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College Football Week 8: Winners and Losers, Heroes and Villains

Winners

Big ups for the week go to …

Bernie Miklasz
101ESPN’s Bernie Miklasz

Alabama, of course … 

The No. 1 collegiate football team in this American land moved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC with a 33-14 win over No. 6 Texas A&M. So much for the latest threat to the Crimson Tide. Over the last 3 weeks Alabama has splattered three ranked teams (at the time of the game), winning by an average of 25.6 points … A&M made it cute for a while, actually taking a one-point lead early in the second half — only to get mauled and outscored 20 to zip the rest of the way… Alabama’s defense scored its ninth touchdown of the season, held the Aggies to 3.0 yards per rush, and limited A&M quarterback Trevor Knight to a 45 completion percentage and only 188 passing-rushing yards. He was averaging 344 yards per game coming in. Alabama has won 20 in a row. Pure dominance. Two upcoming opponents — LSU and Auburn — may have a shot at an upset, but only if it’s a bad day for Bama.

Penn State and coach James Franklin

Down 21-7 in the fourth quarter the Nittany Lions ambushed No. 2 Ohio State with a 24-21 upset that could have implications in the race for the four spots in the College Football Playoff … Penn State had been 0-6 against ranked teams under Franklin, who needed a signature win to fire up and unite a roiling fan base that has spent way too much time re-litigating all things Joe Paterno in a stubborn refusal to let go of the past and embrace the coaches and players that had NOTHING to do with the JoePa scandal. The atmosphere in Happy Valley was electric. The  Nittany Lions pulled off their first win as unranked team going against a top-two team for the first time since 1964. As a just reward Penn State is ranked now, having moved into the AP top 25 at No. 23. As for Ohio State .

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson …

This dynamic and elusive blur of offense continues to destroy defenses and annihilate the remaining suspense in the Heisman Trophy competition. Leading Saturday’s 54-13 wipeout of a solid N.C. State team that took home-team Clemson into overtime before succumbing on Oct. 15,  Jackson scored four touchdowns in the first half and rolled up 431 total yards before sitting out most of the fourth quarter … Jackson has 18 touchdown passes and 16 TD runs this season … his 34 touchdowns from scrimmage lead the nation … and his 34 touchdowns from scrimmage are more than 108 FBS teams have scored this season.

Colorado and coach Mike MacIntyre … 

It’s been a long time coming, but the Buffaloes are relevant again under fourth-year head coach MacIntyre … Saturday’s grinding 10-5 win over Stanford gave Colorado a 6-2 record overall, and 4-1 in the Pac 12 … and that’s impressive considering the Buffs’ horrendous 2-25 Pac 12 record from 2013 through 2015 … and landing at No. 21 in the new AP top 25 poll, the Colorado program is ranked for the first time since 2005, when St. Louisan Gary Barnett was the coach… Colorado has a great chance to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2007. But there is something to worry about: keeping MacIntyre, who figures to be recruited by coach-searching programs with a lot of money to spend. He has southern roots, by the way.

West Virginia… 

As the Mountaineers showed again in Saturday’s breezy 34-10 win over TCU, they’re the one team in the otherwise puff-pastry Big 12 that actually plays defense. At 6-0 overall, and 3-0 in the Big 12, West Virginia has held conference opponents Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU to an average of 14.3 points per game over the last three weeks. Games against Oklahoma and Baylor await, so let’s put the CFB Playoff chatter on hold for now.

Auburn … 

Yes, Arkansas was probably worn out after playing eight consecutive weeks — a team in need of a bye week. But still: after chewing up the Arkansas defense for an SEC single-game record 543 yards rushing in a 56-3 demolition that marked its fourth consecutive victory, Auburn jumped to No. 15 in the AP poll. The offense has been revived by coach Guz Malzahn. The confidence is growing. A lot can happen between now and the annual Iron Bowl game at Alabama on Nov. 26, but Auburn seemingly becomes more dangerous by the week. One way or another Auburn may have a say in the SEC West before it’s all over.

LSU running back Leonard Fournette …

Back in dazzling form after sitting out two games with a high-ankle injury, Fournette reminded us that he’s still the best back in the nation when healthy, breaking away for an LSU single-game record of 284 yards rushing (three for TDs) in a 38-21 through Ole Miss. Fournette averaged a crazy 17.8 yards per carry … the Tigers are 3-0 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, and in winning the three in a row they’ve trampled opponents for an average of 324 yards rushing per game while winning by an average of 29 points. After a bye week Alabama visits LSU on Nov. 5th; can’t wait for that one.

Joe Williams …

Who? We don’t get a chance to watch the Utah Utes very often, but Williams is a good story. The senior running back — after announcing his retirement (his word) from football — is back and splintering Pac 12 defenses. Earlier this season a sincere Williams revealed that he felt burned out — unable to lock in mentally or physically — and regrettably walked away from the Utes. But after a month hiatus Williams returned to the field to rush for 511 yards and five TDs in his first two games, including his rollicking 332-yard, four-TD performance in Saturday’s 52-45 win at UCLA. Williams has carried the No. 18 Utes to first place (3-1 record) in the Pac 12 South. Next up: No. 4 Washington, the unbeaten (4-0) co-leader of the Pac 12 North.

