For college football fans who aren’t in love with the 2021 and 2022 realignment developments, this Saturday (and the last) delivers cold-blooded revenge. And a couple of conspiracy theories, too.
Oklahoma State went a long way to dislodge future SEC member Texas from contention for the Big 12 championship game, beating the Longhorns 41-34 and leading them to their second loss in the league. As has been their custom under second-year coach Steve Sarkisian, Texas blew a double-digit lead. But one stat line obscured every other event in the game: 14 penalties at Texas, zero at Oklahoma State.
According to research, that’s only the second time this century that a team has been penalized 14 or more times while the opponent wasn’t flagged at all. It’s the first time this century that’s happened in a conference game.
Does the Big 12 have it for Texas (and Oklahoma, which has already dropped out of the league race by starting 0-3)? Probably not, though the bad blood over those two leaving the league absolutely runs deep. If the solution were Really in, officials would have branded the state of Oklahoma at least once for appearance’s sake. Covering the tracks, so to speak.
Still, that disparity is jarring. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy unapologetically declared that penalties made the difference in the game. Sarkisian blamed his team, not the referees: “We have to clean that up, we have to clean up the self-inflicted wounds.” Texas fans can be upset and Oklahoma State fans can brag all week if they want to (and both sides will).
Meanwhile, in the Pac-12, Oregon was removing eventual Big Ten member UCLA from the undefeated ranks in a game that was too lopsided to talk about arbitration. But the week before, USC, another Big Ten evacuee, lost at Utah by one point in a game that turned largely into two roughing the quarterback penalties on the Trojans.
USC coach Lincoln Riley repeatedly noted that his team did not lose the game because of those penalties. But he also told her Sports Illustrated Tuesday that the school sent the plays to the league office and indicated the flags should not have been dropped. “The conference agreed, it was pretty much cut and dry, it was textbook clean hits on the quarterback.”
USC and UCLA remain in the hunt for the Pac-12 championship. But after the events of last and this Saturday, Oregon and Utah could be the teams to beat. If the Big 12 have a second straight title game without Texas and Oklahoma, and the Pac-12 have one without USC and UCLA, there will be a strong schadenfreude realignment going around those two conferences.
Let’s move on to the top ten:
1. Tennessee (7-0)
last game: Defeat Tennessee-Martin, 65-24.
Next game: Host Kentucky (Saturday, 7 pm ET).
The Volunteers outplayed an outmatched FCS opponent in a game that doesn’t resonate, but the resume still took on extra shine when LSU thoroughly managed Mississippi. Tennessee blasted LSU at Baton Rouge two weeks ago, 40-13. With the Tigers now 6-2, it gives the Vols a second big win on top of last week’s exciting game against Alabama. Wide receiver Jalin Hyatt continued his stunning recent game against UT-Martin, racking up seven receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns. His totals from the last two games: 13 receptions, 381 yards and seven TDs. That’s 29.3 yards per catch. Tennessee hasn’t even had a chance to lose wide receiver Cedric Tillman, who missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury.
2. Georgia (7-0)
last game: He beats Vanderbilt, 55-0, on October 1. fifteen
Next game: Florida at Jacksonville (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET).
The Bulldogs also enjoyed a second-hand résumé improvement on Saturday, with Oregon continuing their dominance since being eliminated by Georgia. That win was already the most impressive non-conference performance of the season, but now it’s even better after the Ducks smoked out UCLA. The ‘Dogs had their traditional open date before the Cocktail Party rivalry game against the Gators. Coach Kirby Smart has beaten Florida in four of the last five meetings, which has been essential in winning the SEC East four of the last five years. This season, the main opponent within the division resides in Knoxville, not Gainesville. Georgia’s defense is returning to stellar form after a casual couple of weeks against Kent State and Missouri. The two games since: Averaged five points and 203.5 yards allowed.
3. Michigan (7-0)
last game: Beat Penn State, 41-17, on October 1. fifteen
Next game: Hosts the state of Michigan (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET).
The Wolverines were off, but, sticking with a theme, their résumé got a little boost from Penn State’s dominant win against Minnesota. The Nittany Lions are 6-1 and their only loss was a blowout to Michigan, which is now focused on a revenge game against rival Michigan State. Michigan’s only regular-season loss last season was a wild game, 37-33 at East Lansing, and Jim Harbaugh has a surprising 0-2 against Mel Tucker. Wolverines running back Blake Corum (901 rushing yards and a nation-leading 13 rushing touchdowns) might get a chance to further his Heisman Trophy argument against a Michigan State rushing defense that ranks 12th in the Big Ten in yards allowed. per game.
4. Ohio State (7-0)
last game: Beat Iowa, 54-10.
Next game: At Penn State (Saturday, noon ET).
