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College Football Week 9: The Heroes and the Villains

Here’s my weekly rundown of the Football Heroes and Villains of the Week in college football. Hey, these guys aren’t really villains … I just didn’t want to go with the old “Winners and Losers” format.

Anyway…

Football Heroes of CFB Week 9

Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew: not only does the man with the intriguing name have the best moustache in CFB, he’s been the perfect fit for coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Minshew had his best game yet, eradicating Stanford’s two-touchdown lead by passing for 438 yards and three TD in a 41-38 road win. A graduate transfer from East Carolina, Minshew led the tying drive, the go-ahead drive and the winning drive. He completed 40 of 50 passes. Minshew won’t win the Heisman, but he’s having a Heisman-caliber season: a 71 percent completion rate, an average of 398 yards passing per game, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. Washington State (7-1) is now the only North Division team to have just one conference loss. Plus, victories over both Stanford and Oregon give the Cougs a critical advantage in tiebreakers.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops: The stunning final-play win at Missouri was a rewarding payoff for the Wildcats, who remained tied with Georgia for first place in the SEC East. (Both teams are 5-1 in league play.) But the victory, Kentucky’s seventh of the season, REALLY paid off for Stoops. According to USA Today, the win at Mizzou triggered a $250,000 bonus for Stoops. The bonus kicked in at seven wins … and Stoops will receive an additional $250,000 for each Wildcats’ win during the remainder of the season (including the postseason.) And win No. 7 also activated an automatic contract extension for Stoops — adding a year to his current deal. So he’s now under contract through June 30, 2024. And his 2024 salary is set at 5.25 million. Kentucky and its coach had a very prosperous visit to Columbia, Mo.

Clemson: With all due respect to LSU, the Coach Dabo Swinney and his Tigers still remain the biggest threat to the Alabama Crimson Tide. In other words, nothing has changed. The No. 2 Tigers have won three in a row by a combined score of 163-20. Florida State was the latest victim; Clemson won by 49. The Tigers are just a different offense — and a more dangerous team — since true freshman Trevor Lawrence took over at quarterback.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald: Well, look over there. Guess who’s on top of the the Big Ten West? Four teams are in a crowded race but Northwestern jumped ahead by with a 31-17 upset of visiting Wisconsin. With Iowa, Purdue and Wiscy losing on Saturday, Northwestern leads the division with a 5-1 record. That puts Pat Fitzgerald’s team alone atop the West at 5-1. And that’s an impressive reversal from a 1-3 start to the season that included consecutive losses to Duke and Akron. It’s hard to believe that Fitzgerald in his 13th season as coach of his alma mater. It’s never been easy to win at Northwestern, but Fitzgerald has led the Wildcats to  .575 winning percentage, eight bowl games, and a spot in the final AP Top 25 poll three times.

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm: The sophomore muted the talk about being benched and losing the starting job to freshman Justin Fields. In the Dawgs’ 36-17 mauling of Florida, Fromm picked apart one of the nation’s best pass defenses by completing 17 of 24 throws for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.

Virginia: With a 31-21 win over North Carolina, the  Cavaliers became bowl-eligible in two consecutive seasons for the first time since their bowl streak between 2002 and 2005. Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC) is on track to win the ACC Coastal division for the first time.

Wake Forest running back Matt Colburn: This was one of my favorite stories from Saturday. Four years ago, Colburn was on his way to Louisville when L’ville coach Bobby Petrino yanked Coburn’s scholarship offer with only 48 hours remaining in the signing period. It was a lousy thing to do — even for the classless Petrino. Well, Coburn had a chance to see Petrino when Wake Forest played at Louisville on Saturday. And this happened: Wake Forest road-graded Louisville 56-35, with Colburn galloping for a career-high 243 yards on 20 carries with touchdown runs of 74, 56 and 12 yards. The big payback was the latest humiliation for Petrino, who is 2-6 overall this season and winless (0-5) in the ACC.

Houston quarterback D’Eriq King: Houston snuffed South Florida’s unbeaten season with a forceful 57-36 win, and King was the star of the show. In what had to be the best game of the day by any offensive player in CFB, King passed for 419 yards and rushed for 132 yards. He was responsible for seven Houston touchdowns — five passing and two by running. Houston (7-1 overall, 4-0 in the American Conference) has a two-game lead in the West division and is on a course for a showdown against Central Florida in the AAC title game.

Oklahoma: The Sooners had no problems with Kansas State (51-14) but their biggest win of the day came in Stillwater when Oklahoma State upset Texas 38-35. Because of the Longhorns’ first loss in conference play, every Big 12 team has at least one loss heading into November. That can only help OU, which lost to Texas earlier this season.

