Texas has been 3-4 (or worse) eight times in the past 60 years. The Longhorns have been 3-4 in each of Charlie Strong’s three seasons with the program. There are 10 remaining unbeatens, and the country’s Top 4 teams are starting to take shape. All of that and more in Week 8’s edition of winners and losers in College Football.
Winner: Alabama. There’s two givens at this point for Alabama. 1) They’re clearly the nation’s best team. 2) Their defense continues to make opponent’s pay for its mistakes. Let’s start with the former. Alabama used an efficient day from running back Damien Harris (18 carries for 125 yards) to squander Texas A&M’s bid for a top spot in the SEC West. With another 100+ yard rushing performance (fourth of the season), the sophomore back continues to be a key cog within Alabama’s balanced offensive attack.
It wasn’t Jalen Hurt’s best game – throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns (2). However, Hurt’s ability to extend plays in the pocket provided Alabama with manageable 3rd down situations, converting on seven of 14 opportunities as a whole. For the Tide’s defense, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen scooped up a Keith Ford fumble midway through 3rd quarter and took it 30 yards to pay dirt. With the score, it marks the 10th consecutive week where a Tide defensive player has turned an opponent’s giveaway into a score of their own.
Loser: Houston. The Cougars went from a dark horse playoff contender in September, to a fringe 9-win team in late October. And now after its most recent setback, an uninspired loss at SMU, Houston’s aspirations of a New Years Six bowl is all but shattered.
It’s amazing how fast Houston’s once daunting pass defense (that stood at No. 5 nationally) has unraveled to outside the Top 50 in a span of three weeks. A large majority of the Cougars’ drop-off can be translated to a lack of a pass rush. Through eight weeks, Houston has generated only 16 sacks all season. Despite the heroic efforts out of quarterback Greg Ward Jr each week, the Cougars find themselves with little to play for except conference pride for the remainder of the season.
Winner: Oklahoma. Talk about resiliency. Back in September, the Sooners were on death’s doorstep, losers of two out of its first three games and following a 21-point loss at home to Ohio State, Bob Stoops’ job security was in the line of fire. Now here we are, more than four weeks later and Oklahoma is 5-2 and flying high.
The Sooners may have finally found their two go-to playmakers on offense with running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Dede Westbrook. The duo torched Texas Tech for 509 yards of scrimmage for seven touchdowns. In a game where the Sooner defense allowed Red Raider quarterback Patrick Mahomes to shatter the NCAA record for most passing yards (734) and total yards (819) by an individual player in a game, Oklahoma needed their offense to put on an all-worldly performance, and it did just that.
From where they are now to where they stood four weeks ago, Oklahoma is a changed team. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is not only making heroic plays, but is doing so without making mistakes (holding a 23:5 TD-Int ratio). While his assertive play might not garner Oklahoma a playoff spot, he has collectively brought Oklahoma back into Big 12 title contention; which appears to be a three race with Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Baylor.
Loser: Ohio State. The historic streak had to end at some point right? After 20 long weeks of coming out victorious on the road, the Buckeyes’ undefeated hopes were “batted” away by Penn State late in the fourth quarter off a blocked field goal from the Nittany Lions’ Grant Haley.
Throughout the game, J.T. Barrett proved to be Ohio State’s offensive catalyst, throwing for the second-most yards this season (245). Barrett attempted to pioneer the Buckeyes to a game-winning drive like he did last week against Wisconsin, however a questionable DPI call and 4th down sack proved to be Barrett’s and Ohio State’s undoing.
With the loss, Ohio State’s playoff hopes were dented but not at all lost. Considering the strength of the Big Ten as whole, this setback should only drop the Buckeyes several spots in the polls. While it won’t be easy, Ohio State’s path to the playoffs is feasible if they can run the table (and that means beating No. 2 Michigan) and taking home the Big Ten title.
What else did we learn?
- Auburn is alive: Although they likely won’t be playing for an SEC Championship, Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers have shown an unwillingness to quit. Sitting at 5-2 and well on their way to a Top 20 spot in the polls, the Tigers rushed for nearly 480 yards in its humiliating victory over Arkansas. After several hiccups offensively early in the season, it’s suddenly becoming more apparent that Sean White is the perfect fit at quarterback. White might not pose the same reckless running style that most Auburn quarterbacks have shown in the past. However, White’s durability and sterling accuracy is paying dividends in a season that so far is saving Malzahn’s coaching gig.
- Texas A&M can still make a claim: Despite their playoff aspirations taking a hit to the buzz saw that is Alabama, the Aggies’ season is clearly not lost. With only one ranked opponent remaining on the regular season schedule (at home vs 19th ranked LSU), Texas A&M is still in the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl as the No. 2 team in the conference by ranking. That in itself provides some solace after showing some positive signs against College Football’s No. 1.