The Buckeyes’ search for a quality opponent continues, after an Iowa program in complete offensive disarray served up Saturday’s game on a layup with six turnovers. Spencer Petras threw a brutal interception on the first play of the game, and although it took a while, Ohio State was able to punch some holes in the Hawkeyes’ excellent defense. Iowa hadn’t allowed a single play of 40 yards or more this season, but CJ Stroud and Julian Fleming connected for a 79-yard touchdown as the game spun out of control in the second half. Jaxon Smith-Njigba returned from a hamstring injury for Ohio State but only had one catch for seven yards. The Buckeyes’ explosiveness without him being a factor this season illustrates the absurd depth of his receiving corps.
5th TCU (7-0)
last game: Beat Kansas State, 38-28.
Next game: in West Virginia (Saturday, TBD).
The Horned Frogs have played four consecutive opponents who were ranked at the time and beat them all: Oklahoma, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. That is the first time in the history of the school. The Comeback Toads bounced back for the second week in a row, rallying from 18 down against K-State after erasing a 16-point deficit against the Cowboys. Quarterback Max Duggan threw it (280 yards, three touchdowns), receiver Quentin Johnson caught it (five for 74 yards and another long TD catch), and Kendre Miller rushed it (153 yards and two touchdowns). TCU’s defense was aided by injuries to two Kansas State quarterbacks during the game.
6 Alabama (7-1)
last game: Beat Mississippi State, 30-6.
Next game: At LSU (November 5).
If there’s one person Alabama coach Nick Saban likes to see on the schedule, it’s Mike Leach. Saban has owned Leach since he arrived at Mississippi State in 2020, beating him three times by a combined score of 120-15. Leach, the Air Raid expert, didn’t score a touchdown against Saban until the very last play of his third game against him. So this was a make-up game for the Crimson Tide, which continued its streak of not losing consecutive regular-season games since Saban’s first year there, in 2007. In addition to recording a shutout a week after giving up 52 points, Alabama was only called just three times this week after a school-record 17 flags against Tennessee. The Tide will now get a two-week increase for an LSU game that has regained some of its shine.
7. Clemson (8-0)
last game: Beat Syracuse, 27-21.
Next game: At Notre Dame (November 5, 7:30 p.m. ET).
The Tigers have had some heroic performances from backup quarterbacks in the Dabo Swinney Era, and heralded rookie Cade Klubnik just gave them another. Klubnik came on in relief of turnover-prone DJ Uiagalelei with Clemson trailing 21-10 and led three fourth-quarter scoring drives. Klubnik’s reserve play, the Tigers’ defensive line asserting itself and some inconsistent officiating decisions along the sideline were the stories of the second half. A late hit was scored at the Orange to keep a Clemson momentum alive, and one was not scored that could have done the same for Syracuse. Swinney held his ground after the game in which Uiagalelei is his starter, but the hook may come faster in the future if DJ struggles again.
8. Oregon (6-1)
last game: Beat UCLA, 45-30.
Next game: In California (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET).
If ever a team would love to be able to throw a Bad Day At The Office result off their schedule, it’s the Ducks. After being eliminated by Georgia in their season opener 49-3, Oregon has not only been undefeated but nearly uncontested (there was a close scratch in the Palouse against Washington state). Bo Nix continues to flourish under offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, producing 334 total offensive yards and five touchdowns. Oregon punished UCLA on the ground, racking up 262 rushing yards and averaging 5.7 yards per carry. It’s hard to erase a 46-point loss from the memory of the college football playoff selection committee, but the Ducks are doing the best they can.
9. Oklahoma State (6-1)
last game: Beat Texas, 41-34.
Next game: At Kansas State (Saturday, TBD).
The Big 12 drama continued at Stillwater, and not just with the penalties. The Cowboys survived and eventually outrun Texas. After leading most of the way at TCU and then losing, Oklahoma State flipped the script this week by trailing most of the way and then winning. The Pokes scored the last 17 points against the Longhorns, with quarterback Spencer Sanders outscoring his counterpart Quinn Ewers during the critical moment. Oklahoma State has just one road loss to an undefeated team in overtime to go with six wins, but must now try to bounce back quickly because there are no weak spots on the Big 12 schedule.
10Wake Forest (6-1)
last game: Beat Boston College, 43-15.
Next game: in Louisville (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET).
This place could go to about four different teams. The Demon Deacons’ resume consists of some middling wins and a quality loss to Clemson in overtime. (Wake may still be criticizing himself for playing conservatively at the end of regulation time in that game.) Quarterback Sam Hartman pushed his season numbers to 25 touchdown passes and three interceptions against the Eagles, and Wake’s defense limited their third straight opponent to 21 or more. fewest points after giving up 51 against Clemson. Wake has a few resume builders left — his last five opponents currently have winning records.
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