Winners and Losers from Week 7 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2021

Winners and Losers from Week 7 of College Football

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    When No. 2 goes down, you know it's a big day in college football.

    So, a weekend that didn't look like it had a lot of gargantuan matchups on paper took that idea, wadded it up, and threw it out the window. As a matter of fact, it was a weekend full of tests.

    Unfortunately for the Iowa Hawkeyes, they didn't pass, dropping their first game of the season to the Purdue Boilermakers to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. While undefeated teams Michigan State, Oklahoma State and San Diego State had to sweat out close ones, they got the job done.

    Meanwhile, in a battle of SEC unbeatens, Georgia outlasted a Kentucky team that traded a few punches of its own despite being a three-touchdown underdog.

    There were plenty of twists and turns in a season full of them. How wacky has college football been? According to ESPN, 42 teams have been ranked through the first seven weeks of the season, which is the most ever.

    Oh, we're only getting started, too. Let's take a look at the winners and losers from Week 7. Check back throughout the evening as we update with more slides.

Winner: Oklahoma State Keeping Texas' 2nd-Half Misery Fresh

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    Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian will have to do something about these second-half collapses, because the post-honeymoon grumbling is already beginning in Austin.

    A week after the Longhorns blew a huge lead in the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma by getting outscored 35-10 in the second half, they were back at it when it looked like they would hand Oklahoma State its first loss.

    Instead, the Cowboys turned up the heat and out-coached Texas after the break, shutting down what had been a potent 'Horns attack by allowing just one second-half touchdown in a 32-24 comeback win.

    How strong was head coach Mike Gundy's defense when it mattered most? Oklahoma State allowed just one fourth-quarter yard to Texas while smothering star running back Bijan Robinson, forcing quarterback Casey Thompson into mistakes and causing several puzzled looks from Sarkisian.

    The Fox network cameras caught him several times bowing his head or closing his eyes in frustration. That's what this Cowboys defense can do to you, though, and it's the reason they're one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12 and remain unblemished.

    Oklahoma State has its flaws, with an up-and-down veteran quarterback in Spencer Sanders and limited weaponry after Tay Martin in the passing game, but running back Jaylen Warren (33 carries, 193 yards) had arguably his best career game Saturday.

    This team is dangerous, and it continued to use the winning blueprint to keep Texas' woes ongoing.

Loser: Iowa Becoming the Latest in a Long Line of Purdue Conquests

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    It's not often the nation's second-ranked team has an offense as awful as Iowa's, and it was bound to catch up to coach Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes at some point.

    They entered Saturday's home game against 3-2 Purdue with a spotless record and a No. 2 ranking, but the Hawkeyes were 120th out of 130 teams nationally in total offense. Again, the offensive ineptitude reared its ugly head, and this time it was too much to overcome in a 24-7 loss to the Boilermakers.

    Not only will the Hawkeyes be hard-pressed to make it to the College Football Playoff after a shocker like this, they're an enigma for the rest of the year in the Big Ten West, even though they control their own destiny. If you can't trust the offense to even move the football, you're a threat to lose every week.

    Though this was easily the biggest news of the college football weekend, it wasn't unheard of for Purdue. The ABC telecast showed a statistic during the game that the Boilermakers had eight wins all time as an unranked team against a top-two opponent with the last one coming in a 49-20 win over Ohio State in 2018.

    Make it nine as coach Jeff Brohm called a beautiful, fearless game. Purdue played three different quarterbacks and overcame a huge blunder with 1:57 left in the third quarter when receiver TJ Sheffield appeared to score a touchdown that would have put his team up 24-7.

    After review, replay showed as he was reaching for the pylon, he lost control of the ball out of bounds for a touchback. But Iowa followed that massive break by getting sacked twice, going three and out and having to punt.

    It was that kind of day as Purdue snapped Iowa's 12-game winning streak dating back to last year.

Winner: Michigan State's Ability to Find a Way on an off Day

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    It didn't matter that tough-luck Indiana was 2-3 entering Saturday's game against undefeated Michigan State. Never mind that Hoosiers starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. wasn't going to start after yet another injury—this one a shoulder setback—suffered in a career riddled with health issues.

