Best of College Football: Week 9

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How Different These Divisions Look

From 2011 to 2016, Florida State and Clemson were among the top teams in the ACC. Both teams finished in the top 3 in the Atlantic division each year, and one of them represented the division in every ACC Championship Game since 2009. Their games were usually close affairs, with the exception of a 51-14 Seminole victory in 2013.

Since then, there has been a gap growing between the programs, and it has never been more evident than during Clemson’s 59-10 win over Florida State where the Tigers were ahead 28-0 at halftime, and 52-3 after the third quarter. It was the worst home loss in Florida State history, and this Clemson senior class is the first group to go 4-0 against the Seminoles. The changes in the ACC Atlantic don’t end there.

Louisville has finished at least tied for third in the division every season since joining the ACC in 2014, but they have yet to win a conference game this season after falling to Wake Forest 56-35. Syracuse, who has never finished higher than fourth in the division, is sitting in third place after beating North Carolina State 51-41. The Orange are behind Boston College by half a game (3-2 conference record against 3-1), but this is unfamiliar territory for both teams. Boston College hasn’t been this talented since Matt Ryan was their quarterback in 2007 when they finished 11-3. It’s unlikely either team will catch Clemson for the division crown, but they are talented enough to possibly make it interesting down the stretch.

Meanwhile, in the Pac-12, Washington State pulled off a 41-38 win against Stanford to take control of the North Division in that conference. The Cougars haven’t won a conference championship since 2002 when the conference was still the Pac 10, and there was no conference championship game to play. Even then, they were co-champions with USC; it was 1997 when Washington State last won the Pac 10 outright. After finishing in the bottom two of the Pac 12 North four straight seasons, the Cougars have put a few good years together and now control their own destiny. Their home game against rival Washington in the last week of the season will likely decide who hosts the conference championship.

How Far Can Kentucky Go?

The 12th-ranked team in the country was a seven-point underdog on the road against an unranked team, and didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the final play of the game and escaped with a victory. Kentucky escaped with a 15-14 win against Missouri after a pass interference penalty on the final play gave the Wildcats an untimed down, which they converted into a touchdown. They are now 7-1 and tied with Georgia for first place in the SEC East going into their game next week.

The winner of that Georgia-Kentucky matchup will clinch the SEC East and a birth in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Kentucky has a legitimate shot to make the playoffs, but the offense will need to improve in order to do so. Although they are ranked 20th in rushing, the Wildcats are currently 84th in scoring offense and an abysmal 124th in passing yards. The strength of this team lies in its elite defense, where they rank 2nd in the country in points allowed, and 12th in yards allowed per game.

The Wildcats have beaten some talented teams such as Florida and Mississippi State, and the only blemish on their record so far was an overtime loss against Texas A&M. If Kentucky does manage to beat Georgia (Georgia has won 19 of the last 21 matchups), they wouldn’t have a tough remaining schedule until the conference championship game, likely facing Alabama there.

It will be interesting to see where the committee ranks Kentucky when they release their official rankings on Tuesday, and even more so if the Wildcats can manage to defeat Georgia. We do know that Kentucky will have a winning record against SEC opposition for the first time since 1977, and if their offense can step up and get something going, they could potentially get so much more.

Comeback of the Week

Heading into Week 9, Oregon State was 1-6, with their lone win coming against Southern Utah. They had lost 22 straight road contests, along with five straight games this season, including a 49-7 loss to Cal last week, and were ranked 128th in the country in scoring defense. It didn’t seem as if anything would change this week, as Colorado scored on the first play of the second half to give the Buffaloes a 31-7 lead.

ESPN win probability gave Colorado a 99.8% chance to win the game right before Oregon State scored to make it 31-10. In response, they scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and even had a chance to win the game after scoring with just 29 seconds left in the game, but the extra point was blocked, keeping the score at 34-34. Colorado had a chance to win in regulation as well but missed a 53-yard field goal.

In overtime, Beavers QB Jack Coltello rushed for his second 1-yard touchdown of the game and the Oregon State defense held Colorado at the seven-yard line to preserve the win. It’s still unlikely they’ll make a bowl game, and it’s possible they won’t win another game all season, but Saturday afternoon may just give the Beavers some momentum heading into their matchup against USC.

Best Games of Week 10

(12) West Virginia at (15) Texas

(6) Georgia at (11) Kentucky

(14) Penn State at (5) Michigan

(1) Alabama at (4) LSU

Temple at (9) UCF

(18) Utah State at Hawai’i

Three Stars of Week 9

 

Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle

1. D’Eriq King, QB, Houston

28/40, 419 Yds, 5 TD; 12 Att, 132 Yds, 2 TD

For the second straight season, King led Houston to a win over an unbeaten South Florida team, only this time the result was never really in doubt. Although he did throw 2 interceptions, the USF defense had nothing to slow him down (like we predicted last week), as he accounted for 7 of Houston’s 8 touchdowns on the day, as well as 551 of the  682 total yards. The big plays happened throughout the game as Houston scored twice in every quarter, with the shortest touchdown from King coming at 15 yards. He also still leads the nation in touchdowns scored (39 total) and is top 20 in passing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, and QB rating. There would be no surprise in King getting some Heisman consideration if he can keep up his current level of play.

Don Feria/AP Photo

2. Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State

40/50, 438 Yds, 3 TD

Speaking of players who should be in the Heisman conversation, Mike Leach was insistent on his QB being there, and he isn’t too far off. Minshew leads the country in passing yards per game and currently sits 3rd in passing touchdowns. This week, Minshew led Washington State on a scoring drive in the final 1:04 of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 28-17, then did it again with 1:25 left in the game to give the Cougars a win over Stanford. Two of his three touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, and he was able to spread the ball around all game, completing passes to 10 different receivers. He will face a stiff test next week against Cal, who has the 10th-ranked pass defense in the country and just held Washington QB Jake Browning to 148 yards.

3. Matt Colburn, RB, Wake Forest

20 Att, 243 Yds, 3 TD

Wake Forest needed a big game against Louisville after crushing defeats against Clemson and Florida State, and Colburn led the way to a 56-35 win over Louisville. He scored on runs of 74, 56, and 12 yards while averaging 12.1 yards per carry throughout the game. It was a career day for Colburn, who wasn’t the leading rusher on this Wake Forest team going into the game. We will see how he gets used next week against Syracuse with the Demon Deacons other leading rusher Cade Carney. It’s safe to say Colburn enjoys playing against Louisville after they pulled his scholarship offer in 2015. His previous career high before this game included 134 yards against Louisville last season.

Honorable Mentions

Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State: 20/34, 399 Yds, 5 TD

Taylor Cornelius, QB, Oklahoma State: 23/34, 321 Yds, 5 TD (2 Rush)

Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse: 27/38, 411 Yds, 4 TD (1 Rush)

Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: 23/34, 448 Yds, 5 TD (1 Rush)

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: 20/37, 314 Yds, 4 TD

Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame: 23 Att, 142 Yds, 3 TD

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt: 26 Att, 172 Yds, 3 TD

Pooka Williams Jr, RB, Kansas: 11 Att, 33 Yds; 7 Rec, 102 Yds, 2 TD

Zack Moss, RB, Utah: 26 Att, 211 Yds, 3 TD

Tyleek Collins, WR, UNLV: 9 Rec, 170 Yds, 4 TD

Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State: 10 Rec, 222 Yds, 2 TD

John Hightower, WR, Boise State: 8 Rec, 182 Yds, 3 TD

KD Nixon, WR, Colorado: 13 Rec, 198 Yds, 2 TD

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: Elliott Hess/UK Athletics

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