Utah’s staff must have been mad at Williams for taking a leave of absence, right?

No.

“I can’t say enough about that young man, what he’s meant to our team the last two weeks now,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters after the UCLA win. “What a blessing it is for us to have him back and how unselfish it was for him to come back. It was legitimate. When he stepped away, he was hurting.”

And now …

Losers

Big thumbs down to: 

Ohio State … the loss at Penn State wasn’t helpful, but the Buckeyes can rebound. If they win out OSU will be 11-1 and still in good position for a spot in the CFP Final Four. Sweeping from here on out will be a test, but Ohio State will play its toughest remaining opponents (Nebraska, Michigan) in Columbus. First up: coach Urban Meyer has to fix some problems. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett was swarmed repeatedly by Penn State pass rushers;  the pass protection must be tightened up. And Barrett is missing open receivers downfield; his accuracy has to improve. The breakdowns by the Ohio State special teams at Penn State wasn’t normal for a Meyer-coached team, so he’ll get that resolved.

Texas coach Charlie Strong …

Here we go again, and I’m tired of picking on the guy, who seems like a good man. But this isn’t working for him or Texas, and you have to wonder how much longer the Texas administration will allow Strong to wallow … Saturday’s 24-21 loss to an ordinary Kansas State side was the latest embarrassment. We saw more of the same from the Longhorns: lack of discipline, too many penalties and mistakes, pliable defense, a general lack of composure, and Strong being schooled by a smarter coach … Despite having the kind of revenue, resources and recruiting footprint that most programs and coaches fantasize over, Strong is 14-17 and at Texas — including a 10-12 ledger in the Big 12.

Jeff George Jr. and Illinois … 

I’m a Lovie Smith admirer in he’s in the first year of a massive rebuild … and I know that Illinois is hurting at the quarterback position … but the idea to give Jeff George Jr. his first career start on the road at Michigan … wow. The poor dude completed only 4 of 15 passes for 95 yards in the inevitable 41-8 loss. Let’s hope George Jr. wasn’t scarred by being served up as the sacrificial white tailed deer to the ravenous Wolverines.

Coach Tom Herman and Houston …

Oh, my … I don’t know if any coach had a more terrible week than Herman. First, the Big 12 announced that it would not expand, swatting away Houston and other interested applicants after leading them down a false path for the last year … and then the Cougars were upset 38 to 16 by a nothing-special SMU team that hasn’t had a winning season or competed in a bowl since 2012 … it was a baffling and troubling loss for a program that, several weeks ago, was trying to lobby to make a case for a spot in the playoffs. Then came a loss at Navy, a narrow escape to defeat Tulsa, and the backhand from SMU. You have to wonder how this collapse will impact Herman’s status as the hottest coaching candidate out there.

Defensive coordinators David Gibbs (Texas Tech) and Mike Stoops Oklahoma) … 

These guys probably had a sleepless night on Saturday evening, after watching their defenses get obliterated in a way that we’ve never seen in an FBS division game. In case you missed it, here’s a report on the carnage:

— Final score: Oklahoma 62, Texas Tech 59.

— The teams set an FBS record for most combined yards in a game, 1,708.

— Both offenses ravaged the other side’s defense for exactly 854 yards.

— Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes tied a single-game FBS record by passing for 723 yards. He attempted 88 passes.

— Mahomes set a new FB record for 819 total yards in a game. He had 7 touchdowns … 5  passing, 2 rushing.

— OU quarterback Baker Mayfield passed for 545 yards and 7 touchdowns. The 7 TDs were an Oklahoma record.

– Texas Tech ran 109 total plays and was 20-for-25 on third-down conversions.

– Oklahoma ran 76 plays and averaged 11.2 yards per play.

– The teams set an FBS record by combining for 1,708 yards of total offense. Appropriately, each team had 854 yards of offense.

— Mahomes and Mayfield set FBS records with 1,279 combined passing yards and 1,383 yards of total offense by two players in the same game.

— Oklahoma became the first offense in FBS history to have 500-yard passer, 200-yard rusher, and 200-yard receiver in a game. Running back Joe Mixon ran for 263 yards, pulled in 114 receiving yards, and had 5 total TDs. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook has 202 yards receiving on nine catches. Mixon is the only player in Sooners history to have 200+ yards rushing and 100+ receiving yards in a game.

drew-lock-3
Drew Lock threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in Mizzou’s 51-45 loss Saturday.

— Hey, at least there was some solace for these harried and helpless defensive coordinators: The 125 combined points scored in this Big 12 shootout didn’t establish a new record for defensive futility … it fell short of the FBS record of 136 combined points scored by Navy and North Texas in 2007.

Final loser:

Miz-zou … 

Which inexplicably lost to Middle Tennessee … at home … despite scoring 45 points and churning out more than 600 yards on offense. We can see this happening with  Tennessee  as the opponent, in Knoxville. But Middle Tennessee? Disgusting.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Karraker – Barry Odom Is Unlikely to Recover From Mizzou’s Loss to Middle Tennessee St.