    The Spartans were facing a team that is much better than its record.

    Things were far from pretty for Sparty, but, then again, head coach Mel Tucker isn't much on style points in a conference that is used to donnybrooks. All that mattered was MSU's 20-15 win over the Hoosiers to remain unblemished, preserving that Top 10 ranking.

    Even while Indiana stifled Heisman Trophy candidate running back Kenneth Walker III, who mustered just 84 yards on 23 carries and failed to find the end zone, and quarterback Payton Thorne threw a couple of picks, the defense did more than enough.

    Indiana had awful quarterback play without Penix involved, as backup Jack Tuttle threw two interceptions.

    The Spartans forced three huge turnovers and allowed just 322 yards to win despite not looking their best and gaining just 241 yards themselves. If the Spartans keep winning and this incredible turnaround continues, look for Tucker to get some National Coach of the Year love.

Loser: Kentucky, the Latest Offensive Horror Show for Georgia Opponents

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Welcome to Athens, Georgia: Where happiness dies in a swarm of red shirts.

    First, it was tons of hype in a pregame buzz surrounding visiting Arkansas a few weeks back as the Razorbacks made their trip to UGA. Instead, the Bulldogs pushed them around in a 37-point loss.

    The latest feel-good story to hitch a ride through the quaint Georgia town was the undefeated, 11th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who were 6-0 for the first time since 1950. But they, too, got caught up in the red storm of red-and-black jerseys swirling around on defense.

    Simply put, nobody wants to play this titanic Dawgs defense right now, and while they have a secondary that hasn't been tested yet this season, nobody can get off unmolested passes because quarterbacks are under so much pressure.

    It was the case again Saturday as Georgia kept a Kentucky team at bay for 243 total yards in a 30-13 win to remain the top-ranked team in the country. To be fair, the Wildcats shouldn't fall far. Despite the lopsided score, they actually acquitted themselves fairly well.

    Coach Mark Stoops has his best team in Lexington, and they may wind up being the second-best team in the SEC East. But Georgia proved Saturday that gulf is extremely wide. With the way Kirby Smart has recruited to Athens, these Dawgs are built for national championship contention.

    The teams who are going to be able to hang with them are few, and it's because of a defense that hearkens back to Erk Russell's 1980s "Junkyard Dawg" units. Perhaps it's even better than those.

Winner: Tennessee-Ole Miss Viewers (Besides Trash-Throwing Fans in Neyland)

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Emotions were high in Knoxville as No. 13 Ole Miss came to Rocky Top with coach Lane Kiffin, who notoriously left Tennessee like a thief in the night after one season in 2009 to go to USC.

    The game was expected to be a shootout too, with Las Vegas picking the total to eclipse 80 combined points. Though it didn't quite get there, the game was everything it was cracked up to be with the Rebels winning 31-26 in front of 102,455 fans at a raucous Neyland Stadium.

    So many twists and turns happened, it's hard to chronicle.

    When UT's Hendon Hooker completed a pass for 23 yards on 4th-and-24 with under a minute left, Jacob Warren didn't stretch the ball out and the spot of short of the first-down marker was upheld after review. 

    In an unfortunate turn of events, the game was delayed for a long time, as some fans threw objects on the field, including water bottles and other debris. The band, cheerleaders and dance team members left the field. Kiffin himself appeared to get hit on the elbow with a golf ball.

    This action was an embarrassment and stained an otherwise terrific game.

    Still, Tennessee forced a three-and-out for Ole Miss, got a great punt return from Velus Jones and Hooker got them in position to score at the end of the game. But the UT starting quarterback went down with an injury and didn't put any weight on his leg as he was helped off.

    Backup Joe Milton threw a pass into the end zone just high of Cedric Tillman from the 21-yard line and then inexplicably ran with nobody open as the clock ran out.

    Throughout the contest, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was a warrior with his arm, but more so his feet. He wound up with 231 passing yards and two touchdowns, and though he threw his first interception of the year, he proved he was Heisman-worthy with his feet.

    Corral wound up with a career-high 195 rushing yards, and of his 10 first-down runs, five of them came on third or fourth down.

    Unfortunately, the great game was overshadowed by a few fans making Rocky Top a national story in a negative way. 

