Following a rather quiet Week 8 of the college football season, team chaos returned with a vengeance for Week 9. Headlined by five ranked teams being upset – No. 2, 4, 14, 16 and 17, this now narrows the legitimacy of several playoff contenders a little more.
Here are the top winners and losers from College Football’s Week 8.
*Since this is a weekly segment, the previous week’s winners and losers can be found here.
J.T. Barrett: For nearly his entire Ohio State career, JT Barrett was a quarterback that could never avoid scrutiny – whether that be through his performance on-the-field from the media or from his own fan base. He could never avoid being second-guessed, ignored and doubted. In many ways, Barrett entered his last game ever against Penn State as a castoff, a forgotten leader.
Inside the Horseshoe in Columbus on Saturday, all of the questions about Barrett — and every single inch of doubt — disappeared after his stoic performance in the Buckeyes’ comeback win against the Nittany Lions, a 39-38 thriller sealed by his late touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Barrett’s stat line of 33 completions on 39 attempts for 328 yards and four touchdowns without an interception was nearly perfect. For the year, Barrett has now tossed 25 touchdowns to just one pick. He added 95 yards on 17 carries on the ground, too, outplaying even Penn State’s great running back Saquon Barkley, who made his typical impact yet finished with only 44 yards on 21 carries.
With the win, Ohio State now has the inside track to a Big Ten East Division title, plus a College Football Playoff berth. Also, with their victory, the Buckeyes basically offset its Week 2 loss to Oklahoma. For now, this should end up propelling the Buckeyes in next Tuesday’s first Playoff rankings.
Notre Dame and Josh Adams: There’s no hotter commodity in college football right now than the stock of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have straight up pummelled teams this year, and yesterday’s 35-14 win over 16th ranked NC State was no different, as it extended Notre Dame’s streak of six consecutive wins by 20+ points.
Of course, Brian Kelly deserves a great deal of the credit for Notre Dame’s turnaround. After all, this was the same man who went 4-8 last year and was viewed by many as a coach who lost his touch. However, it’s more than just a coach finding it again and a defense that is tops in the nation.
Let’s look at a skilled player who is now closing in on his third and most productive season in Great Bend, a running back that deserves his name to be in the discussion amongst the best running backs in the sport, even in the Heisman race. While everyone thinks of Saquon Barkley and Bryce Love as the front-runners for these nominations, is it possible that Josh Adams is in the same breath as these guys?
We’ll have to wait until all the dust settles for the season to have a further conversation, but on Saturday, Adams destroyed what had been one of the best rushing defenses in the nation. NC State ranked sixth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game at 91.3. No team had run for more than 133 yards against it, and the top individual rusher through seven weeks was Marshall’s Keion Davis with 74 yards.
Adams had 77 yards on one play. He finished with 202 yards — his fifth time rushing for at least 159 yards this year. He’s now averaging 146.1 yards per game and 8.9 yards per carry for one of the top rushing attacks in the country. If Notre Dame isn’t giving you your attention now, then I don’t know when.
Iowa State: If I had told you that through nine weeks into this college football season that Matt Campbell would lead Iowa State to a first-place tie in the Big 12, would you believe?
But that’s okay, I didn’t think Iowa State would be this good either.
Credit Matt Campbell, though, for making myself and the rest of college football into believers. After knocking off fourth-ranked TCU on Saturday, Iowa State now has two wins over Top 5 opponents (their first coming against Oklahoma). The Cyclones’ defense, which is now up to 22nd nationally in Def. S&P+, was outstanding against a potent Horned Frog offense, holding Kenny Hill and company to just one touchdown and 307 total yards of offense. Although Iowa State once again did just enough offensively, racking up 213 yards total, it’s their sweltering defense that continues to put themselves in a great position to beat anyone they face.
Wisconsin: While all the talk about Penn State and Ohio State circulates throughout the conference web, Wisconsin remains the Big Ten’s lone unbeaten. In a gritty and grimy day that involved light rain and temperatures in the low 50’s, the Badgers outlasted two-win Illinois, 24-10.
Although Wisconsin lacks the impressive wins – beating only three teams with a .500 record or better – the Badgers have outscored its opponents by 23 points each week. Wisconsin’s schedule becomes stiffer with home games against 6-2 Michigan and 5-3 Iowa in its final four games, this could potentially reveal the legitimacy of the Badgers. However, sometimes it’s best to not be involved in the chaos. While the Big Ten East offers more parity and more quality wins (with Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State), it also provides more pitfalls. As long as Wisconsin takes care of business the rest of the way, they’ll be in the Big Ten Championship with a shot to make the Playoffs.
