despite not taking a snap in the fourth.
He entered the day averaging 341 yards and 3.3 touchdowns per game, so this was a business-as-usual type of day for him.
More importantly, the Demon Deacons improved to 7-1, which means there's still a slim chance they could win the ACC's Atlantic Division. They would need to win the road game against Clemson on Nov. 16 for that to be possible, but that game might be worth keeping an eye on.
Wake Forest is certainly better than South Carolina, Illinois or Kansas State, and they've each already stunned a title contender.
Loser: National Interest in the Sun Belt
For the first time ever, a team from the Sun Belt was almost starting to matter to casual college football fans.
Appalachian State never had a chance of playing for a national championship, but the Mountaineers entered Week 10 with an undefeated record and a decent shot at representing the Group of Five in the New Year's Six Cotton Bowl. They had crept up to No. 20 in the AP poll, which was the highest ranking in the conference's history. (They were No. 25 for one week last year, as was Troy in 2016.)
But that's all past-tense conjecture in the aftermath of their 24-21 home loss to Georgia Southern on Thursday night.
As was the case when the Eagles stunned the ranked Mountaineers on the final Thursday of October last year, the favorites had no answer for the triple-option. Georgia Southern averaged 5.7 yards per carry en route to 278 yards and three touchdowns last year and upped the ante to 6.0, 335 and three, respectively, this time around.
Oddly enough, in both upsets, Georgia Southern completed only one pass. Prior to those two games, the last time a ranked team lost to an opponent that completed zero or one passes was when Ohio State beat No. 16 Illinois in October 2011. (The fact that we're talking about Illinois being ranked and Ohio State not throwing the ball makes it feel like that was way more than eight years ago.)
And just like that, Joe Average Ranked Game Scoreboard Watcher couldn't care less about the #FunBelt.
Maybe the league can make a brief cameo in the limelight if App State bounces back with a road win over South Carolina next week, but even that would barely move the needle considering the Gamecocks aren't projected to be bowl-eligible at this point.
Winner: Ian Book's Game-Winning Drive
Thanks in large part to Divine Deablo's 98-yard fumble return for a Virginia Tech touchdown just before halftime, No. 16 Notre Dame trailed the Hokies 20-14 late in the fourth quarter.
Ian Book—who couldn't orchestrate a fourth-quarter comeback in the big Week 4 game against Georgia—was facing a 4th-and-3 at his own 20 with less than three minutes remaining. Anything short of the first-down marker would have dropped Notre Dame to 5-3 and left it completely out of the New Year's Six Bowls conversation.
But he converted with a five-yard pass, starting a monumental march down the field.
Book wasn't efficient, but he was clutch. A few plays after that conversion, he connected with Avery Davis for a 12-yard gain on 3rd-and-7. Then, after three consecutive incompletions, Book found Chase Claypool for a 26-yard gain down to the VT 7-yard line. After another two missed targets, Book ran in the game-winning touchdown from seven yards out.
It was his third (and obviously most important) touchdown of the game, and it was a microcosm of the effort he had to put into this victory.
With top running back Tony Jones Jr. sidelined by an upper-body injury and with Jafar Armstrong (19 carries for 37 yards) ineffective, Book had to do everything for the Fighting Irish offense. He led the rushing attack with 50 yards while throwing the ball 53 times for 341 yards and two touchdowns.
The defense helped a lot, too, limiting Virginia Tech to 240 total yards and sealing the deal on the 21-20 victory with an interception in the final 10 seconds. But it was up to Book, and he came through in a big way to keep the Fighting Irish in the AP Top 25.
Loser: Florida State Seminoles
When beginning to put this piece together, it's always nice to be able to highlight one of the games before the action even starts and make a mental note that there will definitely be a loser coming from that one.
In this case, we're talking about the rivalry showdown between 4-4 Miami and 4-4 Florida State. No matter how things played out, the losing team was going to be both sub-.500 and extremely disappointed.
And with Miami going on the road for a 27-10 victory, here's your L, Seminoles.
Save for the 253-yard game in the blowout loss to Clemson, Florida State had scored at least 20 points and gained at least 329 yards in each game. That resulted in four wins—and three losses by a one-possession margin.
Against the Hurricanes, however, they managed just 203 yards of total offense. Aside from last year's 200-yard game against these same Hurricanes, it was FSU's worst yardage output since the infamously anemic 21-7 game against Florida in 2011.
Florida State's longest play of the game only went for 20 yards, and it seemed like every step forward led to two backward. Miami recorded nine sacks and a total of 16 tackles for loss. Factoring in all those negative plays, the Seminoles ran the ball 41 times for just 31 yards.