Loser: Florida's Mistake-Prone Gators and Hot-Seat Defensive Coordinator

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    Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will see LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price in his nightmares.

    He might also remember Davis-Price as the player who proverbially handed him his pink slip after Saturday's record-breaking performance.

    Though the Tigers entered the matchup with the SEC's 13th-ranked rushing offense, the bruising junior gutted the Gators for a school-record 287 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries. LSU rode him to a ridiculous 49-42 win in Baton Rouge, the most points ever scored between the two rivals.

    This time, the Bayou Bengals didn't need a thrown shoe like they did a year ago when Marco Wilson tossed an LSU player's cleat, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that led to an improbable comeback win.

    Grantham told the Tampa Bay Times' Matt Baker this week when discussing the shoe incident, "We understand that we have to not do things that are going to shoot ourselves in the foot, per se."

    This time, Grantham's defense provided several self-inflicted wounds. But that side of the ball wasn't alone. An ineffective Emory Jones threw two interceptions (including a pick-six), and while dynamic backup Anthony Richardson proved he needs to be the starter from now on, he also tossed two interceptions.

    Maligned LSU coach Ed Orgeron's will have a little more job security, though those whispers aren't going away any time soon, either.

    "We're gonna fight. These LSU Tigers are gonna fight," Orgeron told ESPN's Molly McGrath after the game. "This is not about me. This is about these players that fought all week to win this big-time game." 

Winner: Oregon's Game-Saving Defensive Stand

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    Oregon's early-season road upset of Ohio State was massive, but lately coach Mario Cristobal's Ducks have been looking more like a one-hit wonder.

    A defensive stand at the end of an ugly 24-17 win over Cal may wind up being the season's salvation for the injury-riddled Ducks. Yes, the Bears are bad, but they didn't play like a 1-5 team for much of Friday night in Eugene.

    Fifth-year senior Chase Garbers pulled several Baker Mayfield-level plays. Cal's defense also played better than it has all year despite strong showings from Ducks running back Travis Dye (218 total yards, one touchdown) and quarterback Anthony Brown (288 total yards and two touchdowns).

    But the story of the night came in the waning seconds of a game that easily could have flown South for the Ducks. Oregon defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's unit was up to the challenge, at the tail-end of a 18-play, 73-yard drive that chewed up 4:48 of the clock.

    With 35 seconds remaining, Cal had the ball 1st-and-3 from the Oregon 7. Amazingly, the Bears ran eight more plays from that moment and never got in the end zone, thanks to Kayvon Thibodeaux and a Ducks D that simply willed them to a win.

    One of those plays was a Derek Jeter-like five-yard completion from Garbers to Kekoa Crawford to the 3-yard line on 4th-and-4. But the Bears would get just one yard closer, and Oregon survived a home scare.

Loser: One Big Mess in the Carrier Dome

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    Boy, it's hard to pick just one loser from Friday night's Clemson-Syracuse game in the Carrier Dome. 

    There was just too much failure to go around.

    Sure, the Tigers ultimately won the game, 17-14, but at this point, it's really hard to call anything coach Dabo Swinney's normally staunch team is doing "winning football." They're simply atrocious on offense. DJ Uiagalelei has been mediocre at best this year, and Clemson cannot find any consistent offensive weaponry.

    "Until our offense grows up a little bit, we've got to find a way to win," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told the Associated Press. "Four one-possession games in a row, if that's who we are, that's who we are. We're just going to keep grinding."

    A powerhouse like Clemson should be gaining more than 314 yards and doing better than 5-of-15 in third-down conversions against a team winless in the ACC, but as Swinney said, this is what the '21 version of the Tigers are.

    Thanks to Orange coach Dino Babers, though, they survived the trip with a win. He deserves his own share of this "Loser" slide with some of the worst clock management you'll see in college football this year at the end of the game.

    With a minute to go, Syracuse had a 1st-and-10 at Clemson's 39-yard line with all its timeouts. Somehow, though, the drive came to a snail's crawl, and the Orange botched their chance for a big-name win by settling a 48-yard field goal at Clemson's 30 with 38 seconds left while also using two timeouts.

