What we learned in College Football’s Week 10

When we look back on the season at its end, no week may have shaped who ultimately makes the College Football Playoff more than Week 10. Between three marquee conference showdowns and stunning upsets, to top Heisman candidates losing ground. Year-in and year-out November always seems to be the deciding month, that either makes or break a contender’s season. Already, in its first week, November has sent even the preliminary conference favorites into a tailspin. With 11 previously unbeatens coming into this Saturday, have now dwindled to six.

 

Alabama cements status in SEC, diminishes Fournette’s Heisman hope

Remember when the first College Football Playoff rankings debuted last Tuesday and nearly everyone quarreled over Alabama’s unreasonable #3 ranking? Well, I guess the committee got it right after all.

The Crimson Tide offered a resounding rebuttal to our deceiving disrespect to Alabama by clobbering LSU and all its presence inside Bryant Denny Stadium on Saturday Night. Alabama running back Derrick Henry ran over, under, and around LSU’s defense for 210 yards, 3 TDs for 38 carries. If there was ever a game that LSU’s Leonard Fournette could stamp his Heisman legacy, last night’s test in Tuscaloosa was it.

Unfortunately, Alabama and their cold-hearted defense had other ideas. The Tide stymied Fournette all night long, shutting him down for 31 yards on just 19 carries. Perhaps Fournette and the Tigers had finally met its match. For Alabama and their 2nd ranked run defense, they tied-up LSU’s one-dimensional offense the entire game. Quarterback Brandon Harris found slight openings in Bama’s secondary early, but for the most part all of the holes closed up quickly. In the end, Harris completed six passes on 19 attempts for 128 yards. His inaccuracy led to terrible field position for LSU all game long, and relatively created no sense of offensive rhythm.

In order to beat Alabama, let alone in Tuscaloosa, you can’t depend on your power running game for so long. Eventually, you must take vertical shots down field and stretch their secondary out. It’s a tough task as it is, considering Alabama ranks 6th in pass defense nationally. But seemingly whatever game plan Les Miles drew up last night wasn’t working. For a team like LSU, whose offense is entirely generated off run plays for Fournette, Brandon Harris needed to make a difference in this game and didn’t.

With the win, Alabama now holds the tie-breaker over LSU for the SEC West. The Crimson Tide’s remaining conference schedule consists of two road games; next week at Mississippi State, and season finale at Auburn. Those are easily games in which the Tide could stumble, especially accounting for the nature of Mississippi State’s offense against Bama’s defense. Either way, Alabama will have to win out to secure a shot in the SEC Championship Game against SEC East champ Florida.

LSU’s road to Atlanta is much more complicated as they will have to get past land mines such as a confident Arkansas squad next week and a road test in Oxford, MS.

Clemson answers its biggest challenge and silences critics 

Clemson was the brand new #1 team in the nation this week, and in everyone’s dismay received heavy criticism for their ranking. All of this was put to rest on Saturday after the Tigers’ statement home win over Florida State, 23-13, a game where Clemson can finally live up to for now.

Despite a sluggish first half in which Clemson lost the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball, the Tigers wore the Seminoles down, erasing a 10–6 halftime deficit with smothering defense and a balanced offense. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook broke through for a 75-yard touchdown on his first carry of the game and raced for 36 yards on his next touch. But Cook gained just 83 yards on the ground the rest of the game, and the Seminoles never returned to the end zone.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson came through on the biggest stage, completing 28 of 42 passes for 297 yards with a touchdown and rushing for a career-high 107 yards. Watson got help from running back Wayne Gallman, who gave the Tigers critical balance with 103 yards rushing. His 25-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter, followed by linebacker Ben Boulware’s strip, in which he ripped the ball away from Florida State’s Travis Rudolph, sealed Clemson’s win and turned a raucous Death Valley scene into a party. Win the win, The Tigers faithful celebrated their first win over their ACC Atlantic rivals since 2011.

With wins over Notre Dame and Florida State, Clemson has now passed its two toughest tests of the regular season. Because of the weakness of the ACC, a single defeat will likely cost the Tigers a spot in the playoff. However, they now only have to beat Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina before a date in the ACC title game. It’s likely they face North Carolina in the conference championship game after the Tar Heels dismantled Duke 66-31.

 

Oklahoma State spoils TCU’s dream season and moves as the Big 12’s perennial favorite

Outside of Baylor, the TCU Horned Frogs were the other top team in great shape to represent the Big 12 in the playoffs. Now, after suffering a road loss in Stillwater, TCU likely has seen its semifinal hopes disappear. The Horned Frogs had no answer for No. 14 Oklahoma State’s high-powered offense, which gashed TCU for 8.6 yards per play in a 49–29 rout. Quarterback Mason Rudolph had a phenomenal day, completing 16 of 24 passes for 352 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He out-dueled Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin, who tossed four interceptions to help seal the Horned Frogs’ fate.

Boykin’s Heisman hopes and TCU’s playoff aspirations are both on life support. It’s possible the Horned Frogs could play themselves back into contention with wins over Kansas, Oklahoma and Baylor to close out the season. But even if they win those games, they’d need help, as their chances of winning the Big 12 took a serious hit, too. The offensive masterpiece cements the Cowboys’ status as serious contenders for a Big 12 title and playoff berth. Oklahoma State is undefeated but lacked a win over a ranked team before Saturday. Now that the Cowboys have proven they can beat the Big 12’s best, Baylor and Oklahoma better take notice before their respective meetings on Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 in Stillwater.

It wasn’t like this at the start of the season, but as it stands, the road to a Big 12 championship runs through Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Top performers in Week 10

Passing

  • QB Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati)– 28/51, 523 yards, 4 TDs against Houston
  • QB Luke Falk (WSU)- 36/55, 497 yards, 5 TDs against Arizona State
  • QB Marquise Williams (UNC)- 23/35, 494 yards, 4 TDs against Duke

Rushing

  • RB Derrick Henry (Alabama)- 38 carries, 210 yards, 3 TDs against LSU
  • RB Larry Rose III (NMSU)- 31 carries, 207 yards, 2 TDS against Texas State
  • RB Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech)– 22 carries, 195 yards, 6 TDs against North Texas

Receiving

  • WR Corey Coleman (Baylor)- 11 receptions, 216 yards, 2 TDs against K-State
  • WR James Washington (Oklahoma State)- 5 receptions, 184 yards, 3 TDs against TCU
  • WR Mack Hollins (UNC)- 5 receptions, 165 yards, 1 TD against Duke

 

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