Not as bad as when they ran 35 times for negative-21 yards against Clemson last year, but it wasn't pretty.
Florida State has an almost certain win at home against Alabama State, an almost certain loss at Florida and a wild card at Boston College left on the schedule. If the 'Noles lose to BC next week, those "Willie Taggart Hot Seat" articles will practically write themselves.
Winner: Mason Fine, North Texas
Before the season began, there was a lot of buzz that North Texas' Mason Fine was the best quarterback most college football fans probably didn't know. Through his first three seasons, Fine had thrown for 9,417 yards and 64 touchdowns, and he was fresh off a nine-win junior-year campaign featuring 27 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Unfortunately, the Mean Green's defense has been a disaster, allowing at least 30 points in six of eight games, resulting in a 3-5 record and complete anonymity for Fine.
He made some noise both during and after the game this week, though.
Facing a UTEP defense that makes North Texas' look like the Steel Curtain by comparison, Fine put on a clinic, throwing for 332 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions.
His first pass of the game was a 33-yard touchdown to Deonte Simpson. His second pass was a 17-yard touchdown to Jason Pirtle. And by the time he hit Jyaire Shorter for a 48-yard score later in the first quarter, his line was: 4-of-5, 119 yards, three touchdowns.
That equates to a nifty little passer efficiency rating of 477.9.
He would end the game with a rating of just 192.3 thanks to 15 incompletions, but the damage was done early in a 52-26 win.
And for the postgame press conference, Fine showed up in an inflatable dinosaur costume. Happy belated Halloween or something.
Loser: Defenses in the American Athletic Conference
No one has ever confused the American Athletic Conference with the Big Ten in terms of defensive prowess, but the AAC sure looked a lot like the Big 12 this week, didn't it?
Aside from Connecticut—which is almost always the exception if we're talking about proficient offenses in this league—nine AAC teams in action scored at least 26 points and gained a minimum of 398 yards. That includes Navy, which ran for 408 yards against Connecticut; East Carolina, which threw for 535 yards against Cincinnati; and SMU and Memphis, which exchanged haymakers in a highly entertaining prime-time affair.
Of course, that also means that nine defenses allowed that many yards and points.
In some cases, that's no surprise. Connecticut has one of the worst defenses in the nation, allowing just under 40 points per game. Houston (459.6) was actually worse than UConn (445.8) in terms of yards allowed per game heading into Saturday. And East Carolina isn't much better than those teams in either department.
But what the heck happened to UCF and Cincinnati? Both won, but they had to overcome defensive performances much worse than their norms.
UCF was leading the AAC in yards allowed per play (4.43), but the Knights allowed 419 yards to a Houston team that was playing with a backup quarterback and a backup running back in a game where its star wide receiver (Marquez Stevenson) made just two receptions for 10 yards. UCF had to rally in the second half to avoid what would have been an awful loss.
Cincinnati had even more of an uphill climb, overcoming a 40-28 fourth-quarter deficit against East Carolina to win on a last-second field goal. The Bearcats had not allowed 425 yards or 25 points in a game since they faced Ohio State in Week 2, but ECU shredded them for 638 yards and 43 points. Ironically, though, it was a pick-six that gave Cincinnati the lead with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
SMU was nowhere near as fortunate as the Knights and Bearcats, as Memphis scored at will to put an end to the Mustangs' undefeated season 54-48. In particular, SMU had no answer for Antonio Gibson, who had a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a kick-return touchdown en route to 386 all-purpose yards.
Winner: Bryce Perkins, Virginia
It ended up being one heck of a day for the ACC's dual-threat quarterbacks.
We previously discussed Jamie Newman, who threw for three touchdowns and rushed for two more while he led Wake Forest to victory over North Carolina State. Well, Virginia's Bryce Perkins was even more impressive in an even more important win over North Carolina.
Perkins matched Newman's touchdown totals, but he racked up a lot more yards along the way, finishing with 378 passing yards and 112 rushing yards. (Newman went for 287 and 30, respectively.)
Perkins had some impressive games last season, but nothing quite like this. He eclipsed his previous career high for combined yards (387) by more than 100 and broke his personal single-game record of four touchdowns.
In the process, he joined an exclusive club. The only players in the past decade to put up at least 375 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, 100 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in a single game were Johnny Manziel, Lamar Jackson, Tajh Boyd, Nick Fitzgerald and D'Eriq King. (Jackson also worked his magic against the Tar Heels, for what it's worth.)