    Andre Szmyt's attempt sailed wide-left, and Clemson survived the stink fest.

Winner: A Possible Changing of the Guard in the Mountain West

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    There's a ton of football to be played in the Mountain West Conference in what looks to be a wide-open race. But one team is firmly atop the league and one of the few remaining unbeatens in the country.

    That would be the San Diego State Aztecs, which have ridden an early-season surge to look confident enough to be considered a favorite for the conference crown.

    On Friday night in San Jose, California, there seemed to be a proverbial changing of the guard. Brady Hoke's No. 24-ranked Aztecs withstood a gritty effort from struggling defending champion San Jose State to hold off the Spartans 19-13 in double overtime.

    After SDSU backup quarterback Lucas Johnson replaced Jordon Brookshire, Johnson completed 2-of-3 passes—both for touchdowns—including a third-down, 24-yard game-winner to Jesse Matthews.

    The heave came on the heels of the Spartans' own backup, Nick Nash, making an ill-advised throw into double coverage that resulted in a Trenton Thompson interception. That happened moments after SJSU tied the game on the first rushing touchdown the Aztecs defense has allowed all season.

    In the end, Hoke's defense sealed the deal against a Spartans team that has endured a trying season after starting star signal-caller Nick Starkel's injury. They already have four losses, including two in the MWC.

    At least for now, it looks like Hoke's Aztecs could be the MWC Cinderella shocker the way SJSU was a season ago. There are plenty of hurdles remaining, but they are definitely driving the bandwagon back to San Diego.

Loser: The Razorbacks Aren't Back Yet

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    When flying pigs come crashing back to Earth, they apparently fall hard.

    Arkansas was indeed soaring just three weeks ago after destroying then-No. 15 Texas, then knocking off No. 7 Texas A&M in a three-week span. But, since then, the Razorbacks have proven they aren't exactly the consistent juggernaut they showed signs of being early on.

    Now, they aren't even a threat in the SEC West.

    On Saturday, the latest crash-back to reality was a 38-23 home loss to Auburn, where the Hogs again had very few defensive answers for Bo Nix, who sealed the win with a late 23-yard scoring scamper on a designed quarterback draw. He threw for 292 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns.

    It's rally-the-troops time for Arkansas coach Sam Pittman, whose Hogs have played an absolutely brutal schedule and have a bit of a reprieve upcoming. Two weeks ago, the tumble began with a humbling 37-0 loss at Georgia. Then the defense collapsed a week ago in a 52-51 loss to Ole Miss in a shootout.

    Saturday made it three straight setbacks, but at least Pittman's bunch has a break next weekend with a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, then a bye week before hosting Mississippi State in a winnable game, traveling to Baton Rouge then taking on Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

    Nothing is ever easy in the SEC, and perhaps the Hog hype nationally was a little too much, too soon. They're a good team and Pittman is still doing a lot of positive things with a young, balanced team. But Arkansas isn't ready to contend from the top quite yet.

Winner: Baylor Proves It Should Be Ranked Again

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    When Matt Rhule left a Baylor program he'd rebuilt following the Art Briles debacle, the cupboard wasn't exactly full.

    The Bears settled on former LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda as their head coach to replace Rhule, deciding on a career assistant who'd never stood at the helm of his own program. There were times last year during a 2-7 season the decision looked quizzical.

    But Aranda is showing this year he's doing pretty darn good at college football's version of "Build A Bear." After beating 19th-ranked BYU 38-24 in Waco on Saturday, Baylor is now 6-1 on the season with its only loss coming to unbeaten Oklahoma State.

    That was a close setback that is appearing to age nicely, and there's no reason Aranda's team shouldn't be back in the top 25 after this weekend.

    Gerry Bohanon isn't going to light anybody up, but he's a capable quarterback who can beat teams with his big arm. He was just so-so against the Cougars on Saturday, but thankfully for the Bears, the rushing game was clicking again behind an offensive line that is quietly one of the nation's best this year.

    Running back Abram Smith finished the game with 188 yards on 27 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns in the big win. Backfield mate Trestan Eber added 95 yards of his own, and the Bears played smash-mouth with a BYU team that has now lost two in a row after last weekend's 26-17 loss to Boise State.

