There’s a new leader in the Big Ten East, and soon, there could be a new leader in the Heisman Trophy race as well after Ohio State’s thrilling 39-38 win over Penn State.
There’s also a new leader in the Big 12. Unlike Ohio State, though, this team was never picked to be atop its conference. But that’s what makes college football great. New, unexpected teams rise up to surpass expectations.
Week 9 was a busy one for college football. Ohio State, Iowa State and Notre Dame got huge wins while Penn State, TCU and South Florida fell from the list of unbeaten teams. Plus, there was a whole lot in between. With so much happening, we hash out the best and worst below with this week’s version of Winners and Losers.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett: Colleague Barton Simmons explained how Barrett with his gutsy performance in Ohio State’s 39-38 come from behind win over Penn State. To Barrett’s credit, that was the game of his career. (For now, at least.) He completed his last 16 passes — a school record according to ESPN Stats and Info — and the go-ahead touchdown was the prettiest of them all.
Barrett’s time at Ohio State has been complicated. He went from backup to Big Ten Freshman of the Year, to injured, back to backup, to part-time starter, to full-time starter, to the brunt of complaints when Ohio State’s offensive woes became too much to bear, and then hero against Penn State. Even for a fifth-year senior, that’s a lot to pack in to a college career. To stick it out says a lot about Barrett. He is decorated and there’s no doubt he’ll leave as one of the best quarterbacks in program history. A national championship to call his own, though, would leave no question.
Your weekly Khalil Tate: Watching Tate in late-night action has to be one of this sport’s purest, most genuine pleasures. If for whatever reason you still haven’t caught Rich Rodriguez’s shiny new quarterback toy, get on that as soon as possible. He is not only the reason why RichRod is off the hot seat, but why the Wildcats are a half-game out of first place in the Pac-12 South race; they can overtake USC for that divisional lead in Week 10. Put Tate on the Heisman list, rank Arizona in the top 25, do whatever you want to do with this team. Just make sure you enjoy watching Tate run past defenders even though it looks like he’s only operating at 75 percent speed. It’s the most fun you’ll possibly have.
Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock: It’s still surreal to see the Cyclones at 6-2, atop the Big 12 standings and in the . While second-year coach Matt Campbell deserves praise, the 14-7 upset over TCU in which the Cyclones kept the Horned Frogs scoreless on offense is because of Heacock. TCU fell victim to plenty of self-inflicted wounds, but the semi-shutout was a culmination of Iowa State’s efforts to this point. Arguably, it is the Big 12’s top group. At the very least, the defense is the most improved unit in the Big 12. At best, it’s the backbone for the stunning turnaround in Ames. Campbell has been able to get Iowa State to score points from Week 1. Getting stops was a different issue. It’s not anymore.
Oklahoma State running back J.D. King: Oklahoma State’s 50-39 win over West Virginia was, in a word, weird. That’s Morgantown for you. There were nine total turnovers between the two teams and the Mountaineers basically tried to mount a comeback twice. If there was one consistent piece, though, it was King. The true freshman barreled his way for 36 carries and 142 yards and a score while in relief of an injured Justice Hill. King runs bigger than his 205-pound frame and he excelled getting north and south. To come in off the bench and be the player of the game on the road is big-time.
UCF: The Knights beat FCS opponent Austin Peay 73-33. No big deal right? As it turns out, not doing a whole lot is still better than doing a whole lot wrong. Not only did UCF get a win on Saturday, but South Florida lost to Houston 28-24 thanks to a late go-ahead touchdown by the Cougars with 11 seconds left. That puts Scott Frost’s team solely in first place of the American Athletic Conference East division. Not only that, but the Knights will surely be the highest-ranked Group of Five team come Sunday (and Tuesday when the College Football Playoff Selection Committee unveils its first rankings). There’s still a ways to go before UCF can claim a New Year’s Six bowl berth, but recent stumbles by USF and San Diego State are helpful.
Saquon Barkley’s Heisman lead: Let’s get one thing out of the way before anyone gets too mad: Barkley is still having a special season that’s worthy of Heisman consideration. He might still win the thing. But he got upstaged by Barrett big time. Yeah, Barkley got his touches against the Buckeyes. He got his all-purpose yards and his touchdowns. His and 36-yard rushing scores are two examples of why he’s so difficult to contain. And yet, Barkley had just 44 yards rushing on 21 carries, averaging 2.1 yards per rush thanks to a whole bunch of negative plays. Take away the long touchdown and he was a non-factor in the ground game. The dirty little secret is that while Barkley still routinely breaks a big play open at some point, in some fashion, Penn State’s rush offense has been hit-or-miss since late September. The Nittany Lions have averaged three yards per rush or fewer in three of the last four games. Barkley in particular has been feast or famine in the rushing stats, too, though a lot of that can be attributed to defenses keying in on him. His all-purpose ability covers some of those blemishes, but not when you let a lead on the road against a huge opponent slip away.
