Winners and Losers of Week 9 of the College Football Season

Author:
Publish date:
Michigan vs Notre Dame football

It was another wild weekend of college football. A top-five team lost, a defensive player went from 0–60 in the Heisman Trophy race and SMU is still undefeated. Here are the biggest winners and losers from Week 9:

Winners

1. Ohio State’s Heisman hopes

Buckeyes transfer quarterback Justin Fields has been in the Heisman discussion really since he set foot in Columbus for the first time last spring. But on Saturday, in Ohio State’s 38–7 dismantling of Wisconsin, we found out that actually, the Buckeyes have two more legitimate candidates on their roster.

Let’s start with defensive end Chase Young, who had four—four!—sacks on Badgers quarterback Jack Coan. He now leads the country with 13.5, and has made a sack in 10 consecutive games. He tallied five tackles for loss, and has tied a program record for a single game in both sacks and TFL. If the Heisman Trophy is awarded to the “most outstanding player” in college football, then Young should be in the discussion despite the award going to a defensive player only once—Charles Woodson at Michigan in 1997.

Here’s what coach Ryan Day had to say about Young after the game: “The best I’ve been around. I had a chance to see Nick Bosa last year and I coached in the NFL and saw some really good players at different times. But he is as good as I’ve been around, again, because he’s so versatile.”

Young wasn’t the only Buckeye with an eye-popping performance, though. Running back J.K. Dobbins had more total yards (221) than Wisconsin’s whole offense (191). Ohio State players joked after the game that they’d been teasing Dobbins all week that the best Big Ten running back was coming to town. They of course were referring to Badgers RB Jonathan Taylor, a Heisman candidate who went into Saturday’s game leading the nation with 15 rushing touchdowns. But the OSU defense limited him to a season low 52 yards on 20 carries and zero TDs.

“J.K. ran with an edge all day,” Day said postgame. “I think he’s the best running back in the country.”

2. Michigan

So far this season, Michigan has only been in our ‘Losers’ section. But after crushing Notre Dame 45–14 on Saturday night, it looks like Jim Harbaugh’s team has found its identity. Here’s how offensive lineman Michael Onwenu described it postgame: “We can attack you however we want to.”

Here’s an example of that will and determination:

On a wet evening in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines beat the Irish with quarterback Shea Patterson completing just six passes (!) while relying on a running game that racked up 303 yards. Hassan Haskins led the way with 149 yards on 20 carries while Zach Charbonnet had 79 yards with two touchdowns.

Michigan has two losses, an inexplicable one to Wisconsin and a close call against Penn State. Both were on the road. But it’s looking more like a team that’s found its way and still has time to prove itself. They almost certainly won’t make it to the Big Ten championship game or the College Football Playoff, but the Wolverines will still get a shot at rivals Michigan State and Ohio State, the latter being a potential monumental—and first—win for Harbaugh.

3. The new No. 1 team

LSU hopped Alabama in the AP Poll to become the new No. 1 team in the country after beating No. 9 Auburn, 23–20.

Heisman frontrunner QB Joe Burrow went 32 of 42 for 321 yards with one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and one interception. And when Auburn’s defense put pressure on him, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire stepped up and went for 136 yards on 26 carries with a TD. LSU had not been held to fewer than 36 points in a game this year, but Auburn’s defensive front made Burrow uncomfortable, sacking him three times. LSU’s defense, meanwhile, held Auburn to just 3.9 yards per carry and quarterback Bo Nix to 15 of 35 completions.

While the game was close until the end, LSU remains undefeated. The Tigers are a perfect 8–0 with résumé-boosting wins over three top-10 teams. And after a bye this week, an epic showdown with the No. 2 Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa looms.

Losers

1. Notre Dame

Perhaps the most baffling thing about Notre Dame getting flat-out embarrassed by Michigan on Saturday was why Brian Kelly’s team was so ill-prepared. The Fighting Irish weren’t just coming off a bye week, but fall break, too, which we assume meant more time for the players to focus on football and playing a bitter rival than stressing over school. If anyone should have looked off its game, it should have been Michigan. The Wolverines were fresh off an emotional road loss to Penn State in a primetime white-out.

Kelly’s Notre Dame teams have been in this spot before: Underprepared when the spotlight shined the brightest. Take any example: the 2012 national championship game against Alabama, to the 2017 game against Miami, to both Georgia games to the CFP semifinal against Clemson last year. It’s concerning that the Irish can’t win these kinds of big games.

Quarterback Ian Book completed just 8 of 25 passes for 73 yards and a score. This isn’t the first time Kelly’s offense has opted to throw the ball in the rain (see losses to Clemson in 2015 and NC State in 2016). Notre Dame’s running game was limited to 43 yards on 1.5 yards per carry, while the defense allowed 303 rushing yards against them. The Irish only had 12 first downs, were 3-of-15 on third down, and had two turnovers.

If there was any way for the Independent Irish to sneak into the playoff with one close loss to Georgia on the road, that glimmer of hope is now officially gone.

2. Top-five team goes down

Kansas State damaged Oklahoma’s playoff chances when it upset the nation’s No. 5 team, 48–41. It was the Wildcats’ first win over a top five team since 2006 and their first victory over OU since 1996.

Jalen Hurts still threw for 395 yards and a touchdown and ran for 95 yards and three more scores, but the Sooners couldn’t overcome a multitude of mistakes including two turnovers, penalties and senior defensive leader Parnell Motley getting ejected for an unnecessary roughness penalty.

The OU defense didn’t do the team any favors either, allowing the Wildcats to rack up 426 yards, 213 on the ground. Kansas State’s offense had the ball for 38 of 60 minutes, which is a tip future opponents should keep in mind. As my colleague Ross Dellenger noted here, if Hurts isn’t on the field, Oklahoma can’t hurt you.

While the Sooners' loss makes the playoff conversation more interesting, this team isn’t done yet. OU can still get there as a potential one-loss Big 12 champion as long as it takes care of its remaining schedule, which includes Iowa State, undefeated Baylor and Oklahoma State on the road.

3. Army

What happened to Jeff Monken’s team? A year after going 11–2, Army is 3–5 following a 34–29 loss to San Jose State at home.

This was the Black Knights' fourth consecutive loss after a 3–1 start. Army was thought to have some momentum after nearly beating Michigan in double overtime on the road in Week 2, but that hasn’t been the case. Meanwhile, rival Navy is 6–1 and a legitimate contender to win the American.