    Saturday looked like two teams heading in different directions.

Loser: Non-Existent Folks Saban Referred to Who Don't Think Bama Is "Elite"

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    Michael Chang/Getty Images

    Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach, maybe of all time. He's also a master motivator.

    But either he's talking to some people who's lost their memory or just not very smart about college football when he suggested this week "we're no longer viewed as an elite team."

    Um, say what?

    Maybe college kids are impressionable enough to believe that junk, but most of the college football world just laughed. After all, the Crimson Tide still control their own destiny in the SEC West after last week's shocking loss to Texas A&M. Saban's disguised demise was obviously greatly exaggerated.

    Alabama made sure of that Saturday night by heading to Starkville and dispatching Mississippi State rather easily, 49-9. With the game still nearly in reach at halftime, the Tide opened the second half with star quarterback Bryce Young finding Jameson Williams on a 75-yard catch and touchdown scoring run.

    That play made it 28-6 UA, and any chance of coach Mike Leach's Bulldogs keeping it close rang as hollow as a cowbell with a crack in it. There was very little fun in the Fun N Gun, too. The MSU offense sputtered throughout the night.

    Yeah, Nick, it's just sad how far Alabama has fallen. The Tide actually had to play their starters in the second half Saturday night. 

    The bottom line is there will be some remaining tests this year for a UA team that may not dominate everybody as much as it did a season ago because of youth and experience, but all those 4- and 5-stars running around the field is kind of the definition of "elite." They continue to show it.

    This isn't the last we'll hear of the Tide.

Winner: Mr. Rogers' New Neighborhood Is NCAA Record Book

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    You weren't watching Ohio-Buffalo in early-afternoon MACtion Saturday, and that's totally fine.

    With so many quality matchups going on in the first wave of college football games, there was no reason to surf the Internet to find an obscure game between the 1-5 Bobcats and 2-4 Bulls, a game that's footnote will be the final score of a 27-26 Buffalo win.

    But what you missed was the longest run by a quarterback in NCAA history by way of Ohio quarterback Armani Rogers.

    The 6'5", 225-pound dual-threat signal-caller transfer from UNLV lined up in the shotgun on 1st-and-10 from his own 1-yard line. After taking the snap, Rogers used a quick step-back like he was going to throw the ball. Instead, he sprinted around the left end.

    Unfortunately for Buffalo, there was nobody home on that side, and Rogers surged around the edge. Blocking downfield did the rest, and he sprinted 99 yards untouched all the way to the house on the other end of the street.

    According to ESPN, Arizona State's Mark Malone held the previous record of a 98-yard scoring run against Utah State way back in 1979. The author of this story was a month and two days old on that Oct. 27, so the record has stood for nearly 42 full years.

    This isn't likely to be a memorable year for either MAC program, but this was a nice little feel-good story for Rogers and the Bobcats.

Loser: Spencer Rattler, Because This Is Caleb Williams' Show Now

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    Before the season, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was the popular pick for the Heisman Trophy.

    Halfway through the season, he's watching from the sideline. And it doesn't look like he's going to be stepping back in the starting rotation anytime soon.

    Inconsistency from Rattler left the door cracked for true freshman former 5-star signal-caller Caleb Williams, and he led OU back to a win in last week's Red River Showdown against Texas. After an open battle throughout the week, Williams got his first start Saturday night against TCU.

    Essentially, he was flawless in a 52-31 win.

    The Washington D.C. native gigged the Horned Frogs by going 18-for-23 for 295 yards and four touchdowns. He added nine carries for 66 yards and another score, too. Williams was brilliant, and looked like a seasoned veteran who knows coach Lincoln Riley's skill-filled offense as well as a fifth-year senior.

    Williams is wise beyond his years and as skilled as any signal-caller in the country. His official Twitter account says it belongs to Caleb "Superman" Williams, and if you watched the game against TCU, you half expected to see a cape sneak its way from under his shoulder pads.

    While it's not wise to completely rule Rattler a backup for the rest of the season based on a great game against TCU considering SMU posted 42 points against the Frogs, it's still a testament to the depth and talent of this Sooners offense, which has weapons galore.

    Williams looks like the perfect maestro to lead them right now.

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