Florida: I know this is all coming after the fact since Florida fired head coach Jim McElwain this morning but his recent send-off just about recaps the disaster that has been the Gators season. Following yesterday’s embarrassing loss to rival Georgia, 42-7, a game where Florida converted on just 26 percent of its third downs and racking up measly 259 total yards of offense.
For what it’s worth, the writing was on the wall for McElwain at Florida. During his two and a half year tenure, McElwain failed miserably in resurging Florida’s past offensive struggles, which stemmed from finishing outside the top 90 in Off. S&P+ for his entire duration, and lingering quarterback failures. Although McElwain was handed a staunch defense once he arrived in Gainsville, over time stability of it quickly deteriorated, now ranked 78th in Def. S&P+ (this was a defense that was in the top 20 for four full seasons).
Now that McElwain is out, he leaves a program that needs at least three more wins in November to reach the postseason.
TCU: I’m not going to be too hard on TCU, considering that their loss to Iowa State isn’t bad (they’re 6-2). However, the Horned Frogs were in control of their playoff destiny the rest of the way and now they put it in the hands of other teams. TCU’s Big 12 hopes are still salvageable especially if they win out and knock off Oklahoma in two weeks. But their Playoff hopes? Well, let’s say they need many teams in front of them to fall.
Louisville: Like clockwork, Lamar Jackson put up one of the better days of his incredible career. The Louisville Cardinals quarterback threw for 330 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 161 yards and three scores. He did throw a regrettable interception in the red zone on a play where the Cardinals got unnecessarily cute, but that was his only major mistake.
And yet, Louisville never had a chance at beating Wake Forest. A good chunk of Jackson’s impressive stats came in the final two minutes as the Cardinals scored a pair of meaningless touchdowns to make the final score 42-32.
As has been the case often, Louisville’s horrendous defense wasted Jackson’s effort.
Wake Forest QB John Wolford entered the day with a career completion percentage of 58.6 and a TD-Int ratio of 40-to-37. He had never thrown for more than three touchdowns nor 373 yards in a game. But against Louisville, Wolford looked like Marcus Mariota, circa 2014. He completed 28 of 34 passes (82.4 percent) for 461 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for a sixth touchdown and played a part in each of Wake Forest’s scores.
Much hype was made about Louisville in the ACC Championship picture this season. But now, through nine weeks, the Cardinals are 5-4 and are still not bowl eligible.
USF: South Florida looked like it was putting it all together to fulfill its preseason potential as an undefeated team. The Bulls blew out Illinois, Temple, East Carolina and Cincinnati, each by at least a 24-point margin. Last week, they jumped out to a 34-7 lead over Tulane and appeared to have everything running on cruise control.
Until they committed two turnovers and allowed 21 unanswered points in the second half to squeak out a 34-28 win. If this was the precursor for things to come then the College Football gods were right, as USF’s quest for an undefeated season shattered with a 28-24 Week 9 home loss to Houston.
Statistically speaking, USF should have won the game. They outgained Houston by 65 yards, won the time of possession battle by almost eight minutes, accounted for five more first downs, didn’t commit a turnover and held Houston scoreless in the first half. For the entire game, Houston only had five drives go for 20 or more yards compared to nine such possessions for South Florida.
However, the difference was the Cougars scored touchdowns on 80 percent of those drives while South Florida either punted, turned it over on downs or simply ran out of time on five of those occasions. Not only did South Florida (7-1) blow its shot at an undefeated season, but its 24-game streak of scoring at least 30 points also bit the dust.
All isn’t lost for the Bulls, though. The Group of Five’s spot in the New Year’s Six is almost certainly going to go to the AAC champion. They could still get there by beating UCF in the regular-season finale and Memphis in the conference championship game. But at this point, they’re the third-best team in the conference, and this Tuesday’s Playoff rankings will reflect it.
Week 9’s Top Performers
- QB Tyler Hilinski, Washington State: 43/61, 509 yards, 2 TDs against Arizona
- QB John Wolford, Wake Forest: 28/34, 461 yards, 5 TDs against Louisville
- QB Brian Lewerke, Michigan State: 39/57, 445 yards, 4 TDs against Northwestern
- RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State: 30 carries, 253 yards, 2 TDs against Hawaii
- RB Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic: 36 carries, 244 yards, 4 TDs against Western Kentucky
- RB Ronald Jones III, USC: 18 carries, 216 yards, 2 TDs against Arizona State
- WR Steven Sims Jr., Kansas: 9 receptions, 233 yards, 1 TD against Kansas State
- WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling: 10 receptions, 186 yards against Houston
- WR Diontae Johnson, Toledo: 4 receptions, 170 yards, 2 TDs against Ball State