As far as the importance of the game is concerned, both Virginia and North Carolina entered the week with a 3-2 conference record, tied for first place in the ACC's Coastal Division. With the 38-31 victory, Virginia moved into sole possession of first place with home conference games remaining against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
The Cavaliers should have no problem taking care of the Yellow Jackets—especially if this was the start of some kind of late-season breakout for Perkins—and that win would likely set up a winner-take-all game against the Hokies at the end of the regular season for the right to battle Clemson in the ACC championship.
The win also brings the Cavaliers to six victories on the season, ensuring they will be bowl-eligible for a third consecutive year. A lot of folks wondered what Bronco Mendenhall was thinking by leaving BYU for the Virginia opening four years ago, but he is putting this program back on the map.
Loser: All of Our 'Pac-12 Is Dead Again' Hot Takes from September
By the end of Week 5, every Pac-12 team had already suffered at least one loss.
Oregon was the highest-ranked team in the AP poll at No. 13, and the Ducks were 3-1 with three meaningless wins (Nevada, Montana and Stanford) and a loss to Auburn in what looked like it was going to be their only opportunity for a quality victory all year.
Again, that was the highest-ranked team in the league after one month.
But while the likes of Georgia, Wisconsin and Oklahoma suffered bad losses to unranked teams, and while battles between AP Top 15 teams resulted in more and more losses by fringe CFP contenders, Oregon and Utah just kept taking care of business and creeping up in the polls.
That trend continued again this week as No. 7 Oregon smashed USC 56-24, and No. 9 Utah eked out a 33-28 road win over Washington, while either No. 6 Florida or No. 8 Georgia was guaranteed to suffer its second loss of the year.
Unless something a bit inconceivable happens with the AP ballots overnight, it's going to be Oregon and Utah at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, in the new AP poll. And looking at the remaining schedules—Arizona, at Arizona State, Oregon State for Oregon; UCLA, at Arizona, Colorado for Utah—it's not much of a stretch to theorize a Pac-12 championship game between 11-1 teams in the AP Top Six.
Of course, what really matters is where Oregon and Utah are ranked in the initial CFP Top 25 on Tuesday night. They should both be in the Top 10, though, champing at the bit for just a little more chaos in the other Power Five leagues. All it might take is one Clemson loss or one win by the "wrong" division in the Big Ten championship game for the Pac-12 champ to land in the Top Four.
Winner: Power Five 200-Yard Rushers
Before this week, 200-yard rushers had been few and far between among the Power Five leagues. There were only nine such rushing performances in the first nine weeks of the season—one-third of which were courtesy of the nation's leading rusher, Chuba Hubbard.
But on Saturday alone, there were five huge games by Power Five running backs.
One of them was mentioned during our lamenting of Syracuse's woeful defense. That was Boston College's AJ Dillon, who had 35 totes for 242 yards and three scores against the Orange. It wasn't quite a career high for Dillon, as he had a 272-yard game against Louisville during his freshman season. It was a season high, though, and it did get him oh-so-close to 4,000 yards in his career. He is now 17 yards shy of that plateau.
Fellow ACC running back Travis Etienne also went over the double-century mark, although he did so in significantly fewer carries. "ETN" rushed nine times against Wofford for 212 yards and two touchdowns, which is a preposterous average of 23.6 yards per carry. Per Sports Reference, the only player in the past 20 years to carry the ball at least eight times with a higher average was Melvin Gordon (nine carries for 216 yards) in the 2012 Big Ten Championship.
(Etienne had a September full of duds, but he is averaging 160.0 yards per game and 11.4 yards per carry over his last four games—just a heads up to anyone who has decided not to pay attention to Clemson until the College Football Playoff.)
The aforementioned Hubbard also got there for a fourth time this year, torching a solid TCU defense for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He is now at 1,604 yards for the season and should have no problem eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark. It is highly unlikely Oklahoma State will play in the Big 12 championship, but the 34-27 victory ensured Hubbard will get a chance to run in a bowl game. At this rate, the addition of that 13th game puts him on pace for 2,317 yards.
And from the SEC, Texas A&M's Isaiah Spiller (217 yards vs. UTSA) and Mississippi State's Kylin Hill (234 yards at Arkansas) had field days in blowout wins over opponents who are going nowhere fast.
Five such games isn't an FBS record or anything. There were seven 200-yard Power Five backs in Week 12 of the 2016 season—Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Damarea Crockett, D'Onta Foreman, Justin Crawford, Rico Dowdle and Rawleigh Williams III—and it's possible that wasn't even the record. Still, this was a big day in a season relatively devoid of one-man rushing bonanzas.