Ole Miss: It’s not every day you blow a 31-7 lead, and it certainly isn’t every day that you blow a 31-7 lead to an opponent that was 2-5 heading into Saturday. But here is Ole Miss, watching a throwaway season go from bad to worse after losing 38-37 to Arkansas on a go-ahead field goal with only seconds remaining. Somehow, Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema lost and regained his job within the span of 60 minutes thanks to this comeback. There are losses, but this is a gut punch for Ole Miss. In the search for a new mascot, the Rebels can probably scrap the Land Shark and go with a new one: the Falcons.
Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen: They may be the first two quarterbacks taken in next year’s draft if they declare. And while I’m never here to tell a player what they should or shouldn’t do, it is my firm belief that they should be paid — and handsomely — for taking the hits they continue to take. Louisville allowed seven sacks in a 42-32 loss to Wake Forest and Rosen had to leave a 44-23 loss to Washington with what coach Jim Mora called “ ” injuries. Keep in mind, too, that Jackson tallied 491 yards of offense for the Cardinals. Neither of these quarterbacks are infallible, but they’ve been asked to do so much while their teams barely float at or above .500.
Justin Hobbs‘ unsportsmanlike conduct penalty: Tulsa lost to SMU 38-34 in a tightly contested game on Friday. While there are dozens of moments that can affect the outcome of a game, it’s impossible to ignore the impact of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Tulsa receiver Justin Hobbs that cost the Golden Hurricane a touchdown. Hobbs was flagged for — and that is a liberal description — high stepping on his way to the end zone. The nature of the penalty, meaning it occurred before he crossed the goal line, meant the score was called back. Would that touchdown have changed the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But thank goodness an official was there with a trigger-happy flag over a semi-celebratory move that didn’t come close to crossing the line. Otherwise, how would we explain this to our children?
Best of the rest
Notre Dame: The Irish have been given two tests in consecutive weeks and passed both seamlessly. This potent ground attack averaged 5.9 yards per rush against a stout NC State defensive line in a 35-14 win. Up next will be another good defense in Wake Forest.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield: The Heisman contender had five touchdowns and 300 yards of offense in a 49-27 win over Texas Tech, but it was his pre-game shirt that grabbed some attention, too. Mayfield, of course, unceremoniously transferred from Texas Tech ages ago and the salt between the two sides has never quite gone away.
This poor fellow holding on to San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny for dear life: Some things are simply more powerful without words.
Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard: One more shoutout to Ohio State before moving on. Barrett’s going to get a lot of love, and deservedly so, but Hubbard literally tackled Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley at the same time on the same play for a loss. Holy shades of Joey Bosa.
Lee Corso: I don’t know what the world will look like in 100 years. I don’t know if there will even be a world in 100 years. But if there is, our historical documents will contain photos, and those photos will include Corso dressed up as a skeleton on a television show passing judgement on games in which people violently throw themselves into one another for no apparent reason. This, above all else, will be our lasting legacy. These will be our hieroglyphics. The great historians and scholars will search for meaning in them. They will find none.
Saint Francis defensive lineman Louie Gartner: Any time a defensive lineman, wearing No. 96, takes a pick-six 96 yards to the house, he gets a nod from W&L. Well done, big guy, and may the pie be ever flowing for you.
UMass kicker Logan Laurent: Going 3-for-3 on field goals and extra points in a 30-27 win over Appalachian State is good. Doing a backflip after making a kick is even better. Ain’t no swag like kicker swag.
- Mason Rudolph broke Brandon Weeden’s career passing touchdowns record (75) during Oklahoma State’s win over West Virginia. Rudolph now has 77 touchdowns in his career.
- With two touchdowns against San Jose State, BYU receiver Micah Simon became the first Cougars player to score multiple touchdowns in a game this season. It’s almost November.
- Iowa State has notched two wins vs. AP top-five teams this month. Before this season, it had just one in history.
- Khalil Tate has now had a 70-yard run in four straight games.
- Florida has scored in FBS record 368 consecutive games. TCU has scored in 314 straight. They kept those streaks alive with 14 combined points (one touchdown each).
- Georgia’s 42-7 win over Florida was its largest margin of victory over the Gators since 1982. The 35-point loss also represented Florida’s most lopsided conference loss since 1990.
- James Franklin is now 0-8 in his career in road games against top-25 opponents. The context of those losses — coaching at Vanderbilt and losing close games at Penn State — doesn’t make the record look nearly as bad, but it’s an 0-for nonetheless.
- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer now moves to 22-1 off of in-season bye weeks.
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