Utah and coach Kyle Whittingham: The Utes clobbered UCLA 41-10 on Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory. In taking out Stanford, Arizona, USC and UCLA, Utah averaged 41 points per game and took over first place in the Pac-12 South. Utah is 4-2 in conference play and have remained consistent while others (USC, Colorado) are imploding.

The Football Villains of CFB Week 9

Say, didn’t you used to be Florida State? It’s really messy in Tallahassee. Saturday the Seminoles submitted to Clemson and result was their worst home loss in program history, 59-10. The 59 points were the most FSU ever allowed in a game at. Doak Campbell Stadium. Coach Willie Taggart, who seems overwhelmed, angrily accused some of his players (unnamed) of quitting during the game. And to think that the Florida State program won the national championship as recently as 2013, and went 13-1 in 2014. But Jimbo Fisher doesn’t live there anymore.  Or maybe karmic payback for Jameis Winston enabling in Tallahassee?

Texas — and no, Texas isn’t back so shut up. Texas lost 38-35 at Oklahoma State and screwed up a chance to ride solo to the top of the Big 12 standings. The game ended with bitter Texas coach Tom Herman (overrated), getting trolled and baited into an altercation that didn’t quite lead to punches being thrown … but it was close. Texas isn’t back. Texas has lost to Maryland and Oklahoma State this season. Kill the damn  narrative.

Washington and coach Chris Petersen: What happened to the Huskies? Ranked 6th in the preseason AP Poll, No. 15 Washington lost its third game of the season on Saturday to … Cal? And by a score of 12-10? Where’s the offense? The Huskies mustered only 250 yards. Jake Browning, once considered a difference-maker at quarterback, completed only 11 of 21 passes for 148 yards and was benched. His replacement, Jake Haener, threw a pick-six interception.

Colorado: It was a strange day in the wacky Pac-12. How does anyone explain this one? The Buffs led pitiful Oregon State 31-3 in the third quarter, only to allow the Beavers to charge back and win 41-34 in overtime. After starting out 5-0 and getting to No. 19 in the AP Poll on Oct. 7, Colorado has lost three in a row and none of it makes sense. Before making this crazy comeback, Oregon State had won only five of its last 45 Pac-12 games.

“I would say it was an extremely bad loss,” Colorado coach Mike McIntyre said after the game.

Yes, you could say that, Coach.

Purdue: Look, fellas. That blistering 49-20 win over Ohio State was scintillating, inspirational and I watched every minute. But you have to show up and play hard in the next game. When you gave that beatdown to Ohio State, it wasn’t any kind of championship game. You didn’t get a trophy. You’re Purdue. And a team like Purdue doesn’t have letdowns. And so you can’t lose 23-13 at Michigan State with your quarterback David Blough — who destroyed Ohio State for 378 yards and three touchdowns– sleepwalking and throwing three interceptions to Sparty. And to think that you had a chance to win the Big Ten West. Sad.

TCU, and the case of the disappearing football team: Six weeks ago, the Horned Frogs were ranked 15th nationally and trailed No. 4 Ohio State by five points through three quarters before losing 40-28. Since then, TCU has lost five of six games, including three in a row. The Horned Frogs hit the bottom Saturday, inexplicably losing 27-26 at Kansas … on, of all things, a butt fumble. At 3-5 overall and 1-4 in Big 12 play, TCU could miss a bowl game for the first time since 2013. Gary Patterson has been a terrific coach, but he’s 58 and seems tired.

Illinois coach Lovie Smith: The Illini lost by 30 at Maryland (63-33) and the Smith defense was plundered for 712 yards overall, 431 yards rushing, and an average of 9.0 yards per rushing attempt. This move to college coaching isn’t working work out for Lovie.

The state of Texas: Texas lost at Oklahoma State, TCU lost at Kansas … Texas A&M lost 28-13 at Mississippi State and revived QB Nick Fitzgerald’s season … Texas Tech lost 40-31 at Iowa State. How many predicted that Houston of the AAC would the best FBS team in Texas this year?

The “Fraud Alert” Team of the Week is … Wisconsin: Remember when the Badgers were a popular underdog choice to make it to the CFP playoff?  Now Wisconsin is unranked following its latest disaster, a 31-17 loss at Northwestern. After being ranked No. 4 in the AP preseason poll, UW has skidded to a 5-3 record overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten. Jonathan Taylor was held to 46 yards rushing by Northwestern.

Thanks for reading…

-Bernie