Saturday’s slate was the last one before the first College Football Playoff ranking comes out this week. We basically know who’s going to win the SEC East and challenge either Alabama or LSU for the conference title; we’re still curious how the selection committee might view a one-loss Pac-12 champion; and we saw one head coach get fired after just 21 games. Here are the biggest winners and losers from Week 10:
With its 24–17 win over Florida, Georgia has all but officially secured its place as the best team in the SEC East. Things got a little tense in Athens after a shocking double-overtime loss to South Carolina, but as it turns out, that was just the Bulldogs having a bad day.
On Saturday, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm did an admirable job ignoring the outside noise and building pressure from fans who were worried that coach Kirby Smart chose the wrong guy and let Justin Fields transfer to Ohio State. Fromm had recently been dubbed more of a game manager and hadn’t been as impressive as he was in his first two seasons. But then during the Cocktail Party, he completed 20 of 30 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns against a dominant Florida defense. Gators’ defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who used to hold the same position at Georgia, has a unit that leads the SEC in sacks and takeaways, but had zero against a Bulldogs offense that also went 12 of 18 on third down.
So, is it time to reconsider Georgia as a playoff team? The Dawgs should win out—games against Missouri, Auburn, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech remain—and would draw either Alabama or LSU in the conference title and pseudo playoff play-in game in Atlanta next month. Win the rest of those games, and they’re in.
The Pac-12’s playoff hopes live on after Oregon obliterated USC, 56–24. Things started out a little shaky for the Ducks—they gave up a 16-play touchdown drive on the Trojan’s opening series, followed that by going three-and-out on their first offensive possession, and then quarterback Justin Herbert threw just his second interception since last November on the second outing. But Oregon eventually settled down and cruised to a much-needed conference win.
Herbert went 21 of 26 for 225 yards with three touchdowns and the one early pick, while the Ducks defense tormented USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis all night and forced him to turn the ball over four times (three interceptions, one fumble).
While Auburn’s subpar performance vs. Ole Miss didn’t do the Ducks’ resume any favors (the Tigers beat the Ducks in Week 1 at a neutral site), they still just beat USC by 50 points and have three more winnable games (Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State) before a probable trip to the Pac-12 championship game.
3. Dinosaur does a press conference
North Texas senior quarterback Mason Fine threw a career-high seven touchdown passes—with zero interceptions—in a 52–26 win over UTEP on Saturday. He finished the day completing 24 of 39 passes for 332 yards and surpassed 12,000 yards in his career.
Not a bad day. Afterward, he celebrated by getting dressed up for the team’s press conference.
1. Florida State
It was an awful weekend in Tallahassee. On Saturday, a mediocre Miami beat Florida State, 27–10. The Hurricanes racked up nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss and now the Seminoles, who missed the postseason last year, need to win two of their final three games against Boston College, Alabama State and Florida to become bowl eligible.
Then on Sunday, FSU announced it had fired coach Willie Taggart just 21 games into his career. After Taggart’s teams went 5–7 in 2018 and fell to 4–5 after losing to rival Miami, the administration decided it was worth paying the $17 million buyout to start over. Under Taggart, Florida State was an undisciplined, disorganized and inferior football team. They went 1–7 on the road over the last two seasons, are the fifth-most penalized team in the country, and rank in the bottom half of the ACC in turnovers.
While Florida State believed Taggart did not deserve more of a chance to fix these problems, now the program has an even greater challenge—find the coach who can.
While Scott Frost won’t suffer the same fate as Taggart, the beloved former Nebraska quarterback has not yet met expectations. Over the weekend, Purdue beat the Cornhuskers 31–27, dropping Frost to 1–8 in road games since he returned to coach his alma mater last year. The preseason hype was high in Lincoln with the masses believing this would be the year the program turned a corner. But Nebraska has underperformed and shown minimal progress.
In order to make a bowl game, Frost’s team must win two of its last three games of the season against No. 16 Wisconsin, Maryland and No. 18 Iowa. And right now, that seems unlikely.
3. Clay Helton
Oregon’s dominant 56–24 win over USC on Saturday was a low point in Clay Helton’s coaching career and could be that final dagger to end his nearly decade-long tenure in LA (he’s been at USC since he was hired to coach quarterbacks under Lane Kiffin in 2010). This was the most points the Trojans had allowed since Arizona State put up 62 in 2013. The loss now drops them to 5–4 on the season after going 5-7 last year. USC lacked the necessary toughness, discipline and physicality against a superior Oregon team, and committed too many mistakes with four turnovers and eight penalties.
Now that USC is on the verge of hiring a new athletic director—reports indicate Cincinnati’s Mike Bohn will be named soon—Helton’s days are likely numbered. And that’s still despite players sticking up for him postgame and the team being just one game behind Utah for the Pac-12 South lead.
Even with its dip into irrelevancy over the last decade, USC is still very much a coveted job with its tradition and proximity to one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country. Urban Meyer has been rumored to be a person of interest to replace Helton all season, and recent chatter has surrounded other coaches from Penn State’s James Franklin to Baylor’s Matt Rhule to Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and others. While these are all big names who are legitimate candidates to turn the program around, whoever accepts the job has a challenging task ahead.